Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It's been a DAY (court recap)

Alright...as is common for me on court days...here's the entirely too long recap in crappy bullet-point writing. Most of this is for me. I'm going to give all the details. This is where I keep track of the good stuff so 2 years from now I can type up a letter for a lawyer or somebody when they finally get around to DOING things in a case.

Yeah. I'm jaded.

I woke up this morning and felt just fine. I got Mr. Amazing ready for work and even ate breakfast without feeling nervous.

Well...I sat down at my desk with my breakfast and started looking at stuff on my computer. As I was halfway through my fried egg the court docket for today loaded on my screen. Then I got crazy nervous!

We were case Number 5 on the docket. There were three cases listed for 9:00am and one other at 9:30am in front of us. Case Number 4 is what got to me though. Russell's baby sister was listed as a separate hearing.

That meant the scary boyfriend (bio dad of Baby Star) would likely be there.

I'm not usually easily scared. And bio families don't usually freak me out. But there is something about the boyfriend that literally scares me bad.

The rest of my morning consisted of me trying to keep my nerves under control while I got ready to leave with Russell and I got things situated for Herman, TT, and Bart at home.

I was back to the waiting area around 8:50am or so with Russell. I was the first person there. It wasn't long though and Bio Mom, lets call her Sylvia, arrived. She was alone (except for the person that brought her to court - I don't think Sylvia has a car). I unhooked Russell in the stroller and she scooped him up.

Around 9:10am a whole slew of other people walked up. Violet, Russell's 3yo sister, was in the group. This just happened to be the first time she'd seen her brother since he was removed in February. (Unique to watch. She wanted NOTHING to do with him. She would NOT interact with Russell at all!!) I think the aunt that Violet is currently staying with brought her. Violet's bio dad and his wife also came. Another aunt had her daughter and Baby Star. (There may have been other people. I tried not to stare.)

The scary boyfriend wasn't there.

CPS came to talk to me around 9:30am. Things were running behind (like always). We went through pleasantries. I asked about the placements of the sisters. That's when she told me they are with different aunts. (Up until today I thought the sisters were placed together.) Then somehow it came up that the boyfriend wouldn't be coming. He's in federal prison.

Cue the sigh of huge relief!!

My fears can't be too far out of line if he's locked up in a federal prison.

CPS also shared that we were getting a new caseworker.

Cue the sigh of frustration. New worker. New supervisor. Possible new focus or goals as a result.

Russell's lawyer popped over to say high as well. I asked her about the sisters and their placement. She kind of rolled her eyes but said they were fine...all things considered. I told her that Russell is doing very well. The lawyer sort of muttered under her breath, "Mom isn't."

I heard Violet's bio dad tell CPS that he wants custody of Violet.
Side note...in case I haven't been clear...
All three kids have different dads. Violet's bio dad seems very nice. Russell's bio dad isn't in the picture at all. CPS has been unable to contact anyone on the paternal side of the family. CPS is supposed to work on this. Star's bio dad is the scary boyfriend that was suspected to be the person that injured Russell. However NO criminal charges have been filed as a result of Russell's injuries.
About 45 minutes went by with us all waiting on the benches in the outside covered waiting area. Sylvia NEVER once tried to have contact with Baby Star. She brought Violet to sit next to her. She never really talked to Violet at all though either. Sylvia is a very interesting young woman. She is beautiful, well dressed, polite, demure, and incredibly quiet. She held Russell on her lap. She stood with Russell and swayed back and forth. She stroked his hair. But she didn't really interact at all with any of her kids. She looks like she's there. But she's so incredibly detached! It seems very strange to me that she didn't even bring Star in the baby carrier over by her feet or something. She didn't speak to the aunt that brought Star either. It was weird!

We got called into the courtroom around 10:15am. Everything went very quickly. 15 minutes later we were done and back outside in the waiting area.

Russell's case and Star's case are to be formally consolidated.  The judge just hasn't done it yet.

There is NO CPS case for Violet. I honestly don't know what that means. I know she's not living with Sylvia. Maybe there's a safety plan in place or something and Mom can't have custody yet. But Sylvia isn't answering to the judge about Violet at all!

Sylvia has completed her parenting classes.

However, she has not completed some assessment (for therapy maybe) nor has she started her individual therapy. Mom went to her assessment meeting. It was supposed to be for two hours. Mom left halfway through though and never rescheduled.

The judge didn't like this.

CPS made a huge deal about Sylvia missing visits too. I was very disappointed here though. They tried to say that Mom had missed six visits.

She hasn't. It's only been five. And one of those five was because she had just given birth. So really, it's only been four visits.

I hate it when I hear CPS lie.

They corrected themselves though as the conversation went on. They did put it on the record that Sylvia only missed four visits.

It was formally determined that as of right now, Mom is non-compliant. However, the goal is still family reunification. She gets three more months to work her case plan. The judge seemed upset. He went ahead and scheduled the next permanency hearing for August AND a trial for September...just in case she's still non-compliant.
Side note...
This whole "trial" thing seems relatively new to me. The judge is throwing out the word trial more than I heard when we first started fostering down here. Dude and Dolly were in Care for 27 months. I don't think there ever was a trial. Pumpkin is still technically in Care. But lately the judge makes a big deal out of the trial and the dismissal date. Maybe he is trying to get things to move faster than they used to.
According to a CPS guide that I found online, the Final Hearing (Trial) is one that:
  1. Requires that the child be returned to the parents;
  2. Names a relative of the child or another person as the child's managing conservator;
  3. Without terminating the parent-child relationship, appoints CPS as the managing conservator of the child; (which IS what happened in Dude and Dolly's case and with Pumpkin) OR
  4. Terminates the parent-child relationship and appoints a relative of the child another suitable person, or CPS as the managing conservator
I can guarantee that no one is thinking about TPR yet for Russell. But the judge sure did want to get his point across about the trial being next and that he wasn't going to drag this out forever.

The only thing, other than CPS trying to misrepresent the quantity of missed visits, was when the judge was asking about how Russell is. CPS did a good job of briefly explaining how he's growing now and eating so well. She mentioned that he's doubled his weight since coming in to Care in February. The judge then made a comment, "So...he's meeting his milestones. No delays or anything?"

CPS answered affirmatively. She nodded and said he's meeting milestones.

The judge flipped through paperwork. He said something about Down syndrome. CPS said, "Yes, Judge, he has the diagnoses of Down syndrome and failure to thrive."

CPS never did correct things though to make mention of Russell's special needs. I'm quite sure that the judge knows that a child with Down syndrome has needs. But I felt it needed to be on the record that Russell functions like a 9-10 month old baby...NOT the 22 month old toddler that he is.

It all went very quickly though. Before I knew it we were back outside. Sylvia was surrounded on one of the benches by family. She was visibly VERY upset. She was discussing the case with her lawyer. Sadly for me, the conversation was entirely in Spanish. She was holding a sleeping Russell though so I couldn't go anywhere.

CPS came out. Violet's bio dad wanted to talk to someone. CPS explained that since there is no case for Violet, they can't grant him custody. He's going to have to take Mom to family court and file for it.

I wanted to hear more but CPS saw that I was there waiting for Russell, so his worker leaned in, took Russell from Sylvia and handed him to me. I buckled Russell into the stroller and knew I had to leave whether I wanted to or not.

I breathed a sigh of relief as Russell and I made our way back out to the car. I called Mr. Amazing on the way home and let him know the details.

When I got home though I decided I had to do something about the "meeting milestones" comment. I sent a text message to Russell's lawyer:
You asked me in court if I needed anything. And no, I don't at this time. But I do want to pass along a concern (for lack of a better word). When the judge asked CPS if Russell was meeting all his milestones, CPS answered yes. That is a gross misrepresentation of reality. Russell is doing great. But he still barely functions at the level of a 10 month old child. He is going to need special care for the rest of his life. I'm sure the judge understands fully the needs of a special needs child with Down syndrome. But if I didn't say something, this would bother me for weeks! Let me know if you need anything from me at all.
She responded right back with, "Thank you. I'll pass it on."

Again, I breathed a sigh of relief. I figured the worst of my day was over.

Twenty minutes later I got a text from the lawyer, "Does your agency allow another child? The baby needs placement too."

I nearly choked. I replied, "What happened to the baby. I thought she was OK with the aunt. Placement today?"

The lawyer responded, "Nope. She doesn't want her. I told CPS. They're working on it."

And from there, the rest of my day when down the crapper. I could barely think straight. I knew I needed to at least think about what I'd need to take in a 2 month old baby. But aaccckkkk!! It certainly wasn't on my agenda.

Two hours later the new CPS caseworker sent me a text. She was simply confirming a visit schedule change so I can travel with Russell when Bart goes to science camp at the beach. I took it as an opportunity to ask CPS what was going on.

I said, "I caught wind from the lawyer that you guys are having to place Star today. Any more news on that?"

She said that she was trying to get ahold of the aunt but the aunt wasn't responding. CPS told me she'd keep me in the loop. I told this new worker that I had let the first worker know I was a resource and that I had also said the same to the lawyer. She said she'd keep me posted.

Three hours later I sent her another text, "I hate to bother you. But I'm making plans for this evening. Do you know if you're going to need me yet today or not?"

The CPS worker indicated that she told her supervisor but that he didn't want to discuss it until morning. Again, she assured me that she'd keep me posted.

So...I may or may not get another baby this week. Court just about did me in for the day. I'm going to get the cherubs in bed for the night and then I'm going to crash out early. I might not get to sleep through the night again for a few months.

5 comments:

Teresa said...

WOW! Never a dull moment. I'll be cyber stalking your page to see what happens tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Does make one wonder if perhaps the auntie with Star has concerns about bio dad and possible jail visits or 'visitors to her home' that know him.
SylviaMom might be totally freaked out and spacing everything causing disconnect reactions. Or totally unconnected to her children and trying to play a role she does not understand.
It is lovely of you that you 'assume' the judge understands DS means there are delays.... I wouldn't be able to assume that at all. I would guess he has no idea and what was said in court (that Russell is meeting milestones now) made him think Russell was now a normal average-size healthy 22 month old child doing what such children do. Good thing you dotted that i and crossed that t. The lawyer needs to be sure that reality is clear to the judge.
Setting a trial date does seem to indicate the judge has no expectations that mom is going to pull this out and make major headway. If your judges are elected he may want to show a pretty track record for the next time elections roll around and be thinking the case may have a bit of publicity....
Thank you for what you are doing for Russell and what you are willing to do for Star. It takes real courage and love to be willing to become involved when one parent is dangerous and connected at best. IF Star comes to your house be sure to instantly request permission for her to have the same right to go places that Russell has.
Hoping the summer is looking good for your boys and Ricky. Thank you for so carefully updating us all.

kate said...

Maybe the aunt shared your feeling about Baby Star's bio dad…

So glad Russell's lawyer got you permission to meet the state minimum standard for travel! (Crazy that you need that permission, but so glad you have it.) Enjoy the beach!

Anonymous said...

Maybe CPS will do or know or tell or share something by Monday re Star. I hope auntie can hang in with the issue until there is action and that Star is ok in the meantime. SO silly that it is not actable upon in a faster manner since from the beginning they were unhappy about something about the placement. You would wish that they had had their ducks lined up rather than only now starting to list what a duck looks like.
Hugs and support!

Anonymous said...

"I wonder WHO is pushing for this move. Russell's lawyer told me today that Mom is very pleased Star is moving to our home." from you on fbk.
Wow, that must have been some in-family fight! Auntie AND mom not happy! Maybe if they are both highly vocal it will push action on the approval process.
Interesting, when I first saw your first post today and thought Star would arrive by/on Monday I thought I had become way too jaded and defeated by the system. Now they are saying it might take TWO WEEKS to achieve something ALL parties think is best....... nope. Not jaded enough.
Really that is ridiculous AND Bad For Children. I wonder how money is being made by this inefficiency because it is SO VERY HARD to not decide this has to be deliberate to be so jacked up and negative for children.
THANK YOU for actively living your values and for posting which spreads knowledge and awareness across widening circles. (I'd like put this in bold and bigger type but not doable by me.)