Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fully and Irrevocably Terminated

I'm working on preparing orders from last week's court hearing. I just typed this sentence and it jumped off the screen at me -

That the parental rights of the Mother be and are herewith irrevocably terminated in and to the minor child Jane Ann Smith; those being all the rights and obligations of the Mother to the minor child and of the said minor child to the Mother arising from the parental relationship hereby being fully and irrevocably terminated.

What a powerful statement to this child. Jane Smith (not her real name obviously) is not yet three years old. She doesn't understand what is going on. She knows that she was hurt as a baby. She knows that her mother left for "work" over one year ago, leaving Jane in the home of her purported grandmother. The mother never returned. After some time had passed, the Grandmother needed to take Jane to the doctor and so she called Social Services. Genetic testing revealed that the person that is the Grandmother's son is not the biological father of little Jane. No one knows who Jane's father is. The Grandmother decided blood wasn't any thicker than water in this case and she was going to keep Jane. The termination of Mom and (now unknown) Dad's parental rights were necessary so Grandmother can adopt Jane.

It was a simple hearing. The Grandmother showed up. No one else was there. No one objected or contested. I presented enough facts for the court to find there were grounds to terminate rights and that it was in Jane's best interest that it be done. After I finished, the Grandmother filed her petition to adopt.

Such a simple court process. I came back to the office and was typing the Order. What powerful words.

All the rights and obligations of the Mother to the child arising from the parental relationship are fully and irrevocably terminated

If you are a survivor of parent (or parental figure) abuse, then you know that your parents abused the parental rights they were given. They didn't deserve them. Through their own actions they terminated their rights. They refused to undertake any of the obligations parents should, especially the obligation to love their child and keep them safe.

As a child you don't know understand all the rights, responsibilities and obligations a parent should have. You just know your parents aren't keeping you safe. They are hurting you. They just aren't acting right. Even young children have an understanding of right and wrong. It takes a long time for children to understand consequences, and even when they do, it is mostly other people imposing consequences on them.

I remember wondering when my parents were going to suffer consequences. Here I was trying to grow up and do right. I was constantly reminded that bad actions (and even sometimes not-so-bad actions) had consequences. When was someone, anyone, going to impose some consequences on my parents? On my abuser?

I didn't have a grandmother-figure that came in to save me. My relatives all took the "blood is thicker than water" mantra to heart. They kept quiet, circled the wagons, and told me to keep quiet and respect my parents. They sure weren't taking any actions to protect me or to see that consequences were appropriately meted out to my parents.

When I typed that paragraph above, it was powerful. I don't take joy in drawing the big red line between Jane and her parents. But I do take a sense of satisfaction in imposing some consequences on her parents. And I did take great joy in helping hand up the adoption petition.

I'm wondering how many of us would find satisfaction in writing our own termination order. You could you know. I previously drafted my own divorce decree. It was really powerful. If you think you'd find it helpful, feel free to borrow mine and adapt it accordingly. Take a try at drafting your own Termination Order too, if you want. Words can be a powerful thing. I felt that today. And sometimes taking words and using them for your own healing is a great and powerful thing too.


lawyerchik said...

When I read that, I was very glad that you were able to do this for another child, but I also was reminded of how terribly wrong it is for parents to do things that result in such action.

The other thing I thought of as I read this was how rotten it was that your relatives' "blood is thicker than water" adage didn't extend to you - even though you were related to them, too. You'd think that in protecting one of their own, they would have chosen to protect the one least able to protect herself....

I still think that you are doing some excellent things right now, Enola. Go, you!! :)

misssrobin said...

I am sorry there was no one there to protect you. What you did to help this young girl was a beautiful thing.

I am blessed that I did have a wonderful grandmother who saved me. She didn't know what was happening, but she became a mother to me. She lived in our town and I spend a lot of time there. Understanding what love and value meant.

When she died, one of my aunts told me that they had always thought of me as her other daughter.

She saved me in more ways than I can tell.