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Parenting Issues This forum is for discussing any of the parenting issues involved in your divorce, including parenting of step-children.

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Old 03-02-2012, 02:31 PM
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Default Informing a Child of who its Biological Parents Are

I have a co-worker who brought to my attention a very unique case with her friend.

Father has been exercising supervised access to his son (now 8yrs old) since the child was a few months old. The CAS got involved because of his and mother's drug problem and temporarily placed the child with the father's aunt (the child's great-aunt).

Two years later, when the parents did not do what they were supposed to in order to have the child returned to them, the CAS approached the aunt and said it would withdraw its protection application if the aunt obtained a permanent custody order. She agreed and obtained the custody order with supervised access to the parents.

The unique thing here is that, for some reason, this 8 yr old child has never been told that this man, who has been exercising access to him regularly since he was a baby, is his birth father. The child calls the aunt and her husband mommy and daddy and believes the aunt's bio children are her brother and sister. The bio mother, although not together with the father anymore, has also exercised regular supervised access. The child calls the bio parents mommy-"first name" and daddy-"first name" but has never been told that they are actually her blood parents.

Now the parents have cleaned up their act and are pursuing unsupervised access. The child also one day recently finally came out and asked the bio dad why he calls him daddy (preceeded by his first name) and same for the bio mom. Bio dad did not answer the boy, but instead went to the aunt and told her about it and said it's time to tell him. The aunt freaked out and denied him any further access until he signs an agreement that he will not reveal to the child who his bio parents are and how he came to be in the custody of the aunt. The aunt also told him that he will never have unsupervised access. It appears the bio dad and his aunt's relationship was very good until the moment he suggested that the child know who he really is to the child, and until he asked her for unsupervised access. I'm told he is at a loss as to why his aunt would do this.

The bio father got a lawyer and signed the agreement but added that he would be filing a motion to vary his access and, as part of that motion, will be asking the court to decide whether the child should be told about his parentage.

Truly unique, at least I've never heard of anything like this. I can't find anything like this, factually, on CanLii.

What are your thoughts? Do you think a court should or would ever "order" that a child should continue to be lied to and withheld from such critical, self-identifying information to which this, and every, child has a right? I am also told the child is the spitting image of the bio father and looks nothing like the aunt's family. Bio parents are White and aunt is married to an Asian man. Their bio children, whom the child thinks is his blood brother and sister, clearly have Asian features.

Based on the version of the facts as given to me, I personally think that it's wrong to keep this information from a child who is obviously figuring things out and asking. If I was raised to call someone other than my parents a name that includes "mommy" and "daddy" in it, I too would be highly curious as to why that is. It was the aunt who taught the child to call his bio parents mommy-"first name" and daddy-"first name", why now is he so freaked out about telling him the truth? I understand this won't be easy by any stretch if the imagination, but it still must be done. It doesn't sound to me like the bio parents are ever going to leave this child's life, so I think the child has to know. In fact, I wonder why this wasn't done a long time ago. The kid is 8 yrs old now and this will only be more devastating the older he gets....Do you agree?
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Old 03-02-2012, 03:29 PM
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to me the kid is old enough to be told. Maybe not the exact reason or gory details of why he was taken from the parents, maybe just told that they had issues. He will find out eventually and if he finds out as a teen he may get more rebellious and not trust anyone cause he was lied to by adults. The father wants a relationship with his child and has cleaned up his act and deserves to try and be a father.
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Old 03-02-2012, 06:02 PM
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I have been working with adulted adults and birth mothers for 16 years. Ontario now has open adoption records. Children should be told from time they are able to understand and grasp the concept of what adoption means. There are not too many late discovery adoptees anymore. Most children, teens, adults always know in the back of their head that something just does not jive completely with the family they are with.

If they Aunt and Uncle don't want this boy told who his parents are I would respect their wishes for your sake and not the boys. They have custody through the courts and the bio parents have had their parental rights terminated. When the boy reaches18 years of age he can then do what he wants. If the bio parents continue to persue this, the guardians will dig their heels in deeper and up goes the wall.

Many, many adoptive parents are extremely jealous of birth parents coming into the picture and lay so much guilt on the child that the child is afraid to search for his/her natural parents for fear of hurting the adoptive parents. The adoption triangle can be more like a vicious circle than a triangle. I have heard this story over and over from adoptees. Many will even wait until the adoptive parents are deceased before they search for their bio parents.
Not all adoptive parents are like this, many help their child reconnect with the bio parents. Who would not want their child to be loved by so many more people willing to give their hearts to them.

Go to some adoption sites...birth parent sites...and get a feel what the guardian or adoptive parents fear.

I have reunited famiies from BC to Nova Scotia and I never tire of it.

Hope this helps
L
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:05 PM
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Lorac: Perhaps you misunderstood. This in not an adoption case, the aunt has "custody" (big difference). The bio parents have not had their parental rights terminated, they still have the right of access which they have exercised. This is not a case where the child would have to "search" for his bio parents, they have been part of his life for his entire life. The child already calls them mommy-"first name and daddy-"first name. From what I understand, they have an excellent relationship with the child. This has absolutely nothing to do with being "reunited" or "adoption"
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:15 PM
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Lorac you must be a witness to so many touching (and heartbreaking) situations.

I was recently at a wedding reception. Seated at my table was a lovely lady, about 80 years of age - she could've passed for 60 She was such a vibrant and lively, fun-spirited person. She'd been married (albeit not blissfully happily) for 60 years. She and I got to talking. She told me that she had 3 children. The first 2 were adopted (at a few months old) and then against all odds, 20 years into her marriage, she learned that she was pregnant. I told her that my friend (who attended wedding w/me) was adopted, and that I'd also known a person who was told (or found out is more like it, by accident) that she had been adopted, and was 12 when she learned this news for the first time. That event seemed to send her into a tailspin of rebellious behavior and poor choices in friends. In later life, she would come to abuse drugs (prescription and otherwise) and eventually lost custody of her 2 children.

So I asked this lovely elderly lady, "how did you tell your kids?" She explained quite freely that they had "always known" - that from the time she had them, she read to them and then as they turned 3 and 4 yrs old, she read them books about kids who were adopted because their bio-parents were unable to care for them, so they wanted to make sure that they were looked after, and given all the opportunities by a loving parent(s).

Definitely, what this mom did is/was the way to go - as while I'm sure some adopted children adapt to the news later on in life (I truly can't relate), and go on to lead productive lives - there are some who carry the burden of feeling betrayed and have an overwhelming sense of abandonment. Anyway, just thought I'd share this true story. There's a good lesson to be learned from it.
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:19 PM
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PS: I do find it a little odd that the "daddy - JOHN" (ie) and "mommy - JANE" is used. Obviously the kid is going to wonder what's up?? Since that has been the way child addresses both mom and dad, I don't see that it's that big of a "reach" to lay the cards on the table. Yes, definitely a different situation.
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:30 PM
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hadenough: that's exactly what I was thinking. It's going to happen eventually in my opinion. It's not a question of whether the child finds out, it's how and when. Does the aunt want this child to find out in some other horrible way? I shutter to think the severe damage this could cause if this child finds out from someone else. Remember this is his aunt, I assume that she is bio dad's mother or father's sister. There are likely other family members that know about this and what if he finds out from someone else? Just my opinion
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:34 PM
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Reminds me of the episode of the Soprano's when Paulie finds out that his mother was really his aunt and aunt was really his mother. Paulie went on a killing spree after that....although he was in the mafia but you get what I'm saying
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:38 PM
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Fact is though: there are legalities in the way. Plenty of them. Bio mom and dad need to tread very carefully. They do not have the advantage here. This needs a lot of careful consideration in terms of how/when to proceed. For the short term, best to keep the peace, continue w/the visits - continue to stay "clean" etc and show a proven pattern of staying the course. It's a tough situation. But by and large: it is my opinion that children should be told the truth. They have a much better chance of coping and learning to deal w/life and future challenges based on honesty. As we know though: there's what's "morally correct" and what is legally "correct" and quite often there is a very wide gap between the two that is not easily bridged. :s
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:46 PM
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AccessDad: I'm a huge fan of the Soprano's and I remember that episode! As well, I watch Criminal Minds - and they have had episodes of a similar content. A lot of their shows ARE based on actual events (but they change a lot of specifics around). It's definitely a "Pandora's Box" issue. Jeez. The bio mom and dad must be very very careful and sensitive as to how this is dealt with. As well, all due respect to the custodial guardians - I'm sure this is difficult for them too. Hopefully with time they will come to see what the best thing to do is, and I believe that is HONESTY.
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