Adoption in Progress!

Our amazing foster care worker came over for her last home visit last week. It was bittersweet because she has been an awesome worker, but it means progress with Buddy’s adoption. We were assigned an adoption caseworker and besides a little hiccup with hubby’s physical, we have all the paperwork in order for her visit next week! I told her I wanted it to go as quickly and painlessly as possible to make our family complete!

The permanency hearing to change the plan from “return to parent” to “adoption” is at the end of the month which is great! Something not so great is that the lawyer for bio-mom can appeal the TPR and hold things up for up to 18 months! I asked the caseworker why he would appeal without a case, and being that he hasn’t seen his client in months. She said that it’s a paycheck. So if he is money hungry enough, he will appeal on her behalf. Fingers crossed and prayers that doesn’t happen!

In other crazy news I ran into bio-mom and her partner (yes, the same one she beat up) at the grocery store! I was talking to the pharmacist about a new prescription when she walked passed me! I said to the pharmacist, “I’m just going to keep talking to you because that’s my son’s bio-mom and there is a warrant out for her arrest and I’m freaking out a little right now!” He said he totally understood and he talked to me until they left in a loud huff: “I don’t want to walk by HER!” (Fine with me!) I immediately called my husband, who was luckily right down the street. He walked around the store with me to get my couple of groceries and then we left.

I called the caseworker from the store, but it was almost 5pm and I got voicemail. I was a mess all night long! I didn’t sleep a wink. She lives in the next town over; of course I was going to run into her eventually. But what if I had Buddy with me? What would she have done? Try to take him? Grab him and hug and kiss him? What could I do about it?

The next day the caseworker called and her only advice was not to go to that store anymore. If we do run into her somewhere else, allow one hug and immediately leave. I should also always carry around a copy of the court decision just in case she did try to grab him and say it was her son. Nerve wracking for sure!

So, fingers crossed that we’ll be planning an adoption party soon and Buddy can take on our name. Foster care has definitely been an adventure and I’m looking to complete that chapter and move on with our lives.

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Life is Amazing

At the time of my last post, I was pretty down in the dumps. I felt like I was just not good enough. I couldn’t land a job. I didn’t get the new foster baby. I didn’t know how things would go with Buddy. I was pretty depressed and feeling lower than low. Well… it’s amazing what a week does!

Buddy got to pet a peacock at the NYS Fair.

We took Buddy to the NYS Fair for opening day and he had a ball going on rides and seeing and petting animals like this peacock, and even got to walk a llama!

We had Buddy’s disposition hearing. I didn’t even have to testify. The judge terminated bio-mom’s rights! The reason why I had a little more confidence in how things would go, was that I knew bio-mom wouldn’t show up to court. She has a warrant out for her arrest for assaulting her partner and there was evidence of her actively using. However, you just never know what the judge is going to do, especially since this is a new judge and this is her first TPR case. Well, she brought up the supposed dad again. We all thought that was done and over with and they did their due diligence. Well, his rights still need to be terminated and that paperwork was never filed. Someone dropped the ball on that one. On a whim, the caseworker decided to give the “dad” a call while we were out on a break. While the caseworker was testifying on the stand, he actually called her back! This is the first contact he has made in the two years of Buddy being in foster care! He said that he was definitely not the dad and bio-mom was actually pregnant when they met! He agreed to sign off on any paperwork! So, we do have to go back to court again, but at least all loose ends will be tied up and then we can go on with the adoption! Well, as long as bio-mom’s lawyer doesn’t appeal and hold things up, but at least we know it’s going to happen!

Then I got offered a job! How awesome is that?! My last workplace was so abusive. So, it’s incredible to work with a nice group of people who truly care and have a passion for what they’re doing. It’s not a farce. Nobody has yelled and screamed at me and I don’t anticipate that they will. It was difficult leaving Buddy, but I got him into a daycare/preschool that I absolutely love. I know that he just craves interacting with other children and he will have the opportunity to do that every day and continue to learn and grow. I know it is the right decision for my family.

I have even more good news, but am going to keep it a secret for a few more weeks!

I’m just really counting my blessings right now. I feel very fortunate to have a loving husband, a beautiful little boy, great family and friends, a good job and more! Things are surely looking up for us and I’m really excited to continue on in this journey.

One Step Closer

“We would have been done in May if we had judge P,” the caseworker said after we walked out of court. Hurry up and wait is the catch phrase for foster care. The judge DID find bio-mom permanently neglectful! I’d love to jump up and down and do a little dance, but we’re not out of the woods yet. We still have to go to disposition in August to decide what’s in the best interest of Buddy.

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The judge said, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that adoption is what is in the best interest of Buddy.” That was like a slap in the face. She continued to say how she knows bio-mom did a bunch of wonderful things while in jail (what else was she going to do while she was in there?) and she should continue to do them while she is out. The caseworker listed the whole slew of things for her to do that she didn’t do previously: psychological evaluation, anger management classes, rehab, parenting classes, etc.

The lawyer for DSS said that at the disposition, the judge can make one of three decisions: Buddy can go back to bio-mom, bio-mom gets more time and Buddy stays in foster care, or he can be adopted. Obviously, we want to adopt him. Since we have had Buddy for over a year, we are able to testify and our lawyer and the DSS lawyer will ask me questions about what we’ve been doing since he’s been in our care. Bio-mom can also get on the stand again and the caseworker will as well. The only part that I’m semi-nervous about is bio-mom’s lawyer cross-examining me. I’ve never testified in court before, and while I think the lawyer has no idea what he’s doing based on how he handled court the last time, it still makes me nervous. And of course there is the judge’s decision.

Then today, the day after finding her permanently neglectful, Buddy had a visit with bio-mom. It was truly reminiscent of a horrible doctor’s appointment Buddy had months ago. I walked into the waiting room and she snatched him away from me and he looked at me in horror as she swung him around, hugging and kissing him. When she put him down and he reached out for me, she wouldn’t let him come to me. Then, a girl who was waiting next to me in the waiting room asked how old he is. I said that he’s three and bio-mom answered at the same time, then sighed and remarked out loud, to no one in particular that the caseworker needed to get here because it was getting really awkward. I was glad I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. I think next time I will wait until just before visit time before coming into the building to avoid these difficult interactions in the future. Once the caseworker came and the three of them played in one of the rooms, I could hear Buddy’s infectious giggle and silly laugh. I was glad that they were able to have fun and interact well with each other. When the hour was up, I scheduled future visits with the caseworker and bio-mom remarked about how hot it was in the room. It was comfortable and air conditioned to me, but it made me wonder if she was hot from playing hard with Buddy or if she is using drugs again already. Time will tell I guess.

The lawyers all seem to think that it will go in our favor. I sure hope so. I don’t know how life could exist without our little man. Hurry up and get here August so that we can complete our little family!

Trials & Tribulations

This was my first time ever going through a court trial. It’s a lot like you see on TV I guess, only not as big or exciting. It won’t be on the news, but it’s pretty meaningful to us.

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The TPR trial started with bio-mom making a fuss because she supposedly hadn’t been able to get ahold of her lawyer. She talked to him before the trial started, so the judge was less than sympathetic. The judge explained the options to her again. She could surrender her rights and get 2 pictures and letters a year, plead guilty and go to disposition, or have a trial and risk no communication at all. She of course, chose a trial.

The caseworker gave her testimony first. She’s awesome and very thorough, so that part was great. Then they called the director of the place where Buddy used to go for visits. That part was horrible. The girl who did the initial evaluation for visits with bio-mom, and the girl who conducted the visits, no longer work there, so they subpoenaed this woman, whose testimony was not good and pretty inaccurate. I don’t know why they even had her testify.

Bio-mom’s lawyer never went to DSS to review the case file and was fumbly and awkward. It was painful to listen to him whenever he opened his mouth. He kept making mistakes & there would be an objection or the judge would have to keep him on track. I almost felt bad.

Bio-mom testified next and dug her own grave. She said several times that she knows she didn’t do any of the things she was required to do and missed many visits. She said that Buddy was taken out from under her unjustly and that caused her to turn to drugs and alcohol (not accurate, but trying to get sympathy I guess.) She said she couldn’t remember many of the details from the last year and a half because of her drug use. She just kept going on and on digging her hole deeper and deeper until the judge finally spoke up and said she really said enough and needed to stop talking.

Then it was over. Now we wait some more.

They also needed to hold a permanency hearing, so they just started it and it will resume in a couple of weeks. I guess that’s when the judge will give her decision. If she finds bio-mom guilty, then we go on to disposition in August to determine what is in the best interest of Buddy. Being adopted by us of course!

If bio-mom is smart, she will surrender her rights at the permanency hearing so she can at least get the pictures and letters. But I know she won’t. She’s stubborn and disillusioned. It’s too bad.

Well, we’re in the home stretch. I’ll keep you updated.

Giving Myself Permission to be Selfish

Again we sat in the waiting room as lawyers were allowed into the court room. It’s really starting to sound like Groundhog’s Day isn’t it?
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When we were allowed in, it was just a repeat of the month before. Bio-mom wants a chance to prove herself once she gets out of jail in June. The fact-finding porting of the TPR is still set for next month, but they’re holding off until August for disposition. My heart sank. August? Why? The caseworker said that it’s a really big deal to take away a parent’s rights. They want to give her every possible chance.

Oh, and by the way, they heard from supposed bio-dad. UMMMM, WHATTTTT????!!!! He is on a ship (Navy, Marines?) until June. The DSS lawyer had a cell phone number. The caseworker didn’t even know about it. I’m hoping that he’s just sick of the letters he’s been receiving for the past year and a half and is going to sign a paper saying that he wants nothing to do with Buddy after never seeing him or having contact with him in 3 years. They did the same thing with bio-mom’s estranged husband a few months back. DSS is all about the drama, I swear!

Anyway, I understand that it’s a big deal to take away a person’s rights to their child. I couldn’t imagine being in bio-mom’s position. The thing is that, I never would be. I’ve never tried a drug in my life and I’ve got a very supportive family. I’ve thought before, how selfish I am for wanting her to give up her child to me. How selfish it is to think I am any more deserving than she is. In the end, what it comes down to is that, she will go right back to her old ways. She will go back to her old friends. She unfortunately has no family to support her. This is about what is best for Buddy and being with us is what is best for him. That might be selfish on my part, but he deserves the safe, secure, nurturing and loving home that we can provide. She is dragging court out for herself, not for him. She didn’t even send him a letter for Christmas or his birthday. How is that being a parent?

So again we wait, but I thought about it and said, so, we’re looking to adopt him in the next six months. That doesn’t sound too bad! We’ve got a lawyer now and he even coached the judge’s son’s soccer team and they’re good friends! These are all positive things.

Hurry Up and Wait

I wrote this after last month’s court date, so here it is, better late than never.

We all filed into the court room with nervous anticipation of what the day could bring. Would we be celebrating the end of Buddy’s 18 months in foster care or disappointed when we’re strung out until another court date?

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When the judge asked the court appointed lawyer about bio-mom’s intentions, he commented that despite having sent her a letter at the jail, he received no response from her and had only met with his client moments before court. He was however, able to find out that she wants Buddy back when she gets out of jail in June.

I know bio-mom will not get Buddy back. It’s too late for that. I’ve been told numerous times that this is a really solid case. I also see her side of things and realize that the closer we get to her release date, the more she thinks she can get him back. Gone are the days of sentimentality surrounding the Christmas holiday and any hints to the possibility of surrender. The lawyer for DSS said that they would offer her a picture and a letter on the condition of a surrender, but had no incentives for her. The judge set up a pretrial date for April to give her one last chance to surrender. She also set aside two full days for the TPR hearing in May.

So, not surprisingly, we were strung out for more court dates. Yes, I’m desperately hoping for a surrender, but I will try not to keep my hopes up. The part that bothered me was actually before court even started. I like Buddy’s caseworker and lawyer. They’re probably among the best, however they are not without their faults. While waiting for court to start in the little waiting room, my husband and I are on pins and needles in anticipation of what the future holds with our little man. Buddy’s lawyer was more concerned with a criminal trial he had to get to and pick a jury for. The caseworker was shooting the breeze with the court police officer. I know it’s just another day for these guys. I’m sure that they have to distance themselves in order to keep sane. However, I couldn’t help but feel that it was all really unprofessional to do in front of us. We felt like nobody cared about Buddy. It was just another day for them.

My husband decided to call an adoption attorney. There are only two in our city that specifically deal with adoptions. I met the woman attorney twice before and wasn’t impressed. She fostered teenagers and basically just let them run the streets. She wasn’t in it to be a “mom.” The other attorney came highly recommended. However, I’m still not working, and the thought of having thousands of dollars in attorney fees just didn’t appeal to me. However, Hubby said he’d work all the overtime he had to, to make sure we had a voice. As it turns out, there is actually a grant available and the costs will be minimal if anything at all! This was good news.

The Waiting Game

I so wish you could see the expression on his face! This boy has swagger!

I so wish you could see the expression on his face! This boy has swagger!

Our TPR court date was postponed again. We don’t know why this time. The caseworker just got an email saying that the date was pushed back to March.

At our last home visit, she also told us that, even if bio-mom relinquished her rights, the adoption probably wouldn’t be finalized until around November (so much for my hope of summer). I figured it would happen right away. So much for what I know. I guess I can always keep my fingers crossed for a really efficient adoption caseworker.

I don’t know about other people, but my earliest memories in life are from when I was three years old. So, with Buddy turning 3, I just want all this to be over for him. I want him to have happy memories. I don’t want him to remember jail visits and having anxiety from different workers coming to the house. I just want him to be “our” kid and not a “foster” kid.

We also found out that bio-mom’s felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors and her sentencing is running concurrently, so she won’t get more time. What that teaches her; I don’t know. It made me sick to my stomach, but it is what it is.

The most ironic thing has been the visits. I was really upset when this program started, and now he’s only had to go once and we got a different worker! So, things have really worked out in our favor as far as all that stuff is concerned. Which is great! How crazy is it that we have had snow days on 3 separate visits (the program follows the school districts)?! Fingers crossed, the last scheduled visit can be a good bye visit and we’ll be done!

We have a call in to Buddy’s lawyer asking him to persuade bio-mom’s lawyer to go talk to her about relinquishing her rights. The caseworker said that her lawyer is lazy and probably wouldn’t see her until five minutes before court started. Buddy’s lawyer is awesome and said that he’d do whatever he could to help the process, so we’re hoping he has some influence.

So, more waiting until next month.

Small Blessings

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Yesterday was our TPR hearing. We were told not to expect much. It would be to just go over paperwork and schedule a date for the trial.

For some reason bio-mom wasn’t brought over from the jail. Then she was given a back-up attorney because hers was away on National Guard Duty. So, then after the paperwork was in order, the judge said bio-mom should be there with her attorney. So she rescheduled for next month.

The judge asked us if we had any questions and I asked if that was the trial date and she said no. It’s basically a re-do. So it seemed like a complete waste of time. One nice thing was that Buddy’s lawyer made a really nice comment to the judge. He said he thinks his client is just where he needs to be for a very long time.

Afterward we talked with the caseworker and she said that she talked to bio-mom on Christmas Eve and she asked her what she should do about the TPR! The caseworker couldn’t come right out and say that she should relinquish her rights, but she told her that they had a really solid case against her. They offered her numerous services and chances and she did nothing. She needed to talk to her lawyer. They offered her lawyer one picture and letter a year if she agreed to give up her rights. Buddy’s lawyer said that he’d do whatever he could to get her to sign them over.

By the time the next court date comes around, bio-mom will have been sentenced for her felony charges as well. That will most likely tack some time onto her June release date.

So, while we’re going nowhere fast and these court dates are always very draining, I felt semi-positive that bio-mom is finally looking out for Buddy’s best interest.

I can’t imagine what it feels like to give up a child. I haven’t wanted to think about that side of things. I wish we could have gotten to know her better so that she could know us better. Unfortunately that was never possible. Maybe jail really has been good for her and she’s had a lot of time to think about the choices she’s made in her life. I hope that, if anything, she will feel good in knowing that she’ll be doing the right thing for Buddy.

Hopefully Feb. 3rd will be a very good day!

Photo credit: symphony of love / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Christmas Past Collides with Christmas Present

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The jail visits continue to be difficult. Buddy is a good actor. He’s very brave as he gets into the van with the transporter, dutifully goes to the visit to see his bio-mom and then returns to daycare a little wild but himself. Once he gets home the meltdown begins. There has been screaming at the top of his lungs, flinging ornaments off the Christmas tree, rice and corn flying through my dining room, tantrums about getting dressed and terrors in the night. But we’re complying with a court order, so it’s ok (say the people who don’t have to deal with the damage that’s being done).

We met with the caseworker today and she said that the judge cannot make the decision of giving bio-mom another chance with Buddy just because she is doing the programs in jail. So that was good to hear. It was up to social services to say that rights should be terminated. Now when we go to TPR on the 7th, bio-mom can either do the right thing and sign over her rights or go to trial. We will most likely go to trial. The hearing would be around March. There are only a handful of people to testify, so hopefully that will move quickly. Also, by that point Buddy will have been with us for over a year and we can hire a lawyer to speak for us. I still have fingers crossed for adoption in the summer.

During the good times, Buddy and I made Christmas cookies and wrapped some presents. We’ve been singing Christmas carols and watching the specials on TV. He’s still a little unsure of the logistics of how the whole deal with Santa works, but he’ll find out soon enough. My family will be coming to our house Christmas Eve for dinner and gifts. On Christmas Day we’ll go to my aunt’s and see the Great Grandparents. Hopefully he won’t be too crazy with all that’s going on over two days. Change in routine + overstimulation = meltdowns & getting up multiple times during the night.

To all the foster parents out there, I wish you the best through this joyous but difficult time of the year and to everyone a Very Merry Christmas!

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Surgery, Court & Jail Visits = Fun Times or Something

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My surgery went well. It turned out that my Lapband did slip and the skin that they put over it to keep it in place had ripped. So it was a good thing I got the surgery after all.

I ended up spending the night, which was not cool at all. I ended up with a roommate that moaned, groaned and coughed incessantly despite saying she was not in any pain. Lucky me!
The cool thing was that a PA came in the room around 8am and said I could go home if I ate a good breakfast and tolerated it okay. I was starving! They had a menu and you order food like room service! I had a ham and cheddar omelet, home fried potatoes and apple juice. It all went down so easy! Then hubby came and picked me up. I was so thankful to go home and sleep in my own bed!

The rescheduled permanency hearing for Buddy was pretty uneventful except that bio-mom got to meet with her lawyer for the first time right before court started and she just lied up a storm. She said that she has everything in place to take Buddy home when she gets out of jail: place to live, clothes and supplies. I wanted to ask her what size he wears so bad! She was homeless last I knew, with no job, so it’s just so hard to sit there and listen to her distorted view of reality. I don’t know why she thinks she’s getting him back when she gets out. She still has to take parenting classes, get a psychological evaluation, take anger management classes and I’m not sure if she’d still have to do rehab or not.
Court lasted all of 10 minutes.

Yesterday I got some pretty upsetting news after I got home from my surgery. Bio-mom applied for this program that they call Headstart (not the preschool). It’s a time for her to spend about an hour to an hour and a half with Buddy twice a month and get parenting lessons. First off, we were told that she probably wouldn’t qualify for it since TPR is scheduled for January 7th. Then, not only does she qualify, but we have to take him to the jail twice a month and the Headstart people want to come to our house and meet with us twice a month on top of the monthly visit we already do with social services. So, five times a month I’m either going to jail or entertaining people in my home because she got locked up! Hopefully we don’t still have to do the regular jail visit too! It’s so not fair to us or Buddy. I’m also sure my husband’s job is going to love him taking all that time off! Buddy has night terrors again and his attitude is horrible since she’s been back in his life. It upsets me so much I’m not going to talk about it anymore.

My husband said that we just need to play the game until TPR. The thing is that bio-mom is not going to sign over her parental rights on the 7th, she’s going to make them go to trial, which will drag things out longer and she’ll still get her time with him.

So, what I am going to think about is the fact that Thanksgiving is this week and I can enjoy a nice dinner with my family! Last year when my dad asked us what we were thankful for, I was in tears because I knew that the foster baby we had was going to go back to his parents soon. Now we have Buddy with us and we’re pretty sure he’s here to stay. I’m so thankful to have him, my amazing husband and a wonderful and supportive family.