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Niece is in foster care...help! - Page 4

post #61 of 112
Thread Starter 
I'm sorry if I've hurt any feelings. I should have been more clear in my post. When I was talking about how it seems there is a hierarchal system where the foster parents are in power and the bio parents shouldn't make waves, I was referring to Queenjane's post.

"I have thought of something else as well.....i think its really important that the mother of the child make every effort to "make nice" with the foster parent, to at least be respectful (not saying she isnt), to chat with her if at all possible, to ask questions about how the child is doing, ask friendly "how about the weather" type of questions ("So how was your Christmas? Any plans for the kids for Valentine's Day?" that sort of thing)...when i first starting fostering my son, his mother seemed pretty suspicious of me and seemed almost to be staking out her territory....every visit seemed to be some comment about his hair, the length of his nails, what he was wearing. But the longer i have had her son, the more she has learned to trust me i guess and she doesnt judge me like that so much, which has gone a LONG way in us developing a relationship. Its a big reason why i will feel comfortable having a very open relationship w/ her if i am able to adopt her son."

For some reason that really rubbed me the wrong way, but reading over it again I understand a little bit more where she's coming from.

I understand completely that the foster parents aren't in control of this situation. I'm really just super frustrated at the system that is keeping everyone in the dark. I want the foster parents to know that we exist asap so they aren't under the impression that they can adopt.

I think that what you all do is a very noble thing, and I admire all of you. There should be more respect given to everyone involved. My SIL is an addict, but she isn't a monster.

Anyway, I still think it's out of line to toilet train and bottle wean a baby in less than a month. They must have started immediately!

Again, I'm very sorry for any hurt feelings. I really think I was out of line on a number of things.
post #62 of 112
I won't debate anymore of the issues at hand, simply because I think it's beating a dead horse down even more. But I just wanted to say it's okay, OP. We are all in this boat, some from one side of things some from the opposite. Emotions get heated. When there are kids involved, everyone riles up quickly and we all say and do things out of that place. I can agree to disagree and as I've said, apologize as well for any hurt feelings. You're in a tough position and navigation through this won't be easy. Thankfully there are many officials who will review the facts and determine what is best for this little girl permanently, whatever those decisions are and whenever they are made. Most of the time it runs smoothly, sometimes not. I met a foster mom IRL who has done this for nearly 20 years in the county we have dealt with. I asked her about all the madness I have seen, and as she said, "More than the majority of the time, things work out in the end. Not always on the timetable we want, but they do. You'll see."
post #63 of 112
I think a part of what happens in the foster parent/child/parent triad is that the child's parent is in a place where they are really struggling and have perhaps been struggling for a very long time. Often their child was a sort of focal point for living right/abstaining from substance abuse/maintaining meds etc. When the child is apprehended, the parent is obviously thrown into crisis. The social workers have professional skills which in some cases equip them well for dealing with the parent in crisis. In some cases less so. The foster parents have many skills which they are called on daily to use when parenting their foster children, some are even licensed as therapeutic foster homes. The foster parents also might already have or develop over time skills to use to facilitate communications with the parent who's child is in care, but this is a tricky tricky relationship, even for people with very developed interpersonal skills accustomed to dealing with adults in crisis/adults struggling with issues that could lead to apprehension.
In terms of the power perception, it is clear that the foster parents do not have power in terms of the outcome of the case plan or the longterm plan for the child in care. The foster parents must even follow state guidelines to a certain extent in terms of care (more tightly due to licensing than say, your average jo at playgroup parents). The perception of power on the part of the family of the child in care is I think around the power to decide when to wean to a sippy cup and other less milestone-y day to day aspects of parenting. For the parent (from family of origin), these day to day aspects of parenting have probably been representative of HUGE elements of parenting and personal empowerment. The foster parent will likely be encouraged by the social worker to communicate with the child's parents about care etc, but the social worker likely also will moderate these communications if they become too critical/abusive towards the foster parent.

I once heard a young mom in crisis say "they threaten you with the One Thing they know you care about the most in the world". (talking about her child, who was in care). It struck me that she wasn't making a strong link between her case plan and her child's apprehension, but was encountering the social worker and CPS as a sort of elaborate behaviour modification program. This speaks to both her level of crisis and her ability to problem solve at that time and in general.

It is becoming more accepted that rehabilitation/recovery from addiction for mothers is most effective when women can receive treatment without prolonged seperation from their children. When it isn't safe for a child to be living with the parents, this connection to children is carried out through visits (where I live this driving is done by CPS staff, not foster parents) and through journal type contact between foster family/parents. It is so easy for this to break down, and so clear why it happens with little facilitation between two parties with so much potential for misunderstanding and antagonism and often a deficit of information about each other and about the entire situation. With so much of the success of the parent's ability to complete a case plan riding on the parent to show 'compliance', the idea of pursuing a positive friendly relationship with the foster family becomes tainted by the confusion over the coercive 'compliance' the client needs to show the social worker. It's misplaced, but based on a part of the parent's reality. On the other hand, I have also seen mothers who's children are in care slip easily into thinking of the foster families as benevolent extended family who are loving their babies while the mom gets her act together. I think this is most often when the mothers are from cultures where it is common and expected that older female relatives will assist with the care of the children.

this was a bit of a novella. As I've said, my involvement in the foster/adoption triad is only indirect in my personal life, and peripheral in my professional life. Still, this stuff is fascinating. Hence, novella.

So, Oliver's mom, what is your next step? Have you heard more from the social worker?
post #64 of 112
This is just a tough situation. From a sort of outsider's position since I've not fostered or adopted, I do know from talking over a period of a decade to one of my students who was in foster care, then adopted, that even the right things are hard. She was FINALLY put into foster care during her 6th grade year after her mother attempted to sell her sexually to pay for her drug habit and the girl ran, taking her two brothers with. She was glad to be there, and old enough to make her feelings known. It was her opinion, and this is a long term one, that the system that offered her mother so many second chances was completely unfair to her or her siblings. She felt as though the system was set up to rehabilitate her mother using her children as a sort of bait, rather than to do what was best for the kids overall. It sounds harsh, but she and her brothers were really "done" with their bio mom by the time CPS intervened. She'd already done so much damage that the way foster care worked for them was just overkill and pointless. They were ready to attach to the foster parents they lived with, settle down and heal. They wanted no more upheaval, not even if it meant living with blood relatives. In one of her angry phases, she said that she didn't see the point of being removed and re-placed with blood family, since they'd known what had been going on (in this case the person she was referring to did know about the drug habit and the way the children were kept - not saying that's your position at all) and that the blood relation didn't care enough then to either keep reporting or do something about it. It is a very harsh stance (and maybe not 100% correct), but right out of the mouth of someone actually living it, so valid in my mind. HTH with some of the reasoning behind CPS' thinking.
post #65 of 112
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post
I think it's also worth doing a really hard look at how this will affect your relationship with your extended family. It sounds like you have a lot of contact with them, and are genuinely sympathetic to them (not that this is a bad thing). But what if, once you get the facts of the case, it turns out that there was more involved than just what you have been told?

What if your family members don't respect your boundaries with your family, if you get custody of your niece? Are you prepared to put your foot down, potentially enact some safety measures? Will you be able to deal with the fallout that happens a LOT in this sort of situation? (the whole family turning against you, when you are not part of the social system that's taking the baby away?)

I think a lot of people don't take that into consideration and they are blindsided by the fallout (even if it's only temporary) that often arises.
I have to admit I was so NOT prepared for how this was going to affect my relationship with my family. It is one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with and there are MANY times that I wished we lived far away from them and didnt have to deal with them any more. It is so hard to set up boundaries and enforce them when it involves family.

We have adopted my 3yo twin neice and nephew, they have been with us since they were 3 weeks old and the adoption was finalized two weeks before their second birthday. We also have guardianship of my 13 yo neice.

My sister and bil have a serious drug problem and have been in and out of jail for the past several years. The twins were born with drugs in their system and went thru some mild withdrawls when they were born, but luckily don't seem to have any other long lasting issues.

Things started out very civil, in fact I was at the hospital the night the twins were born. My sister asked me if anything happened would I please take the twins for her. When OCS first contacted us they just wanted my father and I to monitor my sis and bil. To watch over them and make sure all the kids (5 in total) were being taken care of properly. That changed a week later when they got caught stealing and had drugs on them. That is when the twins came to me and they have been with us ever since.

It didn't stay civil for long. We got accused of trying to keep the twins from my sis and bil, which was so far from the truth. I would take the babies to my dad's house (which is where we met for visits) and be there for hours waitng for them to show up. My sis and bil were always either VERY late or just wouldn't show. I told my sister to call anytime she wanted to see them, she rarely called. Things got nasty very quickly. We got several threatening letters from my bil which is when we finally told them they were going to have to go thru the state to set up visits, we were thru dealing with them.

My relationship with my sister was already somewhat damaged, but it is now been almost totally severed. My relationship with my dad has also been severely damaged. Things with my dad are fine while my sister is in jail, but when she is out she lives with him (even though he has guardianship of my neice and nephew and she isn't supposed to). At least until he finally gets fed up with her drug use and kicks her out, which doesnt last long before he feels sorry for her again and lets her back. This last time was because she was pregnant AGAIN!?!?!?! Just last month she gave birth to a baby boy with her new boyfriend (who just happens to be in jail now)

Thankfully my sister was able to get clean for the last part of her pregnancy and the baby seems healthy. At this time my sister still has the baby, but who knows how long that will last. If I sound a little angry and bitter, it's because I am! I am VERY frustrated with all the stuff I have to deal with when it comes to my sister. It has been very hard for me watching my dad always supporting her, especially after all the stuff she has done to him and my mom (they have stolen over $150,000 from my parents not to mention all the other stuff they stole and pawned). If it weren't for my 13 yo neice, I would totally cut off all contact with them. At this time the twins have nothing to do with my sister. Until she can get and stay clean that is how it will remain.

I guess all that to say, sometimes dealing with family can be sooooo difficult. What starts out as civil, can get ugly very quickly and tear a family apart. I lost my mom (my mom died 4 days before the twins were born), my sister and my dad all at the same time. While the loss of those that were closest to me has been very hard, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat for these two little ones. I couldn't imagine my life without them.
post #66 of 112
OK, I'm not "in the know" with all the details here with the system and all, but... If your SIL WANTS YOU to have the child, and YOU WANT TO TAKE HER, why can't that just happen and we skip the foster parents? The idea of foster parents is that they KNOW that they are a temporary, loving home (even if they want to ultimately adopt). Sometimes, they do adopt the children in their care. But that is not the true point and they should/do know this. Foster care, in essence, is a temporary situation. Period. I absolutely feel for the foster parents who fall in love and see a future with a child. But the reality is that this is is not the driving force of what is happening for the children when they are placed and cannot be, as the focus of foster care is not to adopt out kids whose parents are having a hard time but to shelter them as things are sorted out. Hard- absolutely.

It sounds like neither you nor the child's mother really want the foster parents to adopt...? No? If not, then you should start to see if you can take the child, as the longer she stays in care, the harder it will be.
post #67 of 112
That makes sense, but it isn't clear if the child's mother realizes that if the child moves out of state, that would prevent her from having visitation and make reunification that much harder. The OP has stated that she doesn't think the child's mother would move closer.
post #68 of 112
Move and visit are different... Also, there are sometimes more flexible arrangements with family situations that don't involve such firm deadlines (meaning, there are a range of custody agreements beyond just parental rights terminated in months and adoption... There is temporary custody, etc.).

It sounds like the op and the sil have a good relationship. The OP has spoken of her with respect and honoring her position as a mother. She has also been clear on doing what is best for the child and her expectations of her sil have seemed realistic as well and the op is ready to step up. I totally understand that family adoptions can be complicated, but they can also give piece of mind to this mom who seems to know she is unable to care for the child but still wants to know she is ok and doesn't want to leave her life as well as the op and her dh who do not want to let this child go either. The op has a vested and loving interest in raising this child. The mom seems to know that too. It seems like if the foster family is not an acceptable permanent or long term solution, so get the kid into the OP's house and then work it out in a more comfortable way for the family.

I know if I were in the mom's shoes it would take a huge stress off to know my daughter was with my brother and his wife, safe and loved and not against me (even if it turns out I was ultimately not able to provide a home for her) and visit less or have reunification take longer because of the distance. If I were the OP, I know it would be hard, but it seems the thought of loosing the child is much harder for both her and her husband and I can relate to that. And, if I were the social worker, I would see that the OP's house and family would probably ultimately be a better placement than an unrelated foster situation and that may be worth the extra effort, not to mention that there may be flexibility in the arrangement as well as a reduction in hostility and I might be able to help heal and keep a family together, even if not in the original situation vs damaging this family permanently with a removal and non-related adoption that clearly no one wants.
post #69 of 112
Once a child *is* in foster care, you can't skip the system altogether. Now the state essentially has temporary guardianship of the child and is responsible for making sure the child is in the best scenario for her. They WILL prioritize family placement, but they'll also consider whether the move would impact visitation (which may not be a problem if and when the case has moved from a goal of reunification to termination), etc. They'll also likely need the potential home and situation to get checked out.
post #70 of 112
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexsam View Post
It sounds like neither you nor the child's mother really want the foster parents to adopt...? No? If not, then you should start to see if you can take the child, as the longer she stays in care, the harder it will be.
In my area, relatives do not automatically trump everyone else. Yes, they TRY to place with relatives whenever possible, but i have seen several situations where adoptive parents have been chosen over relatives for various (good) reasons.

Also...she can't simply get the child...if she lived in the area, it would likely be a "no brainer", she would need to pass some simple background checks (they dont want to send the child from "the frying pan into the fryer"), but the child could be placed quickly. The fact that she is in another state really complicates things because there are alot more regulations to follow...they cant just send her there. If the mom is willing to sign over the child completely to the relative, that may be one thing, but if she wants to attempt reunification, they will likely want to keep the mom and child close together to maintain the bond and work on services. Also, if TPR does happen, its not the mom who decides who will get her child. My fs' father has been begging for his sister to get my fs, since the beginning, but its not happening (safety issues.) It will be the agency, likely, or some other "authority" who will determine what is in the child's best interests at that point.
post #71 of 112
Quote:
Originally Posted by queenjane View Post
Also, if TPR does happen, its not the mom who decides who will get her child. My fs' father has been begging for his sister to get my fs, since the beginning, but its not happening (safety issues.) It will be the agency, likely, or some other "authority" who will determine what is in the child's best interests at that point.
That is to say mom holds much more power, in many cases all the power, with a voluntary relinquishment. If she can't get her stuff together and it gets to termination, they'll give her a last opportunity to relinquish and then she loses all rights in the termination.

This was really sad in the case of dd. Mom did not clean up her act after plenty of time to do so and lots of support and coaching, but when the state finally and reluctantly sought termination, they pleaded with the mother several last times to relinquish. We were eager to have an open adoption agreement, and hoped for this reason that she would relinquish. She did not, and once the state went to termination, they would not support an open adoption and we all lost the opportunity.
post #72 of 112
Well, you don't know until you try .

There are so many "what if's" and so many rules for different states and they all vary and there is a lot that is left to the discretion of the social worker that it is practically impossible to know what is and is not possible for this family.

But, if the op wants her, she should assert that and work tward it, otherwise the machine that is already in place will seek the easiest route with the least resistance (foster family, mom tries, fails, foster family willing to adopt, done).

Honestly, if it were me as the OP, I'd get a laywer as sorting out second hand information, knowing what are the laws and rights compared to a social workers oppinions and perspectives is not always clear. That may or may not be possible, but that is what I would do.
post #73 of 112
By the way, Oliver'sMom, I went back and read my posts and will return to some of my first advice/questions. Did you write a letter and send it certified mail to the social worker and supervisor asking to have the child placed with you if things continue to go down hill for the mother?
post #74 of 112
Right! Maybe the mom could relinquish voluntarily with an arrangement with the op.
post #75 of 112
But it sounds like the mom is still trying to do what she needs to do to get her child back. That would still be ideal.
post #76 of 112
Oops. I thought "reliquish" could also include a temporary situation.

So there is *no* option where the mom can say "You're right. I really can't be a mom right now. I'm not sure what will happen, but I'm going to try to get it together. In the meantime, I'd like my brother and sil to take my child and be legally responsible for her and I will sign whatever papers to give them rights and responsibilities until *whatever is met* and she will be safe there and you can check it out yourself..."?

I'm not sure what the rules are, but it seems like a reasonable enough suggestion that I would think would be considered by a social worker or a judge... I bet there would be resistance, but it may be possible, no? I suppose I am having trouble digesting that a loving, safe and stable aunt would be denied custody or temporary custodial care when it is what both the aunt and mother want. The mother may have made a mistake and might not be able to ultimately care for her child, but that shouldn't mean that she has zero input...
post #77 of 112
Wow. What a heartwrenching situation OP.
post #78 of 112
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver'sMom View Post
I'm sorry if I've hurt any feelings. I should have been more clear in my post. When I was talking about how it seems there is a hierarchal system where the foster parents are in power and the bio parents shouldn't make waves, I was referring to Queenjane's post.

"I have thought of something else as well.....i think its really important that the mother of the child make every effort to "make nice" with the foster parent, to at least be respectful (not saying she isnt), to chat with her if at all possible, to ask questions about how the child is doing, ask friendly "how about the weather" type of questions ("So how was your Christmas? Any plans for the kids for Valentine's Day?" that sort of thing)...when i first starting fostering my son, his mother seemed pretty suspicious of me and seemed almost to be staking out her territory....every visit seemed to be some comment about his hair, the length of his nails, what he was wearing. But the longer i have had her son, the more she has learned to trust me i guess and she doesnt judge me like that so much, which has gone a LONG way in us developing a relationship. Its a big reason why i will feel comfortable having a very open relationship w/ her if i am able to adopt her son."

For some reason that really rubbed me the wrong way, but reading over it again I understand a little bit more where she's coming from.

I understand completely that the foster parents aren't in control of this situation. I'm really just super frustrated at the system that is keeping everyone in the dark. I want the foster parents to know that we exist asap so they aren't under the impression that they can adopt.

I think that what you all do is a very noble thing, and I admire all of you. There should be more respect given to everyone involved. My SIL is an addict, but she isn't a monster.

Anyway, I still think it's out of line to toilet train and bottle wean a baby in less than a month. They must have started immediately!

Again, I'm very sorry for any hurt feelings. I really think I was out of line on a number of things.
I just want to point something out regarding the weaning and the potty training.


You are on a natural minded parenting message board. So I am thinking you are kind of in favor of child led weaning and learning the potty when the child shows interest.
Not everyone thinks like that. My mother "potty trained" me at a year old and she took my bottle away from me at 13 months. Those were the standards when I was born in 80.
As much as we think it is detrimental to the child, most of us were probably forced to potty train before we were really ready and weaned before it was our time to, and it turned out okay for us.

Maybe this family is providing her the security and the structure that her mother couldn't. Maybe that made it easier for her to wean and potty train. My daughter was dry by 18 months. completely dry and she potty trained in under two weeks. I waited until she showed me she was ready (waking up bone dry for a month, vocalizing pee and poo) and then we just got rid of the cloth nappies and went for it. It worked and she took to it super easy. Some kids are like that.

What I am saying is that while I kind of agree that taking away a bottle is a bit harsh, it's not abusive and by no means cruel. As long as she is comforting her another way, everything will be okay.


But I am sorry for your situation and I hope your niece gets a home soon.
post #79 of 112
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexsam View Post
I'm not sure what the rules are, but it seems like a reasonable enough suggestion that I would think would be considered by a social worker or a judge... I bet there would be resistance, but it may be possible, no? I suppose I am having trouble digesting that a loving, safe and stable aunt would be denied custody or temporary custodial care when it is what both the aunt and mother want. The mother may have made a mistake and might not be able to ultimately care for her child, but that shouldn't mean that she has zero input...
That may very well happen. The OP hasnt gotten far enough in the process yet to know.

One thing is certain about foster care....the system moves at its own pace. Court dates get rescheduled, workers can change at the drop of a hat, anything can happen and it often all takes a looong time. If the child has only been in care one month, to DHS thats hardly any time at all. My foster daughter had a relative actively working to have her moved to her and that took two months to accomplish (but when the decision was made, she was moved the next day)....my baby's birthmother had NO interest whatsoever in RU, pretty much told them that and then dropped off the planet, and it still took four months to TPR, and thats with NO mother or father in the picture and no relatives coming forward to take placement. (And that was considered VERY VERY fast.)
post #80 of 112
I just wanted to re-iterate what some posters early in the thread have said: make your interest in the child clear and try to have some contact with her all throughout the case. If it goes to termination, there will be a much stronger case for your home as a placement.

How strongly relatives are favored over foster parents as adoptive placements varies by state and also, I think, by area. Certain counties around here lean more towards relative placement at all costs, others don't. I know of two cases where foster parents were given placement of children over relatives, because the relatives showed up VERY late in the game, had had no prior contact with the child, nor expressed any interest in the child. The judge decided that staying with a family that had already bonded with the child, and not breaking that bond for the uncertain possibility of a bond with a complete stranger, was in the best interest of the child.

I don't know how common that is; I don't know how the judges and other people making the decisions lean in your area. If you have a true interest in the little girl, I would try to establish a relationship with them while in care, as much as you are allowed. I don't know how much that would be allowed. I think that also depends on your area and the particular people involved in the case.
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