Rose has been back with us for almost two months now. She is 14 months old and has spent roughly ten of those months in our care. Perhaps that’s the reason why whenever I drop her off to a visit with her parents (the visits they haven’t missed, that is) she immediately starts crying and reaches out her little arms to me. It’s really awkward when that happens- especially when it happens week after week. Not only do I instinctively begin to comfort Rose when she cries out and reaches for me by saying, “I’ll be back- go see your mama” in a consoling voice, (while nodding in her mother’s direction and placing extra emphasis on the word “mama”) but as soon as I see the dejected look cross her mother’s face at her daughter’s reaction I suddenly feel the need to offer some comfort to her, too. “It’s only because she spends more time with us.” I quickly explain to her and try to brush it off as no big deal so that she doesn’t feel any worse than she already does.
Last month when the question of how many more chances Rose’s parents will be given to get her back in their custody was being addressed, the CPS worker informed us that technically DCFS doesn’t even have to offer reunification services to parents. (I’ve heard different things from different caseworkers and it would be convenient if there was an easy “one, two, three strikes you’re out” policy or answer, but each case is different. Regardless of federal legislation, my state is very pro-reunification when it comes to child welfare issues). However, in Rose’s particular case, it was explained to me that her parents will be given one more chance. Certainly their histories and track records of both having children other than Rose previously placed into state custody and losing their rights to those children has some bearing on DCFS’s decision.
If, after seven more months, her parents have completed everything required of them in their Service Plans, (eight months is the maximum amount of time our state ever likes to keep babies separated from their parents, unlike older foster children who could remain in foster care much longer) she will return to their care. If not, it is possible that their parental rights could be terminated.
Her parents are motivated to get her back considering this is their last chance. I would be, too.
Just a few weeks ago, it was very surreal when Rose’s caseworker [not the same one who was over her case the first time Rose was in our care, unfortunately- although I am beginning to like her new caseworker just as much as her previous one] asked my husband and I to fill out an “Intent to Adopt A Child” form, which, although not legally binding, basically provides DCFS with an official back-up plan of adoption should the case take that direction. The reason for doing so was that, as required by law, kinship options had been explored, but so far there were no good options which is precisely why she was placed with us again rather than with a relative. This also meant that in the event of TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) we would be able to adopt Rose. Even so, I didn’t even want to entertain thoughts about the “a” word just yet or even TPR for that matter to avoid too much of the fost-adopt roller coaster.
Well, yesterday I took a huge nausea-inducing PLUNGE while riding the fost-adopt roller coaster: As Rose’s caseworker was making her required monthly home visit she took a deep breath, raised her eyebrows, and cautiously announced, “There’s been a change of plans. . . .”
I braced myself as she proceeded to tell me that a relative has come forward who initially thought that taking Rose as a kinship placement wasn’t do-able but has since “changed her mind.” This relative is the same woman who had supervised visits for Rose and her parents in her home last year as Rose was transtitioning back into her parent's care, so she has already passed a background check and the only thing standing in the way of getting her home study approved and her licensing requirements finished is time.
“How soon will Rose be leaving?” I asked the caseworker and as soon as I said the word “leaving” my lips immediately started quivering and the tears started forming in my eyes. I apologized for not being able to keep my composure but the caseworker assured me there was no need to apologize and that it was totally understandable. In fact, she confessed to being a little more than perturbed about the timing of everything and how Rose’s case seemed to be unfolding lately and apologized for having to be the bearer of bad news.
Although there is no definite answer time-frame wise (is there ever any predictability in foster care?) it’s possible that Rose could be leaving us (again) within a month or two, rather than in the spring, as initially expected.
The reason this relative, who I will refer to as “Tia”- decided not to foster Rose the first time she came into care, is that she is a single mom who works full-time. It just didn’t seem feasible. However, her work schedule has changed so that she works only four days a week now- instead of five, which allows a little more flexibility for taking Rose to visits and appointments. My next obvious question for the caseworker was “So who’s going to watch Rose while Tia works during the day?” “Daycare.” she answered.
I don’t have anything personally against Tia- she is a very nice woman, and I know she sincerely cares for Rose. But I’m just left wondering, “Why now?” “Why did she have to decide to become licensed after Rose has had almost a year of attaching to us and becoming a part of our family?”
Is it really in Rose’s best interest to be moved from the family who’s cared for her for two-thirds of her life and whom she is securely attached to into another home- especially when her new primary caregiver isn’t even going to be around to care for her most days because she’ll be at work? Not only will Rose have to adjust to her new home environment but to her new daycare providers as well.
I was still trying to soak in everything Rose’s caseworker had just told me (I still am), but I had one additional question for her to answer:“If Rose’s parent’s rights are terminated, is Tia interested in adopting her?”
Rose’s caseworker nodded her head in the affirmative.