An Adoptive Mom's Reflection: Contested TPR

An AOW adoptive mom wrote up an inspiring blog post about her real-life experience with a contested Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) hearing. We thank her for her open heart, kindness and willingness to share with others.

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"What does it mean to have a contested Termination of Parental Rights (TPR)?  This is a rare situation, but it can happen and every family that chooses adoption should know that it is a possibility.  In a brief way, it means that one of the birth parents are fighting for custody or their parental rights.  It is a hard, hard thing to go through… so, let me tell you briefly about our story, what it felt like, and how grateful we are for our sweet girl.

When you first bring your child home, whether from the hospital or from a different setting, your only thought is about how much you already love the child.  You don’t think about the things that could go wrong with the adoption process, you don’t spend time looking up Wisconsin state adoption laws, and you certainly don’t think that it will take close to a year for finalization.

We brought home our baby girl and had our first court hearing about one and a half months later.  This was supposed to be a brief court hearing and it turned out to be our 2nd worst fear.  The birth father showed up to court to contest his rights.  He has the right to do this, it was just totally unexpected.  Getting the phone call from the attorney to tell us this was nothing but a blur.  Did I understand her right? Did she hear me sobbing like crazy on the other side of the phone?  Did she hear my anger? How am I going to call my husband and tell him this at work?  All of these thoughts and so many more were racing through my head while comprehending NOTHING that she was saying.

Through our own drive to learn, we started to do our own research.  We wanted to know the laws, what the process was from here, and try to understand the terms that are used in conversation.  Throughout a few more court dates, it was determined that our case was going to a jury trial.  Holy crap, right?  Since when was this possible.  Well, it is.  Throughout infertility, it is difficult to not ask yourself ‘Why us?’… well, here we were again saying ‘why us?!’  To make a long story short, there are several steps to a contested TPR.  Thankfully, we had an attorney and social worker that led us through the entire process.  Do not ever, ever, ever be afraid to ask them questions.  We don’t want to get into much detail about our story, but we want you to know that it all worked out!  Our sweet, smiley, adorable little girl is ours and continues to be our whole world.

How did it feel to go through a TPR? Horrible. Not good. Shocking and appalling.  There was nothing easy about it.  It consumed our daily lives, we talked about it daily between our families, and made us cherish our time with our girl even more.  It felt like time moved so slow.  It felt like our dreams were being shattered.  Not many people understand what the process is like.  We had to spend time educating our family and friends as they were trying to comprehend this process too.  But, through it all, we knew that we were going 150% through this entire process.  We were NOT stopping to fight.  We were not going to change our outlook on life.  And lastly, the financial burden that a contested TPR puts on adoptive families was not going to stop us.  We would do whatever it takes.

How did we get through a contested TPR?  Just looking at our princess was enough to make us smile many times a day, cry tears of happiness, and reiterate that our purpose in life was her.  When she went to bed was our time to chat.  We spent time together communicating, communicating, and more communicating.  Between the two of us, we talked about how we were feeling every day.  We understood that we would have different good/bad days, different emotions to every step of the way, and that any emotion was okay to have.  We leaned on our friends and family very frequently.  People are normally scared to ask questions or talk about bad things, but we encouraged our friends and family to ask any questions and that we wanted to talk about the adoption.  We would often get texts from our best friends that would say, “just checking in to see how you are doing.”  Knowing the amount of support that we had and still have is heart-warming.  The continual support from each other, our families, and our friends is what got us through this process.

Having this be our first adoption and going through a contested TPR, it is interesting to look back on the last year.  It went SUPER fast.  We still ask ‘why us?!’ but have come to reason with it.  We want others to know more about the possibility of a contested TPR than we did.  We want others to go into the process knowing that a contested TPR could happen.  We will never say that any of this was easy, it was extremely hard.  But, WE DID IT and we did it together… as a family of three!

If you find yourself in a situation of a contested TPR, our advice to you, is to lean on your family and friends.  You may have to educate them on the process, but it will be so worth it.  Find a new hobby with your new addition or do an activity together to keep busy.  You WILL get through it if you communicate, show each other love, give your new addition to the family extra hugs & kisses, and remember your purpose."

AOW Adoptive Mom, 2017