Because it's a small, small world – I already knew (of) Deborah. And she was actually quite familiar with me and my family. Deborah was the original supervisor over Pumpkin's case for the first year Pumpkin was in care. In fact, Deborah said she was excited when she found out that one of her new cases was with our family. She knew I was really organized. (yippee for having a great first impression)
Deborah came this afternoon around 3:45. I had prepped the kids a little and they didn't freak out when she came in the house. In fact, they happily went outside to play so that Deborah and I could talk.
Deborah started out by saying that she hadn't really read through the case notes yet. She was well aware that most foster parents know the most about a case and she wanted to hear what I had to say – ALL of what I had to say.
Right away I felt a calm connection. I decided I wasn't going to hold back. I gave my disclaimer...
I'm fully aware of how The System works. I'm not trying to push my own agenda. But I do have some pretty strong opinions about what's been happening with this case and I'd love to share them with you. I'm not trying to work against you. I'm not trying to complicate things for you. If, when all is said and done, the situation goes differently than what I want, I will NOT cause any problems. But I do have some concerns. Some pretty major concerns.
Then I went about explaining who has been involved in these cherubs' lives (no one) and who the State was wanted to place them with (a virtual stranger).
Deborah listened to EVERYTHING I had to say. She validated my opinions and then....she went about telling me the things SHE needs to do to advocate for these kids!!
1. She's going to get Dolly set up with a counselor. That way we can have a professional (whose opinion is highly valued in the court system) evaluate things. If he comes to the same conclusion that everyone else seems to have come to – that the children would be best left in our home – he could advise the court of that. His opinion would carry a lot of weight.
2. This counselor could also be called on to evaluate the home situation where Grandma lives. He could be called on to determine how invested Grandma is in these children. He could weigh in on her motives.
3. She's going to make sure to set up weekly phone calls - done via conference so she can monitor things. If Grandma doesn't make these phone calls a priority, she'll note that in the files. If the children don't talk to Grandma, she'll note that in the files. In fact, she said that it would be best if the calls were made to a cell phone so I could prove with my phone bill how long the calls last each time.
4. Deborah also thinks she may end up recommending that Dude and Dolly get a separate GAL and lawyer. Right now they have one person performing dual roles. By separating this and having one lawyer and a different GAL, the GAL could do a better job of advocating for the childrens' best interests and not be tied to only the official "legal" side of things.
Several different times Deborah said that this is a two-sided problem. The State is responsible for making sure they do a home study on relatives that say they want the children. The State needs to make sure that the home environment would be a safe one. But The State is ALSO responsible for making sure that a move to this relative resource is also in the childrens' best interests. She indicated very clearly that The State has not been taking into considerations the childrens' best interests!!
I asked Deborah if The State would ever consider placing the children with us under PMC (permanent managing conservatorship). She literally beamed! She said that typically The State loves to have this option. (Her reaction was radically different from the lawyer's and Jasmine's!) She said that it means no support from The State. I told her I was well aware of that – and that I'm not in this for the money.
I do believe that Deborah is going to advocate for these kids the way the professionals should have been doing all along. She didn't give me any wild promises. I believe we are now on the exact same page. We both want what is best for these kids and she actually cares enough to find out if going to Grandma's house is a viable option for their long-term growth and development.
I'm thrilled to death. I like Deborah!!!!!