SAN FRANCISCO -- All Bonita Barnes wants is to provide a happy and comfortable home life for her family.
Barnes, 51, began fostering children in 2006 and adopting her foster kids in 2008. She told The Huffington Post that it's been her dream to become a foster mother since she was eight years old and began meeting peers from broken homes.
"It resonated very deeply with me, how wonderful of a life I had; I couldn't understand how other children were having split lives," she said. "I started meeting a lot of children in foster care, and I just thought that I wanted to grow up and have some kids of my own so that nobody else has to feel like that."
Barnes, a Bay Area native, is the adoptive mother to two sets of siblings: one trio ages two, four and five; and another ages eight, ten and 11. A single mom, she recently left her job as deputy executive director at a nonprofit legal services agency so that her family could receive her full attention and care.
"I've always been a person who thinks we learn by example, and I thought I needed to be working so my children saw that it was something you have to do every day," she explained. "But now it's better for their lives that I be a full-time mother. They need to have me home more; they still have a lot of the characteristics that need to be weeded out, a lot of things foster children have from years of trauma. Now that I have the opportunity to stay home with them, I will stay home with them."
Barnes receives adoption assistance benefits from the government that allow her to raise her children without the added burden of a full-time job. "It's the same as any struggle to raise five or six kids," she said. "It's not like money is overflowing. But right now I can afford to stay home with them. That might not always be the case."
The benefits Barnes collects lump her into what Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney described as the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax and will therefore automatically support President Barack Obama for re-election. HuffPost reported on the controversial comments last week:
During a private $50,000 per plate fundraising dinner in May, Romney said that 47 percent of Americans will "will vote for the president no matter what" because they "believe that they are victims" and "government has a responsibility to care for them." Someone secretly recorded the remarks and they have since become public.
Barnes told HuffPost that she found Romney's comments to be "demeaning." She explained that while she now can identify as a member of said 47 percent, she wasn't always. "I've been working since I was 15 and voting since I was 19," she said. "To assume that people like me don't work hard because they receive assistance is unfair."
She added that losing any of her benefits would have a crushing effect on her family. "Anything he would do to rescind any of these programs I qualify for would be devastating," she said. "It would put us at a disadvantage...it's a very big fear for me."
And the other 47 percenters?
"I think people are scared to death," Barnes said. "We are scrambling to save as much money as we can."
In the mean time, Barnes vows to remain positive and plans to put all her energy into raising her children. "We are who we protect; who we stand up for," she said. "I try to live by that."
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