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.