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!

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.

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

Advocating For Our Little Buddy

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After our last foster child left us, my husband and I were so upset by the minimal requirements to have a child returned, that we vowed not to let another foster child slip through our fingers to less than capable parents if we could help it. At first we thought this meant that we just couldn’t be foster parents any longer. However, we decided that we just needed to use our loss as a learning experience and be more involved advocates for children in our care. Buddy had his permanency hearing recently and it was very important for us that we attend.

We knew that this court hearing was just a formality. The plan would be to continue with foster care. However, we were thrown a little curve ball when the first thing the judge said was that DSS had not made enough effort to locate the bio-dad. Certified letters have been sent to bio-dad’s mother’s house (they live in another state) because he’s supposedly active military serving overseas, although the branch is uncertain. I guess dad at some point denied paternity, but testing was never done. I don’t know what else the judge expects to be done. I tried my own Google search and his name comes up, but I don’t want to spend the $50 to search any further into his records. Bio-mom said that he was a merchant marine, but I looked that up and that’s not an active military branch, so who knows what the truth is.

Bio-mom did not attend the hearing. She chose to attend her visit with Buddy instead. I’m assuming she didn’t even realize she had court. It turns out that they assigned the same lawyer to both mom and dad and it was a conflict of interest, so mom will be assigned a new lawyer. However, she never tried to contact that lawyer at all, so it doesn’t seem to matter who represents her. Likewise, dad has made no contact with his lawyer, so the lawyer was able to drop him as well.

The best part is that the caseworker, Buddy’s lawyer and my husband got to speak on our behalf to say some nice words about us and how well he’s progressing in our care. They also let the judge know our desire to adopt him.

The next hearing will be held in October where hopefully parental rights will be terminated! Bio-mom still has not submitted to a full psychological evaluational or shown up for rehab. She currently lives in a one bedroom apartment with two other roommates. When the caseworker stopped by for her monthly visit, she refused to get out of bed and was hostile toward one of her roommates who tried to wake her. The caseworker has only been able to successfully visit with her once. I don’t know why the caseworker doesn’t go to one of her visits with Buddy and drug test her there. I guess because of the obvious signs of drug use it doesn’t really matter, but I would think the more evidence against her, the better.

I’m glad that Buddy is making progress in our care. The tantrums, hitting, biting and night terrors are all getting better. I’m also grateful that we can be there for him and advocate for him in court, that he actually has a good caseworker and lawyer behind him as well. I’m just hoping that mom wants what’s best for him too.

Photo credit: @Doug88888 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA