Custody

JJR512

Super Member
My mother was secretary for a Circuit Court judge for many years, and during that time, occasionally filled in as a court reporter (person who operates the recording equipment in court, and if necessary, types transcripts fom the recordings). Since she retired, she has continued to work part-time as a court reporter. Fom time to time, I help by proof-reading something she's transcribed.

I'm reading over a case right now that involves custody of a two-year-old boy. The background, which I'll try to explain in extremely condensed terms, is that the baby was born a bit premature, possibly due substance abuse by the mother. Based on some factors that came up, the hospital decided to retain custody of the child until the mother had undergone a psychiatric evaluation and, if necessary, treatment. She was admitted to the psych ward at the hospital, but checked herself out early against medical advice, and essentially abandoned her baby.

The child was initially placed with foster parents, but a tragedy in that family forced them to return custody of the child to the State, which placed the child with another foster family. The mother has been found, but is not actively seeking reunification with the child at this point (as far as I can tell from what I've read so far, anyway). With the mother's help, the father was located; he previously was unaware of the existence of this child. He wants to be part of the child's life, but the State (Department of Social Services, aka DSS) has concerns about him, with prior substance abuse, criminal activity, etc. In fact, after the mother finally figured out who the father probably was (*sigh*), he was eventually located...in jail. In any event, the father has actually suggested that his mother might be a good permanent placement for the child.

The father's mother, whom I will now refer to simply from the child's point of view as the grandmother, works at a day care facility. She has training and various certifications related to that. She is actively seeking permanent custody of the child, and both parents feel that this is a good idea. DSS has conducted a "home study" and determined the grandmother would probably be a good permanent placement for the child, but they are concerned that she might not be able to enforce any limitations on visitation that the Court imposes on the father, if any.

Because of this concern, DSS is recommending that permanent custody of the child be granted to the current foster parents, which they also actively want. The foster mother is a stay-at-home mom; the family has other foster children, and DSS says that the child has developed a bond with his foster siblings and parents. As a stay-at-home mom, the child is able to have constant attention, but the foster parents apparently also make sure he is exposed to social experiences with kids his own age, for the purpose of social development.

DSS is arguing against placemet with the grandmother partly because of their concern about her son, the child's father, having uncontrolled access to the child, and partly because she has two jobs. At least one of those jobs, though, is at a day care facility, where the grandmother says she will be able to bring the child during the day. So, although she will be working there and will have other job functions to perform, she will have at least some access to the child during the day.

So, essentially, the case stands like this: There are two paries that are actively seeking permanent custody of the child. The first party is the grandmother, a blood relative, who seems to be a caring, responsible adult. She is trained in child care. She works, and cannot give the child all her attention all day long, but since she works at the day care facility where the child will be cared for, she is able to maintain a greater amount of contact with the child than a typical pair of working parents can during the day. The child has been allowed to visit with the grandmother, and the two seem to get along well.

The second party is a pair of foster parents, who also seem to be caring, responsible adults. The child shows signs of bonding with them, as well as their other foster kids.

This is a very condensed summation of the situation, but I'm curious to know what you think about who should be given custody of the child. On the one hand is the child's own grandmother, a blood relative, who is trained in child care, works two jobs, and can provide possibly a bit more attention to the child individully throughout the day than is average for working parents. We also know that she's had at least one of her own kids turn out to be a substance abuser and wind up in jail, although I don't know for a fact that she raised him directly herself, or alone (but I've so far seen nothing to suggest otherwise). On the other hand we have the foter parents, who are not blood relatives, but can apparently provide more individual attention to the child, and who also have the backing and endorsement of the State.

So who would you pick?
 

WouldaShoulda

Suspended
I cringe at the thought of The State removing a child from it's disfunctional family but let's face it.

People used to be a lot less selfish back in the day and did the right thing without the intercession of Family Court.

Based upon the evidence, permanent adoption and placement with the foster family or other suitable permanent home would be best for this unfortunate child.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Our State family courts claim the intent to operate in the best interest of the children but, I question whether that is the end result that is realized by their efforts. In the case study presented in the OP, my guess is the paternal grandmother will eventually be the one who is awarded custody and I doubt that will be in the best interest of the child.

Our youngest daughter and her husband have been involved in the foster parenting/adoption process for the past two years. They presently have four children in their care (in addition to their biological child), an eight month old baby, they picked up at birth who was addicted to crack, and three siblings, a four year old girl and her three and one and a half year old brothers. The four year old has been diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder and all three have been diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. The State has been trying to get the eight month old baby's mother off drugs, in the hopes of returning the baby too her. Those efforts have been complicated by the mother's subsequent three arrests for drug possession/use but, the State finds it "imprudent" to terminate the mother's rights (BTW, she has no idea who the father might be!).

The parents of the three siblings have voluntarily terminated their parental rights and the children are adoptable but the State has stipulated that they must be kept together. Seems reasonable but, perhaps less so when the State further stipulated that any adoption must also include a fouth child that the biological parents conceived, and the mother is presently carrying, subsequent to terminating their parental rights. These alcohol soaked, drug addicted fools are allowed to go out and continue to procreate, after voluntarily terminating their parental rights to the first three children they brought into this world! Seems to me it's time to bring back forced sterilization.
 

JJR512

Super Member
The father abandoned his rights when he left the mother.

OK, I'm just going to respond to this real quick: Did you read what I wrote? I mean, I know there's a lot of text there, but one really should read the entire opening post when replying to it.

First of all, the question is not whether the child should be placed with the father, so it's irrelevant whether the father abandoned his rights. Secondly, the father did not abandon his rights when he left the mother, due to the simple fact that he never left the mother. They were never a couple, and were certainly never married. They were casual sex partners, to state it nicely. He never knew she was pregnant or that he had become a father. Also, the mother, at first, didn't know who the father was. At first, she mistakenly identified another man as the father, but she only identified anyone at all because DSS required her to do so. She wasn't trying to get anything from the baby's father, didn't want whoever it was involved. She was trying to essentially be a single parent. DSS required her to identify the father, so that they could try to get him to provide some kind of support. (Note that DSS doesn't really care if the father's involved; they just want to reduce the cost to the State of supporting this kid, if they can find the father and get child support from him.) So she thought it was this one guy, turned out it wasn't him, then she remembered the name of another guy she was also having sex with at the same time as the first guy. So, no, the father didn't abandon his rights because he never knew he had any, and he didn't leave the mother. To the father's credit, when DSS came to see him in jail and told him about the situation, he voluntarily submitted to a paternity test, and when he was confirmed, he did take an interest in the child's life. It's unfortunate and sad that he apparently wasn't motivated enough to get himself cleaned up and straightened out enough to put himself forward as a viable option for permanent placement with his own child, but he did at least have the good enough sense to state that he knew he shouldn't be given custody of the child, while suggesting the best option he knew of, which was his own mother.
 

JJR512

Super Member
These alcohol soaked, drug addicted fools are allowed to go out and continue to procreate, after voluntarily terminating their parental rights to the first three children they brought into this world! Seems to me it's time to bring back forced sterilization.

That is a whole other thing altogether...And yours is a position that I suspect would get a lot of sympathy from me. ;)
 

JJR512

Super Member
I would like to add some additional facts I've learned about this case.

The DSS's main concern about placing the child with the grandmother is that they fear for the safety of the child if the father is allowed to freely come and go from that home. It turns out that the father was indeed raised by his mother (the child's grandmother). The grandmother has admitted that she had very little control over her son, found it difficult to ever say "no" to him, etc. She has stated that she knows she's been an "enabler" of his bad habits and activities. The DSS's secondary and lesser concern is the amount of attention the grandmother will be able to provide. At her primary job as a daycare provider, she is directly responsible for a small group of children. At the present time, this would include her grandson, but as he gets older, he'll move out of her group into other groups. She also has a second job (in a department store), which she goes to in the evenings a few nights a week, and also every other weekend during the day. It was never brought up who would be caring for the child while she's at her second job. The grandmother has stated that she would like to be able to quit the second job to be able to spend the time with her grandson, but is unable to due to finances.

Now, some additional information about the current foster parents. I did not mean to mislead anyone with my original description of them, particular when I referred to one of them as a "stay-at-home-mom. Although it may seem like it, I honestly was not trying to paint a generic picture to try to get anyone to assume anything, only to later reveal that something else was the case, something that would have caused some people to have very different opinions if they had known it up front. I honestly was not aware of the following fact when I posted my original post, and the fact to which I am referring is that both foster parents are men.

It was never stated in this particular hearing what relationship the two men have with each other. It was never stated that either or both are homosexual. The only reference to them both being men was that the DSS worker, who is recommending permanent placement with them, was not sure which one of them would actually be legally adopting the child. She said that as far as she knew, they probably could not both adopt the child, as a man-and-woman married couple could (gay marriage is not legal in Maryland, currently, nor, as far as I know, is it recognized).

So, although I did not originally intend to make it like this (I swear), now that it's happened, I wonder if anyone who originally felt that the child should go to the foster parents now has a different opinion.
 

PedanticTurkey

Super Member
I think DSS is completely full of it. In my state, this wouldn't even be close.

I mean, really, they're worried the father might have too much contact with his son?
 

Cruiser

Connoisseur
I think DSS is completely full of it. In my state, this wouldn't even be close.

I mean, really, they're worried the father might have too much contact with his son?

Whether you want to believe it or not, this can be a significant factor. Some parents need to have their interaction with their kids tightly controlled, if not eliminated altogether.

In my prior life I was a social worker (got a degree in it and everything) and had a short career with the State child services division. Although my job was to investigate complaints of child abuse and my direct responsibility ended after I closed the case, removed the children from the home, or left them there and turned the case over to the long term supervision folks, I was still involved on the periphery with regard to what eventually happened with them.

The ultimate decision rests with the Court and the caseworker only makes recommendations. In every case that I was involved with the caseworkers were concerned only with the welfare of the children. I saw little interest in the parents and none in what would be the least expensive solution for the State. Higher ups may have had other concerns, but I didn't see it from the field level caseworkers who wrote the reports to the Court. I know that in every case assessment that I wrote to the Court my only concern was the welfare of the children.

Having said that, the situation described above is far more typical than one might imagine. People who do this for a living see these type cases, and worse, every day. I was literally stunned by what I saw my first day in the field and I quickly understood why newbies must be sent out with experienced workers otherwise they would be removing children right and left with the end result being the State would be overwhelmed with foster children. It is really heartbreaking what you see out there. It didn't take long for the long hours in downright scary situations for extremely low pay to cause me to seek another career field.

Cruiser
 

PedanticTurkey

Super Member
Unless the guy sold his last kid to buy crack, he's going to end up with custody. So why on earth would anyone traumatize the child by keeping him away from his family during his formative years and fill up a much-needed foster slot based on empty speculation about what might happen years in the future?

Sounds to me like a bunch of self-righteous bureaucrats playing make-work with peoples' kids.
 

JDC

Inactive user
How much of a role does individual state law play in this decision? I think blood relatives have different child custody rights in different states.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
I would like to add some additional facts I've learned about this case.

Now, some additional information about the current foster parents. I did not mean to mislead anyone with my original description of them, particular when I referred to one of them as a "stay-at-home-mom. Although it may seem like it, I honestly was not trying to paint a generic picture to try to get anyone to assume anything, only to later reveal that something else was the case, something that would have caused some people to have very different opinions if they had known it up front. I honestly was not aware of the following fact when I posted my original post, and the fact to which I am referring is that both foster parents are men.

It was never stated in this particular hearing what relationship the two men have with each other. It was never stated that either or both are homosexual. The only reference to them both being men was that the DSS worker, who is recommending permanent placement with them, was not sure which one of them would actually be legally adopting the child. She said that as far as she knew, they probably could not both adopt the child, as a man-and-woman married couple could (gay marriage is not legal in Maryland, currently, nor, as far as I know, is it recognized).

So, although I did not originally intend to make it like this (I swear), now that it's happened, I wonder if anyone who originally felt that the child should go to the foster parents now has a different opinion.

I remain inclined to conclude the child would enjoy a more stable and nurturing home life with the foster parents than that that might be available if placed with the grand mother. It seems she provided proof of her nurturing mettle in the rearing of her jailed son!
 

DCLawyer68

Super Member
As an adopted child who is the (recent) parent of an adopted child, it's my view that biology is WAY overvalued in terms of determining custody. The "best interests of the child" rather than the adults in question should be the determining factor.
 

JJR512

Super Member
Unless the guy sold his last kid to buy crack, he's going to end up with custody. So why on earth would anyone traumatize the child by keeping him away from his family during his formative years and fill up a much-needed foster slot based on empty speculation about what might happen years in the future?

Sounds to me like a bunch of self-righteous bureaucrats playing make-work with peoples' kids.

I thought it was fairly clear from what I presented that the father getting custody isn't even being considered in this case. It's two choices: The grandmother (father's mother), or foster parents. The father isn't going to wind up with custody any more than you or I am. Theoretically, I suppose the court does have the power to order custody of the child to be given to the father, but it's not likely. The father is not asking for custody. The father is saying that he should not have custody. The father is saying that his life is not in the kind of shape it should be in for him to raise a child, and furthermore, the father shows no indication of trying to get his life in shape, either. In fact, during this hearing, it was mentioned that the father was currently scheduled in a few days to turn himself in to another county's detention center for a court-ordered incarceration stint (I don't know for how long) resulting from recently being convicted of, if I recall correctly, possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, and resisting arrest.

The foster parents have indicated that they are willing to let the child have visits from the grandmother and the parents. I would assume, and hope, that those visitations, especially with either parent, would be supervised. But their desire is to adopt the child permanently. The grandmother's desire, and the father's as well, is that she would retain custody of the child until such time, if ever, that her son gets his life in shape to take over being the father. The grandmother says she's ready and willing to have custody until the kid is 18 in case that never happens with the father. It is not terribly likely that the mother will play a large role, if any, in the child's future later down the road, since she has some serious diseases, as you can imagine that someone with a history of street drug use and promiscuity might (to put it bluntly, your typical "crack whore"). She's been hospitalized in the past do to that, and been quite seriously ill.
 
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