Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Like a Dream

On the way to dependency court today, T was walking in super slow motion with his head down. I figured he was anxious and conflicted. We had been warned that his social worker might file a petition to have him removed from our home, having concluded from afar (without visiting for the last six months) that his recent troubles rendered our home "unsafe". We were running late though, so I asked him gently to pick up the pace. He looked at me with clear eyes and said "I can't! I'm wearing new shoes. If I walk slowly, they won't get scuffed!" Then he asked Tim to pull the car up so that he wouldn't have to walk across the lawn and risk the morning dew dampening the suede.

I've learned from him the fine art of not thinking too much about things that you can't do anything about and that will probably turn out okay in the end--at least I can say I'm trying to learn that from him. I'm not good at it. I try to use my willpower to solve everything and protect myself and the family. Sometimes willpower runs up against insanity and chaos, and you just have to ride it out. I have a long ways to go.

He did look nice. A new cardigan, a plaid shirt that his bestfriend picked out for him, fresh jeans and suede and patent leather shoes. Sober, he's found refuge in fashion. I think he's discovered that when you have to show up and claim your fate, the right outfit helps. I'm also impressed that he's learned at such a young age that damp grass ruins suede shoes.

Court was a clusterfuck, pardon my language. We sat for four hours. The social worker did not go so far as to file a petition, but she did something weirder: she showed up in person. Through more than a decade as his social worker, she has never come to court. She lives and works more than 90 minutes away. I suppose the recent threat of sanctions roused her from her usual ineptitude. She walked right past us and into the courtroom without saying hello. Stood in front of us conferring with the DCFS attorney for a long time. Left, and never so much as exchanged eye contact with T. She looked like a ghost.

She filed a report with the court, full of errors and negative statements about T. She introduced difficulties that he had a year or more ago as if they happened yesterday. She entirely missed the fact that he had successfully worked through getting off drugs--in fact, his four-month sobriety mark was just yesterday. She implied that she would have him removed from our home, just three months shy of his 18th birthday (and the end of her jurisdiction), because he is "at risk".

At the same time all this was going down, T's OTHER social worker (the one who handles his adoption, who actually visits him at home and talks to him) filed a report stating that his adoptive placement with us is final, that they're very pleased with the placement, that they would be delivering the final paperwork to us this week, and that they are happy to report that the three of us have come through recent hard times and remained committed to the adoption and to each other.

It was very strange. I assume a lot of chat happened before we were all called into the courtroom, because even the attorney representing T seemed baffled. By the time we got there, it was quick. The judge said she was happy to see his adoption being finalized, and that she understood that T's desire had been to finalize the adoption all along. He confirmed that. She smiled broadly at him and at us.

Then she dropped a comic bombshell, and things took the oddest turn yet. She said that she happens to be married to the judge overseeing T's case in juvenile court. "My husband and I talk about you and he's very impressed with you as well," she said to T. His jaw fell open. He giggled with incredulity. "You guys didn't know that?" she asked. We shook our heads. "Yeah, he's the mean one!" Then she laughed and wished us well.

Often times, it feels like we're having a very weird dream. Like a really good dream that turns into a bizarre bureaucratic nightmare, and then suddenly turns incredibly sweet again, and so on and so forth, until you just hope you'll wake up during the happy part.

We went out for McDonald's, and then we all went home and got back to our real jobs.


Anonymous said...

So this woman judge is married to the last one? The one who made the karma crack? Unbelievable!

I'm glad you all got through it ok.

Bible Belt Betty said...

I worked with the juvenile court system for a few years as a social worker before returning to grad school. I worked with a lot of kids like T and I LOVED working with that population. The court system can be incredibly frustrating and I'm sad to hear that the one social worker is so disconnected and irresponsible.

Love your blog.Keep up the positivity and congrats on the finalization of the adoption.

Lulu McCabe said...

Lynn: Yes, exactly. I couldn't even make this plot up. It's surreal, right?

Betty: Thanks! So many kids who deserve so much better, eh? Thanks to all the social workers out there who struggle with overwhelming caseloads and don't give up or give in.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I had a moment a couple posts ago where I thought, "could she be making this stuff up?" You write so well, you could be testing out plot points for a novel and honestly the post was about some crazy court stuff that I just didn't want to believe was real. But this post is basically a happy one, new shoes, adoption moving forward, weird and neglectful social-worker not getting her way! The fact that the judges are married, that seems completely normal in the grand scheme of things.
Huge congratulations to your whole family but especially to T for hitting the four month sober mark!

marythemom said...

Hope this means things are moving in the right direction? Or did I read it wrong (entirely possible on the amount of sleep and stress I get).

Anonymous said...

I'm so sad that it's taken you so long to get to this point and that there's still no actual certainty. I'm thrilled that T has you guys, but my heart is breaking.

Anonymous said...

You have an uncanny and incredible ability to capture the desolation and the honey of the strange underworld called fostercare. Your writing is so so so so perfect and if it's any reflection of what's actually in your heart, that's perfect too. Congratulations to your family.

mikeco said...

ditto what next beyond said :)

Bizaare. . . but so glad that the Judge expressed admiration for "T."

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