“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.
In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats,
so you can know who you are,
what you can rise from,
how you can still come out of it.”
― Maya Angelou
To say that the past week has been an emotional roller coaster for us would be an understatement. As we face the possibility of losing our foster son who we have loved and cared for these past 12-months---we find ourselves feeling angry, hurt, scared, sad and discouraged.
As many of you know, we received word a little over a week ago from the state that our foster son's biological mother (who has been serving a federal prison sentence and who lost her son in the first place because she was attempting to sell him at 6-months old to a complete stranger for drug money) had formally requested through her attorney that he be placed with another family to be adopted... more specifically--she wanted him placed with an hispanic family. The state has decided to move forward and honor her request. Our foster son is not related to this family in any way, he has never met them but from what we've been told this family is acquainted with the mother's sister. Last week Baby boy's CPS caseworker informed us that the state had already completed the required homestudy for this family and it had been approved by her supervisor. We were told that a court hearing would be called in the coming week or so to get the judge's approval and then after that--most likely our son would be moved to this other family. When I asked her how soon he might be taken from us--she said it could happen as early as two weeks from now. It took everything I had to not fall to pieces in front of her---I waited until she left our home and then I fell to pieces.
Over this past year, as his foster parents we have nervously sat back and patiently waited as the state sought out and conducted home studies on several of baby boy's extended family members--and each time-- the home studies came back very unfavorable and ultimately were not approved. The state has now exhausted and eliminated all viable family members as potential adoptive placements and the judge has approved to terminate parental rights which was positive news for us.
At each monthly CPS visit to our home these past 12 months and at each court hearing---baby boy's caseworker praised us and expressed her great satisfaction in how well he was doing in our care. This brought us great peace and strengthened our hope that we might be able to adopt in the end. This same caseworker this past May (when the court ruled to begin parental termination) reached out to us and inquired if our intent was to pursue adoption and with great excitement we explained to her that had been our hope all along. In response, she explained to us that she thought it would be a great fit for baby boy and she seemed pleased about this possibly happening. Another factor that gave us hope that parental rights would in fact be terminated and we'd be able to adopt was when his bio mother was released from prison early this summer-- she violated her parole within a week of her release-- and was rearrested and sent back to prison. Ultimately, by early July--we felt really good about where we were and all of these events gave us great confidence about us being able to adopt baby boy.
But this recent development in his foster -to-adopt placement was not something we were prepared for at all. Especially since we are only 2-weeks away from having "legal standing" as his foster family. Only 2-weeks!! We were prepared for a possible family member getting custody through this process and losing him but not a non-family adoption to another family. The frustrating thing about all of this is that if we can reach the legal standing status--we then would be given first priority by the court over anyone else who might want to adopt him. We are so close but if the state removes him before the 29th of August....we lose that opportunity to reach legal standing essentially.
We have had many sleepless nights this past week and shed so many tears stressing and trying to talk this out and figure out what we should do---if anything to fight this. Jody has met with a few family law attorneys in town and after lengthy discussion and much prayer--we have decided to fight this.
We have hired an attorney who will file a petition with the family court tomorrow to intervene on our behalf in this case. We will then be "officially" involved in baby boy's court case--receive notices of all hearings moving forward and have legal representation at every court hearing and with the CPS office. We also have a plan to hopefully postpone the state from being able to remove baby boy from our care before we reach the legal standing status on the 29th. After meeting with our attorney on Friday, we walked away feeling a bit more at ease about the situation and confident with the plan of action we had mapped out with our attorney.
But then at 5:00 on Friday afternoon, I get a call from baby boy's CPS caseworker. When I saw her name and number pop up on my phone---I literally felt my heart sink. When I answered she explained that she had received notice that baby boy's mother had been released from prison and was now requesting services and visitations. Yet another setback for us. This now changes everything if she stays clean, passes all her drug tests and doesn't violate her parole in any way...the court could rule to now give her 3-6-months to prove herself worth while baby boy stays in our care. And if she is successful in meeting the criteria the state sets for her---she could gain custody again. Something that we have feared for some time--that she might somehow gain custody again of this precious boy. She has made some terrible mistakes and overall poor decisions---all of which have proven time and time again that she doesn't care about her son or his well-being.
And so, tomorrow morning at 9:00AM baby boy and I have to report to the CPS office for a 2-hour visit with his biological mother. I wish Jody could go with me, but he's starting day one of trial on one of his legal cases or otherwise he would go with me. I'm really nervous having to make this visit by myself. Normally for the CPS visits--a foster parent just drops the child/ren off and then returns at the end of the visit to pick up the child. But since baby boy has not seen his bio mom since he was 6-months old--naturally he doesn't know this woman at all--he only knows me as his "mama". The caseworker said it would be best if I stay for the entire 2-hour visit.
Words cannot even begin to express how much I am dreading this visit tomorrow. I have been sick to my stomach all weekend worrying about it and how baby boy is going to react---how she is going to react when he doesn't want to go to her (which I know is going to happen--he's that way with most strangers and clings to either Jody or I in tears). I can only imagine how angry this is going to make her that he is clinging to me and not her. That he is calling me "mama" and not her.
Sadly, what we have learned through this process this past year is that foster parents really have no rights when it comes to the children in your care --nor-- do you really have any say with the courts or CPS system--at least that is what we have experienced in the state of Texas. I now fully understand why so many couples who would be great foster-to-adopt parents choose not to adopt through the state---they've heard too many sad stories and are scared off by the system. This is such a tragedy and a disservice to the thousands of children who are stuck in the foster care system in this state.
We have learned from our experience that the foster care system does not always do what is in "the best interest of the child". There are politics that get in the way of that sometimes. I think our case is a very specific example of that. They are ready to pull a 19-month old child away from the only parents he has ever known---parents who have loved him and cared for him as their own for a year and have clearly expressed our interest in adopting him--and instead move him to another family for adoption (who is of no relation to him) all because his biological mother (who is a convicted felon, drug addict and tried to sell him for drug money to a complete stranger) doesn't want him to be with a Caucasian family. I do want to share that baby boy's caseworker did share with me on Friday that when her supervisor recently asked her if baby boy should go to this other family or stay with us---she said she told him without hesitation that she feels it's in his best interest to stay in our care. I am grateful that she spoke up to her supervisor and was honest about her feelings.
For now, I am trying to emotionally prepare for tomorrow morning and what I am going to say to this woman. We've never met before and so I envision that it will be awkward and uncomfortable for both of us. While I may be pleasantly surprised by how she reacts after meeting me tomorrow (and I sincerely hope that's the case)--I am expecting her to be resentful and angry towards me. She's angry that the state took her son and that they are trying to terminate her rights. She's angry that he's with a white family and not a Hispanic family. She's angry that she hasn't seen him in over a year. She's angry that she has to work to get her son back---that she's going to have to prove herself worthy to a lot of people.
I keep saying over and over in my head ...."Jennifer---you must be the bigger person and be as kind and respectful as you can for baby boy's sake and because that's what Heavenly Father expects of you". But the human side of me is not as forgiving and isn't as inclined to be as loving about all of this.
I've had to pray really hard this weekend for strength and peace about our visit tomorrow. To have greater faith in Heavenly Father and that His hand is in this. I'm still very fearful about what this mother's intentions are---so many worries and questions are swirling around in my head...does she want to fight the recent termination ruling and try and get him back? Will she fight our efforts to keep him in our care if we reach legal standing on the 29th of this month? Will the state honor a mother's request despite the fact that she a year ago tried to sell him for $100 to a stranger? If she does regain custody---will she take care of baby boy or put him in yet another situation where he could be harmed.
And so we are trying not to be completely discouraged by this recent development in his case. We had hoped and prayed through this entire journey that we might be able to adopt him. And like Jody said in his letter to baby boy, no matter what any court says---we'll forever consider him our son. He is a part of our family in every way and we'll love him forever as our son.It's so hard not to feel angry and bitter about the predicament we find ourselves in and the fact that they might consider reunification with the mother despite it being a "for sale baby" case. Or that we may lose baby boy to this other family.
But alas...it is what it is. It's our cross to bear at this stage of our life and we accept that. I have faith that it's in God's hands and I must move forward and be at peace with whatever the outcome is in the end. At least Jody and I can say without any hesitation in our hearts that we did everything we could to try and adopt our sweet baby boy.