The Obstacles Are Daunting

I was reading through a story this morning. No idea of the reasons this young father is incarcerated but he seems to care about his child in foster care. I’ll do my best to sum up the situation and share someone else’s personal experience in a similar situation.

A baby girl was placed with a foster family. The father won’t be released for another 4 years. The mom has never shown up for court dates. The father was forced to since he is in the state’s control. The foster parents were petitioning the state for a ruling of abandonment on behalf of the little girl in their care. In court, this father said that he did want his daughter. He claims he has previously sent a list of family members who might be willing to care for her until he is released. The caseworker is now doing background checks on his family members to determine if any of these are suitable to care for his daughter until he is available. This foster parent is angry because this little girl has been with her since birth. So she claims that placing this little girl with anyone else will be traumatizing because her foster parents are the only parents she has ever known. She actually says, “I pray that none of his family are suitable.”

The response from experience – my dad was in jail when my mom lost her rights and the state REFUSED to keep me in foster care till he got out (less than a yr sentence). My dad was so mad about it he ended up flipping out in court and getting more time added onto his sentence because he threatened the lives of everyone in the court room once he learned they were forcing against his rights. My dad got remarried a few years after he got out and ended up having 6 more kids that he still has custody of. He and his new wife kept a portrait of me hanging in their bedroom my entire childhood but I never knew that because I had a closed adoption. My adoptive parents would speak badly about my dad for being in jail. They said he was violent, unhinged, etc etc. I definitely get some of my zest from him!! He was never the psychopath they made him out to be. Just a desperate young dad in a bad situation. He swears to this day that the state kidnapped his daughter. Fathers “rights” are hardly exist. The state could wait until this dad can get out of jail and acquire the stability to take care of his daughter. If there are other family members willing to help out, then great! The state should have been looking for them from the beginning!

If the state has someone in custody, they shouldn’t be hard to track down to discuss custody arrangements and extended family.

Doing The Previously Unthinkable

People change.  With all that is known about the effect of adoption on children, why is it that adoptive parents don’t work towards reuniting the family ?  This is exceedingly rare if it happens but things are changing and it is beginning to be considered by a relatively few.

Here’s one woman’s thinking –

I adopted through foster care three years ago. I believe my child’s parent has changed tremendously since the termination of parental rights. Am I allowed to let her have overnights with the parent? Or would that be considered endangerment because of the reasons written in the termination of parental rights ? Also, what if we choose to allow her to live with her parent ? Can I dissolve the adoption to give the child back to their parent ? I think that the child living with their parent might be a ways off, but the child is still young, and I can see them wanting, in the future, to live with their parent. I’m trying very hard not to be possessive of my child. And if their parent is safe, who am I to keep them from their parent and why would I do that anyways ? I don’t know, I just want to start giving the parent more control of their child, but I’m also afraid that the state would have something to say about that. I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing over here (mostly because I don’t). Has anyone here given their adopted child back to the child’s birth parents ? What did that path look like for you ?

Immediately, an adult adoptee replies –  what you’re considering is beautiful and shows true love. I just want to commend you for that.

Generally speaking, I believe this is true – once the adoption is finalized, the child is considered “as if born to” you. If you want to place the child for adoption, you have every legal right to do that (that’s why “second chance adoptions” are legal). The birth parents (or hopeful adoptive parents in this situation) would have to go through the same process as any other hopeful adoptive parent. So if they can’t pass the background/home inspection, they probably won’t be approved to adopt their own child back.

Though not the happiest answer, states do allow adults to be adopted. So the birth parents could adopt the child back when he/she turns 18.  There is no vetting process then.

So immediately the question arises –  would it be possible to allow her to live with parent until she turns 18 ? And would I have to have my rights to her terminated after she’s 18 ?

Someone with apparent experience replies – you can give guardianship back to the parents but if the parents neglect the child in any way, it will come back on the adoptive parent for giving the parents guardianship back. Only a judge can give guardianship back without the adoptive parent risking liability, if something happens to the child in their parents’ care.

And one person did a return of guardianship without going to court but a judge still had to approve the paperwork created by lawyers – after child protective services was out of the picture.  However, the adoptive parent had to sign a paper saying they were aware that they were still liable for any potential neglect or harm the child might suffer when returned to their original parents.

Some believe that anyone can usually do guardianship, which would allow their parent to take care of all of their child’s needs, those that require a legal adult (school, medical, etc). Then, when the child is an adult, they could choose to have their parent adopt them, thus becoming their legal parent once more (that sounds weird but for legal purposes, as a parent is never not the parent).

One positive to all of it is that guardianship would still offer the adoptive parent a role in supporting and a continuing connection, if original parent and their child needed that.  For example, if the parent relapses for a period, the child could go back with the adoptive parent again, while their original parent is being treated, thus keeping everyone safe, healthy, and out of the child protective services system.

There seems to be some validity to the thought that once a child has been adopted through the state and the child welfare case is closed, then it’s as if the child was born to the adoptive parent. You are allowed to let your child have sleepovers at other people’s house’s, as long as you feel like those people are safe. The child can visit people without you being there. The child can even go on a vacation with someone else, if you have decided is safe for them to be there.

And perhaps before even embarking on such a course, an adoptive parent would do well to consider this perspective –

As an adoptee, I would be really messed up if my adoptive parents wanted to give me back. It’s one thing to allow overnights and even let her live with them, change her name back, etc, but if my adoptive parents pursued legally surrendering me without my consent, I would feel betrayed and like everything they ever told me was a lie. I would never be able to stop wondering – did they just get sick of me and didn’t want me anymore ? I would rather the adoptive parents live with any feelings of regret and remorse about the adoption – while allowing me to have a relationship with my family of origin – than hear they ever even thought about legally abandoning me.

What would really make me happy would be to see them all happy, healthy, and getting along – knowing that I could freely interact with any of them with everyone’s full love and support, no matter what *my* ultimate decision about where *I* belong is.

Bottom line though – if an adoptive parent is serious about seeking this possibility of reuniting a family previously torn apart, then speaking with a family lawyer in your own state would be the best advice before doing anything – legally.