As a child welfare case manager at SaintA, I travel quite a bit. But this trip was different. I was driving toward a hospital in the city to meet with my youngest client. My heart raced as the car approached the hospital. Even though it was a beautiful sunny day, I felt a cold sweat break out over me. The elevator ride to the floor felt longer than it should. I knew that soon the nurses would wrap a precious infant neglected by her parents and hand her over to me to take her into protective custody. The nurses gave the discharge instructions for the baby, and for the first time, I looked at her. She was so adorable. I could not take my eyes off her as the nurse put her in a cute outfit and placed her in the car seat. I felt like she was smiling at me.
Before taking her outside the hospital, I prayed silently, “Lord, I am taking her for her first-ever car ride, to her first placement. Let her life be stable and blessed with lots of love.” My mind was flooded with thoughts about her future: what would her childhood be like, her teenage years, her first job, her first car. I saw myself having hopes and dreams for her.
Her first journey was about to start, from the hospital parking lot. I secured her car seat and leaned over and whispered to her that she would be fine. As I drove away, I couldn’t help but wonder if she would be wondering where her mother was. The mother who carried her for nine months wasn’t there for her baby that day. By the time of the baby’s discharge, the mother had sadly moved back to her own world of addictions.
Our journey was about 45 minutes, and I stopped twice to check the baby. I wanted to make sure she was sleeping. While driving, my mind was all about the baby. What questions would she ask if she had been able to talk: first, where is my mom? I tried to imagine my own children in her place. There is no difference between my children and this baby. All babies are precious little bundles, born as reminders of hope and innocence. What would cause someone to abandon such a beautiful baby?
Child abandonment can take many different forms, and it can apply any time a child is left without appropriate supervision for extended periods of time. At a time when child abandonment is skyrocketing around the world, I think society needs a general sensitization on this issue. Here are few questions for us to consider. What are the reasons for abandonment? What kind of trauma do these infants go through? What kind of safe placements do we have for these precious future resources? How does the trauma of abandonment affect the future behavior of these babies?
The reasons for abandonment vary, including economic background, poverty, environment, mental health, choices, social stigma, physical issues of children and addictions. Some women who abandon their babies do not seek pre-natal care, and some drink, smoke or take controlled substances that can result in birth defect and illnesses in the newly born.
I recently read an interesting article by the famous psychologist Dr. Miriam Adahan entitled “Abandoned Baby Syndrome.” It says: “The abandoned babies or children may go through serious behavioral and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and aggression. The abandoned babies often develop addictions and anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and can be paranoid, insecure and untrusting. The lack of touch and attention may result in a lifelong sense of unworthiness and sadness. Many develop bad and rebellious attitudes in their attempt to achieve a sense of power and win precious drops of attention. They don’t care what others think and have not been trained to share or care or respect others’ feelings.”
For the next few days I thought a lot about that baby. Would she grow up with an emotional or mental disorder; if she does, who would be culpable? She may take the blame herself in the future for her actions, but possibly the root cause will be forgotten by the time. These children may go through serious social and psychological effects, such as low self-esteem, diminished interpersonal and social skills, self-blame, identity issues, insecurity, trauma, anxiety, depression, trust issues, guilt, grief and denial etc.
Our journey was almost over. The baby was comfortably sleeping in the car seat. I parked the car in front of the foster home where the caregivers were waiting for the new arrival. The baby’s second transition happened over the next 45 minutes. After the formal procedures, I came back to my car. I looked over the rear-view mirror and I could no longer see her. She was already taken in and cared for by loving caregivers, the family who rendered the blessed ministry of serving and loving and giving her a new home. I could only wish the best for all of them.
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