Friday, March 5, 2004

March, 2004: Termination of Parental Rights

            The parental rights of our foster daughter’s biological parents have been terminated. “Terminate” is a terrible word. Pregnancies are terminated. Jobs are terminated. There’s no going back from terminated. No second chance. No changing your mind.  And much as I know that Christa’s parents are in no position to care for her, it was still difficult to hear the Court terminate their rights. I was thankful they were not present to hear it, too. I was also thankful that one-year-old Christa will have no memory of this day.  She will never hear the social worker, under oath, answer “No,” to the ten questions the court posed regarding whether her biological parents ever provided the most basic of care. Jamie has been in foster care since birth, and her biological mother visited her just a few times before disappearing. It is completely appropriate that the Court terminated her mother’s rights. But appropriate doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.
            Jamie knows nothing of this. Nothing was terminated about her day-to-day life.  She yells, “Daddy!” when Bill walks in the door. Often, her first word upon waking up from a nap is “IAMMM!” She can’t make the “L” sound for “Liam,” so she just leaves it out entirely. When Jacob comes home from school, she holds up her arms so he can pick her up. I have learned to walk rather effectively with a small body wrapped around my leg, giggling. Jamie  is so much a part of our family that it’s hard to imagine that she had her start outside of us.
            But she did have her start outside us. About six weeks into Jamie’s stay with us, when she was 15 months old, our social worker set up a meeting with five of her six biological siblings at Chuck E. Cheese. All of the children in the family are in foster care or live with their respective biological fathers, but none live with their mother. We have photos and a video of that meeting. Jamie ’s older sister gave me pictures of their biological mother and grandmother. More than anything, it is that day that I was thinking of in Court, when Jamie’s parents’ rights were terminated. The reality of day-to-day family life and complications of siblings living with so many different families, mean Jamie will never know them well as a child. The termination of Jamie’s parents’ rights, is also a de facto termination of a relationship with her biological siblings — a termination of a sisterhood with three girls who have her beautiful black curly hair and three brothers who have the same enormous brown eyes.
            When our second foster daughter, Teenasia, left us, last year at this time, I recognized in her leaving that while I could be happy that she was reunited with her birth family, I could be sad for our loss. At the time, my pain was deep and I thought that if I should ever some day be in a position to adopt a foster child, I would feel nothing but joy. As we prepare to adopt Jamie next month, I know now that is not the case. Joy I feel, definitely, joy. But also within that joy, a tinge of sadness, for a family that could have been.


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