Tuesday, July 15, 2014

the truth about travel

Traveling with foster kids has become a sore spot with me over the years here in Texas. The program definitely doesn't function how it's advertised!

Three summers ago, 2011, we had Pumpkin only. The first time we wanted to travel with her we had planned on taking her camping for two whole nights. It was a complete fiasco. (There are several posts detailing the whole story. Post one. Post two. Post three.) Basically, I was told "no" on the travel for several different reasons including Pumpkin's health and Bio Mom's opposition to the travel.

I believe respite should be readily available for foster parents to use if it fits their needs. But for me, I want to include my foster kids in ALL our activities. That means I want permission to bring all my kids with me. Well, that camping trip three years ago got cancelled. We ended up putting Pumpkin in respite and we went to an amusement park instead (something Pumpkin could not have participated in anyway). It made me mad though. So incredibly mad.

Things didn't get any better. On June 15, 2011 Dude and Dolly entered into our lives. Our vacation to Iowa had been planned and we weren't going to take any placements. But the cherubs needed us. We were the only home available. I was told if they didn't come to us they were going to be put in a shelter in Dallas. They were 2 and 3 when they came. I couldn't imagine sending babies to a shelter that far away from home!!

Come July that year though, and no way no how were we going to get permission to travel with Dude and Dolly. Sure, they had just been placed with us. Their world was completely upside down. Mom wasn't making a single visit. They needed us!! But travel outside the state?! Hell no would that even be considered!!! I was forced to put them in respite because I wasn't going to deny my forever kids the vacation they had been promised.

Summer 2012
The summer from Hell.
The investigation.
We went to Iowa after the kids had been taken from us. It was on the drive home that I got the phone call clearing us of any wrong-doing. 

Summer 2013
Pumpkin had moved on. Dude and Dolly weren't having any visits. I had enough time to get permission and, Praise God, it was granted. We got to take the cherubs to Iowa for Cousins Camp. We had a blast!!!

Summer 2014...

I knew asking to travel was a complete long shot. Daisy gets visits. Travel is always complicated when visits are involved because my schedule is supposed to completely revolve around all visits. And, considering the big picture, these visits are a top priority and they should be factored in. I get that.

But I took that long-shot and I asked Mr. CW if there would be any way at all that I could bring Daisy with me to Iowa so TT and Bart could attend Cousins Camp.

Mr. CW is awesome. He went to bat for me and really pled my case to his supervisor. But because the trip takes us out of state, and because Daisy would miss one weekend with her mom, he couldn't get an answer. At best, Mr. CW said, we could ask Kori for permission. If she granted permission for Daisy to travel, he'd try to get the lawyers and judge to agree. But without her permission, it would be no go for sure!

I worked it into a text conversation with Kori. She asked questions about where and for how long and then said she would "have to pray about it".

I gave Kori a few days and then said I needed to begin making preparations. She told me that she "didn't have a peace about it" and wouldn't grant permission for Daisy to travel with me out of state.

And this is where I get my britches in a bunch. Yes, Kori has been working her case plan. Yes, based on how this case is currently being handled, Kori deserves to see her daughter. But in the grande scheme of things, this affects 47 hours of Kori's life.

I told Kori I had three options:
  1. Put Daisy into respite care where she would stay with strangers so I could go on vacation with my kids.
  2. Not go on vacation with my kids. Instead, get permission (from CPS) to travel with Daisy to the border of Texas where I will drop TT and Bart off with my mom who will then bring them the rest of the way.
  3. Disrupt this placement and go on vacation.
I honestly considered all three options very seriously.

I went round and round. In the end, even though it's not what is best for me, I chose option Number Two because that is what is best for Daisy. I don't have a deep support system locally and I don't have anyone that is approved for respite care in my circle of friends. I couldn't bring myself to place her with strangers. I've met enough of the foster families around here to know that I just wouldn't be comfortable with that. Not to mention the fact that my agency is having a Hell of a time finding respite care so I'd have to take whoever they give me as a willing provider.

I'm not thrilled with this decision. I hate the fact that Kori is totally OK with placing her daughter with strangers for 11 days versus keeping her in the safe, loving foster home she's in now. I had to laugh, but Kori asked me three times if it would be OK for her to just take Daisy while we are on vacation. She simply doesn't understand why her daughter is in foster care and honestly believes that she should just be able to take her if I'm going out of town. I believe she even filed a formal request for this with her own lawyer. If this request makes it off of Kori's lawyer's desk, it will be immediately shot down by Daisy's lawyer - I've been told this in no uncertain terms.

But I do believe I'm doing what's in Daisy's best interests. She doesn't need to go stay with strangers. I can't imagine sending a baby to go stay with strangers. And if Daisy does go home in August, just four days after my cherubs return from vacation, we'll turn around and go back to Iowa together sometime this fall. Homeschooled kids can travel whenever they want. But if Daisy stays with us after court, I know that remaining her primary care giver was in her best interests.

They certainly don't make travel sound so complicated in the training sessions though. Respite sounds easy and pleasant. And those glossy brochures talk about giving kids opportunities to experience things they wouldn't get to otherwise. It's a shame that the reality of what I'm allowed to do with my foster kids has to be so different.


Annie said...

Gosh; I'm so sorry. It is so weird that she is in denial about so MANY things - somehow what bothers me most is the idea that she thinks that it would be better for Daisy to be thrown in with strangers than to alter visitation for a week. It is so hard to envision this woman. She should feel so grateful to you! I can't imagine any other foster mom who would try to hard to a) truly love her child and b) truly love her, under these difficult circumstances.

G said...

That is appalling. It's so frustrating when the parent can't seem to set what they want aside for the child's best interest.

I haven't had much trouble getting permission to travel. (I'm not in Texas.) They ask the parent to agree to it, and I've never had a parent refuse.

I've never had travel mean a missed visit though.

We have struggled with respite, however. The model my agency describes involves one (or two) dedicated-to-your-placement respite families, so that respite means the child spending time with someone familiar. That's only happened once (for S).

Melissa said...

I am in Texas, South Texas, and have never had trouble getting permission for travel. I have worked in several cities in Texas over the last 12 years of being a foster family and it has never been a problem. The bio family has never been asked if they will allow the travel either. I just let the case worker and my agency worker know when, where and who we will be staying with. If it is on a visit weekend...we reschedule the visit.

I am sorry this has been such a problem for you. I agree with your choice to not have Daisy be put with strangers.

daciab said...

That's too bad and makes no sense. I guess I can be glad that our FS's mom has no say and I just needed to ask the CW. We are headed on vacation next week.