Friday, December 19, 2014

Forever Family!

It is done!

Final and forever and ever and all over! (Except for some of the legal changing-of-paperwork that can't be started until after it's all final. Like adding her to our medical insurance and getting her name changed with the Social Security office.)

When we got to court, the agency caseworker told us it was "family day" and it was all adoptions and divorces with all three of the judges in Superior Court for the day. It was the last one on the calendar before the end of the year and they were trying to squeeze everybody in. They had about 10-15 adoptions to finalize and then would start the over 50 divorce cases. A judge had told her they'd be there until 8 or 9 that night finalizing divorces. So, when the judge started our case by commenting that this was one of the few "happy" cases she was going to get to do that day, I knew exactly what she meant.

The lawyer swore us and the caseworker in, then asked us a few questions. Did we understand this was permanent and forever, with no returns or exchanges? Were we prepared to care for and support M physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially and in all other ways? She asked the caseworker a few other questions. Had we complied with all requirements by the state to be eligible to adopt? Had she observed us with M and with our other children? Did M appear bonded to us? Did the other children appear willing and content to welcome her into the family?

The lawyer had told us before court that she would ask us some questions. She said "all your answers will be 'yes.'" So, that was easy.

The lawyer said some things to the judge about why M's case was being finalized in that county's courtroom and then that was it. We took some pictures and went to the county clerk's office to wait for our official certified copies of the adoption decree.

The lawyer -- who was awesome and so very on top of things -- gave us several sheets of paperwork. One was the form we would need to apply for a new birth certificate. She then handed us another sheet while glancing away and saying quietly "I have no idea how that got in there." It was M's original birth certificate, which is supposed to be sealed up and not given to us. (If you follow any adult adoptee blogs, you likely know that this is something a lot of adult adoptees are angry about and would like to see changed.) So, the lawyer "has no idea" how we got that precious document. Hee.

Afterwards, I immediately put her picture on Facebook and we began mailing the Christmas cards. We'll be baptizing her in our church on Sunday and the after-adoption paperwork is all filed and mailed off to the appropriate agencies. It hasn't quite sunk in yet that it's really over and done....but we've been teasing Peter a lot about how he can babysit now!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Court Date Set!

We have a court date for M's adoption finalization!

In a moment that is so typical of how this case has progressed, we got a call from the lawyer this morning saying she was trying to nail down the court date. How would next week be? Next week!

The lawyer told us she usually asks for her payment 2 weeks before the court date, but that's obviously not possible, so, could we pay her soon, please? (Check going in the mail immediately, of course.)

We're working on getting Peter, Susan and Edmund excused from school that day (easy for Edmund, pretty easy for Susan, a little more complicated for Peter. He's got final exams that he will miss, so he's having to work out a make-up plan with those teachers.). It hasn't quite hit me yet, but this is really happening before Christmas!

And I guess we're finally going to have a "Lucy."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Stalking

I don't know why I'm still doing it.

Whenever I have had foster placements in the home, I'm in the habit of "stalking" them online. I find their Facebook accounts and browse whatever they make public. I Google them regularly to see if their name pops up anywhere -- some of my kids' parents have been in towns where the local online paper posts a "blotter" of recent arrests. I search (less often) for the names of the people I know they are spending time around to see if anything shows up there.

Usually, after the kids are gone, I stop doing this. I guess I'm still doing it because M's not gone. But, by that logic, I will be stalking her parents forever.

I was never able to find much on M's biological father. He's not on Facebook, which is usually the best source. I found the occasional report of his arrests, but they were all in the past and things we knew about through other channels.

M's mother, though? Whew, boy, does that woman need to learn how to lock down her Facebook privacy settings. So, I keep checking. I'll admit to being curious if she would say anything more about M. She posted newborn pics and gushed about her occasionally early in the case, but nothing since the surrender.

I need a name for M's mother. (Birth mother? First mother? Biological mother? I'm still struggling with the terminology.) Let's call her Kayla.

The last time I looked, I read a conversation between her and another woman in which it was pretty clear that M's mother is lying to the people around her about what has happened with her children. The other woman asked about M's oldest half-sister, age 8. I'll call her Neveah. Rights to Neveah were terminated in the summer of 2013 and her adoption (by her foster family) was finalized this past fall. I've had contact with that foster mom -- we tried briefly to arrange a sister-meeting -- and Neveah has some pretty heavy emotional scars from the experiences that brought her into care and from the time she spent waiting to see if her mother could pull it together. (In the end, the sister-meeting didn't happen because Neveah's therapist didn't think she could handle it right now. I told Neveah's adoptive mother that the door is open whenever she's ready; M is too little to care right now.) So, Neveah has not lived with Kayla in over 3 years. When the other woman asked about her, though? Kayla said Neveah goes to an after-school care program and then will go spend the night with "my cousin" while Kayla has "a party at my house every night."

Kayla also made an off-hand mention of having been in jail, it seemed recently. She lives in a town where at least some arrest records are online, so I searched for her. Remember, she surrendered her rights in July. In August, she was arrested for a DUI. In October, she was arrested for burglary and theft--I think that's when the jail time happened. On Thanksgiving night, she was picked up for a parole violation. She is spiraling downward out of control -- again -- and I can't help wondering where it will end. At the moment, there is no plan for ongoing contact between her and M; Kayla is just too unstable. But I struggle to know how much of this to document in order to share with M when she's older, especially if it turns out that Kayla doesn't ever become someone I'm comfortable introducing into M's life. (In our state, M will have access to any and all available information about family members when she's an adult. At that time, she can choose for herself whether she wants to meet Kayla if she hasn't met her already.) I want to be able to honestly tell M as much as I can understand about why her mother chose to stop fighting for her; I want to be able to give M as much of her biological history as possible; I don't want to be lining up "evidence" to prove that Kayla doesn't "deserve" M or anything like that. I tend to err on the side of  "document everything" probably because that's been my standard foster-care M.O. I guess I can do the editing and cherry-picking when it's time to share. Just wish I had some more good things to add into the mix.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Inch by Inch

We are still moving v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y towards M's adoption date.

Last week, we signed the Intent-to-Adopt paperwork, which stops the per diem payments, but doesn't seem to change anything else. Also last week, our attorney received the packet of paperwork she needs to file with the court to request a court date to finalize the adoption. (This packet included the Intent paperwork we'd signed.)

We haven't heard anything since. We were told the attorney would file the paperwork as soon as she could, but that it could take the court a week to respond with a court date. With the holiday getting ever closer, we're not sure when that "week" is really up.

Everyone involved with experience with this county still seems to think an adoption date in December is a realistic possibility. We sure would like to know the date, though.

We did have a bit of a reality check in the lead-up to signing day. I keep saying we're moving slowly and Mr D and I both feel like things are just barely inching along. But the truth is that things are at least moving and at speeds that really are "fast" for foster care. Our agency caseworker wanted to be there when we signed the papers, but she couldn't. She had to attend a TPR hearing for another case. A TPR hearing for a little boy who is nearly 3 years old and has been in care for over 2 of those years. His current foster family has been his family since he came to them at about 9 months of age; they are willing and eager to be his forever family. It was the fourth TPR hearing for his mother who has only made it to 4 visits with him in the entire 2-plus years he's been in care. He doesn't really understand who she is. Compared to that? M's case is flying.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Signing Date

It didn't quite play out the way I'd hoped, but it may still all turn out OK. (Well, it will all still turn out OK. There is only a minuscule chance at this point that the adoption could fall through, which is the only result that isn't "turning out OK.")

The Director reviewed and approved our homestudy. She was done with this early in the first week of November.

However, the DFCS caseworker wasn't able to set a signing date with us until early next week.

I'm still being told a December closing date is a "reasonable goal." This particular county (and caseworker) have a reputation for wrapping things up pretty efficiently. (Other counties in my state, however....oh, boy. The county in which I live? Currently has a 3-5 month wait from the time of signing to even getting a court date assigned...which can still be another few months out. Hence, we are finalizing the adoption in the county in which M's case is held.)

After we sign, our lawyer has to file paperwork with the court. Then we get a court date.

And then I will be able to be confident that we'll be able to finalize in 2014, before Christmas.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Wheels Are Moving....

For the last several weeks we've felt like we were stuck in the mud, with our wheels spinning.

We've finally got some traction under those tires!

Completed Steps:
  • Sent all information necessary to convert the home study to our agency
  • Obtained an attorney experienced in foster-to-adopt cases
  • Agency home study worker edited and completed the conversion and sent it to her supervisor for review
  • Supervisor reviewed it.
  • Conversion as sent to DFCS. (Yay! This really was the biggest hold-up. We were on the bottom of the figurative to-do pile on the DFCS caseworker's desk until she got that paperwork.)
  • DFCS employee went to Social Security office to file for an SSN for M.
Still to go:
  • DFCS caseworker to review our home study and approve it. Then she'll send it to her supervisor (the Director)
  • Director to review our home study and approve it (CW tells us the Director is usually through this step "within about 2 weeks" but emphasizes that she can't promise that -- you never know what else can suddenly drop onto the Director's plate.)
  • Appointment at DFCS office to sign final intent-to-adopt paperwork
  • Get a court date (Should be less than 30 days out from above appointment)
In my fantasy world in which everything goes smoothly from here on out, the Director will get the files by early next week and complete their review by the end of October. Then we could go sign the paperwork in early November and get a hearing date by early December. Crossing our fingers...