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.