Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Intent to Adopt Question

Sometime last month, someone came to this blog while searching for the question "Can dfcs change its mind after you sign intent to adopt?"

 I skimmed through my archives and I'm not sure I explicitely answered that, so I thought I'd do so now, just in case someone is still looking for the answer.

Keep in mind, however, that I'm not an attorney or a child welfare professional. I've only been through one adoption from foster care in one county of one state in the US. But I'll tell you what I understand to be the answer to that question based on what I was told by attorneys and child welfare professionals when we were finalizing M's adoption.

The short answer is: Yes. Yes, they can change their mind after intents are signed. It's not final and forever until the judge signs the adoption decree on the adoption finalization date.

The longer answer is: It's not likely. When you sign intent to adopt paperwork, DFCS is declaring that you are the chosen placement for this child. If the caseworker is still deciding between multiple placement options, you won't be signing that paperwork yet. We were told it wasn't final, and we asked what could happen to derail the process at that point. Basically, if an abuse or neglect complaint were to be filed against us, causing DFCS to have remove the child. I suppose it's possible that a previously-unheard of relative could show up at that point, but the chances of that would depend on the specific case. M's parents had signed away their rights. According to our county caseworker, that action terminated the rights of all extended family members as well. If one of us had been charged with a crime that made DFCS question our fitness to be parents, they could have retracted the placement.

The signing of the intent to adopt paperwork is the last step -- other than getting assigned a court date -- but nothing in foster care is ever final until the judge says it is.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Forever Family!

It is done!

Final and forever and ever and all over! (Except for some of the legal changing-of-paperwork that can't be started until after it's all final. Like adding her to our medical insurance and getting her name changed with the Social Security office.)

When we got to court, the agency caseworker told us it was "family day" and it was all adoptions and divorces with all three of the judges in Superior Court for the day. It was the last one on the calendar before the end of the year and they were trying to squeeze everybody in. They had about 10-15 adoptions to finalize and then would start the over 50 divorce cases. A judge had told her they'd be there until 8 or 9 that night finalizing divorces. So, when the judge started our case by commenting that this was one of the few "happy" cases she was going to get to do that day, I knew exactly what she meant.

The lawyer swore us and the caseworker in, then asked us a few questions. Did we understand this was permanent and forever, with no returns or exchanges? Were we prepared to care for and support M physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially and in all other ways? She asked the caseworker a few other questions. Had we complied with all requirements by the state to be eligible to adopt? Had she observed us with M and with our other children? Did M appear bonded to us? Did the other children appear willing and content to welcome her into the family?

The lawyer had told us before court that she would ask us some questions. She said "all your answers will be 'yes.'" So, that was easy.

The lawyer said some things to the judge about why M's case was being finalized in that county's courtroom and then that was it. We took some pictures and went to the county clerk's office to wait for our official certified copies of the adoption decree.

The lawyer -- who was awesome and so very on top of things -- gave us several sheets of paperwork. One was the form we would need to apply for a new birth certificate. She then handed us another sheet while glancing away and saying quietly "I have no idea how that got in there." It was M's original birth certificate, which is supposed to be sealed up and not given to us. (If you follow any adult adoptee blogs, you likely know that this is something a lot of adult adoptees are angry about and would like to see changed.) So, the lawyer "has no idea" how we got that precious document. Hee.

Afterwards, I immediately put her picture on Facebook and we began mailing the Christmas cards. We'll be baptizing her in our church on Sunday and the after-adoption paperwork is all filed and mailed off to the appropriate agencies. It hasn't quite sunk in yet that it's really over and done....but we've been teasing Peter a lot about how he can babysit now!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Court Date Set!

We have a court date for M's adoption finalization!

In a moment that is so typical of how this case has progressed, we got a call from the lawyer this morning saying she was trying to nail down the court date. How would next week be? Next week!

The lawyer told us she usually asks for her payment 2 weeks before the court date, but that's obviously not possible, so, could we pay her soon, please? (Check going in the mail immediately, of course.)

We're working on getting Peter, Susan and Edmund excused from school that day (easy for Edmund, pretty easy for Susan, a little more complicated for Peter. He's got final exams that he will miss, so he's having to work out a make-up plan with those teachers.). It hasn't quite hit me yet, but this is really happening before Christmas!

And I guess we're finally going to have a "Lucy."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


I don't know why I'm still doing it.

Whenever I have had foster placements in the home, I'm in the habit of "stalking" them online. I find their Facebook accounts and browse whatever they make public. I Google them regularly to see if their name pops up anywhere -- some of my kids' parents have been in towns where the local online paper posts a "blotter" of recent arrests. I search (less often) for the names of the people I know they are spending time around to see if anything shows up there.

Usually, after the kids are gone, I stop doing this. I guess I'm still doing it because M's not gone. But, by that logic, I will be stalking her parents forever.

I was never able to find much on M's biological father. He's not on Facebook, which is usually the best source. I found the occasional report of his arrests, but they were all in the past and things we knew about through other channels.

M's mother, though? Whew, boy, does that woman need to learn how to lock down her Facebook privacy settings. So, I keep checking. I'll admit to being curious if she would say anything more about M. She posted newborn pics and gushed about her occasionally early in the case, but nothing since the surrender.

I need a name for M's mother. (Birth mother? First mother? Biological mother? I'm still struggling with the terminology.) Let's call her Kayla.

The last time I looked, I read a conversation between her and another woman in which it was pretty clear that M's mother is lying to the people around her about what has happened with her children. The other woman asked about M's oldest half-sister, age 8. I'll call her Neveah. Rights to Neveah were terminated in the summer of 2013 and her adoption (by her foster family) was finalized this past fall. I've had contact with that foster mom -- we tried briefly to arrange a sister-meeting -- and Neveah has some pretty heavy emotional scars from the experiences that brought her into care and from the time she spent waiting to see if her mother could pull it together. (In the end, the sister-meeting didn't happen because Neveah's therapist didn't think she could handle it right now. I told Neveah's adoptive mother that the door is open whenever she's ready; M is too little to care right now.) So, Neveah has not lived with Kayla in over 3 years. When the other woman asked about her, though? Kayla said Neveah goes to an after-school care program and then will go spend the night with "my cousin" while Kayla has "a party at my house every night."

Kayla also made an off-hand mention of having been in jail, it seemed recently. She lives in a town where at least some arrest records are online, so I searched for her. Remember, she surrendered her rights in July. In August, she was arrested for a DUI. In October, she was arrested for burglary and theft--I think that's when the jail time happened. On Thanksgiving night, she was picked up for a parole violation. She is spiraling downward out of control -- again -- and I can't help wondering where it will end. At the moment, there is no plan for ongoing contact between her and M; Kayla is just too unstable. But I struggle to know how much of this to document in order to share with M when she's older, especially if it turns out that Kayla doesn't ever become someone I'm comfortable introducing into M's life. (In our state, M will have access to any and all available information about family members when she's an adult. At that time, she can choose for herself whether she wants to meet Kayla if she hasn't met her already.) I want to be able to honestly tell M as much as I can understand about why her mother chose to stop fighting for her; I want to be able to give M as much of her biological history as possible; I don't want to be lining up "evidence" to prove that Kayla doesn't "deserve" M or anything like that. I tend to err on the side of  "document everything" probably because that's been my standard foster-care M.O. I guess I can do the editing and cherry-picking when it's time to share. Just wish I had some more good things to add into the mix.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Inch by Inch

We are still moving v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y towards M's adoption date.

Last week, we signed the Intent-to-Adopt paperwork, which stops the per diem payments, but doesn't seem to change anything else. Also last week, our attorney received the packet of paperwork she needs to file with the court to request a court date to finalize the adoption. (This packet included the Intent paperwork we'd signed.)

We haven't heard anything since. We were told the attorney would file the paperwork as soon as she could, but that it could take the court a week to respond with a court date. With the holiday getting ever closer, we're not sure when that "week" is really up.

Everyone involved with experience with this county still seems to think an adoption date in December is a realistic possibility. We sure would like to know the date, though.

We did have a bit of a reality check in the lead-up to signing day. I keep saying we're moving slowly and Mr D and I both feel like things are just barely inching along. But the truth is that things are at least moving and at speeds that really are "fast" for foster care. Our agency caseworker wanted to be there when we signed the papers, but she couldn't. She had to attend a TPR hearing for another case. A TPR hearing for a little boy who is nearly 3 years old and has been in care for over 2 of those years. His current foster family has been his family since he came to them at about 9 months of age; they are willing and eager to be his forever family. It was the fourth TPR hearing for his mother who has only made it to 4 visits with him in the entire 2-plus years he's been in care. He doesn't really understand who she is. Compared to that? M's case is flying.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Signing Date

It didn't quite play out the way I'd hoped, but it may still all turn out OK. (Well, it will all still turn out OK. There is only a minuscule chance at this point that the adoption could fall through, which is the only result that isn't "turning out OK.")

The Director reviewed and approved our homestudy. She was done with this early in the first week of November.

However, the DFCS caseworker wasn't able to set a signing date with us until early next week.

I'm still being told a December closing date is a "reasonable goal." This particular county (and caseworker) have a reputation for wrapping things up pretty efficiently. (Other counties in my state, however....oh, boy. The county in which I live? Currently has a 3-5 month wait from the time of signing to even getting a court date assigned...which can still be another few months out. Hence, we are finalizing the adoption in the county in which M's case is held.)

After we sign, our lawyer has to file paperwork with the court. Then we get a court date.

And then I will be able to be confident that we'll be able to finalize in 2014, before Christmas.

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


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....

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Where Is Your Mind?

Overheard today, as Edmund lay on the floor next to M.

Oh, no! Don't touch me there!

I looked over to see what he meant. He didn't look at me, but he kept talking to the baby.

That's the bottom of my foot and it really tickles!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Legally Free

M is legally free for adoption.

The DNA results finally came in and they were positive; Putative Father is the biological father. So, that simplifies things.

Both parents have surrendered their rights and the period of time they had to change their minds has passed. The fact that they surrendered the rights "voluntarily" (as opposed to going through a Termination of Parental Rights processes in the courts) means that all extended family have just had their rights terminated as well. There is no appeal process to that. As far as the court is concerned, M has no family members of any kind and never did. (I'm having some trouble coming to terms with that last part. They were never her family? Even the half-siblings and any aunts/uncles/cousins that we might not even know exist?)

We have announced our intentions to adopt her to the caseworker. An adoption caseworker has been assigned and we will begin working with her next month. (I'm sure the current caseworker can't wait to hand us off, anyway!) The agency caseworker has worked with her before and has glowing things to say, so that's reassuring. She will tell us more about the timeline moving forward. We're told to expect 3-6 months for finalization.

We've told the kids and close friends and family, always emphasizing that nothing is ever final in foster care until the judge says it is. It is final that M will not be going back to her birth parents; it is not final that she will stay with us as her forever family. Here, though, I can confess that it is about as final as it can get. We asked for some worst-case-scenario ideas on how it could not happen. The answer? Pretty much, if we mess up big time somehow. If we don't file our paperwork, if we refuse to cooperate with a new homestudy, if we don't agree to be fingerprinted (again), if she gets hurt in our home and has to be removed.....I know that last one can happen even if we don't mess up, but there's no one fighting for her to be anywhere but here. She's never been anywhere but here and the hospital.

The Originals are excited, the grandparents are thrilled, some friends are plotting a baby shower. Mr D and I are still slowly moving through the emotional phases of this process. It's just really hitting us that this is real; she won't be leaving us. We're so used to supporting reunification and sending the kids "home" that there's a period of grief necessary for us. We're nearing the end of that period, I think, as we begin to think about names and dates and plans going forward.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Our caseworker is...

I don't know how to finish that sentence. She's incompetent? She's delusional? She's learned nothing from the fallout after not communicating BioMom's surrender? I'm trying really hard to imagine scenarios that make her choices seem understandable, but my (generally very good) imagination is running out.

We're well past the time when the DNA test results were supposed to be back. And the county caseworker (what did I name her again? "Meg") is, yet again, not speaking to any of the rest of us. (By which I mean she's not responding to me, the agency caseworker, or the CASA.) So the agency caseworker ("Anna") is attempting to find things out in other ways.

In the process of doing that, Anna called the biological parents' house to see if they knew anything about the DNA results.

Putative Father was puzzled by this call because...he signed a surrender at the beginning of the week. FIVE days before this phone call took place.

Anna called me, frustrated and angry and embarrassed. She said she felt like she'd just "rubbed salt in the wound" by asking him if he'd heard anything about the DNA results yet. Yet, it never would have happened if Meg would tell anyone about important developments in the case!

There's just no excuse for this. It's not like she has to actually call and talk to one of us. She could send a quick email or text message if she doesn't have time to discuss it. It wouldn't have to have names or identifying information that would mean anything to anyone else if she's worried about confidentiality on an email. ("Putative father of child in <mylastname> home signed surrender of rights on x date. Has until y date to revoke surrender." -- that took me about 3 minutes to type.) But to not communicate it at all....!

Putative Father has until late this week to revoke his surrender, but Anna did not have the impression that he was even considering doing that. That means that M is "legally free" at the end of the week.

Unless, of course, the DNA says he's not the daddy and then we have to wait out a search. Wish we knew what the DNA says.

Anna was going to call Meg's supervisor to let her know what a disaster this lack of communication is. And all future emails will copy the supervisor. At this point, I just can't wait to get assigned an adoption worker from the county and not have to work with Meg anymore.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


I had an interesting experience yesterday. Well, I thought it was interesting at least. :)

I was school supply shopping with Peter. We had M with us, in her car seat, which I had set down in the basket of the cart. (Aside: when the Originals were babies, I did that thing where you put the car seat up on top of the cart, where the child seat is. I never thought anything about it; I needed the space in the basket for all the groceries! But after Edmund outgrew that carrier style car seat and I was trying to decide what to do with it, I noticed that the plastic near the hooks that latch into the base had white streaks, as though it had been bent near to breaking. So, with M, when the nurses in the NICU were insisting that I not attempt to latch the carrier on the seat part of the grocery cart because it can damage the latching system...I listened. She goes down in the main basket, and we fit the things we are buying down around her.)

We checked out and were back out at the car. I joked to Peter that we were about to find out if we accidentally stole anything as I picked her up to put in the car. Oops. We did.

 A pack of index cards and a protractor. Total cost: about $2.

I thought -- for about 2 seconds -- about shrugging my shoulders and going home. It was hot. M was tired of being in the car seat and getting hungry, so she was cranky. It was past dinnertime and Edmund and Susan were waiting at home. But, I had Peter with me. And I had just pointed out to him that we didn't pay for these items.

So, I carried M and the $2 worth of school supplies back into the store and paid for them.

What is interesting to me is this: I am certain that going back and paying for the items was the right thing to do. I am almost certain that I wouldn't have done it if Peter had not been with me. Apparently, I am a more moral person if I have an audience.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Round and Round

M's mother had her final visit. Beforehand, the supervisor confessed she'd never done a "goodbye visit" before and was a little apprehensive of how things would go. Well, in addition to wondering if the parents would actually show up this time....

They showed up. And it was....odd. The supervisor said it was just like any other visit, except for a couple comments made by M's mother that showed she understood what the surrender meant. (Specifically, a comment was made about "I know I'm not her mother anymore"...Just typing that breaks my heart.) She sent us some expired baby food.

We're still waiting on DNA results for the supposed father. They are long overdue, but the county's Powers That Be have decided that DNA testing will all be done "in-house" from now on, so they didn't renew their contracts with any of the providers that used to do the processing for them. But they haven't trained the staff on how to actually do it in-house, so there is only one office that is processing all the DNA requests for the entire county for any governmental reason. (That is, it does parent-child DNA matches for foster care, but also for custody disputes and child support cases and anything else that a court might be involved in.) Guess what? They're a little backed up. Sigh. (Why is it so hard for a government agency to make sure the tools for a new procedure are in place before cutting off the option of using the old procedure? It's called a "transition strategy.")

So, mom is legally out of the picture and on record as saying that she would like M to stay with us.

Dad is still in a holding pattern.

M is nearly 6 months old and we still don't know for sure who her daddy is.

Welcome to foster care. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Actually, I wasn't pregnant...

I had a routine doctor's appointment today.

I took M with me, because she's portable that way. I forget, sometimes, though, that she looks enough like me for people to assume that I'm her biological mother.

The nurse checking my vitals and updating my chart asked if I was following up with my OB. I said yes because the OB who delivered the Originals is also my GYN and I have regular appointments with her; I still tend to think of her as an OB, even though I know that means pregnancy related stuff. Later in the conversation the nurse asked if I was breastfeeding. I was startled at first and then stumbled out, "Well, no, I....she's....um. We're a foster family?"

The PA who did the rest of my exam read over the notes and asked a few more questions. Then she asked about swollen ankles and bleeding and then paused, looking at the chart, and asked how old the baby was. I told her and she still looked puzzled. It only occurred to me to elaborate because of the conversation with the nurse. "I didn't give birth to her. We're a foster family." The light bulb went off and the PA corrected the chart to say I follow up with my "OBGYN."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Three years

Today, it is exactly 3 years since my first blog entry posted.

It's actually been a little longer than that since we started this journey. (Confession:the first several posts were all scheduled. I wrote them all within a day or two, but knew I might not have much else to say for months to come since we didn't have a placement yet, so I spaced out the posting of them.)

There is a pretty good chance that M will be our last placement, at least for some time. Our agency imposes a "hold" on any family for at least a year following a birth or adoption, to ensure that the "new" family has time to solidify and find their "normal" before bringing the uncertainty of foster care back into their world. We don't know if the "year" starts the day the adoption is finalized or the day the child moved in or what. At any rate, after that year, whenever it starts....we'll see. When we started fostering, all our permanent kids were in school full-time and our acceptable age range was "younger than our youngest." If we stick to that, it would become "younger than M", which would limit us to babies. Perhaps we will do that. I'm not sure about taking on another infant, though, especially while caring for a one or two year old. Perhaps we will maintain our license, but only do respite for other families. That's too far down the path to think about yet.

If M isn't adopted --- if somehow, after all of this, she's returned to family -- we will need a long break to heal from the roller coaster. Right now, that seems unimaginable. But DNA test results are still unknown and potential fathers and paternal relatives have yet to be investigated. Anything can happen. Especially in foster care.

A lot has happened in these 3 years. Much of the foster stuff is included in these archives, but not all of it. Many things that weren't foster related have happened as well, as life swirls onward, regardless of what other plans we had for those days.

In 3 years, we've had 11 "bonus" children come into our home -- for hours or days or weeks or months at a time. We've had at least 7 that might have come, but didn't. Of the ones who did arrive at the door, 10 of them have moved on -- returned to family, or back to their long-term foster placement. The 11th is still here....and might stay forever.

In 3 years, we've had children from 4 counties. Boys and girls, siblings sets and single placements, babies and preschoolers and elementary school age children. Most of them looked enough like us to be mistaken for biological children, but not all of them. Some of them called us Mom and Dad, some called us by our first names, some didn't speak enough to call us anything at all.

In 3 years, we've learned so much....and realized how many things we have yet to learn. We've learned: no one knows how long they'll stay, some caseworkers are better than others, the turnover in DFCS is unreal, and you never know what the judge will actually do. We've learned that we can handle more than we thought when it comes to disruptive behavior, but that some things we thought we could do forever, we really can't. We are so grateful that we learned that with a child that didn't need to stay forever.

In 3 years, we've come to understand how important reunification truly is and how to accept that. We've learned how to attach not just to the children, but to their parents, so that we can truly desire that a family be kept together, not just believe in the theory in our heads. We've learned to love them hard while we have them and then let them go. We've learned to really feel that reunification is the happy ending we all want and to rejoice in it. We are currently struggling through the disappointment that is case that couldn't reunify. Right now, we are grieving the dissolution of M's original family; the joy of M's forever home won't come until the adoption is final. 

Part of me never thought we would be doing this for three years. Mr D and I both thought we would be done fostering when an adoption came through. Perhaps that is still true. But, naively, we never thought it would take 3 years for that to happen. We may have thought that because the first two calls we got were for kids "likely to be TPR'ed." And yet, I think that the placements we've had in those three years have helped us grow so much stronger in our faith and in our empathy and in our understanding of the big picture. God's plan for this time in our lives is so much better than ours was. (Isn't it always?)

We've watched our Originals grow up so much in these three years. Peter was always a good "big brother", but he has become a young man with a deep love for little children. He's so much more comfortable with preschoolers and toddlers than most boys his age and it's a delight to watch him go to get M when she's fussing and I can't get to her right that second. Susan has matured as well, and her heart for missions is strong. The ups and downs of foster care haven't dented her faith that God can use all things for good. Edmund is still goofy and silly and loves to make the little ones laugh. He rolls with the constant change of his place in birth order (He's the youngest, then he's not, then he is, then he's not....) They all rush to greet her when they come home and delight in making her smile or giggle. Somehow, in spite of all the coming and going, they are always eager to welcome the next placement, often well before Mr D and I are! It will be interesting to see how they react to the concept that M is staying. I think Peter suspects -- he's been asking questions about the possibility ever since visits started getting missed. (We haven't told them yet -- we won't tell them until all parental rights are legally, officially, nobody-can-take-it-back terminated and we can tell them what the time-line and process is for the adoption.)

It's been a busy, crazy, dramatic 3 years. I don't know what the next 3 years will bring, but I never would have believed these 3 would happen this way if I'd been told ahead of time. Sometimes, we just have to let go of that desire to know and follow the path God lays out for us. It's a good one, even if can't always see it at the time.

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


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


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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Sometimes, when we read stories about how foster care cases are progressing, it seems like nothing the parents do have any real consequences. Sometimes, it seems like the consequences are inadequate or unrelated to the poor choice that was made. And sometimes, it is hard to know what will happen.

The county caseworker was informed mid-last week that M's mother had failed her second drug screen and was therefore kicked out of the drug treatment program. Apparently, CW then could not reach BioMom by phone for the next week or so. I don't know if or when she ever actually did talk to her, so I don't know if CW is aware of BioMom's supposed plan to go into inpatient rehab.

The county had a staffing to discuss how this changes things. BioMom is officially not enrolled in a drug treatment program. This means she is officially out of compliance with her case plan, no matter what she says about trying to get into another one. In general, the consequences of being out of compliance are varied, depending on what the parent is or is not doing and (frankly) the feelings of the caseworker about the parent and about the case. Sometimes, there are no consequences. On the other extreme, she could have been arrested for contempt of court.

What is most likely happening is that there will be a change to her visitiation rights. The caseworker's take on this is that it is not acceptable for M to have visits with someone who is actively under the influence during the visit. So, the options on the table before the staffing were: stop visits altogether or drug test at each visit. Drug testing at each visit is expensive, so it would also mean cutting down on the frequency of the visits. My agency caseworker told me that the change would be effective immediately, but the county caseworker tells me that it has to go to court first. M was having a family visit with both parents every week for 2 hours; I'm not sure what the change will be.

But, you may say, if M was visiting with both and only one messed up, why should they both lose time with her? And the answer is to remind you that the "putative father" (as they call him in the paperwork now) still has not done the DNA test. That would be the testing he said he would do when it came up at the beginning of the case (nearly 3 months ago) and that was court ordered at the last court date (about 1 month ago). Still has not been done. (This in spite of the fact that the place that is supervising the visits can also take the DNA sample for him while he's there, so this is really very easy for him to do. I have no idea what (if any) financial costs are associated with doing the testing.) So, he has no legal rights because he hasn't proved himself to be her father. Technically, this means the county could have been denying him visitation all this time, but they didn't because both parents were coming to the visits together. They are not going to fund the supervision of visits for just him and they are certainly not going to give him unsupervised contact.

I can't be happy about the possibility of cutting back on visits. But I can't be shocked either. It breaks my heart to see a family disintegrating before my eyes. But, if it was going to happen, I am....relieved? I guess that's the best word....that it is happening quickly. I don't want to see M's mother lose her daughter, but if she must, I also don't want M stuck for years in the foster system. It's hard for me to separate the impending TPR (which can only be a tragic day for all involved) from the resulting adoption (which would be a happy day here). Adoption always starts with loss. Right now, I'm watching the events that will justify that loss to the world, if not to all the people who will suffer from it. And all I can do is keep praying.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


One of the things that parents of kids in foster care in my area are told will help their case is to show that they are interested in providing for their child. It is recommended to them that they supply clothing, diapers, wipes, baby food....anything of that sort that their child might need. Such items can be brought to a family visit, to return to me with the child.

Sounds reasonable and good, right? That a parent should be showing that they know what their child needs and making sure it is available? N's parents did it perfectly, I thought. Each visit there was something -- a package of diapers, a gallon of "nursery water" to mix with formula, some baby food, a bottle of lotion, the occasional outfit. There was never more than I could reasonably use up and never anything he didn't actually need. (WIC provides all the formula, so there's no need for a parent to purchase that.)

With M's case, it's not going quite so well.

After several consecutive weeks of more and more clothing coming back from the visit, I pointed out to the caseworker that M now had more clothing than she could possibly wear before outgrowing it. Could we steer BioMom away from spending her money on unnecessary clothing? We could, indeed! She was steered towards providing diapers and wipes.

I noticed that the diaper packages are a little...odd. They are generally wrapped simply in clear plastic, in spite of being big-name brand diapers. This suggests to me that what is getting sent to me at each visit is a portion of a larger package -- the largest count boxes often contain 2-3 of these clear plastic packs in each box. Huh, I thought. Maybe she sends one package at a time so that she's bringing something to each visit. Not a big deal.

Then, the next one had the size written on the plastic in black marker. That startled me so much I pointed it out to the person who supervises the visit. She was puzzled, too, so she casually asked about it next visit. Turns out the diapers came "from a church."

So, M's mother is sending me diapers that she's getting from some sort of charitable outreach program.

This bothers me and I'm not sure I can articulate why.

M's mother is trying to show she can provide, but she's doing it by going to charities for the things her daughter needs. In my mind, the charities are there to help people who aren't able to provide. Maybe M's mother isn't able, too, either, but.....

I think I know what bothers me.

M will not go without diapers if her mother does not provide them. (I will provide them. That's what her per diem is for.) And yet, someone whose child will go without diapers if her parent does not provide them might go to that church tomorrow only to find that they do not have any in the right size. Because M's mother took them.

It feels like abuse of the charity. It also feels like M's mother is misrepresenting her ability to provide.

Partly, I'm projecting the scenario out -- assuming that the charity is under the impression that M will be diaper-less without their help. But, isn't that what charities assume? That their help is necessary? And if their help is necessary, then the diapers M's mother is bringing to the visit are not evidence of her ability to provide, regardless of how it may look in the documentation.

It all feels so sneaky and sleazy....but there's nothing I can do about it. I can't refuse to accept the diapers. I suppose I could turn around and immediately donate them back to a charity, but that seems a little excessive.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


BioMom self-reports (again) that she has relapsed (again) and been officially kicked out of her outpatient drug rehab program.

She says she's going to try to get into a (different) inpatient one, but declined any help my agency caseworker offered her to make that happen.

Still waiting to hear the county caseworker's response to all this....probably won't happen until next week at best.

Not sure how I feel about this. It seems like inpatient is the best thing for her -- and I'm glad to hear that she seems to understand that. But getting into a program (especially having just been kicked out of one) is going to be hard. It's going to require a lot of follow-through and persistent effort. The fact that she is refusing help with that part makes me wonder if she really wants to get into the program at all.

If M ends up being a permanent part of our family, I want to be able to tell her -- honestly -- that I did everything I could to help her mother succeed in getting her back. Right now, all I can do to help her (besides take care of her child) is pray.

In other news, the CASA is requesting that the county caseworker meet with her and the agency caseworker next week. The CASA is ticked off (rightfully so) because the only person who ever updates her on what's going on is me. (I don't think she's mad at the agency caseworker -- most of what the agency caseworker knows comes from me, too.) Taking this as a sign of a good CASA for M, which is always a good thing. The CASA also has learned that no one is updating the GAL. (I'd mentioned in one of my updates that I don't have his email address and asked anyone who did to forward my emails on to him. She'd been working on verifying she had the right address before forwarding. Guess she got through to him.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Drug Rehab Programs

So, I got a small update from the agency caseworker, who'd managed to reach the county caseworker on the phone and had also talked with the supervisor of the county caseworker.

BioMom did indeed fail the drug test, although her reasons for taking the medication seem to vary depending on who is hearing the story. (That is, BioMom told me one reason, the drug counselor claimed she told her another one. Someone is supposed to be following up on a third possible story involving an emergency room visit.) What it boils down to, though, is that the reason is unimportant. BioMom was told at the beginning of this drug counseling program that she could not take this medication. Period, the end. So, when she failed the test, she was told (again) that it does not matter if someone writes her a prescription for it, she cannot take it. Ever. And if she really is in severe pain and is talking to a medical professional about help for it, she needs to Tell Them that she has a history of abusing that particular medication and ask if there are other options.

This program apparently allows her one failed test. She's had it now, so if she fails another one, they will kick her out of the program. If she gets kicked out of the program, she is done; she cannot complete her case plan without completing a drug rehab program and the programs are too full for another one to take on someone who has just been kicked out for failing 2 screenings while enrolled.

I don't know a whole lot about drug rehab or about how these programs work. But the caseworker said something that gave me pause. She said she felt that BioMom needs inpatient services, not outpatient. But that this particular program bases their decisions about the level of services needed entirely on the self-reporting of the addict. So, if BioMom understated her frequency/type/amount/whatever of drug use during the intake screening, she may not be getting the level of intensive programming she needs to succeed.

I understand that the rehab program doesn't necessarily have a lot of other reliable ways to judge the addict's level of need -- are they supposed to assume the patient is lying? -- but it seems to me that there should be some way to allow for the possibility. For example, in BioMom's case, it seems to me that the response to one failed drug screen (this early!) should not be "don't do it again", but "hmm, maybe we've underestimated the program you should be in, let's reconsider putting you in an inpatient program." I don't know much about addiction, either, to be honest, so maybe I'm off base and the fact that the addict won't admit their level of addiction at the beginning means they aren't ready to be helped at all. The agency caseworker said that some programs are better than others -- I got the impression that this isn't one of the better ones.

The county caseworker had a staffing in which she requested and received permission to begin filing for TPR. (Didn't take long for her tune to change on that idea!) The next step is for a TPR hearing date to be set. When one is set, it will be subject to change (or cancellation) based on the progress on the case plan. That is, if BioMom gets her act together now and starts moving on the case plan before the TPR hearing date (whenever that might be), the TPR paperwork might just sit in a desk drawer and not get filed with the court at all. But, if she doesn't.....

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rumor has it...

A little birdie told me that BioMom failed a drug screen.

She tested positive for the prescription pain reliever that is "her drug of choice" as I've heard it put.

Rumor further tells me that she told the drug counselor that she took the pills for a headache and doesn't understand why she can't take them since she has "a prescription with her name on it" for them.

Oh, and the little birdie is BioMom herself, so this feels pretty reliable.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Court with the New Caseworker

M's case went to court. She was not excused and was required to show up at the courthouse.

Her new caseworker told me the reason for this was that she was not able to get a response from M's GAL, the attorney who represents M in the case. (There are at least 3 attorneys in every case around here. The parents (can each have their own or share one if they are married), DFCS, and the child. I like this system, because it gives the child a voice in the courtroom; the flaw, of course, is that some GALs are better than others.) She had been assigned a GAL at the beginning who had to recuse himself and I had never heard anything about who the new one was. Apparently, in this county, it's the GAL who has to excuse the child.

So, I -- grudgingly --  took her to court. I had arranged for a babysitter so that I could go to court and hear what was going on and the babysitter I had lined up offered to come to the courthouse and stay with M in an out-of-the-way corner.

We met the GAL, who I surprised myself by really, really liking. He said he would excuse her from all future court hearings, but he wanted to meet her in person at least once. He has a 9 month old baby girl of his own. (He showed me a picture; she's adorable, of course.) He asked about how she was doing and if I had any concerns. He confirmed that we are a potential adoptive placement and he was interested in hearing all the background anyone had gathered on the parents.

This was a judicial review hearing -- where the parties involved look over the case plan, make any necessary adjustments and discuss progress in the case. But the parents "consented" at the beginning of the day, which I think means that they agreed to any changes that DFCS was proposing to make. (The only change was a correction to the case plan goals. It had been simply reunification; because of the past history of TPRs, it was supposed to be concurrent planning*, with adoption (by us) as the alternate goal. My assumption is that it was explained to the parents that this was a correction to a mistake, not really a change, so they agreed to it.)

When the parents "consent", they don't have to hold a true in-the-courtroom hearing. They can just have a informal meeting in the judge's chambers. So they did that. What I hate about this is that I never get to go to those. It's always "too crowded" for me to come in, between 3-4 attorneys, the judge herself, the DFCS case manager and the CASA. My agency caseworker did manage to squeeze herself in there, so I at least got a complete update.

The new caseworker didn't say anything during the hearing.

The goal was changed. The progress made was discussed. The GAL came back by to talk to me afterwards (another thing I like about him!) and said that it looks like "this case is going exactly as it should go, which doesn't often happen." Given that he knows we're willing to adopt M, I'm assuming that statement means he sees the case as going through the motions towards TPR while minizing the chances of a successful appeal. The CASA also said -- after the hearing in chambers -- that she doesn't think the judge will "let [M going back to her parents] happen."

Some information has arisen that leads to some doubt as to whether the man claiming to be M's father truly is her father and he has not yet completed the paternity testing. That testing has now been court ordered. (It wasn't before because he seemed willing to do it without being ordered.)

So, feeling more optimistic that we will get where we need to be eventually. Feeling more like "where we need to be" is not M returning to her biological family, as much as it pains my reunification-loving heart to say it. A long conversation with the CASA who was on the case of M's older siblings has given me the impression that this young woman is simply not capable of parenting appropriately. She has no ongoing contact with the older children because the adoption agreements require that she stay clean and she has not been able to do that; she's been on various drugs for so long that there is a distinct possibility that her cognitive functioning is permanently impaired to the extent that, even if she got clean, she might not have the mental capability to raise a child. (Specifically, her concept of cause and effect does not seem to be developed.) It will be interesting to see what the new caseworker thinks about the case the next time I meet with her, now that she's learned more of the details. (I'm trying to believe that her resistance to the idea of a relatively fast TPR track was the result of not yet knowing the case well.)

*Concurrent planning means there are two goals, a primary and an alternate. The primary goal is usually reunification; the alternate goal is sort of like a back-up plan. When concurrent planning is the goal on the case plan, DFCS is supposed to be preparing for both goals at the same time and is usually used when they think it is likely (or at least highly possible) that reunification will fail. So, concurrent means that all the paperwork to file for TPR and make M available for adoption should be in the process of being prepared, so that it's all ready to be filed if necessary; if we were not an adoptive option, concurrent planning would also mean that DFCS should be searching for one and moving her to one when it is identified. The idea is to minimize the time lag between the court deciding reunification isn't going to work and the child gaining a permanent home.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Preemie Development

I've never parented a premature baby before.

I knew -- intellectually -- that preemie development is assessed based on how old they "should" be, rather than how old they are. So, even though it's been a little over 3 months since M was born, her "adjusted" (or "gestational") age is 1 month because she was 9 weeks early.

So, I knew that she would probably roll over, crawl, babble, walk, talk and so on about 2 months later than is typical.

Notice how those are big milestones for later?

I used to tell people that the first 6-8 weeks are the hardest part with a new baby. Once they hit 8 weeks, in my experience, things sort of fall into place. They develop a little more of a personality, they fall into a more predictable schedule, their needs are more clearly established. Guess what else is taking a little longer for preemie M?

Truth be told, she is doing terrifically well from a developmental perspective. (So much so, that I sometimes wonder about the accuracy of her supposed due date.) She's holding her head up well, she pushes her shoulders off the ground during tummy time, she occasionally bats at toys hanging in front of her. We usually get at least one 6-hour stretch between feedings at night; when she does wake up in the night, it's usually eat and go back to sleep in 30 minutes or less. She's outgrown the "newborn" size clothing and is fitting into the 0-3 month sizes well.

But she is still mostly just eating and sleeping. She'll have two or three stretches during the day where she stays awake for an hour or two. She reacts to loud noises, but doesn't seem to turn towards a voice or respond to a face much. That's all OK, because she's still just (developmentally) 1 month old. As I think about it, I guess that I would say her gross motor skills are probably on track for her chronological age, but her social development is still at her adjusted age. Interesting that it can work that way.

It's funny being out places with her. People will ask, "Oh, how old is your baby?" and I say "3 months." If they look puzzled or startled, I will explain that she was 9 weeks early. I had my first experience of someone asking if she was breastfed yesterday. (I said "No, she's on special high-calorie formula.") It's hard not to justify myself, because I was obsessive about nursing my own biological children, but I remind myself that it's really not the business of this total stranger in line at the dry cleaners.

I'm hoping that we will soon be past the magic 6-8 week mark when I start to feel a little bit more like I know what I'm doing and less like I'm stumbling from one feeding to the next.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New Caseworker Meeting

After 3-plus years as a foster parent, I like to think my expectations for caseworkers are reasonably low.

Our new one is already disappointing me.

We had a meeting scheduled with her (and our agency caseworker) for 3 pm. Mr. D came home early from work, but had to leave again at 4:30 pm. This meeting was scheduled by the agency caseworker ("Anna") -- I did not even have the new caseworker's contact information at this point, although the Anna had given her mine.

Seconds after she walked in the door (a few minutes after 3pm), Anna got a call from the new caseworker ("Meg"). Meg was so sorry, but she was going to be late. She got stuck in a meeting, was just now leaving the office (which is about 30-45 minutes from my house). Anna had to leave by 4pm, told her that and said she hoped Meg would be there soon enough for them to at least meet.

Had a nice, hour-plus visit with Anna, who we already know quite well. After delaying her departure as long as possible, Anna finally completed her part of the home visit and left. No Meg. No follow-up call about the fact that she was now over an hour late.

4:30. Mr D had to leave. Still no Meg.

She finally showed up about 4:45pm. NEARLY 2 HOURS LATE. She did apologize, but the apology included the statement "I'm often late, but not usually this late." And the kicker to the tardiness? She then told me that she was working in her office and someone came by to ask her if she was going to use the rental car out front and she realized it was 3pm, the time she was supposed to be at my house. There WAS NO MEETING. She just lost track of time. Which, fine, it happens. But, then she lied to Anna about why she was late. Followed by telling me a different story? Ugh.

She had not yet met with the parents and did not know how things were going on their case plan. She "hopes" to meet them before court. Given that she's "often late" and feels OK about lying about why, I will not be at all shocked if she doesn't meet them before court. I'm hoping old CW is still going to be there.

When I tried to ask about the TPR plan and timeline that Old CW had talked about, she looked at me like I was insane. At one point she said, "Well, that may be what Old CW thinks, but we don't really do it that way." Oh. So, the supposed supervisor who handed you this case is just flat out wrong about how it's going to go? What kind of nasty politics are going on in that office?

I got a lot of responses that sounded like her rote replies to parents desperate to adopt. She told me to "just wait it out" and "give them time to hang themselves." Ugh, again.

The "staffing" was the transition from Old CW to Meg, but apparently none of this quick TPR plan was communicated. (Or if it was, it's being ignored.)

She also appeared not to understand why I didn't think M should be in the courtroom or know anything about the error in the case plan goal. (In fact, she thought the reunification case plan goal was correct, but said we could "talk about that at court.")

We'll see, but I am not optimistic that this woman is actually going to pay any attention to what anyone else thinks.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Another Song

This morning in church, we sang the hymn "Because He Lives." I know the chorus by heart:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives

But the second verse was a lightening bolt:

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because He lives

I said that I don't know what I want to happen in this case.  That "it's too early to tell."

But singing those lines this morning....?

Right now, as the case stands at this moment, I would not "face tomorrow" with "calm assurance" if M were to be ordered home at court later this month.

And as much as I would like to believe that's not possible, I'm far too aware that this is a broken system that does not always function in the best interests of the child. (Right, Cherub Mama?)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Must Laugh About This

I have to laugh because otherwise I will cry and rage and scream.

M's caseworker is changing. Already.

The good news (I guess?) is that the old one isn't leaving DFCS; she's just not going to be our case worker anymore because she's actually a supervisor and isn't supposed to be working cases at this level. So, in theory, she will still be available to the new case worker for questions on the case.

My meeting with the (old) caseworker for next week is cancelled and the new one is out of the office until early next week, so we don't have a rescheduled one yet.

The case plans that were given to the parents last week state that the goal is reunification. (I think that's why M's mother thinks she's coming home soon.) The (old) caseworker says this is an error that will be corrected at court later this month; the case plan should be concurrent planning. I'm told the (old) caseworker and the (new) caseworker will both be at that court hearing, so there shouldn't be any "I don't know, I just got this case" delays.

M has to be officially "excused" from attending court every time it happens. This involves the caseworker submitting a request to have her excused (on the grounds that she is too young and medically fragile to be in that environment) and waiting for approval. The (old) caseworker hasn't done that yet. No idea if the new one will be on the ball enough to get it done, so that I don't have to take the baby to court. My plan is to assume that she's excused unless I get told explicitly otherwise. I have reasonable grounds for such an assumption -- she's been excused from every other court hearing so far. (And, if I get told explicitly otherwise, my plan is to protest. There's an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in our community; I'm not exposing M to any germs that that I can avoid.)

The "staffing" is still scheduled for early May, but no one seems to know now what they are going to be planning to do in this case. BioMom is working her case plan some, which should be encouraging, but is also, sadly, what she did on her two prior TPR cases -- she worked it some at the beginning, then slowly stopped altogether. She claims this one is different because BioDad is holding her accountable, which would be a good sign if he hadn't also been involved in her life at the time of the two prior TPRs....perhaps he only holds her accountable to get her child back if it's also his child?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Shutting Off My Brain

I keep having to make myself stop thinking about M's case and about her future.

There is so much I don't know that every avenue of thought leads me down a maze of "if that's true, then....but if she's lying about that, then..." So, I'm continually cutting myself off and repeating that mantra I mentioned: "it's too early in the case to tell."

BioMom tells the woman supervising the visits things that she then reports to me. These things don't mesh with what the caseworker tells me. I'm inclined to believe the caseworker, but then remember that I haven't actually talked to her in several weeks, so it's possible that something has changed.

This is the first case in a long time in which I have seriously distrusted the biological parents. There was so much deliberately misleading information given by them at court that I just struggle to believe anything positive that they say any more.

That's a terrible way to feel about someone -- that you can't believe most of what they say. I suppose I should be grateful that M is not old enough for me to have to discuss what is being said with her. I am also grateful that the visit supervisor has taken to picking M up from my house and bringing her back after the visit. That means I don't have to make small talk with the biological parents, who have lately been hinting pretty hard that they want my phone number. (I never give it out this early in a case. In some cases, I don't give it out at all. I'm not sure yet if this is one where they will ever have it. "It's too early in the case to tell.")

I've always had pretty good relationships with the parents of foster children in my home. I don't know if that's going to be possible this time. "It's too early in the case to tell."

I meet with the caseworker again next week, so hopefully will get more of an update then on where DFCS truly thinks this case is going. (Because no matter what may or may not have changed since the meeting we had early this month, there is no way M is going back to her mother "in a matter of days" as her mother claimed at the last visit.) Last month, the caseworker thought the outcome ranged from "file for TPR in late May, available for adoption by end of summer" to "6 months to work the case plan, with paperwork for TPR ready to be filed at the end of the 6 months when (not if) case plan is not being worked, available for adoption by end of calendar year." I've mentally added a third (miracle?) option of "6 months to work the case plan, which gets worked enough to continue the case beyond 6 months or reunify," but the caseworker really didn't seem to think that would happen -- she worked this mother's two previous cases as well and she doesn't think this is going to be different.

I don't know. I don't know what will happen. I don't know what to hope for. "It's too early in the case to tell." So, for now, my prayers focus on clarity and wisdom for the judge and all others with decisions to make in this case. I suppose that's a good thing -- that I'm trying to focus my desires for M on the outcome being whatever God wants it to be for her -- but it's a very uncomfortable place to sit.

Extended family asks about summer vacation plans -- will she still be with us? I don't know. Do I hope she is? I don't know.

Peter goes to high school in the fall and plans to compete in a fall sport. Will she still be with us as I try to navigate his sports schedule during a very busy time at work for Mr. D? I don't know. Do I want her to be? I don't know.

I just can't think too far ahead. That's always true in foster care, but at least with S and N, I knew pretty early where I thought the case should end up; it was just a question of how long it would take. With M, I don't even know which path we are taking, one step at a time.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Who They Are -- M

M is a baby.

She was born at 31 weeks gestation and tested positive for exposure to multiple drugs. She spent a month in the NICU at the hospital in which she was born. When she was discharged, she went directly into foster care.

Her mother also tested positive at the birth for drug use. She admitted to one of the drugs, claimed the others "must be what the nurses gave me for pain." (That's, um, not possible.) M is her 3rd child. Her first two were already removed and her rights to them were terminated last year. I'm told that she made virtually no attempt to work her case plans for those two children, insisting that she did not have a drug problem and did not need rehab, regardless of what the case plan required. The oldest is currently in the works to be adopted by her foster family; the younger (now middle) child is already adopted by a paternal family member. All three children have different fathers.

When we were called about baby M, we were told there was a "high likelihood" of her becoming available for adoption. It was important that her foster home be willing to adopt her, if it came to that, to minimize the number of moves in her life. We agreed.

There are no resources available in biomom's family. The caseworker was unsure about biodad's family, but doubted anything would come of that. In our state, having prior TPR's does not mean you automatically lose rights to future children, but it is grounds for DFCS to request permission from the judge to skip the will-the-parents-work-the-case-plan step.

It's still too early in the case to know if she really will become a permanent member of our household, but it is much more likely than any of the other cases have ever been. (The closest previously was S, whose mother stepped up, worked hard and got her daughter back.) I'm hearing mixed messages. I heard the judge tell BioMom that DFCS would work with her and "hand her baby back" if she did what she needed to do this time; the caseworker told me she is having a "staffing" in May in which she will request permission to file for TPR. Caseplans were written and given to both parents last week. They have weekly, two hour visits, none of which have actually been two hours (they have either been significantly late or left early at every visit.). My current mantra is: it's too early to tell what will happen. I think the month of May will be revealing -- will TPR get filed? will there have been any progress on the case plans?

Right now, she just eats and sleeps and fills her diapers, blissfully unaware of the uncertainty swirling around her future.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Newborn Fog

The state keeps sending me younger and younger kids.

I think this was deliberatly planned to ease me back into night-time feedings. Because, good heavens, if we'd been doing this 3 years ago, when Edmund needed me to help him get his breakfast in the mornings and Susan needed me to remind her of each step in her morning schedule to get out the door and even Peter would sometimes get distracted and lose track of what time he needed to leave the house for the bus....I never would have survived it. Now, though, they can all get their own breakfast, they generally get themselves ready and out the door on time; all I'm really doing is packing their lunches. So, for now, I'm doing that the night before, just in case M has a rough night.

Generally, though, baby M is doing fabulously. At just over 2 months of age, she's finally passed her due date, making her adjusted age positive.

(Early Intervention came out to do her initial assessment before her due date. The worker told me, laughing, that there really wasn't much point to it yet...she just wanted to get her into their system for later and she'll come back in a few months. Development for preemies is assessed based on their "gestational age" -- the age they would be if they'd been born on time. When EI was here, her adjusted age was "negative 1 week." Developmental goals? Eat. Sleep. Grow. Keep breathing.)

Speaking of breathing, there have been no more scary incidents leading to hospital stays.

But she is eating every 3-4 hours around the clock. And each feeding takes about 30 minutes, plus a few more minutes to mix up a bottle of formula (or warm one from the refrigerator) and then clean up afterwards. So that means our sleep mostly consists of a series of 2-3 hour naps. Mr D takes a turn when he can, but since I can nap during the day and he has to go to work, that mostly consists of taking the last feeding before bed, so I can go to bed early. Even with that help, I'm spending most of my days in the hazy land of not-quite-enough sleep that I like to call "newborn fog."

She's growing like crazy -- already outgrown some of her preemie clothes. The 0-3 month clothes are still a little big, so she's hanging out in "newborn" size for now. As she gets bigger, she will begin to be able to go longer without eating -- already, last night, she slept for a 5 hour break between feedings -- and before I know it, she will sleep through the night. At which time, I will wake up and run to her room, terrified that she's stopped breathing again and then not be able to go back to sleep because of the adrenalin surge caused by that panic. But eventually, she'll do it regularly enough that I will expect it and then, oh, then, I will truly get a good night's sleep.