Euphemisms can be cute and playful, and in fact I use them daily. However, when used to sugar-coat the horrible in society they can be quite detrimental. For years, my go-to example has been “euthanize.” Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in euthanasia when it is appropriate. Unfortunately, animal shelters have decided to use the word to describe killing an animal because it wasn’t adopted fast enough. That is not euthanasia; it is just plain killing.
Lately, however, there is another disturbing euphemism that is creeping its way into our vocabulary. When a parent, adoptive or natural, decides to abandon a child with another person or family, they now “rehome” the child. What is most disturbing is that there is no screening required and no oversight of the practice. A parent merely has to sign a power of attorney allowing the new “parent” to make medical, education, and in fact all decisions on behalf of the child. When we think of putting a child up for adoption or Child Protective Services removing a child from the home and putting them in foster care, we most often assume it is in the best interest of the child. In fact, as far from ideal as they are, adoption and fostering are quite necessary. When a child is “rehomed” it typically means that the parent has decided that they no longer want to be bothered by the responsibilities of parenthood.
In many instances an adopted child develops behavioral problems that the adoptive parents are not equipped to deal with. There is a proper course of action for such parents to receive assistance, but some are concerned that if they utilize the system there will be a record of their so-called failure and they will be prevented from fostering or adopting again in the future. In plain English, the parent or parents put their future before that of their child.
Any of you who know me understand why I despise the use of the word euthanize as a euphemism for killing. My wife and I have the three most amazing Beagles that have ever graced our planet, and they were all saved as seniors by The Southern Nevada Beagle Rescue Foundation, which quickly became our favorite non-profit organization. Only a few of you, however, know why rehome as a euphemism is repugnant to me on a personal level and not just as a human being with emotions and a sense of right and wrong. At age fifteen, I was rehomed. I was an honor student who had never been in trouble and was never demanding. When I say I had never been in trouble, I mean that I quite literally had never been in trouble. As an example, in grade school I had a teacher who awarded Citizen of the Day stickers, Citizen of the Week certificates, and a Citizen of the Year trophy. Not only did I receive the Citizen of the Year trophy, I also received more Citizen of the Day and Citizen of the Week awards than the rest of my class combined. Surprisingly, I did this without making enemies or being considered a suck-up by my classmates. Don’t worry, this isn’t me bragging about what a good kid I was or trying to relive some glory days of my childhood. I bring it up only to demonstrate that I was a good kid and not an undue burden.
In my case, rehoming meant being left in the care of a so-called family friend who was given power of attorney as described above. Without going into any details, my experience with rehoming was not ideal. If I were to go into details you would likely nominate me for Understatement of the Year honors. I will suffice it to say that the family friend was later charged with, and pled guilty to, crimes involving child pornography. In fairness to my parent who rehomed me with him, he had been a family friend for years, my parent and I had already been living in his house for several years before she moved out, and this was at a time when parents – at least mine – didn’t discuss with their children what to do if an adult engaged in inappropriate behavior. By the time I was left in his care, his inappropriate behavior had been going on for years and I was far too brainwashed, indoctrinated, or whatever phrase you prefer to say anything. Although I know on an intellectual level that I am not responsible for those upon whom he preyed after me, it is possibly my greatest regret that I did not come forward when, almost immediately after my eighteenth birthday, I walked out his front door for the last time.
You may wonder why now, so many years later, I would put this information in a public forum. There are two primary reasons: it is just recently that I have started to hear the term rehome used in place of abandon, and I have recently been inspired by others who have set their embarrassment aside and told their most personal stories.