Friday, September 30, 2016

My First Halloween

Elmer was placed into DSS custody within his first few days.  He was about two weeks old when Tigger left my home on October 13 of last year.  I did not have any foster placement between that date and when Elmer was discharged from the hospital and placed with me on November 12.  At the time, I was sad that he had been in the hospital, alone, other than a visit from the caseworker, who knows how often.  I wished that someone had told me about Elmer and that I could have visited with him in the hospital before I brought him home.  For four weeks, I was sitting at my house alone as well, without any foster placement or any major responsibility.  I could have been at the hospital, at least a few times a week, rocking that baby, and loving on him, and bringing him clothes and other things.  I know that the nurses really did love on him, but nothing's the same as a mommy's snuggles. 

But last year, I really didn't think about Halloween.  Halloween is one of my favorite times of year (second only to Christmas).  I have been to several different stores in the last month or so, and the Halloween attire always catches my eye.  And when I look at the infant clothes, much of it says "My First Halloween." And then when I think about the fact that I missed Elmer's first Halloween, I get teary-eyed in the middle of the Target clothing section.  I just want to scoop one up and scrawl the words "With My Mom" in a Sharpie marker underneath that "My First Halloween."  But then I think... it's not a forever situation at this point, so I keep walking past, knowing that I will never buy my baby a shirt that says "My First Halloween," full of sadness that I missed this milestone.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Elmer at One

Elmer is almost a year old, and is doing so well!  Most, if not all, of his developmental milestones are ahead of average. 
  • He started standing ten or more seconds on his own and taking a few steps at a time by himself about a month ago.  Now he can stand pretty much as long as he wants, and is walking more and more around the house but still falls a lot.  I have seen him walk 15-20 feet at a time, but sometimes he falls after 4-5 steps. 
  • He wants to feed himself with a spoon, and a couple of weeks ago did pretty well with feeding himself yogurt, although it was messy. 
  • He can say the word "baby," but usually only does it in imitation of me saying it to him first.  He consistently signs "more" (by himself or in response to me asking him if he wants more) to get more food. 
  • Even though he doesn't say much, he understands A LOT.  He knows where his shoes go (will pick one up and put it to his foot) and what a brush is for (puts it up to his head).  He can do motions just by me saying the words "splash", "jump", "boom" (bang onto stuff), and "dance."  And he will hand me his pacifier when I ask for it (without me motioning for it). 
My little monster is having a monster-themed birthday party tomorrow, and we have done it up big!  I can't wait!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adoption is Born Out of Loss

When I really think about it, hoping to adopt a child out of foster care is such a weird situation - especially when the parents are good parents at least some of the time. 

Meeting with Elmer's parents and seeing that they are good with him, and love him, brings some interesting thoughts to mind.  Hoping to adopt him is, in essence, hoping that they will lose their son.  Not that I think they should not lose their rights.  Their history (and even current actions) indicate that there is almost certainly no way they would be able to parent Elmer appropriately and safely 24/7.  But there are times, like in watching them with Elmer at the park, that it is obvious that they do love him and that they even have the potential to be good parents to him if they could ever break free from all of the demons that seem to have haunted them for many many years. 

So it makes me really sad that the only way for his adoption to happen is for these parents, that do obviously love their child, to lose their rights to him.  And for Elmer to lose the life of being raised by his biological parents. 

Adoption is a good thing.  It's even a joyous thing.  But we can't forget that behind the joy, lies tremendous loss for both the parents (whether they voluntarily give up their rights or their rights are taken away) and for the child. 

They Are So Inconsistent

Elmer had another visit with his parents on August 25th.  It was shocking that they visited TWICE in one month!  That weekend, his mom texted me, saying they had meant to send back diapers and wipes with him at the visit, and could we meet up at the park the next day for them to get them to us.  We actually had a busy day that day, so I told her I would touch base later in the week about possibly meeting up the next weekend. 

Not that I WANTED to meet up with his mom and/or dad.  But I knew that doing so would be best for everyone involved, in the end.  If I end up adopting him, it is good for them to see Elmer with me and see that he is happy and how much he loves me (and how much I love him).  And if, heaven forbid, he somehow ends up back with them, I need to see them with him and try to have some sort of relationship so I can maintain some sort of contact. 

So we ended up meeting up at the park on September 4th.  Elmer's mom, dad, and maternal grandmother were all there.  They were all very good with him.  I tried to stay far enough back where I could interact with the adults a little, but where Elmer would not really see me - because I knew he would want me if he did.  Which is exactly what happened when I walked over to look at his ear draining; but I was able to step back again and he was fine. 

We had somewhere else to be so had a reason to leave after about an hour.

And then the caseworker (JATH) told me they had a visit scheduled at the DSS office that Thursday, September 8th.  She came and picked him up and took him to the office, and then the parents didn't show up.  She said she followed through with the visit even though they had not confirmed the night before, because they had been consistent lately. 

And then there was another visit scheduled for today, and JATH said she would let me know yesterday if they had confirmed.  I assumed she would NOT come pick him up if there was no confirmation this time.  I never heard anything, and Elmer was never picked up for a visit. 

I'm pretty sure that the last two visits were not just scheduled by DSS where the mom may not have been aware or actually wanting them.  JATH had told me one time a while back that she was not setting up visits unless the mom requested them (every other week is standard for this county, unless the court orders more often).  So I'm pretty sure the mom initiated these visits, but then didn't follow through with a confirmation once the date actually came.  I'm just glad that Elmer didn't have to get in the car for an hour round-trip for a visit that didn't happen; and that he has no clue that his parents are flaking out on him. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Permanency Planning Trial

Court for permanency planning for Elmer's case was scheduled for August 22.  It was "Standby Case B", meaning it would get heard if there was still time after the main case and Standby Case A. 

For "hearings," each case is on the docket for 15 minutes only, so any contested matters - i.e. if DSS and the family cannot agree - are "continued" for trial. For trials, they will take as much time as needed to present the evidence and for the judge to make a decision.  Hence, sometimes the standby cases get heard on trial day, and sometimes they don't.

Court was planned for a workday for me (the hearings are usually on Fridays, a day that I don't typically work). I had just been out of work sick for ten days a couple of weeks before, so I decided not to take more time off of work for a case that might or might not get heard. 

In the end, the case WAS heard and the caseworker texted me that they got the agreement that the plan would be TPR concurrent with reunification so that the parents would agree.  She said that DSS was still planning on going through with the TPR. 

I wish that I had been there so that I could have seen how things progressed to end up at that point.  I thought that because this was a TRIAL, that it was up to the judge to make a decision and that they didn't need to have the parents agree.  So I don't know if the judge just felt sorry for the parents and so said reunification would be a concurrent goal; or if it was just easier to proceed if the parents agreed; or if this is TRULY a concurrent goal. 

I have had a couple of people ask how those two things could be concurrent goals since they are polar opposites.  It actually is common to have those two goals together.  Meaning, the goal is reunification (as it almost always is in foster care), but knowing that there are often times when the parents can't get it together and so there is a backup goal of TPR/adoption - and all the preparation for the adoption side of things is done if the reunification does not work out.  I understand the concurrent goal as a general concept.  However, in this particular case, I have a hard time wrapping my head around reunification still being any sort of goal, since the parents don't have a treatment plan and agreed to "forego all reasonable efforts to reunite."  So then why is reunification still written down on paper?

Monday, September 5, 2016

11 Months

Elmer is eleven months old now!  And is such a little monster!