Monday, January 7, 2013

Four More Months

(Long post...mainly for me. Sorry for all the extra details. If I don't write it all down now, I'll forget what actually happened. My brain quickly blocks traumatic events. And believe you me, court is very traumatic for me!!)

I left the house at 10:45AM to make the hour-plus drive West. We arrived in the cherubs' hometown right before noon. I was a mess! I didn't want to eat. I just wanted today over with. Nevertheless, I took the cherubs to McDonalds. At least that way I knew they'd eat most of their food and they could play in the tubes until time to go to court.

I arrived at the courthouse at 1:00PM. We're not allowed to bring bags of any kind in with us so all I had was a small wallet with my phone. The kids each carried their Happy Meal toys. We went through the metal detectors and up the stairs to the second floor.

The courtroom had been moved again. I asked where it was. Of course there were NO chairs outside the room. I didn't want to sit in front of the bathrooms or around the corner so I plunked myself down on the floor. The kids and I sat there.

At about 1:15PM or so, Great Grandma P, Bio Mom and Cousin A showed up. Dolly literally pushed me forward and hid behind my back. Dude lifted up my knee and buried his face under me. I won't force them to say or do anything with their bio family. It was uncomfortable.

We made small talk. Bio Mom asked the kids about the snow. The kids didn't say much. Eventually Dolly warmed up a bit and gave her mom a hug. Dude proceeded to get super dysregulated and incredibly goofy. He had the most nervous giggle!!! He also pushed every single boundary that he possibly could. He went around the corner. He went up and down the steps. He said "no" to every single question he was asked. And just to keep things super awkward, as Dude went up the stairs (in an attempt to be naughty) his bio mom's response was, "Don't go up there. The police are coming down. They'll get you."

How exactly do I respond to that?!

We waited and waited. Well after 1:30PM (when court was supposed to start), Dude announced that he had to go to the bathroom. As we were in there taking care of business, Great Grandma P popped her head in and said our case had been called. I hightailed it in to the courtroom.

Dude did not want to be quiet. He squirmed. He wiggled. He made noise just loud enough I could tell it was intentional. Oh...he was so dysregulated!!! I shhhhh'd him as much as I could and strained to hear what CPS, the lawyer(s) and the judge had to say.

Interestingly enough, the children did not meet with any lawyer today. There was a person standing in for their actual lawyer. But it was purely for paperwork purposes. NO ONE met with the children prior to court. NO ONE was there to advocate for their desires. The person standing in "as" their lawyer did not say a word the entire time!!

Grandma N (from Dallas) was not there. CPS gave some story that they bought the bus tickets for Grandma N incorrectly. I don't buy that story for a second. But it is what it is.

The permanency hearing started off with the judge asking all the official questions that he's supposed to. How are the kids doing? Are they on any meds? Are there any physical issues he needs to be aware of? Are they doing well in their foster care home? All that good stuff.

CPS answered every question quickly and accurately. Then Minnie went about the business of painting the situation in Dallas as all rainbows and unicorns. She stated that the children do well on the visits. The judge asked interesting questions. He literally asked if the children "know" their Grandma N. All CPS could do is say that they lived with her when they were infants and that they've been having visits over the past four months. The judge didn't react to this at all. If I had to guess though, he wasn't impressed.

The judge kind of gave CPS and Bio Mom a what-for about the kids still being in foster care. He was incredibly polite about it. He was dead-on accurate though. He said that even though the foster parents may be wonderful, every single day the children spend in Care is detrimental to their well-being. He was emphatic that they need to be OUT of Care!

They then turned the discussion toward Bio Mom. She has not worked any of her case plan. Her lawyer tried to say it was because Bio Mom was incarcerated for the bulk of this time. Again, the judge seemed less than impressed. (I do like this judge!) Then Bio Mom's lawyer said that Bio Mom doesn't want the kids to go to Dallas. The judge's first response was, "Someone that isn't doing anything in their case plan shouldn't really be too worried about where their kids are placed at." But the lawyer went on. She said some things that were not quite worded correctly. Then she said that "foster mom basically counseled her client to not send the kids to Dallas".

Um....that's ME you're talking about lady!

I stood up and addressed the judge. I introduced myself and said if they wanted to know about my concerns they could ask me directly.

He motioned me forward and I began.

The first thing I said was about my concern with the syringe I found in their overnight bag following a visit.

You should have seen the look on his face! He made me say it at least one or two more times. He said, "You found WHAT in their bag?!"

The conversation was interesting to say the least. CPS had to dance around the situation. Minnie said that Grandma thought the syringe was a medicine dispenser and put it in their bag. She didn't know where it came from. Minnie was surprised it made it through the security checkpoints at the airport. Everyone danced around the topic and the judge kept asking questions.

The Judge: "What kind of a syringe was it?!"
Me: "A used insulin syringe."
The Judge: "Did it actually have a needle in it?"
Me: "Yes. But it was covered with the cap."
The Judge: "Where did it come from?!!!"
Everyone: silence
The Judge: "Who has diabetes?"
Minnie: "I thought Grandma N did but she doesn't."
Bio Mom's Lawyer: "The children do not."
The Judge: "Where did it come from? Who has diabetes?"
Me: "It is a used insulin syringe but it is unknown if the needle had been repurposed for other uses."
The Judge: "Who uses in the home?"

Minnie then had to reiterate the story she had told earlier about Bio Dad having access to the home in Dallas but not following through with a drug test she was supposed to administer that very weekend. She said that he had been in the home but that when she came on Saturday to meet with him he was nowhere to be found.

Funny -- this story has a lot more meaning to it when you know that a used needle was also involved.

Minnie admitted to the judge that Bio Dad uses.

The judge was completely beside himself. I also mentioned the fact that the children sleep in bed with Grandma during the visits and that one time Grandma didn't bother to change their clothes on Sunday and that they wore the same outfit on Saturday, to bed that night and again all day Sunday.

The judge found this interesting as well and even mentioned that this is neglectful behavior. He said nothing else about this though.

Well, he said nothing else other than the fact that he was NOT in favor of sending the children to Dallas right now at ALL. Then he just sat there rather perplexed.

I looked at him and said that we would be interested in taking PMC (permanent managing conservatorship). He responded in a positive manner and indicated that during this particular court hearing he could not place the children with me under PMC. He then went on to say (and all but recommend) that we could hire our own counsel and officially intervene in this case. He said we have legal standing.

I answered him by saying, "We are not in a position to intervene at this time. Instead, I fully trust the legal professionals involved in this case to advocate properly for the children and to ensure they are safe and loved for the rest of their lives." (Of course I was lying through my teeth -- I don't trust Minnie at all. And since the kids didn't even really have a lawyer this time around, I wasn't too impressed with that part of the equation either. But I played nice.)

Again he told me I could intervene. And then, again, there was an awkward silence. The judge almost seemed like he didn't know what to do next. He didn't want to send the kids to Dallas. He can't place them with us under PMC. What could he do?!

I looked at him and said, "It was my impression that Ms. Veracruz (the cherubs' lawyer four months ago) was planning on telling the court today that she felt it was in the children's best interests that they stay with us. Can a Guardian Ad Litem advocate that way in court on our behalf?"

This is when I learned that Ms. Veracruz had accepted a new job with the District Attorney. There was nothing the judge could do today because the counsel today knew nothing of the children. The judge concluded the conversation by saying that the next hearing will be a trial. It's considered a contested hearing because Bio Mom no longer wants the children in the same place the State does. (Bio Mom did NOT say that she wants the children with us. She just said she no longer wants them to go to Dallas.) He told me that I will most likely testify at that hearing. Then he said he ends trials by asking the Guardian how they feel about things. If indeed the Guardian advocates that the children stay with us, then yes, it can be considered legally.

The cherubs are going to continue to have monthly visits to Dallas to see Grandma N. The judge is OK with this because Minnie is "monitoring" things. That's total BS...but it is what it is. I have no control over this!

Bio Mom has a new case plan she is going to be allowed to work. The judge indicated very strongly that she should take advantage of the services being offered.

I walked out of the courtroom with the children. As I was getting on the elevator, the woman who was pretending to be the cherubs' lawyer today stopped me. She asked me to wait. About 3 minutes later, she and another gentleman came out to introduce themselves to me, the cherubs and Bio Mom. The cherubs now have a new Attorney Ad Litem and a completely separate Guardian Ad Litem. I was given their contact information but neither seemed too invested in anything.

The trial is set for May 6 at 9:30AM. Between now and then some official paperwork (that I didn't fully understand) has to be changed by the State. Now...we just have to wait some more.

I called Rainbow. She was surprised. But...not really. This is foster care we are dealing with after all. She said again that she believes the cherubs will ultimately end up in Dallas. I said, "I know." She's going to help run interference with Minnie for me. I desperately need to change how transportation works for the weekly visits. It is becoming detrimental to my forever children to do this every week. Rainbow said that it would be better received by Minnie if a request came from her instead of me though. I don't know what's going to happen. Again...I just have to wait.

Great Grandma P was thrilled. She does NOT want the cherubs to go to Dallas. However, she shed some light on the situation today. She told me that she got REALLY MAD at Bio Mom last week when Bio Mom cancelled her visit with the cherubs. Great Grandma P told Bio Mom that if the kids go to Dallas, Bio Mom can no longer stay at her home. I'm in agreement with Great Grandma P. I'm sure that's why Bio Mom waited until today to say anything to her lawyer.

Me...I'm just glad that the whole syringe thing was dealt with legally today. I mean really!!! These cherubs were most likely around a drug user that weekend. Is that REALLY the best place for them to go live? This woman has NO relationship with these cherubs. They don't want to go. And now there's likely evidence that less-than-safe people come in and out of Grandma N's house regularly.

I'm thoroughly disgusted that we still have to play the foster care game. I really did want to be DONE with it today! Four more months is not exactly music to my ears. My husband is actively seeking a promotion. In order for him to get promoted we have to move out of this state. And I just don't think we can gamble that the kids will become ours and have him turn down a job if he's offered one. We do have to think long-term as a family here. A promotion is a good thing both career-wise and financially for us. But I can't imagine moving away from the cherubs if they are still in foster care. This is one situation that I just give to God. I don't even allow myself to think about what we'd do. I just pray that God has this one under control. (Though I do pray that if we have a chance at all of keeping these cherubs forever that Mr. Amazing just won't be offered a new job.)

Dolly's school called me during court today to see if she's coming back to school tomorrow. I reluctantly said yes. I then told the secretary that I need to have a meeting with Dolly's teacher and/or the principal. I have to have a better solution to the homework problem. (Because yes, Dolly IS being forced to do her "homework" during school rather than having it sent home like all the other students."

Life goes back to "normal" tomorrow. Dude will go to school in the morning. My boys will school at home. Dolly will go to PreK in the afternoon. And I'm going to try like crazy to get caught up with my freelancing.

Hopefully the stress will reduce. The cherubs seem oblivious to it all. Though I will say that Dude seems to have relaxed a lot. I guess I've got a few months to enjoy before this all peaks again.

Four more months.


MamaFoster said...

I am surprised he kept the visits going. I also think he was "telling" you to get a lawyer. I understand though because we have never hired a lawyer even when perhaps we should have.

CherubMamma said...

He was very clear that the only reason he was continuing visits is because Minnie "supervises" them. It's laughable. But trumps foster every time.

And yes, I agree, he was telling me to get a lawyer. It's just not the path I'm willing to go down for many reasons.

I figure I'll have a conversation with the new Guardian after they have their next trip to Dallas. We'll see what he thinks about all of this. I'm certainly not holding my breath though.

Sunday Taylor said...

** speechless***

Anonymous said...

I am exhausted just READING this, I can imagine how you feel having just LIVED it.

Mitzy said...

WOW! I too am happy that the issue of the syringe was addressed and is on record with the court.

4 more months...

Anonymous said...

Wow, just wow.

r. said...

I'm just curious-- Why are you unwilling to get a lawyer? Is it the money, or is there some other reason? I realize the money could be a big amount to scrape together, but it sounds like the judge supports a certain outcome (which he is under the impression that you'd support too) but is finding his hands tied. It sounds like he's saying that he can only decide between what the various parties ask for and unless you become a party he's not sure anyone else will ask for the kids to go to you.

- r.

P.S. I'm not trying to make light of the money thing. I realize it's huge. But I was just wondering if there was some other reasoning or philosophical perspective that's keeping you from intervening.

CherubMamma said...

I asked around with several lawyers awhile ago. I was quoted pricing anywhere from $10 to $20,000!! And, because there is an actual family member willing to take the children, it truly would be a gamble!!

So yes, the money is a BIG reason we aren't going to officially intervene.

Also, the State is not terminating parental rights right now. Not only would it be a HUGE gamble to intervene, but I'm not sure we'd get anything more than PMC and then we'd have to hire a lawyer again when there were grounds to terminate. (Because I'm sure Mom will drop off the planet if the State isn't forcing contact with the kids.)

I do have a philosophical perspective at play though too. At no time would I want Dude & Dolly to think I had a part in "stealing" them from their family of origin. As long as the State thinks the placement is safe and good for them, who am I to legally go against that?! I realize that I paint a picture of Dallas being perfectly awful and life with me as wonderful. But much of what I know about Dallas is speculation. Sure, you can put two and two together and it's likely there was a drug user in the home the weekend the syringe was left in their bag. But honestly, I don't know for SURE.

And I don't want anything less than 100% sure if the kids are to stay with us forever. I want more than just my husband and I saying they would be better off with us. Our licensing agency has nothing to do with court and the outcome. The kids don't have a CASA. All along this train has been driven by CPS and what they think is best.

So I'm hanging my hat on the Guardian Ad Litem. If he deems the kids better off with us, it will have legal standing in court. Your description of the judge only getting to pick between the various parties legally involved is spot on. I'm just not in a place to make such an emotional and financial gamble.

Raina said...

Is there a reason the kids don't have a CASA? Can foster families request one? These poor kids need a voice that's informed and on their side!

Mama P said...

:( I don't think I would hire a lawyer either. I don't know what I'd do. Big Hugs, Mamma L. Big hugs.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had something encouraging to say to you sad for you and I know exactly how you feel. It seems like every time you get your hopes up that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, the court makes the tunnel longer and less hopeful. I will continue to pray for your kiddos and your family as you navigate the road you're on. It's sad that biological families (even with no connection) are considered more important in the life of a child than the families they consider their own...their foster families. Of course bio families should be given a fair shot, but at some point the court needs to step in and stop the madness on behalf of the kids. Sadly, it doesn't happen around here, either.

CherubMamma said...

@Rainia - There just aren't enough resources where I'm at for every foster kid to have a CASA. I suppose I could request one legally. But, the court appointed one to my Pumpkin for her stay with us and I was less than impressed. And Pumpkin NEEDED all the support possible given her level of special needs. In her case, I too was the only one that really advocated for her.

Mie said...

CherubMamma - I completely understand your position on the lawyer. For others I'll add in two points. First, as a sibling group they'd qualify for some legal expenses to be covered (about $1500 per child in Texas) and they would qualify for the adoption tax credit which could pay (in arrears) the legal expenses. The lawyer I used for my adoption was willing to hold an uncashed check until I received my reimbursement money (in that case from my work since she didn't qualify as special needs) and I never paid out of pocket. There are options like that available.

The other point I wanted to make is that it is possible that rather than seeing all this as "stealing" them from their family, they might also see it as fighting for them, something no one else seems willing to do.

Of course, in our case when we too had grounds to intervene for Summer's brother we chose not to. So, there you go.

Mie said...

Raina- Some counties are better with CASA than others. I have one county where EVERY child has had a CASA, one where NONE have had a CASA, and the others are all hit and miss. I have had a great experience with CASA though.

When a CASA is assigned, they act as the guardian ad litem (GAL) and the attorney acts as the attorney ad litem (AAL). If no CASA is assigned the attorney acts as both and has a dual role with somewhat limited or conflicting purposes at times. The code is very specific on how each plays a role in the case. It now sounds like the GAL has been assigned but it may not be a CASA volunteer. I'm with CherubMamma - that definitely is the most likely option.

CherubMamma said...

In regards to your last post Mie - things haven't worked that way down here for me at all. With Pumpkin she had an Attorney ad Litem, a Guardian ad Litem AND a CASA volunteer. All three were separate individuals. The CASA volunteer never came to the house, rarely came to court, and did little for the case at all.

For Dude and Dolly up to this point, they did have one individual acting as both attorney and guardian in a dual role capacity.

Now -- Dude and Dolly have a separate attorney and guardian. Both are lawyers. However, the guardian is NOT a CASA.