Thursday, November 19, 2009

Asking What He Wants

So at the meeting a week or so ago the social worker (state) said that he had done all the paper work and that we would be informed about the TPR hearing. What discussions they may or may not be having with Gary's parents we don't know. Well, we do know that the address that previously work for his mother no longer does. The private agency is really trying to track her down to see if she will provide photos of Gary's siblings and tell him (again) the name of his genetic father. At this point Gary has not expressed much interest in meeting him, but he has expressed a great deal of interest in knowing more about his American Indian heritage.

When the agency worker visited last week she told Gary that the judge would want him at the hearing. At 17 the judge won't want to make a decision without knowing what he wants. Gary said that he hates going to court. The social worker suggested writing a letter, which Gary didn't seem enthusiastic about. I said that it was important to be sure to talk to his GAL (CASA worker) so that she could include his wishes in her report.

We tried to talk to him about he felt. He kept insisting that he didn't have any feelings about it one way or another. He didn't care. He will go so far as to say that if his dad doesn't want him, then that's fine. He doesn't actually say, "then I don't want him either" but it comes close. The agency worker and I both tried to communicate that it would be normal to have complex feelings, that he might feel one way now and a different way later, and that it was important for the judge to know what HE wanted.

In the car the other day I asked twice if he had decided what he wanted to tell the GAL. He changed subjects without really seeming to notice. I mean that he didn't seem to be trying to avoid the question. He didn't seem awkward. He just said something like, "I don't know her very well, not like I do the workers at the agency. They really are cool. Some of them remind me of [one of his MMA instructors]. They are a lot better than the state worker. Did you know that the state worker didn't even call me by my right name in the meeting?"

When I ask him about whether he wants to be adopted, he beams. He says he does, and then he will debate whether being adopted before his 18th birthday (and therefore being able to take driver's education and go to Judo class) would be worth giving up the financial benefit of staying with the agency. Right now when we shop for clothes (for instance) he just picks out what he wants because he knows we are going to be reimbursed. If we weren't going to be, he would care about price and it is just so fun not to care at all. He tends to decide that he would rather be adopted after he is 18. It is just so much easier.

We have, by the way, assured him that he is not a burden, that we can afford to buy him clothes, etc. He says he understands that. I think I understand what he is saying too. He actually have very modest needs for clothes. We don't let him go nuts, but he still experiences a kind of freedom picking out a shoe that is more comfortable and costs $10 more; something he wouldn't let himself do if we were paying.

Anyway, I am trying to think about his resistance to saying one thing or another about the TPR.

I think I get it. He wants to be wanted. He wants for his dad to fight the TPR. That's what he wants. Given that his dad is unlikely to do that he is protecting himself by saying that he doesn't care. Certainly he doesn't want to try to make a parent stay if that parent doesn't want him. This whole process started with his father telling him that he was going to initiate termination so he would have to pay child support.

I have mixed feelings about pushing him to make a statement to the GAL. On one hand, I think that at his age it is inappropriate to make decisions about his life without his input. On the other hand, maybe it is wrong to ask kids to make a formal statement saying they don't want to have their parents to be their parents. Certainly it is much easier for Gary to say that he wants us to adopt him (at some point) than to say anything at all about the TPR.

What I want out of the process is for his parents to be notified that we are going to adopt him if they don't make an objection. It would be hard for me to make such notification, given how difficult they both are to find -- not to mention the anxiety issues. Having the state do that feels right.

But past that? I don't know.

I also don't know, at all, if that advantage is really worth going through this. If his father follows his past pattern he will avoid responding, and that is going to be painful for Gary.


  1. As a foster parent, I fully understand that the judge wants to hear from the child himself about their preference, which is great in cases where maybe the child does not at all want to reunify but the bio fam has worked the plan and legally it could go either way, but in this type of case, it almost seems cruel. Its like calling the 7th grader to the front of the classroom to say who he'd like to take to the sweetheart dance and then wondering if that person will agree. Publicly.

    Gary has the option to not talk to the judge, but I have seen other things too- like kids that wrote letters that basically told all the pros and cons of living where they are (foster/adopt fam) and pros and cons of being with the bio fam, and just saying that he didn't want to make a choice. The judge can draw their own conclusions there, you know?

    Poor Gary.

    And for the record- in most states, there are significant funds available for kids that age out of foster care (even if they are later adopted or have a permanent residency family) to go to college. Adoption prior to 18 can often inhibit those funds. Just FYI.

  2. It all sounds so hard. Is there someone neutral who could sit down and help Gary write a letter that gets across what he feels?

  3. Hi- I just popped in from another blog. FWIW, it sounds like he is dragging on the decision in hopes that he won't have to make one. Like, if he avoids it long enough either it won't happen or someone else will do it for him. Tough things for a kid to have to decide, good luck!


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