Last week I became a grandfather for the first time in my life.
Holding my grandson shortly after his birth flooded emotions throughout my whole being. My wife Tracie and I had been waiting for that moment since we first found out my daughter-in-law was pregnant.
Tracie crocheted a baby blanket and cross-stitched an intricate Christmas stocking.
I say all of this to give you a picture of the kind of world my grandson has entered.
Both sets of grandparents live in Winnipeg and will be very supportive as the baby grows and develops. The extended families are strong. The church support is there. The community support is in place.
Indeed, the future for baby Zachariah looks bright.
I contrast this with how other children start their lives.
On the same day my grandson was born, Winnipeg police issued the picture of a little girl found on the corner of Sherbrook and Notre Dame and pleaded the public for help in locating her family.
Heartbreakingly, 12 hours after police found the stray girl no missing child report had been filed and no family had come forward.
Nobody cared enough to notice she was gone or call the police about her disappearance.
While Child and Family Services eventually did find some family members, it’s not hard to imagine that the circumstances of that little girl are vastly different than my grandson’s.
It’s also not hard to imagine that she will have to overcome more difficulties, barriers and emotional turmoil than Zachariah. They have both been dealt a different hand.
A few times every year, we see women at Siloam’s shelter become pregnant.
Sometimes the mother struggles with mental health illness, drug abuse or an abusive relationship. The question is always whether she will have the capacity to keep and take care of her baby.
I have seen women who have risen to the moment and took on the challenge of motherhood. I have seen fathers join the mother and do the same.
But more often than not, I have seen women — whether by agreement or not — have to give up their baby.
That’s when it gets sad.
HOME TO HOME
The child usually gets put into foster care and likely won’t be adopted unless the mother gives up all hope of getting her baby back.
Unfortunately, many children who are in foster care get moved from home to home.
I know people who use the services of homeless shelters in Winnipeg who grew up in 20 different foster homes. Those people will tell you that they have experienced abandonment 20 times.
I have no framework to understand how those people come to see the world, and how they can have any remaining hope of surviving through it all.
I’m not sure they would be able to accept much love because of the trust issues they have to carry with them.
Everyone starts out by being born, but without any fault of their own, life can deal some people some pretty awful cards.
It is no coincidence that 40% of those that experience homelessness grew up in the foster care system.
— Floyd Perras is executive director of Siloam Mission