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.

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