Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hearing over

The T.P.R. hearing for Gary's mother's parental rights is over. It was short and sad. The judge found that the state had done everything they could to contact her and her rights were terminated on grounds of abandonment.

I really, really hate these things.

Gary decided not to go to this one, and I think that is wise.

I got lots of information regarding adopting him. If we are going to do this before he turns 18 then we need to get moving. Thank goodness it isn't as complicated as getting licensed, but Roland and I have to get new criminal background checks, a more complete medical report, have a home study.

With all this the adoption just might be finalized before his birthday in September. Maybe.

I met Helen and her foster father. Apparently they had some sort of hearing today too. The state worker confirmed that the foster father has expressed interest in adopting her, but they don't know if that will happen, at least in part because they don't know what Will is going to do. He will have a case plan to work, and reunification is still the case goal. I told the state worker that Roland and I did not have any need to try to get custody of her, but we would hold onto our license for another year if she might need us. He said he would let me know when Gary's adoption is finalized if there is any significant chance they will want to place her with us.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

getting re-licensed

Oooo.... I just realized. If we get Gary adopted before the end of May, we can decline re-licensing. I would never have to go to another training again.

Gary wants to be adopted

sooner, rather than later.

Okay, let me back up.

Yesterday he had a 10:00am meeting with his sister, "Helen," the state worker (who will be hers if/when reunification is no longer the official case goal), and his agency worker. Gary said the meeting went okay, but it was awkward because they didn't have a lot to say to each other and Gary wanted to talk to both of them about HIS case. He did report that the plan with his sister is what is called "concurrent planning." In other words, Will be given a list of things he has to do, which the social worker predicts he will not do.

Will, by the way, wants Helen out of foster care and then into Job Corps. He is pretty clear that he does not want her to live with him, his wife, and the younger children. Basically, he wants what he wanted with Gary: not to have to live with the teen and have everyone agree that the necessity for that is based upon the teen's behavior, not his. He isn't going to get away with it this time.

Anyway, Gary told the workers that he has been thinking about the adoption and he has decided that it would be better to do it before he graduates, instead of after. He told them that the main reason he wanted to wait was so that he would not be a financial burden to us. We have assured him multiple times that that is not the case. I have believed that the not wanting to be a burden is in part cover for not being done mourning his first family and not being ready for adoption. Anyway, he asked the workers if there was anyway that we might be able to continue to receive support for him until he graduates. The agency worker said they are working on the details of their post-adoption support plan and will get back to me.

So, it looks very likely that Gary will get adopted the spring with the older boys.

When I was talking with Gary later he said that one of the reasons he wanted to be adopted earlier was so that he could get his name changed before he graduated, got a driver's license, a credit history, etc. This is just a good time to do that.

As for his name, he hates his first name, and likes his his current middle name. He has picked out a new name he likes, he just doesn't know if he wants to be NewName CurrentMiddleName, or the other way around. He does want to keep the same last name. "Changing both would just be too much of an identity crisis."

I think I did a decent job at hiding my disappointment. I didn't realize how much it meant to me until both Carl and David told me they were going to change their last names. Evan would change his, but he has complex feelings about his mother and wants to show his respect for his father who died when he was small. When David and Carl said that they wanted to change their names, I got choked up. They understand the adoption and becoming part of our family. They want that. They want for me to be their legal mom.

For Gary, I think, right now it isn't about becoming part of our family. I think it is about another step in separating himself from Will. It is about him claiming a new identity and a new name. It isn't really about claiming a relationship with us. We are just part of the deal.

And I get that. It seems developmentally appropriate. It is exactly where Gary should be right now. Expecting him to be forming deep attachments to us just when most of his energy is going to how he will life when he moves out in January 2011 (his time table), is unrealistic. He is seventeen, finishing with high school, and his life is all about becoming his own person. Right now, it is safer to keep his current last name.

I confess that I hope he changes his mind somewhere during the process.

I started to edit that sentence to say "I confess I will be happy if he changes his mind" but the first version is true. I believe that it should be his decision and that he should do what he wants and what is best for him. I think this should NOT be about my needs and desires. However, I find that though I can acknowledge that my desires are not supposed to determine the outcome, they still exist. I want Gary to want us as much as we want him.

I remind myself that David definitely did not want us when he lived with us. Keeping emotional distance was very important for him. NOW, at 23 he wants to be part of the family. I hope, even expect, that over time Gary will attach more deeply to us. I also know that will happen best, perhaps only if, we let it happen at his pace.

But it still made me feel like pouting.

Of course I am cutting myself some emotional slack because Roland just left to spend 6 days with his parents meaning I am doing the single parent thing. Also the world of Brian has got more stressful recently. I will write about that eventually, but it is not part of this post. Suffice it to say that I was already fighting melancholia when Gary said he wanted to keep his current last name and I had to take a deep breath before I gave the appropriate response, "That makes sense, and of course what name you pick is entirely your decision."

Anyway, that he wants to be adopted now instead of in a year is wonderful and it made me very happy to hear it. Please understand that the post is mostly about the name thing because this is the only place where I can vent that. I have lots and lots of places where I can express my joy about the adoption itself.

In related news, Gary reported that Helen's foster family is interested in adopting her. At first I accepted that at face value, but I have since reconsidered. It certainly could be true. I hope it is true. On the other hand, this is the girl who told her foster father that she was going to be moving in with us. That she reported that HER foster parents wanted to adopt her during a lunch when her older brother was talking about being adopted, may reflect wishful thinking.

We will see.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Adult Adoption -- Difficult or Not?

Well, getting starting seems to be quite difficult.

The agency took a couple of weeks to tell us that they would cover the legal expenses. It turned out that it wasn't a matter of deliberating, just getting the same people into the same room so they could say "sure!" Then the first people they recommended are backed up and won't be able to do anything for at least 3 months.

Then they recommended someone (A2) else who gives them a discount rate and sometimes works as a GAL. They said that if there was a different lawyer that I wanted to work with I could. I wrote to my friend who is also a family lawyer. Working with friends in various capacities is dangerous and she responded that this one might be one of those situations. She sees complications that could end up taking a lot of time which would translate to expense. She can't match the discount rate A2 offers. In fact she is so nervous about A2 that she thinks maybe he isn't very good. She will ask around and get me a referral.

[I should mention here that I have had a cold that has turned into bronchitis. Everyone at home is sick, I hope with the same basic virus even though not all of us have been having the same level of stomach issues. FIL is back in the hospital and we are all trying not to be worried about him. Everyone, including me is tired and cranky and impatient.]

Anyway, I'm not sure that my friend is right to be concerned about this lawyer. My gut response is that someone who works as a GAL might very well have a discount rate for a private, non-profit foster care agency. The rate might reflect his commitment to this population, and the fact that he gets repeat work from them (a possibility my friend conceded).

I'm torn between trusting the agency that has been doing this for a while and has always been trustworthy, and my friend who is a family lawyer. I'm actually leaning more towards trusting the agency and their recommendation. Though my friend has represented some people adopting from foster care and knows about adult adoption, I don't think she knows much about precedent in adult foster-care-alumni adoptions.

The issue that is complicated, from her perspective, is that we are going to at least try to adopt Evan. In her county she thinks it wouldn't fly. Judges there, in The City, don't approve adult adoptions without parental consent. That makes sense to me, in most contexts. If someone were going to adopt Andrew I certainly think I should be consulted. If nothing else I should KNOW as it would mean that he was dis-inheriting himself. I just might want to re-write my will. I might agree ultimately that he shouldn't have to have my consent, but I would appreciate the judge saying, "This affects your parents and they need to be part of the processes."

Everyone I know from foster care around here thinks the judges will do no such thing. This is partly because the judges in my county seem not to care what everyone else does. They are ... um ... informal. Mostly though they think the difference is that it is post-foster-care adoption. Judges even ones in The City, most of my local foster-care-acquaintances believe, will not be inclined to seek consent from parents whose kids were in foster care for several years of their lives. The attitude among the social workers is that one of the reasons to wait until the kids are 18 is so that you can not worry about difficult parents.

(There is a whole post about the ethics of that. I've written before about my ethical problems with adopting Evan. This is not that post.)

My friend is a very careful and diligent lawyer. I respect her concerns and value her advice. Child custody/adoption cases from my county have apparently been over-turned at a higher rate than in other places. She doesn't want me to do something shady.

I don't either.

I'm just tired and cranky.

I want it to be simple. I want someone to say yes or no and move on.

Did I mention the tired and cranky part?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gary's Sister, SNAFU (edited down)

For some reason last night as I was thinking about writing this post, I thought of Gary's sister as "Helen." I don't know why, but I did. I really wanted to meet her before I gave her a blog name, but as that may not happen at all, it is a good thing that one name just feels right now.

But I am getting ahead of the story.

As you know, Gary had been told that his first visit with his sister had to be supervised. This was not because anyone seriously believed that Gary would hurt her in any way, but just that it seemed sensible for the social worker to put a letter in the file saying that their interactions were appropriate, etc. Gary wasn't thrilled about that because he was afraid the visit would be horribly awkward. He spoke to his agency worker who suggested that she take the two of them out to lunch. Since Gary is so very comfortable with that worker, he agreed. She would save them from any awkwardness.

Last week the agreed on yesterday. Gary had another appointment in the morning that the worker was supposed to take him to, so it made sense to follow that up with a lunch with the sister. She (the worker) was planning on picking up Helen from her high school after the appointment on the way to lunch.

Gary and the worker waited for a full hour before Helen's state worker showed up to say that Helen wouldn't be coming. I don't know all the details, but I do know that Helen MIGHT be going back home and Will opposes them seeing each other.

And that is all, upon further consideration, I am going to say.

And there isn't a damn thing I can do.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

We're doing okay

Just thought I would update you all.

Life has fallen back into it's usual pattern. Gary is better. He is still sad and stressed, but the first wave of over-whelming grief he experienced after last Wednesday is over.

Roland has figured out what he would need to do to the rec room and has put that aside.

Gary still hasn't seen his sister, though they speak on the phone. Gary is concerned that if they don't have an activity it will be awkward. I think he may be wrong about that. Based upon their phone conversations, I think she will have plenty to ask and say. But Gary is worried about that. The state worker thinks they should have a supervised visit first, which seems to mean sitting in an office or coffee shop with nothing to DO. We've turned it over to the agency worker to try to come up with a plan.

Gary still is leaning against having his sister placed with us. He may or may not change his mind after they are together. Of course the social workers will be the ones who make that decision. No one is officially talking about that right now. One thing at a time, and the next thing is getting the kids together for a visit.

So we continue with our daily lives. I'm at the beginning of a new term and have difficulties with the software that is supposed to make my life easier. (Yeah, I know). Brian is staying late after school for rehearsals for the latest production. Brian and Gary will both be having their wisdom teeth extracted in a couple of weeks. Yep, same day. Andrew will be home for his break and, though he doesn't know it yet, he will be driving one of them home while the second is in surgery. Sadly, I will be at work and unable to attend to them until the afternoon. It is the beginning of their spring break, so they won't have to miss school for recovery. I'm thoughtful that way.

Thank you for all your suggestions for blog names for Gary's sister. I won't be picking one until after I meet her.