I don't even know where to start. (Warning...this will probably be a long one.)
Part of me wants to give only the most vague of details. Technically I am not allowed to write this blog. The details of foster care aren't legally mine to share. (I'd get in huge trouble if my agency or someone at CPS knew I wrote this blog!! I'd probably end up in legal trouble!!)
Part of me wants to give y'all a full script of my afternoon. I feel somewhat obligated to show what foster care REALLY looks like. 'Cause it's nothing like the training. Nothing can prepare you for the roller coaster until you climb aboard yourself.
So...since I want to warn y'all about the giant hill ahead and the resulting ride that might make you lose your stomach...here's how court went this afternoon:
I had to bring Pumpkin. In the state of Texas all children over the age of four are required by law to attend all of their court hearings. (At least this is how it was explained to me. And from the internet searches I've done, it appears to be true.) In fact, the judge in our area requires ALL children (even infants) to come to court.
Pumpkin did OK and went straight to her mom when we got there. Her mom seemed to handle things OK in the waiting room. Pumpkin didn't get all wound up. She just sat on her mom's lap and drank a soda that her mom bought her.
CASA had called me this morning to get the current details on Pumpkin's case. Pumpkin's actual CASA volunteer has completely dropped the ball and has only visited Pumpkin one time since coming in to care in January. However, the CASA supervisor is required to follow up if the volunteer doesn't. Since we had already spoken on the phone, I didn't have to go over anything in the waiting room with her.
I sat and waited. I tried to not get nervous. But the waiting room is such a cesspool of anxiety. Parents are tense. Some are crying. Children are everywhere. Some are confused. Some are happy. Some are crying. "Suits" are everywhere. And there is NOWHERE private to talk. So if a "suit" needs to talk to a client, a child or a foster parent, they are literally sitting next to someone else or standing in a corner going over the most private of details in the most public of settings.
Pumpkin's GAL (guardian ad litem -- her lawyer) never showed up today. <<sigh>>
The CPS attorney came over to speak with me before court. It went something like this:
LAWYER: So, how is Pumpkin.
ME: Fine. What did you want to know? (I absolutely HATE that generic question. How am I supposed to answer that?!)
LAWYER: (hesitating due to my lack of an answer) Well...how are visits?
ME: Fine. What did you want to know? (ugh)
LAWYER: (thinking even harder on how to ask a question that could really generate an answer) Well...how does she respond after a visit.
ME: Pumpkin does OK enough. Granted, she does show a lot of regression. But it's hard to quantify.
LAWYER: Does she get aggressive?
LAWYER: Does she get passive-aggressive?
ME: Um...Pumpkin doesn't have the ability to be passive-aggressive. (Despite meeting Pumpkin several different times, I do not think this woman understands how developmentally delayed Pumpkin is!)
I went on to explain that it's more of a depression really. That Pumpkin stops engaging with the family. Certain skills will seem to disappear. She won't play. She withdraws a lot.
LAWYER: Does Pumpkin talk about it? What does she say about her mom?
ME: (taking a deep breath) Pumpkin can't talk.
I had to explain to this woman AGAIN that Pumpkin is not able to communicate. I explained in detail what she's able to do. How she can make choices when offered two things that she can physically touch. But for the most part, Pumpkin does not express her needs and wants. She might point to something (like the soda machine in the waiting room when she was with her mom). I explained that I think she communicates better with her mom than she does with me. I tried and I tried.
But this lawyer heard only what she wanted to hear.
She thinks Pumpkin has some kind of a dissociative disorder. She explained to me that she's worked with lots of special needs kids. She said that in her experience they all communicate.
I wanted to smack the woman!
Pumpkin has a laundry list of diagnoses. She's been seeing a neurologist for many years now. He gave me a list. She saw a psychiatrist when she first came in to care and he gave me a list.
But now some lawyer that doesn't even know this child has become an expert on all things "special needs" and thinks that Pumpkin needs a new diagnosis. This lawyer that isn't even Pumpkin's lawyer!!
Thankfully, we got called into the courtroom before I did or said something stupid. Pumpkin sat on her mom's lap. I sat in the back.
I'll spare you the play by play here. But this is what has to happen within the next month:
I have to get an "official" diagnosis for Pumpkin. (I guess all the other official ones I have aren't official enough.) No one can tell me exactly what to ask or even what doctor to go to. I have to figure this out for myself.
CPS has a few task items on their list that probably involve continuing to find a relative that will take Pumpkin.
The trial to terminate parental rights will be January 4th at 9:30AM.
And yes, Pumpkin has to attend the trial where they will terminate her mother's rights! (Don't even get me started on this one. My heart breaks for all children that have to do this. It's trauma brought on by the court system. It is so many shades of wrong it makes me sick to my stomach!!)
Pumpkin will be in my home through Christmas for sure. After that, I have no idea what will happen. I'm not sure how the judge is going to choose a new home for Pumpkin. My gut tells me that he's going to factor in her disability a little bit more than they have been thus far through this case.
If they can't find a relative placement for Pumpkin I don't know what will happen. My family is not in a position to adopt Pumpkin. But she is welcome to stay in our home until they can find a safe permanent home for her.