Hurdle One: First Parent Contact
It was the next morning when Maggie and Hunter’s mother called for an update. Hilary was of course upset even though the decision to place the children was her own choice. Making this call to me must have been one of the most difficult she had ever made.
“Hi, I’m Hilary, I’m Maggie and Hunter’s Mom.”
“Hi, I’m Jeannie. How are you doing?” I asked.
Hilary continued, “The social worker said I could call every day and see how they’re doing. And I’m supposed to have a visit with them every couple of days.”
Well, we’re learning everyone schedules and getting used to each other. Maggie ate all of her dinner and slept all night long. She snuggled her blanket after her bath and fell right to sleep. Thank you for sending that along for her. I know it really helped. Hunter of course wakes when he’s hungry. But he seems to be eating well and doing what babies do. Lucky little guy gets lots of naps.” I explained.
Hilary was tearful as she asked, “Can I see my kids tomorrow?
Together we arranged a time for the visit. Then I called the social worker to verify the details about drop off and pick up. She doesn’t have transportation so I’ll do the driving.
Hurdle Two: First Visit
The next morning, Hilary and Maggie were very excited to see each other. Hilary got Maggie out of her car seat and they went inside. I followed them with the baby and his diaper bag into the house. Hilary is a very good housekeeper. Everything is clean and tidy. Maggie gets a book and sits on her Mom’s lap. The baby is asleep in his car seat. I remind Hilary that I’ll be back to pick up the children in four hours.
As a foster parent we were required to keep a written log for each child. I put together a log book for each child and made an entry about the children coming to our home and about today’s visit with their Mom. I decided to take some pictures of the children to include in their log books.
A couple of days later I received a call from the social worker. There will be a progress hearing in a week. The hearing will be to determine the status of the family situation. How well the mother and children are doing with the foster care situation. And has the reason for the foster placement been resolved? The social worker has asked my husband and I to attend the hearing and to bring our log books in case we are asked to testify about the children’s status in our home.
Hurdle Three: First Hearing
On the morning of the hearing, I got everyone dressed and delivered to daycare and my husband and I proceeded to the courthouse. There was no need to, but my husband did remind me on the way that he doesn’t like to talk in front of a group of people. I knew if we had to testify, that I’d be the one on the stand. I had prepared for that. What I hadn’t prepared for were all of the lawyers involved. A lawyer representing the mother, one for the father, one for the children called the Guardian Ad Lidem, and the lawyer for the Department of Human Services. Then there was the social worker involved in overseeing the foster care case. And a Child Protective Services social worker. Of course we can’t forget the court reporter and the judge. After about an hour of pacing in the hallway watching lawyers and social workers going from conference room to conference room, my husband and I were called into a very small courtroom. I thought maybe the judge wanted to talk with us. But then every other person involved in that case also filed into the same little courtroom. It was standing room only. And very hot.
Once the hearing actually began it was like a board game being played. Going from one person to another for a ‘turn’ in giving a response to each individual question. Around and around the room. No one asked my husband or I any questions. It was like we were observing through a two-way window or something. When it seemed everyone had their turns, the judge said:
I’m going to adjudicate that these are children in need of assistance. They are to remain in foster care under the supervision of the Department of Human Services. The Department will work with the parents to establish goals of reunification. Then the judge turned to my husband and I and asked if the children could remain in our foster home until the next review hearing in three months. We both said yes. But now Hilary was crying and the father, Steve was angry and talking loudly with his attorney on the other side of the court room.
What began as a 28-day foster care placement had now become 4 months.