Two words could sum up our evening last night—show cause. The rest of the conversation we had with T’s case worker seems to pale in comparison to those words. What does it mean? I’ll get to that in a minute.
She arrived early as she frequently does for her home visits. Darrow was not home yet with the little guy. As I greeted her at the front steps she began to apologize profusely—yes, profusely—for the weekly visit T had with his parents. She had a court appearance this week and had handed off the logistics and notification for the visit to someone else. That person failed to tell anyone that the normal one hour visit was going to stretch to about three hours because of a planned birthday party for his mother. I received an alarming call from his day care provider that it was almost three o’clock and he had not returned. We weren’t particularly phased by it. We knew that reading anything into this kind of thing was futile. It’s just too punishing anymore.
After Darrow arrived and we sat down at the dining room table, I noticed that the worker was particularly warm and friendly, just like during the last hearing. It was clear that she had something definite, specific, and important to tell us. She asked if we could start because she wanted to talk about the upcoming court date and the general position of BCDSS. We noted how well T is doing developmentally but she already knew most of that because she sees him every week. We talked about a few medical issues, potty training, his musical tastes and then we let her talk.
She said that the visits had been going well—I held my breath a little for the rest of the sentence—they (the parents) have been on time—which we knew was not actually the case but anyway—the parents had done minimal things in the court order—but?—but it wasn’t enough. She then talked about how she had begun to put together the “show cause” packet. Show cause is an order from a judge that directs a party to come to court and convince the judge why she shouldn’t grant an action proposed by the other side. In these kinds of cases, the show cause order would be served on the biological parents, their attorneys and the Guardian ad litem. The order would explain the nature of the proceeding—that is to terminate parental rights (TPR). It would also inform them of the parents right to object and indicate the consequences of failing to object within the stated time limit of 30 days.
She said that during the last hearing, the service plan to do list had been incorporated into the court order. It was crafted so that the court was ordering the parents to comply with the requirements in that document. Because the parents are not in compliance, she said that BCDSS is moving towards a permanent placement—adoption—with us. She then asked if we had completed the paperwork indicating our desire to serve as an adoptive resource. Yes, we had months ago. She suggested that at the hearing when we bring T for his consult with the Master, that we also bring the book that Darrow published with early photos of our foster son. She wants the Master to see just how far the little guy has come since coming into care with us.
We noted that for the first time she was being direct with us. In the past her statements were evasive and void of information. She looked at us both and said, “I want this to happen.” Without being explicit, she was clear. At this point she wants us to adopt T. Her idea of bringing the book to show the Master is an effort to help sell the idea in court. She told us a couple of times not to worry. She had carefully documented everything in this case. What she may have lacked in maturity and in empathy, she made up for in her conscientiousness and thoroughness. After all the drama I had been through with her early on, I was beginning to see that her attention to detail would serve us all very well in the end. As this case moves forward towards TPR, it will be difficult for the parents’ attorneys to find gaps in the case. By the time we reach the court house in August, it will have been close to twenty-two months that he has been in care. In addition, the date identified in the original permanency plan for achievement of reunification will have expired the day before the upcoming hearing. This along with the careful documentation in the case records by his worker will make it hard for the mother’s attorney to argue against the motion for TPR and harder still to appeal.
And the hearing approaches, though I’m not sure about the logistics of having three squirmy children in a small court room while trying to conduct a hearing, for the most part I sense this strange calm about it all now. In one sense, last night feels like just one more conversation that we have had regarding the feelings about this case—lack of motivation, little progress towards reunification, three small children in care for most of their lives. But it wasn’t just another conversation. An agent of BCDSS has clearly and directly informed us of their intent to change the permanency plan and move the case towards the termination of parental rights with the final solution of adoption. The hearing—now less than two weeks away—holds such weight for all of us.