Foster Care: When Birth Parents Give Up.

I have not written a blog on this site in a very long time.  My apologies.  My former laptop is kaput and I just recently got this new laptop.  Blogging from work is highly frowned upon.  I miss writing!

I have this case.  Well, I have several of them, but this one case in particular is especially — trying.  This has been an ongoing case for several years and I acquired it in December.  This has been one of the most difficult cases I’ve ever had.  I have plenty of experience dealing with difficult birth parents.  This one takes the cake!

Here’s some history:
-Daughter came into care in 2012, initially.  She was placed back in mom’s care twice since then though the state has maintained legal custody since initial placement.
-Son came into care in 2014.  Mom and dad were incarcerated due to a domestic violence issue.  They didn’t have an appropriate caregiver for the kiddos to go to so they entered foster care.
-Since being released from jail, all mom needed to do was follow court orders and follow recommendations of (mental health, anger management, substance abuse, domestic violence, parenting) professionals and obtain/maintain employment and housing.
-Dad has been out of the picture since this past July.

At the beginning of December, the state motioned to change the permanency plan from reunification to adoption.  The change was granted and now the state will be petitioning the court to terminate parental rights in May.

Since January, I feel that mom has given up.  We’ve had a little more than a dozen scheduled supervised visits.  Of those, mom has canceled 5 visits and has been late to another 5 of them.

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been doing a dance around the visitation issue.  She finally said something to the effect of “what’s the point when I’m not getting my kids back anyway?”  **sigh**  These visits are so important to the kiddos.  I get that seeing her children is difficult especially when she’s right – she likely won’t be getting her children back.  She has the capacity to parent; however, I don’t believe she truly wants her children back.  She likes being “free”.  And at this point, the state’s hands are tied.  When a child has been in care for 15/22 months, the state is required to seek termination of parental rights.  Now, for the daughter, we should’ve moved forward sooner.  But now that the son has also met the 15/22 month rule, we cannot grant mom any more time.

The saddest part about this case is that reunification could’ve been so easy!  But instead of following through with court orders and following recommendations given by professionals, she has pussy-footed around and now… it’s too late, frankly.

I didn’t want her to give up though.  The kiddos are heartbroken that mom isn’t coming to see them and trying to explain to them why visits are continually being canceled… well, I don’t like making little ones cry.  If I could stop visits altogether at this point, I would.  At least I wouldn’t have to disappoint the kiddos week after week after week…

My job now is to document everything that happens, to continue building my case for court.  These children want their mother and yet somehow she is showing me that she doesn’t truly want them.  So, when a parent gives up, the social worker has to step-up his/her game.  I have to be harder on mom, easier on the kiddos, and more aware of my actions.  I have long discussions with the foster parents and my supervisor regarding this case as I need to make sure every base is covered.

Really, every case should be completely covered at all times – always documenting, always on point.  But cases like this need that attention ever more so.  My stress level is through the roof right now.  I’m not sleeping well, I’m gaining weight, I have difficulty concentrating at work, and I cry easily.

I need a vacation

I need this case to be done!


Hazards of Social Work: Directionally Challenged People.

After landing my first social work position after graduation with a nonprofit foster care/adoption agency, I quickly learned the streets, back roads, and details of several towns throughout the many counties we covered.  I’m a quick study and am a good navigator.

Since moving to the other part of the state I’ve had to learn new streets, back roads, and details of several towns throughout the many counties we cover.  Thankfully I’m still a good navigator.  The same cannot be said for everyone though.

Yesterday I got word from a foster parent that the three kiddos that had their weekend visit with their birth mom who lives two hours from the foster home was unable to bring the children back at the scheduled time due to unforseen bad weather.  Ok, no problem.  Whatever.  I called a million and a half people and made arrangements for a foster care aide from the county in which the birth mom resides to bring the kids to the foster home.  Birth mom was to drop the kids at the office at noon.  No biggie.

Foster care aide calls me at 1020am today and says, “the weather is dropping really fast.  The sooner we can get the kids back the better.  Can you call birth mom and see if she can come to the office now?”  So I called another thousand or two people and birth mom was like, “Sure.”  1145am I get another call from foster care aide saying birth mom isn’t there yet.  Worried that she and the kids are in a ditch but just hoping she uncharacteristically blew off her responsibilities, I called another three hundred people and ascertained that yes, she’s on her way and that everyone else was also worried about the ditch scenario.

At this time foster care aide requested that I meet her halfway.  I asked which direction she was going.  If she took the back road she may end up not making it to her half of halfway.  I said she should take the interstate.  Being a rural state, lots of people who were born and raised in the state distrust the interstate.  So was apprehensive but said she’d meet me at the gas station I suggested.  I gave her verbal directions and then emailed her MapQuest directions that were correct (I know because I checked to make sure before sending them).

Birth mom made it to the office just after noon.  Roads were terrible apparently.  So, foster care aide and kids left the office and headed my way around 1220pm.  I arrived at the gas station at 115pm, filled up on gas, and waited.  And waited and waited and waited.  Finally foster care aide called me saying she was lost.  I told her to get back on the interstate and get off at a certain exit.  There was one gas station there and that is all.  I’d meet her there.

So, we exchanged kids for diapers.  (Not really.  I had diapers that needed to go to foster care aide’s office.  And I needed the kids.)  And I headed to my office.  I wondered quite indignantly how she could not follow the step-by-step directions I had given her.  Then I remembered that not everyone is so navigationally blessed as I am.

Directional challenges are just one of those hazards of social work.

Hazards of Social Work: Flat Tires

In February 2012 I went to a home visit in the middle of nowhere.  Most of my families live in the middle of nowhere.  This particular nowhere required a lot of manuevering around potholes, taking sharp curves, and watching out for random, large animals meandering in the streets.  Again, that describes much of this area.

Anyway, I arrived at the home and the foster father warned me that the child was being very defiant.  I asked what he meant by defiant.  Foster father said that the child cussing and throwing things.  I asked if anything could have triggered the behaviors.  He didn’t know.

I entered the home and could immediately sense the tension.  He was angry.  I asked him what was wrong.  He said he didn’t know how to spell his spelling words.  I asked him which word he needed to spell first.  He said “work”.  I asked, “How do you think ‘work’ is spelled?”  “W-O-R-C.”  I told him he almost had it.  I asked if he knew a word that sounded like work.  He said, “Yeah. Fuck.”  “Okay,” I said, “those both end with the same letter.  They don’t really rhyme though.  How about fork?  They don’t rhyme but they’re spelled almost the same.  Do you know how to spell ‘fork’?”  “F-O-R-K.”  “Right, I said.  Now since you know that work and fork are spelled almost the same way, can you spell ‘work’ for me?”  “W-O-R-C.”  **deep sigh**  “How about we try a different word and come back to that one?”  “Dad said I have to finish this before I can play x-box,” he cried.  “Well learning is very important.  And doing homework comes before playing,” I said gently.  At that point he screamed.  He just opened his mouth and belted out a loud yell.  He lifted both of his arms onto the table and side-swiped his books and papers onto the floor.

He got up and retrieved his shoes.  “Where are you going,” someone asked.  “For a walk,” he replied.  We let him go into the yard and for a long time he just walked around kicking the ground.  I discussed his behaviors with the foster parents.  I told them that I needed to call my supervisor and let him know what was happening.  I had, unfortunately, left my cell phone at home.  I borrowed one from the foster parents.

As I was on the phone with my supervisor the child decided he was going to run away.  He walked down the hill and onto the road.  He had a large branch in his hands.  The state worker was just arriving at the home.  She saw the child walking down the road and stopped to ask him where he was going (I assume that’s what she asked.  I couldn’t really hear the conversation).  He took the branch and started hitting the vehicle.  He suddenly dropped the brach and ran back up to the house.

His face was wet with tears and snot.  He went to the bathroom.  When he came into the kitchen no one said a word.  He stated crying again saying that he was sorry and to please, please not send him away.  Because of our concern for his mental health we decided to take him to the emergency room for a psychological evaluation.  The state worker took him in her vehicle and I followed.

While on the way to the hospital I hit a humongous pothole.  And I hit it so hard that I busted both tires on the passenger side.  The road was dark and narrow.  I couldn’t just stop there and put one spare on my car.  Now my turn to cry had come.  I slowly drove my vehicle another two miles to the parking lot of the hospital.  I had to pull myself together before going inside.  I scrounged around for change knowing I’d need to use the pay phone (if they had one).

I got inside and met the state worker to discuss the next step regarding the child.  She presumed that he would need to return to the psychological hospital from which he had come prior to being placed with this foster family.  I agreed.  This little guy needed specialized care.  The state worker went back to be with the child during the evaluation.

I headed to the pay phone (my heart filled with thanks that a pay phone was available).  I called my boyfriend, crying.  I had to take several deep breaths to calm down so that he could understand that I needed him to come get me from the hospital and that we’d have to figure this shit out tomorrow.  At this point it was 10pm.  No car store was open.  I didn’t have AAA.  My parents would’ve been asleep.

He came and got me and the next day we returned.  He replaced one tire with the spare and we took it to get replaced.  We returned to the vehicle and put the new tire on and replaced the other flat with the spare.  Unfortunately the second tire’s rim was bent.  I was very glad that only was rim was bent.  I called my dad and told him the story.  He told me that he would buy me a new rim.  A couple days passed before the new rim came so I had to drive around on a spare.

Because I was working when the flat tires incident occurred I was hoping that I would be compensated.  Nope.  Not their problem.  That was a very costly work trip.

Recommendation: have road side assistance of some kind available for such incidents.