…While away, things worsened for Mary so much so that she was taken from her mother and placed in state foster care. We were mortified. A child we knew was in the black hole of foster care!
We sat at the dinner table shaking our heads. How could this have happened? What can we do to help? We both work, we are stable. We just didn’t know what to think. Who should we call? Who knows what’s going on?
A week later we got the news that Mary’s birth mother had in fact been arrested on charges of neglect and child endnagerment. We also learned that her birth father had collected her out of the foster system in that state and brought her back to New England, or Texas, or somewhere. We heard the horrible details of Mary’s time with her mother. We continued to hear details of Mary’s birth mother’s one woman crusade to find her now seemingly ‘lost’ daughter, and her unconventional methods of doing that; harassing phone calls, threats, more harassing phone calls. We continued to shake our heads in disgust and disbelief. We still didn’t know where Mary was either, but we presumed that if she was with her birth father it had to be better than with her birth mother. We soon learned how wrong we were.
As time went on, the storm calmed, and things started to go somewhat normal. Mary’s birth mother had been granted visits, then unsupervised visits. She got an apartment, she was getting help, she was trying to fix what had gone so horribly wrong.
Side note: In March 2007, after almost 10 yrs of marriage, we decided that adoption was what we wanted to do. We thought about Mary but not knowing anything made it difficult to see that as a possibility. We knew we were both ready for adoption so we started asking questions of people we thought might help us.
The news came to us like a shot ringing out in the night. Mary had been placed in foster care, again. This time, she was removed from her birth father. There was no question what we had to do. You don’t become the Godparent to a child and not act when you know that child is in peril. All we knew, finally, is what state she was in. We learned that Mary’s birth mother had hired an attorney to work out divorce and custody issues. We actually got to speak to Mary’s birth mother over the phone. We asked her if we could speak to her attorney.
I made the initial phone calls. I called the attorney, who was willing to help me by providing the name and phone number of the case worker assigned to Mary. I immediately called the case worker, identified my husband as Mary’s Godfather, and asked what we needed to do to have Mary placed with us. She said simply, you have already done it.
We learned that since we live in a different state, the process would involve what is known as an interstate compact. It turns out that this is a federal law, that if a child is in state’s custody in one state and there is a suitable family or kin home in another state, then the states involved MUST work together to expedite that placement. The catch for us: we are neither family or kin. My husband’s status as Godfather wasn’t enough for placement, although it was enough for the states to consider us. But no promises.
Months went by. We started to hear some of the awful details of why she was removed from her birth father’s care: she lived in a bug infested home, she was always hungry, she had missed more days of kindergarten than she attended, her head was shaved because she got head lice. There is more, much more, but it serves no purpose to write about it, not now anyway. We heard that Mary had been reprimanded by her foster mother for trying to call her birth mother. I thought “If I get her here with me, I won’t do that. She can call whenever she wants!” (Oh how I’ve grown since then!). We hired an attorney. He advised us that we should do what we can to put our best foot forward. Here is part of the list, as I remember it, of what we thought we needed to do to get ready:
Purchase and set up a bedroom
Line up references
Line up people who would attest to the training and suitability of our dogs with children
Do something to mend, or hide, the structural defects in our house
‘Deep clean’ the house in preparation of a home study (this would be nesting if we were having our own!)
Find out what we could do to expedite becoming licensed foster parents
We were making progress on our end, but we still didn’t know when, or if Mary would be placed with us.