Friday, March 24, 2017

court for Sparkler

Sparkler is a friend of My Genius Sister's.

Sparkler was visiting her mother, JW, in prison this past week. JW was delicately trying to tell Sparkler that court was going to happen again. Contempt charges had been filed against Cardinal, Sparkler's paternal grandmother, and the guardianship of Sparkler was going to be contested.

JW is trying hard to not make all of this extra stressful for Sparkler. Everyone knows that anything could happen in court. Despite the fact that JW wants Sparkler to live with My Genius Sister (MGS)...Cardinal is "family" and sometimes judges can't see past that.

JW asked Sparkler if she knew about court already.

With more confidence than an 8 year old should have about matters of this nature, Sparkler schooled her mother...
"Yes, Mom. I know there is going to be court. They're going to talk about guardianship. Do you know what a guardian is, Mom? A guardian is supposed to GUARD you. And Mom, I really think MGS would guard me better than Grandma does." (paraphrased)
Things with Sparkler have deteriorated from just "not good" to downright dangerous. She moved out of the home she had been in. This, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. The home she was in could almost have been featured on an episode of Hoarders. But her new home had no furniture, very few clothes, and no food. Plus, Grandma is drinking...a lot. She's leaving Sparkler alone. In fact, Cardinal was unable to be located not that long ago and Sparkler took it upon herself to walk to the local bar to wait for her grandma. Patrons took pity on her and bought Sparkler supper. And funny...Grandma was very surprised and angry that someone in the bar called child services and yet another investigation was opened.

So right now, My Genius Sister is at court. She doesn't get to sit in on the proceedings because she has to testify about some photos that are being presented as evidence. It's a different judge this time. And...fingers crossed...I think this judge cares more about the safety of Sparkler than the last one did.

Please say a prayer for everyone involved. I'll let y'all know what happens.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

scheduling a visit

This post is going to be long and choppy. But I want to shine a light on some things foster parents sometimes have to deal with in The System.

At the adversary hearing, about two weeks after the children were removed, Whiz and Rex's parents were given their service plans. They were also assigned visitation. Because of the domestic violence charges on Dad, visits between Mom and Dad were to be separate. Each parent was given two, 2-hour, visits per week. Mom's visits were to be in the local CPS office. (CPS agreed to provide transportation.) And Dad's visits were to be supervised in the community.

Relatively soon after court, CPS coordinated the visit schedule between Mom, myself, and the third-party monitoring company. Mom's visits were to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays, about 30 minutes away from where we live. I am required to provide all transportation. That is a done deal where I'm at. Neither CPS or my licensing agency will transport the children unless it is an emergency. Even then, it's unlike they would transport. This requirement of me, to provide all transportation, is in my contract. (And I'm totally OK with that!!! I just say this so people understand that there are NO "transporters" available.)

Dad works full time. Visits for him were to be done around his work schedule. That meant that the actual visit day and time might change and that he would take his four hours worth of visit time all at once 1 time per week.

Mom has been pretty hit and miss. She's called to cancel most every visit she misses ahead of time so I don't have to drive and wait around for the no-show. I'd say she's made it to about 1/3 of her visits.

Dad doesn't do well at scheduling his own visits. I think that in most cases, visits with Dad have only been scheduled when the third-party monitoring company calls and/or texts Mom to make him set up a visit. He's actually kept every single one of his visits that was set up, though.

Then they had court on March 10. Dad was able to convince the judge to let him have visits with Mom. The number of hours didn't change. Visits are still supposed to be a total of only four hours, per parent, per week.

The third-party monitoring company sets up all the visits with the parents. CPS generally stays out of the whole mess.

The boys had a visit with both parents on Thursday the 16th. They had another one on Sunday the 19th.

I have NO problem with the schedule or the frequency. I'm definitely not trying to sabotage anything. But when the monitoring company told me they were scheduling another visit (this one for only two hours) with Mom for Thursday the 23rd, I did ask if that was "OK" - as I thought the parents were only supposed to get four hours per week and Mom had seen the boys for four hours just the past Sunday.

Back and forth I went with the monitoring company. More than anything, I want the monitoring company to actually SET a visit SCHEDULE with the parents. I do not care if it changes all the time. But from the very first time I spoke with Dad, he told me that he gets his work schedule a month in advance. He has told me every single time I've asked him that he will give his full schedule to CPS and/or the monitoring company and set visits up a month at a time.

I've had the babies for over two months now and I NEVER know when the next visit with Dad is going to be. And now that Mom and Dad visit together, based on Dad's work schedule, I don't know when ANY visits are going to be.

And I'm just not OK with that. I don't want much....just a little bit of advance notice. Not only do I have a household to run, but I've actually got a rather time consuming job that I have to give attention to on a daily basis as well! I can't promise a job to a customer and then get pulled away for hours to transport to a visit, wait around, and then transport back home. (I wait in the community for two hour visits. The location of the four hour visits is slightly closer to my house, so I drive home.)

Everything ended on Tuesday night this week with the director of the monitoring company telling me that he was waiting to hear from Mom to see if she had secured transportation to the Thursday visit. I assumed one would happen - but I didn't know for sure yet.

Wednesday morning...

Both babies puked on me at different times. I didn't think too much of it. Rex is a puker and Whiz will puke when he's mad.

Wednesday afternoon...

I sent a text to the monitoring company (the boss man) asking if the visit for Thursday had been officially confirmed. In between any answer, I got Whiz up from his nap.

Whiz had a fever of 103. I sent another text to the monitoring company advising them of this. I said, "Do you want to do a visit with him sick? He could be better by tomorrow, of course."

The monitoring company boss told me to contact him Thursday morning if Whiz was still running a fever.

Later Wednesday afternoon...

I decided to take Whiz to the doctor. Normally I don't think too much of a fever. But because of the visit, I was going to make sure I covered ALL my bases!! I packed both babies up and headed to the pediatrician.

I sent a text to the monitoring company, "I'm at the doctor with Whiz. He tests positive for influenza A. He's likely to be sick for several days as the symptoms just started today." I sent this text to both the actual monitor and her boss.

The monitor (let's call her Abby) replied, "Let me speak to Mom and see what she'd like. We don't recommend the visit, but if you'd like me to ask, I will."

I replied, "I will do WHATEVER I need to do. I understand both keeping the visit - because Mom needs to be able to parent healthy and sick children. I also understand looking out for Whiz and his comfort and letting him stay home."

The response from Abby that came next floored me:
"Visit will still happen in the morning. If Whiz is worse, then Rex will be the only one to stay for the visit."
Let me break that down...

Abby wants me to put two kids in my car and drive 30+ minutes over to the town where the visit it. I'm supposed to drop the healthy child off and then hang out somewhere in the community with the sick kid for two hours. Then I can come back to pick up the healthy kid.

Or...

I can drive both kids. Drop off one. Drive back home. Wait around for maybe 45 minutes. Drive back. Pick one kid up. Drive back home.

I told this 20 year old girl, "If Whiz is worse, it won't be good for him to travel and stay out in the community for two hours during the visit time. And I can't drive back and forth like that. It would be over two hours in the car for Whiz."

During this fiasco that definitely raised my blood pressure, Rex tested positive for the flu as well. I communicated this with Abby and she told Mom. Mom decided to cancel the visit for today.

Thank God!

Both boys were puking this morning. Whiz ran a fever ALL DAY. And both boys slept a ton!!! Mixing a visit into all of that would not have been good at all!

And here I am...Thursday night...and I have NO IDEA when the next visit with the babies' parents is going to be.

I'll be bugging Abby and/or her boss again tomorrow. I'm going to type up a lovely email for our CPS worker and my licensing agency. Right now, all I'm "demanding" is at least a two day notice prior to any visit. But I haven't put that in writing (other than texts).

And if you know anything about foster care, if it didn't get written down...it didn't happen.

Document. Document. Document.

Monday, March 20, 2017

CPS did their monthly visit

Not word for word...but quotes from the babies' CPS worker from about an hour ago...

The children will probably go back on a monitored placement.
Then they'll come back into Care when Dad gets arrested again.

The judge gave me permission to start on the ICPC home study.

The parents have got a year to work on their case plan.

One thing that is going to hold the parents up is that they only work their services on Dad's days off.

Yes, the old case will be taken into consideration. (I asked about the 15/22 federal law.)

The parents know how to work The System. They know what to say. They'll take their classes. I've got information from the neighbors. I can't disclose to you what they said. But they know things. I hope someone will call me.

I have no proof. Mom had a black eye the other day but she refused to let me take a picture of it.

We will check the police reports to see if neighbors call the police on Mom and Dad.
Even if there's no arrest, we will factor that in.

Well, if they go back on a monitored placement, at least we'll have the home study started on the relative for ICPC.

I hope we can keep these babies safe.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

we have court on Thursday

The case with the newest cherubs is well under way. I've barely talked to their CPS worker though so I have no clue how the parents are actually doing with their case plan. (Not that it's my business. But when I can tell that parents are doing everything they are supposed to, I know that reunification is a realistic possibility and it can happen sooner rather than later. When it's obvious case plans aren't being complied with, I know that CPS has to work on alternate solutions for the children and permanency.)

I do know that visits have been very hit or miss. I'm not sure how much weight that brings to this specific case, though. The parents have detailed case plans they are to work and CPS is supposed to be handling many things. I haven't been given the information to take Rex for his DNA testing. That was one thing that is supposed to happen. And I seriously doubt ICPC has been started for the relative resource in another state that expressed interest in taking the boys. I know the worker talked with the aunt. But that's all I know.

The hearing this Thursday is a 60-day status hearing. I checked with their worker (playing dumb) and asked if I needed to have the babies' things washed and ready to pack after court...or if the State was planning on keeping the boys in Care longer. Their worker responded that it would take something rather remarkable for the boys to go home on Thursday and that's not what will be happening at court.

I'm pretty sure this case is going to drag out entirely too long. My gut tells me that the parents are not complying at all with any of their service plans. I fear that ICPC (the process to move children in foster care across state lines) will take way too long. In the best of cases it takes many months. I've heard of it taking as long as a year to complete. States don't always play nice with each other. And if for any reason the ICPC falls through, I don't think there is another family option.

I continue to pray for Mom and Dad. But I'm afraid that nothing is changing in their relationship. And that means that Mom is still unsafe (very unsafe) and that means the kids wouldn't be safe if they return home.

I'm not nervous about court this time. There are a couple reasons:
  1. I'm trying really, really, really hard to keep my head and heart in the right place. These boys deserve to live with family. I'm not actively trying to adopt anyone. And even though everything seems super messy, the case is too young for me to be emotionally attached in an unhealthy way. I tend to keep my head and heart in check for about a year. After that year mark I struggle when cases are messy. I'm a shit or get off the pot kind of gal. And I hate how the State drags things out forever without requiring progress. 
    Like when Russell and Star stayed in Care with me instead of being moved to the grandparents. The State didn't do a damn thing to stray from that ultimate ending - so they should have reached it sooner rather than later. Same with these kids. If they're going to move to a new state...let's get that process started. Put me in contact with the aunt. Let's start Facetime or Skype conversations. Let's actually have a healthy transition! 
  2. I'm also taking an anti-anxiety medication. I gave up trying to handle this very bizarre way of living without some extra help. It's not normal to parent other people's children for them with a ton of other people making sure you're doing it the "right way". Nothing about that is normal. And on a day to day basis, I do OK. Court is just very stressful for me because so many times bad things have happened at court. I freak out just driving near the courthouse if I'm out shopping. I'm on a med I can take for a couple weeks and then go off any time I want. Then take again when I think I might need it.
Thursday is the big day. Court just happens to be scheduled at the exact same time a visit with Mom is supposed to happen. I've been told CPS is rescheduling the visit. It might happen after the hearing. I don't know yet. CPS hasn't told me. (Gotta love their level of communication.)

Please pray for the decision makers. Mom needs help. CPS is offering it. But if she doesn't want to accept what's going on in her life, she's going to lose these children. That is the most tragic ending I can think of.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

the first visit

In Texas, after children have been removed and placed in foster care, CPS usually holds something called a Family Group Conference shortly after the first adversary hearing. This meeting was held for the boys this week on Tuesday night. The visit schedule was discussed and transportation arrangements were made so that Mom would be able to get to her visits.

The first visit was supposed to be this morning from 10:00am to 12:00pm. It has to be in the CPS office because the staff is trying to help Mom choose to leave her very abusive situation. They file police reports when she shows up all bruised.

I'm rooting for Mom. I don't know the whole story, but I'm choosing to go into this case fully on her side.

I'll freely admit it - I was NOT on Daisy's mom's side or Russell's mom's, either. Those two babies had been violently physically abused. I was empathetic to their mothers as I firmly believe they are probably victims, too. But Daisy and Russell had been hurt so badly that I didn't have a lot of love for either mom from the get-go.

I wrote a letter to Whiz and Rex's Mom to tuck in the diaper bag. I also packed a second bag with toys to help occupy the time. Our CPS offices typically have horrible (HORRIBLE) visit rooms. Last, I got permission to provide lunch for both boys.

Sadly, at 8:01am this morning, I got a text message from the CPS worker telling me that Mom had called to cancel her visit.

I'm very sad for Mom. I wish there was a way I could (safely) contact her and tell her about her kids. (I've been told by several people that Dad is very volatile. I'm not going to be passing out my phone number to anyone in the family of origin just yet.)

This afternoon I got a call from the visit monitoring agency. (CPS in our area hires 3rd party companies to monitor the visits.) They wanted to know where I live so they can set up visits with Dad. He's employed so they have to be in the evening, on the weekends, or on his varying days off. I was confused when the monitoring agency told me what town they were going to put the visits in. It didn't make sense to me because there are no CPS offices in that town. She then said that the visits were going to most likely be in a Burger King or McDonald's.

A shock of exclamation came out of my mouth.
  1.  I don't think visits should ever be held in fast food restaurants. It implies that the family can afford fast food. It's not private by any stretch of the imagination. And no kid wants to hang out in a McDonald's for two to four hours. (Dad is going to take one 4-hour visit a week because he can't schedule two 2-hour visits.)
  2. Even though I don't think any kid should have visits in a fast food restaurant -- I especially don't think it's appropriate for an infant and a toddler! Dad wouldn't even be able to put Rex down on the floor to play. And for FOUR HOURS?! That is just setting Dad up to fail. And as much as I'm not a fan of him based on what I've been told...that's still wrong on so many levels to set him up to fail from the beginning.
The monitoring agency said that they've been instructed to set visits up with Dad in a different city from where he (and Mom) live and from where I live. The lady said she'd check with her supervisor to see if there was an office that could accommodate the visits instead of having them at a restaurant. I thanked her profusely.

I haven't heard anything back. Probably won't until tomorrow. And now it looks like my weekends are toast for awhile. I won't be able to leave or do anything. (I have to transport and then stay available in case Dad no-shows or wants to cut his visits short.)

Things are about to get messy, I'm sure. Visits are never easy. They will be starting soon.

Monday, January 30, 2017

What I know about Daisy

I know I put most of this up on Facebook. I've been a pretty lousy blogger lately. But a reader asked me about Daisy and her case so I figured I'd update here.

All I know is that Daisy is still in foster care. I don't know where she's at exactly. I don't know how many foster homes she's blown through. And I know that the State is trying to terminate rights on both of her parents.

I'm able to "follow along" with this case just a little because the county Dandelion's murder happened in puts their CPS cases up online. Since I know the names of the involved parties, I can look up the case and see when things are scheduled to happen. It's limited information. I can't help myself though. I check it regularly.

The TPR jury trial is currently scheduled for February 13.

On January 18th of this year, both Mom and Dad were finally indicted on a criminal level for the murder of their daughter, Dandelion.

"injury to a child with intentionally causing serious bodily injury"

It's a First Degree Felony. Both are still out on bond. But the criminal proceedings have finally begun.

I'll be following along with this as much as I can online as well. I'm curious as to how it will all turn out in the end.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Where are Russell and Star?

A reader asked me yesterday where Russell and Star are.

I sometimes forget that not everyone follows my drivel on Facebook.  :)

This is a super fast recap of how that case ended...

I went to court on the morning of August 1, 2016. Russell and Star had been excused so they stayed home with Mr. Amazing. I was pretty sure the case was going to take a major change. I just had no idea how major and how fast.

Mom was there. She made it clear to everyone that she wanted the kids to stay with us. She no longer was in favor of them going to stay with the grandparents. First she tried to tell her lawyer. He ignored her. Then she tried to tell me. I brought the babies' lawyer over to translate.

I honestly don't know how it all happened. It was rather fast and overwhelming.

Lawyers and CPS went into the judge's chambers. Then, as fast as it started, it was over. Everyone said they were in favor of the babies being moved to the grandparents' home. Even though the lawyer for the Russell and Star expressed concern, she ended up saying she was in favor. Mom's lawyer lied and said that Mom was in favor.

The hearing ended and CPS told me they'd be by in about four hours to pick the kids up.

The case had reached the legal end. If they had wanted to do the RIGHT THING and actually TRANSITION the kids to the grandparents - they would have had to extend the case. Everyone decided against this option.

No...that's not true. No one even discussed it. A transition was never an option.

Instead, they gave the grandparents Permanent Managing Conservatorship. They did not terminate rights. Mom was given a visit schedule so she could keep seeing her kids. And just like that, CPS was out of the case. There was to be zero oversight. Zero transition. It was just going to be done.

I went home and packed up as much as I possibly could. CPS showed up. The babies' things barely fit in her car. Bopper gave me the phone number and address for Grandma. She also gave me Mom's phone number. I cried a lot. It was so unfair for Russell and Star. They had barely seen the grandparents over the last several months. They had never been to their house. They had never had an unsupervised visit of any kind. The kids were just swooped up and moved.

As the week progressed I got super sick. I chalked it up to everything but what it was. I ended up being hospitalized on August 7 with Clostridium difficile (C. diff). I was in and out of the hospital three times over the course of the month. (I also developed pancreatitis and severe mouth ulcers that left me dehydrated. Oh...and they found a tumor on my liver during testing for C. difficile. I don't have cancer - the biopsy was negative.)

Because of the illness, I neglected updating the blog at all. The grief of losing the babies the way we did was pretty intense. I mean...I knew they weren't going to stay with us. I knew that even though Mom changed her mind, no one was going to listen to her. I just assumed that CPS would actually transition the children to the grandparents. I figured there would be visits and at least a little bit of communication. Instead, there was nothing.

I did manage to switch licensing agencies though. That process took a lot longer than I thought it would. We are now licensed through a new one and I'm hoping things work better than they did with our last agency. I'm not holding my breath though. Most of what's wrong with foster care is wrong on the State level. No licensing agency can change that.

Whiz and Rex moved in with us on January 18. I certainly didn't "plan" on taking two babies again. We're licensed for ages 0-17. I figured we'd take older kids. These two babies had been placed in a shelter though. I have no idea why we weren't called when they were removed initially. We would have said yes then. When I was told about them being in a shelter though, it just seemed like the right thing for them to move in with us. After all, I've got two cribs, two car seats, two high chairs, and two baby jails. Whiz is almost 19 months old and Rex just turned 8 months old on the 27th. I didn't have to rearrange anything in the house. I just had to get the baby toys out again.

As for Russell and Star - I hear tiny bits and pieces about them. Their mother accepted my friend request on Facebook. When she posts pictures of the kids, which isn't that often, I get to see them. The grandparents blocked me on FB and won't return any of my text messages. (I never tried to call because of the language differences. But I can text them in Spanish...and I did. And my texts were ignored or not received.)

Russell is still seeing the same occupational therapist as he did when he was in my home. She hasn't broken HIPPA...but she did tell me that every single concern I had about Russell going to live with the grandparents is true. He's dirty and sick all the time. The level of neglect is significant. But, there isn't anything serious enough that anyone can call the hotline.

Russell and Star's mom is pregnant again. She's still with Star's father (the man suspected to have broken all of Russell's bones). Star's dad has been arrested again though and is in federal custody. I'm sure he'll be deported again. But, due to where we live, I'm sure he'll be back on this side of the wall as soon as he can be. Hopefully Mom's new baby will be perfectly healthy and Dad will have no reason to abuse any children again.