The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Poisonous Parenting: License to Parent?

It’s a question I get every other time I describe to people the process we had to go through in order to adopt. Actually, it was no different from the process any other couple would have to go through in order to adopt a child. (Note: Our process may not be identical to others. The adoption process is different in each state.)

But people who haven’t gone through it or known anyone who’s gone through it are amazed at the flaming hoops (as I call them) adoptive families jump through: getting a complete physical, background checks, getting fingerprinted and having those fingerprints checked against the FBI’s or some other law enforcement agency’s criminal database, producing our police records or official letters stating that we don’t have police records, and getting letters of support or “character references” from friends.

Finally, there’s several “home study” visits with a social worker (both pre- and post-placement), and getting someone who knows our family to be interviewed by the social worker. This last part, I’m guessing, is the final phase of a process intended to determine to determine our psychological, physical, and fiscal readiness to become parents.

Oh. And then you wait.

Not that I”m complaining. As I explain to people when I’m telling them about our adoption process, it’s anything but onerous when you consider that you’re applying to have vulnerable human life placed in your hands. It’s a process of intent on our part and evaluation on the agency’s part, to make sure they’re not handing an infant to a criminal,  a child molester, or someone too psychologically, physically or fiscally unstable to take care of a child.

That’s when they tend to have their “Aha!” moment, and say something like, “Ya know, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if everyone had to go through that kind of process before they could have kids.”

In other words, as Lisa Belkin writes at the New York Times” Motherlode blog.

Periodically someone comments here that perhaps parenting should require a license, just as it is a requirement for driving a car or, in some places, owning a dog.

A trio of stories in the news this week make that look like a very good idea.

A couple of the stories that inspired her to ask that question are among the news items that I wanted to include in the previous post, but I didn’t want to delay any longer.

The most astonishing is probably Adam Herrman, the boy who was missing for 10 years before anyone ever bothered to report it.

Authorities in Kansas are looking for a boy who disappeared about a decade ago, but was not reported missing until a few weeks ago.

“We don’t know what happened to Adam Herrman past ’99, when he was last seen,” Butler County Sheriff Craig Murphy said at a news conference in El Dorado.

“Is he alive, is he dead? That one I can’t answer because we don’t know,” he added.

Adam was 11 or 12 when he was last seen, Murphy said. At the time, he was living in a mobile home park in Towanda, a small town in southern Kansas, with his adoptive parents, Doug and Valerie Herrman. The couple did not report him missing, Murphy said.

A few weeks ago, a person notified Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Children’s Unit of a “concern” regarding Adam, Murphy said.

That person may have been his sister — the biological daughter of his adoptive parents. Apparently, his adoptive parents continued to collect money from the state for taking care of Adam, and who’ve said cryptic things like,”They can dig up the whole state of Kansas, they’ll never find a body”.

Adam was taken away from them once following claims of abuse.

Through their lawyer, the Herrmans have denied harming the boy. But several immediate family members claim Valerie Herrman mentally and physically abused the boy, at times hitting or slapping him, refusing to feed him and making him sleep in the bathtub without a pillow or blankets.

The Herrmans, who adopted Adam when he was about 2 years old, could not be immediately reached for comment. In an interview with the Wichita Eagle published Wednesday, Valerie Herrman denied that she hit Adam, refused to feed him or kept him chained to the tub, as some of her relatives have alleged.

“They make it sound like I tortured him, but I loved him,” she told the newspaper.

On at least two occasions, in 1996 and 1998, police investigated allegations that Adam was abused. Relatives said suspected abuse was reported to child protection officials at least three times, though Adam Herrman continued to live with his adopted family.

Belkin also picked upon the story of a six-year-old Washington, D.C. boy who took the family car. Not for a joy ride, but to drive himself to school.

The word “miracle” can be overused. But when a 6-year-old boy drives a Ford Taurus for more than 10 miles, weaving in and out of oncoming traffic, slams into a utility pole and no one gets hurt, well, maybe miracle is appropriate.

That’s what happened on Virginia’s Northern Neck on Monday morning, when the first-grader missed his school bus and decided to drive his mom’s car to elementary school so he wouldn’t miss breakfast and PE, authorities said yesterday.

…The boy had gone 10.4 miles, the sheriff said, and was about a mile and a half from his school in Heathsville when he decided to cross the double line and pass again. But this time, he saw a tractor-trailer coming toward him in the other lane.

He quickly whipped the car back into his lane, but, unlike in video games, the car swerved out of control, skidded into an embankment and then struck a utility pole on the rear passenger side. Wilkins said the force of the impact cracked a wooden beam on top of the utility pole. The Taurus was severely damaged, if not totaled, Cunningham said.

Northumberland deputies Jeff VanLandingham and Roger Briney arrived first. “He was crying, hysterical,” Briney said, “not from any pain — he was just adrenalined up on fright.” Briney said another motorist said she was driving 60 mph when the boy zoomed past her.

Briney said he unzipped the boy’s coat to check for injuries, found none and zipped it back up — and the boy turned and walked away. “I said, ‘Where are you going?’ ” Briney said. “He said: ‘My school’s right over there. I’m late.’ I said, ‘We’ll get you to school.’ ”

“He was just bound and determined,” Wilkins said, “he did not want to miss breakfast and PE.” The meal “may have been his primary goal,” the sheriff said. The sheriff said the boy told him that he had trained on video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Monster Truck Jam.

My thoughts are more along the lines of the Washington Post reporter in this video.

I’m not ashamed to admit my heart was in my throat as I read that story, because we have a six-year-old son — Parker — and the though of him in the same predicament makes my pulse race, causes me to break out in a cold sweat, and all the other reactions any parent would have at the thought of their child being in danger.

Well, almost any parent.

See, in our family, I’m the one who makes sure Parker gets breakfast in the morning. I come downstairs a few minutes after the hubby leaves with Dylan, get Parker’s breakfast, get my breakfast, make sure Parker gets dressed in time, make his lunch (if he’s taking it that day), and comb his hair before we head out the door in the morning. Then we walk to the bus stop, where we wait with our neighbors and her kids. Once Parker’s on his bus, I catch mine a few minutes later.

Today, for some reason, I overslept by about 15 minutes. I was awakened by Parker bouncing in the bed, looked at clock, showered, dressed, and got myself downstairs in half my usual time. We made it out the door and onto our respective busses just fine.

But what if I’d just told Parker I wasn’t making him breakfast this morning. And he could just get himself on the school bus? First, I can only imagine his reaction at first, and then when he realized I meant it, partly because he’s just not use to that treatment from us and partly because he’s a six-year-old kid who knows he’s a kid, and knows he needs his parents for an awful lot. I’m sure being on his own like that would scare him, and I can imagine the kid in this story was scared too.

The parents were arrested and charged with child endangerment. The boy, and his four-year-old brother, are in protective custody now.

The story, though, brings up an interesting point. These parents could very likely have their “license to parent” revoked, just like people who prove to be irresponsible and dangerous drivers. That is, they could lose custody of their children.

So, you can lose your license to parent. But how do you get one in the first place?

How did Breena S. Wilson, who left her three-year-old alone in the car while she went shopping, get a license to parent?

How did Jodi Podobnik, who left her kids in a home covered with feces and urine, while she went to a bar?

An Oconto Falls woman faces more than six years behind bars for allegedly leaving her small children home alone.

23-year-old Jodie Podobnik is charged with child neglect and child neglect resulting in bodily harm.

The criminal complaint says Podobnik left her 5-year-old daughter in charge of her 1-year-old son overnight while she allegedly went out drinking.

Police were called after the older child went to a neighbor’s house. The responding officer said the children and home were covered in feces and urine.

Podobnik’s children are staying with their grandparents. She can only see them on county-supervised visits.

How did Reesie Fields, who also left her children home alone, get a license to parent?

Marcus O’Neal Swint, 25, who gave a 123 Stephanie Drive Apt. E address, was charged with two counts of child neglect. Swint was also charged with unrelated traffic charges. His bond was set at $12,000.

Reesie Lamara Fields, 28, who gave the same address, was charged with two counts of child neglect. Her bond was set at $2,000. Fields bonded out the same day.

According to a Clarksville Police report filed by Officer Gabriel Johnson, Fields and Swint are charged with leaving Fields’ children — a 4-year-old boy and 9-month-old girl–home alone on Tuesday between about 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.

A woman, who was a neighbor of Fields reported, the 4-year-old boy knocked on her door and when she answered he was crying, the report said.

The neighbor went next door to the apartment and found the children were home alone. The woman called the police.

Granted, Fields didn’t intend to leave them at home alone the entire time she was at work. Swint was supposed to go back to the apartment and be with them while she was at work. But Swint saw the police cars when he returned and, because of the arrest warrants he already had, decided to wait it out elsewhere.

And how long did it take to ride work anyway? Why not put the kids in the car and take them along?

How did Gloria Ramirez and Anthony Moya — who lived with their children in a filthy, rat-infested home — get a license to parent?

The state got permanent custody Monday of five of the seven children who authorities said they found in a filthy, rat-infested home where their mother had stored her miscarried fetus in the refrigerator.

The parents and Child Protective Services reached the agreement, after mediation. Their parental rights for the other two children were terminated.

The seven, who ranged in age from 9 years to 11 months when found, have been in temporary custody of the agency in foster homes since their removal in July 2007.

…Authorities discovered the horrible conditions of the home after Ramirez called a funeral home to ask about a casket for the fetus she had just delivered in her bathtub with the help of her 9-year-old daughter.

Officials found stacks of dirty diapers – nearly 4 feet high in closets – throughout the house, along with rat, roach and lice infestations, according to court documents. There was little food, and children told investigators they ate only a hot dog out of the freezer for breakfast because they weren’t allowed to open the refrigerator, documents show. The fetus was inside a baby wipe box.

The state from the beginning has pursued termination of parental rights and adoption for all the children, agency spokesman Greg Cunningham said Monday.

In this case, the state got custody of the kids. So, once again, you can lose your license to parent. What how do you get one? What are the qualifications.

How did Fredrick and Sharon Wessel, who let their daughter’s burns go untreated for two weeks, get a license to parent?

The parents of an 11-year-old girl whose second- and third-degree burns went untreated for nearly two weeks appeared in court for the first time on Tuesday.

Fredrick and Sharon Wessel were charged on Friday with felony child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury. They were arrested last week after someone in the neighborhood called 911 to report that their daughter, Heather Wessel, had been badly burned, 6News’ Jack Rinehart reported.

Police said the girl was standing near a propane heater inside the family’s southeast-side home at 343 Villa Ave. on Dec. 24 when her pajama bottoms caught fire. Her parents told police that she had been unable to walk, but that they had been treating her burns with moisturizer.

…Six people quoted in the affidavit, including several family members, told police that they had seen the girl lying on the couch in pain, and had known that she was not able to walk because of the burns. They told police Fredrick and Sharon Wessel said they were afraid they would go to jail if they took their daughter to a hospital.

Ambulance records obtained by 6News showed that Fredrick Wessel — who recently underwent a tracheotomy — called medics to the family’s home at least once for himself after his daughter had been burned.

The beauty part is the dad calling paramedics for himself, but not his daughter.

We never, yet, needed to take the kids to the doctor for more than their regular check-ups. But if one of them was seriously injured, I can’t imagine anything that would stop me from getting them medical help. Hell, if my kid has second and third degree burns and I’ll go to jail if it’s found out, guess what? I’m going to jail.

How did Crystal Pease, who raise her one-year-old in the middle of a meth lab, get a license.

Police in Kosciusko County found an active meth lab inside a home Monday evening. They also found a one-year old child.

Acting on a tip, the Kosciusko County Drug Task Force got a search warrant for a home located at 313 E. Smith Street in Milford. Once inside, they found the meth lab and the child along with two adults.

Police arrested 40-year old Clifton J. Wilkins, Jr. and 22-year old Crystal N. Pease on charges of dealing a controlled substance. Pease is the mother of the child. The child has been taken into protective custody.

How did Bryan Postol and Gina Gray, who were also raising their two-year-old in the middle of a meth lab, get a license? Granted, they were busted. But then then child was released into the grandparents custody; the same parents who raised either Bryan or Gina.

How did Alexis Ann Hunter, whose three-year-old grew up in a meth lab and had methamphetamine in its system, get a license?

A hair from a 3-year-old girl was tested after Child Protective Services took her into custody at a home where authorities found meth-making ingredients and equipment. The results indicated methamphetamine was present in the child’s body, according to arrest warrant affidavits.

Affidavits related to child endangerment charges against a Wichita Falls couple also described an active hydrogen chloride gas generator, a device that produces a toxic gas, inside an unsealed plastic box used as a toy box.

Alexis Ann Hunter, 36, and Ricky Joe Lewis, 33, who both have an address listed in the 3100 block of Grant Street, were charged with abandoning or endangering a child, a state jail felony offense, in connection with an incident Dec. 30, Wichita County court records show. According to the affidavits, Hunter is the child’s mother, and Lewis is Hunter’s boyfriend.

…The affidavit gave this account:

A 3-year-old girl was inside an apartment where authorities discovered a methamphetamine lab, and she was in the care of Hunter and Lewis, who lived at that address.

An investigator with the Wichita County District Attorney’s Office’s Drug Enforcement Division found — both outside and inside the apartment — several things used in making methamphetamine. Investigators found ether, camp fuel, acids, salts and anhydrous ammonia.

On top of that, they found a loaded shotgun under the child’s bed, and methamphetamine easily within her reach. Of course, we don’t have a gun, and the only thing resembling a meth lab in our house is, well, nothing.

How did Grover Baggett, who locked his daughter in a feces smeared room, get a license?

Grover Cleveland Baggett, 22, who gave a 170 Chapel Street address, was charged with one count of child neglect. He was booked into the Montgomery County Jail on a $20,000 bond.

According to a report filed by Officer Candace Daughtery, a witness reported that for the past two days he had seen a naked child standing in front of a window in Baggett’s residence.

When officers arrived, they saw a child standing in an upstairs window with no clothes on. Officer knocked on the front door of the house several times, but there was no response.

A phone number was found for the address, and officers spoke with the child’s mother, who said she was in California and her ex-husband was caring for their 3-year-old daughter in the house. The mother gave consent for the officers to enter the home through a window.

Officers found two bedroom doors upstairs closed and locked.

In one room they found a 3-year-old girl locked in her room naked with feces on the floor and walls, the report said.

The room was locked from the outside.

In the other room, Baggett was found sleeping with his door locked from the inside.

The house was not clean, food and trash was scattered through the house.

The Department of Children Services was notified.

How long had the child been locked in that room? How would any normal three-year-old react in that situation? How could anyone, let along the child’s own father, sleep in the next room, where he couldn’t help but hear the child’s inevitable cries of distress?

How did Robert and Heather Evans, who kept their daughter in a filthy home, get a license?

The parents of a 10-year-old girl were arrested Thursday after a Pasco sheriff’s deputy found animal feces, rotten food and drugs in their home.

Reports said the deputy found broken furniture, animal feces on the floor and rotten food in the refrigerator — and in the bedroom, a clear plastic baggie lined with cocaine residue.

The parents, Robert Wayne Evans, 33, and Heather Thrift Evans, 31, were arrested on child neglect charges and cocaine possession.

Arrest reports say they were aware of the situation in the house but “did not wish to accept responsibility.”

I can only imagine who the parents thought were responsible for the conditions their children lived in. Even if their drug use rendered them incapable of improving those conditions, they were responsible for taking drugs in the first place. So…

How did Clarita Rojas, who allegedly held her son’s arm over a hot stove, get a license to parent?

A 30-year-old Lake Mary mother was arrested on Monday, accused of punishing her 7-year-old boy by holding his arm over a hot stove.

The child abuse investigation began when the boy arrived at his school that morning with a burn on his right forearm. He told a Case Coordinator that his mother, identified as Clarita Rojas, had punished him. On a previous day, the boy said he got into trouble for taking money from his stepfather.

The boy said that while he was in the kitchen, his mother grabbed his arm and held it over the stove. A Child Protection Team medical examiner said that the injury was consistent with his interview, and that the burn was indicative of child abuse.

Monday afternoon, the child’s mother was interviewed at the Kids House of Seminole. Following her interview, she was taken to the John E. Polk Correctional Facility where she was booked and subsequently charged with aggravated child abuse.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether the kid took money from his stepfather or not. There’s nothing a seven-year-old child can do that warrants that kind of “punishment,” if that’s indeed what Rojas intended. If so, there are other ways to teach a kid that it’s wrong to steal and that there are consequences for his actions. If violence is the only thing the kid responds to, then that’s because that’s what he learned, and because nothing else has been tried at home.

How did Jevell Jackson, who kept a gun where his kids could find it, get a license to parent?

Authorities responded to a 7:50 p.m. call of an accidental shooting at the family’s home near Warm Springs Road and Rainbow Boulevard, in the southwest valley.

Police said the two siblings under the age of 10 had been playing with a gun when it fired and struck one of them.

The girl later died at Spring Valley Hospital Medical Center of a gunshot wound to the upper chest.

The name and age of the victim were not released by police today.

Jackson was arrested Wednesday on charges of ex-felon in possession of a firearm, one count of felony child abuse with substantial bodily harm and two additional counts of child abuse.

He was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on $19,000 bail. He was still in police custody as of this afternoon.

Now, some people will no doubt this it makes us irresponsible parents (not providing for our family’s defense and all) but we don’t have a gun in the house, precisely because of incidents like this and the likelihood that a gun in the home will end up shooting a family member, etc. I remember my Dad owned a gun. My sister and I found it once when we were growing up. I’ don’t know how my Dad figured out that we found it, but after that he moved it and we never saw it again.

Fortunately, we’re not required to have guns. In fact, we weren’t required to own a gun to become adoptive parents. So, we know you don’t have to own a gun to get a license to parent.

How did Randall and Michelle Piercy, who imprisoned their nine-year old in his room for three years, get a license?

A father charged with keeping his 9-year-old son locked in a bedroom for the past three years was ordered held on $1 million bond and a second family-court judge has ordered the boy held in protective custody.

Randall Warren Piercy, 41, was arrested Wednesday on charges of aggravated child abuse, Jacksonville TV station WJXT reported.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Lt. Annie Smith described the home as a prison that had surveillance cameras in almost every room. According to the arrest report, the father’s room had television and computer screens that monitored the boy.

“It appears the Piercy home was a prison. The child has never attended school, has no friends, and had not received medical attention,” said Smith.

The police report says the boy’s mother was only allowed to see the child when Piercy allowed the visit.

The mother says that the boy has a learning disability and is extremely hyperactive. Well, maybe he does, but there are better ways of dealing with it than locking him in his room. And, anyway, being locked up under these conditions for three years would be enough to leave anyone with some mental problems.

When arresting the husband Wednesday, police said the man controlled his son and wife, not letting the woman see him for more than an hour a day. But authorities said Friday that Michelle Piercy was also responsible, and she told them she and her husband shared decisions about their son’s confinement.

The couple is charged with keeping the boy a prisoner in their Eynon Drive home, watching him with surveillance cameras and letting him leave his locked bedroom only three times a day. He could come out once a day to make his own breakfast, once to make his dinner and once to use the bathroom, according to authorities.

If he had to urinate again, he was told to “hold it” or use a two-liter plastic bottle in his room that detectives found nearly full, said Lt. Annie Smith of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Police said the 9-year-old had no toys and no friends. He was home-schooled only one hour a week and had never been to the dentist. His bedroom windows were all covered. And the light switch in his room was taped over so he couldn’t use it, Smith said. Neighbors said they rarely saw the boy, and police said the parents left him home alone for hours at a time.

The Piercy’s 18-year-old son says the same was done to him.

Finally, how did Marcelino de Jesus Matinez, who sold his daughter in to marriage for beer, meat, and cash, get a license?

A California man has been arrested for arranging for his 14-year-old daughter to marry a neighbor in exchange for $16,000, 100 cases of beer and several cases of meat, police said.

Authorities in Greenfield, a farming community on California’s central coast, said they learned of the deal after Marcelino de Jesus Martinez, 36, asked them for help getting back his daughter after payment wasn’t made.

Martinez was arrested Sunday. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Monterey County Superior Court on felony charges of procuring a child under age 16 for lewd and lascivious acts, statutory rape and cruelty to a child by endangering health, according to the prosecutor.

The answer is simple, really. It’s the same answer heard in the debate over same-sex marriage.

In their increasingly desperate question to narrow marriage down to something two queers can’t possibly accomplish together, they’ve boiled it down to this: in order for a marriage to be valid a penis must go into a vagina.

Of all the conservative responses to the California ruling this one takes the cake. I’ve written about the procreative imperative, which the right wing has tried to establish as the basis of marriage. I’ve written an entire (and ongoing) series challenging the rightwing notion that marriage is only for making babies and only for people who can (or possibly could, if miraculously cured of infertility) makes babies. (But not for people who can raise well-rounded, developmentally normal children they didn’t conceive together in loving, safe, supportive homes.)

This, however, makes all of that seem almost logical. Forget about making babies. Forget about raising happy, healthy children. In their increasingly desperate question to narrow marriage down to something two queers can’t possibly accomplish together, they’ve boiled it down to this: in order for a marriage to be valid a penis must go into a vagina.

And if you think it stops there, you’re wrong. In the course of defining marriage as “something queers can’t do,” the right is trying to redefine parenting as something queers can’t do. Think about that the next time you hear someone talking about the “natural family.”

There it is again.

The “natural family.” By “natural” they no doubt mean families with two opposite sex parents, though they could easily mean parents raising children they conceived and gave birth too. After all, to hear them tell it, that — or the possibility of it— is the whole basis of marriage. Therefore, heterosexual adoptive parents could have been the parents of they adopt. So it’s OK for them. They’re a “natural,” if not biological,” family. But keep in mind that, during oral arguments before the California Supreme Court, their side let slip that “children are meant to be raised by their biological parents,” and the state has an interest in “supporting procreation and genetic affiliation.”

Because, as far as they’re concerned, only “natural parents” are capable of getting the job done right.

They define the qualifications for a “license to parent” as essentially being able to put a penis into a vagina and fertilize an egg. Provided you’re heterosexual, that’s all the license you need. In other words, the bar is set pretty low.

In its primitive ruling, the Maryland Court of Appeals has reduced the foundation of marriage — love, commitment, responsibility — to little more than the possibility of biological functions that anyone capable achieving puberty will probably also achieve, in some cases without even knowing it, or understanding the implications.

Put crassly, any teenager who can achieve and erection or get her legs open can reproduce. Compared to the time and effort required to raise a child to a happy, healthy, productive adulthood, reproduction is the relatively easy part. The world is full of stories of people whose parents were able to accomplish the above to become parents, but were ill-equipped for the task of parenting itself. I’ve compiled only a small amount of them in parts one, two and three of my “poisonous parenting” series, and the stories keep coming.

Let me say that again. “Compared to the time and effort it takes to raise a child to a happy, healthy, productive adulthood, reproduction is the relatively easy part.” All the parents mentioned in this post managed the first part — conceiving a child and bringing it into the world. It’s once the kids got here that they fell down on the job.

Still, the religious right is trying, based on their own bizarre biological reductionism, to pare down the qualifications to just that: functioning, or possibly functioning gonads. And a willingness (at least) to use them exclusively members of the opposite sex. Bizzare as it sounds, it’s a successful racket for them. And when they succeed in places like Arkansas, hurt our families and many others besides.

Prop. 8 in California wasn’t the only anti-gay initiative that passed on election day. Voters in Arkansas also passed an initiative prohibiting any cohabiting adult from adopting a child or becoming a foster parent. Since Arkansas passed a ban on marriage for same-sex couples four years earlier, the law effectively excludes anyone in a same-sex relationship. Yesterday, the ACLU’s LGBT Project filed a lawsuit in state court in Little Rock challenging the initiative (you can read the complaint here).

The initiative should be struck down, the case says, for two reasons. First, it is bad for children because, in a state with many more children than prospective foster and adoptive parents, it denies them homes. Second, it interferes with family, by keeping gay people from building families and by keeping straight parents from asking gay and straight cohabiting couples to step in for them as parents should something happen.

It should go without saying to anyone who has kids, but having the ability to make a baby — basically, functioning gonads — doesn’t necessarily one has the sense, the patience, the willingness to sacrifice, etc., or even the desire to raise a child and raise him/her well.

As I learned when we finalized Dylan’s adoption, it does go without saying, to people who’ve seen enough families and enough heartache to know what really counts.

At some point, I started watching the families who weren’t their for adoptions, and it was a stark contrast. I saw children coming in for visitation, arriving with blank faces and looking sadder when they left than when they arrived. I remembered being struck by how silent they were, compared to Parker’s constant chatter. I saw people arriving to have matters like child custody and restraining orders adjudicated. One woman stood waiting, and talking to the older woman who’d accompanied her (her mother) about the custody battle with her son’s husband, who had apparently picked their son up from school when he wasn’t authorized to do so. I saw another couple there for domestic violence issues, who had to wait at opposite ends of the building, and I heard an officer at the police desk just outside the courtroom explaining their policy was to keep parties in such cases separated while they waited to see the judge.

But it wasn’t until we started talking to another woman who was waiting to be seen that the contrast really hit me. She was a grandmother, Latina, and she figured out that we were there to adopt. We got to know each other a bit, and I learned that she was there with a young woman who was either her daughter or grand-daughter, and who had a seven-month-old of her own. She’d been talking to the woman next to her, an African American woman who was filling out forms while the young Latina woman bounced the African American woman’s baby on her lap. The Latina grandmother explained to me that the African American woman was there with her grandson, whom her son had brought to her house and simply abandoned. She was there with the baby’s mother to apply for custody.

The Latina grandma said that she had been waiting there for two hours herself, but never said why she was there, except to say that it was “for something sad.” Instead, she asked about Dylan and Parker. And at some point (as people usually do, she “did the math” on our family, and asked me a question.

“Are you one family?” she asked, gesturing from me to the hubby and back again. I braced myself, and said yes were were, and that we’d adopted both Parker and Dylan as infants.

Her response was simply “That’s wonderful,” and she looked me in the eye and told me how wonderful she thought it was that our boys have two parents who love them, care about them, and want to be their parents and to be responsible for them, because we’d clearly worked on becoming parents. “That’s the most important thing.” Right about then, her case was called up, and she disappeared behind the door next to the one we walked through a few moments later.

Of course, the grandma was right. The requirements for a “license to parent” are simple: wanting to be your child’s parent, loving them, caring form them, being responsible for them, guiding them, etc. That’s what’s really important. Or it ought to be.

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