Not sure where this goes, there’s probably a GQ answer but I’ll start it here since there will most likely be dissent and discussion…
I’ve been ‘arguing’ with my mother this evening concerning adoption laws here in Florida. My family is involved in foster parenting here in the state and circumstances have changed recently. (I’m not a foster parent, she is however and I’m listed as an ‘emergency contact’. I’ve been through the background check and everything and I’m legal on that front.) One of her children has recently had her CPI case changed from ‘foster parent’ to ‘adoption.’ The biological mother has failed to make any progress on her case in over a year and they’re looking for adoptive parents at this point. My mother is looking to pursue adoption for her foster daughter which, I personally, think is a good idea.
However, the child, who is roughly two years old, has a 16 year old sister who is used to playing the ‘mommy’ role. (Her sister has also been involved in the fostership system). She’s expressed interest in pursuing guardianship rights for her baby sister when she turns 18. My own mother thinks this is not going to be an issue as once the biological mother’s parental rights are terminated the courts are going to look at her experiences and dismiss blood relations. I’m not as convinced of this possibility. Frankly, I have no idea how such a situation would be resolved legally and I’m looking for input. I think she’s looking at a custody battle down the road but she disagrees.
I know legal advice is frowned upon as a rule. I’m looking more for personal experiences and if anyone can give specific input about Florida or elsewhere that would be greatly appreciated. I think I’ve included pertinent information but I’ll provide further details upon request.
I’m curious about the big sister’s current relationship with the kid. How involved is she? How close does she live? How welcome is she to visit the kid? Is she a good influence? How stable is she?
Were I in your mom’s shoes, I’d be carefully considering actively reaching out and involving the big sister in the kid’s life as much as possible. By making sure that big sis is welcome, active and important in the kid’s life well before she would be of age to pursue custody, the entire issue might be headed off at the pass. I’m likening this to an open adoption, where the birth parent(s) have ongoing contact and involvement with the child after adoption. A person who hasn’t “lost” the child is far less likely to take drastic steps to “reclaim” the child.
Moreover, I wouldn’t give too much weight to what a 16-year-old is saying. Things change a lot, and her goals will shift as she gets older and her horizons hopefully broaden. I really believe that if she’s welcome and encouraged to see her little sister, and as her sister moves from being a baby to being a little girl able to express her own desires, she’ll be less inclined to try to take custody.
Sorry for the late response Beadalin. I had thought my op had sunk without any replies and hadn’t given it any more thought.
I should state upfront that I really don’t know “Big Sis.” I’ve met her occasionally in passing, a few minutes at a time. She doesn’t strike me as “unstable” but I know that I haven’t spent enough time with her to really make that kind of judgment.
Prior to CPI getting involved I know she acted as the primary caregiver to her younger siblings. (It’s not just the two of them, there are four kids involved in the same family.) ‘Mom’ is apparently really messed up. She can spend time with her younger sister as long as she calls ahead I know, showing up on the doorstep unannounced is discouraged. A good influence? I don’t really know enough about her to state one way or another.
This actually makes a lot of sense. In the last two years my own mother has fostered a dozen different children. This is the first time a situation like this has come up. In all the rest the biological parents have worked their case plans and been reunited with their children with little problem.
I can see that. I think I’m getting a little more wrapped in the situation than usual because I’m afraid my own mother is getting a little more wrapped up than she normally does. She understands that the foster children aren’t her children but I don’t want her to be hurt if the unforeseen should happen.
I’ll see my mom again on Thanksgiving and I’ll talk to her more about it then.
Whatever else is the case, there is absolutely no chance that Big Sis will be “automatically” disqualified because she is related to the unfit mother. If she seeks custody, she will be evaluated on her own merits, whatever they are (or aren’t).
I am not sure about the specific law in Florida. Many states favor keeping siblings together, but that is in the context of them all being adopted.