“Often I go to court for a case and find myself sitting
next to the guardian attorney, an attorney from the Department
of Children and Families DCF, and attorneys
for either or both the parents,” he says. “I’m the only one
in that group who is there as an unpaid volunteer.”
Still, he says that when the parents step up and turn
their lives around to take seriously their parental responsibilities,
it’s a great occasion. “We need to realize that someday,
these children will be our neighbors, and anything we
can do to help them on the road to a successful life is better
for all of us.”
While reunification is always the preference and primary
goal, Tenpas surmises about 60% of the cases he is
assigned end in adoption.
“I had one case with four kids,” he says. “The children,
who were with a caregiver, ranged in age from 1 to 6.
When parental rights were terminated, the caregiver was
able to adopt the children. You might think that’s a sad
day for the children, but I’ve never witnessed one where
a child was not better off being with the adoptive family.
“In any case where a child is removed, there must be
a six-month period at least, and this particular case took
four years before it went to the adoption phase,” he continues.
“I think by the time it comes around to adoption,
the children have been with the caregiver for quite a bit
of time and have developed a strong family relationship.
“When it’s announced that in court that the caregiver is
now the parent, legally, it is a striking moment and such
a great conclusion to a really tough situation. There may
be better things I could do with my time,” he says, “but if
I’m not doing it, who else will?” E
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Though Tenpas admits that being a Guardian ad Litem volunteer is not the
easiest volunteer gig, it’s definitely the most rewarding one he’s ever had.
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