Tuesday, June 26, 2018

1000 Days

As of today, Elmer has been in foster care for one thousand days.  That is entirely too long.  Especially for a case where the courts agreed to "forego all reasonable efforts" at just over 100 days in.

TPR trial was April 30th.  Mom tried to get it delayed by not showing up but her lawyer told her if she wanted to have any defense at all, she needed to get to the courthouse by the time her case was called. 

There are several cases scheduled for the same time and while the second was being heard, I was sitting in a pretty much empty lobby with only the caseworker and mom's lawyer.  I heard the phone conversation, in which mom's lawyer pretty much told her that she had no case.
"I'm a good lawyer, ma'am, but I'm not THAT good!"  
(When mom asked if there was anything she could do to get the case heard another day)… "I could go in there and tell the judge that you are on the phone crying, but that's going to go over like a fart in church!"
"You haven't DONE anything."
(When they asked about grandparents' rights so that the grandmother could get him)… "Ma'am, in South Carolina there are no grandparents' rights."
"He is in a stable home where he has been for the last 2 1/2 years and they want to adopt him."
"Your rights are going to be terminated today."

I mean, if your own lawyer is not even on your side, you obviously have absolutely no case.

Mom ended up showing up, got on the stand, and said she didn't feel she was currently in a state to be his parent but wanted her mom to have custody of him until she could get her life back together. 

Grandmother had been asked about taking Elmer back in January 2016 but declined to do so at that time.  DSS lawyer asked Grandmother when she got on the stand how often she has visited with Elmer.  She said she has been to visits "a few times." 

With very few people on the stand and very few questions during the trial, the judge ruled that rights would be terminated.  That by both the mother's and grandmother's own admissions, the mom is not able to be a parent right now.  That if she had not gotten herself together in the last 2 1/2 years, she was not likely to do so.  That it is not about what the mother wants or the grandmother wants, but what is in the best interest of the CHILD - and moving him from the only home he has ever known to a relative that he has only seen a "few" times would definitely not be in his best interest.  

So then we waited until the judge FINALLY got the TPR order signed about 2 weeks ago.  And now we wait 30 days after that to see if the parents will appeal.  I doubt that dad will... and I am hoping that mom won't, but expecting that she will...

I know that I have A LOT of catching up to do here.  One day I'll sit down to write more... Sierra is still here so life is definitely crazy busy!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sierra

sierra.  (see-er-uh)  n.  1. a chain of hills or mountains, the peaks of which suggest the teeth of a saw.

Synonyms: bluff, cliff, elevation, peak, pile, ridge.

On the same day when I experienced a low on the foster care roller coaster (Elmer's TPR trial being continued), I also experienced a peak when I was called for a baby girl.  So Baby Girl's blog name will be Sierra.

Sierra is still in the hospital.  They anticipated discharge last Thursday or Friday, but things changed.  I have been able to go several days and snuggle with her.  She is such a sweet baby with squishy cheeks!  I saw her today, and unfortunately right now she is progressing backwards instead of forwards.  So it doesn't look like she will be released this week, either.  Hopefully she will get back on the upswing soon and can come home early next week, but the doctors say she is not really following any protocol so it is pretty much impossible to predict when her discharge will be.  Pray for Sierra to start making improvements and move her way out of the hospital!


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Highs and Lows

I had been waiting for a TPR Trial since our last court date on September 15th. 

And I had been waiting specifically for it to be yesterday for the last two months.

During that time, I have been anticipating that the ruling would be "Termination of Parental Rights."  And for the last several weeks, every time I have thought about that, I have gotten sad.  I want nothing more than for this little boy to be mine forever.  But it makes me terribly sad that his parents' rights have to be taken away from them in order for that to happen.  I'm not saying that is not what SHOULD happen, because neither of them has shown any capability to be a safe and successful parent, either before Elmer was born or since then.  But the overwhelming emotion for me in recent weeks when thinking about Elmer's TPR has been sadness - both for his parents and for his loss of his biological parents.

{During that time, I also have been anticipating that at least Bio Mom will appeal the TPR ruling.}

So when I walked into the courtroom yesterday morning, listened to the DSS attorney say that the case was being continued because the parents' lawyers were not served in the required time frame, and walked out less than three minutes later with no progress made on this case, the sadness rushed over me for an entirely different reason.

I am sure that we won't have a new trial until at least April or May.  I am so ready for this baby to have permanency and to know that he is never leaving.  And there is NO EXCUSE for the lawyers not to be served.  Parents, sometimes you can't find them to serve them.  Lawyers not being served, someone just didn't do their job.

So I went back to work after a nice big ice cream sundae, and less than two hours later got a call asking if I was interested in taking placement of a four-week old baby girl when she is released from the hospital later this week.  I told the worker I would call her back in 10 minutes after I determined if I could figure out childcare until she could go to daycare at 6 weeks.  When I figured out that I would only need help for next week because she will be six weeks old by the following week, I called the worker back and told her "Yes!"

Now we are in a holding pattern to see when she will actually be released, I have told Elmer that a baby is coming, and I am waiting to hold a sweet baby girl in my arms.


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.