Saturday, December 28, 2013

More advocating

Cast of Characters:
Ricky = 16yo foster son
Lola = Ricky's bio mom
Michael = Ricky's younger brother
Rebecca = Ricky's former teacher and godmother
Angelica = CPS caseworker


Today I'll introduce y'all to Ricky. Due to his age, and the nature of his case, I struggle a bit with how much to say. I really want to respect his privacy. But then again, this is an anonymous blog and I get A LOT of people that thank me via comments and private emails for my level of openness and honesty. I'm going to try and keep a balance here. Feel free to ask questions though if something I say needs clarification.

Ricky is child #6 out of 7 kids total. Two of the older siblings don't live in the US. The other older siblings are not viable options for taking him in (and away from CPS). Ricky's mom makes A LOT of poor choices. I think it's safe to say she's never been a stable parent. And for a time, Ricky himself dabbled on the dark side of things. He's got a past that is more than colorful.

However, about two years ago a teacher in Ricky's school saw through Ricky's facade and took him under her wing. As CPS was "watching" Ricky's family, she became quite involved in his life. I don't know all the details exactly, but instead of having a formal case opened against Lola, Rebecca had Ricky move in with her. Ricky's younger brother, Michael, moved in with a different family friend.

All was fine for a period of time. Ricky practically sling-shotted himself the other direction. He became a model student getting all A's and B's in school. He's active on the dive team. Making good choices is his top priority.

Despite losing her children from her home, Lola did not turn her life around. In fact, she got into a fight of sorts with the family that was caring for Michael. This time, CPS got formally involved. Michael was moved to an "official" foster family and kinship paperwork was drawn up so Ricky could stay with Rebecca.

Rebecca is good to Ricky. She met his every single need. With her, Ricky literally turned his life around. So, when Rebecca answered questions during the home study, she had no reason but to be honest. When asked, "Where should Ricky live?" Rebecca answered, "He should not go back to his bio mom."

That, combined with other events that I believe were most likely taken completely out of context, is what caused Ricky's life to blow up on December 17. CPS claimed that Rebecca didn't support the CPS goal of reunification. They also painted a picture of Rebecca not giving CPS adequate access to Ricky for home visits, therapy and things like that. The judge, seeing only a twisted picture, ruled that Ricky had to go to "official" foster care.

Ricky joined our family that night.

Dressed in a three piece suit with a tie, this sharp young man politely came in to our home. Hiding all his brokenness, he decided to fully comply with the crazy. While in the courtroom he was filled with rage. The story is rather comical in retrospect but I believe he punched a bench and broke it. Rebecca cried tears of grief and was told to knock it off or she would be escorted out by a bailiff. By the time Ricky got to our house though, there was no sign of anything that happened in court. He looked much older than his 16 years and the maturity he exuded took me by surprise.

Ricky's story matched that of what Rebecca told me the next morning when I met her at Ricky's school. She came to help make sure the guardianship information was transferred correctly from her to me. Then, on the following Saturday, I spent an hour talking with Angelica, Ricky's CPS caseworker. Everything I've been told by every player in this case (but the judge) points to huge errors being made.

"On paper" the goal is reunification. But Angelica has been very up front that she's not pushing for it in reality. She completely sees that Rebecca has been the best thing that has ever happened to Ricky. She even admitted that she was surprised the judge ruled the way he did. She assumed that he would simply chew Rebecca out for not being cooperative enough and keep things status quo. Angelica says she was as surprised as Ricky and Rebecca were by the ruling.

There are three things that can happen now.
  1. Ricky will age out of Care. He turns 17 in less than a month. He's barely got a year left before he can be on his own anyway. And with the snail-speed of The System, I'm afraid this is what is going to end up happening.
  2. Lola can sign her rights away. She has openly agreed to this. CPS is complicating things though and not making it easy for Lola to do this. But I've heard Ricky, Rebecca and Angelica ALL tell me that Lola is ready, willing and able to sign TPR on Ricky.
  3. Ricky can "play the game". He can make sure he goes to every single family visit whether he wants to go or not. He can start going to therapy. And then, the next time we go to court (Lord willing), the therapist will turn in notes stating that Ricky belongs back with Rebecca. And then (Lord willing), the judge will rule accordingly.
Ricky wants to be adopted by Rebecca. I'm sure Rebecca wants to adopt Ricky. And if Lola is willing to sign away her rights, I would like to see that happen. I think the Rebecca and Lola could draw up paperwork outside of CPS and it could happen faster than anything CPS could do. Rebecca is going to hire a lawyer I believe. But with this all happening during the holiday season, law offices have been closed and difficult to get ahold of.

Until the adults can make their next move though, Ricky does have to play the game. He's gone to two family visits and amazingly enough, his mom has shown up to both. (It's my understanding that she's somewhat hot and cold on this part of her plan.) Ricky is also starting therapy in a little over a week.

Thankfully Ricky is allowed as much phone contact with Rebecca as they want. Unfortunately they only get to see each other for 30 minutes at the end of the family visit each Saturday. But it is very apparent that she is his mom and primary caregiver. They have a healthy bond and it breaks my heart to see it being broken apart by CPS for no good reason! I'm going to do everything in my power to help "fix" this.

And while we wait for things to get fixed, I get to be Ricky's mom too. I told him he just has to deal with it - he's got three of us now. He grinned and started to give me grief about something! Ricky is fitting into our family wonderfully.


Vertical Mom said...

I'm so glad that Ricky is with YOU and Mr. Amazing and NOT some flaky family.

tashapork said...

Oh wow, your CPS needs some drastic overhaul. That is wrong on so many levels. Prayers

Karen said...

Every time I read a new post of yours, it makes me feel a little more convinced that I should come work in Texas when I finish school. Sigh.

Christina B said...

Bless your soul! My husband and I are foster parents also and it's rough having to deal with all the "in between stuff" that goes on. The judges, CPS workers, birth parents, etc. From a caretaker standpoint it's easy to see what is good and right with these children. It's never made sense to me how someone (who doesn't really know these kids) can make determinations about who is the "best" fit for them. I'm so glad there are people out there like to you to advocate for them!

Nellie said...

My guess is that in my varied, moderately hysterical and resentful remarks on your blog you may have wondered "What the heck HAPPENED to those people?" Well, it was complicated, but you have come very close to describing it in this post. I played the part of Rebecca.

Cherub Mamma said...

I'm so sorry Nellie.

I held Rebecca in my arms at the school the day after she lost her son. I tried to tell her that I understand without diminishing her overwhelming grief.

I'm extremely grateful that she gets to maintain contact with Ricky!

I'll tell anybody that asks - I absolutely hate foster care. The System is oh so broken. God has called me to be one small less-broken piece of it though. So here I am.