From Wisconsin, USA:
My nine and a half year old son, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age two, was abandoned by his father before he was born who has failed to have any contact with him. Regardless, a very strict visitation schedule was put in place (prior to the diabetes) only allowing one supervised visit per month. This order was to stay in effect for two years and the courts would then re-address the visitation schedule. Needless to say, his father never followed through with any of the scheduled visitation. I had tried terminating his parental rights about four years ago because of non-support, abandonment, and failure to assume his parental responsibilities, but my son's Guardian Ad Lietum didn't want to terminate because "someone needed to be on the hook financially and my son needed to know he had a father" even through his dad was never there or supported him.
My son's father had no idea about the diabetes and was never involved. Nine years has passed past now, and about a month ago, his father acquired my address and I received the call. He's remarried now and wants to be a part of my son's life. There's a lot of turmoil going on and I've filed an action to terminate his rights, hoping that they would do it, but I also didn't take into consideration my sons feelings of "wanting to know his biological father".
Currently his father and I live 2100 miles apart and I've started to reconsider the visitation due to my son's feelings. He's torn up emotionally, and I'm very concerned about how visitation would work because his father has had no diabetes education. I've talked to my son's doctors, and they are just as concerned, but everyone seems to be at a loss on how to handle all of this and be fair. I want to be fair and at least give my son the chance to know his father, but I also want it to be in a safe supervised setting where I live. How do you even go about setting up guidelines and requirements for the visitation to be fair or is it best to terminate? I don't want my son to get hurt.
This must be so difficult for both you and your son! Your concerns are very real, and very complicated. Your son's diabetes, while important, is not really the primary issue here. Anyone who is motivated and interested can learn how to care for a child's diabetes. If your ex-husband is really interested in seeing your son, he will certainly need to seek teaching from a Certified Diabetes Educator, and show competency in the daily diabetes management tasks.
To address the more pressing issues, you really need to consult both a mental health professional who is an expert in working with children of divorce (the issues of loss, abandonment, reunification, etc. are so important here). You also need to find a really good lawyer who has expertise in custody and visitation issues. These two professionals, whose primary goal should be to advocate for your son's best interest, are going to be vital in your search for help.
Additional comments from Lois Schmidt Finney, diabetes dietitian:Rather than getting a lawyer involved, I would suggest you follow through with the first step given in the answer and be sure there is some education going on by a CDE, so that your ex-husband and his wife can and do understand diabetes. If you have documentation that this has happened and your son wants to go, I think all should be fine. I assume your son can handle much of his diabetes care himself but you need to know that the adults can take care of needed emergencies. You would of course need to send numbers for them to reach you if your son or the family have questions, just as you would do if he was going to stay with friends. If the ex-husband is not interested in receiving the education and is not willing to have a document saying that he has done so (I think it is imperative that you have the documentation since there is such a strong history of not being supportive of this child), then you should seek legal counsel.
Original posting 11 Jul 2001
Posted to Other Social Issues
Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:24
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