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At the last court hearing, we got a new caseworker.  We knew ahead of time she was leaving for another job. Not too surprising, burnout, etc etc.

But then I found out three other members of the team also changed.  I found out from Aaron and Allie’s parents, after the hearing.  Pretty much everyone but the judge is new.  I’m still trying to find out if something weird happened, or if it is just a weird fluke.  And why didn’t anyone TELL US.

Not that I had anything positive to say about the CASA.  He never contacted me in the 10 months we had the kids.  And I didn’t have any interaction with the DJO, so no comments there.

In the meanwhile, I can’t help but wonder how that might change the direction of this case.  The old caseworker certainly didn’t have much hope in the parents.  I have no read yet on this new worker, but I think what I need to do is figure out my own feelings first.

In the beginning, I just went on what old caseworker said.  She said the case was heading to TPR eventually, so I believed her.  After all, there had been 2+ years of history that I had not been party to.

But now, almost a year into it for us, federal guidelines be darned, I just don’t think it makes any sense to tear this family apart.  The parents need work, and it’s taken a RIDICULOUSLY long time for them to get it somewhat going, but in that time, they’ve maintained their bond with their kids.  Aaron and Allie long for their parents and their home.

So we’ll see.  The court is still working on reunifying one of the siblings.  That’s the only official line so far, and so it doesn’t even make sense to conjecture whether it will work, and whether Aaron and Allie will be included in any reunification.  (Although I’m giving better than even odds they’ll still be with us next Christmas.  I may not know where they’ll end up, but I do know it will take a bureaucra-ternity to implement.)

I will continue to hope for what’s best.

 

Allie called her dad a few days ago, and insisted on playing checkers, and then chess, with him, over the phone.  It was rather cute and he did a good job playing along.

I think this is the first time I’ve actually been impressed by him.

 

Big news:  Aaron and Allie’s case was transitioned to the TPR-track.  Near the end of the summer, we’ll have a hearing to either do a voluntary TPR or move to trial.  It seems no one knows for sure what Mom and Dad are going to do.

None of this is a surprise, but to have it actually happening makes me mentally hyperventilate.  I am overwhelmed by how many ways the future could go – kids could go to a relative, but if not, we’ll be asked if we want to adopt (!!!!) and if we don’t, they’ll stay with us but for who knows how long??  It could take years to find an adoptive family??  No matter what, we’re going to be helping them transition to a new forever family.   And right now, they still ask when they get to go home to Mom and Dad.

Yep, definitely overwhelming.

For the time being, we’ve started both of them seeing a counselor.

I’m trying extra hard to stay sensitive to their feelings and thoughts.

And we’re going on a nifty little road trip for a week.  I think it will be fun.  Maybe take my mind off more serious matters.

But somehow, I bet as I watch them enjoying the events in our journey, I’ll be wondering “Is this my future?  Someone else’s?  Where do these kids belong?”

 

 

There has actually been a lot going on in the background of Allie and Aaron’s placement with us, but I’ve been hesitant to post too much.  I still do worry about being ‘outed’ plus I have a genuine concern for Aaron and Allie’s family’s privacy.

There has been no official change in the state’s plans, but based on some professional reports that are expected soon, the state will likely make their goal TPR.  I know this, the caseworker knows this, the parents know this, everyone knows this but the children.

The kids still see themselves going home, but they are most likely moving to a relative.

The psychiatrists involved say transitioning Aaron and Allie’s narrative as soon as possible will minimize the trauma.

We’re expecting the courts to officially allow TPR to start in June, and then we’ll begin that mental preparation.  The caseworker has promised to look into therapists – she’d better have them set up by then.  I can get these kids to come around to never going home to their parents, but I can’t do it alone.

More like two fox and two ducks.  (Maybe it’s foxes?  Foxen, like oxen?  Whatever.)

The problem is,  Aaron and Allie were the ducks and their parents were the fox(es, en…) and I was in charge of them all.

The kids were at a supervised visit when I got a call from the supervisor that Aaron was having a medical issue.  Not life-threatening, but not good by any means.  So I called his ped and they, of course, advised us to take him to the ER.

Did I mention I was far from home, at an event with Daughter, and I didn’t have any of Aaron’s insurance cards or papers?

We arranged to meet at the ER.  I left Daughter with a friend of ours at the event – lucky she was there and I need to bake a loaf of banana bread for her for thanks.  I rushed home for Aaron’s paperwork, then rushed back to the ER.  I had, ironically, been just blocks from the ER at the above event.  Wait, that’s not irony, that’s just annoying.

And so began my 7 hours with Aaron, Allie, and their parents.  Even after that much time together, I don’t understand them.  I don’t understand how they think.  But I do see their patterns and issues.

I understand now why Aaron asks questions over and over and why he interrupts conversations all the time.  Because his parents ignore him and don’t notice him talking.  Or if he’s talking to them, they will completely interrupt him to start talking to someone else (about something completely different.)  He gets verbally confusing messages from his parents, and I can see the gears grinding in his head, trying to figure it out.

Example: Mom hands him a book that is too difficult for him to read, and tries to get him to read it to her.  She tells him “You can do it!  You can read it!”  She’s doing it in a positive, encouraging voice, but the problem is, positive encouraging voices don’t make a difference to the fact the kid can only read about 10 words.  And I could see the confusion and conflict on his face that he couldn’t or didn’t articulate.  Actually, he did try to tell her he couldn’t, but she completely interrupted and overrode him, repeatedly telling him he could.

That would be hard enough for a typical kid, but for a kid with developmental and neurological problems, it’s so sad to watch.

So at the time, the logistical problem was that they technically weren’t supposed to be alone with the kids.  But there’s only one of me.  And sometimes I have to go to the bathroom.  So rules were briefly broken, but I wasn’t even comfortable going to the cafeteria to get dinner without them, so I just suffered through my hunger until I got home at 10:30 pm.  (The hospital staff was cool enough to let me have New Baby there in my Moby, so I was also nursing away my energy during those 7 hours.)

They complained a lot about their victim status and how much the caseworker hates them.  I just let them talk and tried to sound neutral to it all.

They also revealed some personal info that doesn’t help their case.  Minor, but perhaps telling.

Finally, the doctor we were waiting for showed up, said “Yep, do xyz.”  And left.  Seriously, he didn’t even need to lay eyes on Aaron; he could’ve just called us from where ever he was.  I think it was Canada, from how long it took him to get there.  Anyway…

The icing on the cake?  I could’ve left 20 minutes sooner, except Dad FELL ASLEEP in another part of the hospital.  So asleep he didn’t hear his phone ring over and over.

And that really typifies the parenting issues in this case: if it were just this one thing, there wouldn’t be a problem.  But it’s a million things just like this.

Wow, have I been a crabby mama the last few days.  Some sort of ‘chest cold morphed into a head cold has’ taken over my brain, and I don’t want anything to do with my kids.  Any of them.  All I want to do is sleep or lay in bed and read.  Little children don’t facilitate that at ALL.

And throw in a three day weekend in our district, which might have been nice because Husband was home to take care of them, but that just made him crabby from pulling double-parent duty AND me being too tired/sick to make it in the sack.

So it wasn’t the best weekend.

There was supposed to be a visit set up for Aaron and Allie this weekend, but none of the workers involved ever called me about it.  We haven’t given Mom and Dad our phone number (I plan to do that after I hear how court went this afternoon) so they couldn’t call, and between Husband and I, we barely had it together enough to keep the house from falling over.  Hence, we made no effort to find out about it either.

Aaron and Allie do miss their family.  Allie has asked Husband a few times when the caseworker is coming back to take her home, and they certainly talk a lot about their siblings.  It’s so easy to overlook those feelings though because they’ve integrated very well into our home otherwise.  They’re little troopers, for sure.

You might not guess their feelings from their parental phone calls either.  Allie does an okay job on the phone, but she tends not to say a whole bunch.  She clams up and acts shy while her mom or dad ask her questions.  Aaron will blabber on and on, but about the most pointless things and almost always asking multiple times to talk to his baby sister, even when his parents have told him she’s asleep.  So his phone manners aren’t that great.  But he does have some cognitive issues, and obviously, his parents know that.

So, why does his dad speak to Aaron with a tone of snide contempt?  Aaron has figured out the speaker phone button so I can hear both sides of the conversation, and sometimes, I really don’t like the way he speaks to Aaron.  It’s a mocking tone, but Aaron can’t pick up on that, so it just makes it really pathetic and sad to hear.  Most of the time, Dad’s fine, maybe a little paternalistic, but those few times I hear that meanness come through, I cringe.

In general, that’s how Mom and Dad come across on the phone.  They say they miss the kids, and tell them they love them, but it sounds more like they’re on a business trip and they’ll be home in a few days than potentially facing TPR.  I guess everyone expresses emotions differently, but it still strikes me as odd how la-di-da they seem.

Got to be part of a team meeting today for Aaron and Allie’s case.  Actually, I’m glad I was there because I’m the one new face in this multi-year case – I did learn a lot about the history of this case, the parents’ attitudes, and where the case is going.  Everyone else was probably bored out of their mind because, apparently, nothing has really changed over the last few years.  They’re still discussing the same problems in the household and parenting.

Their parents though – wow!  I want to call them interesting, but they’re really not.  They are lower-IQ, mashed-potato personality people.  Not bright enough to understand how to parent their kids appropriately.

BUT.  They are smart enough to know what the system wants.  Dad actually expressed a certain viewpoint early in the meeting, at a later point the caseworker expressed the opposite, and then after that Dad completely flip-flopped to the caseworker’s view.  Without missing a beat.

I can only imagine this combo of stupidity and cunning will drag out whatever happens to these kids.  For now, the state is going to try offering a few new services to the parents, but the proof will only be when the kids are there in their home.  And the team believes the kids aren’t safe there.  Rock, hard place, rock, hard place…

 

 

Took Baby and Allie to the grocery store yesterday morning, and of course, there were cameras filming ALL OVER the store for some ridiculous cable channel TV show.  I politely inquired about it to the man who looked in charge – he first asked me if I wanted to be on it (No Thanks!) and when I told him I had to be sure the little girls with me didn’t end up on camera, he assured me no one would be filmed without their permission.

Except they were in the peanut butter aisle when we wanted our peanut butter!

So we circled the perimeter of the store, dodging cameras and looking for bicycles, which Allie insisted to me they sold at this store.  Finally, Allie realized they don’t actually sell bikes there, the cameras had moved on to some other aisle, and we could get our PB and get the heck out of there.

I still can’t figure out how they could be so sure we wouldn’t be on camera – background footage doesn’t count?  I just don’t want anyone’s mama figuring out the locale of my local grocery store.

 

Have some unofficially official word that the return home will not be until school ends for winter break.

Okay.

I can definitely handle that, now that I finally know.  If it stretched out that long without having that end in sight, well, that would be a different story.  But this recent startling development I mentioned earlier took away any possibility of an earlier time frame, and now I can feel comfortable actually planning the future!

Like, when Husband and I can get away to a bed and breakfast (that would be 3 days after they return home – I’m already reserving a room now…but shouldn’t I know better than to do that?  See my feelings below.)

and when/how we will consider new placements after the reunification (we’ll stay open until January 31st and we’re at the least changing our age range to 3 – 7.)

But given all the people I’ve been telling for months that it will be soon, I hope by Thanksgiving, etc etc., I’m feeling sort of sheepish about it too.

Like, do other people think I’m a dope for being so hopeful?  And I’m even going all the way back to the spring when I was telling people they would return home in the summer.  Did they think I was a sucker after the Great Summer Setback of ’10?

By people, I mostly mean those people in my everyday life who know I’m a foster parent and take a general interest in my family’s life.  So, other parents from school, Husband’s colleagues, family members, neighbors, and the like.

And I know I’m an eternal optimist.  I have faith in humanity, and certainly, Mark and Nikki’s parents have given 99% good signs that I should keep my faith in them.  It’s just those sneaky curveballs they throw my way.

I’m not going to change, even if I could choose to.  I hate cynicism.  But I wonder if I should even worry about how other people view me.  Do I give the impression that foster parents are naive?  Or that they are manipulated by the system?

Hopefully, people realize it’s just me.  I’m unabashedly hopeful for happy endings.

We found out some bad news yesterday about the kids’ biofamily.  Completely shocking, unexpected, I-don’t-even-want-t0-believe-it type news.  It really sucks.  The kids don’t know yet, but they will find out soon, and I expect there to be lots more talking and explaining to go on afterwards.  And probably some regression.  I don’t think it’s possible for Mark to pee in his bed anymore than he already does, but something else will happen I bet.

The funny thing is, this news actually probably won’t effect their reunification – it might be a few weeks delayed, but they’ll still be home soon, hopefully by Christmas now.  But it will definitely effect their long term future.

There is still hope though.  This situation could still end positively in time, and I hope it does.  I really hope the ‘team’ members involved in the kids’ case actually support the family and not just pressure them to do what’s easiest.   That’s what I’ll be doing!