“Tammy” shares her story as a grandmother in her early 50s who tried to get her child to give her custody of her two grandchildren. She doesn’t make much money, but is confident that she could have cared better for her grandchildren than the state has.
She does not believe that having her grandkids in foster care was best for them. She does not believe the professionals in their case were on her side, or working with the best interest of the children in mind. It was “about money.” Rather than being placed in-care, the state could have let the children “go with family” instead. The children were not treated badly, but neither were things as good as she believes they could have been. “They seemed ok, but confused.” They stayed with only one foster family “and they seem ok. But my grandchildren had a grandmother that loved and wanted them.”
Based on her experiences, she believes that the social workers and child protective services workers “lie and twist the truth and have a double standard. They only go back on a foster parent’s record five years. But [for] the relative, they hold misdemeanors 11 and 9 years ago and use it against them as a reason to not give custody. My judge went right along with DCF. I didn’t even get a hearing to prove allegations wrong.” She thinks her case is not different from many other kin, “I’m sure no one gets a fair trial.”
What works well in foster care? “I don’t know.” What doesn’t work? “Lies and deceit and I think most people just foster for the money.” She thinks the purpose of the system is work on behalf of the children, in their “best interest.” But she also doesn’t think this happened in their case.
Tammy has similar arguments to other grandparents who have shared their story. They believe they should have been considered viable caregivers but were not allowed guardianship of their own kin. Should custody automatically revert to the closest kin of a child before they are placed in foster care?
Generally, although this seems not to be the case for Tammy, grandparents or other kin are accepted as viable caregivers because the judge suspects that the kin will allow parental access to the child when they should not have it, or that the kin is complicit in whatever neglect or abuse occurred. Tammy alludes to a prior criminal charge that prevented her from getting custody. Without knowing the nature of those charges, it is difficult to say whether you might agree or disagree with the judge. (For example, if Tammy had abused her own child, you probably wouldn’t want her to have custody. But if her misdemeanor was a possession drug charge, of say, marijuana, many of us would assume that if she passed a drug test that she would be suitable.)
The court has decided that Tammy is not in the best interest of her own grandchildren. Tammy believes that family is the best interest of a child. How can we resolve this conflict? Which rights should take priority?