…The CPS Permanency Conference
Before I get into the details of what happened at M&M’s permanency conference including mundane details like exactly what the heck a permanency conference is, please allow me to satisfy your curiosity about Miss M&M. Despite a quick bout with the flu and an upper respiratory infection that left the poor boo boo coughing constantly and generally being miserable for a few days, M&M continues her steady march towards greatness…or at least toddlerhood.
As I write this, she will be six months old in just a little over a week from now. She weighs in at a healthy 18 pounds, measures in at around 27 inches long depending on how squirmy she is and is actually bigger than most babies her age and many babies older than her by a month or more. One of the concerns that all foster parents face is whether the children in their care will fail to thrive. If that happens, the children can be taken away, and the foster parent could potentially have their license taken away. Needless to say, M&M is thriving in our care.
She is still one of the most adorable babies on the planet in our humble opinion. I was told by CPS that I can set up a private Shutterfly site to upload photos of M&M for the birth family. If curious followers were to ask nicely, I might be persuaded to share the access information. In exchange for some small consideration. Hypothetically speaking of course. Send me your email address at krerick at google’s email domain, and I’ll see what I can do.
M&M is starting to rollover on her own, and she has started teething which has made for some serious droolage. I suspect we will have a crawler on our hands sometime in the next few weeks. Her smile will melt your heart, and her laugh will make anyone’s day brighter than the sun.
But…there is a black cloud hanging over the possibility of our continued parentage of Miss M&M. That would be the cousin.
About ten days ago, The Queen and I participated in the CPS Permanency Conference. This is a meeting at the CPS offices with all interested parties to determine what the long term plan is for the foster child. The main questions to be answered are 1) whether or not the parents are working and making progress on their services plan, and 2) if they are not making progress on the plan, what will be done with Miss M&M in the event the parents’ rights are terminated.
What follows is a redacted version of my notes from the meeting.
The Foster Parents (that would be The Queen and I)
M&M’s Ad Litem (the attorney appointed by the court to represent M&M’s interests)
The CPS Case Worker
M&M’s Cousin (first cousin once removed actually I think) – [by phone from out of state]
The CPS Facilitator (this is the guy responsible for keeping the meeting on track and getting the information required to make a decision)
The Birth Father
The Birth Mother's atty (interestingly a third year law student working for Texas Wesleyan’s Family Law Clinic)
A Mentor from the Fathers and Children Together (FACT) program
A FACT program liason to CPS (who is also a former CPS case worker)
The Birth Mother was a no show. Her husband mumbled an excuse which I did not hear.
The CPS caseworker started out by discussing the parents’ efforts to comply with their reunification plan. She confirmed that the parents miss about one visit a month with M&M (I think it’s closer to a 50/50 average, but I wasn’t asked). She confirmed that an oral swab to test for drugs was negative on both parents. The birth mother has a psychiatric assessment in early June, and her doctor upped the dosage on her medications recently. CPS still has concerns regarding the parents’ relationship. They have not done individual or couples counseling.
The Queen and I were asked to give a brief summary of M&M’s current status in the home. We reported that she is a happy, healthy baby who is developmentally on target.
The Birth Father was asked to discuss why there had not been greater compliance with the plan. He attempted to explain that they were displaced from their apartment due to their financial situation. Their lease was up in February and had an agreement with their landlord to extend their lease by a month or so when they got their tax return. For reasons that were not clear, they lost their expected tax return. TBF stated that he is currently doing carpet and tile work but does not work on a consistent basis. They are now living at a friend’s house in a rural town between Cleburne and Glen Rose, Texas. TBF confirmed that he has not been taking the anger management classes and that he and his wife were dropped from the parenting classes for non-attendance. He attributes this to their financial situation and being evicted from their apartment.
TBF claims that they are in the process of moving back to Tarrant County. He states that he and his wife have been together for 4 years. They have had five pregnancies which resulted in two live births. Their first son, was taken away by CPS in another state. He was adopted out after the birth parents relinquished their parental rights, and he is now living in another state. The remaining three pregnancies (a set of twins and another child) were lost to miscarriage and stillbirth.
TBF stated that they will be able to complete the services plan. He advised that the birth mother is the one who is violent towards him and that she takes a lot of things out on him. TBF was born in Commiefornia, but he says he is from Texas. He advised that he had a son from another relationship who died about five years ago after being hit by a train in a suburb of Fort Worth. He and his wife met in shortly after that when they both worked at a Taco Bell in small town outside of Fort Worth. They started working there on the same day and became friends. They eventually grew closer. He advised that the birth mother’s mother is in Oregon. They now attend a church in another town outside of Fort Worth. Of interest, TBF arrived to the meeting wearing khaki pants and a blue and black polo style shirt. As he sat down, he pulled a huge (at least 6 inch long) brass crucifix out of his shirt. He tucked the crucifix back into his shirt upon leaving the meeting. It came across to me as if he was trying to demonstrate his new found family values.
With respect to the drug use, he acknowledged that they know it is not condoned. He claimed he had pancreatitis in June 2011 and was in and out of hospital five times over thirty days. He further claims that his medications weren’t working and he almost died. He says he turned to pot to help calm his stomach so he could eat. He stated that the birth mother was using it because of her manic depression/bi polar issues and the fact that she was prevented from taking her regular medications while pregnant.
The CPS case worker bluntly advised TBF that she will be recommending that CPS change the goal from reunification of M&M to the birth parents to termination of parental rights and to staff the case for termination of parental rights due to not seeing enough progress on the services plan.
The FACT program mentor and liason were no less direct with TBF if slightly less blunt and brusk than the caseworker. Their comments were that what has happened to this point no longer matters. What matters is what happens from here on out. They stated they are hearing a lot of excuses, and the time for excuses is over. They say it’s going to take results if they want M&M back.
The cousin advised that she has been trying to get M&M since late December. She is very concerned that the paperwork has still not been finalized. The caseworker confirmed that the paperwork has been sent to Nevada, and they are just waiting on the home study to be finalized. She also confirmed that the paperwork was submitted as a foster care placement instead of a relative adoption placement. This is a change from what the caseworker told The Queen and I previously.
The Queen and I both expressed our desire to adopt M&M if things do not work out with the parents or the cousin. We stated that we would be happy to accommodate an open adoption with visits to the family, etc. We also offered to open a private blog to post photos, etc regularly for the family. TBF was obviously disturbed by hearing the possibility of losing his daughter to another family; however, he did not voice any argument. The cousin, however, was very vocal in stating that M&M has a family in Nevada that loves her and wants her.
The Queen and I spoke with TBF for approximately ten minutes after the conference. He is an articulate person; however, it was fairly clear that he was trying to spin facts and events to be the most favorable towards he and his wife. It was equally apparent that no one present at the conference was buying what he was selling. We simply reiterated to him how much we love M&M and that we would consider it an honor to take care of her and raise her.
After the conference, The Queen and I had several conversations with the case worker and the ad litem. The case worker makes it a point every time we talk to remind us that we probably won’t get to keep M&M since the cousin is a viable family member. The Queen and I disagree on that point when you consider that the cousin is a single parent with a full time job versus The Queen who is a stay at home mom while I am the full time bread winner with a great job that means M&M will never want for anything. Admittedly, we are a little biased.
The timeline moving forward is that the state where the cousin lives will return the paperwork in about a month to three months. Assuming it is approved (which is expected), the court would then set a hearing date for the purpose of deciding M&M’s fate regardless of whether or not the parents rights issue has been resolved yet. If that hearing occurs after M&M has been in our home for at least six months (which is coming up in about a month), then The Queen and I would have the option of filing a Motion in Intervention to become a part of the court case officially as opposed to just care providers. That would give us legal standing to make an argument before the court as to why we should be allowed to keep M&M. The CPS caseworker has told me that she has never seen a judge rule against a viable family member before. I am hoping that there is a first time for everything.
Needless to say, these developments have really upset The Queen and I. The Queen is inconsolable at times thinking about the possibility of losing a beautiful, perfect baby. Thinking about it for any length of time makes me angry and frustrated which is something I do not need in my life, and it interferes with my ability to focus on what is important which is being the best father I can be to her and enjoy every single minute with her.
I have the luxury of distracting myself with work. The Queen does not. M&M is her work. She has no means of escape from being confronted with the unpleasant possibility of losing M&M.
So, now you are up to date on M&M. I would ask as a courtesy that no one try to cheer me up by telling me that at least we’ve made a difference in her life when she needed it most. That is not comforting right now even though I know it is meant well. Words fail me.
There is a scene from the movie Men in Black where Will Smith tells Tommie Lee Jones that it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. TLJ’s response is the way I feel right now: “Try it.”
Here’s to hoping that it won’t come to that.