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.