Monday, July 14, 2014

Relinquishing Parental Rights of a Child in Foster Care

This is what I wrote about the status of Jack and Jill's case in this post:

" it seems like there is literally some new development in the case every. single. week."
 
Last week we learned of another major development in the case:  Jack and Jill's father has decided to relinquish his parental rights, which means IF the judge rules in favor of reunification the babies will be returning to the care of their single parent mom who must use her minimum wage earnings to put them in subsidized day care while she works.  (No friends or relatives have been approved to provide temporary or permanent care to the babies which is a big reason why there hasn't been any opportunity for unsupervised or extended/transitional visits in a home environment outside of the DCFS office.)  Transitioning is SO important- not just to the children whose needs should come first but to birth families as well! 

My biggest concern is that if the children are placed back with their mom it will be too overwhelming for her to care for them because she's just not used to it.  I've said it before but playing with your kids for a couple of hours a week during a supervised visit is VASTLY different than caring for them 24/7- especially considering the fact that she will have such limited support.  What a tough situation to be in.
 
To the credit of Jack & Jill's mother, she has been able to keep a job the last couple of months and she always shows up to their weekly supervised visits.  However, after ten months she has yet to find housing nor has she started on another major requirement of her Service Plan which could realistically take months to complete.  
 
The Permanency Hearing is only six weeks away and although the caseworker and the children's Guardian Ad Liteum will not be recommending reunification with their mother since she has completed less than half of her Service Plan Requirements, I will not be surprised if the judge (who seemed rather lenient towards birthparents at the last hearing I attended) will offer an extension rather than terminating parental rights.
 
Another note about relinquishing parental rights:  I hate to say it, but I think financial responsibility is one big factor in Jack and Jill's father's choice to relinquish.  He will no longer have to legally provide financial support to his ex-girlfriend (the children's mom) or the children.  Nor will he have DCFS "on his back".   
 
I have only had one other foster child who had a parent relinquish their parental rights and it was not the first time this parent had done so.  It was also only after he knew his child would be adopted by relatives which makes me wonder: Is it possible that Jack & Jill's father has come to the realization that he is not in a good position to raise his children and that even if their mother's rights are terminated they would be adopted into a loving stable home?  I don't know what is going through his mind but I think it's sad that he just stopped coming to visits without formally saying goodbye to his children.  Then again, maybe it would be too painful to have to say goodbye.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Forever Bound Adoption- Jared and Mary

The family in this video has been waiting to adopt again for over five and a half years now.  (For those of you who know me in real life, Yes- this is actually my family!)

Please Share to help spread the word.  Thank You.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Safe Haven Miracle & Hope For Abandoned Babies

A few months ago I was deeply disturbed to read a local news story of a woman who had {allegedly} killed six of her newborn babies and then hidden their remains in her garage.   (A seventh baby was found but was a stillborn.)   “WHAT IN THE WORLD was going through this woman’s mind to do something so heinous?”  I wondered. 
 
The emotions in my mind as I read that story were similar to what I felt when I came across the account I wrote about previously of a “discarded” (but living) baby in China- only this local case seemed much more bizarre and tragic considering there were multiple casualties, including the mother herself.  (Because let’s face it- nobody in their right mind could possibly do something like that.  And although mental illness, deep personal issues, and a lack of support never excuse someone from taking innocent lives, God is the only one who truly knows what drove this woman to take such a horrific path not just once but several times.)
Stories of child and infant abandonment, abortion, or child abuse and neglect in general always strike a particularly sensitive chord within me as an infertile woman and an adoptive and foster mother.  I’m aware of so many families who would give anything- and some who have given everything- to have a child or bring another child into their family.  Doubtless others who heard the disturbing news story also thought, as did I “Why couldn’t this woman have handed the babies over to the care of someone else or anonymously taken them to a hospital or fire station?”  Enter Safe Haven Laws.
Q:  What exactly is a Safe Haven Law? 
I like this definition from the Child Welfare Information Gateway:
A:  “Baby Moses laws” or infant safe haven laws have been enacted as an incentive for mothers in crisis to safely relinquish their babies to designated locations where the babies are protected and provided with medical care until a permanent home is found. Safe haven laws generally allow the parent, or an agent of the parent, to remain anonymous and to be shielded from prosecution for abandonment or neglect in exchange for surrendering the baby to a safe haven.”
The first safe haven law in the U.S. was enacted in Texas in 1999.  Currently, all 50 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have Safe Haven Laws which protect babies from abandonment and infanticide.   For specific state statutes refer here: https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statues/safehaven.cfm
Brenda Horrocks is an adoption/foster care buddy of mine who recently shared her story of how their little boy, Spencer, came to be a part of their family.  Spencer was a Safe Haven baby and I thought Brenda’s words in this recent radio interview about the women, including her son’s birthmother, who use Safe Haven Laws to save their babies were very wise, especially considering the fact that all too often people (myself included) are quick to pre-judge women who may be faced with such a desperate situation.
Of her son’s birthmother’s decision to use the Safe Haven Law Brenda says:
“We know how much she loved him and just so thankful that she was able to make that hard decision for him because she was not at that time or currently in a place where she could be a parent.
There would have been no way for her to really make an adoption plan because she probably didn’t even know where to go for that ‘cause she was on her own.  This is a situation where she could give him what she felt like he needed and there in the hospital she had support- there were people there who could help her whereas outside in the world there wasn’t anybody.”
Of women faced with crisis pregnancies:
“Making this choice doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.  Making this choice to keep your child safe and healthy and get them a happy life in this way is good parenting and that’s being a loving mother.  I think too often there’s too many voices out there saying how awful these women and girls are who hand their babies over or place their babies for adoption in the traditional sense. They look at them as bad people and they’re not- they are making the hardest decision anybody would ever have to make.”  -Brenda Horrocks
Click HERE to see a video clip of the Horrocks advocating for Safe Haven laws (and to see what a darling boy Spencer is).
In light of the gloom of the horrific story I recounted at the beginning of this post, I would like to share three short and inspirational clips, which, like the Horrocks family’s story of their last adopted child, focus on the HOPE that can come from what could have been tragic circumstances and beginnings for babies.
 Grab some Kleenexes.




 
 This last clip is the longest of the three but well worth seven minutes of your time.  Although it is technically a commercial it is based on a true story.



 *TO FIND OUT WHAT THE SAFE HAVEN LAWS ARE IN YOUR STATE, (including who can relinquish a child, at which locations, and up to what age), CLICK HERE *
http://www.nationalsafehavenalliance.org/states/
 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thinking About Adopting Though Foster Care?

At the close of National Foster Care Month I thought it would be appropriate to share this infographic, courtesy of creatingafamily.org.

You gotta be crazy to adopt from foster care

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Permanency in T Minus Three Months

Exactly three months from today I will be sitting in a courtroom (undoubtedly with butterflies in my stomach) waiting to hear what the future holds for our foster children: specifically whether or not they will be returning to the permanent care of one or both of their parents.
 
A kinship placement or adoption by relatives is out of the picture, so the alternative to reunification with their parents would be adoption by us as their foster parents. Unless, of course, the judge decides to give our foster children’s parents an extension [after they will have had almost a year to complete everything required of them in their Service Plans.] If that is the case, I’m not gonna lie when I say I’ll be really bugged- isn’t a year long enough? These children need permanency in their lives.
 
As for our own family, (not that what we think matters to a judge or that we have any say in things) it would be nice to have some stability one way or another rather than constantly living in limbo all the time and wondering if or how long our foster children will remain a part of our family.
 
Recently when friends and family members ask me if there’s anything new with our foster children’s case, which essentially translates into “How are their parents doing?” I can basically sum up my response with two words: It’s complicated.
 
 
I won’t go into details but it seems like there is literally some new development in the case every. single. week. My heart always races when I see their caseworker’s number on my caller I.D. or when she walks out of their visits with a distressed look on her face to tell me the latest news. “What now?” I think. “How can their situation possibly get any more complicated?” These new developments lead me to be more inclined to think their case will end in adoption rather than reunification. However, if the case does end in reunification these latest developments with their parents make me even more concerned for Jack and Jill’s welfare than I was a couple of months ago. I know that their caseworker and guardian ad liteum share my concerns.
 
I have no doubt that Jack and Jill’s parents love their children very much. I can only imagine the range of emotions that must be going through their minds at this critical point in time. I felt so bad for Jack and Jill’s mother, in particular, a few weeks ago when we all sat around a table together at a  Family/Team Meeting and I had a clear view of her face. She looked defeated. Although she didn’t say anything, her lips were trembling and tears flowed freely down her cheeks. I could only speculate if her tears were caused by regret and guilt or from feeling overwhelmed by the realization of all she needs to change but has been putting off. Perhaps her tears were mingled with jealousy since her own little boy preferred to sit on my lap rather than on her own (though I purposely sat him down next to her at the beginning of the meeting) and her baby girl, whom she was holding, kept looking up from across the table to playfully coo or smile at me.
 
Now that we’re down to the last few months I think the very real threat of TPR is motivating Jack and Jill’s parents to complete everything they need to do to get their kids back in their care. Sometimes that is exactly what is needed for people to get their lives back together- because when you hit rock bottom there is nowhere else to go but up.