Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Going to court (Corazon's adoption story)

Corazon's adoption story continued. For anyone following this story please note that most of these posts are all about things taking place in the first 8 months of our placement.

Corazon had been with me for about 7 months when the court proceedings continued. They had begun prior to Corazon being placed but there continued to be continuances, investigations, new orders from the judge, and other types of delays. I was told that I would be asked to testify as her foster parent and as her preadoptive parent. There was a difference because as her foster parent I was considered an informed authority about Corazon's state of mind, care, issues, and anything she had expressed about going to live with her birth family. As a preadoptive parent I would be considered "hostile" to the birth family because I would be perceived as an opponent. I wasn't happy about this because from the beginning I had indicated that I wanted Corazon with her birth family if they were able to care for her. I couldn't deny my growing attachment and fear for her future given the issues I was seeing. But I was still adamant that I did not want to stand in the way of her being with her family and I told the social services attorney that I would not disparage the family or offer comparisons in any way.

I arrived at the courthouse at my assigned time 9 a.m. As I waited outside I noticed that Corazon's mother, Linda, was also waiting. We greeted each other and she introduced me to Corazon's grandmother who had come forward as interested in taking Corazon. The grandmother was very pleasant and began telling me how well cared for Corazon looked (based on pictures I had sent Linda.) She told me she didn't want to raise Corazon and was too old to have a 5 year old to chase after. She listed off all her health issues and medications she was taking and went on and on about how much work Corazon's older siblings, now 16 & 17 had been and continued to be. She said she had only been to one scheduled visitation with Corazon in the past 7 months because she was "too busy." She also said she was confident I would be a good parent for Corazon. I was a bit stunned because she was the whole reason we were here in court and here she was telling me she didn't want to take care of the child!

In retrospect I think there was divine intervention at this point because I ended up spending ALL day outside the courtroom with the grandmother and mother. I got to know them better and we were never called in because the therapist and adoption assessor were on the stand all day. I returned the next day to testify. Linda and I greeted each other warmly as we entered the courtroom. Since we were sworn to secrecy I cannot reveal the details but I have to say it was one of the most disheartening experiences in my life. There were SO many people involved. I have written before about all the social workers and some of them were there. There were also 4 social service supervisors and 4 attorneys (social services, mother's, Corazon's, and legal father's--not to be confused with bio father.) The hostility in that room was palpable. Social services sat on one side and all the other attorneys on the other. Someone forgot to warn me that I would be questioned by ALL 4 attorneys and the judge. I spend a day and a half on the stand due to the number of interruptions and sidebars that took place throughout the day. I was thoroughly impressed by the social services attorney for her passion, professionalism, clarity and composure. Two of the other attorneys yelled, stormed, rolled their eyes and were pretty patronizing. The legal father's attorney was just there. He had nothing to add and no investment since he was representing someone who really didn't exist or had anything to do with this but was required to have representation anyway. I think he asked me two questions but otherwise stayed out of the fray. All those interruptions did serve a purpose. While sidebars were taking place I had to step off the witness stand and away from their yelling matches ...uhmm... conversations I went over to chat with Linda, Corazon's mother. Neither of us could believe the behavior of most of these people!

Testifying was painful when I was asked questions about Corazon's feelings towards her mother. Corazon had little attachment to anyone except perhaps the aunt she had lived with so she was indifferent to her mother unless she was getting gifts. She was afraid she would be sent away to another house (even as she shopped for new families) and had no memories nor desire to live with mother. The grandmother didn't even exist in Corazon's world. It was a grueling two days but it did solidify a level of trust with Linda, Corazon's mother. This would turn out to "save the day" when all was said and done.

The proceedings ended the day after I testified. In the meantime the highest state official had made clear that they would not approve the grandmother's home so that the judge would have to order them to place Corazon there despite the fact that it was considered an unfit home based on criminal convictions against the grandmother AND the child sex offender STILL living in her home. We couldn't believe how this had continued and everyone seemed to think the judge was overstepping her bounds (reports had been filed against her) but there we were counting on her to render a decision that would affect all of our futures. The judge announced she would render her decision in one week. During that time social services approached the birth mother once again. She refused and said she was still hoping that her mother would get custody. Her rights hadn't actually been terminated yet but she believed she wouldn't get Corazon.

We waited on pins and needles and the week came and went with no response from the court. It would be 5 MONTHS before the judge rendered her decision!


SocialWkr24/7 said...

Ha! Good to know that court goes pretty much the same no matter where it is.... (sarcasm!)
But it is great that you had the chance to really spend time with Corazon's family - I'm sure it will serve you and her well in the future!

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

The whole story is just appalling. Unbelieveable.

Lisa said...

No words.

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