Monday, April 16, 2012

Where do you want to live?

When we went to court back in February with the littlest cherubs, their lawyer asked the children where they wanted to live. Me...trying to be a good foster parent...had never given them the option of staying at our home. All I had ever done is tell them that the decision was up to the judge but that it all looked like the judge was going to have them go to their grandma's house in D***. So, when asked, the cherubs told the lawyer that they wanted to go with their grandma.

When talking to the lawyer after court, I said I wasn't surprised at all by their answer. I told the lawyer that I wouldn't dream of telling them they could live with me if CPS is saying it isn't an option. They lawyer muttered something along the lines of, "you do things different than I would," under her breath.

As time has gone by I have learned that this particular lawyer will only fight for what the kids want. So, if it looks like CPS might even consider letting the kids stay at my house, I have to open that up as an option to them.

I've spent the two months introducing this concept to the cherubs. It's a fine dance because I will NOT be accused of manipulating them. And every time we discuss things I remind them that the decision is not up to me, the children, the social workers or even the lawyer. The judge is the one that will decide. But...if the children want to stay with Mamma L*** and Poppy S***, they have to tell all the people involved that this is where they want to stay.

Then comes Friday, April 5. The cherubs finally had one (lousy) court-ordered visit with Grandma from D***. It was complicated. The kids were shy and a little confused. But from what their social worker told me that supervised everything, it went OK. Grandma was able to speak in broken English. She interacted with the children. They played. The kids warmed up to her.

One of the things I had complained about over 1/2 a year ago was the fact that these kids know NOTHING of their grandma. They would ask me questions about her and the house they were going to be going to and I couldn't answer a single thing. Apparently CPS told Grandma about my complaint. When she showed up for the visit, she brought pictures of her house and the toys she had bought the children. They spent time at the visit looking over "their new house".

So, after the visit, the cherubs informed me that they wanted to move in with their grandma.

I took a deep breath and validated their decision. I didn't say much. But I did think about the situation a lot.

I decided that the cherubs needed to know the full picture. Sure, they met Grandma. They saw pictures of Grandma's house. But everyone failed to tell these children if they go move in to Grandma's house they will never see us again.

Cherubs that are only 3 and 4 years old should NOT be put in this position!! They don't understand what is going on at all. They don't understand the ramifications of their decisions.

I'm still doing a fine dance. Because, like I said, I will not be accused of manipulating them. For example, when Dolly tells me that she wants to go to Sea World again, I don't tell her that she needs to tell the lawyers she wants to stay with us so she can go again. However, when the cherubs talk about wanting to go to Iowa to see my family that lives there (that they have met), I do tell them that the judge has to say it's OK for them to make that kind of a trip and they would have to tell the judge they want to stay with us.

I hate this. I hate having to put them in this position. But I don't think it's fair for them to have illusions of living with their grandma and still getting to have us in their lives. They can't figure that out. They don't understand how far away Grandma lives. They can't wrap their brains around the idea that Grandma wouldn't be able to communicate with us. They don't understand why we can't be one big happy family.

I do tell the cherubs that I would try to let them see their grandma if they "choose" us. Because that is reality. I would have as open of a placement/adoption as I could possibly manage. I don't like the idea of separating these kids from their family if I don't have to.

But I'm not going to let this awful choice get clouded up in their imaginations. They do need to know that if they "choose" Grandma they will lose us.

The System stinks.


MamaFoster said...

uuuggghhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!! a very fine line :/

Teresa said...

Do your courts put a lot of weight in what the kid "chooses"? Our family court judges here don't even ask until the child is 14yrs old. They don't even attend court until 14yrs old)Our sons' lawyer asked him once, 6 months ago, if he liked it here with us and he said yes. She's been advocating for TPR ever since, but the judge is still following along with the county's plan.

I have the same hurt for him as you express here. He will say he wants to "live" with Grandma, but then he says he's going to stay with us forever. He developmentally can not comprehend that he will lose us or Grandma forever. He's also starting to get old enough to understand that "choosing" will result in hurting someone's feelings. It's too much pressure for a child! Foster care stinks.

CherubMamma said...

I don't know for sure what the court looks at. I have been told by NUMEROUS people that the judge is horribly inconsistent overall! Basically...he's a nut job!!

My decision to give the children an "option" came from their lawyer. She really seemed to indicate that she will only go along with what the children want. So...if they said they wanted to go to Grandma's...but CPS was saying to place the children with us, this lawyer would argue only to place the kids with Grandma because that's what the children "want".

It makes me ill really! It is entirely too much pressure on little kids that don't understand. However, I want these kids to be in a safe and loving home with every fiber of my being. And since Grandma hasn't convinced me that she gives a damn, I need to make sure the option of these kids staying with me is a viable one that the lawyer will go along with.

Rhonda said...

From reading your blog for the last few months...I think the little ones would have a wonderful life with your family. Those kids need a mom and a dad and a grandma that can be just that....a grandma. I don't see anything wrong with you encouraging the kids to say they want to stay with you. In fact, I think you would be wise to do that, for their sake. It sounds like grandma isn't really commited to raising these children. Does grandma know you would agree to letting her see the kids if you were able to adopt them. That sounds like the best solution for the children and for her. I'm a grandma of only one little 4 year old and I can't imagine how any grandma has the resources or energy to raise 2 young children especially ones she is not even bonded with. I pray that things work out for you. I can tell you love those kids with all your heart.

fosterfull said...

As someone who has been through a failed reunification process with a child from 2.5 yrs of age to 4 yrs of age... I can't BELIEVE that the lawyer is requiring you to put the kids in this position. I can't begin to imagine how any such conversation would have gone with my son, and certainly there is no concept that he would ever "lose" us if he went to stay at someone else's really cool house for a while. He's always inviting himself over to other people's houses! He has no concept of permanency or familial relationships in the same way that we as adults do.

Frankly, this seems like a cop-out on the part of the kids' lawyer. There is a reason the children are assigned a lawyer, and it is so that person can be the voice of the child's best interest. :(

I know this is preaching to the choir. I'm sorry you find yourself in such a difficult position, and it sounds like you are navigating it well. Will say a prayer for your kiddos, that the right words will come to them and that what is truly best will come to be.