Sunday, February 24, 2013

Surreal...

On Friday I received a call from the CW stating that Lil Sis & all her belongings were packed in the van & on their way to my home.

Wow.

I had planned on her coming here. When I had spoken to one of her foster fathers, on Monday, we had discussed a weekend visit. We had, I thought, reached an agreement that a move was inevitable, but a long transition would be best. He told me that he wanted to be able to tell her that he had fought as much as he could and had worked hard to keep her in their life. Since it seemed that living in their home permanently was no longer an option, though, we would start weekend visits to see how she would integrate into my family and, of course, to encourage the sibling bond.

However, I guess he couldn't take the roller coaster anymore. They essentially said, "if you're going to take her at some point, take her now. We are done." I understand they are operating out of pain. However, I can't lie and pretend that I think it's ok. I've been fighting myself very hard to not judge them. However, I see it as no different than the time that my ex-husband told me that he doesn't come see the kids "because it hurts too much to tell them goodbye". I get it...it hurts. Pain sucks. BUT, you're the adult. It's your responsibility to put your pain in the proper perspective in order to put the needs of the child before your feelings. Granted, this comes from a person with an overly developed ability to compartmentalize. However, I don't think it's too much to ask the adults in the situation to bear the burden, rather then the children. Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn't care how I see it, so I do the best I can with what I have to work with.

In any event, Lil Sis is here. So far things are going well. She talks about her foster family. I don't think she fully understands that she may never see them again. Apparently they decided that they no longer want the arrangement that we discussed on Monday--spending weekends with them, frequent phone calls, etc. I was told by the CW that they will contact me if/when they feel like that can have contact with her. At this point, she's not sure that they will take a phone call from her so she asked me to attempt to redirect if she asks. I have been unfriended on FaceBook, by them, which I take to mean that they do not have any desire to know anything about our lives or to see any updates. No contact, at this time. It's not what's best for her. It's simply not. But, it's the reality right now, so we'll deal with the as best we can.

Lil Sis hasn't spoken about her bio family at all, since getting here two days ago. The foster fathers had told me that she rarely did while she lived there. She seems comfortable here but I think she's probably assuming that it's just another temporary situation. The fact it, because of the way the foster system works, I can't even assure her that it's not.

I don't think I'd be willing to enter this crazy clusterf*ck that is foster care for any child but this one. Twice, before, I had prepared for her to move into my home. At birth, and again later in infancy, we were told to prepare for her to move in. In fact, the crib that we had put up for her was still in my ex husband's house last time I was there. Maybe it still is. Even once we got custody of her older sister, we kept our foster care license open, just in case they picked Lil Sis up. However, once DHS lost track of the family, I gave up that idea. So, when I was accepted to law school, I allowed my license to lapse.

Now, here I am, sitting beside my sleeping toddler, listening to the sound of the giggles of the precious daughter that I have raised for the passed 6 years...and that of her little sister, whom I spent 5 years worrying about & praying for.

There are no words intricate or complex enough to adequately describe this feeling. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, I think it would take Salvador Dali to capture the essence of this bizarre, overwhelming mix of emotions.

I'm glad the girls have this chance to be together. Obviously, the timing could have been better, since I'm now in the busiest time of this whole law school journey. However, asking them to find her a new placement is a door that I can walk through at any time...but it's not one that I can close once it has been opened. So, we need to give it our best shot in order to give these girls a chance at a relationship. As my good friend pointed out: they've already lost all of their other bio family. It would be a tragedy for them to lose each other.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Deep Breath...

I've been in problem solving mode for the last week, since receiving the news of the change in Lil's Sis case. I've gone through the whole gamet of emotions in an unpredictable loop, but only in small increments. Most of the time I kept thing compartmentalized so that I could get things done.

At first, I tried to convince the ICW to change their mind. When that was unsuccessful, I spoke with the state CW about the other options. Since my home is the next best option, I had to make a decision as to whether I could take on another child. While I was giving it thought, though, I was told that the foster family had decided that they wanted her moved "on Monday"...wow, nothing like having to decide & get your home certified for a foster placement in three days. BUT, I did it.

Thankfully, the foster family has decided not to push the moving date. While it appears that an eventual move is inevitable, we are all going to regroup and try to come to an agreement that works for everyone. My understanding from ICW is that they will be satisfied as long as transitional visits begin soon and there is a projected moving date. So, hopefully we can come up with a plan soon.

Since finding out yesterday that I will not be getting another child tomorrow, I've been able to actually allow myself to process some of the emotions. The truth is, the thought of adding another child to my home is terrifying. However, this is my daughter's sister. I have worried about this child since before she was born. There were a few times that we were prepared to take her into our home, but child welfare would change their mind & not remove her. Over the last 5 years, I have worried about her & tried to keep up with an information that I could find on the family, just hoping that this little girl was safe.

I made a promise to both these little girls, years ago, that I would do my best to make sure that were safe...& together, if possible. I cannot describe the feeling when I saw the report that their grandmother had been arrested for domestic violence. I feared what that meant for Lil Sis. When I found out that she was in a foster home where she was happy & attached, I was overjoyed...especially when they were so willing to allow support the sisters' relationship. After all, they don't have to be in the same house to have each other. Although it now seems that she will likely end up living in my home, I feel the same way. She can still have her current foster family in her life, even if she doesn't get to live with them full time...and I will try my level best to make sure that happens.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Legal Advice:

People are always asking for free legal advice...so here you go:

Stay out of jail! Don't do anything that you know will get you arrested, especially if you already have another legal issue going on. It doesn't matter if the prior issue is related or not...getting arrested will NOT help your case. If you do get arrested, though, keep your mouth shut & lawyer up.

Likewise, pay your fines, fees & child support. Everyone understands that occasionally something can cause you to fall behind, but make sure it doesn't last long. It doesn't matter if you have to go to work at the drive-through temporarily, pay these things & do it on time whenever possible. Otherwise, refer to the prior paragraph & just pay it...first...before you spend that money to go out, buy that new outfit that you "need", pay for cable or other luxuries, etc. If you've got money to go to the movies or out on a date, you had money to make a payment on any of these things.

Perhaps most importantly, and especially if you are in an attorney's office for breaking one of the rules above, DON'T LIE TO YOUR LAWYER! We can't represent you properly if you lie or hide things.

Wow, what a week!

On Monday, I received a call from Lil Sis's foster father. The tribe has decided that to actively begin looking for a tribal home to move her to.

Deep Breath...

It's been such a long week that it seems like a month ago that I heard those words. Being me, I couldn't just take that information & wait. No...instead I got the name of the Indian Child Welfare (ICW) worker & gave her a call.

Apparently, since the grandmother is not going to be allowed to have her back, they are no longer concerned about keeping her where she is. Her mother is still in prison and unlikely to ever be able to care for her. At this point, no one is aware of suitable family members. So, they want to move her to a home within their jurisdictional boundaries to start concurrent planning. I begged the ICW worker not to move her because she is attached. That's when I was informed that "the decision has been made" that the home she is in now is not going to be considered as an adoptive placement, should she ever become legally free. So, a move is inevitable. They want it to happen sooner, rather than later, because foster parents gain legal standing to challenge a move once the child has been in their home a certain period of time. I was told by the ICW supervisor (yes, I called him, as well) that "we need to get the child outta there before the fosters get rights".

Since they WILL be moving her, I asked the next logical question: what about her having a relationship with her sister? "That would be great! Do you want to take her?" Long pause...

Basically, I was told that I am their preferred placement. However, if I do not accept placement, then sibling visitation will not be on the list of priorities in choosing another placement. She will likely end up in another part of the state. If she eventually gets adopted, the adoptive parents get to decided what happens with her. If they don't want my daughter in the picture, there's nothing I can do. To me, this distills down to either accept placement or the sisters will most likely lose each other again. Wow. No pressure...

At first the foster family, being understandably upset, took the stance that, if she was going to be moved eventually, it should be done immediately & finally. This would have meant an emergency move &, if she couldn't come to my home, most likely having to go to a shelter until a home was found (at least according to the state case worker (CW)). However, they have since back off on that & she is still in their home for the time being.

I am working on the process of being certified as a kinship home. This makes me approved for Lil Sis to come stay here for visits with her sister and also allows me to take placement if the need arises. The ICW worker told me that she will not push to move her as long as transitional visits to my home begin. However, if we don't set up that plan, she will be moving her soon, even if only to another temporary home. Naturally, I told her what I thought about arbitrarily forcing a child to undergo multiple moves. She was not appreciative...

In any event, I now await a call from the CW letting me know what the plan is. Of course, she has to clear it with ICW & the foster family has to agree. However, what she & I discussed as being the best possible transition is to leave her in the home she is in until the end of the school year. Then transition over the summer. We could start while she's still in school with every other weekend in my home. Then, sometime during summer shift to every weekend. Once it gets close to school time, reverse it, with her here during the week & with them during the weekends. We can always scale back on the weekend visits with them later, if they want. However, I'm ok with doing it indefinitely (barring a move, or something of that nature). I truly believe that they need to remain a consistent part of her life.

In the mean time, my house has been rearranged & is prepared to take another lil girl, if that should become the reality.

I have gone through an obstacle course of emotions all week, and I have some pretty strong opinions about the decisions that are being made for this child by people who have never even met her. However, I shall save my venting for another post...