Sorry for the lack of posting. We just got back from our Sea World vacation and had a blast but took us away from the real world for a week. (Yes!). And, before that, life got crazy at work. I work for an organization that has been very publicly in the news recently and seeing as how my role is significantly responsible for communication it turned my world upside down for a while. The week after we got the siblings. At least we got a week with them to "settle in" before things went nuts.
In that time we also went to court for an update. The goal is termination and non-relative adoption (us) but that is very much contested as neither parent agrees with termination. It has more/less been decided that both parents cannot have them together, only one parent has a shot at getting them back (i don't know the details behind why that is) but this is complicated by the fact that the parents are still together and do not intend to be separated, other than for the 6 months it would take to get the case over with and get the kids back. They've said that. Several times. So - it is a very interesting case. At the recent court date the judge made it clear she does not support termination at this point and extended visits to 4 hours unsupervised with the three siblings and the favored parent. The intention is to "see how this goes" so that we could work toward return at some point in the next few months. Baby is not included in this whole deal for reasons unbeknownst to me (and I'm not complaining or questioning).
The judge seemed to me to be wanting to put these kids back with the favored parent no.matter.what and is bending over backwards to get that to happen at the risk of putting the kids in jeopardy both physically and emotionally despite the parent(s) continuous inability to be on a positive trajectory for the past two years. One step forward, 3/4 step backward. If we're really tracking progress in quarter steps is that enough for these kiddos? No. The kids did mention that they want to stay with us "forever and ever" and their attorney, when asked by the judge, said as much. The whole thing is confusing to me because in any other situation, in many other courts, this case would have been done and over with.
I left court that day pretty upset. I'm frustrated because these kids deserve safety and stability and they are not going to get that with these extended visits. The conversation in court prior to official proceedings is that no one believes this will be successful in the long run but they all hesitantly agreed to the visits to put on a good face for the judge and to let the parents dig their grave (these are my words, not theirs). If that is the case, where is the best interest of the kids? Who is REALLY sticking up for them? I hate that they are being drug through this any longer, now moving past the 2 year mark. Plus, who knows how this affects baby baby who has known no other mom but me. Is this going to turn out that after 9-12 months he goes to live with a stranger? Will he be permanently separated from his bio-siblings? I hate that the judge doesn't support termination here. I've had these kids now for a month and knowing how they've been doing and what they're relationship and history look like with their parents it just kills me that this is dragging out. These visits are just going to complicate their healing.
The other thing I'm upset about is how this is going to affect our family. We have to find a time where we can carve out a 4 hour part of our day, dependent purely upon parent and relative-supervisors schedule, which is very limited. We have so little time together as a whole family as it is that I really look forward to our weekends to book special things like trips to the zoo or the museum or the waterpark. I'll have a hard time doing that though because I'll have to drop them off somewhere, then drive to where I want to go, leave 30-60 minutes before the visit is up so I can get somewhere to pick them up. That means I'll have 90 minutes or so to "do something" with the kids left in my house - which isn't really long at all. Or I use that time to do something short but impactful with my forever kids, meaning the foster kids get left-out of what we're doing because of their visit. I hate that too.
Then there's the trauma-induced behaviors that visits cause before and after. Significant portions of days will be spent in therapeutic parenting because of visits that are not expected to work out anyway. That sucks for the foster children. It sucks for the forever children. It sucks for us parents. I was upset about it.
I decided to go with the option of spending time with my forever children during their extended visits, which means parent is picking them up from me at our weekly grocery store trip and then dropping them off at the local waterpark. I'm taking the kids to the waterpark during the visit and I don't have to miss any waterpark time because parent is dropping them off there.
We were able to do one of those visits so far. The children were out of sorts in the morning waiting for their visit and then reacted strangely (staying with me) when parent came to pick them up 30 minutes early for their visit. They left with parent ok when it was actually time to go. When they were dropped off at the waterpark things went sour. The oldest two were QUITE upset that they had to go with parent instead of going with us to the waterpark. They angrily vowed never to go to a visit again. Behavior calmed later that night as we got in to a normal dinner routine. And wondered how the supervised visit scheduled for the next day would go since they insisted they were never going again.
Surprisingly - supervised visit was canceled because parents couldn't make it.
Another supervised & unsupervised visit was scheduled earlier this week because they missed the normal one since we were on vacation. note - they didn't say a word about visits while on vacation. I told them they had to go to school instead of staying home with the forevers because they had a visit to go to. They were wild as usual (and by they I mean one of them, really). They were supposed to be picked up so they didn't have a lunch or their normal nap-time bags. Of course, for a reason unknown to me, this visit too was canceled and set to be rescheduled later this week without the unsupervised time, leading me to wonder what happened in the case to prevent this visit?
Who is hurt in all of this? Once again, the kids, whom everyone is supposed to be protecting. They had to be treated differently than my forever kids because of their visit. Then their visit didn't happen. One made up all sorts of crazy excuses why parent didn't show up to the visit. The others didn't seem to care but I know it affected them. I wonder if this is the new pattern and the beginning of the end or if this will continue indefinitely until eventually they're put back in the home well after they've really bonded to us, against their wishes. Hmmmm...