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...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

SSN Saga Update

After reading Alice's comments, I started making some phone calls to see if it was possible for me to deal with the Social Security Number issue personally.

The hospital in which M was born confirmed that they only file for an SSN if the parent fills out a certain piece of paperwork while there. (This part of the information took several days as it was hard to find the right number to call for the answer and several people told me to talk to someone, only to have that someone never answer their phone and not respond to voicemail messages. Probably because that someone wasn't the right person to be asking in the first place!) This procedure seems to vary from state to state, as in my state (and in TX, apparently) the filing is automatic. (In my state, in fact, there's a space on the birth certificate for the SSN.) In M's Birth State, it appears to vary from hospital to hospital, as I found other hospitals in that state whose websites say that they will do it "automatically." M's hospital had no information on the website, but when I finally got to talk to someone who knew anything, she told me that BioMom would have had to sign something specific for them to file for it.

No way to know for sure, of course, whether BioMom did that or not, but I'm willing to guess that she didn't. That means we're looking at applying for an SSN, not just requesting a replacement card for an SSN that already exists.

I called the Social Security office that serves M's county in my state. They told me that I could not file for the SSN at this point because I am not M's legal guardian, the state is. So, although they would be allowed to issue me a replacement card with the paperwork Alice mentioned (my placement papers, M's birth certificate and shot record, etc), I cannot request a number for her until the adoption is final.

I thought about calling the Social Security office in M's birth state, but, frankly, it's over 2 hours away and I'd have to get state permission to take M over there. Also, I suspected I would get the same answer.

On the bright side, I'm told that the adoption caseworker has a colleague going to the Social Security office late this week and they will be filing for a number for M. So, hopefully, that will be wrapped up soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Next Steps

From Path to Permanency post:

Our "next steps" are as follows:

  • Get fingerprinted again. (Mine are done; Mr D's have been paid for and he just has to find a time to get to the site that does them, only during business hours, of course.) Completed and reported to agency
  • Get updated physicals for all of us -- That is, both adults and all 3 biological children. (appointments are scheduled) -- Adults are done. Kids' appointments are all in the next week.
  • Answer some questions about why we want to adopt, how we will handle any special needs and how the permanent kids feel about the plan. (Done)
  • All the above are our part of adapting our current foster care home study into one that certifies us as a potential adoptive placement. One we've done all those, the foster agency is responsible for writing it up and sending it to DFCS. (Foster agency tells us that their goal is to be done with this by the end of September.)
  • Get an attorney. (We have a couple names that have been recommended to us; we've left a message for one.) Done
  • Answer some questions for the person who writes the "Child Life History" for DFCS. This will include everything that they know about M's life so far, including any family medical history that they are able to get from her biological parents. My hope is that those parents will be fairly cooperative, since they chose to surrender their rights, but we'll just have to see. We've done our part of this and the person writing the report said we'll get a copy and it should be complete in a week or so.Done. Child Life History is complete. We have a copy of the "narrative" part; will get the medical history files later. 
  • Wait to hear from the assigned DFCS caseworker. We hear good things about her, but have not heard from her yet Had our first meeting
New "next steps"
  • Figure out what's up with M's SSN. 
  • Send off physical paperwork once kids' physicals are done
  • Agency to finalize and send Home Conversion to DFCS after they get the physicals
  • DFCS supervisor to review Home Conversion and approve us as an adoptive placement
  • Meet with agency caseworker to sign paperwork confirming our intentions. (At that point, a court date should be less than 30 days out.) When we sign that paperwork, the per diem stops effective that day. Medicaid coverage continues until the end of the month in which the adoption is finalized. (I think. Could be the end of the month in which the paperwork is signed, but I don't think so.)
  • Get a hearing date

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Moments that Break Your Heart -- Take 4

Here's Take 3
 _________________________________________________________

He's 13 months old. He's just had major surgery on his skull and his mother is holding him in the hospital room. A nurse comes in to check on him and asks mom how he's doing. She gestures at you and says "She takes care of him. I just came to see him."
________________________________________________________ 

This one's not a foster situation, but I never would have heard about it if not for foster care....Sitting in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) waiting room, you overhear a conversation. A young woman introduces herself ("Hi, I'm Allie") to a 10 year old girl, explaining that her job at the hospital is to look after the brothers and sisters. She tells the girl that Allie understands the girl has been upset that she can't see her sister (due to the hospital's policy of no visitors under 12 allowed in the PICU) and offers to set up a video chat later that day. Allie reminds little sister that big sister won't be able to answer her "because of the tube in her throat."
___________________________________________________________

Newborn baby tested positive for drugs in her system. Mother has had two previous children already removed, already through the TPR process, already well on their way to being adopted. All 3 children have different fathers. When you are called about the placement, you are told TPR is "likely" unless the father turns out to have family members who are options, but the caseworker doubts it. In court, the judge tells the biomom that DFCS "is willing to work with her" and that, if she works her caseplan this time "we will hand your baby back to you." Two days later, the caseworker tells you she's already working on the request to file for TPR. The whole situation is heartbreaking, but what's getting to me right now is the mixed signals biomom is getting. Filing for TPR doesn't sound like "willing to work with you" to me. Does she have a shot to get her baby back or not?
_____________________________________________________________

Another not just a foster situation....When you leave the PICU with a one year old for a regular floor room, the PICU nurse walks you to the new room to hand over the chart information to your new nurse. She tells the new nurse "foster mom has been spoiling me. She's been in there with him all day, holding him and playing with him." Some kids in intensive care have long stretches of time when the nurses are their only company...because Mom and Dad have to work and/or care for siblings.
___________________________________________________________

Biomom missed a month's worth of visits for one reason or another. An entire month without laying eyes on her baby. In that time, the baby learned how to: bat at a dangling toy to make it move, smile, coo, and laugh. She grew from the-blob-that-is-a-newborn into a tiny little person...and her mother missed it.
___________________________________________________________

Biomom has surrendered her rights after some failed drug screens, but claims to be attempting to get back into rehab. The revocation period to change her mind about the surrender has passed. The caseworker calls and Biomom answers the phone, high. The only coherent thing that she says is "I want my baby."
____________________________________________________________

Reading the Child Life History narrative of a child you are going to be adopting. It doesn't matter what yours says. It's going to break your heart.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Roadblock?

As Mitzy said in her comment on my last post, 6 months is a ridiculously early age for a child to be legally free. Especially a child like M, who doesn't appear to have any major delays that would make her difficult to parent and whose parents seemed (at least at the beginning) interested in getting her back.

I think that's why the 3-6 month timeframe seemed so strange to me and I kept Googling looking for more information. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Surely, something had to make this less simple? It shouldn't be this "easy" to adopt a healthy newborn. Could we really maybe have this all wrapped up before she was 10 months old?

We met with the new adoption caseworker this week and we may have finally hit the roadblock.

For the past several months, we've been asking the DFCS caseworker about M's Social Security Number. Really, we've just been asking if she has one. Once it was clear she was going to be here more than 6 months, we began pointing out that we'll need it eventually (to file taxes). The caseworker wasn't sure if she had one. She was born in a different state and the caseworker didn't know if the hospital applied for it for her or not. (In my state, the hospital applies for it and it's printed on the birth certificate. In this neighboring state, no one knows if the hospital applies for it and there's no space on the birth certificate for it.)

Apparently, it is not as simple as making a call (or sending an email or faxing a form) to the Social Security Office to determine if the child has an SSN. I'm not clear on if it's possible to find out if she has one without applying for one. Applying for one involves going in person to the the Social Security Office and being prepared to spend hours waiting. Our lovely former caseworker (the one who didn't think anyone needed to know when the parents signed surrenders) decided to just not do any of that and let the adoption worker handle it. But she didn't actually tell the adoption worker that, so this was all news to her when we met with her this week.

Since we will have to prove that M never had a number before the adoption in order to get her one afterwards, the adoption caseworker says it's important to have the number at least filed for (even if it's still being processed/mailed) before we finalize the adoption. She says it's a complicated process, but that DFCS bringing certain paperwork to ask for a number is something the Social Security office is used to handling; an adoptive parent asking for a number (and/or name) to be changed is something the Social Security office is used to handling; an adoptive parent claiming a number never existed...is not. And she was very upfront about the fact that she will not be able to take the time to go to the Social Security office for at least 2 weeks.

We're still hoping for a finalization date in December, but it's back to being a hope, rather than a "reasonable goal."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Path to Permanency

Ever since we were told that M was legally free and that we could "begin the adoption process" I have been Googling phrases like "adopt from foster care" and "timeline to finalize adoption" in a desperate attempt to find information about how long to expect this to take.

Unless you arrived here using the same source -- or have been through this yourself -- you might not know that the results were not helpful.

Most of the "articles" I found were vague or focused on people who aren't even fostering yet, so their "timelines" included an undefined time to be matched with a child or get licensed. Most of the blogs I found were waiting for parental rights to be terminated or waiting out an appeals process. So, I thought I'd add my own story, atypical as it may be. The reality, which I knew already, is that it's just not possible to give a "typical" timeline. Every state has different laws, every county has different policies, every judge has different personal quirks, and every case has different nuances. All those things affect the timeline.  But here's ours, so far.

We aren't final yet, so this will have to be updated regularly.
  • M came into care, in March, at age 5 weeks. She came directly to us from the hospital in which she was born.
  • When she was almost 4 months old, her mother began failing her weekly, not-even-random, drug screens.
  • Shortly after that, in early July, her mother signed a surrender of parental rights.
  • In August, her father also signed a surrender of rights. Around the same time, the DNA results came back, confirming that he actually is the biological father, so no search is necessary.
  • In late August, M is officially "legally free." At this point, M is 6 months old and has been "in the system" for 5 months, although she probably would have been in care longer if she'd been able to leave the NICU sooner.
  • DFCS has assigned us an adoption case worker and her foster care caseworker will transition all files to the new one by early September.(I suspect this has already happened.)
Our "next steps" are as follows:
  • Get fingerprinted again. (Mine are done; Mr D's have been paid for and he just has to find a time to get to the site that does them, only during business hours, of course.)
  • Get updated physicals for all of us -- That is, both adults and all 3 biological children. (appointments are scheduled)
  • Answer some questions about why we want to adopt, how we will handle any special needs and how the permanent kids feel about the plan. (Done)
  • All the above are our part of adapting our current foster care home study into one that certifies us as a potential adoptive placement. One we've done all those, the foster agency is responsible for writing it up and sending it to DFCS. (Foster agency tells us that their goal is to be done with this by the end of September.)
  • Get an attorney. (We have a couple names that have been recommended to us; we've left a message for one.)
  • Answer some questions for the person who writes the "Child Life History" for DFCS. This will include everything that they know about M's life so far, including any family medical history that they are able to get from her biological parents. My hope is that those parents will be fairly cooperative, since they chose to surrender their rights, but we'll just have to see. We've done our part of this and the person writing the report said we'll get a copy and it should be complete in a week or so. 
  • Wait to hear from the assigned DFCS caseworker. We hear good things about her, but have not heard from her yet. 
So, as is often the case in foster care, we're waiting. All the pieces we know we need to do are completed or in process to be completed. What I still don't know is how long we wait....