Wednesday, June 29, 2016

transportation concerns

Wednesday is the day the babies are supposed to visit the grandparents. Many, many visits were missed in April, May, and the start of June. It wasn't until last week, when I assume Bopper got a little more involved, that Grandma did something different. Instead of no-showing (like what had happened at several other recent visits), Grandma cancelled...but asked to make up the visit.

Grandma had NEVER asked to make up a visit ever before in the history of this case.
Maybe she didn't know she could. 

So, we made up the visit last Friday. I didn't know what to expect today. But I loaded those babies up in our car and drove to the CPS office.

Grandma was there already. She was also there with all five of her children.

This shouldn't be that big of a deal. But Grandma only drives a five passenger vehicle. That means her own children did not travel to said visit safely.

Normally this is something that I stay out of. I have called the police when I see kids visibly walking around in a moving vehicle. But most of the time, there's nothing I can really do if someone else is transporting their children in an unsafe manner.

But THIS - to me anyway - is a big deal.

This is also where it gets VERY complicated.

Children should never be removed from their biological parents simply due to poverty. This is something I believe pretty strongly in. It is better for a family for services to be provided that enable the family to stay together than it is to separate children from their parent(s), put them in a very punitive System, and then make impoverished parents have to work some plan just to get their kids back. Foster care rarely works the way its supposed to. Let's keep as many kids OUT of foster care as we possibly can! m'kay?

That said, I struggle with this when it comes to relative placements. I'm still trying to decide exactly how I feel about it. Because while I believe that requiring a bio parent to have a vehicle is ludicrous – I somehow want to hold relatives to a higher standard if they are being considered for placement. And I'll be honest...I'm not sure that's right on my part.

So, before I go any further, let me vaguely mention that I have many more concerns than just poverty when it comes to placing Russell and Star with these grandparents. I'm only discussing the poverty in this post though. (Poverty in the fact that they don't have the means to purchase a new vehicle that could safely transport their family now...and they certainly don't have the means to purchase a vehicle that could transport their entire family should they get custody of Russell and Star.)

I handed Russell and Star over to the family. They left the waiting room and went back to a visitation room. There were no tears - thank God!!

I then asked if I could come back to the receptionist's office (vs. having to talk through a tiny window) to discuss something with her. She buzzed me through.

I explained that I wasn't trying to meddle but I wanted to bring something, that in my opinion is very serious, to the attention of decision makers at CPS. I told her that Grandma came to the visit and that she did so illegally because her vehicle isn't large enough to accommodate all of her children plus herself. I asked that the receptionist get ahold of the caseworker and/or supervisor. In my naivety, I hoped that someone would discuss this with Grandma before the end of the visit. I never thought that CPS would call the police or prevent her from driving away when it was over. But I hoped it would be discussed.

Think about it - a hospital won't let you leave with your newborn until they've examined your car seat. Shouldn't CPS (Child Protective Services) care just as much about the safety of children? Isn't that their job.

And NO! I don't think that Grandma should have had her children taken from her today. I'm not going there with this post. I just think the safety of her children needed to be addressed with her. This isn't some random, minor thing. She was breaking the law in Texas transporting her children without car seats.
Texas Law:
A person commits an offense if the person operates a passenger vehicle, transports a child who is younger than eight years of age, unless the child is taller than four feet, nine inches, and does not keep the child secured during the operation of the vehicle in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system.
Grandma had four children under the age of 8 with her. None of them were buckled correctly. I believe she had one car seat but I think it was a booster. And if that's where she put her 1yo baby...that was illegal as well.

I spent the two hour visit trying to not be too upset. Russell and Star were safe. I have to compartmentalize everything else. It was HER children that were going to be in transported in a manner that isn't safe and that needs to be on HER.

Mr. Amazing said he would call the cops. He said he knew I wouldn't though and that if he were in my shoes, I'd talk him out of it. My Genius Sister let me vent too. She agreed as well about not calling the police. I couldn't do anything more than tell CPS what I observed and leave everything up to them. If I were to try and involve the police, it would do nothing but damage any kind of a relationship I have with the grandparents and would send a message to CPS that I'm meddling in the case. (I currently have NO relationship with the grandparents. I haven't seen Grandpa since March, at the last visit held in my home. There were 10 cancelled visits. And Grandma is the only one coming to visits now and she speaks no English. She never shows any sort of interest in talking to me about the children - even when a translator is available.)

I got back to the CPS office just before the visit let out. I asked the receptionist if she had contacted the worker and/or the supervisor. (I called Bopper twice during the visit time, but she didn't answer.)

The receptionist said she hadn't talked to anyone.

< insert primal yell that I wanted to - but didn't - scream >

Then the receptionist said something about talking to the visit supervisor. I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes. The third party company that supervises visits in the CPS office has NOTHING to do with the case. They certainly wouldn't care whether or not Grandma transported her own children to and from the visit legally. Their only job is to take notes on the interactions during the visits. They don't redirect anything – they simply take notes.

When Russell and Star came out from the visit, I smiled, took them from Grandma and her kids, and we left to our vehicle. Bart was with me. (I love summertime. Having that extra set of hands after a visit makes things so much easier.) Then I saw two caseworkers coming out of the building. I got an idea. I told Bart to finish buckling the babies and I'd be right back.

One of the things that I've run in to with this case is that I've seen things with my eyes. But because I'm the foster mom - that means NOTHING in the case. For example, back in January, I saw Star's dad in the parking lot after a doctor appointment picking Mom up. Star's dad was deported to Mexico back in September last year. He dropped off the radar for CPS. He's never met his daughter and he has no contact with his CPS lawyer. Mom continues to say over and over (and over and over) that she broke up with him. She says she doesn't know where he's at. She says they have no contact with each other. It's not true. Social media and my own eyes say otherwise. But here, social media isn't used at all in CPS to build a case and my word means very little.

Of course I told Bopper right away when I saw him. But my word alone means nothing. The court would immediately twist it that I was saying things for my own personal gain. That I was meddling.

So me telling Bopper that Grandma drove to the visit with five kids unsafely ultimately means nothing. So I went across the parking lot to the caseworkers.

I was more emotional than I wanted to be. I apologized for that. But I asked if they were caseworkers. When they said yes, I asked them to simply observe Grandma buckling her five children in to a five passenger vehicle. I explained that I was trying to do Bopper a favor so that the information this happened wouldn't be coming from just me. They asked my name and of course I told them. It was awkward. I apologized and made sure they knew I wasn't trying to meddle - I was simply reporting something that happened. I didn't expect anything from them. They thanked me and I thanked them.

I sent Bopper a text message when I got home.

Bopper really needs to grow a set of balls.

Her only response is that she'd "talk to Grandma". Now, granted, that's all that I really wanted to have happen today. But I would have preferred that it be dealt with immediately. It would have been nice if Bopper's supervisor could have been involved today as well. This is a very good reminder that what I want is irrelevant and I have to be OK with that. I am the foster parent. I'm not "part" of the case. My job is to take care of the children and advocate for them within the boundaries of The System. If you're not OK with letting CPS drive the case, so to speak, foster care probably isn't for you.

I told Bopper that two other caseworkers saw it. She thanked me for speaking to them. Because ultimately...Bopper doesn't want to place with the grandparents. She just doesn't have the balls to do anything about it. She's entirely too wishy-washy.

Bopper did tell me that she started to staff this case with her supervisor yesterday. They didn't get to officially go over everything - but she did tell her supervisor that she's not recommending placement right now.

I have to assume there will be another extension in August when we go to court. In the meantime, I will continue to support whatever the State says should happen. That is the biggest reason why all I did today was report facts to CPS. If they determine that the grandparents should have custody, it will be up to me to make the transition to their home a pleasant one. Calling the cops on someone would not have facilitated anything good between the grandparents and me. I cannot damage that potential relationship.


This past weekend, Mr. Amazing took Herman, TT, and Bart to the Texas B.A.C.A. annual camp out. Several hundred kids and even more adults came together for a wonderful weekend of fun. Imagine a weekend filled with biker men and ladies and activities of all sorts: horseback riding, swimming, fishing, crafts, and lots and lots of water gun fights. (My favorite image is a bunch of big biker dudes getting their fingernails painted - because yeah...that happens!)

While my house was empty of big people, I cleaned. My kitchen floor is cleaner than it's been all year. I did all the laundry. I even folded and put it all away. ( joke...only happens about 4 times a year. If that.)

I sent a text to Mr. Amazing telling him that he and the big kids needed to stay away for about two more weeks.

Then I joked that he needed to bring the kids with him to his work detail in Minnesota in July. (He's going to be gone all month.) Then I said, if not that (which isn't really possible), maybe we should put Herman, TT, and Bart in our car and send them to Iowa for a vacation. Herman could handle the road trip and at least they'd get to see our extended family.

Then I stopped joking and thought about that for real. Herman really COULD do this. I'd get two weeks to myself with just the babies. The whole house would be so clean. I'd be able to go to bed early every night. I'd get so much sleep. It sounded blissful.

So Mr. Amazing told the kids. They immediately thought the idea of a "bro trip" would be awesome.

One thing led to another though, and Herman got it in his head that it would only be fun to go to Iowa if his best friend could come along too. And as much as I simply adore Herman's best friend, I knew that wasn't going to work. Herman struggles with his ability to "adult". And if his 16yo friend was along for the ride, Herman would be more teenager than adult and that wouldn't bode well for the two boys he'd be in charge of.

So I looked at my calendar. There weren't any appointments that couldn't be rescheduled coming up. I was caught up with all my freelancing. Maybe - just maybe - I should ask to go on vacation again too.

But what about my sleeping? And cleaning?

Well, I decided that a clean house and sleep isn't as important as seeing my family. I was still really bummed about missing out on our original vacation. So I took my chances and sent a text to Bopper. I asked if she could work a miracle and get me permission to travel out of state by this Friday.

It would either happen immediately or it wouldn't happen at all. Because Mom, Bopper, Bopper's supervisor, all the lawyers, and the judge gave permission before (it just came too late for us to go) -- all that should have to happen is file an advisement with the court changing the travel dates.

Bopper granted me permission to travel.

I am now in the process of figuring out how to pack up six kids (because Herman's best friend is going to come too). We will be leaving for Iowa at the butt-crack of dawn on Friday and driving as far as those six kids will let me go. We'll have one night in a hotel and, Lord willing, I'll pull in the driveway of my mom's house on Saturday. I've got a lot to do in just two days.

My kids get to do Cousins Camp this year. I get to see my family. I get to get out of Texas!! I can't wait! we come!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

the mirror holds the truth

I try to keep my circle of influence large when it comes to foster care and adoption. If the only people you listen to are other foster or adoptive parents – the perspective gets VERY skewed. I often tell y'all to seek out former foster youth (FFY) and adults that were adopted.

Please read this post. It was written by a FFY, adoptive mom, and current foster mom. She knows what she's talking about. I love the imagery. The connections she makes here are real and true – even if they are hard to read and/or believe.

She wants to remain anonymous. She's got very valid reasons for this. But she gave me permission to share her words. This is what she has to say:

**Steps on to soapbox**
I get a lot of PMs about adoption and foster care. A lot a lot. Sometimes it feels like half my friends list is seeking advice about kids they have or want to have.  And I am absolutely ok with that, by the way. I'd rather you come to me than have to sift through damaging facebook groups or read useless books.  However, in the moment, dealing your message individually, I find myself soften. I am empathetic to you as my friend. I hold back a bit about what I think of foster care or adoption and your possible participation in the industry.
So it's easier to make this general post about it. And I might do several posts on a few topics.
Here's one thought that keeps coming back.
You all see my kids as happy, and they are. But you don't see, and I won't advertise, all of the other STUFF. And there's a ton of it.
Many or most of you seem to be Harry Potter fans, so here's a Potterific explanation that occurred to me.
Remember the mirror? The mirror that was supposed to show your heart's desire?
After you adopt, and you love the kids and they love you back and everything is awesome and blah blah blah...
The image in the mirror still exists for them. It always will, and there is never going to be a time when your love somehow "overcomes" the image in the mirror.
You have to be ok with that to adopt. If you are the type of person who is competitive or territorial, adoption is likely NOT for you. If you are possessive or proprietary, adoption is likely NOT for you. If you depend on straight lines and logic and categories, adoption is likely NOT for you. If you need your efforts to be appreciated and need those you love to show gratefulness, DEAR GAWD adoption is not for you.
Because you will never, ever be able to change the image in mirror. And their pain needs to be honored and respected, which means any feels you have about it need to get swallowed. (emphasis mine)

So friends, before you message me and ask about adopting, really sit with this please.
You may be "mom" to them, they may love you with all their heart, you may give them the world... they may not even want contact with their first family...
But the mirror holds the truth. Never forget that.
(emphasis mine)

I am ok with it. I went into this with eyes WIDE open. My acceptance of it all is partly how the kids are so happy. I am secure in what I can and cannot provide.
Before you foster or adopt, make sure you are secure too. Please, please, please.
**steps off soapbox**

Thursday, June 16, 2016

court for Daisy today

Even though I posted about the court hearing today last week, the actual event had slipped my mind this morning. It wasn't until my phone rang at 11:15 with the name of my "source" lit up that I remembered. I immediately took the call.

I'm going to call my "source" Rita. I don't know why I feel the need to keep this person super anonymous - but I do. So I'm going to go with my gut on that.

Anyway, Rita let me know that they were at the courthouse and that she had talked to several people already. She was basically checking in with me to make sure that we still wanted custody of Daisy if necessary. Our answer is still yes. She also wanted to know if I thought Kori (Daisy's mom) would want Daisy placed with us.

I told Rita that Kori and I had stayed in contact all the way to the point in time when Bio Dad's sister got custody of the Flower Girls last year. I told Rita that when the girls came back in to Care the last time, February 2015, that Kori had called me personally and told me she wanted me to have the girls. That's all I could speak of though. I don't know how Kori feels now.

Rita shared with me that Kori originally wanted to gain full custody of Daisy back today. (Kori is delusional.) However, when Kori saw that the State had brought a number of people to testify against her, Kori changed her tune. She decided that she wanted her husband to get custody.

Kori isn't officially divorced from the man that she introduced me to as her ex-husband. Daisy's dad is a boyfriend. Kori is still married to the father of her oldest two children. (Said man has custody of those children.)

The State is trying to make a permanency plan. If necessary, Daisy could be easily placed with us because we would be considered "fictive kin". Daisy was in our care for 10 months and that actually means something. The fact that we're licensed is a big benefit too. Rita told me that a lawyer might call me yet this morning. She said my name had come up several times in conversation. That was about the extent of our conversation though. I hung up and spent the afternoon waiting to hear back.

Oh yeah...I asked...Kori was there when Dandelion was killed. No longer can Kori claim that Bio Dad is just a big teddy bear and it was an accident and she had nothing to do with it. She was there when her daughter died this time.

Time crawled all afternoon.

Just before 5:00pm, Rita finally called.

She did not get called to testify today so she spent the day outside the actual courtroom. She did talk to both the lawyer and the CASA for Daisy. Both individuals have our information. So there's that.

Rita then gave me the low down on what she heard about the hearing.

The most important thing: the judge did not grant custody to Kori's husband. Also, there are no bio family visits at this time.

Praise God!

Daisy has already blown through one foster home. Kori stopped everything when she got custody. No therapies. No medical appointments. And no medications. Daisy is seizing...probably constantly. She's also only sleeping about one hour a night. She shakes and hits herself a lot. It's bad!!

The new foster home is supposedly a very seasoned one that has dealt with special needs kiddos before. They are pending appointments with everything Daisy needs - including some sort of eye surgery.

No one has been charged with the death of Dandelion yet. They are pending autopsy results. Hopefully those will be available soon. Rita indicated they may charge as many people as three in the death. The State wants to hold the aunt that had been given custody responsible as well.

Rita mentioned to me that she discussed the lack of press on this story with others there for the hearing today. Apparently the county this happened in is regularly ignored. I will probably send an email to the reporter I reached out to initially once I hear something else from Rita about the autopsy results. Even Rita said this NEEDS to make the news. The community needs to understand the realities of child abuse. Relatives need to understand they can't take custody and just hand the kids back to the abuser(s).

Another hearing is scheduled for the 30th of this month. Rita said it might be postponed if the autopsy results aren't available yet. She said again that I should expect a phone call from the CASA, if anyone calls me. I'm not holding my breath. But I'll take the call if my phone rings!!

Rita also mentioned that I might be called to testify in the TPR trial. The State wants to expedite TPR under something called "aggravated circumstances". I told her that I can speak to the many conversations I had with Kori during the 10 months I cared for Daisy.

If anyone is feeling particularly bored, I'd love them more than Diet Coke and chocolate if they went back through all my FB posts from 2014 (Jan. - Oct.) and sent me copies of conversations with Kori that I Facebooked about. I told Rita I had some conversations documented. (lol...I didn't tell her it's on my blog) I'm not going to race to do anything yet. But I may need to have dates to link to conversations that I know I had with Kori. Times when she tried to convince me Bio Dad didn't do anything on purpose and all the times she thought I was nuts when I tried to teach her about her daughter's injuries.

Bottom line...Daisy isn't coming today. She's not scheduled to come to us at all. I'm not going to DO anything else other than wait. But I'm here if Daisy needs a permanent home full of family to advocate for her medical needs and to love on her fiercely. (Even if she does only sleep one hour a night.)

Friday, June 10, 2016

another update on Daisy

On May 3, 2016, Daisy's little sister, Dandelion, was murdered by her father. She was shaken/beaten much in the way that Daisy had been.

On May 18, 2016, an adversary hearing was held in the county this happened in. The adversary hearing is also called the "show cause" hearing. It must be held no later than 14 days after the date the child was removed. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether the child's emergency removal was proper and to get temporary orders for the protection of the child until the case is over.

At the adversary hearing, the Judge may decide to return the child home or place the child with a family member. In Daisy's case, she remained in foster care. The adversary hearing is the only chance, for awhile anyway, for the Judge to hear the situation surrounding removal from the point of view of the parent(s). Obviously the Judge ruled to protect Daisy this time around. The Judge kept Daisy in foster care.

Daisy was almost killed by her father back in 2013. Kori, her mother, fought the entire time claiming that it was an accident and that she deserved full custody. Daisy's dad wasn't a bad man. He was just a giant teddy bear. He never meant to hurt Daisy. Foster care wasn't necessary. Kori could protect Daisy.

Obviously Kori was wrong. Dead wrong.

And even though I don't have many details, it looks like Kori still believes she should have custody of Daisy. She still doesn't see her role in any of this.

On May 19, 2016, Kori filed a request for a Trial De Novo. My Google research tells me that this particular trial is not always an easy one to get. You have a very short window in which to file the appropriate paperwork. Kori filed her paperwork less than 24 hours after the initial adversary hearing. This tells me that Kori is seriously working The System again!! At any rate, a Trial De Novo is basically a do-over. It's not like an appeal, where new information cannot be presented. It is a full do-over. Kori is going to go before a Judge and try to present a case as to why she should have custody, right now, of Daisy.

Her child died! Dandelion is dead. Kori was unable to protect her child. She chose to illegally take her children from the permanent guardian they had been assigned to. She chose to move to Central Texas away from where the first case happened. She chose to stay with the man that nearly killed Daisy. And she's going to keep on doing whatever it takes to try and get Daisy back...again.

The Trial De Novo is set for June 16, 2016.

The person that called me originally to tell me about the death of Dandelion has been subpoenaed to testify in the new trial. This contact messaged me yesterday to tell me that they will call me on their way back from the trial to tell me what happened.

I'm very grateful for this! The ONLY information I'm gathering about the new case with Daisy is what I can find posted publicly on the internet. And really, that's not much. The story never did make the news. The reporter at the newspaper I contacted isn't doing any investigative work. They tell me it's a good story - they just don't have time for it.

And even though I made contact with someone who knows someone who knows how to find out where Daisy is...Daisy's current foster family hasn't reached out to me yet. (It's complicated. But they could have.) Either the licensing agency doesn't trust me enough to give the new foster family my information. Or the new foster family was told how to reach me and has decided not to.

Either way - it's wrong.

Daisy deserves better. Daisy deserves for her current caregiver(s) to know about her entire history. And we all know that CPS leaves out crucial details. Shoot...the last time Daisy went into foster care CPS didn't even tell her new foster family about the shunt in Daisy's brain. That's just a minor detail that, if ignored, could have killed Daisy. Shunt malfunction is a real thing.

I've been told that my contact will try to touch base with Daisy's new CPS worker while they are there together at the trial next week. My contact will tell them again that we just want to help.

I'm not holding my breath that I'm going to hear much. But I'm grateful I will hear something. Once I sign on the line for a kid in Care...I give them my all. I never stop loving them. I never stop wanting the best for them. And I will be a resource for the rest of their life in whatever capacity I am allowed.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

cancellation letter

Dear Bopper, Bopper's Supervisor, Licensing Agency Worker, and Ms. Lawson (lawyer for the babies):

I asked for permission to travel out of state on April 12, 2016. We had hoped to leave Friday, June 10 and return to Texas on Friday, June 24. Sadly, the powers that be have been unable to secure this permission or even tell me “no” we can’t go.

I am adamantly opposed to using respite care (not to mention the fact my agency would be unable to secure respite for me at this point in time). Because of that, we are going to cancel our vacation to Iowa. Russell and Star have been with our family for a year now. It would be almost abusive to send them to a stranger’s house for two weeks. I simply couldn’t do that to them. It is unfortunate that they aren’t being given the opportunity to travel with us on a simple vacation. If they were older, this could have been devastating to them. They know my family and have spent time with them. They deserve these opportunities too. Thankfully they don’t know any better right now.

My husband needs to be able to square things away with his employer – and he needs to do that this Friday the 3rd. His boss has extended enough grace waiting this long for an answer about our travel plans. And my husband isn’t going to take time off if he isn’t actually going on a vacation. He needs to tell his boss tomorrow that he will be at work all of June.

If the Department could be so gracious as to grant us permission to travel but allow the actual travel dates to be flexible, we might be able to reschedule this vacation for a different time period yet this summer. But as of right now, too many people’s lives are hanging in balance waiting for an answer. My sister also needs to confirm things with her job as do family members on my husband’s family’s side.

I find it disappointing that so many people have to sign off for permission to travel. I understand that there are extra rules and foster care is complicated. But somehow this seems rather unfair to me and my family. We want to include our foster children equally and the State has made that very difficult. Because of our commitment to the children, we will cancel our vacation rather than disrupt their lives with the alternative.

Thank you,
Cherub Mamma