One of Two Choices

Written by Kristina Donaldson, WMPC Parent Planner

As a parent, one of life’s greatest joys is being able to watch your child(ren) grow up right before your eyes. And one of life’s greatest sorrows is having to give up your child(ren) by losing them to the system. Having to leave them in the hands of a stranger is scary for not only the child(ren) but for the parent(s). And while it may be in the best interest of the children at the time, the guilt of abandonment and self-shaming creates a sense of emptiness.

Many birth parents struggle with their own childhood experiences, traumas, neglect, or abuse– often without fully understanding how these experiences impact our lives. This might look like living in survival mode because that is all you know, facing and living through multiple mental health challenges that are either unresolved and/or undiagnosed, and getting through life without the social or emotional supports you need. As birth parents, we often mirror behaviors we grew up with as we have been conditioned to see them as a normal.

These feelings only intensify as you begin to navigate the process of regaining your parental rights by jumping through hoops to meet all the requirements and demands. You may struggle to find the inner strength to press through the shame, guilt, and sorrow of losing a child(ren), especially if you are met with further judgment from those who are supposed to help. When parents are treated as caseloads and not as people, we are often considered “guilty” from the moment our file hits the worker’s desk. From the moment we walk into the room, we open ourselves up to being judged by our race, social class, or age rather than as an individual, further diminishing our human dignity. Sometimes the fight seems to be against you, and it can create an inner war with yourself as you continue to battle your way through the system.

When we are not given the support or guidance to surpass these newly enforced expectations, it puts parents at an unhealthy advantage, especially when it comes to breaking toxic cycles in hopes for a brighter future for both the children and parents.

In the work that we do here at West Michigan Partnership for Children (WMPC), our goal is to walk alongside those who are navigating the system and provide supports and opportunities for them to succeed in order to help build safe, resilient, and healthy families. I am Kristina Donaldson, WMPC Parent Planner, and I am here to equip, empower, and involve parents so they can make the decisions that are best for them and their children.

If you know of a parent involved in the child welfare, juvenile justice, or mental health system who might need help navigating next steps, reach out to me. My email is

Let us never lose sight of the fact that we are all human beings who are all flawed, and at some point in life we ALL need and deserve some amount of unmerited grace.

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