It’s just a month away from the next court date. Is it too early to start writing about it? I thought I would be riddled with anxiety by now. The truth is, we’ve been so busy being a family there hasn’t been much time to sit and dwell on it, well until now. Funny how we keep ending up in this situation, court date after court date, waiting, positing what may happen, reading the tea leaves of what little we know to try to make sense of it all. It must seem rather strange to people who are not foster parents.
I remember writing a post about how our lives follow a trail of court dates. Though that hasn’t changed—they still mark the milestones in this process—going to court doesn’t weigh quite so heavy on me. What happens during those few hours every few months has always seemed to be the difference between joy and pain, life and death, a future with him and one without.
After all this time, I recognize that what matters most is what happens in between hearings. The product of these hearings—court orders—don’t materialize on their own. They represent the culmination of everything that has or has not happened in the preceding period. In the court order from the last hearing, a path was laid out for T’s parents. We won’t know whether they’ve achieved anything on their “to do list” until August. We do know that they have failed to take at least one action because it would have had an impact on our foster son’s visits. It seems that if they have been unable to complete this, one of the easiest tasks, then most likely nothing else has been accomplished.
In the absence of information, it is necessary for us make these kinds of suppositions about what is happening. But after all this time, one thing is clear—nothing has ever really changed. In the last twenty-one months reunification has seemed to elude our foster son’s biological family. As I think back on all of the conversations we have had with various workers, their supervisors, and attorneys—nothing has really ever changed. The workers that handled his removal from his family and placement in our home expressed some of the same doubts about reunification back in 2007. In the August 2008 hearing when we were certain that reunification was eminent, it appeared that little was left to do before the permanency plan goal would be achieved. What I had forgotten until recently is that during the period leading up to and immediately following that hearing, significant doubts surrounding the plan had been articulated by many involved in the case. By October 2008 we were beginning to get a clearer picture of just how little progress had been achieved. During the last court date in May, this was confirmed when the old service agreement was tossed out and a new plan that seemed designed for failure was laid out in the court order. I realize that no one, including Social Services has confidence that any plan for reunification is going to succeed.
So as we begin counting down the days until the hearing, we also are counting down the days to our beach vacation. At last, the time is coming for us to get some much needed family time away from it all—just the beach, good food, nothing to do, and no where to be. Except that for a few hours smack in the middle of our vacation we will be in a Baltimore courtroom finding out what life holds for us, once again.