Saturday, November 6, 2010

An Emancipation Story

Ahhh, Freedom from Oppression on the new Underground Railroad for unhappy GLBT youth. Moho Hawaii blogs about a 29 year old cousin who intends to insist his 16 year old cousin in fleeing from oppressive Utah. I must say I can't wait to hear how this one plays out(Adult gay male relative lures Utah teen from his home-wait till the homophobes seize on that one).

As a parent, I do not support this kind of meddling from well intentioned outsiders and we had quite an issue with one of our hetero kids with it. With the Kid, he also wanted to move out early and I blocked it. Kind of. But not really, because here was the deal, "Kid, you meet all the requirements the court would have, i.e. show that you are capable of managing your financial affairs, etc. and I WILL HELP you fill out the paperwork for your emanicipation petition and support you before the court in getting it."

This is an issue that pops up in my professional life from time to time. There are adults who are happy to provide other people's children a place to sleep on a couch or with their child, to have unprotected sex, drink, use drugs and not go to school. I've not seen the gay version of this, but I've certainly seen it with hetero kids. "Oh, and Mom, me and her have a paper route, and her Mom can get extra food stamps if I come live with them and extra money from the state." And, in all fairness there are others who are just willing to help otherwise mostly responsible teenagers with real or perceived problems.

In our later case, the Kid didn't like the offer to assist him in becoming emancipated. At all. And the funny thing was as eighteen neared, he was not quite so ready to go and needed some ever so gentle motherly nudging to launch from the nest. We are all happy now and he has completed high school, which he would not have if emancipated or "moved out," is furthering his education and ability to support himself, and, I think is relatively happy NOW.

GLBTQ youth NEED their parents. They need them for access to Medical Care. Does 29 year old cousin have the ability to ensure that if there is a serious organic component to depression of teen cousin, he can get treatment for that? Some more than others need them for the structure and responsiblity. Is 29 year old cousin really ready to enforce some reasonable rules or is it going to be party hardy central in his apartment day and night? Hell, is he ready and financially able to feed the typical older teenage boy? And, I could go on.

If it is really that oppressive, then the local child protection agency would be involved and placement with the cousin may indeed be an option, but, interfering with the parent child relationship when that point has not been reached is indefensible. Adult cousin should offer to help in anyway he can, but if rebuffed should stay out of state and mind his own business until cousin is eighteen.


  1. In a variety of forums I too have expressed surprise that the kid's parents aren't more actively interfering, but I think you assume a bit much. I'm also old, have children, and have in the past had custody of my wife's siblings and nieces for a variety of family reasons so I also speak with some experience.

    What is KNOWN is that the kid has a plane ticket. Minors don't fly without adult permission, there is no indication that this is a runaway situation. We don't know if he's visiting for a weekend, a week, a month, or indefinite. It's not stated one way or another whether the cousin is going to be taking custody.

    I also think it is inappropriate to infantilize "29 year old cousin". I know many young adults in their twenties who are raising teenagers in challenging circumstances, not by choice but by necessity, and they manage well enough. At 29 I had a teenage sister in law as a dependent on my insurance because distance from her parents is what everyone needed at the time.

    While generally correct that teens need their parents, it's is also true that once in a while the parents are part of the problem. It's wonderful that your stubborn child came back to reality, but emancipation isn't really the issue Savage and Cousin are addressing and it's only fair to recognize that.

    No one is a fiercer advocate of parental rights and responsibilities than I, but we needn't assume wrongdoing in the absence of evidence. I would also observe that just yesterday we learned of yet another successful suicide in Utah. Adult cousin is being perfectly reasonable to make an overture to assure young cousin is not in immediate danger. God willing more people would take such actions and there might be fewer successful attempts.

    Again, there is no evidence that this is a run away situation, and no word one way or another on whether there's any intention of making it a permanent arrangement. I wonder if the parents aren't happy for the opportunity to let someone else work with their son for a while.

  2. Fair enough. Your points are well taken. And you and I will probably never know exactly what played out in this situation. Would I agree to my troubled sixteen year old living with a 29 year old cousin in another state, even visiting, particularly if the family (including, apparently, Cuz's, hadn't had much contact)? No. NO. AND NO.

  3. Also, note my post on the updates to the Colt Hansen suicide/accidental overdose that follows this post.