Child's going to need some help, but what sort?
January 11, 2012 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Unnecessary Drama Filter: My Godson's mother just got scooped up by immigration. What comes next?

How likely are they to actually deport the mother, given that she has a six year old American-born dependent? I know deportation seems to take 3+ months to be enacted, but if they decide to let her go, how long will that take?

There are relatives around --an Aunt who's a roommate, a Dad that lives across town, my SO who is distantly related as an Uncle I-don't-know-how-many times removed. They've already gotten together & decided I'd be the best caretaker...ummmWHAT? I mean, theoretically I could & even would do it, but is Dad allowed to simply "opt out"? Wouldn't any sort of decision along those lines require some degree of input from his Mom? I happen to live 3 hours away from this mess, so it would also require changing schools & I'm pretty darn sure that you can't do that without quite a bit of associated paperwork, so it's not just a matter of providing a safe place for him to stay while details are worked out. Who decides these things, anyway? Obviously the most sane answer is, Duh, he goes with his Dad, but if Dad's really not going to step up to the plate, who sorts these things out?

In the meantime, is this the sort of thing you contact a kid's school about? Just wanted to let you know kid's homeless & parentless, can you get him some extra counseling ps he may be transferring 'cause Dad drinks to much to want to be bothered with a kid?

Also, what to tell the child right now? His Mom works nights, so right now he's going to be told that Uncle's picking him up because Mom's working & there's been a snafu, but there's probably a pretty short window for excuses before he notices Mom's just not around.

Any thoughts you can give me on what to expect from this mess would be appreciated. I'm a little blown away right now & wondering if there's anything I should be doing to try to help him, or if my place right now is to sit on my hands & wait & see.
posted by Ys to Law & Government (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What country did this occur in? The US? Somewhere else?
posted by dfriedman at 12:48 PM on January 11, 2012

Assuming this is the US, this is an increasing problem. ColorLines has been doing a number of stories on it that might give you an idea of what to expect, what others are doing to cope, and what human rights or public counsel groups you might be able to contact in your area:

- US deports 46k parents with citizen kids in just 6 months
- Thousands of kids lost from parents, end up in foster care
- Dispatch from within an ICE detention facility

Each of those articles features several people's stories.

This site has information on how long people are typically kept in a California immigrant detention facility.

There is increasing information avialable about The Business of Detention (now at a new website: DeportationNation) and The Influence of the Private Prison Industry
in the Immigration Detention Business
[pdf]. Those websites often have links to organizations that might help, information about specific facilities, groups working together to fight back, and other resources that will hopefully help.
posted by salvia at 12:57 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

What a lot to go through! No wonder you're spinning. You have a lot of questions.

I don't have a lot of advice other than if this where me, I'd start a binder for every piece of paperwork (with copies filed separately or backed up elsewhere); contact information for everyone you speak with; and notes with everything you know. Write down all your questions, leaving space for the answers as they come. Keeping it in one place means if it comes down to it, it can travel with the kid. Aside from that, you may not be the person who has to do everything if you're just a godmother in name and spirit, and not the legal guardian or have custody of him. I'm sure a social worker will be involved, and the school may already have been contacted.

Six is an age where he can ask questions and you can answer them as truthfully and simply as you can. You don't need to go into great detail, but you do need to understand his cares and concerns and use your best judgment about how to help him - and you can always get back to him "in a bit", or "a little later, when you know more", as long as you do and he can trust that. The disruption might manifest itself in his life in myriad ways, from behaviour to food issues to insomnia. Not everything needs to be indulged or analyzed, sometimes hugs and distraction will do, at least for a while. But, though you might be flailing, he needs to feel secure. You can admit to you him you may not know something, but do your best to keep calm and be reassuring that you care for him.

At schools, kids get Strategic Support Teams when they have difficulties. You need to build one around yourself - a good sounding board; resourceful people; legal advice and emotional support. I'll hope for the best for you.
posted by peagood at 12:57 PM on January 11, 2012

Whoops, sorry for the multiple typos.
posted by salvia at 12:58 PM on January 11, 2012

Can anyone involved afford to hire an immigration lawyer? Even a consultation with an immigration lawyer would probably be a good idea - though hiring one to work on her case would be the best idea.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:58 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Lots of questions begging.. is Dad a citizen? If not, he may get swooped up. If yes, is he the one who sent them to get the wife?

In any case, if you ARE going to take care of the kid in the interim, I don't think, at least in relation to school, there is a lot of paperwork in addition to what is going to have to happen for temporary guardianship.. once that is established (and probably even before it is - people move all the time and kids are sent to live with their grandparents, etc without any formal legal change of guardianship), he's at your address, and in that school district. It's just notifying the school and having records sent over.
posted by rich at 1:58 PM on January 11, 2012

If the Aunt lives in the house where he is currently living, I would strongly recommend that the Aunt be the primary caretaker for the timebeing.
posted by k8t at 2:02 PM on January 11, 2012

Is the Aunt *their* roommate or is in a roommate shared housing deal?
posted by k8t at 2:02 PM on January 11, 2012

forget about these small details, get the VERY BEST immigration lawyer you can find ASAP. the current administration has a new discretionary policy that prioritizes deporting only the worst immigrants. you need to find a lawyer who knows what doors to knock on to tap into that.
posted by yarly at 2:03 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: 1. Yes, US: Virginia.

2. Mom & Dad are both illegals. They both have police records due to domestic violence, and they finally separated a few months ago. Dad is still in the same town. The general character of care in the child's life has been neglect. Mom stays away from the house by working multiple jobs, Dad works a more normal schedule, but his preferred activity is to zone out in front of the TV with LOTS of beer. This has not changed now that they are separated: When child is with Dad, he is sent outside & ignored for the duration of day.

3. Subsequent to Mom & Dad separating, Mom acquired a few new roommates, including a biological Aunt to the boy (father's side & also illegal). She has already abandoned a husband & 3 young children to come to the US. I am told that financial need was not an issue. She's the sort of lady who likes to have 3 or 4 boyfriends & encourages them to beat each other up. It does not come as a shock that she is trying to ship the child out.

4. My own child's father is, in some convoluted way an uncle on the father's side. He is not living with us, although we remain in a relationship. In point of fact, he is currently the one putting up child's Dad, in a room that he rents from friends (1 trailer regular sized trailer, 5 adult residents), and is very often the person who looks out for the child when child is with Dad. Given that he is not currently living with or supporting his own child, it's not surprising he's not stepping up either. I suspect he's supporting this idea for 2 reasons (1) we're both very concerned about the child and try to stay involved, and (2) he knows if the Dad DOES take the child, he (my SO) will become the actual primary caretaker.

So that's the basic dynamic. Grimy, complicated, and 3 hours away from me. Thanks for the reading materials; looks like I have homework. More information/thoughts/perspective is good if you've got it. I'm thinking until he actually knows what's going on it is probably not a good time to pick up the phone & try & talk to him.
posted by Ys at 2:37 PM on January 11, 2012

Oh god, poor you and poor kid. Sounds likes without you he'll end up in foster care, more than likely, which is scary to contemplate (though there are good foster parents out there).

You haven't answered one question: are you willing to take him to raise, should that be possible? Do you have the resources? This child is going to need counseling after six years of shitty parenting and having his mom shipped away. If you can't take him, you might still be able to keep tabs on him in terms of where he goes for foster care and how he's doing--be his advocate.

Think about that and take everyone else's advice in talking to an immigration lawyer or at the very least, a local immigrant advocacy group. Good luck to you and to this poor kid.
posted by emjaybee at 4:03 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

For some low-cost legal options in Virginia, try here . You want to choose Deportation/Removal, at which point it prompts for some personal info which I assume you can supply. The website is a joint effort of various low-income legal services providers in Virginia. Sorry I can't speak to how to best prepare the child for this, but lawyering the mother up ASAP is vital.
posted by ailouros08 at 4:05 PM on January 11, 2012

Response by poster: Emjay: Sufficiently willing to contemplate it in realistic terms. This is a child whose future is being flushed away daily. Living in a different setting could make a HUGE difference to his future. But it will mean being a (in practical terms) single mother of TWO, when one is hard enough. It will take a functioning, overall content household and inject a child who we already know has hitting, sharing, & emotional expression problems, still wets the bed, and has been a troublesome eater since he started on solid foods. It will present an IMMEDIATE problem in terms of housing: I am already sharing a bedroom with my child in a postage-stamp sized house. Where the heck would we even put him? My lease comes up in 2 months, so moving would actually be an option, but can we find something I can actually afford & that keeps us in the same school district as my child is already in? Who will be financing this extra mouth moving forward? I have no idea if Dad was supporting Mom in any way since the separation. Would I be financing this? This will be the first tax return I've filed in 10 years that puts me over the poverty line, & WOW, there goes solvency, right? And paperwork: The Hispanics I generally deal with prettymuch have an "oh, paperwork, who cares about that??" attitude. I am NOT taking a child three hours away from his acknowledged bio-parent without some sort of paperwork saying I have the right to enroll him in school, take him to a doctor, have access to whatever records are out there, etc. It is something I could see doing, if necessary.

I think I'm definitely having WTF, is this even actually necessary??? questions. I keep wondering if his Mom's going to be out in a week, or if she has different ideas about what should be done with him. I'd like to speak with his Dad about what the reasoning would be for not being there for his kid in this moment of need (although I think the answer's pretty obvious, I do wonder if the man isn't capable of STEPPING UP FOR ONCE). And then the last hundred or so conversations I've had with my SO over this kids trajectory come to mind & I think again. But crap! Can't a kid catch a break? Your MOM is up for deportation & your Dad's first reaction is, I don't want this, ship him out??? How much worse is that going to make things for him?

How exactly does one turn over custody? Do you go down to Social Services & sign an affadavit, or is it some long, drawn out court process? Would it require both parent's signature, even if Mom were in another country? Will I be able to put him on my insurance? If not, will Social Security cover him? These and other troubling questions will be keeping me up staring at the ceiling, I'm sure.

Yes I am focusing on practical details. Emotionally, I was there when he was born. I was the first person after the doctor & nurse to touch this child. I've broken up fights, I've confiscated bikes, I've carried him home from parties when he wouldn't behave. I've hugged him and told him not to cry when my child was mad at him for something silly, I've tried to explain right and wrong to him when he gets away with stuff his mother doesn't catch because she doesn't speak English, I've played with him with Christmas gifts neither parent could be bothered to open & put together for him, and visited him every single time we've been in the area so my daughter and he could still be friends even though we've moved away. Last week when his mother finked out on our planned trip to the aquarium I took him without her, paid the fee I couldn't afford, fed him because she hadn't, and took tons of pictures of him squealing over sharks. This is a child I've opened my heart to on a limited basis, and I've been tuned in to enough to know and care about what he's learning about life. I know doing it on a fulltime basis is a tremendously different proposition, but I'm willing to give it my best if he's short a Mommy and these other self-absorbed idiots can't/won't/don't give a damn enough to step up. But a road-map of what I'm getting into would help, if anyone has one.
posted by Ys at 4:47 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like it would be a financial stretch either way, but in sheer monetary terms, it would be a lot cheaper to pay a lawyer now than to pay for the child's upbringing for the next 12 years.
posted by lollusc at 5:28 PM on January 11, 2012

That is a terribly upsetting situation they have put you in. You are a mother, your first priority must be your daughter, even if it is not optimal for your godson. What is best for her? Frankly, it sounds like you CAN'T afford this child without depriving your own child. It also sounds like you cannot rely on anyone else helping you with either child. Contact social services and find out what options they can offer. What is happening to that boy is tragic but it is not your doing or responsibility (over your primary responsibility to your daughter). There are good foster parents with the resources to give this boy a solid foundation.
posted by saucysault at 6:26 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Women's Law may have some helpful information regarding deportation. I was thinking of the Violence Against Women Act; it doesn't sound like it applies in this situation, unfortunately, but a good immigration lawyer would probably know if there is a law to protect a DV victim in this situation.

As far as the child goes, I would definitely consult with an attorney again. If this child ends up needing extra services because of his chaotic upbringing, there will be a lot of forms for the parent(s) to sign, and you will not be an acceptable substitute without paperwork establishing you as a legal guardian. A social worker may be helpful to explore options with you and let you know what kinds of aid/assistance you or the child would qualify for. If you decide that you can't take the child, you may still be able to visit him.

The people around this child are doing a great job of putting all the responsibility on you. A great first step (in my mind) would be to call the child abuse hotline and turn Dad in for neglect. That will make sure that he is brought to the attention of "the system" and hopefully allow him to get the stability he needs.
posted by epj at 7:03 PM on January 11, 2012

I would also like to note that the biological relative are happy to make this your problem because it creates the least amount of friction for them. By not being the easy answer you are holding them accountable and may be what is needed for the bio-dad to step up. He's shirked his duty so far because all the enablers in his life have allowed him to walk away from responsibility. Don't be his enabler too.
posted by saucysault at 8:55 AM on January 12, 2012

It might be possible for the child to go to his mother's country with her (if she's deported), then she can raise him there.
posted by WizKid at 1:51 PM on January 12, 2012

Response by poster: Schools won't talk to me (shocker that), so we'll see if Dad actually takes my advice & goes in. If nothing else, his emergency contact info needs to be updated. My SO's taking the reins on trying to get the Mom hooked up with a lawyer. I'm planning to take advantage of this 3 day weekend to get everyone together in one place & see how things lie.
posted by Ys at 2:26 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you for being such a strong presence in this child's life.
posted by k8t at 6:41 PM on January 12, 2012

Not much of a pray-er, Ys, but you guys are in my thoughts. It sounds like this child and you have a real attachment, and I hope things can work out so that you are all able to be safe and happy.

I like the idea about calling CPS on Dad, because what a schmuck.
posted by emjaybee at 1:18 PM on January 13, 2012

Response by poster: What a schmuck is right: We spent 2 of our 3 days weekend with child at his Mom's place, And when we brought him home to his Dad's place, Dad said, "why are you bringing him here?" When we said because you're the Dad & we have some things we have to do, Dad said to take him to the sitter. Lawyer's are saying give it another week & see if Mom's let out under supervision, but if she isn't, but in general they're saying the case is so cut & dried there's no reason to bother with a lawyer (apparently she skipped town half a decade ago on a prior immigration hearing). She is saying she would like her child shipped to her when she gets back to her home country, and Dad's quietly grinning all the way to the bank, because suddenly he's not going to be "taken" or a Dad anymore. Frankly, he's acting excited about shipping child out. SO's decided he's taking out a separate apartment & going to keep child with him there in the meantime --I doubt he'll get objections-- but I keep telling him, if you're going to do it, you can't do it halfway. And paperwork is being ignored, as predicted.
posted by Ys at 5:48 AM on January 17, 2012

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