Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Court update

Our trial was scheduled for 1:30pm today. I arrived at the courthouse about 40 minutes early. I've always been told to arrive early so that the lawyer for my cherub(s) can speak with me and/or with the cherubs (when applicable). The doors to the indoor waiting room were locked. I sat outside with Daisy. Thankfully she fell asleep in the stroller for a little bit of the wait.

There were three trials all on the docket at 1:30pm. We were the third case in line. We didn't called into the courtroom until 2:50pm.

It was a very long wait until that time came.

Imagine entertaining a developmentally delayed, vision impaired child in 100 degree weather while outside or in a tiny little waiting room while inside. Toys are rather pointless. I don't load her up with snacks all day long. (Especially since she has seemed a little under the weather since I picked her up last night.) All we could do is hold her as her mother doesn't like her to crawl around in public places. Daisy went back and forth between her mother and me most the entire time.

At 2:50pm we all filed in to the courtroom. Roll call was taken and all the decision makers stated their names and their roles in the case for the record. Then, immediately, Daisy's lawyer asked for an in chamber meeting. The judge agreed and all the decision makers filed out of the room.

For over 20 minutes I sat in the courtroom with Kori, Bio Dad, Daisy's paternal grandparents, Kori's mother and Kori's ex-husband. Also in the room were the bailiff and the judge's assistant (secretary??). It was awkward. Daisy was frustrated from having nothing to do for hours and wiggled and fussed on her mom's lap the entire time.

At about 3:15pm everyone filed back in to the courtroom.
Then, for reasons that I still don't know, the judge and his assistant walked out of the room.
About 3 minutes later they came back in.

The judge reminded everyone that the dismissal date for the CPS case is November 10, 2014. He then asked CPS what their position is in this case.

The lawyer for CPS asked to reset the trial. It seems that Bio Dad has finally been indicted for his crimes against Daisy. Because of this, they want to wait and see what happens in criminal court before proceeding in CPS court.

Daisy's lawyer stood and asked for the same thing.

Kori's lawyer stood and very much opposed resetting the CPS trial. She argued that because Kori's support system had gone to the trouble of coming in from out of state and whatnot, the trial should go on today as scheduled.

The judge listened and then did a lot of speaking. First, he made it clear that the criminal trail for Bio Dad is not going to impede on the CPS trial. He granted the continuance but he made it very clear that he is not, under any circumstances, going to change the dismissal date for this CPS case. Everything in this case has to be "done" (whatever that means - because Lord knows kids stay in foster care for years down here) by November 10, 2014.

Another pretrial was called for September 24. The new date for the CPS trial is going to be October 2. The judge emphasized that everyone needs to be fully prepared for the trial on October 2. He stressed this point several times. He indicated that expert witnesses may need to be lined up. He wanted everyone to understand how serious he is about this trial happening on time and this case being over by November 10.

I don't have much else to report. Visits are going to continue on as normal because basically, nothing happened today. Bio Dad goes to trial for his crimes (he plead not guilty to two different charges) on Monday.

CPS does not want reunification. Neither does Daisy's lawyer. The trial in October is considered a contested trial. Because of the charges against Bio Dad, CPS will now be able to ask for TPR on him. But even Daisy's lawyer doesn't think there are grounds for TPR on Kori. If I was a betting person I would bet that Kori will get Daisy back "because Dad will be in prison and therefore Daisy will be safe". Or they will find some relative that is really willing to step in and care for Daisy. Supposedly there is a relative (a sister maybe??) that has stepped forward. The judge OK'd a home study but said he will not consider placement until the trial.

Thank you all for your prayers. I guess we get to do this again in just a little over a month.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cleaning house

While getting ready for vacation, we tipped one of the chairs down in our Suburban to make room for a very large cooler. Since only four of us were headed north, we didn't need all the seats and bringing along a cooler makes it so much cheaper. Those gas station drinks and treats are too expensive.

Well, once in Iowa, we did some more rearranging of the vehicle. As I went to pull the chair upright again I got a catch in my throat. There, tucked in a little nook under the chair, was a small purple circle.

One of Dolly's bracelets.

Dude and Dolly are still all over my house. Most of the time I'm OK with it.

Sometimes it still really hurts.

One of the things I've needed to deal with since September 23, 2013 was the fundraising puzzle. I realize I've got a lot of new readers that have joined this adventure since Dude and Dolly left. Not everyone knows their story. So I'll give you a VERY brief recap...

Dude and Dolly were MY kids. Their mom abandoned them the day they came in to Care (June 15, 2011). The only visits she kept were the ones that CPS practically forced her to keep. She never worked any of her case plan and actually ended up back in jail just a couple months after the kids came to me. When she got out, she didn't even call CPS to try and see her kids again for several weeks. (Even then, I'm pretty sure CPS called her to set up the visit.) She never wanted to parent.

The case plan the entire time these cherubs were in my home was relative conservatorship with their paternal grandma (Grandma N who lives in Dallas). At no point in time did Grandma N do anything to develop a relationship with these cherubs. She didn't know them. They didn't know her. (Shoot...they didn't even both speak the same language!) Grandma N also keeps close ties with all of her children - even the gang member, drug dealing, drug using ones. No one thought it was a good idea for the kids to go to this grandma except their CPS case worker. And that person, Minnie, is a very odd duck and really seemed to be incredibly biased against us.

The judge told us to hire a lawyer and intervene in the case. The GAL advised the same thing. The cherubs' therapist wanted them to stay with us. So after 23 months of waiting for the State to do the right thing by these kids, we hired our own lawyer and intervened.

Lawyers are expensive.

Awesome friends of mine decided to help us and a puzzle fundraiser was started.

Each piece of the puzzle was "worth" $5. If someone donated I wrote their name on the back of the puzzle piece and we started putting the puzzle together.
The puzzle was of my two cherubs. Dude is up in the tree. Dolly is down below telling him to come down. And me, Mamma Bear, I'm watching over both of them.
Everyone worked together to help put the puzzle together as donations came in. It lived on this card table in our dining area. It was a constant reminder of our new fight. It was also a reminder of how many people were fighting with us by praying and donating. I was completely blown away by the generosity of all my readers. I was incredibly humbled.
When the cherubs were moved from our home abruptly on September 23, 2013, it was almost like time froze. I got less than five hours to say goodbye and poof - they were gone. Forever.

We didn't drop out of the case. Even the judge recommended that we stay "in" through the holidays. But it was futile. CPS continued to lie about the cherubs. I saw court reports that I knew were inaccurate. We still had limited phone contact with the cherubs but it was painful. Horrible. Terrible. We knew we'd never be able to change things and our lawyer was just going to keep costing us more and more money. So, we dropped out of the case. Everything was "finished" in January 2014. We dropped out right before a court hearing because we were convinced that Grandma N was going to be given permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) and that it wasn't worth the financial or emotional effort anymore.

But that puzzle stayed on the table. Almost mocking me.

Donations still came in after the cherubs left. I still had pieces to put in the puzzle.

But I couldn't do it.

Finally I moved the puzzle to a smaller end table in my living room. It gathered dust as I ignored it.

The puzzle was still there when Ricky and Daisy moved in.

A couple months ago I got the courage to just disassemble the puzzle altogether.

Last night I finally finished cleaning house.

This wall displays two of my favorite family photos. One is when we were a family of eight with Pumpkin, Dude and Dolly. One is from about a year later when it was just US. My family. Me, Mr. Amazing, Herman, TT, Bart, Dude and Dolly.
Please trust me when I say that I believe in reunification. I don't grab on to every kid that comes in to my home and think that "I" can do so much better for them. That "my" family is better for them than their family of origin's. But Dude and Dolly...they did belong with us. They were (and still are) my kids. They always will be. They took a part of me when they left and I will never stop loving them.

I couldn't get rid of the puzzle. But I couldn't put it together either. Thankfully, I found a compromise.
The puzzle doesn't mock me as terribly now that I've cleaned it up and displayed it properly. All those names on the backs of the puzzle pieces remind me of the support I had during a very dark time. Thank you again to everyone that prayed for us and sent donations. I still am greatly humbled.

And if you're the praying type, please send up some prayers for Miss Daisy and all the adults involved in her case. We go to court tomorrow and it's going to be monumental. I honestly have no idea what is going to happen because since we've been in Texas, I've been wrong when predicting the outcome of court hearings almost 100% of the time. My thinking brain says that Daisy needs to stay in foster care. But I really have no idea what the judge is going to do.

I'll keep y'all posted.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I'm back from vacation

It was refreshing to leave the 100+ temps of Deep South Texas to enjoy some time with my family in Iowa. I was sad to leave Daisy behind but I didn't completely melt down at the drop off. In fact, I don't think I cried once over vacation. (So unlike the summer two years ago when I had to leave my three fosters behind because I was under investigation.)

For a little over a week my three forever cherubs played with their cousins and had a tremendous amount of fun. The "official" Cousins Camp (where ALL the cousins are there) lasted four days. We went to the Iowa State Fair, took a train ride on the Boone Scenic Railway, toured Living History Farms, and shivered a bit at an aquatic center in Ankeny. (Iowa was warm but not particularly hot enough for swimming the day we went. Nevertheless, I donned my swimsuit so my nephew could do a couple loops on the lazy river.)

I stayed in contact, though not daily, with Daisy's respite provider. Other than a minor 24-hour virus, Daisy had no issues. The respite provider reported that Daisy was a very happy baby and enjoyed all the attention she got at day care.

Mr. Amazing picked Miss Daisy up when he got off work yesterday. She was quiet and a little bit confused when she got home. And, as has been par for the course, she didn't want to be away from me at all. In fact, right now at this very minute, Miss Daisy has decided that she doesn't want to be in either of her bouncers and is screaming at the top of her lungs because I won't sit down and play with her.

I called Mr. CW on the car ride home just to check in. I don't have any new news per se. But he did tell me a few things of interest.

Kori called a meeting with Mr. CW's supervisor and the supervisor's boss. (Mr. CW was not invited to this meeting.) He hasn't had a chance to speak with his supervisor to learn any of the specific details of this meeting. However, he says all the people involved in this case in his office are confident that Daisy will remain in foster care after the trial on Tuesday next week.

Mr. CW puts it this way, "All we have to do is put Kori on the stand and let her talk. I trust Daisy's lawyer to do her job. Of course, Kori's lawyer will do all she can to make me look like a bumbling idiot. I'm prepared for that. But Kori just needs to talk until the judge throws up in his mouth a little. That will happen. That woman is something else."

Then Mr. CW dropped a bomb. I will see him in court on Tuesday but then he is off this case. Mr. CW has been promoted in the investigations department.

I'm sad for Daisy. She deserves continuity. Mr. CW is already her second worker. She's been through several at my licensing agency too. And by this fall, she'll be getting a new lawyer as well. When there is this much change, things fall through the cracks. And even though I have ALL the information anyone could need about Daisy, I'm *just* the foster parent.  I literally told Mr. CW, "Congratulations. But...you suck!" Then I laughed a little. He told me he's very excited to get the promotion but he feels horrible about not being able to see Daisy's case all the way through. And really, I know he was telling the truth. It wasn't some line to make me feel better.

Well, Miss Daisy is still crying. I really need to give her a bath and do something productive with my day. I've got laundry and unpacking to do.

Please be in prayer for all the individuals responsible for Daisy's future. Tuesday is going to be a very big day. I go back and forth about what I personally think is going to happen. My logical brain says that Daisy needs to stay in foster care. Kori is STILL defending Bio Dad to everyone that will listen to her. (She gave the respite provider an earful about how wonderful he is and how he would never hurt Daisy.) She's still in incredible denial about how badly Daisy has been hurt. I believe that CPS is going to claim that even though Kori wasn't directly there when Daisy was injured enough to come in to foster care (you know...when Daisy almost died), Kori is unable to be trusted to protect Daisy from future abuse. Even though my logical brain thinks Daisy will stay in foster care, I've been wrong pretty much 100% of the time. She could leave abruptly and I could be done with foster care by the end of next week.

Thanks for the prayers. I'll keep y'all posted.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The other reason I'm going to Iowa

Ever since My Genius Mother called me and asked if I thought TT and Bart could handle Cousins Camp without me physically there, we have had a HUGE dose of Mr. Wonky in our house. Both of my youngest cherubs immediately answered with a resounding yes! They wanted to go to Iowa and they didn't care if I came or not.

Methinks they have reconsidered.

It has been bad!

Rages. Tantrums. Things being thrown. People being hit, kicked and otherwise assaulted.

Did I mention the fact it's been bad?!

It's soooooooo hard to pinpoint exactly what the problem is. In fact, I don't always do that. My kids know that when they are dysregulated they can choose. They can come and talk to me about it and really try to figure out WHY they are dysregulated. Or...I can deal directly with the behavior only - which usually means making their world very small. (In other words, they get grounded.)

There are a LOT of reasons why my kids struggle in the summer.
  1. Less routine than normal.
  2. More neighborhood drama with all the other kids.
  3. A desire to play video games and/or watch TV that does not match what is allowed in our house.
  4. Dude and Dolly came to us June 15, 2011.
  5. The Summer from Hell (investigation) happened July/August 2012.
  6. Dude and Dolly got to go to Cousins Camp summer 2013.
  7. Dude and Dolly aren't in our family anymore. (This grief is still raw as we cycle through seasons and holidays for the first time without them.)
  8. Daisy's weekend visits, in general, worry my kids.
  9. CPS restricting our family from traveling together and the general frustration that brings to all of us.
  10. And of course, the general theme in our home because it's a constant trigger...foster care sucks.
As it looked like it was going to be more and more difficult to bring Daisy along just to drop my boys off at the border of Texas, it became more and more apparent that maybe I needed to go with my boys all the way to Iowa.

The temper tantrum Mr. CW's supervisor threw kinda synched the deal last night.

My Genius Dad is happy. He did NOT want to drive all the way down to Oklahoma to pick my boys up. My Genius Sister is happy. She gets to see me! (Yippee!) And in a sad way, I am happy too. I get to see my entire family...even My Genius Brother!

I'm so sad that I don't get to bring Daisy. I'm going to miss her terribly. Bringing her along was the only way I could really enjoy this summer's vacation.

But it is only 12 days. I will get a chance to get some sleep. I will get a chance to really play with my kids. And I will come back home ready to advocate for Miss Daisy with all my strength. There's a chance I might get called to testify when we go to court just four days after my return. I will need all my wits about me for that! (Granted, I'll probably spend those four days with Miss Daisy attached to my hip. But it's all good.)

Thank y'all for your constant support and validation. Sometimes I wonder if I make a bigger deal out of this stuff than I should. Sometimes it's nice to know I'm not alone in my frustration with this crazy System!!

They lie in the training sessions

You're brand new to fostering. You sit in these training sessions and learn a whole new language. Reunification. Visitation. Unsupervised. Termination. Case worker. Supervisor. Licensing. Spot checks. You take it all in; eager to learn.

They tell you stories about teenaged girls making up lies about the men in the home because they want moved. They tell you to expect the unexpected. You learn how to stay safe and how best to protect the new cherubs you're going to be caring for.

And then you hear things like, "Make them a part of your family. Bring them on vacations. Include them. Let these cherubs have the experiences they're unlikely to get anywhere else. Just let us know and we'll approve it. It's easy."

Under the trainer's breath you might hear, "Unless it conflicts with a visit. Then we have to work around that. But it's easy to do. You can travel and visits will get scheduled to accommodate."

But the big and loud party line is, "Include them. It's easy."

And then there is reality....

(I'm still really pissed off so this might be longer and wordier than absolutely necessary.)

Every summer I take my kids to my parents' house and they go to Cousins Camp. All the cousins over age two attend and many camp memories are made. My Genius Mother works very hard to plan wonderful excursions and fun things to do at home. This year camp is approximately five days long (I think) and it is filled with all kinds of exciting adventures. The kids are going on a scenic train ride, attending the Iowa State Fair, going to Living History Farms, and going swimming at a water park. I will not take this experience away from my kids. It's a trip we make every year.

This year I started by asking if I could bring Daisy with me. She's too young to really participate of course. But I believe she would be best cared for by me and I wanted to bring her along. However, it would involve missing one weekend visit (47 hours) with her biological mother, Kori.

CPS immediately told me no.

Then, after I pushed a little, they told me I could ask Kori. If she said yes, maybe the trip could be considered.

Kori prayed about it but didn't have a peace with it. She too said no.

So I altered my plans. I didn't want to put Daisy in respite care. I just don't feel comfortable placing her with a stranger for 12 days. I know it's probably not a big deal to some people. But to me, it is. So I changed my plans. I would drive my boys to the TX/OK border and drop them off with my mom. Daisy would ride along with me so that I could continue to meet all her needs and she would be with people she knows and are comfortable with. Then after I dropped TT and Bart off, we would turn around and head back home. Mr. CW didn't think this would be a problem at all. I even mentioned something about this short trip (less than 48 hours and within the state of Texas) to Daisy's lawyer. She seemed unphased.

But then reality hit.

Mr. CW asked his supervisor yesterday about the travel. Despite Texas minimum standards stating that "technically" I don't even have to ask permission for travel less than 48 hours long and within the state, I still have to ask. And then Mr. CW has to get an OK from his supervisor. Then a travel log goes to the lawyers to get signed. Then a judge has to sign his OK.

All for a two-day trip within the state.

Mr. CW's supervisor said NO.

Mr. CW pushed him a little. Supervisor still said NO. He said that Daisy's medical needs would be best met if she stayed here in respite care.

Mr. CW even went so far as to remind Supervisor that Daisy is only a "moderate" and that Supervisor already made a big deal about Daisy's medical needs not being that concerning. Surely this two day travel could be approved.

Mr. CW reported to me that things got very intense and his supervisor actually got hot under the collar. It was a NO!! No travel allowed. Supervisor would rather Daisy go to respite care.

I cried. (Mr. CW felt so bad for me.)

I just want to take care of this baby in the manner that is best for her. But I can't do that at the expense of my forever kids. They get to go to Iowa.

They can't fly. Too expensive.
My parents can't drive all the way down here to get them. It takes too long.
And the idea of respite so I can drive for 10+ hours and then drive 10+ hours back home seemed ridiculous.

I have decided to do the thing I hate most. I'm putting Daisy in respite and I'm going to drive my boys all the way to Iowa myself, stay for vacation, and then drive back. Daisy will be out of my care for 12 days/11 nights.

I know it's only 12 days. But I'm sick, just a little, thinking about it. Would you put your baby in care with a stranger like that if you didn't have to?

I contacted a foster mom licensed through my agency that I know OK enough down here. Karen recently just opened her home again after being closed for awhile following a recent adoption. Our agency pays horribly for respite and Daisy has special needs. Karen agreed to take Daisy though for the time I am gone. She doesn't do this for the money and I take solace in that. Daisy definitely won't get the same level of personal care she gets while in my home. She will go to a strange day care. But I have to let go and be OK with that too. It's less than two weeks.

Thankfully my new licensing agency worker ('cause yeah...I've got a new one again), has no problem with Daisy going to Karen's house for respite. All I have to do is send her the dates and she'll take care of the necessary paperwork.

It just kills me this is how it worked out though.

It's not necessary.

Even the minimum standards don't make it sound that difficult to travel.

Foster care sucks!!


-----

For those of you wondering why Mr. Amazing can't just watch her...
  1. Daisy would have to go to a strange day care during the day anyway.
  2. We would have to pay for this strange day care out of our own pockets and it would be expensive.
  3. She will be horribly "messed up" in the evenings and probably won't settle down for Mr. Amazing because she will still wonder where I am and where her brothers are.
  4. Being messed up like this will cause her sleep to become horribly disruptive.
  5. Mr. Amazing needs his sleep so he can stay safe on his job (which is getting increasingly more dangerous by the day).
  6. In the long run, respite care costs us less and will disrupt Daisy less than bouncing back and forth between a new day care and an empty home with just Mr. Amazing.
Foster care still sucks!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Still no news to report

I've had some people comment that what I've experienced as a foster parent is almost too much to believe.

Trust me. I know. I've lived it.

The drama is exhausting!

Thank y'all for your prayers this past weekend! It seems the concerns that CPS had were not valid *this weekend*. They did surprise Kori at home to check on their concerns. But Kori was not in violation of anything and Daisy remained with her for the rest of the visit. (Well...I'll pick her up from the visit in about 6.5 hours.)

The drama is still quite high. I've got some minor things I'll have to report after I pick Daisy up tonight. (She has flea bites ALL over her!) And who knows, these visits might still get cancelled by the lawyers. I honestly don't now everything that is going on legally.

But for now I'm confident in saying that Daisy is safe. And to me, that's the most important detail.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prayer Request

I have to be vague. MAJOR things are happening in Daisy's case. I am asking for all of Daisy's prayer warriors to send up mighty requests from now until the weekend visit is over next Monday. Please pray for safety for Daisy and that the adults in this case face justice.

I promise I'll keep y'all posted. For now I do have to be vague. But things...they are a changin'.