Dude would not have a thing to do with his bio family (except for Great Grandma). Dolly was intrigued and wanted to interact with her bio mom and bio dad; but she was also very nervous! They kept speaking to her in Spanish and Dolly understands very little Spanish these days. It was awkward to put it mildly. When they would say something in English, Dolly would respond...sort of. After waiting over an hour and a half, the kids were really wound up. All they could do was giggle with a very dysregulated nervous giggle.
Appearing in court today: bio mom, bio dad, paternal grandma, maternal great-grandma, me and the children – plus lawyers for bio mom, CPS and the children.
The initial plan (before the cherubs' lawyer arrived) was drawn up. The children were to be placed in Dallas. Grandma N was to be given Temporary Managing Conservatorship. And things would go from there. Bio Mom and Bio Dad would be given an opportunity to do their services. Everyone was in agreement with this. All that they needed was to actually have the judge sign off. I sat in amazement that all this would be decided without anyone representing the children! (Just for the record...this was all decided prior to the case being called. It was all very casual and off the cuff. The judge was participating in the conversation but nothing was legally official at this time. It was more like the judge was familiarizing himself with the case and with what the State was going to propose.)
Then, low and behold, a new lawyer entered the scene. Ms. Veracruz was given the case and told she would be acting as attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem (dual roles). She introduced herself to the family and then stepped aside with the children to talk to them.
Great-grandma insisted that I go with the children to talk to the lawyer. By now I wanted to throw my hands up in despair. What's the point?! But I moved to the side of the courtroom and sat there while she attempted to talk to the cherubs.
The cherubs had been waiting too long in a very stressful environment. They had never met this lawyer before. It all seemed futile. The cherubs stood there practically mute. And since their bio dad had stepped over with us, I didn't know what to say or what to do. Anything I had to say would probably not be met with favor by bio dad. Still, the lawyer asked me what I thought.
I looked at the lawyer, and I guess because I was feeling rather jaded, I asked her, "Do you really want to know?" I mean...really...did she?! Ms. Veracruz said yes so I started in with a 30 second sound bite. Right there in front of bio dad I told the lawyer that my biggest concern was that the children do not know this grandma at all! Grandma has never done anything to begin a relationship with the children. And this bothered me.
Ms. Veracruz looked at bio dad and said something. I don't remember what. And then she seemed sort of defeated herself. She said, "Well, it's my job to represent the children and their desires. But it doesn't look like they will talk to me."
Because I have told the children it's their job to talk to their lawyer I looked at Dude and said, "Dude, do you want to talk to your lawyer?" I then looked at Dolly and asked her the same question. Both kids perked up and said they would. The lawyer kindly took them out of the room away from everyone and spoke with them very briefly.
When she came back in the room I knew exactly what the children had said. So, I asked for a few minutes of her time as well.
Away from bio dad I was able to speak more freely. I gave the lawyer another 30 second sound bite. She asked me how long I've been with the kids. When I answered 15 months she gave me a blank stare. I read right through it and said, "My husband and I would take PMC. We would love to adopt these kids." She looked back at me and asked, "Why won't the State consider that?!"
I didn't know how to respond. The best I could give her is that they aren't too fond of me. She didn't think that was a decent answer. She seemed stumped by the whole process. She seemed determined to do something. She looked at me and said, "I may be a lawyer, but I'm a mom too!" She had a new agenda. I made sure Ms. Veracruz understood that bio dad said he's living 20 minutes away from his mom but that I didn't think that was accurate. This concerned Ms. Veracruz greatly. We went back into the courtroom.
Ms. Veracruz circled up with CPS and the other lawyers. The plan changed immediately. The children would remain in foster care. Visits with bio mom would be increased so that the State could give Mom an opportunity to work her service plan. Weekend visits would be scheduled once a month in Dallas with paternal grandma. Bio dad would be given an opportunity to see the children for 4 hours during that weekend. (Bio mom and bio dad are no longer "together".)
Minnie wasn't extremely thrilled with this change. In fact, she felt it necessary to tell Ms. Veracruz about the investigation this summer. The way she plugged it into the conversation was weird. Even the lawyer didn't understand why it was being brought up.
Court happened. I love the new judge. His courtroom is not a freaky stressful place. He's kind. He's polite. He pays attention. It's so radically different from the old judge. The judge had no problem with the children staying in foster care. He had no problem with the increase in visits. (Granted, prior to Ms. Veracruz showing up, he had no problem with moving the children to Dallas either.) He set the next court hearing for January 7!!
Everything was made official. Afterward, I stepped up to Ms. Veracruz to "defend" myself about the whole investigation topic. I gave her the 30 second sound bite about how that whole thing happened. I did say that the children made mention of us "pow-powing" them but that it didn't make sense in the grand scheme of things. She looked at me and said, "I don't know why the State even said anything about it!" I responded, "I told you, they don't like me too much." She smiled. She handed me her business card and told me that if the children ever want to talk to her to have them call. Then she said....get this....that she wants to meet with the children outside of court!!!!!
I nearly dropped over! I've never had a lawyer take that approach down here!!
- The cherubs have a new lawyer that seems to think the cherubs staying with us is a very good idea.
- The cherubs have a new lawyer that will discuss this outside of the courtroom before our next appearance.
- Bio mom is going to be given an opportunity to work her service plan. Technically that puts us all the way back to square one. However, there isn't a single person that thinks bio mom is going to complete her service plan. (Minnie practically said this verbatim to me.)
- Bio dad isn't technically in the picture. But he's got a service plan to do too. No one really paid any attention to him at all except to grant him visits when the kids are there to see Grandma N.
- Grandma N is being granted 1x a month weekend visits that the State is going to pay for. The first one is this weekend in fact. The cherubs will fly to Dallas on Friday. Minnie will stay in Dallas but will not be supervising anything. Then on Sunday, Minnie will fly back with the cherubs.
- The State is still trying to place the children with Grandma N in Dallas. They have no Plan B.
- And...the next court date is in January so I get to have the cherubs through Christmas. I don't have to say, "I don't know" about anything!!!!!! I may even be able to work things so that the cherubs can travel with us to Iowa. (I'm not holding my breath on this. But it's a possibility – especially if Mom isn't keeping her visit schedule by that time.)