I don’t want to live in a country in which terminating parental rights is an easy thing to do. Our Founding Fathers understood this too. Citizens in a fair and just society simply cannot live in fear that their government gets to do whatever they want just because the state decides to do it. I understand that there is a need for defense attorneys; they force the state to prove their case. I still don’t trust the process.
I’m-the-Baby’s father, the same father who told a judge he didn’t have steady employment and couldn’t afford even $50/month in child support, has hired a private attorney. I wonder who’s paying the cost. His parents? The wealthy neighbors who he had planned on placing the child with? He was told that the state of Minnesota gives preference to family when placing children out of foster care. He has said at least three times that he planned on seeking custody and parenting just long enough to make an alternate adoption plan. Thankfully, one of the times, he was speaking to the social worker and the guardian ad litem so his comments are a part of the official court documents. The “very wealthy” neighbors called the social worker and she told them not to get their hopes up. There is a relative adoptive family willing to accept the baby. Did they take no for an answer?
“As soon as his paternity was legally adjudicated, he has done everything he can to demonstrate his commitment to this child.”
Really? His paternity was legally established at a child support hearing on July 25th.
First, this is the right information, wrong implication. The father’s moral obligations to this child began way before his paternity was established in a court of law. He knew his girlfriend, a vulnerable adult living in a group home, was pregnant. Naomi is known to have substantial difficulty meeting her own needs for food, shelter and health care. Yet, instead of standing by her, the father abandoned her financially and emotionally during her pregnancy and did nothing to monitor the adequacy of his son’s care. He did not file with our state’s putative father registry. He did not execute a declaration of parentage. He did not cooperate with a paternity test until his cooperation was demanded by a court. In mid-April, after the results of the paternity test came back, he met with the social worker and she asked him if he would be a placement option. He said, “No.” Last, at the child support hearing that the attorney referenced, he told the judge that he was in agreement with the adoption by my BIL and his wife. Since his parental rights and responsibilities would soon be terminated, the judge did not order him to pay support. He did absolutely nothing to claim or maintain his parental rights.
Second, the father has not done everything he can to demonstrate his commitment to his child since July 25th. He did call and tell the social worker that he wanted to parent. She told him that he did not have a relationship with his son and he needed to start visiting him. Almost four weeks after this initial call, he called the social worker and said he was having trouble getting though to the visitation center and asked the social worker to set up visits. The social worker called the visitation center. His first call to the visitation was after close of business, on a Friday afternoon, three full weeks after his initial call to the social worker. I suspect he called the center, found it closed and immediately called the social worker back. His first scheduled visit was 4-1/2 weeks after saying he wanted to parent, 5 days before his son was 7-months old, and 8 days before the state by law had to petition to terminate parental rights and move toward permanency planning/adoption. I suspect he had met with his attorney and been advised to cooperate with the social services office.
Finally, Minnesota laws define the conditions under which a parent’s parental rights can be involuntarily terminated. One of the conditions is abandonment. Abandonment is presumed when, “The parent has had no contact with the child on a regular basis and not demonstrated consistent interest in the child’s well-being for six months and the social services agency has made reasonable efforts to facilitate contact, unless the parent establishes that an extreme financial or physical hardship or treatment for mental disability or chemical dependency or other good cause prevented the parent from making contact with the child.”
When does the six month clock start ticking? This isn’t a criminal case; there is no jury of peers. There is a judge – a judge with preconceived ideas about adoption, blood connection and father’s rights. If the defense attorney can convince the judge to start the clock on July 25th, the father will be considered a placement option for my grandson. His family, people we’ve entertained in our home and given access to their grandson, have quit talking to us. I don’t even see the father when I drop off for visits, he is kept secluded in another room.
And, my dreams for an open, fully disclosed placement where my grandson can be connected and loved by all the people who care about him is in shambles. Openness in adoption is built upon a foundation of trust. I no longer trust. I am really struggling emotionally and spiritually. I cry almost daily. But, I just keep trying to do the right thing, even though it is hard. My Dad told me that is what love is. I say that is what moral courage does.
And, my heart is breaking. Because after Naomi’s parental rights are terminated, essentially my rights as grandparent are too. So, if his father wins custody and does not let me see my little one, I will not be able to petition the courts for visits. I just lose him. Forever.
Don’t confuse legality with morality. Dr. King noted that everything Hitler did in Nazi Germany was legal. Don’t give anyone the proxy for your conscience. And don’t confuse legality with fairness. ~ Marian Wright Edelman,The measure of our success: a letter to my children and yours