Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wondering What Will Happen

I keep finding myself wondering what will happen with the whole 15 of 22 months TPR question.

I'm not worried about it. I can find that calm place where I know that whatever happens we will be okay. The most probable options are that Gary stays with us or lives with his dad and those are both good for Gary. One makes me feel sad for myself, but both are options I can accept. Some roads are just bumpier than other.

So, like I said, I am not worried about it, but I am finding it hard not to think about wonder and, well, worry ... a little. Ahh, if only we had words to describe the exact feelings we have. I don't dread any of the options, but I very much want to know RIGHT NOW what will happen. Each possible path offers different issues, and as long as they are all open my mind runs through them all.

The thing I really and truly do not know is how the state social worker and the judge feel about the "15 out of 22" month thing. I don't even know how my state or county generally operates. The ASFA clearly favors termination, unless the kid is under the care of a relative, that state realizes it hasn't provided the services the parents need, or "(ii) a State agency has documented in the case plan (which shall be available for court review) a compelling reason for determining that filing such a petition would not be in the best interests of the child."

So in other words the state has to initiate termination of parental rights unless they decide it is better to do something else.

Ultimately the law requires the state to take a moment and think carefully about what they should be doing so that the kids don't just "languish" in foster care with no plan, and I that is a good thing.

To be clear, I am opposed to termination of Gary's father's parental rights for all sorts of reasons, the question of this post though is not what I think is right. I'm just dealing with wondering what the social worker and judge will think is right.

I mean, I can see the case for termination. Gary is never going home. His father has moved and changed his phone number and not told social services or his son. He seems to prefer not to be found. He demanded visitation and a meeting with all the new people in his son's life. Once he was told he could have both, and that the meeting would be the new and easier precondition for the visits, he stopped calling. He has not contacted his son for three months. He has, so far as I know, not contributed financially to his son's care. Unlike other sixteen-year-olds in care, he would be adopted. (It is uncomfortable for me. I don't think the rights should be terminated, but if the state does, I would be willing to adopt him. This willingness may be more likely to get added into the equation than my opinion.)

So it sloshes around in circles in my brain. What is the predisposition of this social worker and this judge?

What would your county do?


  1. In our state, a showing is required that a foster kid is "generally adoptable" before parental rights can be terminated. Even if a home has been identified which stands ready to adopt, the court generally wants to know that - if that adoptive placement, for some reason, fell through - another adoptive home could be found within a reasonable time.

    Once that requirement is satisfied, there's a strong preference in favor of terminating parental rights and moving for adoption. So, I suspect that our county would likely move to seek an adoptive placement (and termination) for "Gary", but because of his age, the court would certainly ask some questions before granting the termination.

  2. Our county is pretty clear- they like to "handle" it (reach a resolution of some sort of permanency) as quickly as possible. They start TPR right around 15 months, period, unless there are already transition visits happening, or unless a sort of guardianship has been established between a relative placement.

    I do believe (but cannot prove) that most places are more likely to TPR if there are waiting, committed foster/adopt parents that have placement of the child, understand the child's needs, support the therapy etc.

    I don't think anyone LIKES tpr. Its like amputating a limb- unfortuantely, sometimes its the only way to save the person, or allow the person to continue normal life.

    For instance, you have a dog. Three legs work normally, one is twisted from birth. It acts like a kickstand, not doing much, but still very much a part of them and there. As the dog ages, the bum leg becomes more problematic- getting in the way, dragging due to fatigue, etc. It isn't necessarily a disaster, but the dog definitely feels the arthritis and it causes the dog to not be as active as normal, to whine more, and to become more irritable.

    So the conundrum becomes whether or not to amputate the bum leg. I mean, crud, its part of the dog's life- it serves a purpose, it isn't necessarily causing any harm, doesn't it seem cruel to amputate it? We can work around it, the dog has created alternate ways to function, etc.

    But the specialists feel it needs to be removed, so the dog's quality of life can improve. They, having seen other similar cases in years past, know the problems it can cause later, and want to prevent that- just in case. They know the dog will have an adjustment period- a time of falling, of confusion, even of pain, as that precious but non-functional, limb is removed.

    But overall, stats show that the dog will bounce back, that he will perform better later and be better able to live without it.

    (LOL The ironic thing is, we have such a dog, and refuse to amputate the leg because it just seems cruel. The dr's still push for it each and every time we go to the vet, but the dog herself seems quite content, so LOL I guess we're not doing anything until we have to- a freedom we have as guardians of the dog, not regulated bty DHS rules)

    Here's my take on it- dog illustration aside.

    The reality is, yes, my children may have different DNA-linked family members than I do. They may have, at one time, had a different mom or dad than they currently do. However, contrary to popular opinion, they do not have more than one mom or dad.

    Gary doesn't have a dad right now- he has an absentee father/sperm donor/biological father/whatever you want to call it. A real DAD is an active part of a child's life- whether good or bad influence, whether he's a help or hindrance, he's a part of it. A man who disappears deliberately for 3 months has abandoned the role of parent.

    If a man abandoned his wife after 15 years of marriage- moved out, changed his number, got a new wife, etc, no one would still consider his wife to be still married to him. A divorce would legally end the marraige, but it ended emotionally and physically prior to that.

    A DNA link does not make a family. Period. Tons of men father children all the time and have no idea that they exist, or no desire to be in their lives, etc.

    I'm not saying that NO biological parents continue to be parents just because they place their child with an adoptive family or because their child is in foster care- completely not saying that. There are MANY MANY MANY parents whose children are in adoptive homes, who still have active open relationshiops with their children, still pray for them, encourage them, stand by them, see them, etc, who simply cannot (or could not at the time) bring them home and raise them. Those children are extremely blessed to have more than one mom and dad. There are moms and dad who placed children before there was open adoption, who are still parents. They treasure those children in their hearts and await the days when there might be a reunion. To the child, though, that parent may not exist until the reunion. There are divorced men who, although their children are being raised by their mom and stepdad, still have an active role in their chilren's lives. Those children are blessed too. There are kids in foster care, whose parents love them dearly but are facing problems with alcohol, drugs, crime, poverty, illiteracy, etc, who still are the best parents they can be to their kids, working in tandem with the foster parents and the state to do what's right for the kids.

    But a man who walks away without so much as a goodbye, leaving his kid in the hands of strangers that he barely (if at all) knows, choosing a new family or other family rather than maintaining a fragile contact with a child who knew him, THAT IS NOT A FATHER. Not to me.

    I bet you he couldn't tell you Gary's favorite food, his favorite color, band, music, name of 3 recent girlfriends, etc. He doesn't know when he's been sick, he doesn't know how smart he is, or what his struggles are. He quit being a Dad deliberately.

    There are tons of people related by DNA who have no relationship, and people aren't bothered by it at all. Cousins who grow apart, siblings who have different lives, etc. DNA doesn't make family, it doesn't create a bond, it just creates a genetic trait passing.

    I think the hardest part for me to deal with foster care was being able to accept that just because I love my kids, not everyone does. Not everyone feels that attachment. RAD hasn't been around long, but the symptoms and problems have been, they just existsed without a name. A lot of adults don't form good attachments- they bounce from relationship to relationship (especially the under 40 crowd), creating children sometimes, and moving on, constantly seaching for something they can't find, or something they subconsciously push away.

    The reality is, some people give up babies for the same reason others have abortions- they simply don't want to be a parent, they don't feel a bond to the child, etc. It sounds like, from the limited info that you can share, that Gary's dad has basicaly done just that. He made a choice, and it has left Gary like many kids inthe Russian orphanages- a "Social Orphan". One who has living biological relatives, but none who choose to be in his life.

    To me, Gary deserves to be a part of a family that wants him, that will stand by him, and that wants to CLAIM him (not shuffle him away as though he doesn't exist). He deserves adoption.

    I always tell people that Adoption isn't a solution for infertility, boredom, inbalance of gender in bio kids, to fine a playmate for a bio kid, etc. Adoption exists to place kids whose families are "gone" (whether through death, abandonment, abuse/neglect/TPR, incarceration) because kids need (not just deserve) to be in a stable, loving home.

    That's a big part of why America does foster care now instaed of orphanages- to teach kids how to have a functional family.

    I think its different for every kid. I agree that not all your boys really need or want adoption- having an ongoing relationship with their bio moms, sibs, etc, makes them not an orphan, to me. It allows you to stay in more of an aunt/uncle role.

    But for Gary, think about it- if something happened and you stopped odoing care, he'd be alone in the world again- with a worker perhaps (that can change easily too though,e specially with budget cuts).

    And too, adoption doesn't mean Gary's dad could never see him. You ahve the right as the adoptive parents to allow as much openness as you want.

    Anyway, that was long. I've been meaning to type something for several weeks but have been too busy.

    I'm proud of you for considering such a huge step. I know its a major change from ya'll's usual care, and it just reinforces my belief that you have the biggest heart in the world!

  3. Every county handles it differently. Especially if there is any tribe involved. You had mentioned that Gary was affiliated, though I don't know if ICWA applies for termination. If it does, you have a whole different ball of wax there.

    If ICWA doesn't apply, it depends on who is dealing with the case. The county I did my social work training in won't terminate on a teen unless there is a family identified and ready to adopt. Other counties in my state (like mine) would consider what is happening as abandonment and move to terminate. Depends on the judge and the social workers.

  4. FYI, to clarify....

    In my previous post, I mentioned that it was hard for me to accept that some people DON'T love their kids.

    I am not in any way implying that people who place a child in foster care/adoption (or who lose their kids into foster care) DON'T love their kids. I believe its just the opposite. To make an adoption plan rather than abort shows an incredible, huge amount of love and maternal/paternal feelings.

    I'm simply acknowledging that SOME (I would guess a very very small percentage) don't have those feelings.

    Just wanted to clarify that. I re-read my post and realized it could come across the wrong way, and I NEVER want to imply someone doesn't love their child if it isn't warranted.

    FYI, to those that don't know me, I'm a parent who does foster care, is planning to adopt if it comes about, who has foster siblings, adopted and foster cousins, aunts, and you name it. I see a lot of different sides to every situation because of the people in my life that I love dearly who have experienced different types of care. The only thing in life that I will definitely say I stand for is being pro-life & my faith in Christ. Foster care and adoption are necessary tools in order to care for children- period. If a childless couple enjoys the pitter patter of children's feet because of it, that's great. If an only child gains a sibling because of it, that's wonderful. But that isn't the primary purpose.

    Ok, I think I'm done LOL

  5. Well, here, the 15 months seems to be more a ... guideline... than a rule. Despite mom being awol for 11 months and dad having made little to no progress on his caseplan, lily's case was extended 6 months ago without batting an eye. Apparently they don't file for TPR here unless they're "sure they're going to get it." Yes, that's an exact quote.

    So, hey, maybe they will let it be a nonissue....


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