Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Our 1st Gotcha Day

Today is the official 1yr anniversary of Baby 4's placement. The county considers the date he was discharged from the hospital as the first day he was in foster care, although we were involved before that. We got the call  on March 8th of last year about a very sick child who needed 24 hour medical attention and a family that could drop everything right then and train in his care. Then we got the follow up info that he may not be coming to us after all. When we finally got to meet him on March 22nd, we were so enamored by his personality and great big smile.

Things got dice-y for a moment when local media picked up his story and started sharing way too many details- some that were completely untrue- all over the news and in the paper. We had an ambulance chaser sneak into his hospital room trying to get details about Baby 4 to share with reporters, and 4 started getting recognized in the community. While we still get noticed from time to time, the fascination with him in the public eye has dwindled and we hardly ever think about it anymore.

Having an older (verbal) child made for a rough transition for me- From explaining his move, to processing emotions.

We had to go back to the hospital just a couple of weeks after being released, and spent some time in the ICU getting his breathing in check. Baby 4 has had 8 surgeries in the past year, and was able to completely recover by this February- less than a year after his trauma.

This year we have had Baby 5 come and go , and the same with Baby 6 . We also adopted our daughter this year!

It feels like a lifetime since March 28, 2011. We've seen so much progress and some set backs. I have felt like running away to Mexico with him so we can be together forever. Just as many times, I've considered selling him to the traveling circus just so I don't have to say "go play" 10,000 times before getting 2 minutes alone to brush my teeth.

One year later, I have the exact same information about how 4's case will end. Everyone has an opinion and no one knows what will happen. We've never made it to 1yr with our other children. I imagined there would be some sense of where we are going or how fast we're getting there. Literally nothing has been accomplished in court in a whole year.

I didn't tell 4 it was Gotcha day. In later years, I hope to celebrate Adoption Day with my kids, but the day they come into care is a sad one. It's even more sad when 1yr later, nothing has been done to secure my son's future. In my own heart, though, Gotcha day is a milestone to measure how changed I am since becoming Baby 4's Mom. I will never be the same, and that's a very good thing.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Baby, A Wedding, and A Halfway House

We're home! Baby 4 is loving his new sister. We are loving that she sleeps through the night. Getting settled into a new routine has been harder than I imagined. Baby girl has some medical needs that take up a lot of time during the day, but we're getting there. I keep catching myself with her thinking, "Don't go falling in love with her when you know she's gonna leave". Then I have to catch myself- SHE'S NOT EVER LEAVING!! It's amazing. I never realized the stuff I missed doing with my babies because of the uncertainty of foster care. Things like ordering personalized stuff with their names on it- because (a) I didn't know if they'd still be here when it came in the mail (b) I was planning to change the spelling of their name after adoption (c) It was unclear what their name was or how to spell it.

Surprisingly, that last one has happened more than once to me. Baby 1's parents didn't decide on the exact spelling or pronunciation of his name until he was 6 weeks old. Every time I saw them, they had changed it a little. We just called him by a nickname that they didn't like in the end. Baby 4's name is spelled differently on his birth certificate than how his parents spell it now, which is different than how you pronounce it. Craziness.

Back on topic though, I'm getting to commit to long term projects like those cute monthly pictures with the sticker on the onesie- because I know she'll be her for all 12 pictures. How depressing would it be to start those for a baby and only end up with a couple of months? I also get to keep my wallet in the diaper bag- No worrying about accidentally leaving it in there for a visit, because there are no visits. So I'm officially purse free! AND if I feel like it, I can take her out of the county (or state, or country!) with out checking in with DHS. It feels good.

Baby 4's Relative Resource is getting married at the end of the week. We are all so happy for her! She tried her darnedest to keep the impending nuptials from the caseworker- suspicious... Hubby is going to have to pass a background check for the custody petition to hold up, and that hasn't been started yet. So this wedding seems to be a fabulous event for all of us!

The official permanency plan for Baby 4 is still "Return to Parent", so the caseworker has been doing overtime trying to help his parents. As a result, a halfway house has become involved and the caseworker is talking about moving 4's visits from the nice, safe, appropriate county facility to this halfway house so the parent doesn't miss curfew. That seems like a flawless plan, right? The trauma therapist is against the idea and thinks that with some prompting, the halfway house will extend curfew on visit nights. I want to know who thought putting a 5yr old boy in a house of ex-cons and addicts would be positive visiting experience.

Foster Care is heating up again... this feels more normal.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Still Calm

So nothing happened at court. The judge had to send an order allowing Mom to attend court, and it was sent to the wrong place, so Mom couldn't come and nothing could be done. I'm glad I didn't try to make it home in time for court just to have it adjourned. Now I'll be able to attend court when we go back in April.

We're in sunny California with our baby girl! She's perfect! We sign placement papers today and she's ours!! More on agency V. foster adoptions later, but let me tell you that I choose to make my home in Foster Care over traditional adoption any day. I'd do it a thousand times more for baby girl, but never again to seek out a new child.

Baby 4 is doing well with my Mom while we're away. I've talked to him on the phone everyday and he seems to be having fun. I miss him terribly. Can't wait to get home!

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Can you talk about Foster Care?"

Today at dinner:

Baby 4: Can you talk about Foster Care?

Me: Sure, what do you want to know?

Baby 4: The keeping kids safe story.

Me: All kids need to have a house where they won't get sick or hurt. If a Mommy and Daddy can't keep their kid safe in their house, then the kid can live in a new house with a different family while his Mommy and Daddy learn about keeping kids safe and fix their house. That's called Foster Care.

Baby 4: Then the Daddy comes to get the baby.

Me: Yes, if the Mommy and Daddy have a house where the kid won't get sick or hurt, then they can all live together again.

Baby 4: I want to live with you forever.

Me: Forever is not foster care. Sometimes the Mommy and Daddy can't learn to keep kids safe. That's a very hard job to do. If the kid can't go with their parents, then they can stay forever with their foster family, and it's called Adoption. Adoption means forever.

Baby 4: Like my sister?

Me: Yes, like your sister. She's never going to leave.

Baby 4: Like me.

Me: I hope so.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What's going to happen?

This week has been all about adoption, not tons of Foster Care stuff happening- which is kind of suspicious, When is there not tons of foster care stuff happening? It made me nervous, so I called 4's caseworker just to be sure.

There is court next week on the 8th, and it's a pretty big one- for Baby 4, not for us. Either Mom will surrender her parental rights or the judge will order "No Reasonable Efforts" where CPS will not have to work with her towards reunification. We think the surrender is most likely to occur. This is a big deal for 4 because it means his legal connection to his Mother is gone (although he knows nothing about this now, and won't for a while). It is not a big deal for us because we knew from the beginning that Mom would never be a resource for him based on the details of the case. Mom surrendering doesn't make it any more or less likely that 4 will stay with us or go to Relative Resource. The caseworker expects that there will be no talk about Dad or RR at court this time around since surrenders can take a while. I'm sad I won't be there for the surrender. That will be the last time any of us will see 4's Mom. I've never spoken to her, I've only exchanged glances with her in court. Baby 4 hasn't seen or spoken to her in over a year. I wish I knew more about her so I can tell 4 when he starts to wonder what she looks like and who she is.

I kept pushing the caseworker about how she thinks this will go. When should I expect a move if the judge grants RR custody? Not for a while. He's been with us a year, don't we become party to case now? There will be a time when that's important, but not yet. Will the judge automatically extend Baby 4's stay in care, or will she expect some sort of permanency to be achieved quickly after surrender? She'll extend his placement. How much say does the law guardian have? As much as anyone else. We all agree that 4 is where he needs to be right now. Will he still be with me in May? (putting on her "I'm frustrated with you" Mom voice)- He'll still be with you in September.

And as much as I want to believe her, I can't. This is the same judge the said "Immediately" and made me hand over Baby 5 without any thought to a smooth transition. This is the same judge who sent Baby 1 home after the first clean drug test in 8 months. Family court judges do whatever they want, and it often doesn't make sense.

There are a lot of people out there that wish they could do something for kids who need good families, but can't commit to foster or adopt. I'll tell you exactly what you can do to help kids in care- it takes minimal time and it's completely free. EDUCATE yourselves about those running for Family court judge, and VOTE wisely for the person who will determine how these kids live. I never put any thought into who I voted for as Family/County court judges before starting foster care. I usually voted along my party line for positions like that. I thought family court was for divorces and child support- any idiot can order Wednesdays and every other weekend in exchange for 20% of your income. They do so much more than that, though, and now I'm very active in researching our candidates before voting- because once they're in, judges can help a lot of kids or ruin a lot lives.

Quiet makes me uneasy. Feels like the calm before the storm...