Saturday, June 26, 2010

Overnight Transitional Visits, Etc.

I started this post over a week ago, but never got around to finishing it as there's been too much on my mind and not enough time to write it all out!

Christian started overnight transitional visits with his parents last weekend. Because his parents aren’t together the plan was for him to have an extended day visit with one parent and then he would spend the night and the next morning with the other parent.  His parents would then take turns having him overnight each week.

A week ago from yesterday I planned to take Christian to his mother’s apartment where he would spend most of the day and then he would spend the night at his dad’s place. 

That morning before leaving for the visit I got a phone call from Christian’s birthmother’s mother (his maternal grandmother) explaining that I should drop him off at her trailer instead of her daughter’s apartment since her daughter had been staying with her lately. I thought that was a little odd as I had just talked to Christian’s birthfather a couple of days earlier to work out the details of the locations and drop off/ pick up times for his weekend visit. Christian’s grandma explained that the caseworker had approved it so I thought “okay”.

I speculated that the reason Christian’s mother was staying with her mom might have something to do with the fact that she could be struggling financially- perhaps her disability payments were going to be reduced or stopped altogether. (She lives in subsidized housing and doesn’t work because she’s on disability). I thought back to the previous week’s visit when I picked him up:
The previous week as Christian’s mom and grandma dropped Christian off from his visit (neither Christian’s mom nor his dad drive so unless they take the bus it is usually Christian’s maternal grandma who provides transportation from visits) I asked his mom when he had last eaten so that I could know how soon to feed him. She didn’t make eye contact with me as she told me that she didn’t have any formula so she just gave him water. I was obviously concerned for Christian but I also felt bad for his mom and I wondered if by the way she answered me and her body language I had come across as interrogating her. She had a guilty look on her face like a child confessing something to an adult. At past visits she’s reported how much he’s eaten so this time her response made me figure it must have been because she ran out of formula . . . or maybe she couldn’t afford any? I told Christian’s caseworker about it and even though it’s technically not my responsibility I sent an extra can of formula and some baby food with Christian for his next visit with his mom.
The next morning Christian’s dad called me to tell me that the overnight visit went well except for when Christian was wide awake from one to two in the morning. He then went on to tell me that he had some concerns about Christian’s birthmother and he told me that the reason Christian’s birthmother has been staying with her mother is because she is not emotionally stable right now and she is feeling overwhelmed about the upcoming Permanency Hearing. He told me that Christian’s birthmother had an “incident” a couple of days before she was to have her extended visit which made it pretty evident that she is not ready to care for her baby at this time. The good news is that the “incident” didn’t happen when Christian was in her care.

Christian’s birthfather continued to tell me that he had tried to get a hold of the caseworker, but she is not in on Fridays so she hadn’t been returning his calls. I discussed the situation some more with him and we both agreed to get a hold of the caseworker first thing Monday morning.

During the phone call Christian’s dad also confirmed my suspicions that Christian’s mother is not financially stable at this time and that he is the one who provides all of the formula and food for the baby. He also said that although Christian’s mom wants Christian back she has never actually cared for a baby before. That surprised me since she has another son, a 9 year old boy from a different relationship, who is also currently in foster care in a kinship placement with some relatives of his biological father. Christian’s father went on to explain that it was not Christian’s birthmother who cared for her older son when he was a baby but it was the grandma.

I asked Christian’s birthfather if he thought Christian’s birthmother would be willing to admit to the caseworker or even the judge that she has been feeling overwhelmed- both financially and emotionally- and he said that every time he would bring it up she would become emotional and accuse him of trying to take their baby away from her. “But if she’s just honest, they can help her. They’re not there to judge her, but to do what’s best for her children.” I found myself telling him.

I also told Christian’s birthfather that from the beginning I have felt more comfortable with the prospect of Christian being placed back with him rather than with Christian's birthmother because of these facts:
*The “pros” of placing Christian back with his mother are that she doesn’t work so she would be home all day. She also has family nearby who could help out. The “cons” are that the reason she doesn’t work is because she is on disability for her mental illnesses and she lives by herself, and, of course, the most recent incident is extremely concerning.

*The “pros” of placing Christian with his dad are that he has been extremely motivated and dedicated from the beginning in doing everything in his power to get his son back. He has gone from being virtually homeless (after Christian’s mom kicked him out of her place) to staying with different friends who didn’t have the best backgrounds to getting a place of his own. He now has not just one but two jobs to support his son and he has completed a parenting class which was not court-ordered but which he took on his own free will. He has always shown up for visits early- I think largely due to the fact that he was in foster care as a child and his mother never showed up to his visits. Sad.

*The “cons” are that Christian’s birthfather is just 19 years old, this is his first baby, he lives by himself, and he has very little family support. Because he works full-time he wouldn’t actually be watching Christian during the day but he would have to put him in subsidized day-care or hire a babysitter.  
Maybe it’s not my place to get personally involved with Christian’s birthparents or to take “sides” but after learning this new information it's hard for me not to.

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