Nothing could be clearer to Jennifer Delph about what should happen to her niece Vivian-Delph Lee.
Family Court should give full custody of 11-month-old Vivian to her great-grandparents, Grant and Lynne Delph. They have proved time and again that they are capable of taking on the challenge, and that they want to.
“They are doing everything in their power to keep the kids together,” Jennifer Delph said.
Those kids include Vivian and an older brother and sister, Paul and Alexandra, each born to Jennifer’s sister Tiffany who has battled drug addiction for years.
The S.C. Department of Social Services had to intervene each time.
Paul was taken in by Grant and Lynne.
Jennifer moved to South Carolina for a year to secure custody of Alexandra.
Grant and Lynne tried to intervene again when medical officials said Vivian “most likely” got cocaine in her system from breastfeeding.
They wanted to take in Vivian, as they had about five years earlier with Paul, who was born addicted to drugs.
But the Oconee County department of DSS argued their home was already too full and too stressed, particularly given the struggles they’ve had to adjust to while raising Paul and a couple other small children.
DSS recommended that Vivian be placed long term with the foster family who has taken care of her since shortly after birth.
In February, a judge heard both sides but hasn’t ruled on Vivian’s future.
Jennifer thinks the right decision for the judge is clear.
“I do believe that Vivian should be with family,” she said from her Wareham, Mass., home. “I want Alex to know her little sister and older brother. Family is most important and you stick together.”
The Delphs have done a lot to try to keep their family together.
They’ve gone through requisite training. They secured foster care certification. They’ve taken in Tiffany’s children when they could have instead simply allowed them to become the burden of an already-stressed foster care system.
They’ve spent money on lawyers to advocate for all of Tiffany’s children.
They’ve asked for and received necessary help from neighbors and friends and professionals.
Whatever DSS has asked, they’ve done.
“They are amazing parents and they are nothing but loving to those kids and I think they juggle everything well,” Jennifer Delph said. “Another [kid] wouldn’t make a difference in the house. They are under control; everything is under control.”
She is confident of Lynne and Grant and still loves her sister, who failed yet another drug test after the most recent Family Court hearing.
She saw her mother struggle with similar issues, so much so Jennifer’s father had to separate them from her.
And she knows that the death of her mother left a rift in her extended family that hasn’t healed, and has led to a family member from across the country with no first-hand knowledge of the DSS case or the Delph household to try to convince the judge to leave Vivian with the foster family.
That angers and scars Jennifer Delph
The judge will decide if Tiffany’s legal rights as a mother will be stripped. If they are, the judge will then have to determine who gets long-term custody of Vivian.
“Our goal is to keep the children together at all costs,” said Lynne Delph who was encouraged to learn during the February Family Court hearing that the foster family faces similar challenges in raising young kids, which means if they are that similar, a family placement makes the most sense. “Everyone’s on hold until we hear; just waiting on the judge’s decision on what will happen with our family.”
Contact ISSAC J. BAILEY at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Twitter at @TSN_IssacBailey.