The River Reporter
Thursday, January 17, 1991, p. 4

What is a parent?

"When is a boy not a boy?" a child's riddle asks.

"When he turns into a store," comes the reply.

How about a parent?

"Every child needs and deserves to be loved and cared for by a real father and mother. Any alternative is second best," I wrote in this newspaper in a recent article advocating in-home family therapy as an alternative to out-of-home placement.

One reader asked whether the term "real" ruled out step, adoptive, or even foster parents.

Answer: Of course not.

At birth, qualifications for parentage are usually clear-cut, modern surrogate technologies aside. The woman whose body carries and delivers an infant is the mother, and the man who impregnated her is the father. Fundamental biology tells us this much.

As life goes on, however, moral right to the title "parent" must be maintained by love. Parental love can be seen in such things as personal visits, letters, and other attention. If communication is not maintained, the law permits children to be freed for adoption in hopes of finding a more suitable and loving "real" parent.

Even without legal adoption, some children may feel more emotionally bonded to a step or foster parent than a biological one who may have abused, neglected, or otherwise not met basic needs.

Not long ago, I received word from a high school friend that his mother died. A grown man with a wife and daughter of his own and working a responsible job, my friend wrote from his present home in Texas that he was "too young to be without a mother".

Most of us feel too young to lose a parent to death, but at least my friend had the benefit of a full set of loving parents to nurture him through his childhood. Not everyone does.

Tom Rue, Contributing Editor


Related article: Family therapy as an alternative to foster placement


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