Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Almost....there

The local sports news is full of signing dates right now as various players "commit" to play football in college. We have a different -- much more life-changing --  kind of signing date coming up!

The county caseworker finally has all her stuff together and we will be signing the Intent to Adopt paperwork later this week. Once we've done that, the lawyer gets involved and as soon as she gets all the paperwork she needs and files it, we can set a court date. And the lawyer is fantastic, so I'm confident things will move quickly from that point on. She says to expect a court date in February.

C will turn 6 months old in February.

Whenever I get frustrated by the "delays", I make myself repeat the above sentence. 6 months old and legally adopted? That's ridiculously fast, even for a case as simple as this one was. We just got spoiled by Lucy's county caseworker who probably would have had us final before Christmas. 

One of the questions DFCS had for us recently was about whether we would continue to foster after the adoption. We gave the same answer we had after Lucy's adoption; in general, no, but we would like to be notified if another biological sibling comes into play and we would make the decision at that time about whether we'd be open to another one. Just typing that makes me a little terrified. I really, really don't see how we could make another placement work in the next 2.5 years. And after that? I don't know if I could plunge us all back into this system after having been out of it for so long. But, we will cross that bridge if (or when) it is before us. It's honestly hard to believe (given the girls' birth mother's track record) that there won't be another baby, eventually.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Random Updates for the New Year

  • We still don't have a finalization date for C's adoption. The new caseworker has a new reason every month for why she isn't ready to schedule a meeting for us to finalize the paperwork. (October: She has everything she needs, just needs to write this narrative. November: She's missing something, so agency caseworker forwards her the email (sent in early October) providing her (again) the items she's missing . December: She just needs to write this narrative. January: someone will be calling us soon with some questions (thought we did that months ago, too?) Wonder what the February excuse will be. At this rate, she'll probably be "missing something" again....)
  • Since DFCS has let this slip into the new year, I'm going to spend another clothing allowance. I was feeling a little guilty about that, knowing how thin the resources are in foster care; the case manager's lack of organization has gone a long way towards helping me get over that! I'll buy the girls both Easter dresses and some other "fill-in" items in C's next size up as well as in Lucy's. Lucy's next size up will be 2T and once we hit 3T, I have quite the stash of hand-me-downs. The clothing allowance may be for C, but she'll wear the things I buy for Lucy eventually and I still have all of Lucy's hand-me-downs from the last year or so so there's no point in trying to buy for those sizes.
  • Speaking of benefits I don't think we should still be getting, C's next WIC follow-up visit is next Wednesday, so we'll probably have another 3 months of her formula covered. At 5 months old, she's only just started eating some cereal, so there's still a lot of formula to buy in the next few months.
  • It's already time to think about preschool for Lucy for next fall. I love my church (and the preschool there), but we live 30 minutes away. Having an hour of travel time during a 3 hour class window drastically lessens the list of things I can get accomplished while the child is in school. So, we are researching closer options. And having to think about things like: 2 or 3 days a week? 3 or 4 hour days?
  • Lucy's favorite word right now is "No." Fun with the terrible twos and she's not even quite two years old yet!. (It would probably help if I could always resist the urge to laugh or smile when she's so matter-of-fact about it. I say it's "time to go!" and she replies, oh so sweetly and reasonably, with a smile: "No." )
  •  I googled their biological mother for the first time in a while. She was arrested just before Thanksgiving and tested positive for several drugs. So, the "surrendering rights to C so she can focus on getting and staying clean" plan hasn't really stuck. It makes me sad, because I keep hoping that she'll be ready and able to make that change in her life that will allow us to include her in the lives of her daughters as they grow up. Right now, the drug use makes her too unstable for any kind of contact to be an option.
  • Nothing turns up on google for their biological father. I don't know whether he's clean or just not getting caught. He's not interested in contact, so there's none there either.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pause

So, I was tempted to title this "Screeching Halt" but that would imply something has actually gone wrong with the process of adopting C. And it hasn't. We've just hit one of those annoying little periods where we are SO CLOSE to being done and waiting on JUST ONE THING and it's . . . just . . . not . . . getting . . . done.

I got a call the week before Thanksgiving from the caseworker. I got excited, hoping she was calling to schedule a time for us to come sign the Intent to Adopt paperwork.

She was calling for our Christmas list for C.

I'm not ungrateful for the people who are willing to shop and buy for kids in foster care so they can have as "normal" a holiday as possible. I'm eternally grateful for those who made it possible for our previous placements.

But.

C is 4 months old.

She is in a home with a same-sex sibling only a year and a half older than she is.

She needs nothing.

I couldn't even come up with one idea. The caseworker wouldn't let me just take her off their list, though, so we ended up with a list that says "clothing and diapers" in the next size up from what she's wearing now. 

Anyway, I asked about the status of the adoption case, since I had her on the phone.

We will not be finalizing in 2015. We may not even be signing paperwork in 2015. She said she has everything. There is a "narrative" she has to write (agency caseworker has no idea what she's talking about) before she can put together the paperwork for us to sign. She wasn't going to get to that in November and wasn't even certain she'd get to it early this month. And I KNOW and UNDERSTAND that we are not her only priority or even her highest one, most likely. I was hoping, though, we'd be one of those "get it done and off my plate" kind of things and she'd be efficient about it for that reason.

We have a meeting this week, so we'll see if I learn any more about where we are in the process.

I'm disappointed -- that we can't be done this tax year for financial reasons, that we can't have 2 "Christmas" adoptions, that we can't send out Christmas/adoption announcement cards -- but, in the long run, it's not that big a deal. Still kinda hoping for January, so we can maybe sound out New Year's/adoption announcment cards? On the other hand, at this point, it probably works better financially to not sign Intent to Adopt paperwork until January, so she gets the new year clothing allowance. Except, all she's getting for Christmas is clothes, so I'd have to spend the clothing allowance on her future prom dress at this rate!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

DNA Results

We have confirmation of paternity! The DNA results (finally!) came in and they show that C's father is the person who surrendered his rights and is also Lucy's father.

So, they are full biological sisters.

More importantly, we don't have to search out a different biological father and figure out if he (or his relatives) are going to take custody of C.

Now, we just move through the final hoop jumping and red tape of paperwork.

We're still being told a finalization date in December is a possibility. Mr D is hoping for it; I'm trying not to get my heart set on that. We shall see. It's all going to depend on how quickly this paperwork gets filed and signed off on. We've told the caseworker that we will essentially drop everything and come running at her call to sign the Intent to Adopt paperwork.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Permanency In Sight

We met with the new caseworker this morning. She is experienced in child welfare, but is really a supervisor. This means, among other things, she knows what needs to be done and how to do it. I suspect it also means that she's got way too much on her plate, trying to do her actual job and cover the day-to-day of cases at the same time. However, her reaction to that last fact appears to be a desire to get this case completed and done and out of the way. Perhaps The Powers That Be were smart enough to only have her take on things like this that could wrap up and go away in a reasonable amount of time.

The home conversion is complete and was sent to DFCS yesterday.

The Child Life History will be complete any day now if it isn't already. (Caseworker was told on Friday that it was "almost done" and the author called us on Sunday to ask a few questions she needed to know to "wrap it up.") The caseworker hadn't received it yet, but she also hadn't been into the office yet today.

The 6 month rule -- the one that says they can't finalize an adoption until the child has been in the home for at least 6 months -- will be waived. The fact that she is being adopted into a home that contains her biological sibling (who was also adopted) makes the case for it being in C's "best interest" to move things along. (If we were waiting out the 6 months, the earliest we could finalize would be mid-March.)

The adoption assistance requires that the caseworker do a few extra steps to "apply" for it. The application process appears to be a rubber stamp type scenario, at least in this case. Caseworker says she'll do the application from home tomorrow (Veteran's Day) because she's "off." (Federal Holiday=DFCS office closed. To her, this clearly means some time to work uninterrupted on paperwork. No wonder caseworkers burn out.) She expects to have the approval for the adoption assistance back by Friday.

We still don't have DNA results. Caseworker texted the person in charge of those while we were in our meeting and said he is usually pretty responsive to her, but didn't hear back while she was here. That's really the only outstanding piece. We can't sign Intent to Adopt paperwork until we know for sure that the man who surrendered his rights is actually her father. It's been 7 weeks. At the time the samples were taken, we were told 2-4, but knew we were told that for Lucy and hers took 6. Yesterday, caseworker said it's been taking 6-8 weeks, but she still followed up even though we're still within that window.

We mentioned that we'd love to have another December adoption date -- last year's Christmas card doubled as an adoption announcement and we were able to have the baptism while family was in town for the holidays -- and that we'd signed Lucy's Intent to Adopt paperwork in late November. Caseworker asked who our lawyer was; upon hearing the answer, she said that was still possible. Cases with that lawyer lately have been going to court about 3 weeks after signing. It all depends on how much longer the DNA takes. I got the impression she'd love to do a November signing date -- it would mean she doesn't have to do a home visit in December.

C is 3 months old right now. Part of me is marveling at the speed of this case. (OK, that part shows up whenever I think about how old C is. 3 months. We could be signing Intent to Adopt paperwork on a 3 month old. We could be finalizing the adoption when she is 4 months old.) The day-to-day, self-centered part of me is ready for the red tape to be over so we can move on with our forever family lives.

Balancing our experience against reading Rebecca at Fosterhood (especially the dragging out of Sandy's permanency) and Cherub Mamma (especially her Dude and Dolly story with such a lack of focus on the best interest of the child) makes me exceedingly grateful to be working with a county that actually appears to be working for the child's best interest and to care about quick permanency. If it's not possible to preserve the biological family -- and for these girls, it isn't -- getting them settled into stable forever families should be paramount.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Of Course

If there is one thing that's remained constant in the entire season of our lives spent working with the foster care system it's this: caseworker turnover happens frequently and without advance notice.

So, my latest attempt to find out if the (now-more-than-2-weeks-past-the-longest-time-range-we-were-told-it-would-take) DNA results were back yet was answered with the news that our caseworker has left DFCS.

She's actually, um, taken a job with my agency. Which is pretty awesome, actually, because she's great at her job and my agency is better than DFCS at keeping caseloads to a manageable level. So, much winning here -- agency gets a terrific case manager and caseworker gets a much improved work environment. Everybody's happy....except us for how it might/does impact our case. I just wish she'd waited a few more months!

No one knows who the new caseworker is. You can't just call the DFCS office and actually talk to anyone unless you have the caseworker's direct line, so it's not really easy to find out who we are working with next. (There's a separate number to report suspected abuse. I hope to little Baby Jesus in Heaven that someone actually answers that number, but I'm not about to waste their time for this question.) Most likely, I will find out who the new caseworker is whenever he or she gets around to calling me to set up their November home visit..

Mr D is still hoping for a finalization date before Christmas, but I don't think that's happening.