Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ten Month Photo Catchup

First trip to the waterpark

Middleton Gardens - up close and personal with lots of animals

We went to my aunt's lakehouse for the weekend.  Elmer stood here for at least ten minutes watching my cousins' kids playing the game.

This is an outfit that Tank wore at 5 months old, shortly after he came to me.  Elmer is 9 months here.

First tooth finally coming through just before nine months old

I took some 9-month pics of Elmer at the park.

That curl.  He's starting to get more in the back, too.

First time with red-sauced pasta

Blurry, but cute!  First Fourth of July

Getting into everything!

"Give me that camera!"

This is Elmer rolling, trying to get away from me because he knew I was trying to take a picture and wanted him to be still!

Ten months old

Saturday, July 30, 2016

It's Not All About Adoption

I have started this post in my head several times, from several different angles based on my then-current situation. 

First, in a position that I felt fairly confident that I will be able to adopt Elmer but just wasn't sure when.

Then, after court when mom named two more relatives, when there was a very real possibility that Elmer may be leaving me. 

And now, when it again looks more like I will be able to adopt him, but (although my brain has always known this) when I have the reality check that no matter what the case looks like, there is always a possibility that a child in foster care will leave.

But no matter what angle I was going to come at this post from, the message was always going to be the same: Foster care is NOT all about adoption.

In my interactions with other foster parents (both online and in person), I have discovered that there are some foster parents who are bitter, angry, and unsatisfied.  And I have discovered that these are usually the foster parents who are ONLY fostering to be able to adopt a child. 

We all have issues with The System.  Many of us have experienced situations where we are sad and angry (and frightened) that children are reunited with parents into a situation that we know is unsafe and the child is very likely to end up back in foster care (or worse).  But if the foster parents have the right mindset for foster care, the number one reason that they are sad and angry is because they fear that CHILD is not going to be safe; not because they are sad and angry that they won't be able to adopt them.   Of course, they may also be sad that they won't be able to adopt them, but that is not the primary thought. 

The goal for children in foster care (at least at the beginning) is always reunification, either with the biological parent(s) or with some other member of the biological family.  That goal may quickly change if the parents have walked away with no contact, or if they are in jail for the next 10 years for example, and there are no family members that are suitable to care for the child.  But most of the time, even a year (or sometimes three) into the case, the goal remains reunification.  The goal in even Elmer's case, whose parents have no treatment plan and have only visited with him three times in eight months, is still officially reunification. 

Foster parents have to enter into foster care with that understanding.  DSS is NOT an adoption agency, and should not be looked at as that by foster parents.  And the foster parents that have the attitude that they are only in it to adopt are miserable with foster care pretty much all the time.  They get mad with any decision that DSS makes toward reunification.  And they often close their home after a child they were hoping to adopt is sent back home. 

I am the first to admit that I would LOVE to adopt Elmer, and even that I hope that happens.  When his parents were not given treatment plans and no relatives stepped up to take care of him, I began to expect that I would adopt him.  And if I am not able to, I will be absolutely Heart.Broken and will have a lot of grieving to do. 

But even at the point that I was expecting to be able to adopt Elmer, I fully understood (and still do) that anything could happen, and that if family members came out of the woodwork that were able to care for him, they would move him to be with that family. 

So if you are considering foster care, PLEASE don't go into it with the sole purpose of adopting a child without the high-ticket price of a private adoption.  You have to be willing and able to support reunification, as long as it is a safe situation, EVEN IF that child would have what you consider a "better" life with you, a life with exposure to more experiences and opportunities.  If you can't support reunification, foster care is not for you. 

It is okay to want to adopt a child that you foster; but you also have to have the mindset that the primary goal is going to be reunification and that anything can happen at any point.  If you don't, you are destined to spend most of your time on the foster care roller coaster being bitter and angry.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Sigh of Relief

At least for now. 

I finally talked with Elmer's caseworker today, after playing phone tag for a few weeks.  She said they did not end up doing home studies on the two relatives that mom named at court last month.  (From what I understood from her, though, neither was a blood relative to Elmer.)

The first was under the impression (from mom) that they would just be taking care of Elmer for a while until mom got him back.  When the caseworker explained that this would be a long-term arrangement, they were no longer interested.

The second apparently has not returned any phone calls to set up a home study. 

And I got a letter in the mail today saying that my home study had been submitted for consideration to be the adoptive family for Elmer. 

So I'm breathing a little easier tonight.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Case Update

Court was June 17th. 

This was both a merits hearing for dad (because he had not shown up the first two times, but court was continued due to the fact that he had a lawyer there), and a permanency planning hearing (to determine what the long-term case plan is). 

As far as the merits hearing, dad was present (maybe not of his own will) and did not contest that DSS was not offering him a treatment plan.  However, they did stipulate that dad could complete treatment on his own. 

As far as permanency planning, DSS recommended the permanency goal be changed to TPR and adoption.  Both parents contested that.  Because it was contested, now there has to be a permanency planning TRIAL for both sides to present testimony and the judge to decide what the permanency plan should be.  (As of right now, I have not heard a trial date.) 

* I did not know that there was a separate permanency planning HEARING and TRIAL.  I do remember a note on one of the previous court notices for another child, saying, "This is scheduled for 15 minutes.  Any contested matters will be continued for trial."  I will say that every time I go to court, I seem to learn something new.  At some point when I feel like I know enough to do so, I want to write a post summarizing the legal process and all of the things that can happen. *

And in the midst of the discussion about permanency planning, the bomb was dropped.  Elmer's mom has named two more relatives that need to be investigated to see if they are feasible placements.  Ugh.  Where were these relatives nine months ago?!  My guess is that they were not willing to take him when there was potential for him to have issues, and now that he is "fine", they are okay with it.  (Or I hope - selfishly - that maybe they are still not okay with it, and mom is just trying to buy time.) 

And it's now a month later, and I haven't heard any more information one way or the other about these other two relatives - if home studies have been completed, what the results were if they have, or if they have declined home studies (as at least one of the other relatives in the past did).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Is One Out of Three Acceptable?

I previously wrote about the start to the adoptions process in this post. I was able to attend the third day of "training" on the first Saturday of May.  (The first two days were already completed when I did my foster care training - this is a day specifically for adoptions, although most of what we went over I already knew from doing foster care.)  One of the discussions during the day was about the fact that when you adopt from foster care, you have to sign an agreement saying you will never use corporal punishment (including spanking) as a form of discipline for that child you adopt.  Although I signed a contract not to use corporal punishment for foster children, and although I don't think I would really use it much anyway as I feel there are many more effective forms of discipline, I was a little surprised to find out that this is dictated for a family even after an adoption has taken place.  The reason is that many of these children have endured physical trauma and/or abuse from their families in their lives, and corporal punishment is likely to trigger major issues for these kids.  But... it just seems that it might be something that no one could truly enforce once an adoption has happened. 

But I digress...

Then in June, Elmer's GAL (guardian ad litem) called saying that she needed to see him before court on the 17th; she gave me only a few days notice, so I had no choice but to have her go see him at daycare.  However, in seven months, she had not ONCE come to the house or seen me interact with Elmer.  I really wanted her to do that so that she could provide first-hand information about where Elmer should end up when it went to the adoptions committee to decide the adoptive family.  So we scheduled a visit for the following week. 

I was off all day on Wednesday, so I ended up scheduling a bunch of different things.  Elmer's adoptions worker (the one who no-showed or cancelled three times) was supposed to come at 9am, the GAL was supposed to come between 9 and 9:30, and the person completing my adoptions home study was supposed to come at 11am.  At 8:55am, the adoptions worker called and said she thought the appointment was at 9:30 and she would need to reschedule; I told her if she could be here by 9:30, to just come on.  I had planned all of these things for a day that I was off, and trying to find a different day that would work would be even harder than adjusting my schedule that day. 

She arrived at 9:30 and was gone by 9:45.  At this point, the GAL still hadn't arrived yet.  I called her to see if she was still planning on coming (as we hadn't set up an exact time), and she said she forgot about it because she had been out sick, but could be here in 20 minutes.  So we waited.  She as well was not here very long.  As soon as she left, I took Elmer to daycare so that I could get back for the adoptions home study.  She was the only of the three appointments that actually showed up on time. 

The adoptions home study was pretty much exactly the same as the foster care home study, except this lady asked a lot more questions that were not in the autobiography packet.  (I don't know if that was a difference between foster and adoption home studies, or just a difference in the two interviewers.)  I also had to ask the foster care home study examiner if she was going to look at the child's room; this adoption examiner asked to see practically every square inch of the house!  The laundry room, the backyard, the bathrooms, the linen closet, on and on. 

She also had to come back a second time as a formality (they said at the foster care home study that they usually come twice, but because I was single, they were able to complete everything they needed to in one visit).  She emailed me July 5th to let me know that she had submitted my home study to DSS that day.  From what I hear, it usually takes about a month for the state to give an answer about the license. 

As a reminder, this adoptions process is on a completely independent and separate timeline from the timeline of Elmer's case.  I actually had her complete the home study as a general one (not specifically for Elmer) so that it would still be valid if things do not end in adoption with Elmer.  (Separate post about Elmer's case coming.) 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Bad Blogger

I have been a bad blogger lately.  I'm going to get back into it.  There is so much stuff to say.

In the meantime, here are Elmer's 8- and 9-month pictures.