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!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Choices

So, the biggest hurdle for us potentially taking in another baby is the sleeping arrangements.

We've got, realistically, 3 options that seem possible. (We've ruled out some options; No to construction to add another bedroom -- Even if we leave aside the financial question, that would probably cause our house to be difficult to sell down the road. No to placing the infant in my (very large) master bedroom closet -- caseworker says the "room" has to have 2 exits, usually a door and a window. No to moving.)

Option 1: Put Peter and Edmund back into the same bedroom.

Pros: 
  1. They've shared before, beginning when they were 6 and 10. 
  2. They are both permanent family members, so the state cares less about their sleeping arrangements than it will about the baby's.
Cons: 
  1. When they started sharing before, they were both in elementary school. They are now 10 and 15, 5th and 9th grade.
  2. Their daily schedules are wildly different. Peter is in extracurricular sports activities and often up working on homework or just relaxing in his room until 10pm; Edmund's bedtime is 8pm. Next school year, Edmund will start school later, so could stay up later, but will then also not need to get up in the morning until after Peter has left for the day.
  3. Lately, they have been sniping at each other a lot. Nothing especially nasty or worrisome, just typical brothers-who-can't-help-point-out-each-other's-mistakes.
Option 2: Put the baby in M's room.

Pros:
  1. Umm. It means the boys don't have to share a room?
Cons:
  1. M is a light sleeper. She sleeps well through the night and sleeps through noise outside her room, but if you so much as open her bedroom door, she wakes up. There's no way she'd sleep through a baby needing night-time feedings.
  2. When M is awake, she is noisy. She talks and babbles and screeches. She will be perpetually waking the baby as soon as she herself is awake.
  3. M is too little to understand that she might need to be quiet if the baby is asleep.
  4. If the baby is a boy, we are only allowed to do this until M is 3 years old. (Unless we finalize his adoption before then. Given how fast M's case went, that's entirely possible as she will likely be about 18 months when the baby is born.)   
Option 3: Put the baby in our room.

Pros: 
  1. This causes the least disruption to the rest of the household
Cons:  
  1. We're not even sure we're allowed to do this. When M first came, she was in our room in a Pack-n-Play because the respite boys were in the room that was to be hers and one of them was in her crib. The caseworker said it was OK "for now" because of the special circumstances of the respite boys being here for a short term. I don't remember whether it was the "in our room" or the Pack-n-Play part that was a potential problem. (I seem to recall the Pack-n-Play was not considered a "suitable" bed by the state. I'm not certain if that was the only issue or if she was supposed to have her own room, too.)
  2. If we are allowed to do this, I'm sure there is an age limit after which the baby has to move out of our room.
  3. Mr D is a pretty light sleeper. The Pack-n-Play tends to be a little noisy. M was also a noisy sleeper -- making little sighing and grunting noises in her sleep a lot. If this baby is similar, Mr D will not sleep well. And when Mr D doesn't sleep well, he is cranky. 
  4. How to put this delicately? I'm not comfortable being intimate with my husband with someone else in the room, even a newborn that's unlikely to notice or care what we're doing. Hence, I'm a little concerned about our marital relationship with this option.
I suspect we'll end up with some sort of hybrid, like:

Option A: We set up rooms as though the baby is sleeping in M's room, but actually s/he usually sleeps in a Pack-n-Play in the office. 

Pros:
  1. Nobody is really sharing a bedroom
  2. Everyone has as much of a chance at normal sleep as is possible with a newborn in the house.
Cons:
  1. We're lying to CPS. 
  2. The office contains computer equipment used by Mr D for work and by the children for school. This equipment would be off-limits when the baby is asleep?
  3. The office also contains our answering machine, which I'm not sure can be relocated.
Option B: We start out with the baby sleeping in our room, but move him/her to M's room when s/he begins sleeping through the night.

Pros:
  1. We're not lying to CPS
  2. Having the baby in our room has an approximate end-date
Cons:
  1. Mr D still won't sleep well for however many months it takes for the baby to sleep through the night.
  2. M will be older -- probably 2 -- when she's expected to begin sharing "her" room. (Is that a Pro or a Con? Not sure.)
Option C: The baby sleeps in our room, but we actually sleep on the sofa bed in the living room. (Again, this probably a temporary thing until the baby sleeps through the night or Peter and Edmund get to ages where they can share a room again.)

Pros:
  1. Nobody is really sharing a bedroom   
  2. We're not really lying to CPS. (Although we would probably make it look as though we were still sleeping in our own bedroom.)
  3. Sometimes it might be just Mr D sleeping on the sofa bed, while I do night-time feedings in our bedroom.
Cons:
  1. We have less privacy overall sleeping in our living room (it doesn't have doors). 
  2. This has to be temporary, but it's harder to say what will be the end-date.
Option D: The baby does actually sleep in my master closet, but we tell CPS that s/he is sleeping in M's room or in our room.

Pros:
  1. It really is big enough to be a small room, which is all a baby needs. 
  2. No one is really sharing a bedroom, as the closet has its own door. 
Cons:
  1. We're lying to CPS again. And this lie is much harder to keep hidden, as the things currently in my closet would have to be moved elsewhere to make room for the baby. And then, when caseworkers come visit, I have a completely empty closet? 
  2. Also temporary, also a vague end-date.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Back Burner

We're still waiting to hear back on what (if anything) the agency caseworker learned from M's birthmother. We're also waiting to hear what her supervisor said about the grace period to finish up our licensing and what we need to do to stay open. I've promised myself not to call her to ask for an update until it's been about a week since I called her with the news in the first place. After all, this is not even an actual case at this point. No way it should take priority over, you know, children already born and in foster care or looking for homes. And it's the end of the month, so I'm sure there are lots of things to get wrapped up right now on her plate.

But I think we're pretty determined to be ready to figure something out if this baby ends up needing a place to go. We were still waffling over the weekend, struggling with the pull between rationality and emotion.

So, we got smacked over the head with it. This Sunday's scripture reading? Included 1 John 17.

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Well, then. I guess we do our part to be prepared to help and then see what happens.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Follow up

So, I waited until 8am, then called the agency caseworker. I had to leave her a voicemail.

She called me back several hours later, having already talked to one of the county caseworkers who was involved in M's case. (Interestingly, it was the adoption worker to whom she talked. I'm not sure whether that was because that worker was responsive and likely to actually get back to her or whether she had to talk to her about something else anyway or what.)

Good news: the county already knew about the pregnancy.

No one knows the actual due date. The person who texted me thought she looked about 5 months pregnant.

They will screen biomom for drugs at the time of the baby's birth.

If she tests clean and the home appears stable, the baby will go home with her, but under a protective order which will allow caseworkers to do random drug screens and generally follow up to make sure that she is coping.

If she fails the drug test, they will remove the baby. At this time, it's hard to say what sort of case it will be. Assuming the father is the same as M's, it will either be a concurrent plan (like M's was) or a straight-to-adoptive placement with no reunification plan even attempted. (If it's a different father, the county will have to assess him and his family members.)

The agency caseworker was going to call M's mother. She was hopeful that she would be able to learn the exact due date of the new pregnancy and planned to try to convince BioMom to let her help now. Agency caseworker knows of available resources and is willing to work to get BioMom into a better drug program -- one that might actually help her get clean -- if BioMom will let her help. She's hoping that BioMom will accept her help now, when no one is telling her she has to do it. She wouldn't accept her help when M was in care. I am skeptical that she will accept it now, either, but trying really hard to pray myself into a more optimistic state of mind.

We might have a 60 day grace period to wrap up anything before our home is really, truly closed. If so, we'll use those days to wrap up our training and do the reeval. That then gives us a year to figure out if this baby needs us or not. Although if the baby does need us, I have no idea where everyone will sleep....

Let me be clear about two things.

First, I would love to believe that M's birth mother could handle parenting this new baby on her own. But I just don't. The woman has a serious addiction problem which may have caused permanent cognitive damage. Even if she gets clean now, I have major doubts that she is mentally capable of parenting. (And that's not my decision to make, thank the good Lord in heaven.) So, I am trying to be prepared for the worst-case-but-seems-awfully-likely-scenario of this baby needing a foster-to-adopt placement. If not immediately, it will most likely happen soon. Frankly, the most likely scenario I can see where the baby doesn't need a placement involves a different father with extended family that are available, willing and appropriate.

Second, I have no desire to take on another newborn right now. This summer, I am beginning some coursework to train for a teaching certificate with an eye towards working in the school system when M is old enough for full-time school. There is a list a mile long of why we "can't" take another placement any time before Peter leaves home for college in a little more than three years. On the other side of that scale is all emotion: how do I say "no" to M's biological sibling? How can I look an older M in the eye (at 10, at 15, at 22, at 30) and say we didn't reach out to provide for her baby brother/sister? If I try to be rational about this, there is no way I jump hoops to get back into this system and cobble together sleeping arrangements to fit 5 children into our home. But foster care, adoption, caring for children....none of those things happen when we only do what makes logical sense. The emotion -- the pull of "but I just have to do this" -- these are the things that cause us to get involved anyway.

I still don't know what we're really going to do. Right this minute, we're just trying to get our ducks in a row to keep all the options open. And praying a lot.