In attendance: some lady from CPS serving as the moderator, the CPS kinship worker (the State person put in to support Ms. Emily - she does not work with the family of origin), the CPS supervisor over the entire case, Mom, Ms. Emily, and me. Halfway through the meeting, Maternal Grandma and one of Mom's sisters showed up.
The meeting started out with basic introductions. Then the moderator asked Ms. Emily and I to describe the children, one by one. This addressed the positives of the children but, obviously, led to discussions about the challenges of caring for this very large and very young sibling group.
By the time we finished discussing the children, Mom was in tears. She had little to say though. Ms. Emily and I were the only ones discussing the children. We did not discuss visits or behaviors they may or may not have had prior to coming into Care. That was not the focus of the meeting.
The moderator threw things into CPS's court. It was at this time that the CPS supervisor directly asked Ms. Emily if there was anything they could do to keep the Rockstars with her. It was at this time that I prayed hard for Ms. Emily to do what was best for her and, ultimately, the children.
It's not about money. it's not about time. But yet...it's about money. It's about time. And it's SERIOUSLY about the fact that Ms. Emily is sacrificing both to extreme levels while Mom and Dad continue to go out and party all the time. Ms. Emily knows what she's capable for long-term. And CPS made it clear that this case is not currently moving toward family reunification with Mom & Dad at all! There was some hesitation from CPS. They asked and then there was a lot of speaking in sentence fragments. The moderator made a comment. Ms. Emily made a comment how CPS claimed that WIC helps with money. The moderator made another comment. Ms. Emily tried to say how it's not about the money....and how even though WIC is a minor help, it also meant a three-hour visit in the office to get that support. Time that she missed out of her normal day. Time that was stress filled because of having all those small humans with her at the appointment. Everything was in sentence fragments, though. No one wanted to commit to any part of the topic. Everyone seemed to agree. But CPS was scrambling because, if given the chance, they wanted to not have to move the kids.
Finally someone said something and I was able to step in. The bullet points I tried to drive home included:
- I love these kids. But the level of supervision they require is a lot.
- I'm married and I've got two teenagers. I had help. Ms. Emily is a single parent.
- I bring a lot of experience and training to the party that Ms. Emily doesn't have.
- Despite all of this, I know that I can't take these kids back. (I literally said I'd have to hire someone and that's not realistic.)
- I also added that I could NEVER choose which kids to keep and which kids to not keep and I would NOT be party to splitting the sibling group.
- I even went so far as to say I know that I could contact the supervisor and tell him that we'd like to adopt the kids...or even just some of the kids. I'd keep some. Ms. Emily would keep some. And we'd let them all grow up in an open adoption knowing each other and seeing their parents when appropriate. And then I said...but I CANNOT do it. I just can't.
Mom kept crying.
The conversation then shifted to the heartbreaking realities in this case. Once again Mom was told about the timeline. Mom was told that she has to work her case plan. Mom was told...again...that she's let a lot of time lapse and even if she does it all right now, the goals in the case might not change.
I could be wrong, but I believe that Mom's entire case plan includes:
1. have a psycho/social evaluation done
2. participate in individual counseling
3. allow random drug testing to be done
4. attend visits
Right now Mom is not compliant with anything. She claimed, in this very meeting, that she and Dad have both done the court ordered hair follicle drug test. However, CPS said that they do not have any results. Mom said she did it about two weeks ago. CPS said that they typically get results back in a couple days. CPS said they'll check on it.
Odds are, Mom lied.
At this point in time, CPS told Mom was told...again...that the goal in the case is permanent placement with a relative or other fictive kin. Mom was asked if there are any other family members or friends that can take the children. I don't think CPS emphasized the word "permanently" enough. But...he said it. He said it more than once.
Grandma asked about how she could get the kids. CPS explained the generic process again. Mom has to submit the person for consideration and a home study as to be done. Grandma will never pass a home study though. She has extensive CPS and criminal history. (Grandma even mentioned this at the meeting, today.)
As the discussion turned more toward what Mom has to do next, the moderator decided to excuse several of us from the meeting. She escorted Ms. Emily and me, along with the kinship worker, out. Once in the hallway, she stopped Ms. Emily and, in a way, apologized for the meeting. Yes, this meeting was officially in place to try and keep the kids with Ms. Emily. But the moderator said that the other very real purpose of the meeting was to try and help Mom see the seriousness of everything.
Once out in the parking lot, I hugged Ms. Emily. I said, again, that none of this is her fault. She thanked me for being there with her.
I do hope that my input about the children and their behaviors will get recorded accurately in their records. Ms. Emily had been told that, initially, CPS documented that the placement was dissolving due to behaviors from Eddie. Today, we discussed that ALL of the children bring behaviors to the party due to the trauma they've suffered and continue to suffer. Ms. Emily and I had many good things to say about the children. We both wanted it to be perfectly clear that no one child caused this disruption.
I ache for these kids. I hurt for Ms. Emily - who only wanted to do the right thing. I am saddened by Mom and Dad's inability to do what it takes to get their kids back. Both of them must be much more addicted than they seem to be. I honestly don't understand what's keeping them from working their relatively small list of things from the State other than addiction. Neither Mom nor Dad come across as BAD parents. It is so obvious how much they love their kids. Obviously there are generational issues that Mom and Dad haven't been able to overcome. It just makes me hurt for everyone.
I hope Ms. Emily isn't too hard on herself for trying. I'm sure this will haunt her for years to come. But keeping these five children, with very little financial support from the State, and not enough support in her home for the day-to-day issues, isn't a possibility.
I told CPS that they can give my information to future foster parents. I'm willing to remain a support. I am 100% positive I'll never hear from CPS about these kids again. Within the next couple weeks, they'll be moved...either to a shelter all together or split up all over the state...and my involvement will cease completely. It's heartbreaking on so many levels. Especially for the children who never deserved any of this.
Foster care sucks.