I thought that once the termination of parental rights was determined, that the case would reach its culmination. Little did I know. In a conference room somewhere in Iowa decisions were being made about the lives of these children. Also the lives of the grandparents and the foster parents.
The plan of the Department of Social Services at the time was to reunite the biologic family when ever possible. In this case the family of origin was split in so many pieces. The oldest daughter is living with her paternal grandparents. Maggie was with her paternal grandparents more than she was in our foster home right now. And Hunter was in placement with us. The children were not seeing each other on any sort of regular basis by this point. So there were three independent situations to be monitored. Both of the girls were continuing to have issues and concerns in their situations. The troupe of social workers were working with the grandparents to resolve what they could.
The stress levels were increasing as time wore on without resolution. Everyone knew that at soe point adoptions would be suggested, and determined by the Department. The adults actually providing care had very little input. That is until…. I got a phone call at work early on afternoon in the spring. The foster care social worker wanted me to meet with her and she asked me to bring along my logs for the children. We set a time for me to come in the next morning. I lugged the now quite heavy log books. Daily entries for two children for more than a year had accumulated into quite a lot of reading.
I went to the meeting alone with my logs. The social worker hadn’t asked my husband to come. I checked in with the secretary and sat in the waiting room until my name was called. Today there was a chill in the temperature controlled office building. I saw the chill on her face as she called my name. I followed her through the office maze and into her cubicle. There was no door. She began as usual,
“How are things going with Hunter and Maggie?
I followed with my usual response, “The kids are doing pretty well.”
“I see you brought your logs, can I have them please? We need to make copies of them.”
As she reached out her hands to take the log books, she didn’t make eye contact with me. I knew something was not quite right. She quickly returned without the logs. She sat down and swiveled her chair around toward her desk facing away from me. When she swiveled back, she had one sheet of paper in her hand. I took a deep breath as she cleared her throat.
There was no lead up as she began. “We want you to adopt Maggie and Hunter.”
She continued, “It’s in the children’s best interest that they be placed together in one home.”
Well, there it is. The offer. The tension was electric in the cubicle. She knew. And I knew. IT WAS NOT IN THE CHILDREN’S BEST INTEREST. TO BE PLACED TOGETHER. Not in anyone’s home.
My role as a foster parent is to be not only a child care giver, but to also be a voice and an advocate for the children in my placement. It was my role to observe, report, and administer appropriate care and intervention. And to be a mentor for the biologic parents in crisis. My rights as a foster parent are extremely limited. I have no legal recourse should I believe that inadequate or inappropriate decisions are being made for the children. The Foster Care liason was a foster parent who would be a sounding board of experience for foster parents wanting or needing direction or support. It wasn’t common knowledge that they reported every inquiry from a foster parent directly to the Department of Human Services.
There will be a final court hearing in two weeks. At this hearing, determinations will be made for the final placements of the children.
In my experience as a counselor I’ve testified and attended court hearings many, many times as an advocate for my clients. I was well aware of documentation and presentation of fact. I was also aware of the amount of power held by the Department of Human Services.
I left the social workers office that day knowing I was in for a battle. Knowing it was up to me to prepare my own case on behalf of these children. I knew that as a foster parent I have the right to testify. I also knew that as an advocate, the court would want my ‘report’ in writing seven days before the hearing. A copy of my report would be given to each ‘party’ represented. Since the termination hearing, the parties being represented at the upcoming hearing would be only the Department, and the Guardian ad Lidem for the children, Maggie’s grandparents and their attorney.
I went home, and after a tearful explanation to my husband, I went to work. I gathered all of my log notes and the daily contact sheets from the daycare. I wrote out a timeline of all the facts. I knew I needed to present my information in a very ethical and professional manner.
Maggie was in extreme crisis. She was acting out from being abused. She was demonstrating eating-disordered behaviors, high levels of anxiety and untold loss. At three-years-old, Maggie was in a very bad place emotionally. She had attempted to act out with my older children. Because of their older ages, they were able to stop Maggie. It was my opinion that for Maggie to have the best possibility for recovery and healing, she needed to be placed in an adoptive home where she would be the only child or the youngest child with much older adoptive siblings. Maggie would need extensive focus and treatment.
Hunter was 18 months old. He was developing normally for a toddler now that his medical issues had been resolved. If he were to be placed with Maggie into the same adoptive home, Maggie would act out in an abusive manner toward him. This scenario would result in Maggie becoming a perpetrator as well as being a victim. And it would also make Hunter a victim. That would not be fair to either child.
I knew full well that my testimony could quite possibly result in both children being place together in someone else’s adoptive home. But I couldn’t knowingly set these children up to fail in my adoptive home. After many, many discussions with my husband and very close friends. I knew I was as ready as I’d ever be.