Thursday, June 27, 2013


Just when I thought I couldn't be more surprised with how completely messed up this case is.

S's mother is very close to being approved for overnight visits, as part of the plan to begin to transition her home. Yay!

The caseworker is filling out paperwork to submit to the judge to request that change. She said that "it's better" if she can include statements of support from as many different people involved in the case as possible. (I heard that "it's better" as "the more of these I have, the more likely the decision is a quick one.") OK. So, she's got my support, her own, bio mom's, and the CASA's....and she's waiting on one from S's GAL.

That's sounds fine, right?

Except when you know that this is the first I have heard of the existence of S's GAL.

Almost 11 months into the case.

S has an attorney representing her in court that is someone I have never met and who has made no attempt to have any sort of contact with the child he or she (I don't even know which!) is supposedly representing. (And I've been to court, by the way. Always accompanied by S. So it's not like there hasn't been an opportunity to meet me or has been an opportunity to meet S that I might not know about.)

And I thought the CASA -- who I've seen about 3 times -- was bad. At least I know her name.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stealth Evangelism

Disclaimer: I'm a Christian foster parent. If you don't want to read about my struggles with some aspects of my faith, skip this one. If you do read and feel compelled to comment, please be kind. :)

I've always had a difficult time with evangelism in the sense of converting others to Christianity. I know the scripture verses -- "Go and make all disciples", "No one may enter the kingdom of God, except through (Jesus)" -- but when it comes to actually approaching someone who is not a believer and attempting to convince them to change their minds about that? Really not comfortable with doing anything along those lines.

Part of this I blame on the Southern Baptists of my childhood, whose idea of evangelism was to passionately proclaim that those of us who did not attend their church were all doomed to eternal torment. (I wasn't Baptist, but I was raised Christian. I thought the evangelical Christians of my high school were misguided and offensive....especially when I saw how they interacted with friends of mine who were Jewish or Muslim.) Another part if it is simply me shrinking from the logical result of the whole process, since that might require me to attempt to convert several of my own close family members. Family members who have always treated our difference of opinion when it comes to faith with tolerance and respect. Family members who have never attempted to convince me that I am wrong and should agree with them. I struggle to believe that I am called to be the one to shatter that family harmony.

So, I don't evangelize. I rationalize this pretty well and, on a certain level, I believe that my rationalizations have merit. It is not "honoring my father and mother" to treat them with less tolerance and respect than they treat me. I spread the gospel by living what I believe, not by talking about it. I behave in ways that I hope puts a positive light on "what Christians do." I raise my children in the church... and I mean, really, in the church. We are involved in all sorts of small groups and mission projects and fellowship activities and Bible studies. And our children are aware that our motivation for becoming a foster family is rooted in a belief that we are called by God to do so.

I realized recently, however, that foster care has led me into a type of evangelism that would never occur to me otherwise. As a foster parent, I am raising other people's children. And I am raising them in the church as well. (Aside: We foster through a faith-based agency. When counties place children in my home, they know they are getting a Christian family that is actively involved in a church community. This is one of the reasons we chose to foster through this agency -- they just aren't going to send me a child who is actively participating in a different faith, although they will send me children with no faith background at all.) We have always discussed our faith with children in terms of "what we believe" and "at our church, we do this".

S was recently given a children's Bible. She actually already had one, but she loves both of them. She "reads" them over and over. She picks them for bedtime stories almost every night. She has talked about her Bibles to her parents.

When this child came to us, she knew nothing about God or Jesus. As far as we can tell, she had never attended church. Her mother was not opposed to our teaching her about the Christian faith -- when S asked her mother if she went to church, she mumbled something about "needing to get back to that" -- but it was not a part of their lives. 

10 months later, S talks about what she has learned in church. When she sees a cross, she talks about Jesus dying and coming back to life. She knows that Jesus lives in her heart and in the hearts of others. Someone asked her teasingly one day why she was so pretty; she replied calmly that it was just how God made her. She watches VeggieTales and she loves to go to church.

Soon (I hope), I will be sending this 3 year old girl back to her mother. The child that I am sending back is certain that God loves her. She is equally certain that He loves everyone else, too. The child I am sending back is likely to ask her mother about "her church" and to pressure her to find them a church home. (I'm under no illusion that this is going to be the norm. But S is one determined little person.)

It's almost like I'm sending in a little stealth evangelist to convert her mother. That's a form of evangelism I can be comfortable with. Even if does seem a little sneaky.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


A lot of S's behavior issues are rooted in her desire to be in control. Of everything. (This is, of course, not unusual with foster kids -- they've learned that they must be in control in order to survive and it is very hard for them to give up control to these strange people called the "foster family.")

Lately, this need for control is coming out as defiance. Not just in the sense of "no, I won't" when asked to do something, but also in the sense of arguing with everything and anything. Never backing down. It seems that her instinctive response to any statement --no matter what it is -- is to disagree. And to disagree loudly and rudely.

I have joked that if you tell her the sky is blue on a clear day, she will say "No, it isn't!"

Today, in the car, I got an even better example. We started the car to head to church and the radio came on. It was tuned to a local Christian station. Minutes after the car started, the radio said "You're listening to 'Keep the Faith' on ...."

Immediately, S snarled, "No, we're not!"

To the radio.

Because it is wrong about its own programming.

And S Knows All.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Line Crossed. Kinda.

Well, I couldn't help myself.

I told BioMom that "I shouldn't be saying this, but..."

I told her I felt it was unacceptable for the county to tell her that she has to wait an extra 2 months to get her child back at this point in the case. She agreed. She sounded hugely relieved to hear me say it and said she would ask her lawyer about that. (To be fair to her lawyer, I've never spoken to her and it could be that she would be reacting just the way I wanted her to, as soon as anyone told her what was going on.) By the time we were done talking, BioMom was going to call the caseworker as soon as we got off the phone.

I also sent an email to my agency caseworker in which I told her that I thought this was crazy and asked if there was anything we could suggest to speed things up. She responded with the same word I used. Unacceptable. It is unacceptable for CPS to use the court schedule as an excuse to drag out this case.

A few hours later, I got an email from the county caseworker. The final piece that they needed to do is complete from their end, although it has resulted in some small things BioMom needs to do. Once they are done -- a matter of a week or two, most likely -- we will move to overnights and petition the court to allow a hearing quickly, so S can go home sooner rather than later.

Today, when I met BioMom for a visit handoff, she told me the same news with a big smile. She said mid-July as a ball-park date to have S home for good. That's about one month from now, which sounds about right, considering we haven't started overnights yet.

It's not a done deal, yet, of course, because nothing in foster care is. But it sounds much, much better to me.

And I feel no guilt at all about being a bit of a squeaky wheel -- just glad it didn't backfire on BioMom. (I'll admit, when she said she was calling the caseworker, I got a little nervous. I hoped that I hadn't set BioMom up to behave in a way that was going to get the caseworker mad at her.)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Crossing the Line

I am tempted to cross a boundary line that I am pretty sure I should not be crossing.

S's case has been sorely mishandled by CPS. Partly this is the natural result of the caseworker turnover we've had as things that should have been done early in the case were not and then the later caseworkers assumed they had been done by a predecessor, resulting in these things never being done at all. Until we finally got a caseworker with some skills in checking up on details.

The result of this is that we are now discovering that, if the first, or second, or even third caseworkers had done their job correctly, S's mother's caseplan would have been complete 3 months ago. Complete. Done. (That's before the last time we went to court, by the way.)

But that's apparently not bad enough by itself.

When I asked the (new, more on-top-of-things, not-the-one-who-screwed-up) county caseworker what the timeline for reunification now looks like, she said we can increase visitation (move to overnights with mom, for example), but we can't actually send her home until we go to court again.

I guess that makes sense. A judge has to look at this mess before they can officially send the child back to mom. When can we go to court?

Not for about 2 more months.

Wait. What?!

The court schedule for June and July is already set, so the earliest we can go to court to get ordered to reunify is August.

Never mind that it's CPS's fault that the mother's case plan wasn't complete the last time that we were in court -- not BioMom's. Never mind that we're now talking about a total of around 5 extra months of separation between a 3 year old and her mother. Never mind that this timeline means that S will have spent a full year of care -- over a quarter of her life -- and almost half of that time was pretty much completely unnecessary.

The boundary I want to cross? I want to tell BioMom to tell her lawyer to get mad. I want to tell BioMom's lawyer that she should be raising all kinds of heck about this and insisting that CPS arrange a court date As Soon As Possible, not When Next Convenient. (I'm pretty sure I won't actually cross that boundary....because I don't really want to be giving out legal advice....but I really, really want to see somebody get mad and raise a stink about this.)

BioMom is too scared of CPS to get mad. From the beginning, she has been clearly TERRIFIED that they are going to take her child away from her and give that child to me. I have consistently reassured her that my goal in this case is not to adopt her child, but simply to take care of her child until she finishes her case plan. She's done. She's been done. S should be long home by now and dragging things out 2 more months is not going to accomplish a thing, except to further traumatize an already struggling child. I should not be involved in this case anymore.

S struggles with "why is it taking so long?" and I don't know what to tell her. I can't tell her the truth -- because some of the grownups who don't know you (remember, the ones who came out to "see" you once or twice and then disappeared?) messed up and now we all have to wait longer. I won't lie to her. So she gets a lot of "I don't know" (I guess that's actually a lie, now) and "grown-up things sometimes take a really long time" from me. I'm sure that's very satisfying.

Foster Care Still Sucks, Cherub Mamma.

Monday, June 3, 2013


The biggest I-should-have-known-this-but-didn't-think-of-it-this-way-until-it-happened revelation hit me this weekend.

Foster parents are the only ones in this "system" who are working with and for foster kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This struck me this particular weekend because so many people in this case promised to get back to me on Friday and didn't. And I realized Sunday afternoon that they were all "off" and I could count on hearing from none of them until Monday at best.

There was the agency caseworker, who has supposedly been working for 3 weeks to find us respite care for a night early this week when we have "big kid" plans. Last heard from Friday morning; at that time, it was "still working on it" and would send me some numbers of people I could try "soon."

There was the county caseworker, who called me Friday morning and left a message asking me to call her back. Which I did, within about 30 minutes, and had to leave her a message.

There was S's counselor, who told me at the end of S's last session (which was on TUESDAY) that she would call on Friday to set up this week's counseling appointment and to talk to me "about what she's seeing with S."

None of them called on Friday.

I was sick Friday, so I didn't call them myself, but the point is that I Shouldn't Have To Do That. These are professionals. Who told me they would call on a certain date. But didn't. (Rational Aside: OK. I get that when you work in child welfare, there comes a point in the day and the week when you have to just stop and give yourself a break because it never really ends. I really do get that. But all these people have my email address. It have taken them a few seconds to send me a quick: Sorry, got swamped today, will be in touch Monday. And those few seconds would have gone a huge way towards making me feel more supported and less on-our-own-here-until-they-feel-like-talking-to-us-and-then-we'd-better-show-up-when-and-where-they-say.)

I spent the weekend stewing about the fact that all of these people get to go home at the end of Friday and pretend to forget about the children whose lives they hold in their hands while I am still fielding "When can I go home?" questions and "I want my mommy" tantrums and dodging kicking feet while I'm at it.

This morning I got busy, and I am 2 for 3 so far.
  • Emailed the agency caseworker, copying her supervisor, forwarding the whole email chain of 3 weeks worth of my asking for this one respite night. She responded with "I'm in court, but here are some people you can call." (Couldn't she have sent me those numbers on Friday night?) Then I did the rest of her job and found my own respite caregiver.
  • Called the county caseworker and got her voicemail. Still wondering what she wanted to tell or ask me.
  • Called the counselor and she actually answered! We spoke briefly and I learned what she had wanted to talk to me about. She had a revelation that S may be a little uncomfortable with reunification at this time because she remembers how unstable life was with her mother before she came into care and that's not what she's used to anymore. Really? You think? A 3 year old that spends 10 months in a stable household with consistent routines and rules might be a little put off at the idea of leaving all of that to return to the chaos that was home before? And could be feeling conflicted about that because she does love her mother and want to be with her? (AND ISN'T THAT ONE OF THE REASONS I PUSHED FOR COUNSELING IN THE FIRST PLACE!?)
So, to sum up. I still don't know what the caseworker wants to tell me. (Is there a change in visitation? Is there progress in the case? Is there a court date planned? Did one of the parents complain about me in some way? Has the county now decided that all foster parents must wear a certain color shirt at all times in order to identify them as foster caregivers, but still cannot in any way identify any children as being in care?) I have successfully saved the Original's reward night for the spring semester from either being short one parent or the event itself being cut short (which it would be if we tried to add a 3 year old to an evening outing that wouldn't start til close to bedtime). I have learned that the counselor is "seeing" things that I think should be obvious from the bare sketches of this case's situation and doesn't have much to tell me in how to help the child cope with those things.

Foster Care Sucks.