Monday, May 22, 2006

I wish there were something I regretted doing.

This was my wish a few nights ago.
I was wracking my brain, trying to find one thing I regret having done in regard to fostering/adopting/etc.

There isn't anything.

  • Deciding to adopt as a first choice
  • Deciding to do fostercare instead of private adoption
  • Deciding to take temporary foster babies
  • Deciding to take "possible adopt" foster babies
  • Deciding to treat Niblet as "our own"
  • Deciding to start calling her by the name we'd give her if we adopted her
  • Asking our family and friends to treat her as permanent, with the knowledge that she could be temporary
  • Deciding to have kids at all
  • All the other things that have happened that I didn't have control over, but could wish that they didn't happen all the same.
I can't even pretend to want to take any of these things back.

I'm a big proponent of "things happen for a reason". I'm not all that religious, but I am spiritual. I feel the bigger picture. If nothing else, the past 2 years have taught me more about "things happen for a reason" than I ever knew.

What this amounts to is that, as much as I want Niblet to stay with us forever and ever, it might not happen. And it will be okay if that happens. She will be okay. She will be safe. We will grieve and cry and curse and eat french fries and milkshakes for dinner for weeks, but we will recover. We will go on to the next step, we will move on with our lives, we will eventually have the family we are meant to have.
I don't think there's a "master plan", really, but I do think there are many paths that our lives can take and that all of them end up with us having children and being happy. I really do believe that.

I just wish I could find the branch of the current path that leads to Miss Cuteness sleeping through the night.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Oh, and...

Of course, my anger flares up occasionally.
Like tonight, when Niblet took over an hour to fall asleep. Everytime I left the room, she freaked out and would not calm down.

I left the room and told Fostermama: "I can't do it anymore. I fucking want him to come and take his broken baby now. I'm not doing it anymore."

It's really hard to be a long-term babysitter for such a high needs baby. It sometimes only has seemed worth it because "this too shall pass". If she leaves, then that's not true. We'll have gotten all the hardest months and he'll get the rest of it. The fun. The raising her. Fuck that noise.

I want to call him everytime she wakes up and keep him on the phone until I get to get back in bed. If I actually had his phone number, it'd be hard to stop myself from doing it in the middle of the night.

I think she's teething currently, but it's so hard to tell because there's no normal to compare it to.

I love her so hard. He doesn't love her like I do. He loves the idea of her. I know he will love her, but right now, I win. I love her more. She loves me more. None of this is fair to her.

Rollercoaster much?

Although there are no definites in this world, especially when you're talking about foster care, today it seems like our little Niblet's dad is going to get her back.

He's working on it. He's getting an apartment. He seems not too scared about her needs. He managed to get her to fall asleep at the visit (although she only stayed asleep for 15 minutes).
He even seems to have heard what the judge said last week and asked for more visitation. He's getting a second visit per week for 3 hours, which will be moved to his home once he gets a place and it's approved.

Niblet's case worker is being obnoxious. Now that reunification is seeming more possible, she's distancing herself from us because she assumes (I can only assume) that we're going to be pushing to keep the baby and her job is to follow the laws and make reunification happen if at all possible.

WE UNDERSTAND THIS. We know that our job is to keep the baby safe while she's in our care. We know that part of this job is to help her dad learn about her and help transition her to him.
We also know that many foster parents do fight it and don't understand how things work. But little miss case worker (who's been in the job for about a year and is probably 25 years old or so) doesn't want to listen to us and doesn't want us to talk to the dad. Ever.

She's commanded that we not talk to the dad's case worker about anything except the visits. If we want to talk to the dad, she has to be there, and she's made it clear that she's not willing to facilitate that.

Which is horrible. We learned in our foster care class that it's our responsibility to make an effort to have a relationship with the parents of our foster children. The case workers, however, have no idea what our training entailed and apparently don't like us asserting ourselves.

We're, surprisingly, taking it relatively well. I feel like what's meant to happen will happen. Her dad is a good man. She will be okay if she lives with him. She won't be who she would be if she stayed with us, but she'll be safe.

We still want our own baby, though. If Cuteness leaves, we're probably going to abandon foster care as a method of growing our family. We'll still be foster parents and we'll take temporary kids at some point, but we're either going to try to get pregnant or go domestic private adoption.

Hopefully her dad will figure out what he wants and if he can have it as soon as possible. Twice a week visits for 2-3 hours should give him a good idea of what she's like. I hope.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Relatively boring court, but there's always some fun!

This is a long post, so maybe you want to grab a snack. :)
So the upshot is what we expected. Given that she hasn't even been in care for 15 months yet, there was no way the judge was going to TPR on either parent. The lawyers all requested a 6 month extension, and the judge granted it.

So at least nothing weird on that front.

The dad was there, with his lawyer, and the mom is AWOL - possibly "detained", possibly just hiding out because she doesn't want to be forced into in-patient rehab. Or whatever. She still has time to come back in the picture, though.

One of the father's many adult children came to court (with her mother) to support the father. She's pretty young and, we think, has child of her own, but she has expressed readiness to "help" the father get the baby back. We don't know what that means at all. She was told that she needs to talk to the county CW if she wants to do kinship foster care or adopt the baby herself, and so far she hasn't done that. She kept trying to speak up in court, but everyone pointedly ignored her.
If she does officially come forward and go through the small steps to get the baby, she'll get her, no question. So our goal is to make sure that she and the father know exactly what they'd be getting themselves into. What the baby's needs are, what her future needs will probably be, etc. As I think I've said before, we don't want to "scare them off", we just want to make sure they make an informed decision and that the baby grows up with someone who accepts her and takes good care of her.

Anyway, got off track there!
It was really great that we were at court. At one point the judge asked the county attorney a simple question:
Judge - "Are the current foster parents ready to adopt the baby if the father doesn't succeed in getting her back?"
Attorney - "Well, I wouldn't say it that strongly, your honor."

Um...WTF?! It was a question that just required a yes or no answer, and the judge was assuming it was a yes, as that was half the reason she was switched to us! And the CW didn't say anything, either!

So the judge looks back at us, in the rows, and says "you're the foster parents, right? Why don't you come join us up here."
We grabbed a chair and joined them at the "big table". He asked us what our intentions are and Fostermama (bless her heart) managed to say very quickly and succinctly something along the lines of:
"We are happy to work with the county on whatever the goal is. If the parents are working toward reunification, we will do everything we can to help facilitate that. If the parents don't succeed, we are ready and willing to adopt the baby."

The judge said: "That's what I meant", looking very pointedly at the county attorney. The judge pretty much was in an "everybody's an idiot!" mood that day.

The last somewhat enjoyable part was that the judge really let loose on the dad. He obviously has no love for this man and was not particularly happy that he was required by law to give him 6 more months to get his act together. Some great quotes were:
"Sir, how long does your daughter have to wait for you?"
"You currently have 2-hour, supervised visits. You're not even on the level of a teenage babysitter. Anyone would allow a 16 year old to stay with their child, alone, all evening. You have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it in."

And the father blathered incoherently at each opportunity he had to speak. He really dug his own grave where this judge is concerned. He couldn't even give his current address accurately, and ended up giving a totally different one than he had given the county CW 15 minutes prior in the hallway. Who knows what he's, ineffectively, trying to cover up? We heard that this particular judge is unpredictable. Apparently, in this case, he's not on the parents' side. Which is appropriate, in my opinion, at this point. It could have easily gone the other way, so I guess the baby got lucky.

Oh, also the parents' CW got to see us quickly put the baby to sleep and have her stay asleep in the busy court waiting room. So there are no more excuses for the dad not to give her a nap during his visit. We will teach him how to swaddle her and cover her face and everything. He has to do it. The CW had said that the visit room isn't "conducive to sleep", but it's quiet and has no more than a couple of people around, nothing like the court!

The adult daughter and her mother, who've seen the baby 3 times in her life, came and grabbed her away from us when they got there and started playing with her. They had, at the last visit, made some disparaging remarks about the baby's mother, and in the court waiting room I overheard them saying something to the effect that they had stayed away from the baby because the mom was in the picture. Now that she's gone, they're interested in the baby again.

Which is problematic because it's not like the mom's in prison for 50 years - she's just keeping her distance for whatever reason. She could pop back in at ANY point. And she would have the right to see her baby and try to get her back. Then what would the dad's daughter (and her mother) do?? So we need to make sure the case workers know how the daughter feels and let her know what would happen if the mom came back. I'm hoping nobody wants to give the baby to people who are going to keep her from her bio-mom unnecessarily.

So anyway, the baby is still in our care. If the adult daughter comes forward to adopt her, that could happen within a matter of weeks. If she doesn't want to adopt her, we'll more-likely-than-not be able to keep her, as it seems to me that the dad will have a hard time getting her back on his own. That's a big IF, though. And anything else can happen, too, in the next 6 months.

The next hearing is in 6 months and we managed to get it scheduled for a few days after the anniversary of her being placed with us. This is important because, after 12 months in our care, the judge is allowed to consider us equally as a permanent family for her. So the judge would be allowed to *choose* if she should stay with us or go to the dad or whoever else. And we'd be have a lawyer at that point and be able to have way more standing in court than we would if it were before 12 months. Yes, we want to keep her, but mostly we want her to be safe. We have a better chance of helping that happen if we have standing in court. So, yay for that.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Permanency Hearing

Tomorrow is the "every 6 months" permanency hearing for our foster daughter. It is her first such hearing, I think. She'll be 1 year old in a few days, but she didn't come into care officially until she was released from the NICU, 2 months after she was born. So it's a late 6-month-hearing.

Fostermama and I will be there, and the baby will be with us, though during the actual court proceedings she'll be in the court daycare. In answer to Julie's question, no, we've never been to one of these before. This is our first. Our other foster babies had court proceedings, obviously, but we weren't involved enough to feel the need to attend. There's no real reason for us to be there, except that we want to know firsthand what happens.

We have been told, and have no reason to expect otherwise, that all that will happen is that the judge will continue the baby in foster care for another 6 months. Especially since the dad has recently begun to step up, but isn't ready to take custody yet.

A few weeks ago, we received a copy the case worker's report that gets sent to the judge. It was, in our opinion, overly gracious towards the parents. Didn't mention at ALL that they skipped out on 2 months worth of visits in the fall (which was the reason that she was moved to a pre-adoptive home), and didn't make it clear enough that the dad *just* started the steps toward getting her back. The steps that were clearly marked out quite a while ago.

We're hoping to be able to convey this to the baby's advocate, so maybe s/he will be able to let the judge know. It would be inappropriate and uncomfortable for us to let the judge know this, but we really need him to know.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll have more to say after tomorrow. Cross your fingers that it's a completely boring proceeding.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent."

Ok, so that's a Dar Williams quote that doesn't particularly apply, but it popped into my head while I was thinking about writing this post.

There's a permanency hearing next week. It will, most likely, be rote and the judge will just continue Cuteness in care for 6 more months. The mom is MIA and doesn't currently have visits and the dad *just* started getting his act together.

He's become a kind of dark horse. He's not currently living with the mom, because of circumstances beyond both their control, but he's taking this advantage to decide that maybe he wants to try and get the baby back himself. This might just be a big push before court and it may peter out afterwards, but we just have no idea what he's likely to do. Nobody ever thought he'd leave the mom or try to get the baby himself. He's quite old and likely wouldn't live to see her graduate high school. He probably has grandchildren older than this baby. He doesn't have a place to live. There are plenty of reasons why it's kinda crazy for him to try and parent her himself, not the least of which is that neither of us can imagine parenting her alone! It's not a one-person job - she's TOUGH.

From stuff the caseworkers have said, it's very likely that he just doesn't want to "lose" to The System. He doesn't want to "lose" the baby.

There are a million steps he'd have to go through before he'd be able to get her back, and all he's gotten so far is that he's starting 2-hour visits this week. This is good, in a way, because it's important that she naps during the visit, so he's going to have to try to put her for a nap. Good luck, buddy.
It's totally possible that she'll be so exhausted (the visit *starts* when she should be going down for a nap) that she'll pass out once he gives it a shot, but that won't happen every week.
Likely, she'll come home at 12pm not having slept and she'll be screwy for the rest of the day, as she usually doesn't take a very long nap right after her visit.

It's never been 100% that we were going to be able to keep her. Not even 50/50, if I'm honest. But mostly I've been blaming that on the fact that the judges tend not to really look at the case well and just do what they feel like doing. And we have the "worst" judge of the 3.

Somehow, having the dad say he wants to get her back and making some steps toward makes it worse.
I don't know what his drug history is like, but he's the one who was with the mom during her whole pregnancy and knew she was harming the fetus and just let it happen. If he was sober during all that, then all the more blame falls on him. If he can't stick up for his baby before she's even born, how is he going to stick up for her now? And she'll need it to get all the services and respect she deserves.

They visited her in the NICU a handful of times in the 2 months she was there. They went to a couple of visits after she was released and then skipped the visits for over 2 months, which is why she was transferred to us from the temporary foster home.

I'm really glad that she has a good case worker and that there's a long process of transition that has to happen before he'd be given her back. If he really wants to parent her, he needs to learn what that means. I'm not letting her go until I'm sure she's safe with him. And, of course, I'll never know that for sure, but I can hope.

Of course, mostly I'm hoping that he'll realize that he doesn't want to parent her. We're going to do our best to let him know that we want him in her life and that, if he surrenders, we'll work with him on what that means. Pictures, visits, meeting her siblings and other family - that's what we WANT for her.

So this is where my brain is today. Fragmented, as that's about all I can muster with the kind of sleep I've been getting for the past 6 months. How is it coming across to my 1.2 readers, I wonder? I'd love to answer questions or hear your experiences.