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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving!  We spent the day with family. My grandfather bought a new house and so it was the 1st Family Holiday there. It was fitting that it was also the 1st Thanksgiving for all of us together.

We have been working on "claiming" in therapy. Claiming our family. Claiming traditions.  Creating new ones unique to this family unit and continuing traditions from years past.

Today my kids watched the Macy's Day Parade for the first time. They made pilgrim hats and Indian Headresses out of construction paper. They played with their older cousins and they tried new foods unique to our family.  (The family tradition of fried cauliflower (think potato pancakes but with cauliflower) were a huge hit.)

We sat at a table all together and enjoyed hanging out. We also turned on the Christmas music and listened to it all the way to Grandpa's house, a tradition I insist on. It was a really special day. 

What are your family traditions? Is there something new you tried today?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Court Postponed

The court hearing was extended to mid-January.  Which means the TPR trial date will not be set until then.  I'm not surprised. And I have no specific feelings on if this is good or bad- it just is.  I can't change it so I don't need to worry about it.

See how much I've grown in the last 4 years?

We saw the Fab 4 last week. I told Mr. Mohawk I missed him. He told me he mostly missed the dog.  Hey- it was honest.

Jelly Bean reported Maria hit her to a teacher so an investigation was opened. JB admitted she lied because she was angry at her mom. The other kids supported Maria's accounting of events (that JB lied) but it cause Gabby to have some pretty big flash backs to being removed.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think JB would falsely report and put her family at risk. Nor did I think I'd ever be in the position to doubt a reporting kid.  This all gets crazier by the week.

Can I call a time out? 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reader Comment Question

First of all thanks for reading!  I love questions so please feel free to leave them in the comments or on the Facebook page.

"Why wouldn't you want to go to trial to terminate rights? Why would the goal change be bad before year end?"

Illinois has something called a Directed Consent also known as an identified surrender.  (I believe most states do.) It's paperwork a bio parent can use to place their children for adoption with the adoptive resource (foster parents, family) that allows their parental rights to remain intact until the adoption is finalized. Once the adoption is finalized, the surrender is permanent.  If for some reason the adoption falls through, the children are not left orphans and the parents retain their legal rights. If after a year the adoption is still pending the parent can also change their mind and revoke the surrender.  (This is new. It used to expired after a year of being signed.)

A trial can be a lengthy process and it opens up the case to an appeals period.  There are motions to allow evidence and witnesses and continuances while everyone gets their argument together.  Some people come willingly to court, others have to be subpoenaed (court ordered to appear).  In Illinois a TPR trial has two parts a termination hearing (which can last several days depending on the length of time in care, number of children, and number of bio parents) and a best interest hearing.  The two parts allows the court to terminate rights in the best interest of the kids if for some reason the termination hearing ends up that there is insufficient reason to terminate rights based on the parents actions. Then there is a 30 day period that the bio parent can appeal errors that the trial court may have made (such as not specifically telling a bio parent they were at risk for having their parental rights terminated at a previous permanency hearing). If the appeal is granted they may have to go back and give the bio parent more services or hold the trial again.  The appeal can also go up through the higher courts.  

A TPR trial puts the adoption at risk no matter how certain DCFS is that they will win.  It also puts us in limbo. Whereas a Directed  Consent would allow us to move forward right away.  Visits with the bios also continue until termination happens so we will still have to deal with the pre and post visit behaviors. 

That leads me into the 2nd question of why would the goal change be bad before year end.  The simple answer is that holidays, especially the family centric holidays, are really, really hard on kids who have been in foster care. Another major loss at this time of year would be tough on my kids and it could have lasting effects.

Let's also be serious. Holidays are hard on adults with no trauma history. Raise your hand if you, or someone you are related to, turns into an absolute whack job the minute the Christmas commercials start airing. 

Foster and trauma kids have no idea how to cope with the expectations and the added pressure of gifts.  They don't believe they are worth anything and therefore don't deserve the fun/gifts/food that the holidays bring. They feel guilty when they are given things because their bio parents probably didn't have those resources.  It's totally overwhelming.  That's why it was no surprise that I had to hospitalize Jelly Bean in mid-December.

My kids moved to my house the week of Christmas last year. They suffered a huge loss of people they loved. It took Stella months and a therapy session with those foster parents to allow her to move forward and let them go. I can't imagine adding the loss of her Mom to that as well. (It is also her birthday month and birthdays are hard too.)

My fear is that too much loss would be associated with the end of year holiday season and my kids would be robbed of the magic. At this point, even though they are all tired of moving from house to house, none of them are really excited about the prospect of being adopted.  So even though being done with foster care would be the greatest Christmas present I could hope for, it would make this time of year more painful for my kids.

I touched on trauma anniversary or "traumaversary" in my last post.  It's the term used to describe a day or time period that past trauma occurred.  traumaversaries can continue to cause reactions for years and years to come.  I don't want Christmas and New Years to be traumaversaries, at least not bigger ones...

I hope this explains my last post a little better. In the end, my goal is to move them out of foster care as quick as we can but that can also impact how they experience seasons in the future.  At the end of the day it doesn't really matter what I want because I have no control over it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stunned

I've been at this for four years now.  Not much phases me at this point.  Tonight I was making airline reservations while catching blood from someone's nose.  Just another Tuesday.  But I was stunned when I learned today that Bio Dad is not willing to sign the identified surrender paperwork.

What?

He missed over 50% of his visits.  He didn't even have his house approved for visits much less overnights.  He hasn't shown up to court but once in the last 2 years (and he was summoned).  He didn't take a single parenting class. He didn't participate in therapy or family meetings. 

But he wants to go to trial to terminate his rights.

I just don't get it. You were so disinterested before. Your kids were left to worry and wonder if you were going to show up for them.  And now you want to take it seriously?

I felt like someone punched me in the gut when Caseworker #3 told me that. 

And where are their attorneys?  Why are they not telling these parents that having your parental rights terminated can have a lasting legal effect as it may be grounds to terminate your rights on other children.  Both of the Bios have other children.

And for some reason Caseworker #3 thinks they will try to wrap up the TPR by end of the year as one of the attorneys is going on maternity leave.

Yeah right.

Lovely, right?

This is where I struggle as a person who understands the law and a Foster Mom. 

As a Foster/Adoptive Mom, it seems so incredibly unfair to make our family hang in limbo because NOW you decide to take this seriously.  Umm little too late buddy.  But thanks for making this process that much more complicated.

As a paralegal I understand that your rights to your children should be the hardest of rights to take away.

I was told its possible we will have a goal change to adoption before year end.  (I think that's far fetched.) Think of what a lovely trauma anniversary that could be.....

 And as the foster family we are just left to our own devices.  We just have to sit back and wait for everyone to tell us what is happening to our family next. 
 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Grief Too Big For My Little Guy

I've written about grief a lot in the past year.  Heck, I've written about grief pretty much the entire time this blog has existed. I still struggle to understand the best ways to cope and heal from it.  Currently, I am grappling with how to help my kids do the same thing.  It totally sucks. 

Everyone outside of Foster Care Land wants to paint this picture of foster care as beautiful and giving.  Yes, it is a good thing to have people who want to help kids and families.  Yes, those families are special. Yes, there is a tremendous need.  But the truth is that the day in and day out of foster care is messy and full of loss and its tough, tough stuff to deal with. And that's how it feels to be the adult in the situation.

Imagine being six. And really worried that everyone is going to forget you.  You watch everyone around you for signs that they are going to cut and run.  You wait for them to sit you down and tell you you're moving or your visit is cancelled. You wait for the scary noises that happened when you were little that cause you to jump.  You wait for the sounds of objects breaking.  You hope that this time when you tell the mom in the house you are hurt, she makes you feel better, heck you just hope she pays attention to you.

Then you have a really great day. You get to have a party at school wearing a costume that makes you feel amazing.  And your Foster Mom comes to the parade like she said she would.  And you get to go trick or treating with your Foster Dad and he makes sure you are safe in the street.  And everyone laughs. You feel so comfortable you fall asleep on the couch right next to Foster Dad.  Foster Mom comes to wake you up and help you up to your bed. And its really dark and you don't know where you are and suddenly, you don't want this mom next to you.  You want your Mommy. Not this Mom. 

And so you start to sob. And your words get stuck. And your Foster Mom looks desperately into your eyes asking you what is making you cry and you have no idea.  And the words won't come. And its dark. And the pain comes from nowhere.  And she's saying something about being safe and knows this must be hard but you don't understand.  Its confusing because you just feel sad and it hurts your heart so very much. And the tears spill over your cheeks. And you don't want to hurt Foster Mom because she is nice and helps you but you miss your Mommy. And you cry and cry while Foster Mom holds you and kisses your head until you fall asleep.

That's what foster care looks like this week.  Messy. Painful. Hard.

Simon, at six, is learning to grieve a giant loss that he will experience over and over throughout his lifetime.  This part is not beautiful. This part is awful and if I could absorb his pain I would.