Today I went to court for Baby 4's Dad's surrender.
There was some hoopla getting into the court because apparently Brandon carries a credit card knife in his wallet and forgot take it out. Foster Care Fun Fact: You can't bring weapons into the courthouse. I made fun of him sufficiently as he was scolded by security and had to have it confiscated. He did get it back before we left.
By the time we got up to the family court lobby, everyone was already there. The caseworker gave me the intent to adopt papers that keep the county from putting Baby 4 on the state photolisting websites as available for adoption. She said to sign them after court and give them back. Our attorney explained that once the surrender occurred, he'd go to work getting everything we need filled out and filed with the court. He estimated adoption would occur around September.
Once Dad was done talking to his attorney, I went over to him and asked how he was. I told him I could only imagine how difficult today was for him. He said that he knew what needed to be done. He wished things were different, but he's not stable now. He asked me if I would let him call Baby 4. I reminded him that he has been calling us for 3 years now. He knows our number. He knows where we live. He's invited to dinner at our house for every holiday and birthday that comes up. He said, "That's all I want. I want to be able to see him and give him Christmas presents and new sneakers for his birthday.". Then we were called into the courtroom.
When we got into the court room, the judge was wrapping up the case before us, and so we all quietly shuffled into the back of the courtroom. It gave me a few minutes to think about what Dad said. He just wanted to get his kid sneakers. It was the saddest thing I've ever heard. But I totally get it. The anniversary of Baby 7's death is quickly approaching, and I'd do anything to just be able to smell him one more time- just for a second. When everything precious is ripped away from you, you'll settle for scraps. I felt that in Dad's words. He was losing everything today.
This was not a happy day. This was a horrible day. I wasn't about to "win". Nothing here was to be celebrated. A family was about to die. My son's family was about to die. My son doesn't deserve this. He doesn't deserve to be adopted. He deserves to be loved and kept by his Mother and Father who love him and keep him safe. Period. That's what my son deserves. Unfortunately, living with his parents and being safe were not compatible in his situation. Being adopted by us is not what he deserves, but it's what he needs.
We sat down with our lawyer and everyone else did the same. I opened my folder with the intent to adopt papers right on top, and wiped tears from my eyes. The judge took a roll call and said she has an application for surrender before her today. Does Dad wish to surrender his rights?
He said yes.
The judge pulled her chair down from her podium (That's not the correct word, but you get it, right?) and sat right across from Dad at the defense table. She spoke very kind, but firm, about the implications of this decision. She went through all the conditions that Dad was agreeing to- 6 visits/yr, open telephone communication, if no contact for 6 months then the agreement is void. Dad agreed to all that and signed that part. We signed it as well as the caseworker and the attorney for the child. Then the judge said she was going to start the surrender procedure. Dad is entitled to legal and emotional counseling regarding this decision. Dad indicated he was satisfied with his lawyer, but he wanted to talk to a counselor.
The judge said, "OK", shut the file and stopped the conversation.
The county has one month to get Dad counseling specifically for this surrender decision, and we'll come back in a month to hear what Dad will do.
Then we left.
Our lawyer said that it seemed like that was all Dad could handle today- just the conditions. We'll pick up where we left off next time. I'm not completely convinced Dad knew that saying yes to counseling meant the surrender wouldn't happen today. It sounded to me like he was saying he needed counseling after surrender- which is likely true as well.
Nothing changes between now and then. I've been explaining this all along to Baby 4 that everyone in his life wants him and loves him. We all go to court to tell the judge that we want him and the judge chooses where 4 should live forever. When talk of the surrender happened, I told 4 that we had all agreed that he should live here and visit Dad. We were all going to go into court together and ask the judge if that was OK. He expressed desire to be adopted, but made it clear that he still wants to see his Dad a lot. Today when we came back from court, I told him that Daddy got really sad at court because he loves 4 so much. The judge said we should wait and come back when everyone is sure this is the choice we want. Baby 4 didn't have any questions. He said he was happy we were waiting for his Dad. I made sure he knew he could ask us or his Dad anything about court or adoption. I told him we all know what's going on, so any of us could answer his questions. He said he would ask if he had questions.
At bedtime we read Kids Need To Be Safe for added assurance. We've read this book a million times before, and he loves it. Tomorrow we'll read Families Change to keep the communication open.
This is part of our story that I'm not in love with at all.