I haven't had much chance, or maybe much will, to write about foster care.
We had court before Christmas and I was hoping we'd walk out with a surrender. Instead we walked into the twilight zone.
First thing I was hit with was the accusation that we are allowing 4 to use vulgar language. I have never heard 4 use a certified swear word- he usually slips up with little boy "bad words" like shut up or stupid, but nothing serious. Dad told the law guardian that 4 said G**D***It at the last visit and then, upon questioning, told Dad that we taught him that word. Dad ignored the fact that he uses expletives in front of 4 all the time, and the fact that 4 is in school and rides the bus with kids 3-4years older than him, and in general is a 5 year old boy exposed culture through normal daily activities. He instead felt that us teaching this language was probable. The law guardian asked if we ever used profanity in our home, and I said no. She said it wasn't a big deal to her, but since Dad was complaining it probably means he's not planning to sign anything today.
Sure enough, When we went into court, his lawyer said there is no chance for a settlement in this matter and they are asking to go to trial. The judge scheduled that for March and alluded to a "suspended judgement"- which means she will do the trial and then give Dad one more year to get 4 back before issuing the TPR. After court, all the attorneys said that is what they think will happen.
The county attorney and the law guardian wanted to get something done that day, so they brought up Relative Resource's custody petition and asked for it to be dismissed based on her not passing the homestudy. The law guardian said that the judge could not legally send 4 to RR without an approved homestudy. The judge said, "Well, I'm ordering a new one now.".
So basically the judge bumped us back to the very beginning of the case. Dad will get another year to try, RR will take a year to get her homestudy done. Then we'll have to go to court to dismiss her petition. Then the judge will terminate parental rights. Then Dad gets 2 appeals. Then we can adopt.
And Baby 4 will have been in foster care for 5 years by that time. I love Baby 4, and I'm scared about his future.
I'm not nervous about 4 leaving. I'm nervous about what 5 years in care- with no answers, no certainty, no true family- will do to his sensitive spirit. I'm scared that his spirit will learn not to be so sensitive anymore.
I've been having really honest conversations about foster care and adoption with 4. I don't know how my agency would feel about it (or maybe I do), but it can't get me in trouble because I'm being honest and age appropriate. We've talked about why 4 is in care. He remembers the big incident and injuries that happened before he came to live with us, but Dad had no part in that. Dad has never hurt him at all, so it's confusing to 4 why he can't just go to Dad (it's confusing to Dad too, I think).
We've been talking about what it takes to keep kids safe. The parent needs to be healthy in their bodies so they can take care of the kid. They need to treat their body well. They need to have a place for the kid to keep all of their things and get showered and dressed for school everyday. The parent needs to take the child to the Dr. and make sure they take their medicine. It's really hard to be a parent.
I'm also doing some bubble-bursting in terms of this fantasy life that is waiting for 4 just across the bloodline. There are rules in every house. There is homework at every house. There are vegetables at every house. The big thing is that living somewhere else means not living here anymore. Baby 4 doesn't get it. He says he wants to live someplace else, but when you push him he says that he'll still sleep here and his toys will still be here. I felt like it was important for him to know that's not how it works.
These conversations aren't about swaying him to want to live only here, but they are helping him understand that it's a big decision to choose where a kid should live so it takes a while to get answers.
That's that. This is the part of our story where the system fails. Everyone keeps saying that at least 4 is safe and not going anywhere, and it's true. The system isn't a complete failure, it just could work better if it wanted to. Which is actually not so comforting.