Family Just Ought To Come First

My family is fractured by adoption but thankfully, those who went away have reunited with the rest of us and those we never knew are better known now thanks to those who did know my original grandparents. So, today’s unbelievable but true story.

Looking to find sources to help bring my cousin home. We have signed an intent to adopt and filled out licensing paperwork to adopt my 18 month old cousin. He has been in care 15 months and we only found out about this the last week in June. On July 1st, I started emailing the case worker asking for placement and expressing our interest in adopting, if it came to that. I got no reply. On July 11th, the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) happened. I emailed everyday after expressing our interest and explaining we were already licensed to foster. We finally got to have a visit with him on Aug 1st and again, this past Friday via zoom. We have virtual bi-weekly visits set up because we are 10 hours away. We are the first members in our family to get to see him aside from mom and dad since he has been in care. The agency has made it clear that the foster parents have also signed an intent to adopt, so we are viewed as a competing party to them. They have now had him for almost 7 months. There is a post TPR hearing this week. The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) said it will probably only be a 10 min hearing and that probably nothing will happen at that hearing. The agency has made it clear they don’t plan on changing his placement until they give a recommendation regarding who they feel the best family fit is to adopt him and gives consent, then the judge orders the child’s placement. Please help If you can.

The response from a former foster care youth – It pisses me off foster parents do this and the state supports foster parents doing this. My heart hurts that so many kids miss out on being with family. My advice is don’t believe and never believe foster parents, the GAL, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), caseworker, or anyone else in the system. They’re all for themselves. Don’t believe in the “child is bonding” crap either. They use this to keep kids and adopt them out to strangers. Don’t fall for the open adoption crap either. I agree with hiring a lawyer. I wanted to comment and say “I’m sorry”. I’m sorry you can’t get your cousin and I’m sorry foster parents and the state are selfish people. If the child is a child they are willing to disrupt, a perceived bond won’t matter, if that is disrupted again. I missed out on being with family because Child Protective Services (CPS) didn’t care, even though I did go back. However, I could’ve avoided 24 foster homes if CPS did their jobs and placed me with family. Nobody understands the trauma they’re putting kids through by not keeping them with family.

Parentification

This was a new term for me and came out of one of the stories I read recently conveyed by a foster parent. Here’s the story –

I am currently fostering a 14 year old. They were removed because of trauma from a family member who is not their mom but who still lives with their mom. Mom refuses to ask this person to leave or to move into a different apartment, but is otherwise doing what is asked of her to work towards reunification. Today this kid told me they really want to be reunified, which makes perfect sense. I’m worried because this seems unlikely unless mom starts believing them and takes steps to cut their perpetrator out of her life. How do I support them? If you were in their shoes, what would you want from a foster caregiver? I’m also worried because many of the reasons this kid states for wanting to reunify are to care for their mom. It’s not my place to make the judgment calls, but it seems from the outside like a case of parentification. Add to this that I’ve heard this child talk about how much they wish they had been given the opportunity that their peers had to “just be a kid”.

So what is parentification ? Parentification is when the roles are reversed between a child and a parent, a toxic family dynamic that is rarely talked about and is even accepted as the norm in some cultures. However, research has found that it can have far-reaching negative psychological impacts. It is a functional and/or emotional role reversal in which the child sacrifices his or her own needs for attention, comfort, and guidance in order to accommodate and care for the logistical and emotional needs of a parent and/or sibling.

One response was this from experience – my parents put me in foster care briefly when I was suicidal from the pressure of being a “good kid” and experiencing their abuse. I wanted to go back to them to protect my brother. I feel for the teen. I would have this child in therapy now to begin processing those emotions of responsibility. I’m 24 and still struggle with guilt that my brother may have suffered when I was gone or what would have happened if I’d stayed gone. My mom would’ve likely lost her mind. She did – when I went to college. My best advice is therapy for the child while in your care, and perhaps talk to a therapist about how you could best talk to their mom about her removing that person in the home. My mom chose my dad over me often, so I feel for the teen.

Another one shared – Unfortunately this might be something that never fully goes away. I was like this, the eldest child who took care of the family from a very young age and getting rid of that guilt and the “needing to take care of them feeling” has been very very resistant to therapy. I think the best you can do is just try to be empathetic, don’t make them feel like they’re acting too old or whatever (mine did that and it really fucked with my head) just be kind and remind them they can relax and do things for themselves, even if they don’t listen.

This one touched my heart, because I am the oldest as well. I was not in an awful situation but I have always felt a sense of responsibility for my two sisters. Our parents died only 4 months apart (high school sweethearts married for over 50 years). From the first day I returned to my family after my mom died first, I found myself having to take over financial responsibility for my sisters that my mom had been financially providing, making me in effect “the mom”. Then, after our dad died too, I had to ask the court to appoint someone to assist my youngest sister with her finances. She is likely a paranoid schizophrenic with very weird ideas about the way money functions. The court agreed to appoint a conservator. My sister and I have struggled. What had been a really good relationship before was destroyed when our mom died. Our mom had a poor relationship with my sister for over a decade and my sister’s feelings about that transferred to me when my mom died and I had to take over the family finances.

Also this interesting perspective – I cared for a teen relative of mine last year similar situation. As soon as she could legally, she returned to mom and the abuser to care for her siblings again and her mom. This is what she had been taught was the only way to get attention, love etc from mom. The best way we found to help her was to enroll her in a group for teens about healthy relationships at our local Domestic Violence shelter. She also did therapy with someone she selected and equine psychotherapy which helped her with attachment a lot. While she was here, we focused on just reminding her of our unconditional love and building trust in our relationship. Even though she went back, it didn’t take long for all of that to help her see how to set boundaries with mom, identify unsafe situations with abuser and start to come out of some of the fog. It’s still complicated but she isn’t engrained and I see her setting more healthy boundaries. We (and her dad) are still safe people she can come too and does. It took about 6 months of us just watching from a distance and being supportive regardless. In your situation, maybe focus on staying neutral and asking for a CASA or Guardian ad Litem to help with the other side of the coin. Having a mentor also really helped my relative. It was someone closer to her age that she could confide in and she is still actively talking to that person now. Maybe your foster youth could use a mentor because they aren’t a therapist but can be a sounding board. Also a lifeline if the youth returns and ‘adults’ get cut off from that person. (I say adults because the mentors we have had are usually 25 or younger and parents don’t see them like they do a 40 year old caseworker).

When The Money Matters

Family court is always about who can outspend the other, not about who is best for a child. Now, if you are biological family to a child who’s parents aren’t fit and that child is taken by the Dept of Social Services, any foster parent can outspend you in court and adopt and take that kid, YOUR BLOOD family, anywhere they want. Biology means nothing compared to a “foster” parent wishing to adopt a “Same Race American” baby the cheap way.

Its much more expensive to adopt a child if you’re not a foster parent, but you can run most families in the ground financially trying to save their blood, and take that child with the help of Dept of Social Services (taxpayers help pay for these adoptions) for much less, usually. All thanks to this case ruling that was only intended to allow a foster to adopt – only – if the biological family was ALL unfit.

Now it applies in any case, even when that child has a huge, wonderful, loving family, even if a family has to cut ties with a biological parent. As always, $$$ talks, and this child could lose her wonderful grandparents after a $100,000 + 3 year battle.

I am so heartbroken for Gracie and The Hajeks. This case could affect any of us and often no one even knows about a family’s challenges. Many of us have either benefitted or lost in a divorce/custody case because of the amount of money we could spend, rather than what was in the best interest of the child. It would be morally wrong if this child is purchased by the highest bidder, rather than remaining with her natural family.

It is a complicated legal case – the grandparents have a temporary joint custody of their granddaughter in an odd custody arrangement that includes the former foster caregivers. The grandparents are being pushed to settle with previous foster parents because they want to adopt the child.

The girl was taken away from her mom at 3 days old when drugs were discovered in her biological system. The baby girl was then placed into foster care. The girl’s mom had tried to hide the identity of her dad and so put someone else’s name on the birth certificate (my own sister did that with my nephew).

So, the grandparents found out about the baby’s existence when she was 3 months old. Their son had learned about her and was trying to get custody. He had to have his paternity confirmed. This was finally completed when the baby girl was 7 months old. Though he wanted a relationship with his daughter, he wisely believed he could not care for her fully and asked his parents to step in. They willingly agreed.

The Dept of Social Services and the child’s Guardian Ad Litem recommended family placement. The judge presiding at the time awarded a visitation schedule to the foster caregivers along with placement with grandparents. Several months ago, when the Dept of Social Services wanted to close the case, the judge awarded an odd temporary joint custody between grandparents and foster caregivers. The girl spends 3 days with the foster parents and 4 days with her grandparents. The grandparents do have final say in her issues. The Dept of Social Services is no longer involved.

The foster caregivers are now fighting in court to adopt the 4 yr old girl. They have not done much to move the case forward. The strategy appears to be continuing the case, so that the grandparents run out of money and lose by default. The foster caregivers have never been generous as they have always wanted to adopt her. Originally they only wanted to give the grandparents 4 weekends a year. The grandparents pushed for their rights and were given every other weekend.

The grandparents are young – age 40 and under. They want to raise their granddaughter but feel trapped in the legal system. They don’t have funds to fight the foster caregivers for much longer. The grandparents have lost their lawyer because of falling into arrears in their payment of legal fees. So now, they are on their own in this fight.

Only noting here that the male foster caregiver is a police officer and worked as a court bailiff for many years. So he knows how the legal system functions.

Here is the link, Help The Hajek Family Fundraiser, if you are willing to donate to the grandparents’ legal expenses.

Is Guardianship Enough ?

As prospective adoptive and foster parents find the all things adoption group I belong to, some of their perspectives truly do begin to change. Same for expectant mothers thinking about surrendering their child for adoption, then changing their mind and deciding that they may actually be capable of raising their own child. Always a happy outcome.

Unfortunately, many Division of Children and Families agencies at the state level still operate from an obsolete point of view. Here’s a story from one foster mother who is facing that dilemma.

We have a 7 year old pre-adoptive foster son that has lived with us for 21+ months. I always had the intention of adopting (until I joined this group), but we were only regular foster parents until this boy moved in. Everything was going “well” and mom was going to sign an open adoption agreement. Then the pandemic hit and we had to supervise their video visits, which ended up being good because we got to know each other. Then we offered to supervise the monthly in-person visits. I joined this group and now I’m trying to help mom to get her son back. She is working on her plan and I’m so proud of her, but I am not sure it will be enough for Division of Children and Families. We have a permanency meeting in a month, so I need some help.

I have 2 questions about our situation:

For the adoptive parents/foster parents in the group: How do you navigate changing a goal of adoption to guardianship, when the department has said in the past that doesn’t offer enough permanency for the child and they would move him. Is a 7-8 year old listened to, if the child says he wants to live here forever but only if his mom can’t get better?

For the adoptees/former foster youth in the group: Let’s assume mom’s rights are terminated. There is no dad involved and there literally is no family that could take this boy in and raise him. How do we know if this boy really wants to be adopted by us or not? How do we know if guardianship is or isn’t enough for him? We have a biological child who is only 6 months, in case that matters. How old is old enough for us to follow what the boy requests? We have heard so many adoptive parents talk about how their children’s behaviors changed after adoption because they felt “secure”, but after reading so much stuff in this group, I have a whole different view about adoption. Yet I don’t know how to figure out what our foster son would really want or if he would think we love him less, if we don’t adopt him.

Only one response, from an adoptive/foster parent so far but it could be helpful to others in a similar situation –

Does he have a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) or GAL (Guardian ad Litem) ? I am not sure what state he is in but in Indiana, the guardianship petitions are heard in a separate court outside of the Child Protective Services court. Child Protective Services is notified that a guardianship petition has been filed and they can come and object, if they want but sometimes they don’t.

So I would think, if you get an attorney and just file it – with mom being in agreement, then they would have to come and object, explaining why adoption is better. I think if mom is making some efforts, then that would be a bonus towards guardianship.

Guardianship is always an option. I haven’t figured out why they don’t push more for guardianship for very young children and what the age is that it suddenly becomes an option but I have seen our state grant guardianship with a Child Protective Services case for kids as young as 2 years old.

Also, I don’t think it is ethical for the department to threaten you with moving him. So I would ask for a supervisor or above to sit in on your next meeting and just ask for them to explain why this is happening and why adoption is the only option. I would personally tell you that we have custody/guardianship for our two youngest and it has been good.