I met the grandparents for the first time on Monday, February 1st when they came to Russell's ENT appointment. They had their first supervised visit with the children that following Wednesday.
At neither time was it really appropriate for me to have lengthy conversations with the grandparents. At the ENT appointment they were basically meeting him for the first time. (I think they might have seen him one time when Russell was about one year old. But I'm not sure. They're claiming now they didn't know about Russell at all until very recently. And I get the impression they waited until the DNA test results were back before moving forward with wanting custody.)
And at the visit, they didn't really want to talk to me. They were pleasant!! Nice even. Don't get me wrong. They seem like very nice people! They just didn't have anything to say to me. Grandpa speaks limited English and he is the one that has spoken with me. Grandma speaks no English and she's always been busy taking care of the young children they bring with them. But when I asked Grandpa if he had any questions, he said no. He very confidently said he feels capable of taking care of Russell.
This is all good. Really. It could be. If the grandparents truly understand what it means to care for a child like Russell, this could all be OK.
My gut tells me that they don't "get it" though.
I'm not sure they understand that this is a lifetime commitment on a couple levels.
1. I don't think they realize what it means to really care for a child with Down syndrome.
2. I don't think they realize the State wants them to take permanent custody.
As the foster parent though, I play the smallest role when it comes to determining Russell's future. I am to care for him now. I am to trust the State when they choose a placement. And I'm to let go when the time comes.
I know my role.
However, I can still advocate.
It is important – very important – that I advocate from a place that still supports the State's goals. That means I focus on truth...not speculation. And I keep my emotions out of it.
Therefore, I can't tell the lawyer, "I think they're planning on just giving the kids back after CPS closes the case."
That's speculation. And it looks like I'm trying to get them to keep the kids with me.
It doesn't matter if I've read posts on Facebook that point to the idea that they just want to "help Mom out". What I read on Facebook is really irrelevant.
What I can do though is support the State's goals. And if the State wants to consider placing with these grandparents, I can offer to help with the transition.
I stewed on this for quite awhile. I wasn't sure who to talk to or what to say. But with Bopper out due to a surgery she just had, I decided I needed to communicate with Ms. Remus, the babies' lawyer. I sent her a text:
I'm concerned that Russell's grandparents don't really understand his special needs. Bopper is out this week so I can't ask her. But when I helped transition another foster child of mine (that I cared for for almost 2 years) to a kinship placement, the aunt and uncle met with me in my home where we discussed my little girl's severe needs for several hours.Ms. Remus responded, "I will. It's a great idea. What's a good date and time for you?"
If the State is going to move Russell, I'd like to help transition in a similar way.
It's big things they need to know – like the waiting list Russell is on for services when he's 18 as it is unlikely Russell will every live independently and the wait list is almost that long.
It's also little things like helping the understand Russell's feeding issues and how they relate to his speech therapy goals.
Who could help organize a meeting to go over these details?
I replied, "I can make just about any time work. The only thing, we would need a translator."
It was here that Ms. Remus really impressed me. She told me that she's going to be at this meeting to serve as translator (and obviously to evaluate the grandparents).
That means I'm going to have to clean my house. (lol)
I'm ready for this meeting. I printed off forms from the American Academy of Pediatrics. I also printed off a couple charts that list out developmental milestones - comparing neurotypical kids to those with Down syndrome.
I printed only the small chart on this page.
I printed off pages 8-12 from this list.
And then I printed off the part of each of Russell's last therapy evaluations that lists HIS developmental ages.
Physical therapy:It is my goal to help them understand that Russell isn't just a cute baby to take care of. A lot of work has been done to help him get to where he is now. And without continued efforts, he will regress. And while that might not seem like a huge deal when he's 32" long and weighs only 25 pounds...after you've been changing diapers for 3 or 4 years it might be a bigger deal. I also have to explain that things will be very difficult for Russell with communication overall. Unfortunately, there were no Spanish-speaking homes when he needed a foster home. It was determined by everyone involved that it would be better for him to be in an English-speaking foster home closer to his family of origin versus an English-speaking shelter several hours away. (Russell has continued to be exposed to Spanish almost daily in the community and with his mother. But his therapies are in English and English is what we speak in our home.) Russell is going to regress with his language no matter what. And as you can tell, there isn't a lot of room for regression.
-- Stationary = 18 months
-- Locomotion = 14 months
-- Object Manipulation = 18 months
-- Grasping = 14 months
-- Visual-Motor Integration = 11 months
-- Receptive Language = 5 months
-- Expressive Language = 7 months
I'm trying to not overwhelm everyone with too much information. I'm going to have all of Russell's medical history and I'll go over what each of the specialists do and how often Russell has to see them. I'll then explain what is involved with Russell's weekly therapy sessions. I was very pleased to find out that the therapy company that currently serves Russell travels in a far enough territory that they should be able to continue to serve Russell if he moves to his grandparents' house. (This is very, very good! Russell will have some continuity with people in his life. And yes, his therapies will switch over to being done in Spanish.)
I'm hoping to have a few minutes with Ms. Remus alone. I do have a few questions for her. I want to show her some things I've seen on Facebook so she can hopefully steer the conversation appropriately. She needs to figure out for herself if the grandparents understand that this is a lifetime commitment to Russell on both levels. I also really want to know if I should have the kids packed and ready to go prior to court or not. I want to know what she's going to recommend.
I'm a little uneasy with this meeting taking place in my home. I trust the grandparents. But they will be able to tell Bio Mom where we live. And Bio Mom will be able to tell Star's dad. And I do NOT trust that man.
But on the flip side, my name is on a zillion forms. I have to sign in at every visit. Surely Mom knows my first and last name by now. And if you google my first and last name, you get all my info. So if Star's dad wants to find me...he'll find me.
I had a quick conversation with my forever kids. I reminded them to be mindful if there are strange vehicles in the neighborhood that are circling around. (Our neighborhood does not have any through streets so people in it should be here for a reason.) Ultimately though, I'm not really worried. I know how to dial 911 if necessary.
And meeting with the bio family like this is a VERY good thing!!! If the State decides to place Russell and Star with Russell's grandparents, it's much better for everyone involved for this meeting to take place. They will have a better understanding of their grandson and I will have done everything I can do to advocate for Russell and his well-being.
I appreciate everyone's prayers as this case appears to be coming to an end. As level-headed as I really do feel about this meeting in my home, I will be a nervous wreck. I know that over the next 24 hours, I'm going to spend entirely too much time running different conversations through my mind. I also have to finish cleaning the first floor of my home. My kitchen always seems to be a wreck and laundry is my nemesis.
I'll be ready though. And I'll feel better when it's all over with. Just knowing that Ms. Remus is going to spend time with her clients is a very good thing. I want the decision makers to have all the information possible before they decide things for these babies next week.