Government Burning Family Tree at Both Ends

By: Bob McCarty
Bob McCarty Writes

EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently, a woman I’ll call “Janet” met with me for more than six hours to discuss two court cases in which she’s involved. One is a Family Court case involving the welfare of a child, while the other is a Probate Court case involving the welfare of that child’s great-grandmother. Names and case-specific personal details in the stories below have been changed in order to protect the identities of the innocent people involved.

Unlike other middle-age Americans who find themselves caring for both young children and elderly parents, Janet’s status as a member of the “sandwich generation” is unique. Rather than simply care for her almost-seven-year-old granddaughter and her octogenarian mother at the same time, the 40-something woman who once earned six-figure income as manager of a high-end fitness center/spa in a posh St. Louis suburb finds herself fighting for both of them in separate cases at the St. Louis County (Mo.) Courthouse. After years of legal wrangling, she now finds herself on the verge of bankruptcy, having thrown everything she had into the effort to save the two most important people in her life.

“Sometimes I feel like that movie is my life,” said Janet, referring to “Changeling,” a 2008 film in which a grief-stricken mother takes on the Los Angeles Police Department to her own detriment after it stubbornly tries to pass off an obvious impostor as her missing child. Unlike the movie, however, Janet’s child isn’t missing; instead, her granddaughter is on the verge of being taken from her family permanently. In addition, her mother has, for the most part, already been removed from her life.

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