Friday, August 28, 2015

December 4th is a TPR trial

When we got out of court this past Wednesday, I was in shock. With the primary goal being changed to non-relative adoption...everything changed. Not for me. Not really. But now as I look at these children, a bit more of my heart wants to dream about parenting them forever.

Outside the courtroom, I looked at the babies' lawyer (who I think needs a blog name - let's go with Ms. Remus) and told her that I would like to pick her brain about everything at a later date. I could tell by her posture and response that she was totally OK with that. Later that afternoon I sent her a text asking to touch base with her either via phone or text at her convenience.

Out of the blue this morning she messaged me and said, "Hi. I'll track down the mom's lawyer to see if she's willing to let Russell go."

My jaw dropped. No intro. No niceties. Just straight to...we're going to discuss having Mom surrender her rights.

Based on how the lawyer worded her text, I assumed she meant that they would be splitting up the siblings. I asked her about that. Her response was, "Maybe not. She may lose them both outright."

We went back and forth for just a bit. Apparently there is only one relative now is having a home study done and that relative does not want both children.

I told Ms. Remus that I sincerely appreciate her keeping me in the loop. I KNOW this is foster care. I know a million things could happen. But I told her that when the goal changed, my heart jumped and that I've fallen awfully hard for these amazing children.

I also said, "I know my role. But it will help me stay grounded if I know what's going on - as much as you're comfortable sharing - behind the scenes."

Her response, "No problem. Our role is to put them in the best place. It'd be great to keep these two out of that environment."

I reiterated my stance on relative conservatorship with Russell again. (I say this at every chance because I don't want anyone to forget how horrifically he was hurt. Especially now that you can't see he was starved and all his bones have healed.) I told her, "I fear for Russell's long term safety with any relative. After what everyone was so comfortable ignoring for the first 17 months of his life - I can only imagine his fate if he returns."

The lawyer agreed with me.

And that was that.

Bopper has assured me she'll keep me in the loop. Ms. Remus seems to be comfortable keeping me in the loop. I'm being treated with respect. I believe the kids' best interests are being taken into consideration. It doesn't look like anyone is going to let this case drag out for years and years. This isn't the foster care I'm used to.

The judge tossed out a lot of official dates this week. There is a date set for when all new "findings" have to be submitted. (Or something like that.) There is a date set for determining if they want a jury. The pretrial is set for October 28. And the TPR hearing is set for December 4.

This is one wild roller coaster ride.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

rehash of today's court hearing

I still don't know much more than I did after I walked out of the courtroom this morning. But, I'll spill the beans.

The primary goal in the case with Russell and Star was changed late yesterday to non-relative adoption. The secondary goal is relative conservatorship.

My jaw hit the ground!!

Basically....Sylvia (Mom) has worked her case plan. But, in the words of CPS, she has not shown that she can identify things that she would do differently should she get her kids back. Basically, she doesn't have any protective instincts and CPS can tell that.

As of right now, there are NO relatives approved for either child.

Mom gave the names of two more relatives today. I honestly believe that relatives will start crawling out of the woodwork now. However, NONE of them (in my opinion) should even be seriously considered to raise Russell for the rest of his life. So unless they split the children, I don't know how relative conservatorship is going to work.

I'm almost positive that CPS and the lawyer for the children are both in agreement with me on that.

Every relative that was in Russell's life prior to him coming in to Care could have seen how badly he was being starved. They could have seen the black crust that had built up all over his body from never being bathed. And does a child get fifteen broken bones and a lacerated liver without anyone in his life knowing how it happened??!!

Still, CPS will be required to do a home study on every relative that Mom presents to the court.

Along with this, even though the goal is no longer reunification (not the primary or the secondary goal), Mom got a new case plan and more services to work. In a way, reunification is not completely ruled out. This makes no sense to me. But it's what they did.

(Note: I feel comfortable sharing these intimate court details because we have open court here in my part of Texas. Any reader sitting next to me today could have heard all these details themselves.)

So...visits continue. Mom will have to attend counseling again I believe and maybe a support group or something. CPS will conduct new home studies. But along with all that, CPS is to start getting their ducks in a row for a trial.

The pretrial is in October. The final hearing is in December.

And this is where I simply can't answer any questions. I don't know if at this trial they will terminate rights. Or if this is just a trial before a TPR hearing. I guess because the goal is now adoption that they will either present a relative that is acceptable to take placement or they will terminate. I've never had a case like this one and Texas, especially my part of it, does things differently.

Bopper (the babies' CPS worker) wasn't at court today. She was out sick. Still, she sent me a text after we got home asking how court went. I told her my jaw was on the floor with the goal change. Interestingly enough, she said that it must have happened late last night because she was unaware of that change.

Bopper assures me that she will keep me in the loop with homestudies being done and all that jazz. I did come out and say, even though I've never been asked, that we would care for these two cherubs as long as the State will let us.

I also sent a text to the babies' lawyer. We've met in person once, spoken on the phone before, and we have communicated via text several times. She's been VERY honest with me thus far and I had caught her on the way out of court to tell her I'd love to pick her brain on this case. She indicated that we could definitely talk later!! My text basically just said that I knew she was swamped and in court today. I said that the goal change really surprised me and I'd love to hear her take on how the case could possibly play out. I asked her to message or call me at her convenience later today or this week. She responded that she would.

So this is where we can all start speculating.
  1. Will Mom get it together and get her kids back?
  2. Will one of Mom's relatives get both kids permanently?
  3. Will they send both babies to a relative on Star's dad's side of the family
    (No one on Russell's paternal side can be located at all.)
  4. Will they split the children and send Star to a relative but plan an adoption for Russell?
So many things could still happen. I'm not getting my hopes up.

But yes, we would adopt these cherubs if it became necessary.

So now...we wait and watch and do a lot of praying.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Leo left // court is coming for Russell & Star

Leo came and went in less than 24 hours. It was a bit of a whirlwind. I'm glad he didn't have to experience another move. He's been through enough in his very short life. But...I am going to have a chat with Rainbow tomorrow. I'm hoping she can show me his full file. If his current foster family doesn't step up and commit to adopting Leo, we are going to at least consider it.

There are a few aspects of older child adoption that we have to factor in. One of the biggest is how it will affect TT and Bart. Bart absolutely ADORES having babies and toddlers in the house. Bart honestly doesn't want to be the youngest child. I think if we had a placement here for several months/years that ended up in a place where adoption was an option, Bart and TT would be OK. But the idea of springing an older child into our home with the notion of "forever" there from the beginning...I'm sure we'd have a heaping load of behaviors from all three of the children.

And no. My forever kids aren't more "important" than a foster child. But I will factor in the dynamics of an addition to our family before I commit to it permanently.


Bopper (our CPS worker) came to the house on Friday for her monthly home visit. She's a sweet young thing. Lord only knows why she chose social work as a profession though. She is a self-proclaimed scaredy-cat.

She told me she had to have some very difficult conversations with Sylvia (bio mom). Bopper didn't have this case from the beginning. And I guess she didn't realize fully that the goal has ALWAYS been family reunification with a secondary goal of relative conservatorship. Not sure why she didn't know this. But she didn't. And after reading through the whole file, Bopper had to staff the case with her supervisor again. After this staffing, she was able to officially change the goal in the case with Russell and Star. The goals are simply reversed now with the primary goal being relative conservatorship and the secondary goal being family reunification. Bopper said it was very hard to explain all this to Sylvia. (And no, it was not a language barrier thing. Bopper is fully bilingual.) She said that Sylvia simply doesn't understand why her kids are in Care. Sylvia cannot explain how ANY of the abuse happened to Russell. And let's be honest...this mother had to have known who was abusing Russell. A child can't have 15 fractures and nobody knows. Not to mention the fact that he was starving so badly and was covered in a layer of filth that CPS literally speculated meant he hadn't been bathed in months...if ever. (I'm sure he had been bathed. He had been hospitalized more than once for FTT over the course of the 17 months of his life before coming in to Care. But the pics of the filth caked on his body when he was removed do point to a serious amount of neglect.)
Russell is 1 here - taken from a relative's FB page 
What is going to make this very complicated is that there are NO relatives willing or able to care for Russell. And now that Russell and Star are in the same case, they work strongly against splitting the siblings up. So even though there is someone that wants to take Star, they're not being considered because they won't (or can't) take Russell.

So I pressed Bopper a little. It is very clear that CPS is not in favor of Russell (or Star) being reunified with Sylvia. And there are no relatives that can step in. I asked, "So what happens next? How long will you look for a relative?" In Russell's case, it would NOT be safe to send him to ANY relatives that he's known in the area since he was born. In my opinion, they are responsible for the neglect he suffered as well. You could physically see that he was wasting away before he came into foster care. Any relative in his life should have stepped in to protect him if they truly cared.

And I'm going to put this out there. I'm not in favor of relatives getting to just pop up out of nowhere after a case has been going on for some time. staying with family can be a VERY good thing. But I don't think CPS should have to DIG for family just because they are distantly related. Not for Russell. Not for any kid. I totally understand that ICPC takes a long time. I totally understand that even moving kids across the state might take awhile. But Russell has been in Care since February. If he's got family that wants him, they should be stepping forward NOW. At least put their names in the hat. And there is no one.

I don't know what's going to happen. Bopper answered my question. She became guarded (as she should - case workers aren't supposed to speculate, I know that). But she answered that she doesn't want to "look" for relatives for very long.

I was blunt. I asked her, "So what if you don't find any relatives? The secondary goal is still family reunification. Will the kids just go back to Mom?"

Bopper bristled at that. I know she does NOT want Russell back with Mom. But the possibility of that happening is very much a reality. Her only answer is that any other goal changes (to TPR) would have to be made in court.

I have a feeling that Wednesday is going to be a very interesting day. I wish I didn't have to drag both babies with me to the courthouse. I'm going to want to be able to hear everything and I probably won't get to. For now though, I've been told that CPS is not recommending reunification and I can expect that both children will be staying with me this time around.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

We don't all fit in one car anymore

A beautiful 8yo boy joined our family last night. His favorite thing is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and his favorite turtle is Leonardo. So, for the blog, our new cherub is going to be Leo.

Leo is here on "emergency respite". That means that something significant happened and he needed to be moved from his foster family to ours. Emergency respite can "legally" only last for 14 days. But ultimately, we don't know how long Leo will be here.

We cared for Leo for three days back in July when he came for a normal respite placement. He's a neat kid and we had no issues those three days at all. In fact, I assessed him while he was here and had a long talk with his foster family about, what I believed to be, a misdiagnosis and incorrect medication. I had been given a little of his history and I was convinced that Leo did not have ADHD and that the violent rages they had been seeing were as a result of the stimulant medication he was on.

His foster family listened to me. I really liked them. And now, praise God, he's off that med and down to only one mood stabilizer.

However, his foster family made a rather large mistake. They knowingly chose to disregard a rather significant minimum standard. I'm going to be vague. The details really aren't necessary. But it's a rule that is in every county and every state and probably even every country. It does not involve corporal punishment. Leo was not hurt, neglected or abused in any way in his foster home. Still, he and another boy (separate case) were removed last night and whisked away to emergency respite.

Leo does not know why he's here. He's under the impression that he'll be going back to that foster family. He was very, very excited to learn that he was coming back to our house though. I guess he liked it here back in July.

Our licensing agency is trying to salvage things. The plan is to fix the problem in the original foster home and send the two boys back there. However, that may not happen. And if they have to close the original foster home, Leo is going to need a long-term placement. To add to this, Leo's parents have already had their rights terminated. Leo is in need of an adoptive home.

Right now Leo is ONLY here for emergency respite. We might have to make some very important decisions within the next few days though.

His current foster family is only "considering" adopting Leo. They haven't committed to anything and Leo has been there well over six months I believe. I'm not sure how serious they are about wanting to adopt.

For what it's worth, we would "consider" adoption as well. In fact, we wouldn't take him as a long-term placement unless we were going to walk the road of adoption. Just wouldn't be fair to him in my opinion.

I have NO IDEA what is going to happen. This IS the roller coaster of foster care. I'll keep you posted though.  :)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Big, long catch-up post

I can tell that life has been busy managing a household with two babies, two tweens, a young adult and a husband. I have hardly been blogging at all (other than all my Facebook ramblings). So, in order to keep a record of all the crazy that is my life, here is a super crazy-long catch-up post. We'll go in order from oldest to youngest...

Mr. Amazing:
Mr. Amazing is healing quite well from his surgery – all things considered. He still can't eat meat or bread or anything but soft food so I'm something of a short order cook for him. And one of his surgical sites is starting to get infected. But we're praying that the oral antibiotic that the surgeon called in does the trick. Mr. Amazing had to get his surgery done in Central Texas because none of the surgeons in our area were qualified enough to handle the complicated re-do of the Nissen. We'd like to avoid any extra trips up north if they can be avoided. He also still can't lift more than 15 pounds so that puts me on baby duty for the most part. Still, he's healing well and that's what matters.

It's been quite the summer of transformation. We're learning how to navigate the world of parenting a young adult. Initially Herman had planned on going to a trade school in the area for welding. However, as the end of high school got closer, he decided against that. Ultimately, Herman wants to be a motorcycle mechanic. He wants to learn how to build custom motorcycles. This is a real career and we fully support him in it. However, the school he wants to attend isn't in Texas. And Herman isn't exactly ready to be on his own yet. So, we decided that Herman should live at home and get a job, do some growing up, save some money, and then go on to school.

Getting that job has not been an easy task. Herman has applied at many, many places and he hasn't heard back from most. He took it upon himself to go into many stores in person. He spoke with managers. But...Herman doesn't speak Spanish and he's white. Where we live, those are not good things!!

We thought there was a good chance for Herman to possibly interview for a job in Iowa. We quickly made arrangements for Herman to move up north to stay with My Genius Mother. When that possible job opportunity didn't pan out, we still thought we'd send Herman north. But then...ummmm...Herman showed us that he still needs active parenting in his life. My Genius Mother does not need to be managing that level of parenting anymore. So, I got up in Herman's business and told him he was NOT going to Iowa and he had better figure out where he was going to work down here. He managed to find a job and start within a few days after that Come to Jesus moment. Herman now has a part-time job where he barely makes pennies. But, it's better than nothing. And after his schedule is somewhat set we expect him to go out and find a second part-time job to fill in the gaps a little bit more.

TT and Bart:
We've decided that our season of homeschooling has come to an end (at least for now). TT desperately wants to play football. In order for him to play football, he has to attend public school. There simply aren't other options for kids in our area. Football doesn't start for students until 7th grade and TT is just going into 6th. But he needs to start back in public school now in order to be used to things. In less than two weeks I'm sending my kids back to the wolves.

I'm scared to death!!

I know I had been blogging about all the medications we've tried for TT's anxiety and Bart's ADHD. I got very fed up with nothing working a few months ago. We were going to the psychiatrist what felt like all the time, I was forking out a ton of money for all sorts of expensive medications and TT was still a giant stress ball and Bart was still bouncing off the walls. I took them off everything. I said we'd go back to baseline over the summer and reevaluate from there. I rescheduled one psych appointment so they'd remain patients in the office and I threw all the meds away.

Their next psych appointment was the last week of July. I thought we had been managing things OK enough without meds. Sure, TT was still coming in our room to sleep a lot. And Bart couldn't handle two-step directives. But ultimately, neither boy likes the idea of taking meds. So I figured we'd cancel the appointment and be done with things.

I involve the boys in their mental health decisions though. I sat them both down and discussed the situation. We talked about side effects. We talked about possible benefits. If I'm honest, I'll tell you I tried to steer the boys away from going back to the doctor.

Both boys looked at me and said they wanted to try meds again.

TT doesn't like being anxious all the time. And Bart knows when he's out of control and he hates that it's so hard for him to follow through with things.

Somewhat reluctantly I packed them up and took them to the psychiatrist again. After waiting for hours and hours, we finally got face time with the doctor. I expected that she would be frustrated I took them off everything. She totally seemed to understand though!! She even somewhat apologized for not being able to find anything that works yet. (Totally not her fault but it was a nice gesture.)

TT is on an anti-depressant that seems to be possibly taking the edge off his anxiety better than any other med he's tried thus far. He's also taking something to help him sleep at night. It's not dramatically better. But I know the idea of middle school is an almost crippling fear and he seems to be weathering this upcoming change OK. I have to think the meds are working just a little.

Bart is on another med for his ADHD. He can't take stimulants because they cause him to have violent rages. (He literally becomes a child I do not recognize.) I don't think the dose is quite strong enough yet of the new med, but I'm seeing him have more self-control than he usually does. It should help him as he navigates being a fifth grader this fall.

I don't have a lot of major things to report on Russell. He's just a super awesome HAPPY baby that is a lot of fun to take care of!! He's pulling up on everything and he can cruise the length of the couch with ease. He's making advancements in absolutely every area.

Russell is two years old now. We had a lot of birthday fun at home. He didn't understand any of it - but he likes his new toys! Sadly, his mother didn't seem to do anything for him and she actually got to see him ON his birthday. Instead, Star came home from that visit in a new outfit and Russell didn't have anything. I know it's not about the stuff. But I was sad that Mom chose to do something for Star and not for Russell on Russell's actual birthday!

I'm still waiting for the ENT to get me proper documentation so I can get the judge to approve surgery (tubes). Russell failed his ABR hearing test quite significantly. The test results point to there possibly being fluid in the ear. Russell has extremely small ear canals though so no one knows for sure. They need to sedate him, take a look, and put tubes in as a preventative. We'll go from there.

But first, I have to get permission from the judge for Russell to go under anesthesia. I hope it happens soon. I'm confident that this hearing loss is reversible and I just know that Russell's language will simply take off once he can hear the world around him!!

Sylvia (Bio Mom) is missing out on so much. She has two of the most beautiful and the happiest babies I have ever met!! Star is an unbelievably happy baby - just like her brother. She literally never fusses. She will let me know when she needs a diaper change, or when she's hungry or tired. But she doesn't cry just out of frustration with the world...ever! She's very, very happy!!!

Star is growing like a weed and getting bigger all the time. I swear she just about shot through all the 3-6 month clothes I bought her. Star turns four months old this Friday.

Star is doing all the things tiny babies do. She coos back and forth with me when I hold her. She smiles whenever anyone talks to her. She even rolled over from her back to her tummy last week (8/6/15) for the first time.

The case in general:
Sylvia has worked her entire case plan. Bopper (CPS) assures me that they are not recommending reunification at this time though. No one can account for the injuries that Russell sustained. That has got to mean something. He had fifteen fractures but no one has any idea how they happened.

I continue to point out to anyone that asks that Sylvia was also responsible for feeding Russell and that didn't happen. He was less than 10 pounds at 17 months of age when he entered Care. He was dropping lower and lower on the growth curve. And when he came into foster care...that growth curve started going almost straight up! He's big and fat and healthy now. I fear that people are going to forget how starved he was because nothing in Mom's case plan addressed why she wasn't feeding him.

We go to court next on the 26th of August. I know that no one has located anyone on the paternal side of the family for Russell. Star's bio dad is still in federal prison. I believe there is family that has told CPS they would take Star – but there's no one that is willing or able to care for Russell. I don't believe that CPS will split the case back up now either. But there really is no telling what will happen in court.

Life is nothing short of a roller coaster. But we're all weathering the ride OK right now. I try really hard to not worry about Russell's future. (I'm honestly not as worried about Star. Russell is the one I'm afraid would suffer abuse again. Star, to the best of my knowledge, was never hurt prior to coming to me.) I'm trying really hard to not freak out about sending TT and Bart back to the sub-standard public schools down here. And I'm trying really hard to believe in my heart that Herman will actually grow up and become a contributing member of society. Through it all, I try to be the best wife and mom that I can be.

Oh yeah - and I also have tried to quit drinking Diet Coke. I was a serious (SERIOUS) addict. I haven't gone cold turkey as I know that putting an ultimate "you cannot have it" would mess with my brain too much. But I don't keep any in the house. I got rid of my caffeinated kool-aid packets. And I'm drinking lots and lots of plain old water.

If I left anything out or if you've got any questions – just let me know.

And that's life in The Crazy House!

Monday, August 10, 2015

update on Miss Daisy

Kori had court today. Kori texted me when it was all done.

Rights were not terminated. This was not a TPR trial. However, Kori was put in a position where she basically had to sign custody over to a relative. As of today, one of Bio Dad's sisters has Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) over Daisy and her little sister, Dandelion.

Kori was given three weekends a month for supervised visitation. Any adult can supervise though. I highly doubt there is going to be any oversight at all now. That scares me just a little. I don't know this aunt. I do know that she had zero contact with Miss Daisy the entire time Daisy lived with me (10 months). I don't know her agenda. I don't know if she will protect Daisy and make sure she gets all the interventions she needs. Kori claims the aunt is a bit of an air head.

Interestingly enough, Bio Dad - the man that nearly killed Daisy - also gets three weekends a month of supervised visits. Yes. He almost killed her. Kori defended him in criminal court. He got off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. And now he gets regular visitation with his daughters.

Kori still stands behind her thoughts that Bio Dad did not intentionally hurt Daisy. She still believes it was an accident.

She claims that their relationship has fizzled out though. Just sort of disintegrated. She says her focus is on her children now. Only her children.

So...she's moving five hours north from here (away from Daisy and Dandelion) to move back in with her ex-husband and their two children. I mentioned that I would hate driving from Central Texas to the border three times a month. She replied that anyone can supervise her visits...even her ex-husband.

I could speculate all day long as to what is going to happen next. I've got a pretty good feeling that The System screwed this case up yet again. Kori says she'll continue to text me and send me pictures of her kids.

And kind of like how you can't look away when you drive by an accident, I hope she still does.