Friday, June 20, 2008

The Story of Joseph - The First Christmas

Christmas was coming up quickly and Julie's social worker was really pushing for Joseph to be "home" by then. The big problem with that was that Julie really didn't have a place to call home. Julie's social worker Vera had tried to set Julie up in several different places but Julie had turned them all down.

In fact, Julie has still not done any of the basic things required of her to get Joseph back. Of course I was concerned and Sabrina was too. She put in a request for Joseph to have a a guardian ad litum assigned to him. (A guardian ad litum is someone who represents a foster child in court and speaks for their best interest es.) Thankfully Joseph was assigned a guardian who saw right away that going back with Julie would not be in Joseph's best interests. I was hopeful that her input would be helpful.

Three weeks before Christmas someone from the parenting classes that Julie took called me to ask what sort of things Joseph needed. This is how I go the news that Joseph was going to be leaving us right before Christmas. Apparently Julie had finally been set up in a group home and the plan was for Joseph to join her there in less than two weeks. The parenting program that she was a part of was going to buy her everything she needed to get set up. I was sad that it was going to go this way but I listed everything I could think of that Joseph would need in his new home. I told myself to be happy that Joseph would be spending his first Christmas with his mother and not "just" his foster parents.

The next week was the court date where we were supposed to hear that Julie was going to get Joseph back. We decided to go to the hearing. I wondered if we would have to hand him over right there at the courthouse. The thought freaked me out a little bit and I started to wish we hadn't decided to go. When we got to the courthouse we saw Julie standing in the lobby. She was surrounded by Vera, a couple of women from the parenting program and a couple of other women I didn't know. (I would later find out that they were from the new group home Julie was moving into.)

My intention had been to take Joseph over to Julie but for some reason when I saw her standing there I just couldn't. Instead I walked right past her and stood as far away from her as I could. That probably wasn't right and I still feel weird about it to this day but I just couldn't make myself hand Joseph over to her.

We were called into the courtroom to wait for the hearing to start. Jesse and I sat in the back and I held Joseph. Julie sat at one table with her large group surrounding her. At the other side of the courtroom sat Sabrina and Joseph's guardian. Right before the judge came in someone noticed that Julie's shirt was buttoned up wrong and they quickly fixed it for her. Julie sat there passively and started off into space.

I remember very little about the hearing because it all seemed to happen so quickly. What I do remember is that Sabrina and the guardian both stated that they did not believe Joseph should go back with Julie and gave a long list of reasons why. Vera countered that he should go back and said that Julie had demonstrated her ability to parent Joseph. How had she done that? She had "learned to navigate the bus system". I kid you not. That was the best she could come up with.

Thank goodness the judge wasn't bowled over by the whole "she can ride a bus therefor she can parent an infant" argument and he decided that Julie was not ready to have Joseph back. He scheduled another hearing in thirty days. As everything was wrapping up Vera said "Can we have a condition placed on the foster parents that they have to call before every scheduled visit to confirm that they're going to show up? They've missed several visits and it's impeding on Julie's ability to bond with Joseph."

You know what? I get what she was trying to do. She needed someone to blame for why Julie was acting the way she was and we were the logical target. The fact was though that Joseph had never missed a scheduled visit, ever. Thankfully Sabrina quickly pointed that out to the judge and said some very nice things in our defense. Vera responded that the records showed that several visits had been missed and Sabrina shot that down by telling the judged that if you actually looked at the records you would see that the reason those visits had been missed was because Julie had not shown up for them.

The judge agreed that there was no reason for the phone calls and the hearing was over. Jesse ushered me out of the courtroom as quickly as he could. I think he was worried that I was going to say something to Vera but he didn't need to worry about that. As we were leaving the room I saw Sabrina and the guardian ad litum whispering angrily to Vera. I had to chuckle a little bit.

So it turned out Joseph would be with us for Christmas after all. I told talked to someone from Julie's parenting program and they said they would encourage Julie to give Joseph some of the things that were being bought for him as Christmas presents. She told me that at the last visit before Christmas they would have Julie give Joseph his presents so that he could have some things at our house that were from her.

For some reason I wasn't shocked on the day of the visit when I saw Julie leaving the center with two large garbage bags full of baby supplies. She had taken everything with her and left nothing for Joseph. I would later find out from the guardian that Julie had given away everything that had been given to her that day. On Christmas day the only presents that Joseph got were from Jesse and I (and our families). His own parents didn't give him a single thing.

When I put Joseph to bed on Christmas day I wondered what would happen to him at the next hearing. I hoped that by then someone would come up with a way to give him a home. Would anyone ever see that wasn't willing and able to parent him?

What I didn't know at the time was that there were already big plans being made for Joseph.

I know this is tacky to ask but if you're reading this through a feed could you please (just this once!) click through to my actual blog? And if you're so inclined could you please (just this once) click on either of the two Project Wonderful ads on the way top right of the page? It would be so super cool if you did and I would love you forever and I promise to never ask again.


The Laundress said...

I'm still reading with eagerness to hear the rest of Joseph's story.

This will be wonderful for him to read one day.

DreamCatcher said...

I'm reading your series with great interest. Your story amazes me and It's intriguing to learn how this all went about. You are amazing and I think you are doing a beautiful thing for your little ones. *Huggles*

Anonymous said...

this story is fascinating and thanks for reminding us the importance of 'clicking through'.

so glad you're sharing and am eager to hear more.

Belen said...

Hi, I found you through Brillig (isn't she awesome, I love her guest posting right now!), and I've been reading you eagerly ever since. I love your story of Joseph, I check every day to see if there's another installment. Thanks! Oh, and I clicked!

Alison Wonderland said...

I love these stories, and they break my heart.

Jen said...

laundress - He already knows the bare bones of the story and I'll save this for him once it's all done. I think he'll like it.

dreamcatcher - I'm not amazing, it's just an amazing story. I think so anyway.

queermom - Thanks for clicking through! I appreciate everyone who did it.

belen - Yes, I love brillig and her perfect eyebrows. I'm glad you're enjoying the story and thank you for clicking!

alison - It gets a little more upbeat soon. Or, soon-ish.

Sara said...

I've been reading Joseph's story. It's interesting and annoying, you know, because everytime the post ends I'm dying to know what happens next. Thank you for sharing.

JenandAsh said...

As a therapeutic foster care worker, I can't believe that there are states where the children are not automatically assigned their own attorneys. Every child in my state, is automatically assigned a Law Guardian from the moment their case enters the system, be it CPS, preventive, JD, or foster care.

Sorry, just a lurker.

Annie said...

hey, i'd love to visit your other blog - just confused about where to find it.

joseph's story sounds amazing, the poor boy to start off life so hard. i've only just started reading, so i'm not sure if there's a happy ending or not, but i hope so!

Jen said...

sara - I'm gld you're enjoying it. It's been fun to retell it it. Well, maybe not fun but interesting.

janandash - Sad but true. I think there aren't enough gaurdians to go around so they only assign them in certain situations. And don't say you're "just" a lurker. I love lurkers. I'm a lurker myself.

annie - There is a happy ending! :) All the links to my other blogs can be found in the tabs at the top of this one. Don't forget to enter my popcorn giveaway!

Anonymous said...

Clicked and clicked. Thank you for sharing this story.

nell said...

Whew, okay, I'm all caught up! I'll try to be back soon. I miss you when I'm gone.