Today is Sunday and, therefore, tomorrow is Monday. This week trial begins to terminate rights for the boys' parents. I've kept any real thoughts of this week packed up for awhile now, as we just could not worry or try to control what was outside our control. We did not set out for this Adoption life. So here we are, in our last few days before, perhaps, our last few days. There are three ways this week could go, here's my thoughts on the options we have before us:
Everyone meets at the courthouse tomorrow and waits together in a hallway. And waits. Then, our docket number is called and then we will all be told that trial is canceled today and we get a new date and new schedule. This has happened twice now, trial has been continued. Someone has a lawyer on vacation, someone petitions for more time as they were newly assigned to a party on the case, someone reports they were not properly notified of trial dates and could not make it, etc. The last time we had trial scheduled, the continuation dates were scheduled six months down the road, so if that trend continues we will be looking at a Spring trial and many months of waiting. Waiting is part of what you do in foster care; you wait to see if visits will happen, you wait to hear back from busy, hardworking folks involved with your kids, you wait to see if you're offering enough security and enough of why they need to keep healing together. So option number 1? We hold on tight and settle into the waiting.
The State's case against the boys' parents is not strong enough and the probate judge decides the boys should return home. That Mom has made enough progress to parent her four kiddos again, and that they will be safe enough with her. And then the boys are packed up from our home and will go into shelter with Mom until she finds housing for their family of five. Sometimes you have a few days to prepare for all this, sometimes kids go home the exact day the judges decision is handed down. For us that exact day, the one when trial ends, well that is this Wednesday.
I find it quite confusing that some judges hand down decisions the day trial ends and others wait weeks. Yet I'm somewhat hoping we have a quick-to-decide judge. I just want to know. I want to know what will happen next for our family. Option 2? These beautiful boys, along with their special blankies, favorite books, mountains of pajamas, albums of pictures and stories of our adventures together, are packed up in bags and boxes, and then these beautiful boys leave forever. And I will come home someday and there will be no noise or mess or little bodies to kiss and hold. I won't ever know what Tiny's voice sounds like or if Mr. Toddler really does become the dynamic, athletic, genius, heartbreaker I am certain he will grow up to be. And that's option 2. And that could be my Wednesday.
The state's case against the boys' parents is strong enough to terminate parental rights and trial ends with the decision that the boys remain with us. Hopefully, when trial ends we will have a signed open adoption visitation contract with the boys' Mom, which gives us the number of visits a year (we're hoping for 2-3 required and more if we get to a point where that makes sense over the years). In our state, the minimum number of visits a year is agreed upon in legally binding documents for both parties. What that means, is that in order for Mom to have those agreed upon visits, she will have to send a letter to a PO Box, which we will set up, to request her visit one month in advance from the assigned visit date. Then, a week before she will have to send a letter to verify she will be there, and sometimes, she will have to call her previous social worker to verify 24 hours in advance as well. If she misses any one of those steps the visit is canceled and the contract is nullified. It's a lot of pressure to make sure all three steps are done, and most birth parents are busy and stressed and miss deadlines. If the contract is canceled due to a missed visit or missed step for a visit, we would likely figure out an alternative way to make sure visits happen, and at this moment, we do not have a more refined plan than that.
If option 3? I imagine our lives will look a lot like they do everyday now. The Artist and I will wake multiple times nightly to help Tiny learn to love sleep, we will finish the sheet metal wall (y'all- it's going to be amazing) I'm designing for our industrious Mr. Toddler and his Magnatile creations. We will grocery shop and finish potty training and just keep doing what we do. That's the real flashpoint of option 3, nothing really changes. We just won't feel anything different in our day to day life as a family, although I think The Artist and I will feel a seismic shift in our hearts as we lose the anxiety that has set in over the past months of having so little say in what we feel is best for the boys. The foster care system stays involved until our adoption is legalized which could be up to 12-15 months away. If Mom appeals her termination of rights (which I'm sure she will - there really isn't a reason for her not to, unless she decides she wants her kids to have permanency with us). So we keep having social workers visit, most likely family visits monthly, and all the other pieces that come with foster care. The only real difference is that we are like 60% of the way to the end goal of adoption, after the appeal of the judge's decision to terminate Mom's rights is heard and denied. Then we are all the way done. Then we are free to legalize and our foster care life is over. Then it's just our life together. A long road but a good road.
We are taking lots of collective deep breaths around here this weekend. Lots of staying home in pajamas. Lots of cooking and baking (let me just tell you about my sous chef Mr. T - makes every step about a thousand times harder but I'm convinced he's a culinary genius with all his "helpful" additions to our work together- magnets do stick to the outside and inside of the mixing bowl! Genius!). We are doing a lot of just watching our boys - in awe of who they are and what they are. And doing it all together.
So much love and gratitude for the community we've built around this life.
Fostermom (the therapist)