Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's been a terrible week

I've been trying to write about this week since Wednesday, but nothing I can say about it is coherent enough to post. Court, BioMoms, Victim Impact Statement, Custody petitions, Article 10 case, Article 6 case, Children's Motrin, Plea agreement - That's what I've written about.

I went to a criminal court proceeding for the first time on Wednesday. Most of the time the neglect/abuse allegations that caused kids to be placed in Foster Care are handled solely in Family court. Sometimes the act is so severe, that not just CPS, but the police get involved and press charges in Criminal court as well. I went to what was supposed to be the sentencing of a parent who did something so terrible that the law allows the judge to sentence 5-15 years as punishment. On top of that, there were 5 other charges that had nothing to do with hurting a child, but each of those held a possible 2-10yr sentence. "Justice" was served and this person admitted guilt to all 6 accusations and was given 8 years in jail for their actions. I was sick. The police investigator was mad. CPS was shocked they got any time at all (since most severe abuse cases only get probation). The perpetrator was completely unreadable- flat affect, no emotion. I hope and pray I never have to sit through something like that again, except I will have to- next week.

The sentencing did not become final last week because no one had been given the opportunity to write a Victim Impact Statement to the judge. Basically, that's a letter to the court explaining how the crime in question has effected the life of the victim after the initial trauma. In this particular case, I am the one who would be writing this letter. The assistant district attorney told me about it like 5 minutes before we walked into court, so I wasn't ready this week. They want to have it on file, though, because it effects future requests for early prison release and parole. So next week I will bring this letter to court and read it to the judge in front of the person who has plead guilty to an act that requires a particular kind of evil that is thankfully very rare. The thought of that gives me hives. These are the things you don't think about when you sign up for Foster Care. You think you are going to be soothing crying babies and dealing with a 6 yr old's temper tantrums- you never think you'll be facing the person who hurt a child and literally being that child's voice to a judge. It's an overwhelming responsibility.

While I was at criminal court, one of my kids had a visit. I keep a notebook in both my kids' visit bags and I write a little update every visit so the parents stay informed about what the child is up to, when appts are, etc. I get home from court, open the notebook, and read, "We have a problem". Oh good, because exactly what I need right now is a problem. The rest of the note explains that I need to have the child always travel with gas drops, Children's Motrin, and baby wipes. The child needed all these things at the (one hour) visit and I didn't provide them. The note said, "I know the state pays you to take care of ---- so you can buy these things". Yes, I can buy these things. As a matter of fact, I have all of these things in my home right now. I am not, however, sending medicine to a visit with a healthy child so you can dose him up without me knowing what he's taken. I called the caseworker, who is going to take care of responding to that note for me, and she agrees that no medicine should travel with the child to the visits unless necessary. Then I looked in the bag, because I always send wipes, and sure enough, there was a full travel case of wipes in the bag

Next on my agenda for the week of horror was to find out from Baby 5's caseworker what she expected from our family court appearance on Thursday. The way I heard it last time we were in court, Jan 26th was the day the judge planned to order Baby 5 home to his Dad. Since then, though, I had heard some concern about this from the law guardian. Also, the county never moved from day visits to overnight visits, even though that's usually what happens when a child is being sent home. The 3 kids we've had leave were having 3 day, 2 night visits with their parent before they were sent home. Baby 5 has never slept anywhere but here. He's only seen his Dad 8 times in his whole life- which is not Dad's fault, it's the county's. Dad came to every visit that was scheduled. Anyway, I called the caseworker and she said that she thought there would be an adjournment on Thursday and that we would go back to court one more time before Baby 5 would be moved. I said, "Should I have him packed?". She said No.

We went to court and there were 2 things to be settled- the CPS case and custody case. As expected, the custody hearing was adjourned until March. What was unexpected is the Judge said that Dad is the preferred placement over any other (us), and Baby should be placed with him, "Immediately" under the CPS case. "Immediately"- had I brought 5 to court that day, I would have literally handed him to Dad right there.

I heard it and started the internal mantra, Don't puke in court. Don't puke in court. I was just holding myself together when the county lawyer says to the judge, "Foster Mother is in the court right now." Ugh! really?! The judge asked me to stand and state my name for the record, which I did. She thanked me for my service and asked me if I was prepared to transition baby today.

My head was spinning- He's not packed, 4 is at school, Brandon's at work, you ordered him home immediately? They won't get to say goodbye! I managed a head nod and  "Yes", although it must have looked pained because Dad spoke up as I opened my mouth.

He said, "I don't want to just rip him away from her. We can wait a few days." There was some banter that I didn't quite listen to because I was figuring out if it was OK for me to sit back down or keep standing in case the judge speaks to me again. In the end it was decided 1) that I could sit down 2) that Baby would be physically returned to Dad on Saturday. I owe Dad for those 2 extra days.

As we left the courtroom, I smiled and said to Dad, "That was great. I'm so happy for you!". I really am happy for him, but sad for us. Then Mom came out. She was hysterical. She wanted Baby 5 to stay with us because that meant she had the chance to get him back. She yelled at the caseworker and collapsed in my arms. She sobbed while I held her and said the most comforting and helpful words I could think of. She apologized for not being able to keep 5 with us. I told her not to be sad for us. We are happy for the time we've had with 5. She walked me to my car and told me she wants us to get another baby. I think the exact phrasing was "Put in an order for a new baby". As ridiculous as the entire day was, it's oddly comforting to know that the woman who's baby was taken from her and placed with me thinks we're good enough to take care of him. I don't know that I'd ever be OK with another woman raising my baby.

So I went home and let everybody know what was going on. It was all very business-like. I called my homefinder. We talked about being open for new placements. I got the baby's laundry together. I used up all the WIC checks we had for this month so he would have formula until his Dad could get WIC transferred to his name. I refilled all Baby's prescriptions so Dad wouldn't have to worry about that until next month. I didn't cry once even though I knew this was a sad thing.

Then last night Baby 5 started fussing. He's had a runny nose for a while that never quite turned into a cold, but is still really annoying. He screams when we clean his nose, but a quick funny face and some peek a boo quickly remedies that. His other current favorite thing is the Oompa Loompa song from Willy Wonka- well, kind of. I don't know most of the words, so Baby 5 is accustomed to my unique rendition. When I got him to stop crying so quickly after blowing his nose, I lost it. I asked a huge favor from my 6 month old. I begged him to be happy at his new house. I held him and asked him to let them calm him down when he's upset. I asked him to be OK with whatever they do to get him to sleep. Please laugh when they play with you, and snuggle when they hold you. Please don't miss the way we do things here.

That's a tall order for a baby. I hate that he has to do any of that.

Baby 5 has been our shortest placement so far- 5 months and 1 week. I love him so much it hurts. I am going to be crushed today when we take him to the county line, put his stuff in his Dad's car and watch them drive away. This is not the kind of set up where there is any hope we'll stay in contact after he leaves. Dad has been very nice to us, but that's just not going to happen, and they live so far away that it's not like we'll bump into them at the grocery store or anything. Today is the last time I will ever hold my baby, and it's awful.

It's been a terrible week.

11 comments:

  1. I'm praying for you. These transitions are so hard. But honestly, the harder they are for us, the better job we're doing as foster parents I think. These children need to be loved fully. It always hurts to let go of someone we've completely opened ourselves up to.

    As for the criminal court -- acckk!! Good luck writing the letter. I understand feeling that level of pressure. My Pumpkin can't speak for herself. I feel horrible pressure every time I have contact with a lawyer (which is literally just a couple minutes before we get called in to court each time). I know that whatever I manage to say about Pumpkin during those few minutes is going to impact her for the rest of her life because it's how the lawyers decide what they're going to do in the court session.

    Hang in there!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Praying for you today and in the days coming as your heart heals.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Praying for you today. I am so sorry that you are hurting.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow... The thought of going to criminal court and having to speak on behalf of one of my children never even crossed my mind! What an overwhelming responsibility...

    I second what CherubMamma said about transitions. They are horrible, but that only means our children are well-loved and we are doing something very, very RIGHT. I am very glad Dad gave you, Baby 5, and your family those extra days together. I never even got to say "goodbye" to my Booger Bear, and the experience had me second-guessing my decision to continue fostering for months.

    The high highs and lowest of lows of foster care definitely take their toll on you. Just know you have lots of people thinking of you, and I will definitely keep you in my prayers.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This sounds terrible. My heart hurts for you. I'll pray for you all!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Praying for you and thanking God for the blessing that you are to your children. No matter how long they stay, you have made a huge difference in their lives. Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, Jesus bring peace! Praying for you right now...my heart aches for you because I've been there, and Im sure we'll all be there again.

    Thank you, Lord, for the circumstance of Baby not being at court!

    ReplyDelete
  8. ((Hugs)) from one foster mom to another. My heart hurts with you because I can relate 100%. Matter of fact, I'm probably about to hand my precious 16 month old over to relatives who just decided this week (after 16 months) that they want him. We had just started the TPR and I hoped and believed he was ours. It is hard. So hard.
    You've been a blessing to each of the kids you've had in your home and nomatter what it will follow them all the days of their lives and God is going to bless you for it.
    You will be in my prayers.
    ~Sandy

    ReplyDelete
  9. I can't tell u how much I hate that. I had two little girls for five and a half months and was given four hours notice to pack them up and give then to their bio mom. They didn't even bother to tell me there was court that day. We still cry about those girls, they have been gone for seven months.

    You were a good mommy while you were allowed to be. That is all we can do.

    ReplyDelete
  10. oh my. I want to cry FOR you! I haven't had to give a child up yet, so I don't quite know the heartbreak you are feeling. I can, however, pray for you and I sincerely hope that this week is starting off better for you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sorry this is a little late!

    My heart aches and breaks for you :(

    We find out at court on the 13th if our boys will be sent to grandma.

    I pray that God's healing powers washes over your heart and slowly pieces it together.

    Hugs and prayers heading your way.

    ReplyDelete