I can't believe I didn't write a post at all in the month of October. Wow. It's not because nothing was happening around here I can assure you. Phew! October is a month of celebration around my home so we try to do more than just survive but man.oh.man did we survive this year.
And now November is here and I come bringing wonderful news!
In September I pleaded with you all to help us bring Miss E home then later confessed Miss E was my niece with more details around what was going on in that situation. This was just one experience of many in my world and the world of all of my foster-care-sisters around me. Craziness that left me with such a heavy weight related to our role in foster care and adoption. In all honesty sometimes it gets so heavy that I wish I could ignore the needs of foster children and move on with my life absent-minded of the fact that so many out there need foster and/or adoptive parents whether I want to pay attention to it or not.
There was mediation about Miss E's return on October 2nd. The hopes were at that mediation everyone could be on the same page so that birth parents would relinquish with an agreement that my sister would regain custody and be the adoptive parent. CASA was on board. Ad litem was on board. BIRTH MOM was on board. CPS was not and said they would not get on board with that plan - they'd rather go to trial. So after hopes and hopes were held high for weeks and then the morning was spent rejoicing that everyone else was on board, CPS came in to dash all those hopes in the afternoon by saying they would never agree to my sister getting custody back (even though they also said they have no concerns about Miss E's safety with my sister).
The next step was to meet with the judge to see what the judge had to say, informally of course, regarding where Miss E should go. Theoretically, if the judge said given the circumstances she'd rule a certain way (but not actually rule that way since it was just an informal conversation, not a hearing), my sister would have the opportunity to get Miss E back soon after if CPS agreed to move in lieu of or in advance of a hearing. Nope, they said, they'd never do that.
Nevertheless "we" went forward with that plan and waited 2 more weeks to meet with the judge hoping that though there was a good chance she'd say she agrees Miss E should move back there was a small chance that would actually happen because CPS insisted they needed to go to trial and be ordered to give her back.
2 weeks came and went. There was a scheduling conflict and the date had to be moved again. In between there's lots of talk about how it could go this way or that and this drama and that and what if we never see her again? We tried to remain hopeful.
Another week went by and this time I couldn't make it to court to see how things would go. I waited all day. It should have lasted 30 minutes but it was on the calendar for the last thing at the end of the day so I had to wait for a response (as did my sister so I'm not trying to make this a sob story about mie). After 15-20 minutes I texted my sister. No response. I was in an executive-level meeting so I tried to be discreet but I texted her again. And again. And again. No response. 90 minutes after court should have been over I called with no answer. And again. And again. Finally I got a text back:
"I'm busy now. Call back later"
There were a lot of things going through my mind including - REALLY? You're too busy to let me know how things are going really?
I had no other choice but to go on with my evening but it was very, very hard. I didn't know if things had gone well and she was trying to surprise me or if things were still in progress and she couldn't respond or if things went really bad (read: the judge said no) and my sister was all alone dealing with her emotions. I hated that I couldn't be there. But I went home and my family had pizza.
At 7pm the doorbell rang. We were still eating (it was a late night) so my hubby ran to get the door. I knew it was my sister, or, that it should have been, but I had no idea what message she would be bringing. I was beyond nervous.
Two seconds after my hubby went outside the doorbell began ringing overandoverandoverandover. Clearly I was supposed to come to the door.
So I did.
I opened the door.
There was my hubby in the doorway.
Holding SuEden (Sweden).
My sister was in the background filming our reactions, which is why she wouldn't text me back or answer my calls. I'll spare you the details but the judge made it very clear that SuEden should have never been removed in the first place and against all procedural odds signed an order that gave my sister immediate custody of her daughter. The foster parent was wonderfully supportive and upon hearing the order was signed sent a video immediately to my sister with SuEden saying something along the lines of "Hi Mommy. I'm going to see you soon". She went to pick her up and then came straight to my place.
I could watch the video of that moment over and over again. I wish I could share it here. It's all that's right in the world I tell you. It's almost like the videos of the soldiers who come home and surprise their kids. Because that night I (we) would have either learned that SuEden was coming home (even if it was going to take a little bit longer) OR that we'd never see her again. It really was at that point.
Since then things have been up and down. Things should have been done by CPS that weren't leaving my sister, theoretically, to pick up the pieces with an emotional but even more financial burden. There still was the matter of a trial with several named fathers one of whom wouldn't sign away his rights because he wanted a paternity test to prove he wasn't the father so no one couldn't come after him for child support later. He didn't get the concept of signing away his rights I suppose.
Needless to say on Tuesday this week, once again against all odds, the judge terminated rights on all potential parents of SuEden, granting my sister sole managing conservatorship, and closing the case. She's my sister's forever. She's back home to stay.
This has been a very expensive endeavor. There's several, several thousand dollars that have been spent so far and about $3K more will be needed to finalize the adoption. If you feel inclined, please contribute to the "bring Miss E home" donation at the upper right side of my page. Everything is helpful at this point. We'll figure out the finances - God will provide. In reality all that matters is our sweet niece is home and though the trauma of the ordeal is still very fresh she has always been and will always be very worth it.
On a side note - nearly everyone in this case is the same as in my case except for the biological parents, of course. What made the judge rule in favor of my sister will almost certainly (in my mind) make her rule in favor of the birth parents in my case even though the situations are very, very different. The attorney we would have chosen to intervene with and who made such a difference in my sister's case has now, unfortunately, already committed to be the mediator in my case, further hurting our chances to keep our kiddos forever. In my sister's case she really was the best parent for her daughter. In our kids' case I have serious concern (as does everyone in the case) as to whether our kids would be safe for very long if reunification happened. I've known along every step of the way that as my sister's case goes, the opposite will probably be true of me and because we helped finance my sister's case our options to finance our own are limited. It doesn't matter, it was the right thing to do and we believe our God is way bigger than any of these circumstances. Nevertheless we and our kiddos could use your prayers as we prepare for mediation before the end of the year.