Originally Posted by constlady
And for those of us with quite real concerns about the potential repercussions of not being adequately understood, this is the key.
I live in the smallest, most rural county in New York State.
It's a definite red streak politically and that conservatism runs through the judicial system.
If the law guardian of the children for whom I am currently legally responsible gets the impression from someone with a different definition of polyamory than I have that my lifestyle includes massive orgies or a constantly rotating cast of characters in and out of my life, I will be facing an uphill battle with the entire system in order to keep these kids safe.
It won't matter that their mother is an incarcerated addict - that's an understood disease, the system is used to dealing with that.
It won't matter that their father is a convicted felon and has also been found guilty of neglect previously - that again is a known enemy.
But let it get out that their grandmother is *gasp* polysomething and immediately red flags will be raised.
So these discussions on finding a definition, on being able to present to mainstream society a non-threatening picture that clarifies who I am and how I love have a very serious and very real potential to impact not only my life but the lives of four young children.
Personally, I don't wish to define how anyone lives their polylife, just as I don't want mine defined. But the reality for those of us who live under the threat of persecution is that there does need to be some sort of basic definition, not only for the outsiders to understand but for those within the community to rally around to remove that threat.
i feel for you, i really do. this is a difficult situation for you to be in i do understand that. i myself was until recently the full-time carer/parent of my young niece, because of both her parents drug and alcohol addictions. i had social services poking their noses into every area of my life, and i too lived in fear of being judged because of my sex and love life.
i was very lucky in that i have a friend who is a family lawyer and has a great deal of experience in this matter, sadly only in the UK otherwise i would perhaps suggest you two linking up. the advice i got from her kept me going at times when i thought i could go mad here.
happily for us, and more than miraculously to be honest, my niece was able to return to live with her mother (my sister) in august 2009, and my sister has now achieved 12 months clean of all illegal drugs (and been thoroughly tested don't you worry! regular hair tests and ongoing). i remain however responsible formy niece alongside my sister.
anyway, what i found was that in the UK there is reluctance to take children away from family care (we call it kinship care) mostly due to the cost of funding state care of a child. things have to be pretty bad before they'll do that. also, what i do when i am not with my niece, i was advised, is unlikely to be seen as relevant by a judge or social worker unless it somehow affected my niece.
i am sober, don't drink or take drugs. my niece was introduced to and developed fabulous friendships with my friends and partner, and the social workers did accept that these were stable longterm relationships with positive benefits for both my niece and myself. i never told her about or allowed her to meet my fuck-buddy and if i had had any one-night stand or similar she would never have known about that either. not that i had the time or energy but!
since my sex-life never infringed upon her life in any way (my fuck buddy would only visit whilst she was at school) and my partnerships/friendships are as stable as anyone's i was not judged negatively at all. they simply didn't know about my sex life beyond my partnerships, my lawyer advised i approach it on a need-to-know basis and as long as my niece didn't know and therefore wasn't being asked to lie or keep secrets, then they didn't need to know either.
of course they had to ask questions, but i was assured and do believe that they would have to ask questions about anybody in care of a child, whether single/celibate/monogamous/whatever. what they care about is stability, protection from abuse, and general safety, not how we get our rocks off when the child isn't there to be affected.
i do appreciate this may be different where you are, and i also remember from my own experience that however rationally we know something we still fear the worst, at least i often did. i just hope that you have a similar experience to mine, or at least that my story gives you something on some level.
on a more general level i very much agree with what ceoli has written here, we need to be careful not to adopt the prejudices of those who might judge us and to stay true to ourselves. if people are prejudiced against polyamory then no amount of stability/permanence/polyfidelity is going to beat that prejudice.
it is good practise in social care and child protection to judge each case on its merits. just because you may identify as poly does not mean that you live your life exactly as all others do who share that identity. that wouldn't be possible would it!
imagine if everybody, for example, who identified as a football fan was judged for the behaviour of every single other football out there, regardless of their behaviour, how awful that would be.
i wish you and your grandchildren all the very best, x