Foster Care: Moving forward with faith

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


"It is so hard when sincere prayer about something we desire very much is not answered the way we want. It is especially difficult when the Lord answers no to that which is worthy and would give us great joy and happiness. Whether it be overcoming illness or loneliness, recovery of a wayward child, coping with a handicap, or seeking continuing life for a dear one who is slipping away, it seems so reasonable and so consistent with our happiness to have a favorable answer. It is hard to understand why our exercise of deep and sincere faith from an obedient life does not bring the desired result." 

-Elder Richard G. Scott, "Trust in the Lord", Oct. 1995 

Some of you may have checked in on my little blog and received a message about it being private.  I went "off the grid" I guess you could say without any explanation and I feel I need to explain. I have gone back and forth for some time about the direction I want to take this blog --and-- whether or not to take it private. And I must admit...I'm really torn.  One of the beauties of sharing our life in this little space is it has always been a great way for us to keep in touch with so many of our family and friends who we live so far away from.  They are able  to see us and the kids via my photos and blog posts and keep up with what's happening in our life.  To see the funny things the kids do each week...our fun trips we take together ...the milestones the babies reach and so much more.  It's also been such a blessing for Noah and Taylor's birthmothers and their families to check in and see how the kids are doing.  

Additionally, this blog has been a great blessing for me personally because I have met so many new and wonderful women through my blogging journey--many of whom I have developed sweet and tender friendships with.  And for that, I am truly grateful.  

But here lately I've been struggling with whether or not I want the whole world to see and read some of these intimate details of our life.  Often some of the things that are on my heart that I'd like to record here---I'm hesitant to do so in such an open forum.  

More specifically, I have been torn about whether or not to make my blog private because of our foster-to-adopt situation .  I so often stress and worry how to effectively share in my blog posts the details about the very serious challenges we are facing (and have been facing since this past August when we hired an attorney to represent us) as we work to try to keep our foster son in our home and hopefully be able to adopt him.  And yet, a part of me feels so strongly that I need to talk more about this experience--to speak more boldly as a domestic adoption advocate.  To share what it has truly been like as a first time foster parent in the state of Texas and explain some of the real problems in the system that we have faced personally.   And that just maybe by doing so---our experiences and insight might benefit someone else out there who is going through the same challenges as we are or are considering adopting a child through the state.

And so this is the conundrum I find myself in...to share or not share.  To keep it private or keep it open for the world to read. 

But while I contemplate the direction I need to take.... I do want to take this opportunity to thank so many of you out there who have been praying and fasting for our family these past few days.  I know there are many of our friends here locally and back in our hometown in East Texas who have reached out to us and let us know of your constant prayers.  We are so, so grateful for those prayers.  I have shed tears of gratitude for your prayers.  It's humbling to know that so many sweet people are praying for baby boy at this time.



Here are a few things I want to share about what has happened as of late with our foster-to-adopt placement:

We had an emergency hearing last Thursday (the day before the termination trial) where CPS and the state's attorney informed the 6 other attorneys involved in this case along with the judge that they had made some serious procedural mistakes.  Mistakes that would prevent the court from moving forward with terminating parental rights and ultimately impede us with moving forward with his adoption.

We have been waiting since August for the DNA results on the "alleged" birthfather who has been incarerated this entire time while he awaits to begin his 15 year federal prison sentence.  Now mind you--in the world of having to DNA alleged birthfathers and the difficulty involved with trying to track these guys down--you couldn' find an easier scenario to take a DNA sample.  The state just has to head to the jail--  take the DNA sample --and submit it to the lab.  They don't have to issue subpoenas to force him to submit to the testing--it's a done deal basically.  

Well, not so in our case as luck would have it.  At last Thursday's emergency hearing the state's attorney explained to the court that they made a mistake--they tested the wrong guy at the jail !!! Seriously--the anger I have felt over this mistake--I can't really put into words.  And if I did--it would probably just be in the form of a series of expletives. We have been waiting  five- months for these results and the day before trial they have the audacity to come into court and showing little to no remorse I might add--and tell the court that the termination trial will need to be post-poned a second time (we were initially set for trial last July but the state asked for a postponement). They essentially now must send someone from the lab back to the jail and re-test the right guy.  The turnaround time for the test results is at least 2-3 weeks --which was terrible news for us because you see-- after February 7th--this judge and his court lose jurisdiction over the case.  Which is a real impediemt for our hopes of adopting baby boy.  Basically by starting over in a new court, this means that the state would have to start their investigation all over again-- with a new judge-- in proving its case to terminate parental rights.  Which for us as his foster parents--it equates to an additional 12-18 months that baby boy would most likely spend in foster care and --sadly, instead of being adopted at 2 years old--he may not be able to be adopted out until 3 or 4 years old.  

At this same hearing, the state's attorney also went into to detail to the court about their next big procedural mistake...they served the other "unknown" birthfather improperly.  There are specific procedures the state must follow in serving an unknown birthfather by publication--these procedures must be followed properly before a court can terminate parental rights.  If the state doesn't follow the procedures properly--any adoption made could potentially be appealed and/or overturned.  

So basically it was a double-whammy of bad news for us last Thursday.  And then to add insult to injury--on Friday while in court---the state had initially agreed earlier last week to allow the court to name us as baby boy's permanent managing conservators (PMC) --a legal move that would have potentially ended this entire legal saga and allowed us to essentially move forward with a private adoption in the next 3 months or so.  But not so as it turns out---the state came back after the lunch break last Friday and without any explanation retracted their agreement with our attorney and stated to the court that they were going to seek the permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) and opposed us (his foster parents) being given PMC  status. Baby boy's CPS caseworker who has been in our home every month for the past 18 months spoke out against this decision by her department while we were in court--she informed the judge that she is in complete disagreement of this and is standing firm in her recommendation as his caseworker that we be granted the PMC and be able to adopt baby boy.  But despite her brave efforts and willingness to speak up on our behalf against her colleagues--her recommendation didn't seem to carry much weight.  We (and our attorney) were devastated by the state's decision to retract their deal with us for PMC--especially since they are unwilling to give us any explanation for this decision.

A sad lesson we have learned through this journey that CPS does not like it when foster families intervene in cases.  And sadly, they often retaliate against those foster families that do so.  Such a travesty for the families--but more importantly-- for the children who will ultimately suffer the most and end up languishing in the system even longer. In fact, there is a pending lawsuit against the state of Texas in the courts right now [M.D. v. Perry, charges Texas’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)] which charges our state with violating the constitutional rights of children who generally have been in foster care for at least a year by routinely failing either to return them safely to their families or to find them safe, appropriate, and permanent new families (our son's CPS case is a perfect example of this) — and, therefore, failing to meet its legal obligation to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of all children in its custody. You can read more about the case here.  

And so we are at a crossroad now with baby boy's CPS case.  The judge extended the termination trial proceedings to this coming Thursday--the day before he loses jursidciton over this case.  All 6 attorneys are submitting their legal arguments in the form of briefs for  -- or -- against us the foster parents being granted PMC.  It has reached the crucial 18-month deadline in baby boys' case where the state of Texas is obligated to do one of the following:

1.)  reunification--reunify him with his biological family (which is most likely never going to happen--birthmom has been AWOL for months -- no one can find her--sadly, she's a drug addict.  The alleged birthfather is starting a 15-yr. federal prison sentence this week....and over 4-5 home studies have been done on several extended family members and none came back favorable--they have all been ruled out as potential caregivers per the state's due diligence.)

2.)  terminate parental rights and place him for adoption with a non-family member (which is what we are asking for as interveners in the case)

3.) ...or lastly--CPS can move to have the court terminate parental rights (something that is in the works right now) and they (the state) becomes permanent managing conservators (PMC).  The state will then most likely choose the adoptive family via a panel of CPS workers by narrowing the pool of home studied families down to three (3) and select one family from those 3 families to adopt him.

And so we wait on pins and needles until our next court date this Thursday to see what transpires and how the judge will rule.   The not-knowing is what I am struggling with the most right now.  I don't do well with that.  As much as I have prayed and pleaded with the Lord for peace--I am still feeling great anxiety over the situation.  We have spent thousands of dollars on attorney's fees fighting CPS since August to keep our foster son and to be able to adopt him.  We don't begrudge this decision at all, but it is so disheartening that it has come to this--a huge legal mess.



This weekend following Friday's court proceedings was grueling for both Jody and me.  Absolutely grueling. We took the kids to the park on Saturday and it literally hurt to look at baby boy and to listen to him laugh and giggle with Taylor and Noah.  The thought just kept running through my mind that this may be the last park day we have together as a family with him.  Yes, many tears have been shed the past few days as we try to prepare ourselves for whatever is decided this week.  We know and feel in our hearts that baby boy should stay with us...that we should be the family to adopt him.  But sadly, the decision is not ours to make.  It's in the court's hands and we continue to pray and fast that the judge and other attorneys involved will be sensitive to the Spirit and make a decision that they feel is in the best interest of baby boy.

I have faith that this is in the Lord's hands. I really do. But the natural man in me is really struggling with how this is all playing out.  And yet--despite the awful anxiety, fear and anger I'm battling, I know in my heart that He is in charge and whatever is meant to be will happen. And ultimately, I must be willing to accept whatever that decision is and move forward with greater faith. 

20 comments:

  1. Oh Jennifer...my heart aches for you, Jody and the entire family. But, most importantly for sweet baby boy. I have watched you and Jody welcome him, love him, nuture him...he is where he needs to be...a stable loving Christian home! I see how he adores Noah and Taylor, and they him. I cannot even begin to imagine that being any different!!!
    Please know you are all in my prayers, as well as ALL involved. Yes, God is in control. He has gone before all in this situation and prepared the way.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words and prayers...they mean so much. :-)

      xo,
      jennifer

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  2. I can't even imagine. I think I would curl up in a ball and hide with baby boy wrapped up in my arms of course. praying for that judge to definitely feel and be guided by the spirit. praying for strength for you to trust in our Heavenly Father and his plan for your family. and of course, with all those prayers....a heavy heavy heart for you and Jody right now.

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    1. Thank you, April. I will always be grateful for your example--you are an amazing foster mom and inspire me to want to be better in so many ways.

      hugs to you sweet friend,
      jennifer

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  3. Praying for all those involved with this case, and for your family, that you will all be together forever. Sending hugs.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kathleen...

      hugs to you sweet friend,
      jennifer

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  4. i can't even begin to express how i feel. angry, frustrated, vengeful. all of it. praying for those who pull the strings to come to their senses and do what's right.

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    1. Veronica...I know--it is so frustrating that this has become such a complicated case when in all reality--it should have been an easy adoption for the state and us. We're so thankful for your prayers and support...

      much love,
      jenn

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  5. In the Name of Jesus, we command every crooked place in this entire matter, to be made straight. I speak to every mountain of adversity and command it to be removed, NOW, in Jesus' Name. Father, I thank You, that the good work You have started in this matter, You are perfecting and maturing and bringing to FULL COMPLETION. You are perfecting EVERYTHING that concerns the Mask family and this little boy's life, in Jesus' Name. I thank You, that You always work with us, confirming Your Word with signs following. amen. No weapon formed against you shall prosper, in the Name of Jesus. (I am not sure of differences in doctrine, but I hope this prayer ministers to you) :)

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    1. Many, many thanks for your sincere prayer...we, like you, believe wholeheartedly in the power of prayer, so this means a great deal. Thank you for taking the time to share this.

      blessings and with gratitude,
      jenn

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  6. Oh my goodness my heart aches just reading this. Our daughter JayJay was placed back with her Bio Mom for a period of time, and the two weeks prior to her leaving our home were just awful. I cried all the time, not just cried I sobbed. When she left (Which was Good Friday, ironic) I completely shut down. I couldn't even care for my other daughter, I had such a routine with the two of them, that missing one put me into a downward spiral. My husband even had to do bedtime duty because I could not handle walking into a room with two cribs and only putting one baby to bed. Just shy of two months went by, and we received a call from the Social Worker saying there was an emergency and could we take her back. I said, "yes bring my daughter back". Anyway, point is... I had no idea I was capable of handling that kind of pain. It made me a stronger, more confident woman. The Lord does not give you anything you cant handle. After we completed her adoption we let our license expire because I did not want to go through that again. The Lord then laughed at me, and along came baby brother. So we now have our license again.... :-) You will get through it... We are all here for you... http://lifeafteryouadoptafosterchild.blogspot.com/

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    1. Meri---thank you so much. It means a lot that you have such a deep understanding of what we're going through. While we are trying to prepare ourselves for all the "what-if's" that could happen...I don't think I'll ever be fully prepared emotionally if he is placed with another family for adoption. It will literally feel like a death to us. Plain and simple.

      Thank you again for sharing your experience and for the reminder that we're not alone in this. We have definitely felt the Lord comforting us and loving on us through kind friends and loved ones like yourself.

      much love,
      jenn

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  7. That baby boy needs you and your wonderful family. Stay strong! Heartfelt prayers from a blog reader in Massachusetts.

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    1. You are so sweet--thank you so much for your well wishes and prayers!

      xo,
      jenn

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  8. Jennifer and Jody, I'm assuming today is the day you head back to court. I have prayed for your situation this morning and will continue to hold you all in my thoughts and prayers as the day progresses. I cannot begin to imagine the anger and frustration you must feel...not the mention the unfairness of it all. It is hard to understand how adults could actively CHOOSE to allow a child to linger in the foster care system any longer than is absolutely necessary. I know you must feel pretty beat up, but please know that to the rest of us you are unbelievably strong and such an inspiration. Keep fighting the good fight. God is working on both of you and the story you'll be able to share will most certainly help many people to come. I just know it! Prayers and love to your whole family.

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    1. Hey Lesa...can't tell you how much it means to hear from you and to know you and your family are praying for us. The system is so flawed--it's just awful that so many precious children are languishing in CPS's care. We're prayerful all will end in our favor and that possibly we can share our story down the road with some state officials in Austin who can put new laws in place to stop things like this happening.

      much love,
      jenn

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  9. I hope you get everything sorted out and the court realizes that the right place for the little boy to be is with you and your family.

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  10. I came across this from a friend posting a link to it. I don't know you but I'm praying for you and your family. I pray that sweet baby boy remains with you and your family.

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    1. Hi Shelby--I"m so happy you stumbled onto my little blog. And thank you so much for your kind thoughts and prayers. I truly appreciate it.

      many blessings,
      jenn

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