Wednesday, October 28, 2015

the twists and turns of a court hearing

I arrived at the courthouse about 30 minutes before our case was to be called. There was NO parking. I had to go a couple of blocks away and park in another lot and walk over to the courthouse. I prayed all the way there. I also looked at every face praying I wouldn't see Star's bio dad.

The babies and I made it to the outside pavilion about 20 minutes before 9:30 (our time slot on the docket). No one from our case was there. So, the babies sat in their stroller and I tried to interact with them some and to not worry.

Eventually, Bopper, our CPS worker, came over to me. She was a fountain of information. In fact, our conversation prior to court is when all the twists and turns came about.

Things Bopper told me:

1. Sylvia (Bio Mom) claimed she didn't know we had court today. Despite it being announced loud and clear at the last hearing, and despite it being her lawyer's responsibility to remind her, Sylvia claimed she didn't know. Sylvia said she would leave right away and try to get there. Bopper told Sylvia that she would advise the court of this if Sylvia was unable to make it on time.

2. Bopper has been told that her text messages can be subpoenaed during trials. Bopper will no longer be texting me any case details, ever. This, of course, is how it should have been all along. I've always been surprised that Bopper would text the things she does. It seems that any information I want about the case will have to be handled over a phone call though. I'm fine with this but I will miss the updates. I always feel bad calling CPS because they are, in all reality, overworked and underpaid. At least with text she can answer at her convenience. But phone calls from now on it is!

3. The biggest news....they found Russell's bio dad. He is NOT in Mexico and never has been. Russell's bio dad, blog name Ivan, is just barely 18 years old. That means he was probably 15 when Russell was conceived. Sylvia had to have been right around 20. I have to assume Sylvia has been lying to CPS about Ivan due to the possibility of statutory rape charges???? Sylvia outright lied about Ivan's age and his whereabouts. Sylvia also had Ivan's mother lie to CPS about his whereabouts.

But Ivan has been found. He's been in a juvenile detention center for about two years. He is not going to be considered for custody placement. However, his mother has said that she'd like to go through a home study.

This grandmother has only met Russell once in his life. And she blatantly lied about her son to CPS. Her son is obviously not an upstanding citizen right now. But I have NO IDEA if Grandma is capable of caring for Russell or not.

Again, CPS is going to run the home study for placement of just one child. This grandmother is going to be considered for Russell only.

-----

We got called into the courtroom right at 9:30am. Sylvia wasn't there but we proceeded anyway. Thankfully Star's dad wasn't there. He claims he's still in Mexico.

As is almost always the case, it was hard to hear all the intimate details of the proceedings. Not only were my two babies babbling and making a lot of noise, but people tend to come and go during the proceedings. At one point in time a family with a young child came in and sat on the other side of me. I had little kid noises coming from both side.

So all I know are the highlights.

1. Sylvia will continue to be allowed to work her service plan. The next thing she has to be able to do is to prove she has a home for the babies that is safe. So far, that has not happened. But since she has a service plan to work, that is part of it...providing stable housing. CPS is to inquire about this housing and do a home assessment if applicable.

2. Russell's bio dad has to be served. There are a lot of legal things that will happen now that we know where Dad is and can contact him directly.

3. CPS was ordered to get the home study done on Ivan's mom right away.

4. Star's bio dad, the man that scares me, has been deported to Mexico after spending time in a federal prison. He's got quite a criminal record with the highlights being as many as five DUI arrests, public intoxication, and a couple of drug charges. This man though has told CPS he will be back in the States soon. (I believe he's even asked for visits with Star, but this was not discussed in court. This is something Bopper told me via text earlier this week.) Star's bio dad was given a service plan to work as well. It includes such things as substance abuse classes, therapy, and various other typical service plan things. (I really didn't want to give this man a blog name. But it's getting harder to write about him without one. So, I guess I'll call him Fabian.)

Fabian has contacted CPS now that he's back in Mexico. He gave them a phone number but he's refused to give them an address. I believe, but don't quote me on this, that his service plan is contingent on him giving them an address and probably him being in the US. The court is making CPS dot every "I" and cross every "T". I don't believe ever that Fabian will work a service plan. But things like this must be offered if CPS is going to want to terminate his parental rights.

5. The TPR hearing was moved from December 4 to January 29. This will allow for Ivan's lawyer to contact Ivan and for him to be properly served. It will also allow for CPS to file their paperwork accordingly.

6. Sylvia showed up about 5 minutes before the hearing was over. She was never addressed formally but did get an opportunity to talk to her lawyer. She cooed over the babies for a second when it was all over. But since it was finished and I wasn't needed, I left.

7. The primary goal in this case still remains Non-Relative Adoption. The concurrent secondary goal is Relative Conservatorship. Bopper told me prior to court that if the home study on Ivan's mom is not favorable, they will be moving to terminate rights and they will move forward with non-relative adoption. I don't believe there are any more home studies for Star as the three that have been submitted thus far have all been negative.

----

I've just got to sit on this for awhile. I can't do anything and nothing changes for me or the babies. They will still go to their visits twice a week. It's still all the fun of regular foster care.

It is my hope that I would be able to meet with Russell's grandmother - if she's serious about wanting to care for Russell. That's what I did with Pumpkin's aunt and uncle. They drove over from El Paso and met with me for several hours. I told them all about Pumpkin, her disabilities and what it's like to care for her. I would like to do the same for Ivan's mom if she's serious about taking custody of Russell.

I question how invested she is though. She's only met Russell once in his life. She's already lied to CPS about her son. And though she was invited to attend court today, she did not come. Perhaps she's only giving lip service to wanting to care for Russell forever.

-----

That's my morning in a nutshell. We go back to court in January.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

mind-blowing news

I've been sitting on some mind-blowing news since Thursday afternoon. I've gone back and forth about whether I want to blog this information or not. Because it's just that...information. I can't DO anything with this information but wait until I hear more.

Then I got to thinking about when I was pregnant with Bart. We had suffered a couple miscarriages over the past few years before his conception. Initially I didn't want to tell anyone I was pregnant in case we lost the baby again. Then I decided that prayers were better and the only way anyone could pray for me and the baby was to know I was pregnant. So we told.

My faith is super important to me. So I do covet all your prayers.

Please know though...I'm not exactly praying for the outcome everyone thinks I should be praying for here. I'm praying for safety and for the best interests of the cherubs' to be taken into consideration. I do NOT know the whole story.

I'll spill though...

Remember Dude and Dolly?
Remember the characters in their story?

I'll refresh for those that don't know....

Dude and Dolly: children I cared for in my home for 27 months. I loved them fiercely. We intervened in their case. Their mother walked out on them from the very beginning. Their father has basically been touring all the jailing facilities where he lives since he was 17 years old.

Grandma N: Dude and Dolly's paternal grandmother. She was older - but not too old to care for these cherubs. However, she did not do a single thing to get to know her grandchildren when they came in to Care. She didn't call them - or even CPS - to see how the kids were doing. She didn't recognize holidays or birthdays with the kids. She totally acted like she did not care about these kids at all. After the State started flying the children to Dallas to see her once a month, she continued to ignore and neglect them during visits. A drug needle even ended up in their suitcase after one of these visits. (Grandma N doesn't use. But several of her adult children do!!!)

Great Grandma P: maternal great grandmother. GGP cared for Dude, Dolly and their mother a lot prior to the cherubs coming in to Care. I believe GGP is the one that called the hotline on their mother that resulted in the cherubs coming to my home back in 2011. She never, ever wanted the cherubs to live with Gma N. But she is in her mid-70s and couldn't take custody of the kids. And as the case progressed, because she was against the kids going to Dallas, CPS did everything they could to limit her contact with the cherubs.

Dude and Dolly mean the world to me. I was devastated when they were sent to live with Gma N. (We were given less than five hours to say goodbye.) You'll have to go through the archives to get the whole story though. Just know, right or wrong, they were MY kids. I wasn't trying to steal them from their bio family. We would have had an open adoption. There were just so many negative things about life in Gma N's home that we legitimately worried for their long-term safety! CPS had an agenda though. Family is always best even when there are obvious signs it's not.

----

THE MIND-BLOWING NEWS:
GGP called me Thursday afternoon. It seems that Grandma N has cancer and has said something about wanting to put Dude and Dolly back in foster care.

 ----

That's it. That's really all I know. And I can't do much with that information.

----

I immediately started Facebook stalking again. Everything GGP told me matches up with small statements made by family members.

GGP doesn't know where the kids are though or who is caring for them. She doesn't even know if Gma N is still hospitalized or not. She is just very worried about their safety and she wants them to come back to our home as opposed to being cared for by any of Gma N's adult children.

----

I'll try to now answer the questions that are sure to come about.
  • No. I can't call the hotline or ask for a welfare check. I don't know anything official. I only have the word of GGP who lives down here - 10+ hours away from Dallas. No one knows where the kids are anyway so I have nothing official I could tell an investigator.
  • Yes. GGP could call the hotline. She actually should. She is a blood relative and her story would be taken much more seriously by CPS. However, it could come across as a feud between maternal and paternal sides. So unless GGP got more official information, she's almost as limited as I am.
  • GGP has several grandchildren and children that live in the Dallas area. She's trying to contact them to see if any of them can get her more information about Dude and Dolly. She's also trying to get a phone number for Gma N so she can talk to her directly.
  • I believe the actual CPS case on Dude and Dolly closed out this past January. They are no longer being monitored by CPS. Rights were never terminated though so Gma N only has PMC (permanent managing conservatorship). If the kids came back into foster care, anything could happen. I bet they'd even offer Mom a case plan again.
  • Because the case closed in their home county, if the cherubs did come back in to foster care, it's likely that a new case would be opened in Dallas County. No one can tell me for sure if their prior history would be a factor at all. I think the ONLY way we'd get a phone call for these kids is if someone in their family told CPS about us AND no one in the family wanted to take them officially. We would qualify as fictive-kin. We're also a licensed foster family with room in our license to take them. But CPS would have to have a reason to move them from Dallas County. Under no circumstances would we "trump" any family that would pass a home study if it came to that. We would only be considered over a brand new foster family (strangers).
  • Even if Gma N is in the hospital - and even if the cherubs are simply being passed around from one family member to another - that doesn't mean that CPS would get involved. Someone would have to prove that they are being abused or neglected. Stable, loving, permanency is not a CPS requirement.
  • Dude and Dolly's bio dad is back in prison again. He's eligible for parole next summer. He is not a candidate for custody at all!!
  • Dude and Dolly's bio mom is living in Houston. She hasn't seen Dude and Dolly for a long, long time. She doesn't even know where they are or how to get ahold of them. (Confirmed by both GGP and several FB statuses on Bio Mom's page.) Bio Mom gave birth to Baby Zippy around 2 years ago (a half-sibling). He lives with Bio Mom's sister. Bio Mom also has another baby boy that she does have custody of though.
I'm an emotional disaster over all this. I want to call people. I want to do everything in my power to protect Dude and Dolly. I feel bad for Gma N. I don't know for sure how she has been parenting Dude and Dolly the last two years. Maybe she was doing right by them. All I know is what I've heard from GGP - and at times I feel like her concerns are skewed by a dislike of the paternal side of the family. (That dislike is justified. But still...)

I have to be very careful though. I can't get in the middle of this. Because everything is still pretty much speculation, anything *I* say or do looks like I'm trying to get the kids back. And that wouldn't be looked on favorably by CPS at all. Because family always trumps foster.

We have room in our home and in our license for them. And yes, we'd adopt all four (Dolly, Dude, Russell, and Star) if that's where the cases ended up.

But for now...all I can do is pray.

Of course I'm praying the cherubs come back to me. But then I stop myself and I reframe this. And then I pray that their best interests are taken into consideration. I want what really is best for them to happen! If they've got safe and loving family in Dallas now - it is best for them to stay with that safe and loving family. In my heart of hearts I know that. But if they aren't safe...if they are being neglected or abused...I want them home with me.

I'm waiting for GGP to get more information. I've told her she should call the hotline. But other than that, all I can do is wait.

And pray.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Russell's communication abilities

This post is just for me. I wrote down all the words that Russell seemed to know as of 07-23-15. I want to save this information but I don't have anywhere convenient started to save it.

Yes, I know I should make a "life book". I take a zillion pictures. And when he leaves (if he leaves) I will make a special book of him. However, if he leaves, I can almost guarantee that the person he will be going to won't be vested in teaching him sign language. They probably won't even speak English. (In the event that I'm wrong, I promise I will transfer information like this over for them.)

That said, this post is for me.  :)

WORDS RUSSELL USES AS OF JULY 23, 2015...

Sign language only:
eat (w/prompt)
more (w/prompt)
music
bounce
play
milk
bye-bye (w/prompt)
hi (w/prompt)
give me (w/prompt)

Spoken only:
gentle
Herman (IRL name of course)
nigh-nigh

Signed and spoken:
ma ma
da da
all done (w/prompt)

Since the surgery, Russell has added more words.

Sign language only:

yes
grapes (w/prompt)
shoes
I love you (he simply puts his hand out in response to our sign)

He also signs a lot of the words above more consistently and without a physical prompt

Russell will consistently point to these body parts when asked:
head
nose
mouth
ears
tummy
feet