Judge: Reunify or Adoption?

A few months ago, we all went to court. Would the judge send our 11-year-old foster daughter Joyful and 9-year-old foster son Watchful back to live with their dad? Or would the judge decide that the kids should be adopted by a non-relative?

The judge opened up the hearing, stating that he had read five very interesting reports. One from the Department of Family Services. One from the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Another from the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) – the children’s lawyer. And one each from mom’s lawyer and dad’s lawyer. Each presented a different perspective.

boy's and girl's hands holding small teddy bear

In our county, usually the CASA and GAL are in agreement with Family Services. But this time, Family Services was petitioning to return the kids, while the CASA and GAL raised major concerns with reunifying the family.

From Family Service’s perspective, dad has participated in all court-order services and was not the abusive parent. The CASA and GAL agree with those facts, but add more. Dad was still blaming the kids for the abuse and denying the severity of the abuse’s impact. They also noted that dad complied with all services last time the kids were in foster care, kids were sent home, and then dad let the kids be abused by their mom for another two years.

The judge gave dad another five months to get things together. But he also added another permanency goal for the children. Now the primary goal is return home, and the concurrent goal is adoption.

The GAL thinks that it will be very difficult to get the family to where they need to be three months from now in order for the judge to rule a return home. Essentially, the kids need to be living at home on a trial basis or nearly to that point. Currently, they visit for several hours a week under the supervision of a therapist. She also thinks that if the judge rules that the final decision is adoption, that dad will likely appeal. If dad appeals, it will be another 6-18 months for the appeals process.

And this is how kids can end up in foster care for years.

9 thoughts on “Judge: Reunify or Adoption?

  1. A child’s life is too short to be dragged through so much. We have had our daughter in our home for over eight years (since she was four), yet we remain unable to adopt her. The system is so broken. But keep up the good work. Your love will be the anchor that they need to weather this storm.

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  2. We are going through the same thing in our family. Last week, the case workers and lawyers requested adoption for our Little Miss. The judge on the other hand still wants to work on reunification. All this while the mother hasn’t showed up regularly for her visits in months. It makes no sense. The case workers are telling us the judge usually ens up doing what the CAS suggests in best for the child. It just takes time. It is so frustrating watching Little Miss going through disappointment after disappointment. It’s time for the trauma to end and for her to have a loving, caring home, permanently. And like you, once the judge makes the final decision to open her up for adoption, we are anticipating the mother to appeal the judge’s decision, which will delay everything for another few months to a year. It’s opened my eyes that the system is more broken than I realized. None of these delays are for the child’s best interest. It’s for the parent’s. To give them more chances to make the necessary changes to get their life back on track. Except that, in our case, the mother isn’t making any of these changes and yet more and more time is given to her. The children are the ones stuck in foster care longer than necessary. Then once they are available for adoption, they are more broken and more difficult to adopt. I feel for you. I pray that things will resolve quickly for everyone’s benefit. Stay strong!

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    1. Hi Isabelle. So sorry to hear that you’re in a similar boat, waiting anxiously to learn if adoption will be Little Miss’s outcome. It never fails to amaze me at how long and drawn out the process is. 18 months until the court must decide on TPR. More time after that for appeals. Then the time looking for an adoptive family. Then more months in carrying adoption. Why does it take so long??

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      1. I guess the decision to strip someone of their parental rights is not to be made lightly. I wouldn’t want to be judged too quickly or harshly. It’s just so unfair for the child who is stuck having to wait so long. All we can do is pray for the best outcome possible for the child.

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  3. In our foster adoption classes, we were warned the court’s end goal is to keep the biological family together. We were told that even if the parents were C-/D+ parents, the courts still considered that preferable over non-biological A parents. It is tough to know what is right and on an individual level, I think the judge and the five who filed reports all want to do what is best for the kid. Unfortunately, we don’t always know what that is or agree on it. I have followed your blog for a while and know you love Joyful and Watchful’s bio parents, and want what is best for the children. I pray for all those involved to make the best choice for the kiddos.

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    1. Hi, Lynn. I really enjoy reading your blog,too. I read it on the train all the time. Yes, we heard the same thing in foster care training – that generally outcomes for children are better if they can be returned home. Strangely, I am often grateful that the decision isn’t mine to make. To return a child, and not know if they will be abused or neglected again would be horrible. To break up a family and not know if a child will find an adoptive family would be so hard, too. It’s true that everyone in our foster children’s case wants what’s best. Just not a lot of agreement on what that is.

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    2. Hi, Lynn. I really enjoy reading your blog,too. I read it on the train all the time. Yes, we heard the same thing in foster care training – that generally outcomes for children are better if they can be returned home. Strangely, I am often grateful that the decision isn’t mine to make. To return a child, and not know if they will be abused or neglected again would be horrible. To break up a family and not know if a child will find an adoptive family would be so hard, too. It’s true that everyone in our foster children’s case wants what’s best. Just not a lot of agreement on what that is.

      Liked by 1 person

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