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September 20, 2021

A final decision, thanks to our own version of a classic

*Side note to our arm faliling conference call:  Jazmin was suddenly saying the parents might regain custody. The next court dates was in Feb (this was mid December-ish). "One just never knew." Prior to this she'd been 99% sure the judge wouldn't return the kids to them. The dad was in jail and the mom hadn't been caught yet. If she showed up to the boys' hearing, she'd be arrested and thrown in jail. 

My theory:  Jazmin had bonded with the foster family (the people who were upset about the pinprick of a red dot under Charlie's eye) who wanted to adopt Charlie ONLY and she was trying to get things to work in their favor. 

Coach and I told them we'd let them know if we wanted to do the extended visit. We sat in our kitchen and couldn't decide what to do. What if Max was THAT bad and disruptive? This made us uneasy. Parental rights hadn't been terminated. We went back and forth. It was impossible.

Coach:  OK, we've got to decide. Let's do rock, paper, scissors. 

Me:  Huh?

Coach:  Yeah, on the count of three we hold up our fingers based on what we want to do. 1 for we get them for the long visit and 2 we move on. On 3, ready?  1, 2, 3.

He held up 1 finger and I held up 2 fingers. 

Me:  Oh, you want to give them a try even though the parental rights aren't terminated and the supposed bad behavior? 

Coach:  Oh. No. I guess I got the numbers mixed up. I'm a 2. Let's just take a pass. 

When we stopped laughing at the game plan Coach created and then messed up and how goofy we were at our way of handling a serious matter such as this, we called Jazmin and put her on speaker phone. This was when things got nuts. She shared information that would've been REALLY interesting had she shared it during the staffing/ phone call that we'd JUST had with HER boss and our worker an hour earlier. 

I started to tell her that we were going to take a pass on the boys, but first . . .

Jazmin:  Yeah, Max is placed with a couple who have no experience with kids. This was their first placement. They keep going back and forth about whether or not they want to keep him. They have no toys. They're really into electronics that they won't let him touch. He's figured out their passwords. They get upset when he sneaks onto their computers. 

Me:  (after staring off into space for a moment in disbelief about the new info that was PARAMOUNT to the boys' future) Jazmin, he's not misbehaving - he's BORED. I hate to have these boys split up because Max is mischaracterized as bored.

Jazmin:  Yeah, the first emergency placement Max went to saw no behavior issues.  That placement said she'd take him back any time. Oh, the biological mom called recently. She said she can't go to the court date because she'll be arrested but she made me promise not to separate her boys. She wanted them to stay together. 

Me:  (more shock) We want to keep the boys over break and see how it goes. 

Coach, head swivels:  Wait, we do? 

Me: (nodding at Coach with an eyeroll) Yes, Coach we do. This isn't Max's fault. He's bored. 

Coach:  OK, then. 

Jazmin:  Let me reach out to the couple. I'll get back to you.

We wait in limbo for a few days. Am I shopping for Christmas gifts for them? What's happening? 

No photos that would
 make sense here,
but please enjoy this
 spontaneous egg
face that I snapped
 in my kitchen
months ago. It
is often how I
 felt during the process.

I'm in Costco. It's Jazmin's last day in this position. I'd left her messages and hadn't heard anything.

Jaz calls me while I'm in the cereal isle wearing a mask:  Hi. Yeah, so the couple want to see how things go. They hope to adopt Max and the other family wants Charlie. So, sorry. We're going to move in that direction. 

I bent over my cart in Costco, like the wind had been knocked out of me. I told Jazmin how lousy I thought this was and how it was a disservice to the boys. She essentially shrugged (but more of a verbal, OH WELL) over the phone.

Coach was at work. When I got home from Costco, five kids were there waiting to eat (because some things never change). Ed was still home for an extended covid break and Lad was still out in the world not communicating with us. I was throwing the boxes of cereal, and protein bars into the kitchen. Unable to speak. 

Kids:  WHOA, WHO PISSED YOU OFF AT COSTCO? WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?

When we sat down to eat, I finally explained the Jazmin phone call. My kids are never quiet. You could've heard a pin drop. They hung their heads. Pushed food around their plates. Mini wiped away tears.

Early on when we had a family meeting to discuss how everyone felt about us possibly taking the boys, 

Mini had said:  CAN YOU SEE IF SOMEONE ELSE WANTS THEM AND JUST TELL THEM THAT WE'LL TAKE THEM IF THEY ARE CONSIDERING SPLITTING THEM UP. I'M NOT SURE IF WE CAN HANDLE THEM, BUT I THINK IT WOULD BE AWFUL IF THEY SPLIT THEM UP. 

Me: IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY, MINI.

Whether we got the boys or not, our kids were crushed imagining the two of them not growing up together. We'd watched them roll around on the family room couch watching cartoons in the jammies Saturday morning. We'd been undecided and up and down and all over the place. Coach was like OUT OF OUR HANDS. I wanted to fight for them. 

At the same time, my friend Bethany who'd successfully adopted 2 kids just last year- the one whose worker we'd switched to after we sat behind her family at church on Christmas Eve, anyway - she told me that she'd stay far away from kids who hadn't had their rights terminated. Too risky.

Regardless of everything, I felt like this was the perfect example of the system failing. Jazmin allowing the 2 weeks to lapse and not giving accurate information in that conference call -well, it seemed she wanted to wash her hands of this and move to her next position. 

I still think of Max and Charlie and wonder what happened to them. Mini shared recently that she wonders about them too. Did rights get terminated? Did they get adopted? Do they see each other often? I have some incredibly cute video of them with Curly and Reggie. They built a train track with a ramp - rigged it up with some Legos underneath it. Then they raced Lego cars and trains down it to see how far they'd go once launched by the ramp. Max just sat and bounced on his butt and clapped and yipped and Charlie kept stopping cars to put his car on there. I couldn't remember the last time I saw Reg and Curly laugh so hard. 

See, this is why it took me so long to post. Heart breaking. I wanted this all written in case you were all on the edge of your seats and I couldn't find the time to write the next installment. The next part will pop up here in a few days, unless I can edit it and double check that it's ready to go earlier. Monday nights are busy for me though. And I babysit for 6 little ones during the day, one of whom is a brand new baby. So, no promises. Just drove home 6.5 hours after we all visited Tank and my house looks like a bomb went off - but I do hate to disappoint. 

20 comments:

Nicole MacPherson said...

Oh, this is so sad. I am so sad for those children. The system is obviously broken; I can't believe they would split those two up. How heartbreaking.

Suzanne said...

I'm so sorry Ernie. :-( Hoping those boys are happy and healthy and get to see each other sometimes.

Jenny in WV said...

How terrible! I hope where ever Charlie and Max are now they are happy and have the stability every child needs and deserves.

Kari Wagner Hoban said...

This shows how the system is broken. I feel so sad for those children.

Busy Bee Suz said...

It looks like the system is not geared to the betterment of these kids. I can't fathom who would think it's a good idea to split them up. EVER. Talk about double trauma; losing their parents (good or bad) and then your ONE constant companion.
WTF.

Your egg pic made me smile. But thinking of your hearts breaking makes me sad. I'm so sorry you guys (and the kids) had to endure all the yanking around. I just can't imagine how hard this was for you and for those innocent boys too.

Charlie said...

Oh Ernie. This is so sad. Your kids sound so loving that I’m sure Charlie and Max would have had a wonderful childhood after such a rough start. No wonder you are heartbroken. Praying each placement has worked out positively and they get to meet up sometimes

Pat Birnie said...

What a heartbreaking and disappointing end to this story. I am saddened by the broken system that is mean to protect these kids. What a total mess. I am also sorry for your kind family who was let down, yet again due to...what? Incompetence, laziness??

Beth Cotell said...

What a horrible situation for everyone involved. Even their mother (who clearly has her own issues and problems) knew that splitting them up was not a good idea. I'm sorry for them and I'm sorry for you guys. I am hoping and praying that they both are adjusting well to their new homes and that they get to see one another regularly.

Anonymous said...

My heart breaks for all of you but especially those two little boys. How absolutely heartbreaking. Jill

Gigi said...

I'm so sorry that it came to this. Now, we can only hope the boys are in loving homes and cherished dearly.

Ernie said...

Nicole - I agree. It is a broken system. I also feel like it was just a weird, quirky luck of the draw that the boys got this woman who was switching positions and just said what she thought the person she was dealing with wanted to hear, before changing her tune as she turned to the next person. Weird.

Ernie said...

Suzanne- I'm sad about the outcome, but we hadn't really bonded with them - just met them a few times, so I'm more sad for them than I am for us. Still, it was hard not to think about all the what ifs - like what if we'd called the day after they left vs waiting until after Thanksgiving. I do wonder what ended up happening. Hopefully wherever they landed, it worked out for them.

Ernie said...

Jenny - I agree. This was hard for us, but we weren't exactly attached to them. We were just in the WONDER IF THIS WILL WORK/IF THEY ARE THE ONES? kind of place, but it was unsettling to see how things could play out when workers don't give a case their all. Hopefully they boys are thriving in whatever arrangement they ended up in.

Ernie said...

Kari - Exactly - look how much of their future is uncertain for them, and then you get a supervisor who leaves and a sub who doesn't really know her stuff and a social worker focused on her next position. Not sure splitting the boys was in their best interest, but I do hope they landed in good homes and that they enjoy frequent visits.

Ernie said...

Suz - In all of our training and licensing, we were constantly reminded that they do not split up siblings when avoidable, so this scenario surprised me. Of course we were admittedly still on the fence about whether or not this was going to be a fit for us, so on the one hand I'm glad that we hadn't spent oodles of time with them before running into this mess. Regardless, I felt the handling of the whole thing was mind blowing. Part of me has wanted to ask my worker what ever happened to them. Not sure if she could find out. Hoping they are happy in whatever their arrangement is.

Ernie said...

Charlie - I think we would've all grown had these boys moved in with us - become more understanding of autism for certain, and tolerant of people with differences. Even in that short time I saw my kids minds open, and wheels turn.

The boys didn't want to go back when I took them back. That was hard. No one ever tells you what to say or how to explain the next step to them, and Max asked questions. I hate to think that he thinks we didn't want them. It was so jumbled.

Ernie said...

Pat - Yes, it could've gone so differently and I spent many weeks wondering if we should've done something differently. Been more demanding, not spent too much time mulling over whether or not they might fit? We had no idea that they could disregard our visit and just decide to keep them at the emergency care. I know workers are over worked, but I do think some of this was people not willing to go the extra mile and do the job at hand. How bazaar was it when Jazmin switched gears in the span of an hour after telling her subbing supervisor that Max was a terror and then admitting to us that he just wanted to play and had nothing to play there. Oh, how that boiled my blood.

Ernie said...

Beth - You bring up a good point - when Jazmin told me that the mother begged her to just keep her boys together it was like a dagger to my heart. A mother's love knew that they belonged together. Even with her troubles, I felt her pain and imagined her making that phone call knowing she couldn't go to court, but hoping someone would keep them together. Sigh. Honestly for all we know, a judge could've given her kids back to her. Illinois is renowned for giving too many chances. Sorry, but I think too many chances caters to parents and compromises the kids' safety and future. Stop wasting their time and let them be adopted while they are young and haven't been tossed into countless foster homes.

Ernie said...

Jill - I agree. We were bummed, but still confused and uncertain but to see the boys spend time together was to KNOW that they were bonded to one another. Curly loved combing Charlie's hair after his bath and tucking him in. They were only here for 3.5 days, but they were sweet.

Ernie said...

Gigi - Yes, hopefully whatever happened, the boys are happy and adjusting and still getting to see one another.