Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Christian's Permanency Hearing

Unlike the Team Meeting, the Permanency Hearing is held in a public Court of Law where technically anyone can attend.  That also means that I don't have to keep the information about the hearing confidential.   Yay-finally some details I feel safe about sharing!

Although foster parents aren't usually required to attend hearings of their foster children (unless of course they're asked to testify) I don't see why a foster parent wouldn't want to attend.  Having said that, I wanted to sit close enough that I could hear everything that was going on but at the same time I didn't want to be too conspicuous, so I sat down all by myself in the second row of benches reserved for "spectators".

At the beginning of the hearing the judge asked everyone in attendance to introduce themselves for the record.  I was the last person in the courtroom to do so and as I was in the process of stating my full name and that I was Christian's foster mom (to which the judge politely smiled) I thought, "WOOPS- I just said my last name and I didn't have to!"   I have never shared my last name with Christian or his parents during this placement.   In fact, I've never shared my last name or address with any of the parents of my foster children before and the only reason I've shared my phone number with Christian's parents is because it's from an untraceable cell phone.  It's totally up to foster parents how much information about themselves they'd like to share with birthparents, but that's another topic for a different post.

BACK TO THE HEARING:  At Monday's hearing the State's attorney (the Assistant Attorney General or AAG) and Christian's Guardian Ad Liteum (the GAL) and Christian's father's lawyer (a court-appointed public defender) all argued in favor of placing Christian back into his father's care on a Trial Home Basis for 90 days.  A Trial Home Basis means that Christian would still be in DCFS custody, but rather than foster parents having guardianship rights and responsibilities, his father will be his temporary guardian.  If things go well after that time period Christian's father could then be granted full custody of his son.  It's basically a trial run. 

The judge agreed with this decision which made Christian's father very relieved and excited.

I had all of Christian's things packed and ready to go just in case we had to say goodbye to him right after the hearing, but the caseworker and his Guardian Ad Liteum both agree that it would be beneficial to Christian and his father to have at least 2-4 more weeks of extended weekend visits (3 days and 2 nights on the weekends) before officially beginning the Trial Home Placement so that Christian can get more used to being in his father's care and vice versa. This means we will have Christian in our care anywhere from two more weeks to another month. It's nice to have some answers and a little more predictablilty regarding his future.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Christian's birthfather will be finding overnight daycare for his baby on the days that he works night shifts. He said he purposely wanted to work night hours so that he can be with Christian during the day as much as possible, which begs the question: When does he plan on sleeping?

Just over the past couple of weeks Christian's mother has admitted that Christian's father would be the best option to care for their son, but the sad news (which I only learned from Christian's father after the hearing when we were working out the details of weekend visits) is that at this point Christian's mother and her family have decided that they aren't even interested in seeing Christian anymore. [Unlike Christian's 9 year old half-brother who has been in a kinship placement with his biological father's family]. Were the weekend visits too much for them? Who knows. Thank goodness Christian isn't old enough to understand what's going on- What would it be like to know that your own mother doesn't want you?

As for Christian's half-brother, the State's attorney and the GAL both argued in favor of placing him permanently back into his biological father's care with no more DCFS involvement.  The judge agreed with them and also gave Christian's mother visitation rights.  This decision is what Christian's mother was fearing the most as she is much more bonded to her older son than she is to Christian and she has wanted to do everything in her power to get her oldest son back.

Christian's mother and his maternal grandmother left court abruptly after the hearing, but I did get a chance to talk to his mother briefly in the lobby before the case was heard.  She looked extremely stressed (which is quite understandable) so I asked her how she was feeling.  (Yeah, I know- kind of a dumb question- but I just wanted her to know that I was thinking of her, especially after last week's Team Meeting.)  She just shook her head back and forth without even looking at me.  I took that as a good sign to "back off" so I sat back down on the bench I was sitting on.  A few minutes later she came over and apologized for being "mean" to me, but explained that she thought the hearing was scheduled for 1:00 instead of 10:00 so she wasn't very happy about having to hurry and get to court.

I guess that's the last time I'll ever see Christian's mother again unless she changes her mind about wanting to see her son again.

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