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The high price of the foster care adoption process.
(Page two of three)
The Fight for Custody
I did not know what that was or meant, but I agreed that my husband and I would be there and was confused that the counselors seemed to be attempting to talk me into giving the baby back.
They explained that two people were petitioning for custody of the baby. I was dumbfounded to learn that neither person was biologically related to the baby and yet I needed to be concerned about either of them being able to claim rights to apply for the custody of the child that I was already caring for.
We happily went about our days as a new little family with a beautiful new daughter the following days, adjusting as all parents do to a new baby. We walked into the agency with our new beautiful baby in hand not knowing what was about to begin in our lives. We were told by the employees of our agency to attend this meeting and that it would be best that we mostly remain silent within the meeting, not even stating our names so that the petitioners not know our identity or any information about us.
I entered the room with the baby in my arms and fighting back the tears that were in my eyes. I did not know what was happening within the contents of this meeting that had many people in attendance. The table was surrounded with people.
During the introductions, I observed one petitioner that was present alone, the other petitioner was present with her husband and two of her daughters, two Department of Children's Services (DCS) caseworkers (the two women that had brought the baby to us), three other people that stated that they were employees of DCS, our counselor, the adoption counselor for agency and the foster supervisor for the agency.
Information was taken from the petitioners in the meeting about how they were affiliated with the baby. One of the petitioners stated that she was contacted by DCS because she had custody of the siblings and that she wanted the baby because she wanted to keep the children together.
The other stated that she had been doing a private adoption with the mother, but had not known what was required for an adoption and that her lawyer had been out of town at the time of the birth and during the entire stay of the baby's hospitalization. Her story changed many times during questioning about her history with the mother and her involvement with a legal adoption and the requirements for such.
She stated that she had hunted the mother down at a meth clinic after she had left the hospital and gotten her to sign papers to give her the baby. The DCS workers informed her that since the baby was in state custody after the mother left the hospital and the papers were not signed in front of a judge that the document was not worth the paper it was written on.
Weekly Visitations Begin
It was decided among the DCS people there that there would be weekly visits of the baby with the petitioners until the next court hearing scheduled weeks away. The one thing that I noticed was the fact that neither of the DCS worker's that placed the baby with us would look me in the eye during that meeting and seemed to be treating my husband and I as if we were doing something awful, that being a great contrast to the behavior of gratitude and happiness that they had displayed the evening that we had received the baby from them. I was really confused and frightened that something was very wrong about this whole situation that we had become involved with since that first phone call.
During the meeting I was becoming very upset realizing that these two petitioners were attempting to take "my baby" away from me, and that these DCS workers had out right lied to us at the time of placement. They were not considering my husband and I as an option as parents for this baby during this decision making process.
I came to my own conclusions that one of these people had attempted an illegal adoption and that the DCS workers were aiding her in her efforts to bypass the law, and the other petitioner wanted the baby for the income that she would receive from the state for the care of the baby.
I requested to be excused to change the baby's diaper along with the workers of our agency. During the break I began crying and begging the adoption counselor to do something — I believed that one of those people had attempted an illegal adoption and "bought" the baby and the other wanted her for a check. I was all but hysterical.
Another Hearing Scheduled
The meeting ended with another hearing scheduled for a later date. I left and was met in the hallway by the placement counselor for our agency; she asked me what happen in that meeting and apologized for what was happening to us. She stated that the DCS workers that had contacted her for the baby before she had called us had lied to her about the situation surrounding the baby. She said that she had been told that the baby needed an adoptive home and that was why she had called us.
I knew from her behavior that it was she that was telling the truth. I did not really know what to say to her, so my reply was from the heart. I stated that I did not blame her, that we would keep the baby and be grateful for each moment that we have her in our lives and that we would fight all the way to the end to get to keep her and adopt her, as tears fell from my face onto the baby that was in my arms.
The journey began of weekly visits on Mondays for two hours, one hour for each petitioner, the one-hour travel time each way for the visits, the weekly doctor appointments each Friday and the two-hour travel time for each and the weekly visits by the counselor at my home each Wednesday. Following two-weeks of visits the next meeting took place and we were again made to feel as if we were not important in the decision of this child and informed that a possible father had been named and we needed to take the baby right then following their meeting to have a DNA test. We did so. Now the father was added to the weekly visitation, making the visits three hours in duration.
Meeting the Natural Father
The first visit with the natural father of this child was one of mixed emotions for me. I entered the room with the baby in my arms and viewed a man seated on the couch with great question. He looked near my age and was covered with tattoos over most of his visible body.
We exchanged introductions and I was about to exit the room for his visitation when he asked if I would remain. That gesture touched my heart. I carried the baby over to him and placed her in his arms, telling her that this was her daddy and to say hello. It was very apparent that this man was very nervous and felt very much acquired in the situation of meeting his daughter for the first time in a room full of strangers watching his every move.
The thing that happened next changed my view of this person instantly. He held his daughter with such love and concern and behaved as most fathers do at looking into their child's eyes for the first time. My heart went out to the baby and him, for this was surely not what any parent that cared for their child, would want of their first meeting in life. I saw kindness, love and sorrow all within a twinkling of an eye within this man's face.
I knew that this person would not abandon his child and time proved me correct. Following discussions with the father at visitation we learned more about the situation of the baby and the history of the parents. The father had a history of a troubled past as well as the mother. The Father had three boys, two by a woman that we were to meet and one in another state with a different mother. He remained in contact with all of his children.
The mother of the baby had four other children, two deceased, one that had been adopted by one of her family members, and one that was in the custody of one of the people that was petitioning for this baby. In short, the mother did not have contact with any of her children.
Stress Takes its Toll
The stress and realization of the situation began to take its toll on both my husband and myself. It was during this time that we truly realized that all of these people were attempting to get custody of this baby that we had already fallen so very much in love with. Our hearts broke when workers informed us from our agency that as foster parents, we did not have the right to petition for custody of this child ourselves.
They even drove out to my home and presented me with copies highlighted of the "rules" of DCS and tried to inform me that I did not have the right to hire an attorney. I blew up with that statement and informed them that this was the U.S.A. and that I have the right to legal counsel even if someone kicked my dog, much less concerning the welfare of a child in my care.
They somewhat argued with me on the matter and ended the decision with the statement that if I hired an attorney to petition for custody that we would cause ourselves to lose the baby. Until that day, my husband and I were never told that if you sign papers and agree to be foster parents of a child that under DCS rules that you are bound from petitioning for custody of that child without written permission from DCS, which they refuse to give until the child has remained within your home for six months.
There was no way for us to keep this child and have her become part of our family and give her a "forever home" as we had heard so much about during our "training." While we slowly realized that we would not have a say or legal leg to stand on where the baby was concerned, the workers at the agency began telling us to hold on and be patient that they believed that all of the petitioners would be found not in the best interest of the court and that we would be able to adopt the baby.
The father told us that he had meet all the petitioners and us and since he felt that he could not raise the baby himself alone, that he had decided that we were the best placement for his daughter and that he would want to remain in contact with his daughter as well as have her brothers to remain part of her life.
We were fine with this and informed him of our decision to help attempt to strengthen the bond of this child with her "real" natural family. Which is suppose to be the goal of the foster program in this country, as long as there is no abuse or harm to the child, of which we saw none with the baby's father and siblings.
During the visitations the father expressed the difficulty that he was having in getting off from work to attend because the visits for him were at two in the afternoon and requested if we would be willing to meet with him, the boys and their mother at a later time in the evenings and at a place that was more relaxing for the children.
A Family Visitation at Chuck E. Cheese
We asked our counselor, she had it approved with the DCS case worker and we all meet at Chuck E. Cheese for the first visit of the baby with her brothers along with their father and mother, the counselor, my husband, me and the baby. The visit was very pleasant and we all enjoyed it very much.
My husband ordered two pizzas and drinks for all and bought some token for the boys to play games so that they would not be bored while waiting for the food and as all small children they enjoyed the child friendly environment and meeting the baby. We took pictures, ate, all played with the baby and the boys turned in their tokens from the games and looked sad that they did not have enough to get the prize that they wanted, so my husband paid the difference for the toy as he had done when we had gone through the same process at the same restaurant a few weeks earlier with the sister of the baby and her guardian.
We really liked all of the baby's brothers and sister and very much liked the mother of the brothers. She loved on, played with the baby with the utmost tenderness and concern and did not display any ill feelings toward the baby in this situation. I was really impressed with her actions and could not help wondering just how I would feel toward this child if I were in her place.
I feel that she is a very good person in a very difficult situation and is handling it with the utmost respect, kindness and concern for all. She will surely be a life long friend for me. She is the mother of the brothers of the child that I loved as my own and allowed us into her children's lives and for that I will forever be grateful.