I just have a bad feeling that eventually they will take Jo Jo from me. Have I been foolish to let myself fall so in love with her? Could I really help it, anyway? My whole family bonded with her so quickly, and yet it could all be for nothing. Somewhere deep down I sense the darkness that lingers just out of sight, waiting to swallow me whole. She is here, but one day, suddenly, she will be gone. It won’t matter to anyone how much I loved her, that she thought of me as mommy, that she has a routine now and feels safe and loved, that she sees familiar faces all day and practices her beginning baby smiles on them. It won’t matter that this is her home and we are her family. It won’t matter that I know exactly what each of her cries mean and how to soothe them, that I know what time she needs to sleep and what time during the night she needs a bottle or a change. It won’t matter that her photographs are framed on my walls or that she has a lovely little nursery.
Like Death, Foster Care doesn’t care. A great-aunt, or 2nd cousin, or half-uncle (is there such a thing?) will trump me in the hierarchy of where she belongs. I will pack up her things and send her away and never know how she got through those days and nights of wondering why she’d been abandoned again, of wondering where she was and why I wasn’t coming to her to make it better.
If only there was a mom out there who knew she couldn’t parent, for whatever reason, and wanted to relinquish to me, give her daughter that huge gift of love, the ultimate sacrifice.
Dream on, girl. That happy fantasy is just that- a fantasy. I know better than to expect happy endings, let alone happy middles. Death came and snatched the sacred from my life, gutted me out of the blue and left me there to bleed. Why shouldn’t Life do exactly the same thing to me?
3 thoughts on “bad feeling”
This is just too hard! Can you educate readers like me, who don’t know all the foster vocab. what “termination” and “rights being terminated” means so we can better understand the depth of consequences (and the hope of possibility) with these bio v. foster relationships? Every day is precious, but why, oh, why does it have to be so fraught for loving foster families?
TPR (termination of parental rights) happens when one or both parents fail to make any progress on the plan set up for them by the county (DHS, Department of Human Services and the foster care agency) in a reasonable time frame (usually 6 months to a year, but can be longer if the parent makes intermittent progress then backslides). If the parent makes NO effort to participate in the reunification plan, it is likely that the goal for the child will change from reunification with the parent to termination of parental rights. The parent will then have another period of time to get it together while the paperwork is being filed and termination is being set up. If the parent still does not participate termination will occur, anytime from 6 months to 18 months after they stop participating or making progress on the plan.
The county will attempt to find family members suitable for the child while all of this is going on. If a family member comes forward or is found willing to take the child, the family member will be vetted by the county for suitability. If they meet the criteria for living situation, the child will either be moved immediately to the relative, or will have scheduled visits with the relative for a time and then be moved, depending on what the county recommends. A family member can come forward at any time before the child is officially adopted by a foster family.
Any participation of the parent in the plan will set the goal back to reunification, until the parent backslides or stops participating again. Also, the judge will ultimately decide when they have had enough time to change their ways. Some judges will allow them years, others will say “sorry, you had your chance” after only 6 months.
Once termination of parental rights (TPR) is granted by the judge, the child is legally free for adoption. At this point if no relatives are currently in the process of trying to get the child, the foster family will get a lawyer and petition the court to allow adoption. Without a family member to contest, adoption is usually granted between 6 to 9 months.
If the birth parents (or parent if one is not involved) chooses, they can relinquish their rights voluntarily to a person of their choice. If they choose to relinquish to the foster family, for example, the process would be sped up exponentially. They would surrender their parental rights on the condition that the foster family adopt. After their papers were signed, the adoption petition could be filed and granted quickly by the court. Years could be cut out of the process, and the birth parents would have no termination on their record (a serious black mark), and they would not immediately have their future children removed from them at birth.
Wow. Thank you for outlining this. So much is left to chance. If you had to reform foster care law, what would you do, if anything?