Remember when I mentioned in this post that the kids' attorney said the court hearing today was going to be a "non-event"? Uh...well...
The kids' mom relinquished her parental rights to Brother and Sister in court this morning.
Since this is a big deal, comes as a surprise to a lot of you I'm sure, and is something I haven't written about yet at all, here are some tidy FAQs for you, because this stuff is anything but tidy...
What does that even mean?
She willingly signed a paper that says she is no longer their parent. It was her choice, with counsel from CPS and her attorney, to discontinue the fight to get her kids back. It was pretty clear that reunification with her kids was not going to happen and she was made aware of that, so relinquishing her rights is the more peaceful result. The alternative is to continue to fight a losing battle, end up with a contested final hearing or even a trial, and have her rights ultimately terminated by the court. When rights are relinquished, there is some room for mediation and agreement about ongoing contact with the children after adoption. With termination, no go, you're done. Also, with relinquishment, if you have other or future children become involved with CPS, everything has to start over and go through an entire case time frame. If you have rights terminated, then later get involved with CPS again for another child, then CPS can terminate rights to that child a whole lot quicker. It's just not a good way to go.
I thought you were ten months into the case and still didn't know which way it was going?
We've known for a while which way this would probably go. That doesn't mean it needed to be all over the interwebs. Then the week before Halloween, some things happened and the case suddenly started moving very quickly. Remember how we failed at Halloween? Yeah, this is mostly why. We flew around like crazy people that week talking to attorneys, social workers, pastors, parents, formulating our position for informal mediation regarding her future contact with the kids after adoption. Then some more crazy things happened and everything stalled for a few weeks. At this hearing today, we expected the judge to court order mediation and tell everyone to officially move toward relinquishing rights. We did not expect the relinquishment to happen today. I'm not sure anyone did. It was a tense courtroom lobby for the almost two hours we waited for our case to be called, with random pockets of players attempting to discuss options with nonexistent privacy, a mother in tears and two foster parents very, very interested in their phones instead of eye contact.
So, now what?
Her weekly parent visits will stop. She requested monthly visits while the case is still open, which we and CPS were ok with. In the next few weeks, we will work with attorneys to draw up a Mediated Settlement Agreement, a document which outlines the terms of future contact between her and the kids after adoption. We are agreeing to some contact and have been told by CPS we are being generous. I may write about that in more detail later, once the MSA is finalized and it all goes through. This will be approved in court mid January. That's not it though. The kids have different dads, neither of which is really in the picture, but who must still be properly dealt with in the case. CPS does not consider them to be appropriate potential caregivers, but there are still some hoops that much be gotten through to give them proper opportunities to join in, give CPS proper time to wait out nonresponse, etc. Until that side of things is taken care of, the case remains open as a foster placement. After that, it will be turned over to the adoptions unit within CPS. We have no idea what that entails or what the time frame will be but the goal at that point is just to get the adoption finalized.
How are y'all feeling?
Weird. Sad. Exhausted. Mostly sad honestly, at this point. A family disintegrated today. A woman signed her name on a line that meant she was no longer a mother to these children. Then the judge casually moved on, saying "You are excused. We'll now call case number..." We knew we signed up to work with a rough system. We knew we were headed for craziness. That doesn't make what we witnessed and were party to in our few hours at court today any easier. Trent and I ate at Cracker Barrel, which is apparently now a court date tradition, then headed back to our life. A life that now appears to include these two wonderful children forever and always.
Is congratulations in order?
Eh, yes but later. Today her family crumbled. Later our family will officially become whole.
Can we do anything?
Pray for our kids' mom. She needs a blanket of prayer around her right now. Like a big, fluffy, warm, polar fleece one with snowmen on it. On the way back to work earlier today, a David Crowder song came on the radio with the lyric "Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal"...all the awkward angst and stressful sorrow of the morning burst out of me and my heart broke for this woman. The number of random drivers in Waco that have seen me sobbing in my car is growing.
This is best.
This is right.
This is rough.