Monday, July 13, 2015

What if?

There's still been no real information learned about Kayla and her pregnancy.

Mr D casually threw a "What if?" out there the other day that is making it hard for me to sleep again.

He said something along the lines of "if she's even really pregnant..."

It made me take a step back. What do I really, really know?
  •  I know she posted pics on Facebook of her (and M's biological father) with her clearly pregnant.
  • However, I don't know when the photos were actually taken. For all I know, this are pictures of her pregnant with M!
  • I know that someone commented on those photos asking if she was pregnant and she said she was.
  • However, she lies on Facebook all the time. On a different comment on the same photo, she claimed to have regained custody of her two older biological children. Her rights to those children were terminated about 2 years ago and they have been legally adopted into other families. 
  • I know that the person who informed me of the pregnancy is not likely to lie to me about this. She's one of those children's adoptive mother and she lives in the same town that Kayla does. (I live about 45 minutes away.)
  • However, I don't know how she knew. Did she actually see Kayla and could tell she was pregnant? Did she hear it through something like these Facebook photos? Or from another person? I just don't know how reliable her sources are because I don't know what they are.
  • I know that CPS already knew.
  • However, I don't know how they knew or if they've confirmed it in any way. For all I know, they got the same message I did from the same source. They won't do anything until the baby is actually born, so I doubt if any follow-up was done to confirm the pregnancy.
  • I know Kayla was due in court last week for 2 separate criminal cases. As best I can tell, last week was supposed to be a trial with a jury for each of those cases. Her cases were not on the docket for Monday morning and I have no idea when -- or if -- they were actually heard in court.
  • However, I have no idea what happened in court and I don't know how well the criminal courts and the family courts communicate. So, I don't know if the CPS folks know what happened either. They know it was on the docket because I told them it was. 
 It all still boils down to the very simple fact that I actually know very, very little. I am as prepared as I can be for a phone call that says "can you?" but that is all I can do. So, we're waiting. And I'm trying to quash the little voice in my head that says I could be waiting for an imaginary baby.   

Monday, June 29, 2015

Little Things

I think we all know -- theoretically -- that small acts of kindness or thoughtfulness can build up into waves of positivity. Or that what seems like a small act to us can seem like a big gesture to another person receiving or even viewing that choice. I got a reminder of this fact last week, which I hope will inspire me to continue choosing to do the small things.

It was Vacation Bible School week. The story for the day was about the feeding of the 5000 and the directions called for me to bring in actual bread to break in front of the children and then pass the basket of pieces around to allow each child to take a piece. The author of the instructions had thought about food allergies and sensitivities, but their proposed solution was that I use a picture of a loaf to break and skip the passing around.

I didn't much like that idea. I asked the overall organizer of VBS for a list of food allergies, but never got it. (She was a little swamped as a stomach bug ran through our volunteers and attendees.) So, the day before the breaking of the bread, I asked each group leader as they left my room if they had any gluten or other food allergies in their group. I had a few no-gluten kids passing through, but no dairy or egg allergies. One group leader (the youngest group -- rising 1st graders) said she would tell the child's parent about the lesson and ask that an alternate snack be sent that day.

That wasn't the only class with a gluten-free child, however. So, when I went to the store to buy the bread to break, I simply picked up a small package of gluten-free sandwich rolls from the freezer case at my grocery store. It was small thing to me. No extra trip. Not a large outlay of money. Just a few extra steps and a few extra dollars. (For good measure, I picked one that was also dairy free and made in a nut-free facility, although I think it did contain eggs.)

The next morning, on the day of the feeding of the 5000, the parent of that 1st grader came rushing into my room before VBS started, asking what we were doing with bread today. She had forgotten the alternate snack. I showed her what I had bought (label still on for her to read) and explained my plan. I could almost see some of the stress leave her face as she assured me that what I had purchased would be OK for her child to eat.

But the really big moment? Wasn't just helping another mom ensure her child had something safe to eat and would not be excluded from the class lesson. (Although that would have been big enough.)

The really big moment came later in the day. I had noticed her child's reaction when I asked the group if anyone needed gluten-free bread and held up an alternate basket -- big eyes and a hand shooting into the air to claim that bread. But I hadn't thought anything much of it until the parent came by to see me towards the end of the day. She said her child had been "so excited" that I'd had an option ready for her.

It was a small thing for me to do. I just picked up one little extra loaf while I was in the store anyway. But, by doing that, I was able to include children who might otherwise have felt left out. Everyone got a piece of bread. And isn't that what the story is really about anyway? We were all fed, and there was bread to spare. For everyone.

Friday, June 12, 2015

What I know...

...is still not a whole lot.

I know:
  • Kayla is certainly pregnant. She posted pictures on Facebook that make it obvious and confirmed the pregnancy in the comments when asked.
  • the implication (by the pictures) is that this baby has the same father as M. (Which means no paternal family members likely to be possible placements if one is needed.)
  • Kayla also said (in the Facebook comments) that this new baby is also a girl. I think that means she has to be at least 15-20 weeks along (4-5 months pregnant), but I don't know how long she's known that.
  • Kayla was due in court last week for one case and this week for a different one (neither related to DFCS cases).
I don't know:
  • when the photos on Facebook were taken
  • what the actual estimated due date is
  • what happened in court on either of those dates or even what sort of court it was. (I can see the charges on the court's website. The list on the docket makes both court dates look like "arraignments," but I thought those had to be within a certain amount of time after the arrest and at least one of these arrests seems to have happened months ago.)
  • whether Kayla is still taking drugs
  • whether she will make it to the due date this time (M was over 2 months early, but spent the first 5 weeks of her life in the NICU)
  • whether anything she says on Facebook is actual fact (She has said other things on Facebook in the last year or so that I know are not true.)
We have one more piece of paperwork to complete before our home is officially "open" (but only for this particular baby) again. That status will be valid for 1 year. For 3 years after that, we can "reopen" with minimal effort on our parts. So, I'm feeling pretty good about our readiness to be a resource if M's new baby sister needs a foster family. At least, our legal readiness. Not so sure about my emotional and physical readiness to take in another newborn or to have 5 kids, but who's ever really ready for those things.

It feels safe to assume (based on the photos on Facebook) that nothing will happen this month or next. That's good; it means the odds are good that, if this baby comes to us, the 3 older kids will all already be back in school and the routines will have been established that help them get up and off every morning. It also means the odds are good that I will have completed the first semester of my coursework; I am only taking one class a semester, so am hoping I can maintain that, even if we take in another baby.

I keep saying "If." "If" "If" "If."

I'm protecting my heart right now. I don't know if this new baby will come to us. I have no control over that. I've done all I can. We will soon be legally ready. We have told the agency caseworkers what the situation is. They have told the county caseworkers that we are available. All I can do is pray that this is enough...or that it isn't, if this baby doesn't belong with us after all. 

We've said nothing to anyone else. Nothing to the kids, nothing to our families, nothing to the friends who have been our best supports as a foster family, nothing to anyone in our church. I find myself occasionally imagining the look on the nursery staff's faces one day when I show up with a toddling M (whom they adore) and another new baby....

It feels like a big secret we're keeping from everyone right now. But, given how little we know, I am confident that discretion is the right course at this point. When I know the baby is born, when I know she is being taken into custody, when I know where she is going....then I can share that with others in the circle. But, right now, no one else needs to know.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Unbelievable

I had a message on the answering machine today from the county that placed L & O with us way back in 2011. A very friendly lady's voice said she was calling about Baby Brother.

I have had no real contact with anyone involved in their cases since he was here as a respite placement about 2.5 years ago. Last I heard, L & O were placed with their father (out of state) and Baby Brother was still in foster care, still with the family for whom we did that weekend of respite; they still wanted to adopt him, but the TPR process on his mother was dragging out. In fact, our agency caseworker missed M's Intent to Adopt paperwork signing because she had to attend a TPR trial on his case. He's got to be several months past 3 by now and has been in foster care since he was about 10 months old.

I called the number back, gave my name and said she'd left me a message about Baby Brother. She said she was the new caseworker and wanted to set up a time to come out and meet us.

I about dropped the phone.

I explained that we weren't his placement. We did a respite weekend once. She apologized, said the case file was disorganized and she hadn't been sure if we were the placement or a respite provider, but she didn't have anything more recent than that.

Nothing more recent than 2.5 years ago.

I don't even remember the name of the family that is caring for him, but they are with my agency, so I gave her that info. Then I texted my agency caseworker to tell her about it.

This is how it happens, folks. This, right here, is how children fall through the cracks in the foster care system. He's just a lucky one because he's in a good home that loves him.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Radio Silence

M's biological mother has not responded to any attempts at contact from the caseworker.

The Facebook page I've been stalking since M's case started has had no new updates for months and it has now apparently had its privacy settings adjusted, so I can't see anything. I can find other older pages, but no newer ones.

Other online searches are turning up nothing.

The person who told me about the pregnancy told me that Kayla is "keeping a low profile." I assume that means that she hasn't been able to find out more either.

I'm sure she's hiding from DFCS, knowing they will be "monitoring" her during her pregnancy.

I'm worried that it will also mean that she's minimizing her prenatal care, possibly putting the baby at risk. With M, she may have tried having the baby in neighboring state to avoid DFCS knowing about it. (That didn't work.) I'm scared that this time she'll try having the baby at home. If she'd done that with M, they most likely would have both died.

I've tried every avenue I can think of to reach out to her without crossing the boundary lines we set as a family.

There's nothing I can do. I pray for her daily: for her safety, for her mental health, that she will find the strength and discernment she needs to make good choices for herself and her child. I'm trying desperately to leave this at the foot of the cross and let God take over from here, but this is a hard thing to let go.

As best I can tell, one of several things could happen now. Option 1: We will never hear anything at all. I will have to assume in that case that she miscarried or the baby was stillborn. That will be the only conclusion that will allow me to sleep at night, because the alternatives are that she had the baby and either successfully hid him/her from DFCS (what kind of medical care can a newborn hidden from the state be getting?) or that DFCS removed the child but didn't even let our agency know to potentially place with us. Option 2: We will get a phone call in a few months telling us the baby was born and asking if we are still interested in being a placement either immediately or "just in case" something shows up during a protective order.

I supposed there's a 3rd option where we get some information about a due date or her health at some point along the way, but I'm thinking those two are the most likely. It's really hard for me to set this aside and tell myself that "someday, if we're needed, I'll get a call...."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Update on our Limbo Land

So, where do things stand here?

Well, we should be able to get the home re-opened. Apparently the "grace period" involves being closed for a couple months while we get caught up on our hours, but then we just have to do the same re-evaluation process we would have done last month anyway. And since we're closing "in good standing", we should be able to offer our home as a placement for the new baby if it's needed, even if that happens before the re-eval is all typed up and submitted. So, we're getting our hours wrapped up, including our CPR training, and then will do the re-evaluation visit with a caseworker. I should be done with my hours by the end of this month; Mr D might need some time in late June or even early July.

Anna (the agency caseworker) discovered that the phone number she had for Kayla (M's biological mother) is disconnected. I told her I also have some pictures of M I'd love to get to Kayla if she wants them, so she's going to try to reach her through Facebook or through the DFCS caseworkers who are supposedly "monitoring the situation." Hopefully, she can at least learn the due date. It would be nice to know that much, just to get a sense of when this might all start happening. If the tip I got was right, she was "about 5 months pregnant" about two weeks ago. That means a due date in late August? M was 2 months early, but didn't need a foster home for the first 5 weeks because she couldn't leave the NICU yet anyway. The timing may be tight, but I think we can be ready for the worst case scenario.

I think, if the baby does come to us, we will go the route you suggested, Cherub Mama. There'll be a crib in our bedroom, but also pack-n-plays in other parts of the house, like the office and living room. Our bedroom will be the official "place the baby sleeps", while reality will probably vary from night to night so that whoever isn't doing the feedings has chance at sleeping through them. Daytime naps can definitely be in our room. We're allowed to do that for the first year. Once the baby sleeps through the night, we can move the crib into M's room, but do the same "in reality, the baby sleeps wherever is most convenient for that particular stretch of sleep." If the baby is a girl, she can share a room with M indefinitely. If the baby is a boy, we have until M turns 3 before we have to figure out something else....and for now, I think we'd just be hoping that the case is over before M turns 3.

I'm still trying to hope that this baby doesn't need us and that it's for good reasons (like M's mother being clean and stable or the new baby's father having family that can take him/her in). I feel a little bit of guilt about how much I don't really want to do this; but I want even less to not do it if it's needed. If that makes any sense!