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In Loco Parentis: When the Best Interest of the Child Conflicts With Loyalty to the Biological Parents for the Child and the Acting Parent

As the acting parent, designated by one of the biological parents (the father), I find that my loyalty to him, which was sincere, has come into sharp contract with the best interests of the child. I have also found that the child experiences many conflicts regarding his loyalty to his biological parents and me, his legal guardian.

Loyalty is a tough issue for those involved in an in loco parentis custody case. To begin with, the child came to live with me at the request of a biological parent, as is the situation in many cases where an in loco parentis is involved in the first place. The biological father requested my assistance, and I was happy to help.  I am not a blood relative, but was a close friend. The relationship between the biological father and me became strained when I had to get a restraining order against him for myself, not because of the child.

However, even without the restraining order, the child was and is still dangling between us, and I have had many unfortunate opportunities to learn the damage that both biological parents inflicted on their child. Learning these things has changed my perspective on what I can or should do for the child, whom I adore. On the one hand, the biological parent entrusted me to care for their child until he could get on his feet. He didn’t get on his feet. I expected him to follow through on promises he made regarding his involvment with the child, who very much requres his father’s involvment, but again, he hasn’t followed through. The same holds true for ”my” chid’s biological mother.

I have considered every angle, every personal wish I’ve had for “my” child in contrast with the child’s best interest (ad nauseum), but it boils down to the fact that “my” child’s best interest has not been met first-hand by his biological parents, even with my assistance and support, even when I have put aside our personal differences in lieu of the child’s best interest. In the end, loyalty to the child and his or her best interest has to supercede loyalties elswhere. It can be a tough call, but if you watch how the parents interact with the child, and you see their efforst regarding the child’s emotional, educational, and learning needs, your decision regarding what is best for the child will become clear.

I have come to realize that I don’t believe in  “keeping” a child because you believe you love that child more than  his natural parents. I don’t think your feelings alone are a good enough reason to keep a child from living with his biological parents. There need to be compelling reasons why the child’s best interest are served by living with you as opposed to his or her natural parents. Even economical difficulties alone (to some extent), is not reason enough to keep a child from living with his or her biological parents. To go against the trust that the parents bestowed on you, to go against your loyalties to the parents who entrusted you to care for their child, you must look at legitimate and documented reasons (medically, psychologically, educationally) that show the child has been harmed or that his best interests are not being met. It is not fair to the child when you put your feelings or desires ahead of what is in their best interest or what they most desire (never forget that most children who don’t live with their natural parents dream of the day their biological parents will come back for them).

The child is in a tough situation because he loves both of his parents and wants a relationship with both of them. He doesn’t understand their lack of stability, but he does understand that their lives, their living situations, and their involvement with him changes from time to time. He has been pulled at and torn by comments that his parents have made to him. On the day I told him I got temporary custody, he cried. Through tears, he told me that he lied to his parents about his choice when the GAL asked him who he wanted to live with. He said he told them he didn’t choose. He couldn’t handle hurting his parents’ feelings. Loyalty can be such a tough thing to teach a child, especially when the choices are as difficult as choosing among the adults who you love most. I explained that his discussions with his lawyer (the GAL in this case is a lawyer),  are confidential and that I would never dream of asking his lawyer about his choices, and they cannot divulge the full contents of their discussions with anyone. This gave him a big sense of relief.

On the flip side, the GAL told me (without my asking) that he chose to live with me. It broke my heart that they even asked him. I know what’s in his thinking, that this is his way of keeping me in his life, but I wish he’d have never been put in that position to begin with.

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Standing in place of the parent, or acting parent, or "in loco parentis" is a big job that comes with a unique set challenges. I created this blog to share my story and my experiences with those who find themselves in a similiar situation. I look forward to hearing your comments!

The expenses do add up, so if you’d like to pitch in, please feel free to donate a few bucks. I really appreciate your generosity!