I know I haven't said anything in a long time, but a lot of things have happened in regards to the Sandovals over the past month. It all started when Crystal called me and let me know her lawyer had requested an early review of the case and that we were invited to come to court. While on the phone she informed me that the Wards (the family in Inkom we moved the kids in with) had requested removal (foster-speak) of Christina and she was moving that night. In Crystal's words they said, "she didn't respond to timeouts, couldn't be disciplined, and in their opinion had no ability for attaching." That's a whole crock of crap. First of all, what normal three-year-old responds well to discipline? That was Ellie's hardest age! And what kind of attachment were they expecting in a three-year-old child who had lived in four homes?? And in six weeks? It took a good six to nine months before Stina and I loved each other's guts. So whatever, first I was shocked because I can't fathom what her expectations were for a three-year-old foster child . . . then I felt validated . . . all that crap she'd told us lecturing us how to be foster parents in her two page letter she sent us (I'll attach all correspondence to my blogbook but am gonna leave the nitty-gritty out of my blog) and she can't even hack it 6 weeks. At least I burnt out after 15 months. I have been really, REALLY tempted to just shoot off a short email to her to burn her back for all the crap she said about me and my treatment of the kids but I've decided that's what got me in this mess in the first place -- just let it all go, in the words of the Beatles, "let it be."
Anyways, Crystal was really upset that they were splitting her kids up. In two years in care they had never left one child alone, there had always been one sibling there with them. So the foster-grandma in Shelley would now have all 3 girls and Bubba would be by himself in Inkom. Crazy. Over the weekend the department changed their minds and decided to try to move him up to Shelley ASAP. They had to get a waiver because 7 children would then be in the home . . . and they didn't know when that would come through. So when the Wards found out they couldn't keep him and he was leaving but they didn't know when (in the next 1-14 days) they requested removal of him, too! (I know I did a similar thing but I had offered the department that I could stick it out for another 3 months) So he had to go to a stranger's house to live and the department forced the waiver through faster so he could move to Shelley.
I didn't know the details of any of this happening until I showed up at court on Tuesday morning. Lisa, the supervisor at the department (the one who escorted me out of the building because she said I was being so inappropriate for visiting the kids), got REALLY mad when she saw me. I told her Crystal invited me and she immediately called Crystal around the corner to chew her out. I don't know what Crystal said but it worked because all of a sudden it was ok for us to be there. We go into court and the prosecutor/department reports first: blah blah we've been pursuing active reunification (bull crap), Crystal is doing great, etc. Crystal's lawyer gives her schpiel and then the judge asked for foster parents to report on the kids. I thought Lisa was going to die when she saw I was invited to speak, so I just said, "we're only former foster parents just here to support Crystal." So Suzanne reported on all four kids. Next the judge specifically pointed out our attendance and said it was very unusual based upon all his years as judge to see former foster parents to be in attendance to support the birth mother and if no one had objections he'd like us to stand and state our reasons for doing so. I got up and (not wanting to offend the department since they still control the kids' fate . . . because I could have shared some not-so-flattering details) only said over a year and a half we've worked with Crystal and have gotten to be her friend and once the decision was made for reunification we were 100% supportive of her and have offered to babysit or do respite weekends for her for free if she ever needs help. The judge was impressed and told Crystal so and gave approval for reunification to happen one more time.
As we were trying to sneak out of court Lisa asked us to attend a Family Group Decision Making Meeting to be held the next day. So the next morning my mom watched Ellie while I went to this meeting (where I found out about the Christian drama) from 9 am to 3 pm where we talked about every aspect of the case: concerns and needs for each child, timeline for reunification, and contingency plans if it didn't work out. It was a really LONG meeting. The good news being that everyone in attendance suggested Christian start having visits with Darik as soon as possible once a week. Out of all the kids they thought a male role model needed a permanent place in his life. So this last weekend D's schedule slowed down enough to fit a visit in and it was AWESOME! The boys had fun using power tools to cut up our dead trees and haul em away. We can't wait until next year when we can start visits with Stina again (we are all hoping she gets settled with her mama before visits with us, it could get pretty confusing for her). The other good news is that it was agreed upon for us to have a permanent role in all four of their lives, like an uncle and aunt, for the near future. We are also listed as one of the two adoptive homes for the kids if things don't work out. Not so shabby. So either we get to always be the cool relatives or possibly get to adopt them.
All is well that ends well, eh?
p.s. I have strong negative feelings against the department about how they have treated us and how they have handled this case. On one hand I wish we'd never moved the kids out of our house, but I think when we did we forced the hand of the department (esp after the Wards fell through) to actually REUNIFY this family. So in that case I'm glad we did. We still hold a valid foster care license but have placed it on indefinite hold -- I do not think I could handle signing up for another roller coaster again. We'll see when they review our license next year how we feel.