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.