Friend or Foe There was another Court hearing about 30 days or so after that first one. We didn‟t expect Peaches or Seka to be there. And I don‟t even remember if they were or not. I do recall Bio Mom still being in Jail and again not brought over for the hearing. Through no fault or intent of our own, we‟d gone against that training classes prudent advice and gone to Court alone...and we‟d survived! Granted, having someone there to tell us who was who and what the hell was going on woulda been hella sweet! And perhaps made for a far less frightening and confusing first time Court encounter. But never the less, we‟d gotten through it, my wife and I, and were now back for the second hearing. Well, bearing in mind, this was OUR second hearing. How many actual hearings had taken place up to that point in the case would‟ve been a number probably somewhere at least in the mid teens up to the low 20s. Over the next 2 and a half years my wife and I would attend, I think it was, 23 hearings. When we were able, we went to those hearings together. When she was unable to get off of work, I went alone. The only memorable things that happened at Court hearing numero-two-O were that Dr. Pepper STILL hadn‟t been able to do that Parent Child Bond Evaluation of Bio Dad and Oates - which meant it was another automatic continuance. And from what one of the back of the lawyer heads was saying - it seemed like that evaluation hadn‟t really ever been set up. So, there was that, plus - on that day there was a “Traveling Judge”. You know, just a lone man with a black robe and a sense of duty, travelin‟ the back roads of this great Country of ours with his mighty steed - a Mustang GT, stopping in the odd Courthouse along the way to deal out some Justice! Ok, actually, he was just like an office Temp. Apparently, that wretched old lady judge from the first hearing was at home cooking children for a Coven later that day...or she was just sick. I don„t think any of us will ever know for sure which it was. To this day though, my wife and I still talk about that Traveling Judge. And not because of anything he did legally. Because all he did was grant another continuance. Which, for all I know, may be all a Traveling Judge is allowed to do. I mean, I just picture him coming in that day and going into the kid cookin‟ Witch Judge‟s Chambers and seeing it filled with sticky notes she‟d left. That tell him everything from not to touch the Hot Pockets and wine in her mini fridge, to telling him not to Rule on anything. No, we still mention him from time to time because of his personality. The best way to get an idea of what I mean is to picture someone whose recently had a near-death experience and is elated to be alive each day and combine that with a shut-in who‟s just overjoyed to be out of the house and among other people. He was friendly as hell. Which was odd and almost seemed inappropriate for a Courtroom, - where everyone was pretty much unanimously unhappy. Whereas the Crone Judge had seemed annoyed to have to follow Courtroom formality and ask everyone who they were so that it could go on the record - and made no attempt to hide her disgust at having to listen to the answers - Travelin‟ Judge seemed absolutely delighted to ask everyone to introduce themselves and, smiling, awaited those answers with the anticipation of a child about to blow out the Birthday candles on a cake. As he made the rounds of the introductions, he‟d look directly at each person and ask them, “And who are youuuu?” Drawing out the “u” a bit as he gestured at each person with his right hand, turned palm up, like he was handing you a palm full of invisible Happiness. He‟d also comment when each person answered. Such as, when my wife and I answered, he responded with a, “Oh, that‟s wonderful”, to my wife and a, “Great!” to me. His unabashed joy at being there that day had my wife and I trying our hardest not to laugh. And, it served as a welcome distraction and funny memory to have amid the demoralizing train wreck that was Hall and Oates‟ case. So, seeing as this was in November 2007 and the Holidays were coming up, the next hearing was scheduled for the following February 2008. A few important things happened in that interim though. The most obvious being that is was the first Christmas my wife and I‟d ever had as Parents...even if JUST Foster Parents back then. Being able to shop for the kids and do the whole Santa scenario was fun...amid a very sad time...it was still fun. Amid the pleasantries of the Season and doing our best to create a magical Christmastime for Hall and Oates, reality and all of it‟s responsibilities still pressed upon my wife and I. As for Court - we wanted to know what the problem was in getting that Parent/Child Bond evaluation of Bio Dad and Oates done. That seemed the only thing right then holding up the case. But no one was telling us. And by Christmas, Oates had been without any sort of therapies for 4 months. But no one seemed to be doing anything to change that. I know I mention “back in the Foster Care training classes” a lot and use it as a reference point often. And this is going to be no exception. So, if you‟re tired of reading me saying it - suck it up! Cuz I‟ve got things that need referencin‟! The first of which is that the woman who taught those classes was also the “Foster Parent Liaison”. She was an incredibly knowledgeable and kind hearted person who‟d been a Foster Parent, a Foster to Adopt Parent, a Receiving Home, A Social Worker...a ton of stuff...I think she may have even been a member of Earth, Wind and Fire for awhile in the mid 70s. Not sure though, there were like 87 people in that band - so she mighta been somewhere there in the back. Point is, she knew her stuff and had personally adopted 13 million kids! And yes! 86 of those WERE the other members of Earth, Wind and Fire. Ok, ok, maybe not 13 million - but literally, she had a family of 20+ somethin‟ kids; from those that were now adults themselves to much younger children, too.. Her job as Foster Parent Liaison meant that if you were a Foster Parent and had a problem (as we were then having) and you couldn‟t resolve it with just your social worker - she had your back. And we would end up having 2 important meetings, during that time between the second and third Court hearings, where she was present and helped defend us. So, she needs a name for this...well, remember my idiot/savant ability for only remembering names of late 80s-early 90s porn stars and heavy metal musicians? And how name choices for people have nothing to do with who they are or what they look like. But are chosen solely on a „name I can remember and is easy to type‟ basis? For that reason, the Foster Parent Liaison shall been known as Doro. You know, as in Doro Pesch? German lead singer of the band Warlock? Hottest chick EVER to front a band? They had that almost-but-not-quite-a-hit song, “All We Are”? And that other one....um, ok, so there was no other hit - but still....Ok, so you don‟t know her, that‟s fine. But all rational reasoning, I shouldn't still know who the hell she is either. But it‟s that idiot/savant thing! By the way though, she‟s still around and touring. And probably coming to a town no where near you. So, I‟ll move on... Anyway then, putting Doro aside for a moment, the other person I need to reference back to those training classes is the man who would be our unofficial Mentor through out much of this whole ordeal. Him I‟m going to call “The Sage“. Because whenever we turned to him, no matter how long the time since last we‟d spoken, no matter how many times he‟d encouraged us to attend some support groups and we‟d said, “No” - he‟d always listen to us and always had something beneficial or comforting to say in return. And, like any worthwhile Sage, his wisdom had been acquired through personal experience. Specifically via the alternating cards of Devastation and Joy you‟re forced to play in Life when the Court system is the Dealer. The Sage was one of several people who‟d spoken of their personal experiences to those in the Foster Care training classes my wife and I‟d taken. It wasn't the first class he‟d spoken to and it wasn‟t the last either. He‟d shared and would continue to share his story so long as he felt doing so would help others. Which is a very selfless act really, considering that the evening he spoke to our class he‟d gotten very emotional at times recounting his tale. Yet he‟d said it all before and would say it again - each time taking him back to the same emotions he‟d felt when first going through his ordeal. His experience with his wife as Foster to Adopt Parents had initially resulted in the two children they had with them -whom they loved and were so eager to adopt - being returned to their biological mother. But not because she was really deemed fit for reunification or even because their Mother was ready to have them back. No, they‟d been returned, The Sage told in his story, because the Judge, amid what might‟ve been his own personal regrets in doing so, had no legal alternative but to rule for reunification because Social Services had failed in presenting to the Court adequate justification against reunifying the family. From what he‟d told us, it seemed a situation where the Social Worker on the case had a bias in favor of those children being reunited with their biological mother rather than be placed in an adoptive home. And that lead the Social Worker to not be as honest and forthcoming with the Court as to the Mother‟s current condition and abilities as she probably should„ve been. And it was the children who‟d pay the price for her dishonesty. So, when speaking to the class, The Sage had gotten emotional when speaking of the day he had to return the children to their mother. His wife wasn‟t able to bear it at that time so he had to do it alone, one dark and rainy morning. He told us how the Biological Mother had asked him something along the lines of when he‟d be back to pick them up. And he was both shocked and concerned that she didn't even understand that he wasn't coming back.. as much as he wanted to. Because the Court had returned her children to her. He‟d never given up hope of seeing those children again. In her heart, I don't imagine his wife did either but she didn‟t allow herself to be so vulnerable as to Hope. A good period of time passed and those same children ended up back in the System from whatever their mother had done the second time. The difference that next go round though was that the Social Worker had realized her faith in the mother had been misplaced and wanted to see the children reunited with and adopted by The Sage and his wife. And, thankfully for all involved, that‟s what eventually happened. But what my wife and I really didn't understand yet when listening to him the first time was why he didn't see it as a happy ending to his story and move on with his life, get as far away from Social Services as he could and leave it all behind him. But by the time we got in contact with him some 8 months or so after that night he‟d spoken at the class, we were beginning to understand. Now, of coarse, we understand his reasoning completely. After all, I‟m writing about all of this and my wife even wants to speak at the classes, too. We know now that there is no “ending” - happy or otherwise. You can be happy and you can move on...but you carry the weight of what you went through with you. Wounds do heal - but they leave scars; sometimes upon the skin, other times upon the Heart. And you‟re changed. And that spiritual alteration can make you can feel like the best thing you can ever do is to try to help, to guide others through that change they‟re likely to go through themselves. It takes great strength and benevolence to have reached the end of a journey spent in disorienting, blinding darkness and yet have the will to step back into those days of night and grasp the hands of others so desperate to know the way out. The Sage has that sacrificing generosity. I don‟t know that I ever will. I mean, if there‟s anything someone finds beneficial to themselves in what I‟m writing - that‟s fantastic! And I‟m more than happy to help. But, if forced to be honest, I started and continue to write about our experience for the very selfish reason of hoping it‟ll lead me to finding some Peace with it all. With Oates not having been receiving any therapies and no one seeming to be doing anything to get her started again, we‟d called The Sage for his help and advice. The son he‟d adopted was Autistic and he had a wealth of resources he was willing to share with whomever asked. So, he‟d come out to our home one day shortly before Christmas and met the kids. We talked, he gave us DVDs and articles all relating to helping Autistic children, Things that‟d helped he and his wife help their son. I told him about the stalemate situation we were in with the Social Workers over getting Oates‟ therapies going again and he reminded me that we were allowed as Foster Parents to call for a “High Risk Team Meeting”, or HRT, anytime we needed to. An HRT is pretty much Social Services equivalent of a School‟s IEP meeting in some ways. In that you're able to get everyone involved in the case together in a room and discuss the problems that aren't being satisfactorily addressed. But more importantly than just gathering in a room together and yapping for an hour, is that an HRT is a structured meeting chaired by an individual from Social Services who has that specific job and is not part of whatever case is being discussed. As opposed to an IEP where the meeting will be chaired by someone from the School who IS, directly or not, involved with your child. But like an IEP, an HRT presents the problems at hand, methods for solving those problems are discussed, agreed upon, put in writing and are expected to be met. Our HRT came in a round about way. Which began with my usually calm wife yelling on the phone one evening to Peaches‟ Supervisor. Wanting to know why the Parent Child Bond Evaluation that was holding up the Court case hadn‟t happened. She, my wife, was demanding to know why Peaches hadn't handled that and why Peaches or Seka hadn‟t gotten Oates‟ therapies set up again. Plus, a few other things were said that ended up pissing off several people there at Social Services. I think the day after my wife‟s outburst, Seka had called her at work and warned her that we should just drop it, let them handle things or Social Services might try to take the kids away from us. I should say here that knowing Seka as we did up to that point and as we‟d grow to know her later, she didn't mean that as a threat and those weren't her own words. I think it was a case of someone having come to her, chewed her out about some part of what my wife had been demanding to know and Seka got scared or felt intimidated and called my wife trying to prevent things from getting out of hand. In short, she wanted the kids to stay with us and didn't want anyone to have cause for removing them. No matter what triggered what though, my wife ended up spending that evening in the living room chair crying. Worried that someone was going to come take the kids just because we were trying to do what was right for them. I, on the other hand, just got angrier and had a real “just let „em try ‟n‟ take the kids back!” attitude. Now, that didn't mean I was going to be holed up in the house behind an overturned couch, with a rifle, fightin‟ off the Social Workers to stop them from taking Hall and Oates - though I think my wife might've thought that‟s what I was thinking. No, my feeling at the time was that we were only trying to do what was right and get the things for the kids that they needed. And if it was going to be a fight between us and Social Services, we‟d be fighting the Good Fight and they‟d never have any real justification for taking 2 children away from the Foster Parents who were advocating on their behalf. That phone call, not Seka‟s - the one my wife had with Peaches‟ Supervisor, resulted in my wife and I being called into both Peaches‟ and Seka‟s offices for meetings with their Supervisors. Both were a poorly veiled - and I mean like a mesh tank top level of transparency here - attempts on the part of some people at Social Services to flex their non existent muscles, get us bridled back up and hand them the reigns. The first meeting was with Peaches‟ Supervisor. It was just us, that Supervisor and Doro at that meeting and it was called for under the guise of us needing to answer some questions that Bio Dad‟s family had regarding Oates. They wanted to know things like why she wasn't potty trained yet. We‟d come prepared with all sorts of printed up information from credible sources on Autism we‟d found online regarding delayed development. With potty training being a significant and common one. Doro was there to back us up and second everything we said. Not because we had any sort of relationship or personal friendship with her - we hadn't seen her since the training classes - but because we were right! While she was a part of Social Services and sat next to Peaches Supervisor across the table from us, Doro was also a Foster Parent and could, and undoubtedly had, put herself on our side of the table, too. It was during that meeting that we‟d spoken to both Peaches‟ Supervisor and Doro about wanting to have an HRT meeting to sort of the problems we were having regarding Oates‟ lapse in therapies and why the Bond Evaluation hadn‟t been scheduled. Doro told us she‟d get the ball rolling and start setting an HRT up. And, true to her word, we got a call from the woman who‟d be chairing the HRT meeting within a day or two and we settled on a date and time and that woman gave us all of her contact information should we need anything. So, for all of the tension and concerns we had about that first meeting, it went well. In no small part due to Doro„s help and support. We‟d handled ourselves well, too. And left that meeting feeling confident in our ability to show justification for our actions. Even when it was an angry phone call my wife had with Peaches‟ Supervisor. Who, to her credit, seemed to bear no grudge during our meeting and never acted hostile or annoyed with us. We‟d been able to talk about the fall out from the phone call and about Seka‟s call warning us that Social Services might try to take Hall and Oates if we caused any problems. Doro assured us that no one was thinking about, wanting to, or even willing to take Hall and Oates from us. We couldn't be faulted for speaking up on behalf of the kids. That first meeting, having gone well, left us feeling that the second meeting we had with Seka and her Supervisor (also attended by Doro) would be just as mild and benign. But it wasn‟t. And the responsibility for that rests squarely on the shoulders of Seka‟s Supervisor. Whereas Peaches‟ Supervisor during that first meeting seemed to relax as our meeting had gone on and she found that we had actual answers to her questions and that my wife wasn‟t going to jump across the table and choke her - Seka‟s Supervisor was stubborn and consistent in her attempts to bully us...in what she probably thought was a cunning and unobtrusive manner we would never notice. Seka‟s Supervisor was a short, squat, troll-like creature of a woman. She reminded me a bit of a Hobbit. But since I really enjoyed those ‟Lord Of The Rings‟ movies, I can't sully them by calling her Frodo or Bilbo Baggins. So, I‟m going to choose a name that conveys that visual image while equally assigning my level of respect for her. That‟s why her name, for purposes here, shall be “Dildo Tea-Baggins”. It didn't take long into our meeting for both my wife and I to get the feeling that Dildo Tea-Baggins‟ sympathies, like those of The Sage‟s Social Worker, lied with the biological families. As we talked, no matter what the issue was we were raising, Dildo would always reply with, “That‟s not your concern. Let US handle that”. When we‟d spoken directly to Doro about the possibility of us filing for DeFacto Parent status with the Court, Dildo Tea-Baggins scrunched up her already scrunched-up-looking face and rolled her eyes. She “warned” us that she‟d seen the sitting Judge (kid cooker) have a DeFacto filing come before her and that Dildo had personally seen the Judge look irritated by it. Which, was the only thing Dildo Tea-Baggins said at that meeting which I believed. After all, the Judge‟d seemed annoyed by EVERYTHING the day we saw her. But when the conversation turned again to the issues at hand that were going to be brought up at the HRT meeting like the lapse in therapy for Oates, Dildo said her line, “That‟s not your concern. Let US handle that” one too many times and I asked her directly, “Do you really mean it‟s not our „concern‟ or are you trying to say it‟s not our Place?” Whereas I would‟ve expected her to have the common sense to back track and say, “No, no, no! I‟m not saying that” - instead she forged ahead with her, now clearly unhidden, agenda and said, “Well, since you‟ve brought it up. Yes, I‟m saying it‟s not your place”. There was some barely civil back and forth after that about how the hell she could say that us advocating for the kids together and for Oates, individually, as an Autistic child not receiving the services she should be, was „not our place!” It was ludicrous! I remember feeling so unbelievably close to jumping up and choking her with my left hand while repeatedly punching her in the face with my right. I clutched the right arm of the small couch my wife and I sat on in my hand, in some unconscious effort to make sure I stayed attached to it and therefore remained seated. And I don't say that with any pride or humor. It would‟ve been a horrific thing to do and certainly given cause for removing Hall and Oates from our care. And I would‟ve regretted it, of coarse. But I have to say that‟s how I felt and what I was thinking to let you know how enraged I was at that moment. Probably because I didn't take it as her insulting me or my wife by telling us advocating for the kids „wasn„t our place„. No, to me, she was insulting the kids and trying to slight them. And though only Foster Parents for 6 months, we were responsible for Hall and Oates and we weren‟t going to tolerate Dildo‟s attitude and attempts to give the kids less than they deserved. If Dildo Tea-Baggins had REALLY been able to handle things, or even wanted to, she would‟ve done it by that point. That she hadn‟t, only exposed her ineffectiveness and apathy to me. Seka and Doro did their best to diffuse the situation by reminding us that everything was going to be handled at the HRT. They both knew the meeting was over at that point. But neither of them could intervene and end it. Only Dildo Tea-Baggins (being a Supervisor) or my wife and I (being pissed) could wrap things up without any ramifications of being „written up‟ later. It ended shortly after I‟d made it clear to Dildo that whether or not we ended up filing for DeFacto Parent status was none of her business and I didn't care in the least what her opinion was of it. We didn‟t need nor want her input and approval. WE would decided what the best course of action would be - not her. The meeting did come to a merciful end thereafter. I just don‟t remember if my wife and I were the first ones to stand up and leave...or if Dildo Tea-Baggins had been late for Second Breakfast back at The Shire. Either way, Dildo didn't come to the HRT and she transferred out of the Adoptions Department shortly after. So, we were never forced to have to tolerate her presence again. But there was something positive to be gleaned from that negative meeting. It‟d taught me to pay more attention to the people I was going to be involved with at Social Services, as well as other places like the VC and Court, and make an attempt to discern where they stood. We didn‟t need any one single person being 100% behind us to make it through. 10 people giving 10% would do just fine by me. If you viewed it from a positive angle - you could say that I was looking for the best in people and what they could contribute in regard to helping the kids. If you want to view it from a negative angle - yes, you could say that I was looking at everyone around me to figure out whom I could use and exploit for inside help and information. The actuality of it was a little of both though. Because looking back on it now, I was never clever or cunning enough to have gotten anyone to say anything they shouldn‟t. And no one ever handed me a bit of information - a little „seed‟ if you will - without wanting and hoping that I could make it grow into a „tree‟ on my own.
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