Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hold On Tight, Folks!

***I know this post is incredibly long, but writing everything down helps me to process all of it***

We got another call, Friday night at 4:52 PM. I've heard so much about THE call, but that's not how it works when you adopt from foster care.  At least that's not how it's worked for us. It's been multiple calls with lots of follow up calls.  This new one concerns a little boy.  He sounds like a wonderful kid. He's developmentally on target in all areas, doing well in preschool, gets along with his peers, a little active but no behavior issues to speak of, able to form attachments. When we signed up to adopt from foster care, DH and I knew that most of the kids in care have experienced some kind of trauma and as a result often have behavioral, emotional, and physical issues. It was drilled into us during our adoption classes: "Our kids are great kids, but they have lots of challenges." We've put a lot of thought into clarifying what we're prepared to handle and what we feel is beyond us.  We're not looking for a perfect child. We know there's no such thing, no matter how a child enters your family. 

The profile of this particular child doesn't fit what we were expecting to hear.  Of course, he's not perfect but has no behavioral issues, no emotional issues, no physical issues. . .and he's legally free for adoption.  There should be people lined up to adopt this child. Then our worker mentioned that he's been in foster care with the same foster family since he was an infant and has been legally free for over two years.  

Me: Wait a second. He's been legally free for over two years and the family he's been with for four years hasn't adopted him.  What's up with that?

Our Worker: Oh, you noticed that (chuckle, chuckle). Well,  I was going to get to that.  His foster mother has been given time to consider adopting him, but she wants more evaluations before deciding.  He's already been evaluated multiple times (mentioned the names of the hospitals) and found to have no problems every time.  She still won't commit to adopting him so we're moving on with finding a permanent family for him. 

Me: Is she OK with that?  

Our Worker: Hmmm. Well, uh, not exactly.  She doesn't want to adopt him, but she doesn't want him removed. She appealed the decision and lost, so now she has no choice. She says she's going to get a lawyer and sue the Department to become his guardian (though not to adopt him) but we don't know yet if that will happen. 

Me: And if she does. . .?

Our Worker: Well, technically, it would be a legally free placement, but it's more like legal risk.  We've given her plenty of time. too much time, so I don't see how she can win, but there is a chance. Are you interested? Think about it over the weekend and let me know.  

I have multiple concerns/thoughts/questions running through my mind:

#1 Clearly this child would be better off staying with his current family if they would have him.  He's been with them for four years!  Why isn't foster mom adopting him?  Are there more issues than his file shows and she's just being an advocate for him?  Or is this about getting him classified as having special needs so he can receive a subsidy after adoption (I hate to even think that one)?  Why won't the Department just give her what she wants so this little guy can stay with her?  Is there more to her than they're telling us?

#2 What's the likelihood that this foster mother could win custody at some point in the future? We're willing to accept legal risk placements (when the birthparents rights haven't yet been terminated, but the state is moving to legally do so).  Very few TPR (termination of parental rights) petitions are denied in my state once the state gets to that point. This current legal situation is one that I know nothing about.  What kind of rights does the foster parent have?  Not to mention that TPR is easier to support because birthparents have been given multiple chances to get it together enough to parent their kids.  They're not able to provide a healthy environment for their children.  This woman has apparently been doing a great job with this child so far.  And then, there's the fact that I don't want to disrupt this child's life only to have a judge return him to his foster parent in a year.  I don't want to disrupt my life only to lose the child back to his current placement (which is where it sounds like he should be if she'll adopt him).

#3 Our worker described this child as having an attachment to his foster mother.  I know that's always a good thing because it means he is able to form healthy attachments.  However, I've also read that a poorly done transition can do a job on a child, even one who's had solid attachments to that point.  Ideally, the transition should take time and involve the foster parent and adoptive parent sharing tasks as the adoptive parent slowly takes over. It doesn't sound like that would be possible in this situation.  It sounds like the bond would be abruptly broken.  I can imagine it might not be at all pretty.  DH and I think we can deal with the immediate consequences (I hate you, You're not my real mom, regression, etc).  It would be like what many foster parents deal with when a child is first removed from his or her birth home and placed with them. What I worry about are the long-term consequences for this child and his ability to form future attachments.  

#4 Why us? Other than the fact that we're a couple of awesome people, why did they choose us for this situation?  Are we just a prod to get the foster mother to ante up and decide to adopt this child?  I can deal with that, but I'd like to know if that's the case. Is it because we're new to the process and might not know to be nervous about the legal issues?  

#5 What will it be like to be instant mommy to an almost five year old boy?  I'd need to study up on five year olds.  What time do they go to bed?  Do they bathe themselves? What kind of car seat do they need?  I know, I know, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

DH and I have decided to take the opportunity offered to us to speak with the child's worker tomorrow and ask some of those questions.  

So more phone calls.  

And another roller coaster ride. Here we go!


shocks said...

Wow!! Exciting & nervewrecking at the same time! I hope you get some good answers after talking with the boy's social worker! I'l be thinking about you guys this week as you think thru things & make a decision!

Snarky Mom said...

In some states, children with no big issues are not eligible for adoption subsidies so if the foster mom adopts him she will lose the monthly board payment. But if she keeps him on as his guardian and she is licensed, she will keep the monthly board payment as well as the state medical care. Not sure about your state, but several states are like that.

In my experience in the system in my state, foster parents don't have any rights. Period. If she has been offered the chance to adopt and she has turned it down, the state has every right and a real responsiblity to move the child to a permanent home for adoption. Guardianship should always be a secondary option to adoption. Most children who go to guardianship placement are going to family members or are teenagers who don't wish to be adopted.

I'll also say that I have not personally seen a case where the child was removed from the foster home, placed in an adoptive home and then removed again to go back to the first home. In my state, no judge would allow that. The potential trauma to the child is just too great.

I wish you the best in making this decision.

Beautiful Mess said...

I was going to ask you, before I got to the end, if you could talk to the child's case/social worker. I would definitely do that before you make any type of decisions.

As far as bathing, car seats and bed times go...Zilla just turned 6 and he's been taking a shower by himself for about 6 months. I go in there and remind him to wash his body parts and to make sure his "personal" area is clean. He's been out of a booster seat for about the same amount of time. He's a tall kid. But you can use a regualr booster seat that would allow the seat belt to properly fit across his chest, not his neck (not that your dumb or anything, just being overly helpful and informational). He goes to bed around 8. That's when we start the teeth brushing, getting a drink of water and bed time story process going. By the time he's done with all of that, it's 8:30.

With ALL of that being said, I hope there's a good solution to all of this. not only for you, but for this little boy. Boys at this age, can be very attached to a mother figure. At least in my experience.

Sorry for the information over load. I hope you don't mind.

cloudmaster said...

All great questions. My biggest concern would be the one you mentioned about transition. If the foster mom doesn't want the child to go then that could be a disaster and end up harming the child. Keep asking those good questions and in the meantime we will pray for the little boy and you. Whatever is to be, will be.

Wendy said...

Wow - that's a lot to consider. So exciting! I hope that they can give you some more answers to your questions.

Thinking about you -- please post when you have an update, too -- I'll check back. :)

wifey said...

oh wow! It seems like you've put so much thought into the situation - I hope it works out in the best way possible for everyone involved.

I cannot believe that the foster mom won't adopt him. That just seems..... heartless, maybe?