Donald’s Team Meeting

Recently I attended Donald’s team meeting… the first since Daffy was adopted. I have to admit, I did not look forward to attending…. not because I don’t want to be involved with his case, but because of all I have experienced in the case with the girls and the issues I have with the team’s pursuit of adoption by birth mom for Donald.

Anyway, I scheduled a visit with him prior to the meeting. (Hey, its an hour drive, might as well kill 2 birds with one stone, right?) The GAL was also interested in visting with Donald, so we agreed to meet with him together over lunch. Side note, as we pulled into the restaurant, a state trooper followed me as my husband’s truck is overdue for the inspection. I hadn’t realized he followed me until I went to get out of the car and the officer was standing in my face. I was quite frazzled and was not able to locate the registration or the proof that we had failed inspection, thus giving us time to get the vehicle fixed. The officer gave me a ticket (which I am fighting). Talk about embarrassment ..who else can say they have been pulled over with their former foster son and GAL? Ugh.

So, anyway, lunch went well. Donald was not very engaged as the pizza joint had video games and he was far more obsessed with begging for quarters and even watching strangers play. I was okay with that, though, as it gave me a chance to catch the GAL up  on the happenings of the recent months. He had been participating in team meetings via telephone (since the court had not approved additional funds for expenses) which doesn’t lend itself as well to keeping current. We discussed the residential treatment center’s overly positive reviews of Donald’s behaviors and he basically said that when they say he had a “great day”, what they really mean is that he didn’t kill anyone! He nailed exactly how Mickey and I have been feeling which surprised me. He also has a lot of reservations about Donald going back to live with his birth mom and expressed concern that with her limited capabilities simply getting her licensed to be a foster parent (required as the first step before she can adopt back her biological child) will not be giving her the tools needed to be successful.

The team meeting lasted about 2 hours and I was far more verbal than I had planned to be. The birth mom attended the team meeting (for the first time) since she is now part of the team. While she and I have a pretty good working relationship when it comes to Daffy, I wanted to be extra careful not to step on her toes during the meeting. I went into the meeting feeling like the team saw me of no value since I had not agreed to take Donald back, but instead I left the meeting feeling like they had actually listened to me and believe that I have valuable insight to share since I have transitioned with Donald just one year ago. It was definitely an interesting dynamic.

A few things that stand out to me from the meeting:

  • The team discussed increasing Donalds educations goals at the next team meeting in February. This is of great concern to me. First of all, I believe the only reason he scored so low during the initial intake was because he was coming off the hellishness (is that  a word?) of disrupting from our home, being hospitalized, moving to the group home and being expelled from school, thus landing him at the RTC. While I DO think he is capable of a lot more, I think adding additional challenges to his school work while he  is transitioning back into family life is a set up for failure. This topic was shelved until the next meeting where I will again raise these points.
  • The team discussed visitation plans for the holidays. First, let me say, transitioning during the holidays is a DISASTER in the making. I know that most foster and pre-adoptive families probably think that all kids want is to be “home” for the holidays. Not true. We learned after transitioning over the holidays last year that Donald had a very difficult time with the holidays. It wasn’t because he thought of his birth family, but because he missed the routine of the group home and he felt an overwhelming amount of pressure being in a new family, visiting with people he didn’t know well, etc. I cautioned the team to be VERY careful and watch for Donald’s cues of trouble in December. The plan was that a week later Donald would meet his birth mom’s step daughter (a child that lives in her home) for the first time. He would see her one additional time before Christmas. These visits were to be supervised by the RTC staff or adoption specialist. This would then lead up to Christmas Eve where they scheduled an over night visit at a local hotel. Not a good idea. If birth mom is hesitant about handling the stepdaughter and Donald together on a unsupervised visit (her words, not mine), how could she possibly handle them on Christmas Eve in the small confined space of a hotel room? Ugh. No, really, ugh. (As a side note, the reason they are looking at a hotel is because birth mom lives more than an hour from RTC and believes that she may need staff to physically assist her with issues with Donald. Does this sound like a kid who is ready to transition????)
  • Team has encouraged birth mom to move. First, because the city she lives in is where Donald was abused. Second, because they believe that her current support system is no good. Another set up for failure. Whether her support system is the “best” or not, its HER system and she will need people to rely on and lean on during the stressful times that are surely headed her way. It is completely unrealistic of the state to expect her to find a 4 bedroom rental for under $1000 that allows cats and dogs in the proximity of the RTC.

Obviously, I started this post several weeks ago. An update regarding the holidays will be coming soon. 🙂

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Under Investigation

[Blogging out of order… full update on the past 11 days to follow…]

Today I received a call from a special investigator for the state. She was calling to follow up on the report that I filed on Friday. She said that our local police declined to pursue the case, but that she still needed to make face to face contact with every child under 18 in our home. Amazingly, with less than 2 hours notice, we were able to pull off a visit between her and all 5 kids.

She was an interesting woman to say the least! She is very well educated with a sharp sense of intuition. I was enthralled talking to her over the course of the 3 hours she was at our home. She has seen it all, especially in her current position. I asked what percent of her cases were founded and she said she has had only 1 case per year on average that is pursued legally! That is one heck of a lot of false allegations!

In any case, she was very confident in our safety plan and in our abilities as parents and foster parents. She said that the 3 girls (and the boys, too!) are obviously well cared for and happy to be placed here.

The only thing of note, when she interviewed April and was discussing appropriate touch and safe boundaries, she asked April if she knew why she was here. April replied “Yes, because of what happened at [group home name] with Daffy & Daisy!” Ummmmm, what??? What happened at the group home between you three girls?? I am trying to keep my mind in check and not let my fears get the best of me, but I am FURIOUS at the idea something may have already happened between these girls and no one would bother to mention that to us while we not only accepted placement but also discussed the 3 girls sharing a room!!!

The investigator is going to follow up with the group home and get back to me. Until then, I wait. What else is new? *sigh*

Whirlwind

Ooooooooh boy, things have been a whirlwind of activity around here! Here is a quick run down (which I am sure will change after the office opens this morning)…

Friday afternoon I got a call from our resource worker. She had finally connected with Daisy and April’s cw. The girls foster mom had just given her “two weeks notice” that the girls needed to be moved. The resource worker let me know that 2 families were being considered as a match and she set up a disclosure meeting for 11/13 and gave me the foster mom’s phone number to connect with her to discuss the girls and get a better idea of what is going on with them right now.

Over the weekend, I spoke several times with the foster mom. She shared both the bad and the good. I was relieved to hear her say that she fully supported the girls coming to live with us. (If I find any extra time in the day, I will post details about these calls.)

On Monday, I received a text from the foster mom saying that she had told the cw that she wanted the girls out by the end of the week! Whaaaaaat? Panic set in. I emailed our resource worker twice and then called her on Tuesday morning and left a voicemail. Her supervisor called me back later in the day and we discussed the urgent nature of the case. This worker authorized us to offer respite to the foster family for THIS weekend hoping this would buy us time with the foster mom.

Yesterday morning I heard directly from the cw for the first time. We discussed how best to transition the girls. I said in a perfect world we would have a month, but that the current situation is clearly not ideal and things need to happen more quickly. The cw considered whether or not to move the girls to a group home briefly to properly transition them, but the down side would be ANOTHER placement and ANOTHER school before coming here. As it is, we will be the girls 3rd home  and 3rd school THIS SCHOOL YEAR! I find that unacceptable. Ultimately, we hashed out a plan for respite this weekend with the girls returning Monday afternoon and then MOVING IN next Friday! YIKES! She gave me some tasks to complete including giving our school a heads up, scheduling therapy, dentist appointments and an eye appointment for Daisy. I don’t think I could fully accept what I was hearing. Does one family really get two happily ever afters?

As a side note, at this point, I referred back to my blog to find out the specific date that we met Donald and Daffy last year for the very first time. 11/6/11. The MOVE IN date for Daisy and Daffy was set for 11/16/12. Coincidence? Naaaaaa…. just another sign that this is the right match. I am sure of that. 😉

Yesterday afternoon the cw called again and shared that the whole plan was “falling apart” [insert glass crashing noise here]. She said that the foster mom had now reported that her husband may be having surgery next week and that the girls could not stay until the 16th. The cw said she and the agency would be looking for a respite home in the girl’s area to take them Mon-Thurs nights so we could keep the plan as is, but if they were not able to locate one, there would be a need to officially place the girls Friday. THIS Friday. As in, TOMORROW. Are you freakin kidding me???? We talked about what would need to be done to make that happen and are ready to act today depending on whether or not the agency has located a respite home.

Honestly, I feel torn about this respite idea for the girls. Sure, it gives us the extra days we need to plan, transfer their school records, implement services, move rooms around, etc. BUT… this means the girls would understand they were leaving their current foster family and yet not going to their permanent placement. The state can call it respite all they want, but its no different than an emergency placement. Another home, another family, another move. Enough is enough.

I am feeling incredibly stressed at the moment. There are so many unknowns, so many variables, so much to discuss and no time to make it all happen. Goofy is particularly worried about the fast transition and what that will mean for the girls. His fears don’t ease my own. I am terrified to fail. I thought a lot about it yesterday. If this were one child, I think I would be less nervous. It’s two children… just like last time…. when I failed. *sigh* I know, I know, I didn’t fail. I “saved” Daffy from a broken system. I advocated for the best interest of both kids and while Donald doesn’t have his happily ever after yet, we are still hopeful it will come. Blah, blah, blah. I know these things on a conscious level, but in my heart, I feel like a failed. And I am terrified to fail again. 😦

Anyway, now I sit and wait for the call to determine whether the girls are coming for respite tomorrow or if that is their move in date! Eeeeeks!

The End Of The Road… Or Is It?

Monday night as I was laying in bed (trying very hard to fall asleep), the 11 o’clock news came on. I didn’t pay much attention until I saw the logo of our agency flash on the screen with a voiceover sharing that the agency is closing. Saying that I was stunned doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. I had to blink several times to be sure I was actually awake and not in some horrible nightmare. How could our agency be closing? I immediately grabbed my cell phone and emailed our social worker, quickly followed by an email to our case worker. I felt hurt and betrayed that the first I heard of this life-changing information was on the news. My mind was racing… How could this have happened without warning? What would this mean for Daffy? Who would do the 3-5-7 work? Who would be our social worker? Which agency would we go with? Who would do Donald’s TF-CBT work? How would this impact the decision of the state about Daffy’s permanency? Our agency has always been in our corner and always fought for Daffy’s best internet. I felt very small and very alone.

Within minutes I heard back via email from our social worker sharing that she herself had just learned of the news that day. It was at that moment, that I realized how selfish I had been in my thoughts. How could I be thinking only of how this would effect our family when hundreds of people were now losing their jobs? Our sw did her best to calm my fears assuring me that our license would be transferred to another agency and promising to make her recommendations on our case loud and clear. As tears streamed down my face, we emailed for a little bit longer and then she suggested we meet the next morning. I happily agreed. From the start, our social worker has had a way of being able to calm me and to sooth my fears. She is extremely well educated and experienced. She doesn’t sugar coat things but still has a way of being kind and reassuring. (Note: How quickly I heard from our sw is just one tiny example illustrating her commitment to our case and how she has always been there for us.)

Tuesday morning our sw and the family support specialist from the agency both showed up with coffee and we sat and chatted. It wasn’t like our previous meetings. It was more like 3 old friends chatting (albeit about something sad) and I loved that feeling.  Our sw shared that cases that will wrap up by December will remain with the agency unless there is reason to believe the cases will go into 2013. She is fighting hard to keep our case and get Daffy adopted by the end of the year. This has always been our goal, but now the stakes are even higher.  If the state decides that Daffy can not be adopted without her brother, that would mean moving to a new agency and a new sw… more changes for kids have already had way too many disruptions in their lives. There are still so many variables, so many things that could derail us from our goal, but knowing that things did not change over night was somewhat helpful. During our meeting, the sw and family supoirt specialist were particularly open about their feelings about this case and am really excited that they will be able to be more vocal and honest going forward now that their agency does not need (or want) referrals from the state. This could really be a game changer. It didn’t remove all of the political obstacles in this case, but its definitely a win for us. Ironic, isn’t it? Our agency closing may turn out to be a blessing in disguise? Weird.

There is still a chance we will be transferred or that our sw will get another job and leave the company before the end of December. That scares me, but no matter what happens, we will march on in this fight. I feel like we are LITERALLY fighting for Daffy’s life and I will NOT give up, but it will certainly be easier if our agency is on board to see things through to the end so I am keeping my fingers crossed and saying my prayers!