Wednesday, June 17, 2015

tomorrow at 10:00am

Tomorrow morning there will be a group of professionals sitting around my kitchen table at 10:00am. I will sign paperwork. They will sign some paperwork. My kids will sign paperwork. Then I'll sign some more paperwork. I'll hang on to some paperwork so my husband can sign it when he gets home from work. Hopefully I'll get a couple bags of clothes and maybe some formula.

In my arms will be a little 2 month old girl getting her third "mommy" since she was born.

Don't tell me congratulations.

No baby should have that many mommies.

So even though our new caseworker is excited for us to be getting another baby. I'm not. (Our new caseworker, Bopper, sent me a text message yesterday saying "Yayyyy, so happy you will have babies Cherub Mamma!")

Well..yes...I am "excited". I like caring for children. I like babies. I really do want to have a little girl around the house.

But foster care breaks me into a million pieces. It's sad. It's tragic. It's not a happy thing that she's coming to me. It's terribly sad. It means something happened serious enough that a perfectly healthy little girl can't live with her mother. Can't be cared for by the person she bonded to for nine months as she grew.

Please NEVER discount those nine months before birth. They are important. They shape a human being. Any time a child is separated from their mother it is tragic. Even if this little girl ends up being reunified with her mother, she will have a hole in her heart because she was separated.

I believe the metaphor I'm about to use is in the book The Primal Wound.

Imagine the bond between a mother and a child is a dinner plate. When the bond is broken, the plate is shattered. Perhaps the pieces are big enough that they can be glued back together. Perhaps the plate gets glued to pieces of a different broken plate (adoption). It will never fit perfectly. Things won't match. It might be functional, but it's definitely not the same!! Even if the original plate gets glued back together, the break will always be visible. You simply can't undo the break.

So please, don't congratulate my family. Wish us well. Pray for us. Take comfort in knowing that Star will be cared for, doted on, and fully loved. But don't congratulate us. The loss she's suffering is so significant. It trumps any fun we might have with the pink and the ruffles. Her needs will be met and we will have a blast with her I'm sure. Celebrate with us as we love on a baby that needs us. But don't congratulate us.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Star is coming

On Friday last week I finally got a text from our new CPS caseworker. I'm pretty sure she's going to need a blog name. Let's go with Bopper. I mean no disrespect. I must be getting old. But when I saw our new worker at court, I honest-to-God thought she was there for her own case. She looks VERY young. Like maybe 14 or 15 years old young. And when she texts me, she uses a very casual tone of speech and tons of emoticons.

Anyway...Bopper sent me a text message. Her supervisor approved placement of Russell's baby sister, Star, with us. She said from there the decision needed to go to the Program Director and the Child Placement Unit.

I sent a text to the placing coordinator at my licensing agency, Rainbow. I told her that we were getting Star and to be on the lookout for the information.

Yesterday, Monday, I got a phone call from Rainbow. The CPU had contacted her. She approved the placement. Now the whole thing bounces back to CPS.

Bopper is coming to the house today for her first home visit. I figure I'll corner her while she's here to see if she's got a transfer date in mind yet.

I'm as ready as I'm going to be for Baby #2. I've purchased all the essentials. I've also kept all the receipts and I haven't opened anything. This is foster care after all. Anything could happen. I'm definitely waiting a bit on some of the big ticket items. Over the next month or so I'm planning on purchasing:
  • a real crib for Russell (I sold mine after Daisy left, remember? Because we were D.O.N.E. with babies. Boy does God have a sense of humor.)
  • a baby bouncer (I believe a friend of mine is bringing one to me when she comes to visit. But I've got a big house and I know I'll probably want two of them.)
  • a second high chair
  • a double stroller
I'm sure I'll end up getting more things. Babies tend to be easier to care for when you've got special baby things. But I also know that babies don't NEED a lot of things. So I'm trying to be reasonable and not spend money when it's not necessary.

TT and Bart are SUPER excited about a baby coming. They are both convinced that she's going to be a cuddler. Mr. Russell is not a cuddler. Russell is all about the moving and grooving 100% of the time he's awake. TT and Bart are sure that because Star is still so little that she will let them hold her and cuddle with her. They're also pretty excited that Star is a girl.

There isn't much more to say. I spent the weekend filling my freezer with more meals and side dishes. I've literally got enough food in the house to feed our family for almost two months without having to go to the grocery store. Now, we like produce, milk, and I'm not going to make all our bread from scratch so I'll still have to shop. But meals are prepped and waiting. Also, Herman finally got his driver's license last week so I've got another human I can send out on errands. Until he's gainfully employed, he's mine to order around. bwahahahahaha

I'll keep y'all posted on Star's arrival and I'm sure when she gets here I'll flood the internet with entirely too many identity-hidden photos.

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.