Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gary's Dad and TPR

In my post about Andrew leaving, I said that I have a superstition about criticizing parents. I do understand that there are parents who cannot keep their children safe and who are not safe to be around their children, but even in those cases I find myself automatically spinning the most sympathetic story possible.

So I wonder about Gary's dad right now. This is what I know:

1. They moved sometime in the past few years and Gary was told that he wasn't going to be told where the new home was.
---My supposition is that the stepmother does not want Gary to show up at their house.

2. Gary's dad had a cell phone and when he lived mostly away from the family, Gary called him almost every other day. He knew when his dad would be home, alone, and awake. Gary didn't call his dad when his dad was home with the rest of the kids because he knew he would be too busy.

3. After his dad started living full-time with the family, it was much more difficult for Gary to find a time to call when his dad could talk.

4. His father's cell phone number is no longer connected, and he has no way of contacted his dad.

So what I am guessing is that his dad stopped the cell phone for any number of reasons. Perhaps now that he makes less money he cut it out as too expensive. Maybe they decided that one of Gary's step sisters needed to carry it sometimes and so changed the number. I am thinking that his dad just doesn't know how to resolve this issue.

I think his dad feels torn between his wife and young children on one hand, and his teenage children on the other. The youngest children, Gary's half siblings, don't remember Gary. They don't know he exists. If Gary calls, his dad can't be honest about who is on the phone. I don't think that his dad knows how to set things up so that he can have contact with his son and not piss off his wife.

But most of that is surmise, not knowledge.

And his dad is not innocent in all this. Even if I am right, there is still a difference between believing that all your children cannot be safe under one roof, and being secretive about the existence one of the children. Gary does need his father, and it is his father's responsibility to make contact possible.

But I don't think that his father is a terrible person.

And he must have deeply conflicted feelings about us. Gary is happy and safe here. I expect that his father is both grateful and resentful. How could he not be? He knows how to rise up in anger and protest when his son is being mistreated, but he doesn't know how to negotiate a relationship when his son is being treated well.

I don't think that his dad has decided to cut off contact. I do think that on any given day he does not face up to the problem. It is never urgent. He can figure it out later.

And maybe he will.

There are two sets of reasons why I agree with the decision not to pursue a TPR, even if his dad remains out of contact for months.

The first is that I think it would damage his relationship, or any possibility of a relationship, with his dad. Either that or his father would go into crisis mode, fight for his son, suggest that he would leave his wife if necessary, and break Gary's heart all over again. There's no good there.

The second is that I am generally not in favor of TPR's for kids unless it is either necessary for their safety or there is a real possibility for adoption. I'm not saying that is what the law is, it is just what seems right to me. Termination of parental rights is a serious thing, and it is a confusing thing. If your parents are no longer your parents, are your siblings still your siblings? What about your grandparents, aunts and uncles? You and I might be clear on these things, but that doesn't mean that the children and youth are.

If Gary wanted us to adopt him, that would be one thing. I don't think that he does though. He would feel torn if we tried. I think he is happy knowing that we love him, and that he is part of at least two families.

As far as I can see, a TPR in this case has the potential to cause a great deal of pain and very little benefit.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:16 PM

    Greetings from Indiana! I am foster mom also. It is so good to read your thoughts and insight. I have a question for you...we have recently endured the horrible process of TPR. There are three children in this case, the bio parents lost rights to the oldest child, but not the younger too (ages 6, 3 and 1). Have you ever heard of a case like this before?

    Seeking help,



Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.