The social workers just left. They were here for two hours. We talked about ordinary things for a while: school; his trip to the dentist; martial arts. Then they finally got around to asking Gary what he thought about the various permancy options. The current plan is long term foster care with the possibility of reunification (or something like that). What did Gary think?
Well Gary took some time sort of mumbling around and finally said something to the effect that he would LIKE it if he could live with his dad, but he didn't think it was realistic. The conversation sort of dead-ended. I announced that I didn't want Gary to say or not say something because he thought it might hurt my feelings and so I was going to leave for a while. Roland followed me out and they talked for 45 minutes without us.
I explained to Roland that I was only partly worried about the "hurting my feelings bit." I was mostly concerned that Gary would just not talk if I was there, perhaps hoping that I would talk for him. Anyway it seemed to work. We could hear his voice (though not his words) as soon as we were walking down the hall.
We came back when we heard the state worker leaving.
The sum-up seems to be this:
1. Gary qualifies for all the agency's education benefits after being in the program for 12 months, which will be in June so they are not making any changes to the plan for now.
2. Though the agency at the level of vision wants to support kids exiting from foster care by reunification, adoption, or guardianship, at the level of practice they really do foster care. They haven't really thought about what the other options should look like. In the few cases where they have done it was more clear what the family wanted or needed.
3. Gary had stated that what he likes about being in the agency is that he doesn't feel like he is a burden to us. He doesn't like asking us for things. On the other hand he doesn't like the stigma of being in foster care.
4. The state worker has almost never seen foster parents take guardianship and though he is not opposed to it, he doesn't see how it would be better for Gary. He understands what Gary means about not liking the stigma.
5. Gary was reassured that his social worker would give him permission to compete in martial arts competitions, which was one of the reasons he thought guardianship might be better.
6. If we went into guardianship, the agency would probably only offer limited support for one year. Waiting until he is about 17 (next fall) would mean that we would receive some level of support until he was 18.
7. He would definitely qualify for the state supports available for youth who emancipate from foster care no matter what happens.
8. Gary asked the state worker to find out whether one or both of his parents had to be notified if we petitioned for guardianship. (My understanding is that notification is not necessary if it is not possible, but that you can't just skip it when it is possible.) Gary is clearly concerned that his father would object and possibly make life difficult.
Anyway, the bottom line is that they really don't think we should do anything until at least June, and they seem to be recommending against pursuing guardianship altogether, although if it is something that is really important to us they will support it.
And the social worker acknowledged without my asking that we were getting contradictory messages.
Now, I know some of you are thinking about the TPR issue. That sort of almost came up. Just about everything I typed above I got from the social worker in summary, after getting Gary's permission of course. She started out saying that they reviewed all the permanency options. She mentioned all of them including, "[state worker] told Gary that sometimes teenagers are made available for adoption, but that does require terminating the mom and dad's parental rights. Then we talked about guardianship and staying in foster care..."
I'm thinking that Gary wasn't thrilled about the TPR either. It may be that he doesn't want the TPR itself or that he doesn't want to deal with the likely consequences -- or both.
Anyway, I like working with my agency and I have only wanted guardianship if it was best for Gary. I think the social workers are asking him to think seriously about whether it is. There is a lot that they can offer him if he stays in the system.
The agency social worker even told him that she could back off so that we only saw her when we needed to -- except that she still would have to drop by once a month.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008