On Wednesday this week I was notified that I was to attend a Family Group Conference and I was to bring Miss Daisy with me. Initially I was petrified. It isn't common to run an FGC meeting this far in to the case - at least not in my experience it isn't. I was afraid there was some major goal change. Also, I saw on the invitation that the biological father was being invited to the meeting.
The first thing I did was respond to Mr. CW, via email, by telling him that in the future I would appreciate more notice when I need to commit to a meeting of this length. I reminded him that I have other children I have to make accommodations for. He immediately apologized and told me that he too had just been notified of the meeting.
I then asked him, via text, why the meeting was being called. He simply answered that he would be able to better explain things on Friday at the meeting.
I continued to panic.
On Thursday, Mr. CW called me to get some information about Daisy for the court report he was writing. I answered all of his questions and wowed him with the Word doc I sent over detailing the name, address and phone number of every specialist Daisy sees. While on the phone with him though I asked, "So, what's the deal with this Friday?"
"Oh yeah. I do owe you that one!" he answered.
Mr. CW proceeded to tell me that Bio Mom does not understand why her child is in the custody of the State. Awhile back she had requested an Administrative Review of things. The review board came back stating that this case is black and white. There are clear-cut reasons why Daisy is with me and cannot be returned to her. As a result of these finding though, the Department said that CPS must not have done a good enough job of explaining things during the first FGC and at subsequent meetings with Bio Mom. This second Family Group Conference was scheduled so that everyone could go over the case in detail so that Bio Mom could not claim that she doesn't understand what's going on when we go to court in two weeks.
Whew! No goal change. Mr. CW assured me that they are not moving toward reunification at this time.
As the day went on yesterday I got more and more nervous. It was as bad as a court day with Dude and Dolly. My stomach was in knots and it was hard for me to focus on anything. With about 40 minutes to spare before the meeting, I was curled up on the couch holding Daisy messing on my phone. I started going through my emails for some reason. I seriously don't know why I pulled up the email with the invitation to the FGC in it or why I clicked on the attachment to see the full invite. But I did.
And there it was. Bio Dad's name. And under that - an address for the meeting all the way across town!
Shit! I had to leave RIGHT THEN!
I had assumed that the FGC was going to be held in the CPS office about 10 minutes away from my house. I didn't realize we were meeting in a different town altogether. I grabbed my stuff and Daisy and took off.
I got to the meeting about 7 minutes before it was to begin. I thought about waiting in the parking lot until exactly 3:00PM. I was most nervous about the waiting room. I didn't want the bio family swooping in to take Daisy from me. I had been assured by Mr. CW that Daisy was MY responsibility during the FGC. I was also insanely nervous about meeting Bio Dad. It's not every day you meet and talk to someone that nearly killed a person you love.
But I went in.
I brought Daisy in the carseat bucket and I positioned the two of us in the room making it clear Daisy was staying with me. I signed in and sat down. I made eye contact with Bio Mom once or twice. She even asked how Daisy had been doing. But I refused to look at Bio Dad or his parents.
Thankfully the meeting started on time and we were called back to the conference room.
I feel like I need to keep the actual details of the FGC somewhat private. I'm not sure why. I do spill my guts on here a lot. But there's something about this meeting that was different so I'm only going to give highlights - not details.
The agenda of an FGC is this:
- sign a formal privacy agreement
- discuss family successes
- discuss family concerns
- go over goals for the bio family, the permanency plan and the legal timeline
Both bio parents have been working their case plans well!
Dad still has a criminal case that he must see through.
Bio Mom is in denial over the severity of what happened and who is responsible.
Bio parents need to finish their services and cooperate with CPS.
The goal CPS is recommending to the court is relative conservatorship. The State is not looking to reunify with either bio parent. Instead, they want a family member to come forward, go through the home study process, and take PMC (permanent managing conservatorship) of Daisy. As of right now, the State is not looking to terminate rights on either parent.
The secondary goal in this case was just changed about two weeks ago. They reported that when this case was opened, the secondary goal had been adoption. However, because the bio parents are both working their case plans so well, the secondary goal is now family reunification.
The State made it very clear though that that is a secondary goal!
Right now they are not looking to reunify!!
Daisy is supposed to have permanency by the first week of November 2014.
Bio Dad was cooperative and polite the entire meeting. Bio Mom was polite but very upset. She does not understand why the State won't return her child to her. She did not injure Daisy. She was at work when it happened. She understands the accident and will do whatever it takes to keep anything like that from happening again.
The key word in that last sentence is "accident".
Denial is deep.
Miss Daisy was a charmer the whole meeting. She sat on my lap and made lots of wonderful baby noises. She smiled, cooed and was perfectly adorable. Then, after about 1.25 hours, she settled down into my arms and fell asleep. I held her for awhile but then put her down into the carseat bucket.
I was grateful that she stayed asleep. When the meeting was over I didn't have to pass Daisy around to the bio family for everyone to fawn over. In fact, CPS rescheduled the visit Bio Mom was supposed to have following this meeting because they didn't want to stress Daisy out any more and they wanted to let her sleep. (I told them it wasn't necessary. But Bio Mom had no problem and simply asked for an extra visit next week.)
I spoke with the paternal grandparents some. I showed them some pictures on my phone and promised that I would print them off and bring them to court for them to have.
Bio Dad was appropriately emotional. He lightly touched Daisy's feet but didn't try to wake her or anything. Praise God Daisy slept through it all!! She even let me fasten the buckles without waking up.
Court is April 1st. Anything could happen. If Bio Mom's lawyer can convince the judge that Bio Mom is stable and capable of keeping Daisy safe, Daisy could leave my care. The State is going to argue against that for sure! I'll be honest though, I'm not getting my hopes set on anything.