Sunday, July 20, 2014

Positive Caseworker Post

OK, I've been very frustrated with our county caseworker in M's case. I think I have good reason to be.

But she just did something that actually will make my life easier, so I'm going to give credit where it is due.

M's mother was supposed to have her "final" visit with M last week. Next week would have been the first visit with just M's (putative) father, but no one is sure whether he's going to show up or not. (M's mother has been doing all the communicating about whether they were coming or not as well as all the driving. We aren't sure how he's going to get to visits without her. And they haven't made a visit and stayed the whole time in nearly 2 months.)

Next week, we happen to be going out of town for a family vacation. We were coming back on visit day, with the plan being to drive through rush hour traffic in order to make the visit with M's father.  (When we planned the vacation, we thought it was with both parents.)

M's mother cancelled at the last minute (again!) this week. She wanted to reschedule for a date that is while we are out of town. I reminded the supervisor -- who had already nixed that idea for other reasons -- that we were out of town that day and about the plan to drive back just in time for the next one. The supervisor called the county caseworker because she wasn't sure she was even supposed to reschedule the visit at all.

It does need to be rescheduled -- I guess because it's the last one? Or maybe there was a "good" reason to cancel? -- but the county caseworker said, "I don't want to mess with the foster family's vacation, so if we need to push the next visit out a week, let's do that."

Hear that?

We are postponing a regularly scheduled (but not regularly attended) visit in order to make my life easier. That never happens in foster care! We don't make life easy for foster families!

Whew. Big sigh of relief and I can feel stress I wasn't even consciously aware of oozing out of my neck and shoulder muscles.

I will say, this is probably the first case where I would have accepted the change. This is the first case where the parents have missed visits. This is the first case where I don't really know for sure if a visit is happening until around the time it's time to pack up to go to it. I tend to be so focused on supporting reunification that I will move heaven and earth to get my kids to their family visits. And the missed visits haven't been a huge inconvenience -- except for the frustration about what they mean for M's mother's chances of reunification and the likelihood of her being able to beat her addition. I've had other cases where the family visit was a bit of a "break"; there might be struggles with reentry afterwards, but I kind of looked forward to the regularly scheduled time-without-that-child. I don't feel that way with M.

But for this particular week, a missed visit was a much bigger inconvenience. I was mentally trying to prepare myself for the worst-case scenario: We would get everybody up early on the last day of vacation and hurry out the door, drive all day, begin fighting rush hour traffic to get to the right side of town for the visit....and they would cancel when we were about 30 minutes away and sitting in the traffic. The mental preparation was not helping. It was just making me more stressed and cranky, partly because it seemed so very likely to happen! Now, I can relax. We will get up and off in a reasonable amount of time, be able to take our time on the road, and attempt to hit town after rush hour. I feel like I'm on vacation already!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Surrender update

Cherub Mamma, it amuses me that I'm able to shock you, of all people, with a bad caseworker. In my mind, your Minnie is "the standard against which all badness is measured" (to quote The Big Bang Theory's Raj on Star Trek V). M's caseworker seems to be disorganized and incompetent....but at least she's not actively working against M's best interests.

The date for M's mother to revoke her surrender of rights has passed and she did not change her mind. I know this because the agency caseworker called M's mother herself (after the county caseworker -- big shock, here -- didn't respond to any requests for updates after the deadline date). M's mother stated that she felt it was the best decision for M. Not only did she decide to stick to the surrender, she told the caseworker that she would like M to be adopted by us.

That was a surprise to me -- I'm not sure why. I think I'd been assuming that she wasn't thinking that far ahead, or possibly that she was thinking that the father stood a good chance of getting custody if she removed herself from the calculations. I find it gratifying and humbling to hear that she is not just choosing to surrender her rights, but actively desires to give her child to us to raise. It wasn't a casual or easy decision for her; it was a conscious effort to put her child's needs before her own wants. She is not in a place right now to be able to competently parent and she knows it. I am still praying for her -- praying that she finds the support and help she needs to kick this addiction.

Since the county caseworker isn't talking to any of the rest of us, I don't know exactly what this means in the short term. In theory, there would be just one more visit -- a "goodbye" visit. So, this week's visit might be last one for a while....unless the father's going to have visits on his own. One of the things this caseworker said the last time I talked to her that confused me was that the putative father has legal rights right now. I don't think that's true. It's certainly not what I've been told by other parties to the case. And why would he have been required to do a DNA test if all he had to do was claim paternity?

We don't know yet what the father wants to (or will) do. We also don't know yet if he's actually the father. The DNA test results aren't back yet. Well, they may not be back yet. I obviously can't assume that something hasn't happened just because it hasn't been communicated by the caseworker!

And, as always, so thankful that M doesn't have to understand what's going on...because I sure couldn't explain it!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Surprise!

I already wrote about some frustrations with our county caseworker.

There have been additional examples since that first home visit. The June meeting could not be scheduled at a time our agency caseworker could attend, so it was just Mr D and I and the caseworker. The caseworker is very nice, but very vague; there was a lot of "I can't really tell you details about that." I've never had a caseworker say that to me before. She also stated some things about the laws that contradict what the agency caseworker had told us. It was confusing and frustrating and resulted in my telling the agency caseworker that we don't want to meet without her again.

This month's meeting has been rescheduled once already. Hoping that doesn't happen again.

Our agency caseworker attended the last family visit -- they finally made it to one! -- between M and her parents and then called us immediately.

Biomom told her she's signed a surrender of rights.

No one knew this, except the county caseworker, who confirmed it when the agency caseworker called her to verify that this was true before calling us. NO ONE. Biomom still has a few days to revoke that surrender, and I can understand the caseworker thinking that the foster parents didn't need to know until after that period had passed. (I think it's the wrong decision, but I can understand it.) But she didn't just not tell us. She didn't just not tell our agency caseworker. She didn't tell the CASA. She didn't tell the GAL. She didn't tell ANYONE AT ALL.

Communication is clearly not this caseworker's strong suit.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Miscellaneous

I didn't kill the family member on July 4th. M's case and theoretical adoption possibilities never came up, which is probably healthier for all of us.
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More visits have been missed. One of the parents has always called to cancel, but often only at the last minute. A sad pattern is developing. The visit supervisor calls them to confirm a few days before; they say they will be there. The visit supervisor calls them to confirm the morning of the visit; they say they will be there. Around they time they should be leaving their house to come (or a little after), the visit supervisor will get a text message saying they aren't coming because <assorted excuses>. I don't think the caseworker wants to supervisor to call them to confirm -- she's trying to put the burden on the parents. But the supervisor hates wasting the trip -- for herself and for M -- so she's trying her best to make sure that they will be there before anyone heads out. It's not working.

I remind myself repeatedly of the good news -- M doesn't know what is happening. The worst effect on her is the occasional postponed (or early) nap or feeding because I was expecting a visit to happen that then doesn't. The parents live further from the visitation location than I do, so we generally know the visit is cancelled before M is actually on her way there, although a few times it has happened just as I was about to strap her into her carseat.
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The DNA sample has finally been taken. We should have the test results before the next court date. I don't know what I hope or expect the results to be. If the putative father is the biological father, then nothing really changes except that the caseworker will seriously look into him as a potential placement. If the putative father is not the biological father, there has to be a search.
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Court is the end of the month. I expect nothing to change before then. It's possible nothing will change after it, as well. I don't know what else is possible. Would the judge cancel the pretense of visits, especially if the parents still haven't made one by then? (It's been almost a month since M has actually seen them. If they don't make a visit before court, it will have been over 1.5 months.) I also don't know what else is going on with them, because my best source for that information was the things they say at visits. The concurrent plan of TPR is still lurking; I suppose court could light that pathway again. I just can't think that far.

We will meet with the caseworker before court. Well, we're scheduled to meet with the caseworker before court. I don't know if she'll be able to tell me the results of the DNA test. I do hope to learn what DFCS is going to be asking the judge to do at court. This judge has a reputation for being very smart, very decisive, and not putting up with anything. I have a good bit of faith in the judge; I have less faith in the caseworker's ability to actually put together a clear picture of the situation.
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The summer is flying by and, before I know it, school will start again. Part of me is actually looking forward to that -- the opportunity to have only the baby here during the day -- but most of me realizes that it will bring its own challenges back as well. (Lunches to be made, homework to be supervised and checked, extracurricular activity schedules to juggle.)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Adoption Stories and Know-It-Alls

An extended family member is a lawyer. He is not an adoption lawyer or a foster care lawyer or a child advocate in any way. He is, however, the sort of personality who sees himself as an expert in "his field" (broadly defined) and as never wrong. (Everybody knows someone like that, right?)

He is a close enough family member that he knows more details than most about M's case and about the possibility of our adopting her should the downward spiral that currently is her parents' path continue. We were updating him recently and tried to emphasize that, even if TPR happens, the adoption could take a while before everything is really, truly final.

I finally had to just stop talking because he Would Not Believe that. And if I didn't stop talking, I was going to start yelling and I try not to yell at extended family members. Especially in semi-public places.

I read a lot of foster care blogs.A few of them are in the midst of trying to finalize an adoption of a child placed in their home. The adoptions are dragging. Another only recently finally got that closure.

I desperately wanted to point him to some of you as he held forth on how simple and easy an adoption proceeding would be. (I didn't because he does not know about my blog and I don't want to change that.) I mentioned appeals and he insisted that would not happen because "court assigned lawyers don't do appeals." I didn't mention case workers causing delays and problems because by then I had given up trying to get him to listen to me.

This man pretty much makes his money suing businesses and individuals for wrongful death and injury claims. But, because he's a lawyer, he thinks he knows more than I do about how foster care adoption works.

It drives me nuts and I needed to vent about it before we spend some time with him for the 4th...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Missing Visits

M's case is a long list of all the "things I've never had before." Over 3 years of fostering and I've always had biological parents who are mostly trying their best to get their child back.

Maybe I still have that and the level for "doing her best" has dropped. A lot.

She failed some drug screens and got kicked out of rehab.

Now, visits are getting missed. For a while, visits were sometimes short because the parents arrived late. Then, the visit supervisor put her foot down (after being told to do so by the caseworker) and said she wasn't waiting more than 15 minutes for them anymore.

Next, it was car trouble. They were there on time, but had to borrow a car, so would have to leave an hour early. OK. So, we tried to make up the hour. They didn't make that one because they didn't have money for gas. (But apparently didn't notice this until it was time for them to leave for the visit, since that's when the phone call came?) Then, they had a flat tire; no visit.

Now? A supposed medical emergency. The story of what's wrong is strange and sounds like either something that would be a scheduled appointment (why schedule it during the visit time?) or not really why they aren't there. We're asking for a copy of paperwork from the hospital before making that one up.

I've started keeping a log of visit dates and times and whether they happened or not. (I know, the person supervising the visits should be doing that, but I've learned you can never over-document.)

The only silver lining I can find in this mess is that M doesn't have a clue. I can't imagine how horrific this would have been for S (whose mother never missed a visit and whose father only ever missed 1 or 2, early in the case) or for L & O (whose mother only ever missed one visit -- when she was in labor -- and whose father never missed one once it was scheduled). (N's parents never missed a visit either, but he also wouldn't have known the difference.)