Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Here's what happened in court

I arrived with Daisy about 30 minutes early. Thankfully the weather was much milder today and it wasn't perfectly miserable to sit outside waiting for our hearing. I wasn't there long when Kori came out of the air conditioned waiting room to see us. I took Daisy out of the stroller and handed her over to Kori. Daisy played the back and forth game a bit going from my lap to Kori's and back to me again.

Then I saw Ms. Colorado. For those of you that have recently joined this adventure, Ms. Colorado is the lawyer we hired when we intervened in the case with Dude and Dolly. Shaking my head, I let her know that those babies are still in foster care.
Side note: Texas recently changed things and there is now a website you can register with. If you know the name of the parent involved in a CPS case and the full name of at least one of the children, you can look up when the court hearings are. This isn't exactly necessary for me with Daisy's case because I am required to attend all the hearings with Daisy. However, it did give me an opportunity to look up Dude and Dolly's case. I saw that they just had court a couple weeks ago. And when I looked up the case this week, I saw that they are still in Care because the next hearing for them is in January. 
Ms. Colorado shook her head back at me and responded with, "Hmmmm....I wonder what's up with that grandma in Dallas that was supposedly so wonderful for those cherubs that they are still being monitored?!" We chatted a bit about foster care in general. I told her how we are done after Daisy either stays forever or leaves. I even mentioned a few things in Daisy's case that make me frustrated (like the level of Mom's denial).

It wasn't too long before the new caseworker, Martin, came to us to say that our case was being called. They had shuffled a few of the hearings on the docket and since we were ready to go, they pushed us ahead of a couple other more complicated cases.

Not too much happened. CPS admitted that a home assessment had not been done at Kori's new house. It came across as just a matter of fact - not a concern of any kind. The judge reminded everyone that this case has to be done by November 11, 2014 and he asked if all the parties were ready for trial.

Kori's lawyer didn't show up today. And the lawyer that was filling in didn't even make it in for most of this hearing. As they were wrapping up, Kori raised her hand and told the judge that she has three days off in a row now. Could her visits be extended to three nights instead of just two? The fill-in lawyer bumbled something about the same request and then the judge asked Daisy's lawyer how she felt about that.

I'm glad I had left a message earlier this week with Daisy's lawyer about the non-existent home assessment. Daisy's lawyer had a field day with that fact. She totally spun it all to make Kori look very bad. Said that Kori didn't give CPS enough notice to do a home assessment and that in no way shape or form should another day be added to the visit schedule. Kori can't be trusted.

CPS didn't say much and just sort of agreed with Daisy's lawyer.

The judge said he would make no changes to the visit schedule and even indicated that a positive home assessment would be necessary for reunification to take place.

The hearing is scheduled for October 2 - next Thursday - eight days away.

Ms. Colorado was in the room for the hearing. Then I heard Daisy's lawyer turn to Ms. Colorado and say, "At the hearing, monitored placement, unless something changes."

Come to find out, Daisy's lawyer isn't even going to be here for the trial next week. She was asking Ms. Colorado to fill in for her and what she is to ask for is a monitored placement.

Sigh.

The lawyer that is going to be representing the most important person in the hearing next week was simply told, "monitored placement, unless something changes". So, should anything change, the lawyer representing the most important person in this case (in my opinion anyway) will know NOTHING of the actual case. Ms. Colorado knows NOTHING and will have to advocate based on that.

Sigh.

I walked out of the courtroom and waited for Kori. She stayed behind with Daisy to talk to the lawyer that represented her today.

While waiting I went over to talk to the CPS supervisor, Ricardo. I asked him, "If Daisy goes hoe next week, will she come back to my house after court? Or will you release her straight from the courtroom?"

I think my question caught him off guard. He thought for a moment and then said, "I'm pretty sure she'll go home with you first."

Then things got weird. It was so obvious that Ricardo wanted to tell me more but felt like he couldn't. In a conversation of half-sentences and innuendos, Ricardo indicated that they (CPS) are trying to find something on Kori still. I don't know if he thought something legitimate would turn up during the home assessment or if there's something else. But it was obvious that he's not comfortable with reunification. He even asked me if I thought Daisy will be OK or not. I point blank told him, "no!" His next comment just about made me throw up a little. He asked, "Do you think daycare will help Daisy?"

Um. No. Daycare does not heal a traumatic brain injury. Intensive therapy does. A safe, loving home environment does. A family committed to understanding disabilities does.

But all I said to him was, "no."

Kori was visibly upset when she handed Daisy back to me. I left and went home.

About an hour later Kori called me to talk. She wanted to discuss these tiny little eczema rashes that were on Daisy's cheeks today. For some reason these really concerned Kori. Not concerned like she was upset with me or anything. She just made a rather big deal over them because her other two kids had milk sensitivities and broke out in a similar fashion. I assured Kori that I'll keep an eye on things and not to worry. Kori went on and on about how if I take Daisy to the doctor she wants to be there too. I assured her I wouldn't go to the doctor without her.

The conversation drug on. Kori started talking about court today. She was horribly upset about how they painted her and the move. She said they lied. She had told them she moved. CPS is the one that dropped the ball.

Kori has a bit of truth to that. However....

Kori was sending text messages to Mr. CW before he left to tell him she was moving. Mr. CW had ceased communicating with Kori via text because of a text conversation they got in one time where Kori was rude and belligerent. She completely disrespected him and got way out of line. Mr. CW was advised that he legally didn't have to communicate by text and was to only communicate via phone and email with Kori. I have to assume that's why Mr. CW did nothing about Kori's pending move before he left his position as caseworker.

On September 2, Kori sent an email to Ricardo to tell him she moved to a new city. She wasn't forthcoming with the address and just asked what she was to do next.

That's where CPS screwed up. They should have followed through right then.

But technically, Kori had already moved and she hadn't officially let CPS know where her new residence was.

Anyway...Kori went on and on about how evil CPS was lying about her in court today. Then she drug me right back into her crazy with this, "CPS illegally stole my child from me. It's not like she was ever neglected. Or lived in a dirty house. Or ran around with dirty diapers or anything. She has always been cared for and loved."

Once again it seems that Kori wants to forget that minor detail where her daughter lay in the hospital on November 4, 2013 fighting for her life. She doesn't want to acknowledge the shunt in her brain or the craniotomy that was necessary four months later because there was still blood on the brain. She doesn't see that her daughter is well over eight months behind developmentally and what that really means to a 16 month old child. She wants to forget the minor detail of a traumatic brain injury that will forever impact Miss Daisy's life.

Somehow tiny eczema rashes are more important.

So we will go to court next week on October 2nd. This is not a TPR trial and I don't know how to explain what it really is because I've never done anything like this before. I've had kids in Care well past that magic 12-month mark and none of them have ever had "trials". I can only go by what I've read online about Texas and the order and kind of hearings we have here:
  • Emergency hearings: If your child is removed from your care without a court order, the court will schedule a hearing for the next working day. This hearing allows the judge to learn why your child was removed from his or her home and to decide if there is a good reason to keep your child in care until the adversary hearing (see below). If the judge decides your child may be in danger while in your care, your child may remain in foster care for the time being.
  • Non-emergency hearings/Show Cause hearings:  CPS often asks a judge for a court order before removing a child from a home when there's significant risk of abuse or neglect but the current circumstances are not an emergency.
  • Adversary hearings: The court holds an adversary hearing within 14 days of your child being removed from your care. At this hearing, the judge decides whether to return your child to you or if your child would still be at risk of continued abuse or neglect in your care. If the judge does not return your child to your care, he or she may decide to place your child with a relative or close family friend if they are appropriate, available, and willing to help. Otherwise, your child will stay in foster care. The adversary hearing is your chance to present your view of what happened and how your child can be protected now.
  • Status hearings: The court holds a status hearing within 60 days of your child's placement in foster care. The purpose of this hearing is to make sure you have a family service plan (see “What should I expect from my caseworker?”) and understand that following that plan is a way for your child to return home. This hearing also ensures each parent has been notified of the legal suit.
  • Permanency Court Reviews: About five months after the first adversary hearing, the court will review your progress on meeting the requirements of court orders and the family service plan. Before the hearing, CPS must submit a permanency report. This report includes CPS' view of your progress and a final recommendation on a plan for a permanent place for your child to live. The court may issue any additional orders it deems necessary. After that, permanency court reviews are held every four months until the case is resolved and your child's legal status is permanent.
  • Court Resolution:  Within 12 months of giving CPS temporary legal responsibility (temporary managing conservatorship) for a child, the court will either return your child to you or give permanent custody to a relative, a close family friend, or to CPS. On rare occasions, the court may extend the 12 month deadline for up to six more months. The court may terminate your parental rights if it has legal grounds to do so and decides that is what is best for the child.
  • Placement Review Hearings: If a court gives CPS permanent custody of a child (permanent managing conservatorship), the court reviews the child's living arrangements and plans every six months.
The trial next week is going to be "Court Resolution". And unless CPS turns up something concrete against Kori, Daisy will be returned home to her mother.

Bio Dad's criminal case has been postponed again. He continues to walk about a free man. He was there today and shook my hand. Thanked me for caring for Daisy.

I am convinced that Kori and Bio Dad still have a relationship. It was subtle, but I swear she flirted with him when we came into the waiting room together. He was respectful of the restraining order though and never tried to come close to Daisy this time.

I'm going to have all of Daisy's laundry done. I'm going to have all her personal toys gathered. I will have a large box ready to fill with her belongings. I'm going to be ready for Daisy to leave.

And I'm going to pray. I'm going to pray that if Kori is really unable to protect Daisy for the rest of her life that proof is made evident within the next seven days.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Difficult season

Tuesday is the traumaversary of when Dude and Dolly were abruptly removed from our home. The grief isn't nearly as intense. But it's not easy dealing with family members being swept away and not being given a real chance to say goodbye.

Wednesday is Dolly's birthday. I'm sending a small gift. I have no idea if she'll actually receive it or not.

We have court on Wednesday for Daisy. A neighbor is going to watch TT and Bart. That, in and of itself, will be difficult for TT. But knowing that Daisy could be moved - just like Dude and Dolly were - will make court extra difficult.

TT's birthday is just around the corner. Birthdays are hard for lots of adopted kids. TT is no exception.

Football season is close to starting. TT lives and breathes football. He's also a perfectionist of the highest order and completely comes unglued when things in his life don't go perfectly. As you can imagine, football games are not always in his favor. Football increases his anxiety.

I could go on and on. This time of year seems to completely freak TT out and in turn, the whole house becomes somewhat on edge. Add to that the fact that we are all feeling the effects of remembering Dude and Dolly - and worrying about Daisy - and this is no easy season for us.

I covet your prayers.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Things I know to be true:

  1. Kori moved to a new home at the first of the month.
  2. Kori hasn't met the new CPS caseworker, Martin, in person yet.
  3. Until late Friday afternoon of this week, CPS didn't even have the new address for Kori. She had only emailed Martin and his supervisor to tell them the new town she is living in.
  4. That means that no home assessment was done at Kori's new home.
    (I originally posted this and called it a "home study". Kori wouldn't have to undergo a full home study as we foster parents and kinship providers know it. However, someone from CPS should have come over to look at the home and ensure that it was safe for Daisy.)
  5. That also means that Bio Dad could have easily been in Kori's home last weekend because there was no threat at all of a surprise visit from CPS because they wouldn't have known where to go.
  6. Daisy doesn't like the transfer on Saturdays at all. She started fussing as soon as we finished dinner and didn't stop until I put her in the car to leave. Once in the parking lot, as soon as she heard her mother's voice, she freaked out and started screaming. I practically had to peel her off of me to hand her over to Kori.
  7. I hate being a part of making a baby cry like that.
  8. Foster care sucks.
I will be calling Daisy's lawyer on Monday to let her know about the new address and lack of an updated home study. I'm also going to let her know about Kori's choice of decor in her new home. Daisy's speech therapist visits Daisy at Kori's home on Mondays and at my home on Wednesdays. Last week the therapist told me that Daisy does look a lot like her bio dad. It seems that when Kori moved into her new home she chose to put a photo of Daisy with Bio Dad up on the mantle in the living room. Of course displaying a photo like this isn't against the law. But it sure does continue to paint a picture of Kori supporting Bio Dad in a way that makes me just more than a little sick.

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.