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.

6 comments:

Tamara said...

Wow - what a day at court! I learned so much from hearing about your experience - one that may help me and others in the future. I can't imagine folks with such problems of their own parenting a child with needs such as Her Royal Cuteness. Had we not had Cookie since birth (drug exposed as she was), I imagine she would be in the same predicament. She is still VERY sensitive to sounds and touch too - but we got to start from day 1, but oooooh, the loss of sleep has been bad - I understand.

Here's hoping that in 6 months you get some answers re: permanency.

FosterMommy said...

It's a rollercoaster, for sure, but many of the foster parents we know have been through worse.

We often wish that we'd had Cuteness since day 1. Of course, she was in the NICU for 2 months, but if we'd been in place to take her, we would have visited her and held her and everything. After her release, she went to a temp foster home and she was there until we got her at 6 months old. She didn't get appropriate care in the other foster home, in our opinion. But one of the reasons they moved her was because the county felt she needed one-on-one attention...the other foster home had 4 or 5 adopted kids. And the foster mom babysat for a 10 month old.

There are a lot of "what ifs" and we try not to dwell on them because the past is the one thing we have no control over. There are so many other things we do have control over. Why not worry about those?! :)

Julie said...

Sounds like you had a positive day in court- I can't believe it takes them so long to get permanency in NY- in TX they have 12 months to get the child situated in most cases but the child can't be adopted until she has be in your home for 6 months. It also sounds like that bio dad needs to be sterilized- puuuleeesse!!! I hope it all works out for ya'll. Cuteness needs stability! which it sounds like she has with ya'll!

Dan said...

"you're the foster parents, right? Why don't you come join us up here."

I dream of a judge saying that to me someday.

No surprise that the county attorney is an ass, though. I've become convinced it's in the job description.

DramaQueen said...

Nice quote by the judge...yes, it is pretty sad when an adult is only trusted with a baby for 2 hours at a time...let's hope and pray everything works out for the best for this little one!

bmomtami910 said...

I know this is a really old post, but we have been in almost the exact same circumstances. Except, WOW...our courts don't have child care, that is cool. I am starting at the beginning of your story and going to the current date. My email is bmomtami910@aol.com. We are 2 moms that are in the process of adopting our 3rd (and final) foster child. They are all 3 1/2 and under and one is severly disabled from prenatal drug and alcohol use, and an STD mom had. Long story.
~~hugs~~