Since finding out about the recent events in my daughter's family, my mind has been racing. I contacted Indian Child Welfare, as the state is required to contact them is lil sis was taken into care. If they weren't contacted, they are also more likely to get more information when they call around asking, than I. So far, no one knows anything. But, she has to be somewhere. It's possible, though, that a family member kept her while Grandma was in jail and the authorities were never told about her. There are just so many possibilities. I hate to think of all the things that she may have gone through in the past 4 years. I just hope that she is safe.
All of the memories and feelings that I felt as a foster parent have come flooding back. I hadn't forgotten then, but they had lost their edge, their immediacy. Now, though, I remember the anxiety so well. The feeling of helplessness is real once again. The times of watching my tiny little girl scared & struggling to deal with all that she had been through in her short life play out in my mind. Then I think of her little sister, who was left to her own devices in the chaos.
Some background, for those unfamiliar with our story: My daughter (Beautiful) was born into a family with a multi-generational legacy in the child welfare system. Her personal foster care journey began at 2 months old. There times that she was fostered along with her mother (who was also a minor), times she was fostered alone, and even a (short) failed reunification with her mother. However, there were never any real improvements, so they began looking towards permenency for her.
Beautiful was 20 months old when we were chosen to be her adoptive family and she moved in with us soon after. A petition to terminate the parental rights of her mother (Rahil) had already been filed. Beautiful's mother hadn't seen her in months, nor had she been seen in person by anyone in CPS, so no one yet knew that she was pregnant. I can't remember when that news was discovered, but it was not too long before the birth.
We were asked to take placement of the baby, as they planned to remove her upon her release from the hospital. However, CPS had also told Rahil about their little plan. So, she went into Texas to have the baby. When OK DHS was alerted about the birth, they sent our caseworker to the hospital, since we lived in a county that bordered the state line. This decision led to a spiral of chaos.
I never got straight answers about what all the caseworker told Rahil. However, by the time she was released from the hospital, she knew where we lived and had moved about 20 miles away from us. This was an issue, since we had been chosen as Beautiful's family because we lived a couple hours away from her biological family. There were security concerns, as the family have a long record of violence and instability. We were given orders to never tell any of the family what area of the state we lived in or to give them our last names, so that they couldn't find her. We were threatened that, if we revealed any identifying information to them, even accidentally, Beautiful would be moved to a new home for her safety. Now, her own caseworker had handed over all this information.
His supervisor, of course, said I had no right to complain because "he didn't give them the directions to your house". We lived in a rural community, where my name is rather unusual. So, all that was needed to find out where we lived was to ask any given person in town. Later, I would be told by Rahil that they not only knew where we lived, but they kept up with the town's rumor mill & watched the local newspapers to get information on our family.
In any event, moving to our county allowed Rahil to transfer her CPS case to our county court, giving her a new judge. So, not only did that county decline to pick up the baby (despite another child in care & testing positive for drug exposure at birth), they restarted Beautiful's case. Eventually, though, we were given guardianship of her & were later able to adopt her.
One thing that didn't change, though, is that the baby was still left in the care of her biological family. At some point, Rahil was told that she could not keep the baby. So, she asked if Grandma could take care of her. She was told no, as Grandma has convictions for child endangerment and had been declared by 3 different counties to be unfit to care for Beautiful. So, they did what they always do...they moved. This time, though, they landed in a county that was willing to give Grandma another chance. So, Grandma got to keep the baby & she immediately cut off all contact with Beautiful.
We haven't heard from her since. For a few years, we got reassurances that she was being monitored, so things weren't getting too far out of hand, as far as they could tell. However, once CPS stopped their services with the family...or lost track of them...or whatever happened, we had no way to know anything. Now that Grandma has been arrested once again for domestic abuse, we are left with a huge question mark about the safety of the baby. She's 4 now, and I shutter to think about the things that she may have had to deal with.
Since this came to light, several people have wondered if I will try to get custody. That is simply not an option at this point. I closed my license when I chose to go to law school. At this moment, I couldn't pass the financial portion of a homestudy if I tried. However, I'm almost finished with school & things should improve soon after. So, if permanency became an option at a later point, I would definitely entertain the idea. However, at this point, I am focusing on just trying to find out if she's ok and, hopefully, setting up some sibling visits.
There are many bittersweet moments in this journey. Lately I've been reminded of all the losses & gains that go along with this crazy thing we call adoption. My heart is full of love for my daughter & gratitude for all that she has brought to my life...and heavy with worry for her sister.