Saturday, January 13, 2018

Christmas letters

Every year, I write a letter summarizing my year to include with my Christmas cards.  As I was packing away my Christmas decorations, I came across the letter from last year.

"Elmer is still with me and is now almost 15 months old.  I am hoping to be able to adopt him.  Right now, we are waiting on the legal department to file for a court date for TPR (termination of parental rights) trial."

A year later, here is what my 2017 Christmas letter says.

"In terms of Elmer's status in foster care, a trial date for Termination of Parental Rights is set for February 5th. I feel fairly confident their rights will be terminated, but then the parents will have the right to appeal that decision, and it wouldn't surprise me if they did.  All my paperwork and approval has already been completed for me to adopt him, and I am hoping that will happen in 2018! (If the parents appeal, that probably won't happen, so all fingers/toes crossed that they don't appeal!)"

Has time just stood still for the last twelve months?!

Monday, December 11, 2017

TPR Trial Court Date, Take 2

Eight months ago, I posted that Elmer's TPR trial date was set for June 16th, 2017.

I had misunderstood at the time, and that date was actually for a TPR hearing.

Which then got "continued" until September 15th.

Which then the parents contested DSS's recommendation to terminate their parental rights. And Bio Mom requested the next court date be set for 3-6 months out so she could go to rehab, a request which the judge very quickly denied.

And here I am again posting that we have a TPR trial date set for February 5, 2018.  Almost five months from the last time we were in court, when the judge denied mom's request to delay trial for 3-6 months.

Neither bio parent has walked a straight and narrow path during the time Elmer has been in foster care, and both have made some poor decisions in the recent past.  So I am fairly certain the judge will rule that their rights will be terminated.  But then the parents have 30 days to appeal that ruling.  (And it is actually 30 days after the judge signs the paperwork, which is not always the day of court).  THAT is where the uncertainty comes in for me - I think there is at least a 50% chance that at least one parent will appeal.  I'm just hoping they don't and this child can get some permanency before his third birthday.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pre-Adoptive Status

I went last week to sign paperwork to change Elmer's placement status from "foster home" to "pre-adoptive home."  That doesn't mean anything in terms of the progression of his legal case, or that anything has happened there to move us closer to adoption.  It just means that the primary goal of his case is TPR, DSS has filed a motion to the court to have a TPR trial, and that everything is in order for adoption once TPR is granted.

Apparently, it looks better at the TPR trial if DSS can say, "We have him placed in a pre-adoptive home - one that has bonded with him and desires to adopt him if parents' rights are terminated."

It means that I am the family that has been chosen for adoption. It means that once rights are terminated, I only have to sign a form and then I can proceed with getting a lawyer and filing for an adoption date.

What this meeting consisted of:
- The adoptions worker had written up a detailed summary of all of Elmer's information - behaviors, birth and other medical history, current functioning, sleep habits, etc.  And then had to verbally read it to me word for word.  (Funny how much of this information came directly from me, but yet they have to read it to me.)  I get why they have to do it that way - they don't want any adoptive family saying that they were not informed of a piece of information, or that they overlooked that piece in the written summary.  Many times, this meeting is the first time a potential adoptive family is getting any information on the child, and they have to decide whether to accept this child for adoption or not.
- The supervisor had a contract of what would happen after adoption, including continuing stipend, continuing Medicaid coverage, and all of the responsibilities of the adoptive family.  This document also had to be read verbally to me word for word.  Including phone numbers every time they were written out.
- Signing all of these documents, basically indicating that I have all this information, and I am willing to accept this child for a pre-adoptive placement.
- I also received two full manila envelopes of copies of all of Elmer's medical records (basically from the NICU).

Even though pretty much everything they read to me were pieces of information that I already knew, hearing some of the things in his history verbally read out loud, especially in summary form, hit me hard.  Made me sad for Elmer and all he had to endure before he came here.

I have not even tackled the medical information yet.  I want to read it word-for-word.  I'm sure I will have myself a good old cry over it, because my understanding is that there were times they were not sure if Elmer was going to live.

At least now I have a sigh of relief because it is official that I (and not someone else) would be the adoptive home once parental rights are terminated.

Still waiting on a court date for that to happen.

Friday, October 27, 2017

So Long

Elmer's TPR Hearing was again set for Sept 15th.

Bio dad did not come because he "couldn't get a ride."  Bio dad's lawyer wasn't there because of "traffic," but bio mom's lawyer had talked to BD's lawyer and would stand in.

BM named another placement option in court, including with name, phone number, and address... the paternal grandmother of Elmer's half-siblings (so, no blood relation to Elmer - and I thought to myself, "I'm just as much a relative as this person is, if not more so.")  The caseworker assured me they would not be moving Elmer there, even if she passed a home study.  {And turned out that when the caseworker called the "relative" to set up a case study, she said she was not interested in being a placement option.}

DSS moved for parents' rights to be terminated (TPR).  BM and BD contested.  Which means now it has to go to a trial for the judge to decide if rights will be terminated or not.  BM's lawyer said that BM was planning on going to rehab that day, and requested the TPR trial to be set 3-6 months out.  The judge did not pause even a second and said, "No, ma'am."

I thought that of course, in reality, the trial will likely be at least 3 months out anyway because it seems to take at least that long to get something on the docket.  As of now, a trial date still hasn't been set, so looks like I was right.

So still we sit here and wait.

Monday, October 16, 2017

It's Not All About the Kids

In a perfect world, the things that happen in the foster care system would all be based on what is best for the children.  In reality, that often does not happen.  Sometimes it is because procedures are set up otherwise.  Sometimes it is due to the huge caseload that the workers have.  Sometimes it is because logistics don't allow it (or make it much easier to do otherwise).  Sometimes people just don't care.

Some examples that I have personally encountered (or had local foster mama friends encounter) in the last six months or so:

I received a call for a 20-month old when Elmer was 18 months old.  I said that I would accept the placement.  I started asking questions, including if they already had the child in the office (often they are not there yet so it may take many hours before I am needed; and sometimes they don't actually end up needing placement in my home).  "Well, actually he is already in another home now, but they felt he needed more one-on-one attention."  Excuse me?!  This is my personal licensing worker so she has been to my home for my licensing visits and is familiar with my situation. 

I said, "Do you remember that I have an 18 month old in my home already?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Well, he definitely wouldn't be getting one-on-one attention, since that is such a demanding age."

"Well, that's just what the other foster family felt."

So I would think that, for the sake of that child, you should abide by that when trying to place that child.  I ended up saying that I was not comfortable taking placement of that child unless I could talk to the previous foster family and/or caseworker and determine if it would be a good fit for the child.  And they ended up finding another place.


My friend got her first foster placement of a 3-year old.  After he had been with her for about a month, she knew they were having court and that there was a chance the child would be moved to the grandmother's home.  She tried to prepare the child that morning and told him that he might be going to stay with his grandmother but that she would pick him up and tell him goodbye.  She never heard anything from the caseworker, and then when she arrived at daycare to pick the child up, they told her that the caseworker had already come and picked him up to take him back to grandma.  Of course she was devastated she couldn't say goodbye, but was also sad and worried that the child had been scared or traumatized because he didn't know what was going on.  If it had been an infant, the child probably would not be affected one way or the other, but being that this child was three, he should have had a little smoother transition. 


TT adopted Twin in Feb 2016, and then a new little girl (Spark) in Feb 2017.  In January 2017, when Twin's half-sister came into care, TT requested placement with her so the two sisters could be together.  It is pretty obvious this case will go to adoption as well, so shortly after Spark's adoption, TT called the adoption office to see what she needed to do to keep her adoption file current/up-to-date.  The adoptions worker's response?  "You know... we do like to give other people a chance at adoption!"  Because it's about letting people adopt, not what is best for the child - to be placed with a sibling and ultimately to be adopted by the foster mom who she has been with since she came into care.  


So in early September, when I decided that it was just not going to work with PB placed here and that I needed to request new placement for him, I was VERY hesitant and nervous.  Especially because of the first situation that I described above.  I did not want them to just find him a warm bed to get him out of here.  Things were not so bad that he had to be moved "TODAY," so I wanted them to take the time to try to find a place that was going to be a good fit for both him and the family.  

I made the request to his caseworker, who said I also needed to let my licensing/placement worker know.  So I did (both via email and voice mail), on a Wednesday/Thursday.  Sunday night I checked my email (I usually only check personal email once or twice a week) to find an email from the licensing worker that I needed to call his caseworker and she would then contact Foster Family Licensing and Support.  Ok.  I already did, and YOU are part of Foster Family and Licensing Support!  So this is just the runaround.  And then it was Labor Day.  And then Hurricane Irma (almost) came through so all hands were on deck to make sure all the kids were taken care of for that.  So over two weeks later, I emailed to check and make sure the placement change for PB was still in process (and hadn't gotten lost in the shuffle of everything else), and was told "We continue to search for new placement for him." And then a few hours later, the caseworker called to say she would be picking him up later that day.  

Fast forward a few days when a new foster family posted in our Facebook group asking about daycare.  I figured out that this was the family who got PB.  And through private conversation, found out that they had been told he was 4 years old.  When a 20 MONTH old arrived on their doorstep and their age range was actually 3-6 years, they said he could stay but they would give it 30 days and see how it went.  

As of now (more than 30 days later), he is still in that home.  But it makes me SICK to think that he might have to get uprooted AGAIN because someone either A) lied about his age to get him placed, knowing this family's range was 3-6 years, or B) took so little time to get the details about the situation that she didn't even check his file for his age. 

Definitely NOT all about the kids.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

I Want to Go to Disney World

Elmer LOVES Mickey Mouse, and really has for at least the last year.  The thought has been swirling around in my head for about six months now that I would like to take him sometime.  Then I thought, "Going in celebration of his adoption would be fun." 

I volunteer with a baseball league for kids with special needs, with many of my former patients.  Each spring, a local car dealership draws the names of ten players that will get a trip to Disney World.  This is an all-expenses paid trip for the child and three family members.  It amazes me that they continue to do this year after year.  This year, three of the ten winners were former patients of mine, and two of them posted a bunch of pictures of their trips this past weekend. 

Several other friends were also taking a trip to Disney this past weekend and posted pictures. 

I was so happy to see the moments of joy as these girls have the trip of a lifetime! And enjoyed looking at my other friends' pictures as well!  But every time I logged on and saw more Disney pictures, a part of me was sad that our Disney trip is not even on the horizon yet. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Court Continued

We had Elmer's TPR Hearing court date on June 16.  The week before, his caseworker asked if I had heard anything from his mom, and said that when they tried to serve her at the address on file, someone said she didn't live there and they didn't have a current address.  (The address is her mom's house, so... yeah, right... they didn't have a current address!  And then when the caseworker finally got in touch with mom a couple of days before court, she gave the exact same address they already had on file!) 

So court was already continued (cancelled for that day) because they were unable to serve the mom.  But then there was also an issue with the state-appointed lawyers of mom and dad, so they had to get that straightened out as well.  So I think that court would have been continued no matter what. 

Mom ended up showing up about 15 minutes after court was over.  We talked, and she wanted to know if I would let her see Elmer if I adopted him.  I told her that as long as she was clean, sober, and safe, that I would allow contact.  She also asked if I would change Elmer's name.  I did not want to discuss this before the actual adoption, but I wasn't going to lie to her face, so I told her that yes, I would probably change his name.  (Separate post about the name change to come.)  She mentioned that bio dad says, "That's my Junior" but I mentioned that even if I didn't change his first name, his last name would change and so either way he would no longer be a Junior.  Mom also told me the street she lives on and a pretty good description of the house, and it is about five minutes from my house, so I am going to drive by and see if I can get an alternate address for Legal to use to serve mom next time. 

So now we wait... again... for another TPR Hearing date.  And I anticipate that parents will contest the TPR at that hearing, which would mean that we would have to go to a TPR trial.  Such a long process for a case where the parents never had a treatment plan!