It has been a hell of a day, and we are still just in the middle of.
State Worker was due at 11:00am, and Gary made an appearance in the kitchen at 10:00. His father, whom we shall now refer to as "Will" (cause it is nicer than the really bad words I want to call him) called Gary late last evening. Will had several things to say.
He wants Gary to know that he loves him. Gary ruined his step-sisters lives, nearly destroyed the family, and if he wasn't his son, he would have killed him in the most painful way possible. However, because of his love for him, he stood by him all these years. It was hard, because everything was always about what was best for Gary, and no one seemed to care about the rest of them.
He's been wrestling with this decision for a while, but he has decided he wants to terminate his parental rights.
It's not about loving him. See, the state is charging him $250/month child support and he just can't afford that. So he is going to tell the judge that he is willing to forfeit his parental rights.
***We pause here so everyone can say all the Very Bad Words you need to say.***
Gary and I talked for about an hour. If anyone has ever worked to maintain a positive perspective on Will and his choices, it has been me. Still, I did not have very nice things to say about him this morning. At first I cried a bit. I told Gary that I did not understand how anyone would not want to be his parent. I got myself under control though, and then mostly just listened to Gary for an hour.
Then the state worker showed up. "Do you want the business first or the good news first?"
"Okay, are you interested in establishing contact with any of your siblings?"
I'll abbreviate this. Basically Gary said he would like information about his half siblings with his mother, but they shouldn't worry about the ones he has through Will. On to the "good news." Again, abbreviating it: Will had a tax refund this year. He owes a lot of child support to the state which he hasn't been paying, so they confiscated the tax refund. They now have over $1200 in an account for Gary. They aren't allowed to give it to him to put into a savings account, though golly, they are glad to hear that is what he would like. They do need to "spend it down" though because it could cause problems with his medical coverage eligibility. Is there anything Gary wants? Say, a computer?
Yeah, that is good news. (Gary's picking one out now).
Then Gary told the state worker that Will had called had expressed his intentions of terminating his parental rights.
The state worker laughed. He explained the reaction the judge would have to that. The state does not look kindly on people wanting to give away their kids. However, if Gary wants the rights terminated, THEY can ask for that. The social worker looked at me and Roland and I said what I have said before, "We are willing to be whatever sort of parents Gary needs: foster, legal guardians, or adoptive parents."
We talked for a while and it was pretty emotional, but it boils down to these options and as far as the worker is concerned it is up to Gary. There are a couple of wrinkles that I will tell you about later.
1. Gary can tell the social worker to oppose termination. In that case Will will continue to be billed for child support, face charges if he fails to pay, and have any future tax refund taken away.
2. At his request Gary, the social worker will tell the judge that he thinks it is Gary's best interest for Will's parental rights terminated. The judge will probably act on that. Since this worker only works with older teens, he has never actually been involved with a termination proceeding. Given that his father is unlikely to fight it, it could happen quickly. If they are terminated there are options.
2a. Everything else remains the same. Gary remains a ward of the state, placed with the agency which has placed him with me.
2b. We take legal guardianship of Gary. This is something the agency ended up counseling against last time. The more I learned about it the more hesitant I was. I kept thinking about what I would have done without them when I learned that Evan was an addict. I didn't want to let them go. I also was worried about not having them between me and Will. I am less worried now about big "what ifs" and if Will's rights are terminated then I don't feel like I need someone to be there.
2c. We adopt Gary. We would have to take PRIDE, have a new home study and I don't know what all, but we would do it. Probably we will sign up for PRIDE so that we will be prepared. I think the thing that Gary finds most attractive about this option is that he could change his name. He hates his first name because he shares it with his abuser (that's two kids I've had who have that issue). Right now, ditching his last name seems like a not bad idea.
Right now he doesn't know what he wants. There is part of him that really enjoys the idea of opposing termination, making his father face whatever consequences that come. He is also inclined to ask for the termination, partly because he doesn't want his siblings to suffer the consequences of their father getting into trouble for nonpayment. He really means that, by the way. It is one of the things where you can see the emotion when he speaks. For all that he wants to protest that he is judged too harshly for what he did, that he didn't fully understand how what he did would affect others, he does deeply regret that others were hurt. If agreeing to the termination is something he can do that will ease some possible pain, he is inclined to do that.
Whether he wants to stay in comprehensive care, be in legal guardianship, or be adopted is something he isn't thinking about, not yet anyway.
There a lot of implications here. We are absolutely willing to be whatever sort of parents Gary needs, and I don't know what is going to happen.
Now here are the wrinkles.
First, the agency isn't in the loop yet. We can certainly go around them, asking the state directly if we can adopt him, but they (the agency) have the power of persuasion. They feel responsible for Gary and won't encourage adoption unless they are certain we are certain. Way back when I had Carl it was different. In those days the agency took legal guardianship for the kids. The youth received no state benefits, even medical coverage. When we considered adopting Carl they just said no. They said it nicely, but they said it, and they had the legal standing to do so.
Second, I haven't said this here, but I will now. Gary's mother was pregnant when she married Will. It is Gary's understanding that his father always knew that he was not Gary's genetic father. If he didn't know, he probably figured it out. Will and Gary's mother are both blue-eyed. Gary is tall, brown-eyed, and has hair that is just shy of being black. He doesn't know the name of his genetic father, but he has been told he is American Indian. Given Gary's appearance, that makes sense.
Now, Will has never denied paternity. That was one of the things that I appreciated about him. If it occurs to him to do so legally, it will get him out of all obligations to Gary. I know there are states where being married to the mother at the birth and having acted as the father would mean that you ARE the legal father, but in this state divorced dads, and dads of kids in foster care, can have their parental rights and obligations terminated if they can prove that they are not the genetic fathers. (I assume that in cases of sperm donation and adoption it is different, but I don't know how the law works in those cases).
The state worker, as I said before, has never worked a termination case before. He is under the impression that if they make the non-paternity part of their case, it will move more quickly too.
Anyway, this is just a recitation of facts. I don't seem to be able to write a post about the emotionals of the day. Maybe later.