You’re likely aware of how child custody works. A set of parents get divorced. A judge wades through information from both parents who try to make the case that they should have the kids. Sometimes parents share custody, sometimes one parent gets full custody, and sometimes the kids end up with grandparents because their people can’t work it out (life). Kids bounce back and forth every weekend, Mom gets Thanksgiving and Dad Christmas Eve. Two bedrooms (or a bedroom and a futon), extra parents, and lots of time in the car.
Of course, this circus of childcare ends when the kid turns 18.
what happens if the kid has severe special needs and will always be a “kid”?
Take Lexi, for example. Lexi turned 18 this Sumer. Suddenly she could vote. buy a lottery ticket, donate blood, and drink (in Canada). Of course, she did none of these things (that I know of) because Lexi is, functionally speaking, about 1 1/2 years old.
what happens when a kid turns 18 and needs their parents to make a doctor’s appointment? Set up a bank account? Get a prescription changed? Bad news: they can’t. “I need to speak with Alexis” is followed by a long conversation about how she’s non verbal. The only thing she’ll say on a phone call or in a Zoom meeting is “HI”, followed by a request for the participant to sing Wheels on the Bus. Turns out a few Social Workers didn’t get that particular musical training in their undergrad years.
As of July, Lexi became a legal adult who can’t tell you what state she lives in or how a bill becomes a law. I admit I’m unclear on the bill/law thing, too, but I’m pretty sure this is Michigan.
I called her pediatrician’s office to change an appointment. I couldn’t: she’s not a child anymore. Can you believe it? Even the people who have known her for 10 years and know she can’t have a conversation still have to enforce a law that says I have no business in her medical files now that she’s grownup.
Of course, I can’t set her up at a new doctor because, again, she’s 18.
“Can Lexi talk to me on the phone?” the Social Security agent asked me.
“HI!” she shouted, before returning to playing her Casio keyboard, because Lexi couldn’t care less about socialized anything. Even she knows it’s not fiscally sustainable.
What do you do when a special needs child becomes a legal adult? And what if you need to protect her from her biological parent? I can tell you: you find a brilliant and talented wife who doesn’t give up, a “stepmom” for Lexi (if you will) who joins me in the uphill battle of establishing guardianship.
Today the Judge approved me for full guardianship for Lexi. Woo hoo. Brittany has co-guardianship. After months of collecting data, getting files, seeing specialists, working with lawyers ($$) and scheduling appointments, we have Lexi safe and sound and in good hands. During today’s hearing, the Judge asked to talk to Lexi. “
Hi, Lexi… I’m Judge Feyen. How are you?”
“HI!” said Lexi.
And there we have her confession of drug use on record. I don’t think it was taken that way, though.
Our psychologist/consultant for Lexi who testified said it was a pretty open and shut case. Nonetheless, we had to have all our ducks in a row a long time ago, and then it was just a matter of waiting for the day to come, all the while hoping that there wouldn’t be an unwelcome disruption to the whole proceeding. And, finally, we got the go. What a relief!
I won’t go too deep into the details, but it basically means that I have full legal (power? control? reign? I’m not sure what word to use yet) over Lexi. I can speak on Lexi’s behalf and conduct business in her name. I can set things up, rearrange stuff, and make life livable for her. In other words, Lexi went from being in some kind of limbo where anything could happen and 1,000 things could go wrong to — presto — being all set for life. Phew.
Today is a good day. God answers prayer. Things can come together. Redemption looks like this.