Court Drama – Part 2

I’ve gotten requests to update y’all on our Court Drama. Here’s how our return to court went.

Visits are back on, but the way they are structured will be very different. When 10-year-old Joyful and 8-year-old Watchful meet up with their family, a trained therapist will be supervising. The idea is that the therapist will redirect inappropriate behavior – whether its the parent or child. The location of the visits will be different, too, so that there is no time spent unsupervised in the waiting room.

I am relieved, though a bit nervous as I’m hoping the therapist selected will be quality.

What Will Happen to Your Foster Child?

What are the odds that your foster child will return to their family? Will they be placed for adoption instead? No one knows specifically for any particular child, but you can look up the odds by your state.

Nationally, an American foster child is most likely to be reunited with their family. One out of two kids return home (51%). If that doesn’t happen, the next most likely scenario is being adopted. That’s the outcome for one in five kids. It’s almost a tie for the third most likely outcome – that the kid will age out or be placed with relatives. That’s what happens for one in ten foster kids. You can check out the data on Kids Count.

Of course, you’re probably much more interested in data for where you live, since the odds can change dramatically depending on your home state. If you visit the site above, you can choose your state and see the statistics for your area.

For example in Virginia, your foster child is whole lot less likely to return home. Virginia has the lowest rate of reunification in the nation. In fact, being reunited with their families is just as likely for Virginian foster kids as being adopted, with a one in three chance for either situation. Sadly, Virginian foster kids are twice as likely than the average American foster kid to age out of the system without every finding a permanent family. Virginia and Delaware are tied for the largest percent of foster kids aging out (20%).

On the other hand, if you’re living in New Mexico, your foster kids are much more likely to be returned to their families. A whopping 3 out of 4 New Mexican foster kids go back to their birth parents.

And if you’re fostering in Wyoming, you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up that your foster kids will be adopted. There’s just a measly 1 in 10 chance that Wyoming foster kids will be adopted.

But in the end, we all know that each case is unique. As much as we may wish for clear cut answers, the numbers can only provide a general sense. If only we had a crystal ball!

Major Court Drama

We walked into the court room, slipping into our seats behind Joyful and Watchful’s dad and lawyer. To our right, the GAL and county lawyer stood in the middle of the room. Furtherest away was their mom and her lawyer. Little did I know that drama was about to unfold.

The children’s lawyer (aka guardian ad litem or GAL) alleged that the county is not appropriately supervising visits, which has allowed horrible things such as emotional abuse, violations of court protective orders, and witness tampering to occur. Naturally, this pissed off the county lawyer who felt embarrassed and thrown under the bus in front of the judge. Apparently, she’s been telling the GAL this is a personnel issue that should be dealt with through human resources. The GAL countered that the county has had time to remedy the situation and has not, so it must be brought before the judge in order to best protect the children. So the county foster care agency was in hot water with the judge.

But they weren’t the only ones in the judge’s crosshairs. One of the parents was accused of taking advantage of the county’s missteps, and abusing/violating protective orders/tampering with witnesses when social workers were either not present or when a substitute social worker was supervising visits. Their lawyers alleged that this was a cultural misunderstanding, but I don’t think anyone’s buying that argument.

And the third party that the judge was angry with? The psychiatrist who evaluated the parents nearly four months, but hasn’t typed up and handed in reports to the county or the court.

We also learned that not a single one of the relatives that the county has approached have stepped forward as possible new homes for Watchful or Joyful. How could people walk away from their own family like that – these are little kids just 10, 8 and 4 years old!

The judge laid out a boat load of actions that must be taken within 10 days or various people will be held in contempt. He also has suspended all visits until further notice.

The upshot is that the foster parents of the kids involved (us + another family) are being called in as witnesses next week.

So, how does one keep a good working relationship with social workers if you’re being asked to testify about their negligence? How do you “bridge the gap” and maintain relationships with the parents if you’re testifying against them, too?

The GAL is coming to our house to chat in a few hours. This is all very bizarre.