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!

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.

Anything But Ordinary

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It was supposed to just be an ordinary permanency hearing… continue with foster care. I told my husband that he didn’t have to take off from work. I was fine going by myself. He’d gone to a couple before and this was my first one. I didn’t mind. This is one time I can honestly say that I’m glad he didn’t listen to me!

Our first surprise was when we were told that bio-mom was on her way from jail. Ummm, what???!!! I didn’t know she even knew the hearing was going on and I didn’t know that they moved her from the justice center to the jail yet (read about jail in my last post here). Apparently she was moved the evening before.

When we got into the court room, bio-mom actually looked presentable (besides being shackled, in an orange jumpsuit and escorted by prison guards). Her hair was clean, neatly brushed and she didn’t have any of her facial piercings in. Then she actually thanked us for taking care of Buddy! … Then she lied to the judge’s face!

She said that she could have gone to rehab through drug court, but decided that she needed to take some time for herself. In actuality, she skipped out on rehab, a warrant was issued for her arrest and she was sent to jail. So… what was the past year that he was in care for if not to take time for herself? She didn’t have to take care of anyone else!

Then she went on to say that she joined NA (after being in jail for less than 24 hours) and will be out in March for good behavior (instead of the year she was sentenced to serve) and everything will be taken care of! Really? You think they’re going to get your kid back in five months because you went to some meetings in jail? Also, she has two felony charges pending. Hopefully she doesn’t just get a slap on the wrist for those, but has to serve some hard time in prison.

To make matters even worse, the judge was a jerk. A month ago when the court papers were filed for the hearing, we didn’t know where bio-mom was. She was MIA and there haven’t been visits in six months. Now, she’s here in court and when the judge asked if she’s getting visits, the answer was no and he flipped out. He said that she is entitled to get weekly visits since the plan is reunification (he didn’t know about the TPR). When the caseworker said that she had been missing and visits were being offered to her on a monthly basis, he didn’t agree and said that she deserves to see her child and he hopes that it’s more than once by the next hearing. The bio-mom spoke up and said to the caseworker that she read in a handbook that she can have the kid on her lap and play with him by herself too! (I guess there is a Head Start program where this could be a reality, but chances are she won’t qualify, fingers crossed).

Oh yeah, and court was rescheduled for a month from now because she wanted a lawyer.

I kept it together for the 15 minutes maybe that we were in court. It seemed like forever. Then when I got out I started to cry. Why was the judge all for the bio-mom who’s in jail and not for Buddy? Where are his rights? Why should he be tormented by visits in jail with some woman he’s barely seen over the past year? He does see his mom, it’s me and I’m there for him every single day!

Our caseworker is awesome and she put some things into perspective for me. Even though the judge was a big jerk and wanted to make sure the visits were happening, it’s actually a good thing because he’s making sure that all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted. DSS is required to offer visits and if they don’t, it could hurt us at TPR. Also, if Buddy has a hard time with the visits, we can make an appointment with the psychologist. The psychologist can then write a letter stating that the visits are negatively impacting Buddy and submit that to the judge. If Buddy has a REALLY hard time and say, screams bloody murder during a visit, the jail officials will kick him out and say that it’s not a good environment for him anyway.

So, I could go to the jail visits with Buddy, but since I could barely hold it together for court, I probably shouldn’t be there with him during a visit. Part of me wants to go, because she doesn’t like me very much and even the caseworker said she might try to attack me. She went off on me at a doctor’s appointment before (read here) because I referred to myself as Mommy. That would suck for her if she did that since they probably don’t like prisoners fighting with visitors.

The caseworker is going to update the hearing paperwork so that the judge has more background as to what has transpired recently, that the TPR is scheduled and also what behaviors Buddy has as a result of visits with bio-mom after not seeing her for so long (which are inevitable).

Needless to say, it was a rough morning. To make me feel better, Hubby took me out to lunch and then we went shopping. What would I ever do without him?

Pray for my little man that the visits aren’t too horrible for him. Since the behaviors are starting already, I know it’s not going to be good. Buddy is an amazing two-year-old little boy who deserves normalcy. He should be worrying about what toy to play with next, not about jail visits and memories of abandonment and neglect. I just want all of this to be over with and for him to be ours.

I know the last couple of posts have been pretty intense. Thanks for listening to me vent.

Photo credit: SalFalko / Foter / CC BY-NC

Doctor’s Appointment Nightmare

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I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but it did include, yelling, swearing, door slamming and hitting and not by my toddler either. Buddy had his follow up doctor’s appointment at the clinic and his bio mom is always invited to attend. She has been pretty hit or miss when it comes to visits, so I wasn’t sure if she would come or not.

As Buddy and I walked from the parking lot to the building, a thin woman with dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, multiple piercings, tattoos and wearing skater shorts on a blustery cold day, ran up behind us saying something. Assuming it was bio mom, I turned around and she introduced herself to me by saying, “that’s my kid.” I said, “hello, my name is Lisa, you must be _______, it’s nice to meet you. She shook my hand and promptly took Buddy out of my arms saying that she never gets to see him anymore.

We rode in uncomfortable silence up to the 4th floor and entered into the empty waiting area because we were the first appointment of the day. It is not the most prompt office and employees trickled in as Buddy and bio mom played with toys and I looked on. Next thing I know, two other people join bio mom. They did not introduce themselves, but took pictures on their cell phones and chatted amongst themselves. Next thing I know, bio mom starts slapping Buddy on his little round belly and loudly exclaims, “You’re so fat! You’re such a fat boy!” I let it go once, but she continued to whack him on his stomach and call him names. I said to her, “we are practicing not hitting, if you could please not do that.” She ignored me. I said it to her three more times while we waited. In the meantime, I frantically text (or is it texted?) my husband because I just had a really bad feeling. I didn’t like how things were going already. Where was the caseworker, where was the receptionist? Why am I alone here?! Luckily, my husband wasn’t too far away and said he’d be there in a few minutes.

The nurse called us into an exam room and the whole entourage got up to go. I said, “I think it’d be best if just mom went in.” She turned to the other people and luckily agreed. Then I began to wonder if that was a good decision. Should I really be alone in a room with a woman who the caseworker described as “hostile?” She needs a police escort when she goes to the DSS office, why doesn’t she need one at the doctor’s office? Where was the caseworker anyway?

Bio mom began spinning around on the doctor’s stool and scooting about the room like it was a race track with Buddy in her arms. Buddy repeatedly reached for me, but she wouldn’t let me take him from her until the nurse returned. We were freezing, but bio mom kept commenting on how hot it was in there and that they should really do something about the temperature (showing signs of using or going through withdrawals). Luckily, hubby and the caseworker, who offered her apologies, came in the room. Buddy needed to get three shots. Bio mom grabbed Buddy from me again and he was pulling at my shirt because he wanted to be with me, so she relented by putting him on the exam table and held him there. Hubby talked to the nurse about Buddy’s progress and his issues.

The nurse came in with the shots, so I told Buddy, “hold Mommy’s hand,” and I tried to comfort him the best that I could.  Then, bio mom flipped out! She said, “I’m not going to take this shit!” and stormed out of the room and slammed the door. I looked over at my husband and asked what he said. The caseworker informed me that it was because I referred to myself as Mommy and bio mom doesn’t like that. I didn’t even do it consciously! I was just trying to comfort the baby! I just started shaking. Out came all the pent up emotions I was feeling since we got there and I told everybody about how she was hitting him on the belly and calling him fat, how she brought the other people and wouldn’t let me hold him when he reached for me… and he’s only two! He doesn’t even understand the term mommy. To him, every woman is mommy and every man is daddy. Why? Because he’s been shuffled all over because she abandoned him! He needs to have a person to call mommy in his life right now!

The caseworker and the nurse were in agreement with me and when bio mom stormed back into the room, they discussed this with her. She said I was damaging his mental health because when he goes back to her, he’s not going to know who’s who. Bio mom ended up leaving in a huff and the doctor told the caseworker that I’m not to be left alone with her ever again.

I couldn’t just go home after all of that, so Buddy and I headed over to a play area at the mall and played and he had some pizza. Then we took out some books at the library. Phewww, what a day!!

Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos / Foter.com / CC BY