Well, dear readers, the baby and freshly minted foster parents survived their first night together. All indications are good that tonight will be successful as well.
I promised more to follow, and I intend to give you just as much detail as I can. Since the little one (the child’s nickname from this point forward will be M&M – a play on the initials of the first and middle names we selected should we be allowed to adopt) is a ward of the state and we are merely the caregivers (for the time being), I am limited by law and contract in what I can do with and say about M&M.
One of the main things I can’t do is post photographs. It has to do with the privacy and protection of the child. I am not sure how a parent whose child has been taken away would find a photograph of their child if all identifying information had been left off, but supposedly it happens. We are allowed to take photos for personal use (and we have). If we are fortunate enough to be allowed to formally adopt M&M, we will be free to share everything then.
Anyway, back to the story telling. Friday started out normally enough. I trudged my way past traffic caused by a two cat pile up in the hallway, let the dogs out and settled into my morning routine. I had a conference call/webinar for a refresher course on handling claims involving Medicare liens (snoozer…hit mute and continue working) that started at 1:00 PM. About ten or 15 minutes into the call, I heard The Queen’s booted footsteps running across the kitchen through the pantry and into the TV room outside my office. She came to a skidding halt when she saw my headset on which is her signal that I am busy at work and to wait for my attention. Since she doesn’t normally run across the house to get my attention, she got it fairly quickly.
Once I confirmed that I was muted, I turned around as my desk chair faces away from the door so I can look out the window into the back yard. The Queen blurted out, “Renee [our adoption coordinator] just called. They have a three week old baby, and CPS is on their way over here now with the baby.” I had the mental equivalent of the record player needle being dragged across the record when my brain completely locked up. The Queen continued, “I need help to get the house ready. They’ll be here in about an hour.” I allowed as how I was tied up with the conference call and would come assist as soon as I was free. It took me a few minutes for my brain to process things and realize that 1) we had just received our first foster child placement, 2) the child was en route to the house right then and there, 3) The Queen needed help, and 4) everything else was unimportant and could wait until later. Once my brain had finished catching up with reality, I confirmed with the training coordinator that the power point materials would be distributed via email. With that done, I hung up and walked away from the desk to assist The Queen in the whirlwind cleaning of the house.
We finished with plenty of time to spare. As it turns out, the CPS caseworker was running behind schedule due to traffic and bad directions. Once we got her pointed in the right direction, it was only five minutes or so before they would arrive. I couldn’t stand it any longer, and I dragged The Queen outside to wait on the front porch for M&M to arrive with the CPS caseworker. I felt it important that we show CPS that we were excited and eager for M&M’s arrival.
They pulled into the driveway a little after 3:00 PM, and The Queen and I all but said, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.” when the nice caseworker lady stepped out of her car. She opened the car door to get M&M. I immediately offered to take the baby carrier, and we escorted everyone into the house. Once inside, we got our first look at M&M. Absolutely the most precious child I have ever laid eyes on. And tiny too. M&M was born prematurely, and technically should not even be born yet today. Ready or not, M&M is here now. We signed some mercifully brief paperwork with the caseworker, asked a few questions and unloaded M&M’s horde of possessions.
This was totally unexpected and, as the caseworker confirmed, very unusual. Normally, when you get a placement of a foster child, you are lucky to get any clothing or belongings. In our foster parent training, we were told to expect to have to make a run to the store for clothes, diapers, formula, etc. Not so with M&M. M&M came loaded for bear complete with brand new car seat, play pen, clothes, five bags of preemie diapers, blankets, and cases of special preemie formula which is being downed at a prodigious rate. The Queen had found a great deal a few weeks ago on a new stroller which mates up perfectly with the car seat. So, that was already here and ready to go along with the crib that my sister…the devil had used for my nieces which had been stored at Mimi’s house for the past twelve years or so. Topped off with a new, mattress obtained by The Queen, and we were set for kiddos.
After the CPS worker left at about 3:45 or 4:00, we started trying to figure out the game plan for the evening. We debated going to the store for some things, but decided we wanted to introduce M&M to the family right away. The Queen wanted to surprise her parents. So, the plan was that we would just show up unannounced. I called my mom and dad to let them know. Mom wanted to come to us, but we told her we would come her way since it was more or less in the direction we needed to go for The Queen’s folks. There was a little confusion and miscommunication on the exact order of the visits, but we got that sorted out in short order. Everyone in the immediate family except for my dad has seen M&M, and dad is planning on coming by tomorrow for a visit.
The Queen and I got home late Friday night and made a quick snack while we got M&M fed, changed and put to bed. We were told to expect the child to sleep about four or five hours. M&M had other ideas. I had first shift and got up about two and half hours after going to sleep. If you want to call it sleep. After five years of dealing with The Queen’s mystery illness, I am an attentive sleeper when caretaking is required. I spent most of my sleep time listening for M&M to see if there was any distress since we hadn’t really had any time yet to get to learn M&M’s normal sounds. Feedings and diaper changes went smoothly through the night. M&M has a good appetite and no obstructions on the used formula end of the equation.
We now know quite a bit more about M&M’s situation than we did yesterday when CPS left the house as we found M&M’s hospital records in the bag o’ stuff we received from CPS. I was not amused to find out that some of the things we were told were flat out wrong, whether by design, omission or human error. Some of those things are mildly concerning as they have a potential impact on M&M’s future health. Some of those things deal with actions and attitudes of certain blood relations of M&M’s. Those little nuggets of information are the reason I am withholding some potentially identifying information such as date of birth, gender, ethnicity, etc. because there is a real need to protect M&M under the circumstances. However, none of those little factoids are M&M’s fault and don’t change my feelings toward the baby in the slightest.
For now, I am comforted to know (and I hope it will comfort you all as well) that M&M is in overall healthy condition considering the premature birth and some of the attendant circumstances leading to the premature birth. Neurological and septic issues have been ruled out. Respiration is good. There is an intermittent cardiac issue which will be monitored over the next couple of months. Hearing checked out normal. Vision appears to be okay. Eating and elimination are functioning properly as indicated earlier. M&M’s diet will have to be monitored and adjusted for the near term which is normal for preemies from what I understand. We are required by law and contract to have a doctor’s appointment scheduled within the first thirty days regardless.
So, what’s next?
According to the paperwork, CPS expects M&M to be in foster care for one year. It is possible that it could be less or more. Much depends on the birth parents actions over the next month or two as to which way that will go. If the birth parents voluntarily terminate their rights, The Queen and I would be eligible to adopt M&M after the child has been in our home for no less than six months starting from Friday. In the meantime, CPS will proceed with attempts to reunite the child with the birth family. The first step in that process is a supervised visit at the CPS offices. If the parents are a no show, additional efforts are made. However, each no show by the parents or failure to comply with the care plan (including parenting classes and other requirements depending on circumstances) makes it more and more likely that CPS will move to have parental rights terminated involuntarily. Once their rights are terminated, M&M would be available for adoption.
Though not guaranteed, it is our understanding that The Queen and I, as the foster parents, would have right of first refusal if there were no other blood relatives interested in taking the child. We have been told that there are no other blood relatives in the picture. That may change.
In the meantime, we are going to enjoy every moment we have with M&M who, so far, has been an absolute angel. This child does not fuss. Being held, lying down, riding in the car, being passed around in the musical family members game, getting a bath…doesn’t matter. The kid is as content and even tempered as any child I’ve seen. This too may change, but I hope not.
That’s it for now. I need to get a cat nap before coming back on duty at 4:15. Y’all play nice while I snooze.