Friday, October 4, 2013
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Flesh and blood sometimes stretch only so far in families torn apart by child abuse, addiction and poverty.
That was true for one St. Louis family some three years ago, when a mother abusing drugs abandoned her five children for the streets. The children first went into foster care. Then their grandmother stepped-up and took them in — all but one.
The one she decided she could not keep was a baby girl. Just three months old. The grandmother tried, but she couldn’t juggle an infant in diapers with so many other children. The baby was at risk of being moved around to unknown foster families and separated from the family.
But there was a close friend of the family interested in the child. So close, she called one member of the baby’s family her Auntie, even though they shared no blood ties. Her name was Rechelle Darden. She was only 22, but she loved children.
Darden first started taking the baby on weekends to help out. But the relationship with the infant grew deep. Darden became the baby’s licensed foster parent and she has cared for her since. More than two years later, she’s given the child a home, her own room, toys, affection and regular contact with her siblings, her grandmother and her extended family.
Now, a new Missouri law will give Darden the chance to take her relationship with the child one step further.
Missouri family courts may now opt to define distant relatives, half relatives and close family friends as the child’s “fictive kin.” It’s a designation that allows the courts to regard Darden as a close blood relative to the child. That can clear the way to make her a legal guardian and provide her with important financial supports for the child.
Click here for the full text of the article.