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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Feeling Judged

I had a moment in the grocery store a few weeks ago and it made me often is the judgement we think we are feeling from others actually completely inside our own heads?

I do not for a minute doubt that people have had moments of truly being judged by strangers around them. I've heard the stories of whispers and comments that drip with entitlement and lack of understanding. But, how often do we let ourselves feel judged based on nothing more than a facial expression we could have misread or a silence that might have meant nothing?

Here's my story:

I had Lucy in the child seat and C in her car seat carrier down in the basket of the grocery cart. C was screaming and Lucy was escaping the straps. But we were nearly out of formula and milk, so I had to do the minimum grocery run. As I approached a checkout lane, a gentlemen with a full cart waved me ahead with a smile.

The cashier made pleasant small talk as she rang up everything but the formula and asked me if Lucy and C were my only children. I laughed and said I had 3 more in school.

Then I pulled out my WIC checks to pay for the formula. As I did so, I thought I caught sight of the gentleman behind me in line -- the one who'd let me cut in front of him. I thought I saw him freeze, just for a second. I thought I felt him think, "5 kids? and on public assistance? Get your tubes tied and get a job, lady." I resisted a powerful urge to comment on the fact that we'd adopted Lucy from the foster system, that we intended to adopt C but she was in foster care and that was why she got WIC and that was also why I was feeding her formula anyway. None of that is the business of any random stranger in the grocery store and saying it would have served nothing but my pride.

But, here's the thing. The man in line said nothing. The cashier said only that I must be a busy woman. He did nothing but put his groceries on the checkout behind mine. She simply rang up my items in a professional and efficient manner.  I thought it. That was my voice in my head judging me, not theirs. It wasn't until I was in the car -- feeling judged -- that I realized I hadn't even made eye contact with either of them after I pulled out the WIC checks. I gave them no opportunity to show me a lack of judgement. I was so focused on myself, so turned inwards, that I didn't even really see them.

So, in that story, doesn't it sound like I'm the one who is jumping to judgement? I'm the one who is denying others the grace of assuming their best intentions.

Remove the log from thine own eye, indeed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Still Waiting

I have nothing new to report, really.

We are still waiting for the DNA test results.

We are still waiting for the agency to complete our home study conversion.

We are still waiting for the Child Life History to be written.

All those things have to happen before we can move to the next step in adopting C, which is the signing of the Intent to Adopt paperwork. We signed Lucy's in mid-November and just barely got a finalization date in that same calendar year. So, that's still remotely possible. But all those things we are waiting for were done by this time last year, so that's why the possibility is "remote."

C is sometimes taking a daytime nap now. One. Some days. When I'm really, really lucky, it overlaps with Lucy's nap and I get to eat lunch and maybe even shower uninterrupted.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rules, rules, rules

My state has established a new policy regarding the supervision of children in the foster care system.

There's a sentence to strike fear in the hearts of foster parents everywhere.

Actually, I think this one is a good change. It's called the "Prudent Parent Policy" and appears to be somewhat aptly named. It's not going to make major differences in my life because C is really going to be the last placement for a very long time (I mean it this time!) and she's too little for most of the changes to matter. But, for older kids in care, it's going to make a huge difference in allowing them to lead semi-normal lives.

Under the new rules, the foster parents are allowed to use their own judgement (GASP!) concerning short-term supervision. That means I can:
  • leave the child with anyone over the age of 18
  • leave the child in someone else's home
  • let someone else transport the child
  • even let the child spend up to two nights supervised by someone else, either in my home or in theirs!
I still can't:
  • take a child out of state without permission
  • leave a child with anyone under the age if 18
  • leave a child with a biological family member other than state approved visitation (duh)
The only difference this makes to me is that I can now take C to a friend's house for babysitting if that's more convenient and that I can choose those friends from a longer list of options. And, maybe, that my mother could babysit overnight in our house so Mr D and I could get away for a break. By the time she's old enough for the other changes to be likely to matter, her adoption should be final.

But, for older kids? This is huge. This means that the 4 year old can go to a playdate at his friend's house after preschool. This means that the 8 year old can go to pizza with the baseball team and get a ride home with the team mom. This means the 10 year old can go to the spend-the-night birthday party for the classmate. This means that the 13 year old can go on the school's overnight field trip without the foster parent having to be a chaperone. This means that the 17 year old can travel with the dance team to the competition that is in-state but a 5 hour drive away, so the team is leaving the night before and will stay in a hotel. This means foster children can participate in school and activity carpools without the foster parents having to be the only driver. This means, in general, that foster parents can make normal, rational parenting decisions about where it is safe for the child to be. And that will go a long, long way in allowing at least a semblance of normalcy in these kids' lives.  

I always thought it was crazy that the system put me through all these hoops and trusted me with every detail of these children's lives, including trusting me to feed them, bathe them, clothe them, care for them in sickness...but didn't trust me to know which classmates' houses were safe enough to allow the child to go over and play after school for an hour. (And I'll confess, I kind of did this already with L who became good friends with a girl who lived about 8 houses away. I never let her spend the night, but I did let her go over to play after school, even though the mother was not "approved.")