Interview On Adoption
Joseph McDaniel-Chinn interviewed by Ada Gay Griffin
Joseph provides IT services for the entire Three Rivers Youth organization, comprised of six sites in Allegheny and Washington counties. While also providing front line support to Three Rivers Youth’s group home for male youth, Joseph finds time to volunteer for human service organizations in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
The fourth interview in a series presenting first person perspectives on foster care, kinship care, and adoption, from individuals who are now young adults. The following interview offers a glimpse into one view of the foster care experience.
AG. What started your involvement with the foster care system?
JM. I was born in Cincinnati Ohio, and from the end of 2nd grade until the middle of 6th grade, I lived in two different foster homes. Even though it was transitional living, I viewed the experience as stable because it was more comfortable than living with my mother, who was developmentally disabled with three children. She just couldn’t take care of us the way we needed to be cared for.
AG. How did growing up as a foster child affect your relationship with your biological family?
JM. I have two sisters. I’m in the middle. My older sister was raised by my aunt so I’ve never lived with her. I’m one year older than my younger sister, and we stayed together through placement in foster care and then adoption, so we are closer. I stay in touch with my biological mom. She is very proud of how we’ve turned out.
AG. Did you notice a big difference between foster care and adoption?
JM. Our second foster mom helped us a lot and raised us for three years. Later, my foster mom told me that she would never have given us up, but at that time, in Cincinnati, at age twelve, I was able to choose my preference regarding guardianship. I remember our case worker suggested adoption because it is permanent, while foster care is temporary. So, I chose adoption with the understanding that my sister and I would stay together.
AG. How did you and your sister come to live with adoptive parents?
JM. Well, I was scared, because we were just starting to come into our own in our second foster home. We had settled in and had gotten used to going to school. My sister and I appeared on a television program called “Thursday’s Child,” and somehow the message got to someone in Pittsburgh. We took a plane to meet a family in Pennsylvania that was interested in adopting us. A few weeks later, we were officially adopted and left Ohio to live with our new family. Moving so far away from Cincinnati was harder on my sister who had a closer bond with our mom and foster parents.
AG. How has being a foster care youth affected your world view?
JM. I my experience with foster care and adoption taught me to keep an open heart. So many people have opened their hearts and their homes to me, it's second nature for me to want to help people in need and give back.
AG. What are some things you think should be improved about the foster care system?
JM. In hind sight, I think that more support services should be given to help adoptive families adjust. There should be more help for the parents and more support for older adopted children. I keep in touch with my second foster mom who says she wanted to keep us forever, so we could have grown near our biologocal mother and other family members. I wonder if the foster care system is too quick to push children into adoption without providing the same level of support to keep the family functioning well and together.
AG. What are the qualities of good parents?
JM. Honesty and having a good heart are key. But the ability to give tough love is also important. I say that because so often kids get rewarded with cell phones, electronics, clothes, and hundred dollar sneakers while getting C’s in school. I’ve never been rewarded for something I didn’t earn and I think that has helped me have a truer perspective on what the world is really like. Good parents make sure their kids prioritize literature, math, science, and have the foundation for a good education and a strong character.
AG. What are your doing to help youth in the foster care system today?
JM. I volunteer at the food bank in Duquesne. My sister and I volunteer at a soup kitchen in Wilkinsburg every Thanksgiving. I like the feeling I get when I do things like that.