Last month my husband and I sat in a courtroom as the mother of our foster children relinquished her parental rights. And we cried. We cried because this means that after caring for Jack and Jill for a year and a half in our home we can now legally adopt them and they can become “official” members of our family. We cried because for the first time in nine years of fostering, we won’t have to say goodbye when a child leaves our home. We cried because although this time we won’t be the ones to have to deal with the pain and heartache that come with saying goodbye, somebody else will have to say goodbye and experience that profound loss- and that someone is a mother- our children’s mother. Our gain is born of her loss so our tears of joy and relief that day in court were also mixed with tears of sympathy for the woman who is losing her children.
Don’t get me wrong- we are extremely happy about our upcoming adoption(s)! And our families and friends are absolutely ELATED for us- as they should be. But any joy or celebrating on our part is somewhat dampened by the solemn reminder of the grief that our children’s first mother will continue to feel as a result of her decision to relinquish her parental rights (compounded by any guilt she might feel about the choices she’s made leading up to the removal of her children in the first place).
We listened that day in court as the judge asked Jack and Jill’s mother why she had chosen to relinquish and she offered up her explanation, part of which included, “I know they’re in a good home.” We also watched as her lawyer carefully reviewed the relinquishment papers with her before she signed them and he asked her questions such as, “You haven’t received any money or gifts from anyone which would impact your decision?” or “You aren’t under the influence of any substances which could impair your thinking, are you?” The answers of course were “no” and I was saddened to think that those questions must be asked in the first place though I do understand their necessity.
After she signed the papers, our children’s birthmother was notified by the judge that she would have up to 15 days to change her mind about relinquishing her parental rights. However, [given the history of this case] the judge told her that the chances of that being honored in court were, quite frankly, not very likely. The judge also made sure that she understood that she couldn't come back to court after the adoption was finalized and make objections to the adoption- in other words, it couldn't be “undone”- even if things turned around for her and she changed her mind or if, as the judge gave another specific example, she was disappointed by the amount of contact we as the adoptive parents allowed her to have in her children’s lives. It seemed apparent that the judge had encountered such scenarios before.
The most emotional moment for me at last month’s pivotal pre-trial hearing (Thank goodness we don’t have to go on with an actual trial!) was after Jack and Jill’s mother signed her relinquishment papers and the judge lovingly acknowledged what a hard thing she had done. He then excused her from the courtroom before proceeding with other matters- namely, terminating the parental rights of Jack and Jill’s birthfather’s- who failed to show up to court yet again- and setting up future dates for a Review Hearing and an ADOPTION HEARING! I almost had to pinch myself when the judge announced that we would be setting the adoption date that very day- that’s when it hit me that it was REALLY happening.
My husband and I quietly slipped out of the courtroom and followed Jack & Jill’s mother into the lobby after she was excused by the judge. I hugged her and we both cried in each other’s arms without really having to say too much to each other. My husband hugged her and was crying as well. The bailiff let my husband and I back into the courtroom a few minutes later to rejoin the proceedings which included the Children’s Guardian ad Liteum and others making their recommendations to the court:
When Jack and Jill’s GAL reported, “These children will continue to live in a loving home and will now be free from the effects of any abuse or neglect.” My tears flowed freely yet again.