Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A meeting at my house

After court on January 29, 2016, I was told that the goal in this case was switched from non-relative adoption back to relative conservatorship. Even though Russell's paternal grandparents failed their home study, they are being considered as a placement option for both of the babies. They were granted two visits with the children before we go to court again and they were told to start attending Russell's doctor appointments.

I met the grandparents for the first time on Monday, February 1st when they came to Russell's ENT appointment. They had their first supervised visit with the children that following Wednesday.

At neither time was it really appropriate for me to have lengthy conversations with the grandparents. At the ENT appointment they were basically meeting him for the first time. (I think they might have seen him one time when Russell was about one year old. But I'm not sure. They're claiming now they didn't know about Russell at all until very recently. And I get the impression they waited until the DNA test results were back before moving forward with wanting custody.)

And at the visit, they didn't really want to talk to me. They were pleasant!! Nice even. Don't get me wrong. They seem like very nice people! They just didn't have anything to say to me. Grandpa speaks limited English and he is the one that has spoken with me. Grandma speaks no English and she's always been busy taking care of the young children they bring with them. But when I asked Grandpa if he had any questions, he said no. He very confidently said he feels capable of taking care of Russell.

This is all good. Really. It could be. If the grandparents truly understand what it means to care for a child like Russell, this could all be OK.

My gut tells me that they don't "get it" though.

I'm not sure they understand that this is a lifetime commitment on a couple levels.
1. I don't think they realize what it means to really care for a child with Down syndrome.
2. I don't think they realize the State wants them to take permanent custody.

As the foster parent though, I play the smallest role when it comes to determining Russell's future. I am to care for him now. I am to trust the State when they choose a placement. And I'm to let go when the time comes.

I know my role.

However, I can still advocate.

It is important – very important – that I advocate from a place that still supports the State's goals. That means I focus on truth...not speculation. And I keep my emotions out of it.

Therefore, I can't tell the lawyer, "I think they're planning on just giving the kids back after CPS closes the case."

That's speculation. And it looks like I'm trying to get them to keep the kids with me.

It doesn't matter if I've read posts on Facebook that point to the idea that they just want to "help Mom out". What I read on Facebook is really irrelevant.

What I can do though is support the State's goals. And if the State wants to consider placing with these grandparents, I can offer to help with the transition.

I stewed on this for quite awhile. I wasn't sure who to talk to or what to say. But with Bopper out due to a surgery she just had, I decided I needed to communicate with Ms. Remus, the babies' lawyer. I sent her a text:
I'm concerned that Russell's grandparents don't really understand his special needs. Bopper is out this week so I can't ask her. But when I helped transition another foster child of mine (that I cared for for almost 2 years) to a kinship placement, the aunt and uncle met with me in my home where we discussed my little girl's severe needs for several hours.
If the State is going to move Russell, I'd like to help transition in a similar way.
It's big things they need to know – like the waiting list Russell is on for services when he's 18 as it is unlikely Russell will every live independently and the wait list is almost that long.
It's also little things like helping the understand Russell's feeding issues and how they relate to his speech therapy goals.
Who could help organize a meeting to go over these details?
Ms. Remus responded, "I will. It's a great idea. What's a good date and time for you?"

I replied, "I can make just about any time work. The only thing, we would need a translator."

It was here that Ms. Remus really impressed me. She told me that she's going to be at this meeting to serve as translator (and obviously to evaluate the grandparents).

That means I'm going to have to clean my house. (lol)

I'm ready for this meeting. I printed off forms from the American Academy of Pediatrics. I also printed off a couple charts that list out developmental milestones - comparing neurotypical kids to those with Down syndrome.
I printed only the small chart on this page.
I printed off pages 8-12 from this list.
And then I printed off the part of each of Russell's last therapy evaluations that lists HIS developmental ages.
Physical therapy:
-- Stationary = 18 months
-- Locomotion = 14 months
-- Object Manipulation = 18 months
Occupational therapy:
-- Grasping = 14 months
-- Visual-Motor Integration = 11 months
Speech therapy:
-- Receptive Language = 5 months
-- Expressive Language = 7 months
It is my goal to help them understand that Russell isn't just a cute baby to take care of. A lot of work has been done to help him get to where he is now. And without continued efforts, he will regress. And while that might not seem like a huge deal when he's 32" long and weighs only 25 pounds...after you've been changing diapers for 3 or 4 years it might be a bigger deal. I also have to explain that things will be very difficult for Russell with communication overall. Unfortunately, there were no Spanish-speaking homes when he needed a foster home. It was determined by everyone involved that it would be better for him to be in an English-speaking foster home closer to his family of origin versus an English-speaking shelter several hours away. (Russell has continued to be exposed to Spanish almost daily in the community and with his mother. But his therapies are in English and English is what we speak in our home.) Russell is going to regress with his language no matter what. And as you can tell, there isn't a lot of room for regression.

I'm trying to not overwhelm everyone with too much information. I'm going to have all of Russell's medical history and I'll go over what each of the specialists do and how often Russell has to see them. I'll then explain what is involved with Russell's weekly therapy sessions. I was very pleased to find out that the therapy company that currently serves Russell travels in a far enough territory that they should be able to continue to serve Russell if he moves to his grandparents' house. (This is very, very good! Russell will have some continuity with people in his life. And yes, his therapies will switch over to being done in Spanish.)

I'm hoping to have a few minutes with Ms. Remus alone. I do have a few questions for her. I want to show her some things I've seen on Facebook so she can hopefully steer the conversation appropriately. She needs to figure out for herself if the grandparents understand that this is a lifetime commitment to Russell on both levels. I also really want to know if I should have the kids packed and ready to go prior to court or not. I want to know what she's going to recommend.

I'm a little uneasy with this meeting taking place in my home. I trust the grandparents. But they will be able to tell Bio Mom where we live. And Bio Mom will be able to tell Star's dad. And I do NOT trust that man.

But on the flip side, my name is on a zillion forms. I have to sign in at every visit. Surely Mom knows my first and last name by now. And if you google my first and last name, you get all my info. So if Star's dad wants to find me...he'll find me.

I had a quick conversation with my forever kids. I reminded them to be mindful if there are strange vehicles in the neighborhood that are circling around. (Our neighborhood does not have any through streets so people in it should be here for a reason.) Ultimately though, I'm not really worried. I know how to dial 911 if necessary.

And meeting with the bio family like this is a VERY good thing!!! If the State decides to place Russell and Star with Russell's grandparents, it's much better for everyone involved for this meeting to take place. They will have a better understanding of their grandson and I will have done everything I can do to advocate for Russell and his well-being.

I appreciate everyone's prayers as this case appears to be coming to an end. As level-headed as I really do feel about this meeting in my home, I will be a nervous wreck. I know that over the next 24 hours, I'm going to spend entirely too much time running different conversations through my mind. I also have to finish cleaning the first floor of my home. My kitchen always seems to be a wreck and laundry is my nemesis.

I'll be ready though. And I'll feel better when it's all over with. Just knowing that Ms. Remus is going to spend time with her clients is a very good thing. I want the decision makers to have all the information possible before they decide things for these babies next week.


Annie said...

I really respect you for doing this and I think it will help the grandparents enormously. I honestly think everyone who wants to care for a child with moderate or severe special needs should have to attend something like this. My husband and I were trying for a while to adopt a child with severe special needs, and although our intentions were good (as I'm guessing the grandparents' are), we were far too casual (and uninformed) about the lifelong level of care that would be required. Not everyone is equipped for the challenge and everyone needs a clear sense of what day-to-day life will actually be like.

Anonymous said...

I know you are doing the right thing. I'm impressed with your emotional strength and resolve! Can you post about how you reconcile & cope with this? Doing your best to make the state's decision work out as well as possible is the best thing to do. But how do you deal with knowing their plan is probably not good? Thus is why we quit fostering. I just deal well when I know the state is making a bad decision. Ours was a bit more clearly a bad placement, but similar concept. Dangerous people will have access to the children. Thanks for AL you do! BLH in SC

Paige Lovelace said...

I think what you did will help the grandparents see just what it takes to take of Russell! I will be praying for you and the grandparents!

Kathy of the HavinsNest said...

You are amazing and I don't know how you do all you do. Prayers for all y'all.

lilbets said...

Thinking of you and hoping the meeting goes well and you feel at peace with it.

Annie said...

I'm glad you are pointing the FB comments out to someone. When it sounded as if you were not going to do this, it occurred to me that the government DOES want to see public comments (even on FB) that suggest someone is involved in terrorism. These ARE public statements and need to be evaluated.