Friday, December 14, 2007

Could You Make This Sacrifice?

The case of Gabriel Allred has been a fascinating look at policy and law versus common sense and gut instinct.

A recap. Gabriel Allred is a 2-year old child. He’s been in foster care with Steve and Angela Brandt in Oregon most of his life. His biological parents both faced criminal charges and were deemed unfit, as was his maternal Grandmother here in the US. His paternal Grandmother, Cecilia Martinez, lives in Mexico.

The Department of Human Services has policy on the books that blood family is the preferred place for a child. The Brandts had started the process to adopt Gabriel. DHS thus sought out Martinez to determine if she was deemed fit and to inquire if she wished to petition for custody of Gabriel. By every account Gabriel’s life with the Brandts is one of love, affection, stability and familiarity. They behave and function like his family.

DHS decided that, by policy and law, Gabriel should live with Martinez. In Mexico. Gabriel, by law, can claim both US citizenship and Mexican citizenship. The issue of the child’s best interest thus became clouded in outcries of deportation, language and even race.

A proverbial no-win scenario.

Until Martinez did the most loving thing that she could have done. Upon visiting Oregon and entering into negotiations, she dropped her petition. It’s called a sacrifice and it could not have been easy for her. I wouldn’t blame her if she had continued to fight for custody. She had the law and policy on her side. I’m sure she would have provided the absolute best she could for Gabriel.

But even she could see that what was best for Gabriel wasn’t what was best for her.

Now, there are some unusual concessions in the agreement, so this isn’t entirely roses and puppies. But the end result is that the child’s interests trumped the law and the policy. But it took the sacrifice of a wise Grandmother to show DHS that Gabriel was the exception and not the rule.

I don’t fault DHS. Their policies are almost always proper. Even this application of policy was well intentioned. But their policy couldn’t interpret what so many of us know to be true:

Blood isn’t always the end of family. Family is often the place where you belong.

Gabriel, in the end, belonged with the Brandts.


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