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."
Related on HuffPost:
"That's not the way I view the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in. Too many people today who want to work are being forced into public assistance for lack of jobs," Scott said in an email to <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/senate-races/250157-sen-scott-brown-denounces-romney-comments" target="_hplink">The Hill</a>.
"He was obviously inarticulate in making this point," Ryan <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/paul-ryan-mitt-romney-video_n_1895403.html" target="_hplink">said</a> during an interview with a Nevada television station.
"This could be the opportunity for Romney, and for that campaign, to finally take the gloves off and take the fear off and just start explaining conservatism, start explaining liberty to people and what it means," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/rush-limbaugh-mitt-romney_n_1893882.html" target="_hplink">Limbaugh said</a> Tuesday. "And explain that they don't need to be in that 47 percent. There's no reason for them, for everybody to be -- essentially having given up on their future in this country. There's no reason for it. This is, to me, such an opportunity to espouse conservatism."
"Mitt Romney probably could have better explained himself. I think he was a little clumsy in doing this," <a href="http://thehill.com/video/house/249975-rep-allen-west-romney-a-little-clumsy-with-47-percent-comment" target="_hplink">West said</a> on Fox News.
"Sure, there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I'd put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category. But, as a description of America today, Romney's comment is a country-club fantasy. It's what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/opinion/brooks-thurston-howell-romney.html?ref=davidbrooks" target="_hplink">Brooks wrote</a>. "He's running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?"
"It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!). But that shouldn't blind us to the fact that Romney's comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant," <a href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/note-romney-s-arrogant-and-stupid-remarks_652548.html" target="_hplink">Kristol wrote</a>.
"He has to not apologize, because we've seen enough apologizing already, and he cannot apologize," <a href="http://thehill.com/video/campaign/249993-trump-romney-cannot-apologize-for-inartful-comments-at-fundraiser" target="_hplink">Trump said</a> on NBC News. "What he said is probably what he means." Trump also said that Romney's words were "inartfully stated."
"The Romney campaign should double down on what he said. They should own it. The trouble for the left and media (but I repeat myself) is that most Americans agree with Mitt Romney. Most Americans consider themselves part of the 53% and it is not a winning proposition for Barack Obama to convince Americans they are less than they think they are when most Americans already recognize he has made them less than they were," <a href="http://www.redstate.com/2012/09/17/treat-the-press-as-enemy-collaborators/" target="_hplink">Erickson wrote</a> in a blog post on RedState.com.
"[Romney] believes that every American has got to have skin in the game...he doesn't want what the president wants," <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/09/christie-romney-wants-to-empower-people-135893.html" target="_hplink">Christie said</a> on Fox News, adding that Romney wants to "empower individuals...and that's what he's really talking about."
"The idea that you're declaring, 'Well, the race is over. Mitt Romney doesn't care about people,'" <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/tv/laura-ingraham-fired-up-over-romneys-47-tape-its-ridiculous-this-is-getting-airtime/" target="_hplink">Ingraham said </a>on Fox News. "Meanwhile, you have a president whose policies have undermined the 47 percent. ... I'm very pumped up about this. I think it's ridiculous that people are seizing on it and that we're even giving all that much airtime to it, frankly."
"I disagree with Governor Romney's insinuation that 47% of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care. I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government are not in that situation because they want to be. People today are struggling because the government has failed to keep America competitive, failed to support job creators, and failed to get our economy back on track," <a href="http://www.lindaforsenate2012.com/news/press-releases/2012/09/18/linda-mcmahon-response-to-mitt-romneys-remarks/" target="_hplink">McMahon said</a> in a statement.
"To read many of the reactions on Twitter, you'd think Mother Jones had just found video of Mitt Romney strangling a hooker with her own pantyhose," <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/322394/quick-thoughts-freeloaderdammerung-jonah-goldberg" target="_hplink">Goldberg wrote</a>. "Indeed, many people understand what Romney is getting at here, even if he's saying it badly."