Sunday, February 24, 2013

Two home visits and a pregnancy update

Happy weekend, dudes! Here's what's been going on with us.

1. On Tuesday we had a home visit with M's worker. She was out of town for court so we talked at length about how things went. She's still very pragmatic about our future with M: the dad, realistically, doesn't have all that much that he needs to do, so she doesn't want us to think that the outcome of court was an indication of how things will go. However, the judge straight-up lectured the dad about how he needs to attend all of his visits, consistently, and then the dad missed BOTH visits this week. Yeah, we know that he still has way more claim to M than we do, but the judge was not happy to hear how inconsistent the dad has been with his visits and then the guy went and missed two in a row.

2. On Thursday we had a visit with M's law guardian, who is a lawyer who is appointed by the county to advocate for the best interests of M. We talked to the law guardian for a while before court and filled her in on the major event that showed a huge lack of parental judgment on that dad's part. Because it was declared unfounded, she hadn't been told about it, but obviously was very glad to have the information. She was due for a visit (she hasn't seen M in about eight months) but of course we chatted about court and all. We feel confident that she'll really be a good advocate for M.

3. The pregnancy is moving along happily: I'm nearing the end of Week 23. I'm still having a really hard time getting enough sleep, which just feels mean. The next coworker who joyfully chirps, "Get used to it! HA HA!" when I say I'm tired is getting punched in the throat. The baby is now moving at predictable times, so I expect to feel her wiggling about half an hour after I eat, especially when I'm sitting at my desk at work, and also sometime between 3:30 and 4:30 in the morning, when she gets super active and kicks me in my fucking ribs or bladder for a while. Other than the exhaustion, I've been feeling fine. I'm definitely getting bigger and my balance is shifting, which makes it weird to do stuff like carry M up the stairs. We're starting to talk about hiring a doula, and I'm planning to schedule our tour of the hospital's birthing center for early next month. I'm having a hard time really feeling prepared for the future, because part of the way I do that is to imagine all the various ways it could be. Realistically, one version of our future doesn't have M living with us, but I honestly cannot picture that without feeling like throwing up, so I mostly just avoid it. This afternoon we're heading out to a fancy yarn store about half an hour away to look for lovely yarn so I can start a blanket for NewBaby, so that should be fun.

What's new with y'all? Any questions about either M's case or the pregnancy?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Big day!

First, the biggest deal: My sister and Brian had their baby! Her name is River and she's perfect. She was born around 4:30 in the morning, when I happened to be lying there awake feeling my own new baby kicking and wiggling. My sister is doing well, which is really awesome because the last time she gave birth it did NOT go smoothly - but this new little girl made a nice gentle entrance into the world. I can't wait to meet her.

And second, court! The summary is that nothing changed. The weird part is that this sort of feels like a victory.

M's mom didn't show up, which wasn't unexpected. They adjourned her part of the case for two weeks, to give her another chance to show up. They surprised me by not adjourning the full case, and having the hearing for the dad's side.

There was a different lawyer there for the dad; I don't know if his usual guy couldn't make it (they changed our court date, so our worker couldn't be there either) or if he now has a different lawyer, but this guy actually said the dad's name correctly in the courtroom, so he's definitely more on the ball than the last one. This lawyer asked for increased visits, and suggested to the judge that they have the county inspect the dad's new home and then come back for another hearing in a few weeks to discuss having visits at said home. The judge pretty much shot that down cold. He (the judge) pointed out that the worker could and would increase visits and change location when that was warranted by the dad's involvement, so no, he didn't see a reason to do that.

The lawyer then asked if we could still have another hearing in a few weeks, so the court could hear about the dad's house being inspected by the county. The judge just stared at him for a minute, and said that even if the house is fine and the dad makes all his visits for a few weeks, they're not just going to move the baby in with him in a month. I loved the judge so much right then, you guys.

The lawyer understood that, but still thought maybe we could "evaluate the situation" again in a few weeks or a month. The judge again just stared at him for a minute, then said, "I'm not going to micromanage this case. I don't do that." And then he set our next hearing for JULY. I assume the judge realized that the lawyer was banking on the dad's habit of trying really hard in the few weeks before court to keep the dad moving forward, and the judge wasn't cool with it.

We'll actually be in court before July, because they'll be filing the paperwork to terminate parental rights in April. Apparently when they finish and file the paperwork on the termination of parental rights, it generates a court date or something, but we don't know when that will be until after the paperwork is filed, and we don't know how far behind the county is on writing those. I'm just hoping they don't schedule it for while I'm in labor.

And now, I have a sincere question for you all: Do you like these blow-by-blow recaps, or would you prefer a shorter summary?

I ask because I know I like to read as much detail as I can about how the court stuff works in other jurisdictions, but if most of you just skim this to get the basic gist, I'd happily cut it way down and give you an overview.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Before-court sort-of-update

So last time I posted I told y'all about the new kid I'm working on, but didn't mention much about M's case. Those of you familiar with the foster care world probably realize that's because there's really very little to report between court dates. We go to court for a permanency hearing on Thursday (what could be more romantic on Valentine's Day than the Family Court waiting room??) but here's what we know as of now.

1. M's dad is moving into/has moved into his new place. He has said since summer that he wanted to be "in and settled" in his new place before filing for custody of M, so this feels like a pretty significant step in my eyes. I know that really, he still has a lot to do before the county would advocate for moving M there, but a lot of it is logistical and so I feel a lot more anxiety about the real possibility of her leaving now that he's achieved this. Of course, the week he moved, he also missed both visits (and tried some sneaky nonsense like showing up seven minutes past the cutoff time for visits, and then telling the worker he'd been there the whole time - dude, you know they have cameras. Why even bother about lying about something that will be disproved in minutes?)

2. Permanency hearings are scheduled every six months and they're basically a chance to review why the kid came into care, why the kid is still in care, what progress has been made, what still needs to be done, and what the goal is for permanency. Two weeks before court, a packet summarizing all of that is mailed to the bio-parents, the foster parents, the attorneys, and the judge. That arrived last Friday, and the first thing on it is a huge paragraph - like half a page - listing all the ways M's mom has failed to make progress on M's case. I got a phone call that afternoon from the worker that she had heard from M's mom right after the packet arrived. M's mom was overwhelmed by seeing this giant list of her failures, is done with the case, and wants to surrender her rights. To me, this is mostly just sad, because I really don't think M's mom sees any possibility of success for herself. Also, even if this actually happens, it doesn't really change anything for our case, since the lack of progress pretty much means she hasn't been an option for custody of M for a long time. We're still listed as the county's "Plan B" so the worker had to get our permission to put in the surrender paperwork that we'd agree to provide a picture and a letter on M's progress every year. I told the worker that she's authorized to agree to visits on our behalf as well, if that's what the mom's attorney counters with. We really do want M's mom to be a part of her life, but we know that has to be the mom's choice.

3. To complicate the possibility of surrender, M's mom told the worker she's not planning to come to court. The only place she can sign the surrender papers is in front of a judge, so she knows if she actually wants to be done with the case she needs to come to court. Also, because she hasn't ever missed court, if she doesn't show up, it's very, very likely that the judge will just adjourn for a week or two, even if the county attorney tells him that she said she wasn't coming. Which means I'll be taking the morning off of work to sit there for hours to be told to come back in a week. The worker says this can happen more than once.

4. Even if the mom shows up and goes through with the surrender, it's unlikely that anything will change with M's placement, at least immediately. The dad's new place is progress, sure, but he still needs to be able to prove that he can do all of the parenting of his two other kids without the help of his mom, whose house he's moving out of. It's possible? likely? that the judge will want him to have more or longer visits, but that's not definite, since he is still only attending about half of the visits. But naturally, all of this is conjecture and there's no way to know what the judge will decide.

5. M is even more awesome as she gets older. Her top two front teeth have broken through and I am a little freaked out about how big she looks on the daily. She's a delightful, funny kid and has finally learned that "more" applies to more than food, so her new favorite thing is to ask for more tickling. We've pretty much always had her nap in the living room (we used to hold her, then about four or five months ago we started putting her down in her playpen), and she usually takes about an hour to finally settle down and go to sleep. On a whim today, Andy put her down to nap in her crib, and she was out in five minutes. This kid amazes me.