Foster care has been a lot like purgatory. We opened our home after Baby Girl came back from her big heart surgery in Boston. We've received a grand total of no calls in the month we've been open. I have never gotten no calls at all. At least some calls for placements we say no to. Respite 13 came back last week for the weekend. Baby 9's case has gone nowhere. The rest of this post is what nowhere looks like:
In September, reunification was the immediate goal for Baby 9's case. We were going to go back to court in November to start overnight and extended weekend visits. Then the plan was for Baby 9 to return home right around Christmas- in time for a trip Mom had planned to visit family out of state. It was important to her that 9 go with her and the judge seemed fine making that happen.
Then everything imploded in October. We went from 3 monitored visits per week to nothing. Mom stopped talking about reunification and started talking about a relative resource. She stopped working with CPS all together and became consumed with her own survival.
In November we went back to court and started bi-monthly jail visits. The county started writing the petition to terminate parental rights (TPR). I had a face to face with Relative Resource, She was honest about her own desire to raise Baby 9 as well as her hesitation about taking her from the only home she has known. Ultimately, she chose not to pursue custody of Baby 9 in exchange for our explicit agreement to remain very involved with their family throughout our lives.
In December, foster care was pretty quiet. 2 visits were scheduled, but only 1 happened. The caseworker talked with Mom about surrender. She absolutely was not going to do that.
In January we had court. Mom did not come. She is still not cooperating with the county. TPR is done and the plan is to have it filed. If Mom asks for visits, they will be 1 hr supervised at the county building. Depending on the day, I get 20 calls in a row from Mom or silence. She refuses to have contact with the caseworker.
Now in February, There have been no visits still. I'm still taking multiple calls and texts from Mom, but all I can say is, "Baby 9 is good. Call the caseworker and get your visits." No one knows why the TPR hasn't been filed. No one knows anything.
So we wait.
A few things can happen here:
The TPR can get filed and we go to trial to have Baby 9 freed for adoption. This will take a minimum 6 court appearances. After which, Mom has the right to appeal the decision twice before we can move forward to adopt. Just a trial will take about a year. A trial and 2 appeals would be 2 years.
The TPR can get filed and the judge orders a suspended judgement. This is what happened with Baby 4's Dad. The judge decides that perhaps another year to work the plan is all that is needed for reunification to happen. If Mom decided tomorrow to get herself together, I could see this being an option. So nothing would happen for a year. Mom would either work the plan and 9 would be returned to her within the year, or Mom does not resolve the safety issues keeping Baby 9 in care then there would be a minimum 4 court appearances before 9 would be freed for adoption. So about 1.5 years until 9 is freed.
The TPR can get filed and Mom decides not to go to trial, but instead agrees to a conditional surrender. This could possibly be done in one court appearance, but most likely 2. Baby 9 would be freed for adoption immediately and could be adopted by the end of this year.
Mom finds a resource who is willing to take custody of Baby 9. This would take a minimum 2 court appearances and probably wouldn't go anywhere. The county is not going to support moving 9 to a person that has been uninvolved for the past 20 months. It would, however, slow any of the above processes down by 3-ish months.
I really am hoping for a conditional surrender. That gives Mom legal rights to post adoption visits with Baby 9. I am going to keep her involved either way, but having a surrender gives her the right to take us to court if her visits drop off. That is something that I would want if I were Mom. It also saves Mom from having a termination on her record, which can hinder future jobs. A surrender is a choice- just like a pregnant woman making an adoption plan for her unborn baby. She also doesn't have to sit through multiple court appearances where all her dirty laundry is aired in open court. It speeds up the process significantly which helps all of us. A surrender also gives me a legal document to fall back on in case things get sticky with post adoption contact. It won't be just me saying, "We need to do this visit on a different date." if Mom is clearly intoxicated. It's the surrender that we both signed saying a visit will end if the parent is under the influence.
I know Mom doesn't want to look like she's giving up or doesn't want Baby 9. She does want her. It's just not safe. I don't know what she'll do. So we wait.