Sweet child o’ mine

I’ve probably attended a dozen court hearings at which parents’ rights to their children were terminated. Some of these parents have been my clients. From an objective third-party point of view, the children may be better off. The children probably don’t think so; these are their parents, after all, for good or bad. Many abused kids still cling to the parent they know.

What amazes me, is something I’ve seen more in recent years: people whose personal agenda causes them to leave their children with someone else. Not even family.  Just…someone. A neighbor, a friend–the most recent was their child’s 16 year old babysitter’s mother.

What is so important that you just leave your toddler with this person you’ve never even met face to face? Eh. You need to find yourself and start over in a different state. You promise as soon as you get things together, you’ll be back. But you never come. Three years later, the family finally decides maybe they should adopt the child so that he won’t be ripped out of the existence he’s come to know when you do come back. So they have a court hearing to end your rights to the child–and you can’t even be bothered to call in.*

Very sad. Not as sad as the parent who left her child with a neighbor, who then absconded with the child across multiple state lines. Several years later, they found her. and also found that the girl had been subjected to physical and sexual abuse, since she didn’t really belong to that family. Even now that the child has been rescued, she can’t go home. She’s too damaged. All because at some point the parent felt too overwhelmed to care for the child, and found a sympathetic ear.

But how can you give your child away like a worn out pair of jeans?

I’m not talking about the heart-breaking choices some mothers make, to place their child for adoption, knowing they cannot provide for the child and unselfishly allowing the child to be matched with a family who has been screened and who will raise the child as their own. This is a special sort of love, well-reasoned and hopefully rewarded. I’m talking about something that is a bad decision from the get-go.

Even on days I am most desperate for eight hours of respite from issue-laden kids, it would never occur to me to leave the children with someone I didn’t know down to the last shoe size. We don’t go out much, because we have two adults, and two adults only, who are our regular sitters. They each have families, too, and we can’t always arrange time. But would I leave the children with the neighbors to go away for the weekend? No way in hell. First off, the neighbors would come hunt me down after they had my children for a couple of hours. But second…you just don’t.

Call me a rebel, but this is one trend I intend to ignore.

*details changed to protect parties 


6 thoughts on “Sweet child o’ mine

  1. overcoming 5 billion years of biology/evolution is tough. human animals are wired to care for their genetic products… like you, i simply cannot fathom ‘leaving’ your children. i typically chalk it up to something almost alien that grabs the parental soul – drugs, mental illness…

    i’m not sure i’d survive in the practice of family law.

  2. I was left at the age of 4 with my great aunt and great uncle, whom I now call mom and dad.

    I was abandoned. She bought a new set of luggage and left.

    I’ve really had to work out my issues in regards to all of this. It’s been a really hard-fought war, sometimes for my very sanity.

    What I finally came to the conclusion of, is that she was incapable of feeling love. There are lots of reasons for this conclusion.

    My point is, this is something that never goes away. It effects my peace, my mind, and my parenting. It all comes down to the question of “what was wrong with me” no matter how old you get. No matter how much you know, as an adult, that you did nothing wrong.

  3. Oh, Michele… 😦 I wish these parents could see what kind of effect their personal decisions have.

    Daisyfae, there’s an awful lot of attorneys in our county who “don’t do” family law any more…and I sure understand why. 🙂

  4. michele – see my comment. i truly believe it takes something BEYOND human nature to overcome our biological wiring driving a parent to move on – and in fact, that it could not possibly be that there’s something wrong with the child… take care. keep processing. but try not to blame yourself…

  5. Makes me, even on my worst parenting days, look like mother-of-the-year. I cannot imagine it either.

  6. Although no way can I imagine it, for someone to do that, you really have to wonder if a lot of the time the kids are better off. Obviously, not knowing who you leave them with is dangerous, but how often is it more dangerous than the parent that can’t cope with being a parent?

    Really, there should be some kind of license required for raising children. Obviously it’s not feasible or possible, but some people just should be allowed to continue to mess up lives of kids.

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