Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Born in the U.S.A.

Congratulations to Sandra Bullock re her new baby boy. According to news reports, Louis Bullock was born in New Orleans and adopted by Ms. Bullock in January. With all the attention on foreign adoptions these days it’s marvelous to see a celebrity respond to a child in our own backyard.

My husband and I had a two-year-old blond, blue-eyed daughter when we adopted a bi-racial boy and girl in the early 70s. People stared at us and asked personal questions that were intrusive and rude, “Where were they born? Do you know anything about their background?”

We politely responded that Elizabeth and John were born in Los Angeles and that’s all we shared with strangers. We had limited information about their biological parents as records were sealed in those days and L.A. County Department of Children’s Services only provided brief knowledge – both were healthy, alert and ready to be placed in a loving home.

In the late 70s fewer couples applied to adopt children born in the U.S. The “crack” pandemic hit urban neighborhoods and women under the horrific influence of drugs gave birth to babies with serious health issues ranging from mental retardation, physical defects and severe emotional disorders. Babies placed in foster care waiting for adoption languished for years in institutions and group homes as families looked to Korea and other Asian outposts for infants. Single women and gay couples were denied the right to adopt a child in this country so they turned to agencies in China where baby girls were readily available.

Today, there are more than 500,000 children growing up in foster care in this country. Substance abuse and HIV among pregnant women has substantially declined. Single men and women and gay couples can adopt infants and older children from public and private agencies but they continue to reach out to Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe. Families adopting Russian born children are not told the truth about the mother’s prenatal alcohol abuse. One adoptive mother went so far as to return a child with severe psychological problems to Russia without adult supervision on the long flight home.

Madonna, Angelina and Brad, Meg Ryan and others have the resources to provide excellent health care, a superb education and a nurturing environment for their adopted children but they should look closer to home for a child in our welfare system eager to be part of a family.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Familiar Face in the Crowd

I watched Jerry Brown standing in the middle of the theater lobby all by himself. I waited to see if a campaign"handler" joined him but no one appeared by his side. He looked uncomfortable as guests mingled in the large crowd greeting one another. This was a night of gaiety -- 62nd independence celebration of the State of Israel. Finally, I walked over to him, "Hello, Jerry, you don't remember me, I worked on your campaign when you ran for community college board."

"Good to see you, not many people worked on that campaign."

The solitary candidate for Governor of California appeared the same to me as he did in the 70s, alone in a crowd, few people recognized him. He looks just like his father, the late Governor Pat Brown, yet he exudes none of the warmth or social skills that people admired in Brown senior.

Jerry needs to loosen up, extend a hearty handshake, a pat on the back or he'll have few voters campaigning for him again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Paradise or Perfidy?

There’s no recession in San Francisco. Last weekend I drove down the hill from elegant Pacific Heights to upscale Chestnut street, and then a short distance to the newly-renovated arts and culture Presidio. I smiled at “foodies” lugging bags of fruits and vegetables from the Embarcadero farmer’s market then watched crowds milling in Union Square waiting for the cable car to Ghirardelli Square for a chocolate bar. So many choices in this sparkling emerald city.

Gentrification made its mark -- Victorian homes in the Haight have been treated to a fresh coat of paint and brightly trimmed front doors. Where’s the smell of incense and pot? It’s still a mix of leftover hippie 60s along with moms pushing $800 strollers to nearby Golden Gate Park. I gazed at parents loading babies into car seats in super size BMWs while their golden retrievers swiftly scrambled between the two children ( a perfect family for a Silicon Valley venture capitalist).

Local pride and memory lingers in each community. Stinky fish trails out the door of restaurants in Chinatown while elders smoke in front of shops selling “authentic” Chinese trinkets made in India.

The shimmering Golden Gate Bridge links the city to Marin County where million dollar A-frames stack up the hillside overlooking snug harbors with impeccable yachts.

But there’s more to the “city by the bay.”

Forget cappuccinos and croissants in the Mission or Potrero Hill -- homeless encampments in doorways, worldly possessions stuffed in plastic bags piled high in shopping carts and those fortunate enough to get off the street for a night can get a room in rundown hotels. From former Mayor Willie Brown to current Mayor Gavin Newsome the landscape in downtrodden enclaves of the city haven’t benefited from the boom. Members of San Francisco’s social and political elite have geographic amnesia, a tradition that lingers from one generation to the next.

I left my heart in San Francisco, not.