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The Second Moon
11-03-2018, 04:06 PM
So, I've hit a road block in my Upper MG short story. There's a forty-year old inventor (Thomas) who has an 12-year old assistant (Barney) who lives with him. But how can I make Barney legally live with Thomas? Oh, also Barney turns into an alligator-creature when too stressed or mad. EDIT: Thomas found Barney five years before the story takes place. Also the story is Sci-fi

I want it to be that Barney had been the alligator-creature living in a swamp for so long that he's forgotten his birth parents. I also need it so that Barney and Thomas are not blood related in any shape, way, or form.

I though that maybe Thomas found Barney as the alligator-creature and took him in to fix him. He then made Barney his assistant. But someone pointed out that it is illegal for a grown man to find a kid and take him in.

My next idea involved the mayor of the town next to the swamp where Barney (as the alligator-creature) was living in. The mayor could let Thomas take Barney in to help fix him. Then, Thomas helped Barney and made him his assistant. But also I don't think this would fly with MG reader's parents.

My last and final idea is basically me getting lazy and throwing in the towel. I thought that maybe Thomas and Barney lived on a small island country that has different laws about taking in kids off the street than the USA.

What do I do? Do any of these ideas sound legal or like it would be acceptable with Upper MG reader's parents?

Bufty
11-03-2018, 04:38 PM
I wonder if you are approaching this situation from the wrong angle.

The tale is fantasy.

Have you considered an opening story that shows the original meeting(s) between these two characters in the swamp, and perhaps Thomas' chats with the mayor, as opposed to the present reveal of the existing 'arrangement'?

The Second Moon
11-03-2018, 04:43 PM
I think you may be approaching this situation from the wrong angle.

This is not really answering your specific question, but have you considered an opening story that shows the original meeting between these two characters in the swamp, as opposed to suddenly springing the present reveal of the existing 'arrangement'.

I have never considered this. But I guess I forgot to include that Thomas found Barney five years prior to the year the story takes place in (my bad). And, although I'm not an expert, I would assume that prologues aren't wanted in short stories.

neandermagnon
11-03-2018, 05:13 PM
Kids aren't going to worry about the intricate legal details in such things. Thomas is Barney's adopted dad. Leave it at that. Or don't mention it at all, seeing as this has a strong fantasy element. Thomas found Barney in a swamp and has been looking after him ever since. If it needs to come up in the story Thomas can say he adopted Barney.

Was it an adult or a child who said that it's illegal? Seems like someone's looking at it from a real life social worker angle not a kid reading a fantasy story angle.

What you describe isn't illegal in the UK if the parents have arranged for this person to look after their child. https://www.gov.uk/looking-after-someone-elses-child I'm not sure what the legal situation is with foundling children (i.e. parents not around to make the arrangement/give permission). But one scenario could be that Barney's parents asked Thomas to look after him. If your story's specifically set in the USA and this is illegal in the USA (check though, because different states have different rules and I don't what the USA laws are at all I'm just going by what you said in the OP) then it might not work but if it's in a generic/not specified industrialised country I don't see any issues with it.

But again, I think you're worrying too much about details that don't need to be specified in a children's fantasy story.

The Second Moon
11-03-2018, 05:19 PM
Kids aren't going to worry about the intricate legal details in such things. Thomas is Barney's adopted dad. Leave it at that. Or don't mention it at all, seeing as this has a strong fantasy element. Thomas found Barney in a swamp and has been looking after him ever since. If it needs to come up in the story Thomas can say he adopted Barney.

Was it an adult or a child who said that it's illegal? Seems like someone's looking at it from a real life social worker angle not a kid reading a fantasy story angle.

What you describe isn't illegal in the UK if the parents have arranged for this person to look after their child. https://www.gov.uk/looking-after-someone-elses-child I'm not sure what the legal situation is with foundling children (i.e. parents not around to make the arrangement/give permission). But one scenario could be that Barney's parents asked Thomas to look after him. If your story's specifically set in the USA and this is illegal in the USA (check though, because different states have different rules and I don't what the USA laws are at all I'm just going by what you said in the OP) then it might not work but if it's in a generic industrialised country I don't see any issues with it.

But again, I think you're worrying too much about details that don't need to be specified in a children's fantasy story.

Okay thanks. Phew. Glad someone cleared the air. Thank you.

Roxxsmom
11-03-2018, 06:15 PM
In the US it is often difficult for orphaned children past infancy to find adoptive parents. State agencies have been more accepting of non-traditional families who want to adopt kids in recent years. I agree with others who say these small details don't always need to be explained in fantasy stories (though you said yours is SF, not fantasy, so maybe it takes place in the near future), but if you feel it should be, you could reveal that the inventor found Barney and applied to become his foster parent and legal adoption followed.

Given Barney's situation, he probably wouldn't have worked out in ordinary foster care. You could even imply that the kid got bounced from several foster care situations for "unspecified" reasons related to his temper, so the authorities were eager to find him a permanent situation.

You're right that parents are generally the ones that purchase books and stories for MG kids, but that doesn't mean most go through them with a fine-toothed comb looking for plot holes. And if your story takes place in a futuristic SF setting, laws could be different than they are currently.

I can imagine all kinds of situations where the current rules and restrictions for adoption and foster parenting are altered or nonexistent. Not that a MG reader necessarily wants or needs a lot of detail in that respect. There are plenty of MG stories where the young protagonists are orphans being raised by bizarre or completely inappropriate guardians, or where the kids have a level of agency and independence that is unheard of in contemporary society. Kids like to read escapist stories about kids having adventures.

jclarkdawe
11-04-2018, 12:21 AM
I don't think you can make this legal without child services involvement. However, someone blowing out of placement can end up in an unusual situation, providing the parent does not have a history of legal issues, as Roxxsmom said.

But ask yourself whether the alligator boy is going to know about his exact legal status? Most kids involved in these types of situations don't know the details. Sometimes even the parents don't know exactly what occurred legally.

The simplest way around this if it really matters is for Thomas to forge a Power of Attorney to take care of alligator boy. A little bit of research, a little bit of effort and this document can be easily forged. It will more than pass with schools and hospitals. With some serious effort, it could even pass for a passport application.

If you want details on how to forge a Power of Attorney, let me know and I'll tell you by PM. But you really don't need to know and the process is really boring.

Jim

cornflake
11-04-2018, 01:16 AM
I'm the one -- or one of the ones -- who suggested this was problematic.

However, I wasn't saying that kids or their parents would question it.

I said I think a book in which the premise is a 40-year-old man (who, incidentally talks a lot about how he's hurt the ones he loved or what have you), is living alone with an unrelated preteen boy he found on the street and decided to keep, whom he refers to as his assistant, whom he homeschools, shares food with, etc., and the kid goes on about he has anxiety about being around other people, is not going to be likely to sell.

It reads to me as problematic at best, on its face.

neandermagnon
11-04-2018, 03:05 AM
I said I think a book in which the premise is a 40-year-old man (who, incidentally talks a lot about how he's hurt the ones he loved or what have you), is living alone with an unrelated preteen boy he found on the street and decided to keep, whom he refers to as his assistant, whom he homeschools, shares food with, etc., and the kid goes on about he has anxiety about being around other people, is not going to be likely to sell.


Disclaimer: I haven't read your story but for me, the bit in bold would be an issue. That doesn't read like a normal parent/child relationship, i.e. the parent discussing stuff like that with the kid. Stories about the emotional struggles of being a parent/parent-figure (or being an adult generally) are more the themes of adult books. Kids books may include how kids are impacted by parents emotional problems (there are plenty of kids' books where the theme involves child characters dealing with awful parents), but entirely from a kid perspective. Books about the emotional problems of adults from an adult perspective are adults' books.

The thing of a single man adopting a child or ending up as a child's guardian - I can't see that being an issue especially given the push for having more books that portray all kinds of families, not just the typical mother + father + 2.4 children thing.

If this is something that a few people have picked up on, then it may be more about how the two characters are interacting with each other (e.g. if it comes across as an adult-adult relationship rather than a parent-child one) rather than the legal issue of how the adult character adopted (or otherwise) the child character.

note: if you've posted it for critique in SYW you can link me to it and I'll have a look

jclarkdawe
11-04-2018, 03:49 AM
I'm the one -- or one of the ones -- who suggested this was problematic.

However, I wasn't saying that kids or their parents would question it.

I said I think a book in which the premise is a 40-year-old man (who, incidentally talks a lot about how he's hurt the ones he loved or what have you), is living alone with an unrelated preteen boy he found on the street and decided to keep, whom he refers to as his assistant, whom he homeschools, shares food with, etc., and the kid goes on about he has anxiety about being around other people, is not going to be likely to sell.

It reads to me as problematic at best, on its face.

Pedophile alert!!! This is exactly the behavior of a pedophile. They want privacy and isolation to do their deeds. I don't care whether the situation is legal or not, but this sort of situation will immediately cause concern for anyone experienced with pedophiles.

Put alligator kid in public school, social activities, and so on and so forth is the only way around this. Otherwise, this is a book about being groomed by a pedophile.

Kids aren't interested in adults' problems and issues. If this book is about the inventor, it's adult. If this book is about the kid, then don't worry about how hurt the adult is.

Jim

cornflake
11-04-2018, 04:02 AM
Pedophile alert!!! This is exactly the behavior of a pedophile. They want privacy and isolation to do their deeds. I don't care whether the situation is legal or not, but this sort of situation will immediately cause concern for anyone experienced with pedophiles.

Put alligator kid in public school, social activities, and so on and so forth is the only way around this. Otherwise, this is a book about being groomed by a pedophile.

Kids aren't interested in adults' problems and issues. If this book is about the inventor, it's adult. If this book is about the kid, then don't worry about how hurt the adult is.

Jim

Not to be pedantic, but it's actually not particularly the behaviour of a pedophile, if for no other reason than the kid in the story is 12. :P Also because pedophiles don't, in general, tend to faux (or real) adopt a single kid to abuse, and most incest cases are not committed by pedophiles at all.

Roxxsmom
11-04-2018, 05:17 AM
Disclaimer: I haven't read your story but for me, the bit in bold would be an issue. That doesn't read like a normal parent/child relationship, i.e. the parent discussing stuff like that with the kid. Stories about the emotional struggles of being a parent/parent-figure (or being an adult generally) are more the themes of adult books. Kids books may include how kids are impacted by parents emotional problems (there are plenty of kids' books where the theme involves child characters dealing with awful parents), but entirely from a kid perspective. Books about the emotional problems of adults from an adult perspective are adults' books.

I agree with this. MG books have child protagonists, and often are told from the narrative viewpoint of that child. Even when the narrative viewpoint is omniscient third, though, they are told though a lens that the child reader will relate to, expect and understand, with the focus being on the feelings and experiences of the child protagonist (not the adults in the story).

A book that focuses on the emotional journey of a grown up who is struggling to be a good parent sounds like a story aimed at adults, who will relate to this perspective far more than most 8-12-year-olds will.

I also agree that keeping the kid away from other kids and other people by an adult with his own family issues would set off some alarm bells in many readers. It certainly would come off as dysfunctional and possibly controlling. While I believe Cornflake is right about the technical definition of a pedophile and their typical behavior, I agree with JCLarkeDaw that pedophilia (whether properly defined or not) will still cross the mind of some parents and set of their "squick" alarms even if no sexual motive is implied in the narrative at all.

Of course, the adult's motive may be to keep the kid's secret alligator power from becoming known, and this may make a great deal of sense to a kid reading the book.

cornflake
11-04-2018, 05:33 AM
I do think there's a good percentage of adults who will find the whole thing creepy, yeah, which is why I don't think it'll be likely to sell. Wasn't disagreeing in general, just being specific about the definitions.

jclarkdawe
11-04-2018, 07:13 AM
Cornflake -- I was more focused on the isolation and grooming I was seeing, not the parenting relationship. Technically I'd probably go with a sexual abuser than a pedophile, but I think pedophile is more where the general public would go with.

Grooming and isolation are key factors in looking for an abusive relationship.

Jim

Titus
11-04-2018, 07:56 AM
There is the adoption process which is particularly viable if he reports the child missing first.

mccardey
11-04-2018, 03:53 PM
Would it make a difference if you showed us Thomas being called in to help with the alligator problem (perhaps everyone else has been screaming and running and throwing things at it etc) because everyone knows that Thomas is diffident with people but great with hurt animals. Thomas pens it securely at his home and is nice and calming with it - which he can be because it's not human, so he can relax about not getting hurt.

And then it transforms into a boy (because it's no longer scared). And from then on your story can be focused on the two of them, showing their different quirks. (There'd be scope for humour too, as they try to come up with explanations about where the alligator got to etc)

Would that help?

WeaselFire
11-06-2018, 01:10 AM
But how can I make Barney legally live with Thomas?

Why does it matter? If only for the reader's parents, why worry about it? Nobody worried that Harry Potter wasn't legally adopted. He was simply left on a doorstep, after all.

Jeff

The Second Moon
11-06-2018, 01:27 AM
Why does it matter? If only for the reader's parents, why worry about it? Nobody worried that Harry Potter wasn't legally adopted. He was simply left on a doorstep, after all.

Jeff

You're right. I've decided that kids aren't going to care.

Tazlima
11-06-2018, 02:04 AM
Don't forget, though, that Harry Potter's aunt and uncle WERE abusive, so that might not be the best comparison if the scientist is meant to be a good guy.

Until the isolation element came into play, my first thought of a comparable story was the TV show "Punky Brewster." (Which I adored as a child but haven't revisited because it's probably nowhere near as good as I remember). IIRC, Punky is an orphan at the beginning of the series, and she sets up residence with her dog in an empty apartment, only to be discovered by a grumpy old man named Henry. He ends up adopting her, and she becomes best friends with another little girl in the building, and they have cute little slice-of-life adventures.


Anyway, I just looked it up (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punky_Brewster), and the show DID address the red tape and potential issues and roadblocks to a single older man becoming a foster-parent. (IIRC, the reason I stopped watching the show later in the series was because Henry's health began to decline, and the show began to revolve around whether he would have to give up Punky, and it just got really sad).

As an adult, I'd have no issues with the story of an older single man taking care of a child, but the isolation would definitely set off my "ick" alarm. If the cause of the isolation is the kid's social anxiety, I think it would help a lot if the scientist actively encouraged him to socialize: press him to join clubs, invite the neighbors over for a barbeque, that sort of thing. Even if it failed every time, ending in comedic disaster, it would make it clear that the scientist's heart was in the right place.

starrystorm
11-11-2018, 08:08 PM
This isn't my thread, but I'm wondering if I have a problem similar to the OP's. NOTE: I only call the thing a "monster" because I couldn't think of another word. He's actually an okay guy.

My eighteen-year-old MMC can summon a "monster" from another world. I never say how old the monster is directly, except that my FMC calls him a "man." This monster is both the MMC's guardian angel and demon at the same time. He can push the MMC around, but never in a serious life-threatening way, but the monster considers the MMC to be his only friend and would die for the MMC. Is it weird that an eighteen-year-old has a "undefined-in-age" monster that follows him around? My MMC had no choice over the curse that brought him the monster, and the monster didn't get to choose the human either.

The only indication of age for the monster is that he hires an orphaned twelve-year-old assassin, who he fondly nicknames "Child." "Child" looks up to him as the first adult in her life who cared whether she lived or died.


Is the age difference between the two creepy?

I don't think I have a problem, but I'd just like to know I'm safe.

cbenoi1
11-11-2018, 10:44 PM
But how can I make Barney legally live with Thomas?

No need to explain what the underlying law is.

The first scene in the story could depict Thomas having to renew his license for having Barney as an assistant. Introduce the characters, some elements of your Sci-Fi world (environment, what Thomas is working on, etc), and the situation between the two right there as a Q&A with the clerk doing the paperwork. This way you are telling your readers that situation is "legal" but there are conditions to meet which will make the whole thing sound "normal" from this point going forward.

Make the renewal somehow challenging for Thomas to renew the license in order to keep the tension high throughout. The idea is to have Thomas spill the beans without making it look like an info dump. Tension is key. Create it early, maintain it, ratchet it up a few notches during the renewal, and end with a semi-sour note (ex: Thomas gets the license but he must go through one more boring step that is going to cost him time / money / etc). Better if you can link this with Barney's special condition, like the swamp no longer meets the newer norms and some rare water lillies must be added or something of the like.

Hope this helps.

-cb

Unpolished
11-21-2018, 09:33 AM
If it gives you stress give Thomas foster parents or adopted parents in the neighborhood. Maybe have him sleep at home once or twice or mention them.
(You can imagine them as nice people or useless and trying to make money on foster parenting, it's off screen it doesn't matter.)