Earlier today a judge declared that I could still be Paul’s father.
Well, not exactly. He granted our petition for guardianship, which means Dianne and I have the legal authority and responsibility to make decisions for him as he transitions into adulthood. In other words, we get to keep doing what we’ve been doing all along, only now we have to submit a report once a year that we’re still taking care of him.
I learned a few things along the way:
- Ramsey County takes this really seriously. I’m glad for that as taking away someone’s civil rights should be taken seriously.
- Having multiple severe disabilities made this process really easy. Everyone who was notified immediately agreed that Paul should be a ward, and that his parents should be his guardians.
- Parents out ahead of us in this complicated life are really, really helpful. I knew that already, but was reminded again that even after 17+ years, there is so much I don’t know. Dianne talked to some moms, and Mary Horning recommended the attorney we used which made everything easier.
All in all, the process went without any complications.
Yet there were parts that just felt weird. We had strangers come to my home, one on behalf of the court and an attorney assigned to represent Paul, to ask Paul questions and determine if he was in an appropriate living situation. They were both very pleasant men who had quite a bit of experience with these things; neither one was in the least disturbed by Paul’s behaviors or his lack of response to their questions. But knowing they could independently make the process of our having the legal right and responsibility to take care of our son, as we have done since he was born, more difficult based on their assessments from just a single meeting was unnerving.
And after I was sworn in by the clerk and the two attorneys asked me their questions, I realized the judge’s decision is still based on trust.
If we needed to, we could have gotten dozens, maybe hundreds, of people to speak to our care for our son and our character. We have more doctors than I can name who can document all the ‘stuff’ we’ve done over the years. The school systems has 17 years worth of IFSP and IEP meetings in their files.
But that doesn’t mean we’ll do in the future what we’ve done in the past. Greg Lucas wrote a very helpful post as he reflected on a mother who killed her adult disabled son and then herself. This mom had also been entrusted with her son’s care, and the hopelessness of her situation eventually overwhelmed her.
No, the trust must go deeper than a reliance our own strength or affections, because those can fail. Thankfully, God never fails. He gave us our Paul with every intention of making His name great in every way – through Paul’s life and gifts, and through the daily help he provides to us as his parents. If the Lord grants Paul life, eventually we’ll need to hand off his care to somebody else; I expect God will be teaching us even deeper lessons about trusting in him and his wisdom when we confront that issue.
I was impressed at how the Ramsey County Judge had full control of his courtroom. People stand when he enters the room. Lawyers who were much older than he is addressed him as ‘Your Honor.’ When he asked for something, the attorneys supplied it without question.
But at the end of the day, this judge goes home.
We have a greater judge to ultimately trust in who never stops pursuing justice, who knows everything, and who will help us as we continue to care of our very vulnerable, almost adult son:But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:7-10, ESV)