Monday, April 30, 2012

Team Meeting -- where the Real Story is Told

The team meeting is held monthly with the state's caseworker, my agency worker, myself, the kids' therapist, and ideally the CASA. It's at my house, so it serves as CW's monthly visit with the kids--she sees their rooms and talks to them briefly. Sometimes the CASA makes it, sometimes she doesn't.

But it is always where I get the real scoop from CW on how things are going. This month's was the day after court. Usually, she'd have to recap for me what happened, but since I was there, we skipped that part. Instead, I got to hear all the things that CW can't or won't say in court. Like.....

Mom is still dating Baby Brother's father, which is bad because both L and O are terrified of him. Mom had intended for him to be at the first community visit with her until I heard her tell L on the phone that his child would be there and raised red flags all over the place. CW will not send the kids back to her while there is any chance that he will be at her place on any kind of regular basis.

There is no physical record of BB's Dad paying her child support at all, much less in the amount that was claimed in court. It all comes to her as cash under the table. Most likely, it's money he's making selling drugs.

Oh, and he's supposedly going to prison before the next court date. CW intends to stall home visits until after that happens to ensure that he won't be there.

CW is also confident that she will not be able to continue to pay her rent once she loses his money. She has not actually paid her security deposit and has not shown any evidence that her utilities are paid up to date. She's only paid one month's rent on this place.

The child support she's getting from L and O's biodad is back pay that he owes her from years past. It's being withheld from his paycheck. CW is certain that as soon as the case is closed, that money will be gone too. She says she's seen this scenario a million times. He'll quit his job and start getting paid under the table, once it's clear that he won't be getting the kids back. And as long as there's no record of him having a paycheck, there's no way for the state to force him to keep making his payments.

BioMom works part-time, minimum wage. Without both those sources of child support money coming in -- one from a bio dad who just won't do it and the other from a bio dad who isn't legally required to and will be in jail -- she's never going to be able to keep the housing she currently has, much less buy food, gas, clothing, school supplies......

So, even when we do start visits at Mom's home--assuming CW can't stall those until after she's lost that place, too--I won't begin sending their stuff with them.

L and O's biodad's wife is pregnant, so that 2 bedroom house is now even less appropriate as a home for his first two kids. (CW suspects that none of us are supposed to know that yet--it was learned by the supervisor of their visit with the kids, which included a lot of other family as well.)

Still in limbo land, I guess. I want their Mom to succeed; I really do. But I also want these kids to be in a place they can call "home" and expect to stay there. And if I'm this tired of the roller coaster, I hate to imagine how it must feel to L, who had the family placement dangled in front of her and has now had it yanked away.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Actually Happened in Court

So, where was I?

Right. Went to court. There was no suggestion of changing the placement to Paternal Aunt.

But we were in there for about an hour and I learned some interesting things.

I learned that Dad's house that he's spent the last 6 months telling L is perfectly ready for them to come move in with him only has 2 bedrooms. For 2 adults, an 8 year old girl, and a 4 year old boy.

I learned that Mom's income is smaller than her monthly rent.

I learned that Dad really doesn't understand that he actually has to do something other than show up to court to prove that the state in which he lives is wrong to deny him as a potential placement.

I learned that Mom's child support from Baby Brother's father is not court ordered and therefore she has no legal recourse if he just decides to stop paying it.

I learned that Mom's attorney had no problem admitting that Mom was not ready to have these kids home right now.

Officially, Paternal Aunt's home study process still isn't complete because of Mom's opposition to the kids moving there.

The judge spoke very sternly to both parents about how the next hearing will be a permanency hearing and that they are "Very lucky" that there is a family member to be considered at that point. He laid out what they need to do in the next 2 months. He said they had to be "very very close" to having it all done before that hearing if they didn't want him changing the permanency goal from reunification at that hearing. He talked about how the kids were "thriving" in their foster home, but that being in limbo like this was not good for them; he really seemed to be insisting that 12 months was as long as he was going to let this linger. (We'll see about that.)

Mom's attorney asked for the kids to start having visits at Mom's home -- to be supervised by Mom's therapist. The judge agreed, but left the timing up to CW since community visits (in public) had only just started.

So, I left court believing that the kids aren't going anywhere until after the hearing in June no matter what, but that they might start having some visits at home with Mom to start transitioning them there.

And then the next day, we had a team meeting where I learned all the things that were NOT said in court.....and the picture got murkier again.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Going to Court

I'm still learning not to believe anything is final until it actually happens. I know all you experienced foster moms out there are going to be laughing at me!

Last month, during our team meeting, the case worker said they were going to propose changing to Paternal Aunt at the next court date. There would be transitional visits until school was out and then the move would be permanent. She said they were going to propose this because she doubted that Mom would be in a position to get the kids back in the next 6 months and they wanted to get the kids in a place that "could become permanent if need be." I was doubtful that Paternal Aunt is really what's best for the kids, but not for reasons that seemed strong enough to fight it.  It really sounded like this was a done deal, so I started mentally planning how many transitional visits we would need to get all their stuff to the aunt's house.

Then I casually mentioned the plan to the CASA, who I assumed already knew about it, and she nearly hit the roof. It was too early in the case, according to her, for the case worker to be assuming that Mom wouldn't make it, especially given how much progress Mom has made. After confirming that I had not asked to have the kids leave my home, the CASA said that they were thriving where they are and there is no reason to disrupt them in  a way that will make it harder for them to maintain connections to their mother. The CASA announced her intention to oppose the change of placement at court.

So, I went to court.

I've never gone before. These kids' case is in a different county than I am, so their courthouse is about an hour from my home. I've been told repeatedly that I am "welcome to attend", but that "it's not necessary" and that the length of time to expect to be there is unpredictable. I don't know how typical this is, but apparently, all the cases to be heard that day are told to be there at 9am. Then the judge hears them in whatever order he feels like it. (Or maybe there's some sort of triage system? But no one ever knows what "number" they're going to be or how many other cases there will be that day.) And the hearing of each case can last anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour. So, you show up at 9; you might be the first case heard and be done quickly and out of there by 10am . . . or you might be last case heard and not even get before the judge until after lunch. With a preschooler who is only in school from 9-12, that kind of don't-know-when-this-will-end timing doesn't seem worth it for "not necessary."

But this time was different. This time, there was dissension among the big players about what should happen with these kids in the near future. So I wanted to hear exactly what was said on both sides and exactly what decision the judge made. I made arrangements for a (state-approved-for-transportation) babysitter to take O to school, so I could be in court at 9. I made arrangements for the same sitter to pick him up if I wasn't going to be back in time.I even made arrangements for my husband to come home from work early in case I wasn't going to be back before the bus got home from school at 3pm!

I arrived safely, at 5 minutes before 9. We waited about an hour before it was our turn and then our case was called in to the courtroom.

And the only mention that was made of Paternal Aunt was that her home study "looked good so far" but hadn't been completed yet because BioMom opposed the children moving there.

Stay tuned for what I DID learn about the case in court (and at the day-after team meeting)!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Little Moments

L asked O this morning if she was playing "Mario Kart We-hee?"