Dear Amy:

I am16 years old and my biggest problem is my biological father.

I was adopted when I was 4 years old and he was out of my and my brother's life forever. Now he is in jail. He has been in and out of jail all of his life.

I think I want to have contact with him, but I'm not sure.

There is a restraining order out on him and I want this order off, but legally I have to wait until I am 18. I really want to have contact with him. I'm not sure if now is the time, because there is a lot of other stuff going on in my life. I feel as if my life is not complete without that other piece, but he has been known to lie.

I heard that he locked my brother and me in our rooms and lit the house on fire, and that he also has a drug and drinking problem.

I'm not sure if it is safe and if now is the right time, but a piece of me wants to just run up and hug him, and another piece wants to just walk away.

I'm not sure what to do.

16 and Trapped in Mass.

Part of being 16 is going through this confusion about who you are and where you really belong.

Every 16-year-old goes through this, but in your case, your dad is a mystery to you and because he isn't available, you crave a connection with him as a way to answer your questions about yourself.

This is heartbreaking because your father sounds like a dangerous character. I want you to know that many dangerous characters have children who are successful and full of life and promise, like you.

You may have to continue to grow and mature a little more before you realize that the missing piece you feel in your life has really been there all along -- that piece is made up of your adoptive parents and your brother, your extended family, friends, mentors and teachers.

You must be open to the good things and people in your life. These are the people who love, nurture and guide you, and they will help guide you through this.

No one wants to see you hurt or have your heart broken. Most likely your father won't ever be able to give you what you crave, and you'll have to face that fact.

Talking about your feelings would help a lot. Your parents might get nervous to hear that you are curious about your dad, but if you have contact with a counselor, he or she will understand your feelings because they will have seen it before.

You need help to fill in the details of your own history. As painful as this would be, knowing more about your father might help you want him less.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.