I'm not sure where to begin. We arrived in court with my Mom in tow. We were told Bio Dad wasn't coming and that Sheila was still saying she would sign the surrender. She found us in the hallway and invited us to sit with her and the caseworker.
She said she was really glad we came. We were finally called in 2 hours 20 minutes after the call time. The special prosecutor looked nervous and like she had no clue about what was going on. The attorney for DCFS was super annoyed with her and kept correcting her and the GAL for CASA was basically mite until the last few minutes in the court room.
While we were waiting for the judge to get to everything, Sheila started to cry as she had just finished signing the surrender. I couldn't help myself. I reached my arm around her to comfort her. The words "you have to treat her like one of the kids in your home" echoing in my head. It was really, really sad.
The judge called her to the front and made sure 8 different ways that she knew what she was doing by signing the identified surrender. The paperwork names Hubby and I and if for some reason we don't adopt the kids her rights are reinstated, but only in some specific instances. If we divorce I can still adopt the kids and if one of us dies the other can still adopt.
It was incredibly sad to watch as it seemed like way too much repeatition about "this is irrevocable and final". And since there were 4 kids, 4 sets of papers were signed and the judge had to go through each of them. She was crying, her attorney was trying not to cry. The judge commended her for her decision and told her it showed she loves her kids.
I couldn't believe it was actually happening. She returned to sit beside me- I asked if she wanted a hug she told me no and I handed her the card we had gotten for her the last time we had court.
Her attorney told her she could stay but she didn't have to. And the court proceeded to the TPR trial for the dads. If it was my kids' permanency at stake I might have laughed at the incompetency of the attorneys sitting in front of me.. I swear it was the special prosecutor's first day. She kept mixing up the names of the fathers and the kids. Her questions didn't make sense, the DCFS attorney kept telling her to stop her line of questioning. At one point when asking the casework to give testimony about Bio Dad's fitness as a parent, she asked how often visits were. She answered weekly and the attorney moves on, never asking how many he actually showed for, which would have been 1/2.
It was at that point that Sheila left. And I watched on the edge of my seat to see if the minimal argument the state made about Dad not competing any service plans was going to be enough. His attorney said, obviously he cares some he sent gifts and visited (but it's kind of hard to argue if the guy never showed up and wasn't standing there). DCFS argued gifts and concern don't make a parent and I said "amen" under my breath.
It was enough to TPR and while he has the righ to appeal, I doubt that he will. But I couldn't believe how unprofessional the prosecutor seemed and I wanted to give her an impassioned- there are lives hanging in the balance if you screw up, but I didn't.
They terminated on all the dads and held the best interest hearing (a seperate step to ensure that the adoption is the right thing for the kids) and that was ruled in their best interest. Then we had the shortest permanency hearing ever it went like this:
DCFS attorney: Can we go ahead and change the permanency goal to adoption
Judge: Yes lets do that. It is so ordered.
Then the DCFS attorney got all huffy when the GAL finally spoke up and asked for his motion that the therapy team be given the authority and discretion to decide what visits with Mom and Baby should be going forward. The DCFS attorney was all we have policies and I don't think the court should dive that deep and of course we will look at their best interest and the judge said: I've had this case 10 years, I'm going to take a little leeway and I remember when the kids started seeing the therapists and I believe they have made unbelievable progress and I defer to them to keep the kids going in the same direction. Quite frankly, I see their point and it makes a lot of sense to me.
If I could have hugged her, I would have. So the therapists have to recommend further visits and DCFS can't force the visits without the therapists being on board.
A permanency hearing was set for next February and we were free to go.
That part was somewhat anticlimactic. This huge monumental change so long in the making and we just walked into the hallway.
My Mom was there and I started to tear up, I said the goal is adoption and she hugged me. She said, it's been such a long journey, five years, and you are that much closer.
We planned a movie for the kids. I picked them up from camp and we had a family meeting. We told them we went to court, they asked if their Mom signed, we confirmed and they cheered. We also told them about their baby sister and that the baby was not living with Mom. Stella asked why couldn't her Mom just give the baby to us and Sarah got angry that her Mom is trying to work the case plan. (That whole thing is a sticky wicket. You want the kid to feel better and tell her it's not likely her Mom will get there but you also don't want to bash her Mom either. Plus you want her not to be jealous of a baby.)
And then we went to the movies and we were all relaxed. We had some time to wait outside for the theater to be ready. Simon was studying the below movie poster. He said: "Mom, is that movie about Foster care? Because that's how I feel. I was lost and now I'm found. Adoption feels like being found."
Amen, my sweet, sweet boy, amen.
If you would, take a moment and pray for Sheila. Her heart is hurting and she doesn't have anyone to share this hurt with. For as much as this is the right thing, she's a lot like my kids and they are a part of her and I hope she can find a way to heal.