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."
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!