Friday, September 5, 2014

The tale of a visit schedule change

Part of my goal as a blogger is to educate others about how The System functions. We get told a lot of stuff in training. But the experiences in real life can be mind blowing. See if y'all can make sense of this tale....

Kori, Daisy's mom, works a full time job. She works 10 hour days, 4 days a week. Every five months she is required to change her shift. Up through August 31,  Kori's days off were Sunday, Monday and Thursday. With her shift change she's not going to be getting off as early on Saturday nights and her days off are going to be Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Kori and I discussed what would be best for us and for Daisy.

Daisy's visits have been running from Saturday night at 7:00pm to Monday at 6:00pm. Kori and I talked about shifting the new schedule to visits starting Sunday morning and ending on Tuesday morning. The length of the visits wouldn't change. And really, the time shift is minimal. Surely it could be easily approved. Kori started discussing this change with Mr. CW before he left. Even he didn't think it would be an issue.

Mr. CW has moved on. The supervisor is staying the same in this case though, so getting this slight change in the visit schedule made shouldn't be that big of a deal. It's better for Daisy. It will work well for Kori and I. The visit is still only 2 days long so it's in compliance with what's been allowed by the judge thus far.

Kori tried to contact her lawyer all week and got no response. I started trying to get an answer on this weekend's visit on Tuesday. I didn't have the new worker's number so I had to go to my licensing agency first. (As of Tuesday I didn't know the supervisor was staying the same so I didn't know who to contact in CPS.)

I finally made contact with the new CPS worker Wednesday. We chatted about several things and set up a meeting for next week. I told him I needed an answer on the visit schedule as soon as possible.

I heard nothing. Kori heard nothing.

Ugh.

I sent the new worker (let's call him Martin) a text message this morning reminding him that I have to have an answer today about this weekend's visit. And this is where The System showed the level of stupidity it functions under sometimes.

Martin forwarded me a text message from his supervisor (let's call him Ricardo). The text was between Ricardo and Kori and said this:
Unfortunately, we are unable to make changes to any court ordered visits without the court's approval. I would advise you to contact your attorney to see if she can assist us.
Again, all we were asking was to shift the drop off time from 7:00pm on Saturday night to 9:00am on Sunday morning. The overall visit was to remain the same length. CPS was unwilling to do anything to help us get approval. They pushed this off on to Kori who was supposed to get her lawyer involved. (The lawyer that hadn't responded to Kori all week long already.)

I responded back to Martin with this:
In defense of Kori, she tried to get this taken care of before Mr. CW was off the case. All she needs to do is shift the times because she is unable to pick Daisy up at that previously scheduled time of 7:00pm Saturday. If she can't pick up Daisy at 7:00pm - does that mean the visit gets cancelled?
Martin's response to me:
You may want to contact my supervisor.
I called Ricardo and left him a voice mail. Martin and I continued to text. I told him:
I just left a message with Ricardo. I just need to know exactly how to handle the visit. If it has to be cancelled because Kori can't pick her up at the previously scheduled time of 7:00pm on Saturday, I need to hear that from the department. Otherwise, I need permission to shift the drop off and pick up times.
Martin said:
Let me get in contact with my supervisor.
In the middle of all this, Kori contacted me. Basically throwing our hands up in the air over the stupidity of all this, we decided that we just will get permission to make the drop off on Saturday night at 8:00pm instead of the usual 7:00pm. I turned around and asked for permission for this in another text to Martin.

Ricardo finally called me back. Believe it or not, he said CPS (at least down here anyway) doesn't have permission to make any changes to visit schedules. Everything is supposed to go through all the lawyers to get formal permission from the judge. (And really - that's a load of bull. But that's the song he sang to me.) He gave me permission to switch the drop off time on Saturday to 8:00pm but said he couldn't approve any other changes. Ricardo said the judge here gets very upset and just chewed the department out in court last week for doing something similar to what we were asking for. He even has to fill out new paperwork and submit it to the lawyers and the court notifying them of the one hour (ONE HOUR) shift in the drop off time on Saturday nights.

I can't count the number of man hours that have been involved trying to get the new visit schedule in place for this weekend. Even though the lawyer didn't respond to Kori, time was spent reading the email and/or listening to the voice mails that ultimately got ignored. My licensing agency worker wasted time trying to find out who my new CPS worker is. And Kori and I wasted a ton of time just trying to get a simple answer.

And the solution we had to settle for isn't what is best for Daisy. She's a baby. She needs to go to bed at night. She does not need to be making a transition into a new home after 8:00pm every weekend. But doing what is best for the child seems to be the least of everyone's concern. Sometimes foster care really sucks.

5 comments:

Annie said...

I get triggered from my past experiences, I guess, whenever I read your posts about the "system"; it brings back the horrible sense of frustration I felt not being able to care for "my" child the way I knew was best.

And, here's something that just occurred to me - since my guess is that many of the parents who are involved in the system, ALREADY have trust issues, probably stemming from their own childhood traumas - this must be nearly unbearable for them! Kori is trying to do the right thing, be a good mother - and they are PREVENTING her from doing it. One more example for her of how she CANNOT trust those in authority (vaccinations, anyone?)

It also occurred to me, since I've been listening to some public radio programming about low-wage jobs, which I imagine are the kinds of jobs held by many whose children go into care, that Kori's situation in terms of job schedule is tame compared to many.

My own daughter is a waitress; she gets a new and different schedule each week, and the intent is precisely to "shake up" the schedule so that no workers always get the "good" shifts. If, God forbid, my daughter was in Kori's place, she would have no way of scheduling visits - well, the only way would be for her to deliberately take the very worst schedule every week, simply so she could have a regular schedule. I'm not confident they'd accept that, even. And, my guess is that this inability to work a regular schedule of visitation counts against the parents.

The system is crazy.

Jessica Miller Kelley said...

Wow--you guys are really good. I would probably just make the change and start doing the drop-off on Sunday morning, though the birth parents would probably just have to get less time, since I wouldn't feel as comfortable leaving the child there after the approved visit time was over. So, yes, I/you would technically be denying Kori that Saturday overnight, but if Kori agreed and wasn't going to complain about it, that would seem like a solution.

Maybe we're more lax here in Tennessee, but I can't imagine our social workers noticing or caring that the visits had been slightly changed.

Cherub Mamma said...

I can't imagine the fall-out if I were to change a visit schedule without the FULL blessing of CPS. Even changing the drop-off by an hour needed to be OK'd by them.

I've been investigated several times...making a change on my own is not a risk I'm willing to take.

What if CPS decided to do a late night surprise visit at Kori's house, like they've already done once, and Daisy wasn't there?! I would be slaughtered!

Besides, Kori would never sacrifice one of her nights. This much I know to be true.

I wish we had more autonomy. I wish CPS had more autonomy. But we are all very much bound to very strict rules and regulations here. My home would likely be closed if I made a change to a visit schedule on my own.

G said...

Ugh. Another example of the system not being set up to serve the children.

For us, once the case moved to unsupervised visits, we were generally encouraged to "work it out" between the foster family and the bio family, with the only guidelines given being the amount of elapsed time. As soon as it was set, I would email the plan to the caseworker. As Annie said, we usually needed to know Mom's work schedule so we could arrange visitation around it.

It always make me wonder: what awful thing happened in Texas to make CPS think they need to control the exact visit times?

Melissa said...

This seems so crazy to me. I foster in Texas and right now the bio dad of our baby gets 4 hours unsupervised on Saturday and Sunday. However we have been given full permission to change it up as needed. So long as he gets 8 hours unsupervised visit hours each week.