Corazon's adoption story continued.... (March 2006)
Five months after the court hearing (and 13 months into Corazon's placement) I got a call from the social services attorney that they were all being summoned to the judge's chambers that afternoon. She would call me as soon as she had more information. I was on pins and needles. I couldn't believe it would finally be over. Or would it? What if over meant she would go to her grandmother's home. In my heart of hearts I knew I wanted to keep her despite all we were going through. I still saw glimmers of a great little kid in there. I also felt that grandmother didn't want her and my head hurt when I thought about what would happen to her there.
True to her word the social services attorney called to let me know the judge had terminated mother's parental rights, rejected any request from birth mother to have continued contact with Corazon (no letters, calls, visits, etc.), granted the grandmother 6 visits per year (plus cards and letters!) and approved social services moving forward with Corazon getting adopted (by me presumably.) I also got calls from Corazon's social worker and her supervior. Everyone was glad rights were terminated but no one was happy with the outcome.
No one could believe absent and disinterested grandmother was getting visitation while mother got nothing. The mother had stayed clean for about 18 months at that point (although not following all of her plan) and had attempted to make some of the visits with Corazon throughout the last three years Corazon had been in foster care. Grandmother had not. If anyone got visitation it should have been the mother. Social Services felt 6 visits/year tied the hands of an adoptive family even though I was willing. They felt the judge's order set a precedent that would have a tremendous impact on future cases. If an absent relative with a criminal record could get 6 visitations/year what did that mean for other relatives. On principle along social services decided they needed to appeal the decision. The mother was stunned to get no visitation so she had nothing to lose but to appeal. When was this going to end?
It was now over a year since Corazon had arrived in my life. She was still a mess but we had started with the new therapist who was working on addressing some of Corazon's behaviors. She had terrible nightmares about jail, judges, monsters, etc. since that meeting months before with the guardian ad litem so on the advice of the therapist we had told her that the judge said she could stay with me. That alleviated some of the nightmares but not the rest of the behaviors.
In the meantime social services wanted to schedule a termination visit as soon as possible. Corazon's mother, Linda, asked if I would attend the termination visit because she wanted to talk to me. We agreed to meet for 30 minutes prior to her visit with Corazon. I went on ahead and my friend agreed to bring Corazon by a little later so she wouldn't be there for the initial part of our meeting. The tension in that office was palatable. Social services personnel familiar with the case were all "hanging out" in the lobby area as I arrived for the visit. Social services insisted on having someone from their office present in the meeting. (They were concerned she would be violent or hostile because they had seen alot of that from her. I wasn't concerned but agreed as long as Linda agreed to having someone from social services there.)
Linda, myself, Corazon's social worker, and one of the supervisors went into a meeting room. Linda spoke only to me. She told me of her love for Corazon, her hopes for her daughter and how she KNEW she would lose her from the day she had been born. She said she had held out all those years and kept fighting because a part of her hoped she (Linda) could do what she needed for her child but another part of her knew that if she was going to lose Corazon she needed to hold out for the best possible mother for her child. She said I was that mother. She said that she now knew all of this we had all been through was about waiting for me. She said she knew that now and she was at peace with that even if she never saw her daughter again.
There was nothing for me to say.
She was going to instruct her attorney to drop the appeal. She understood from her attorney that social services wouldn't drop theirs because of the judge's order for visitation for the grandmother. She was OK with that because her mother shouldn't raise Corazon. She had been desperate to keep a connection to her and her mother seemed to be the last hope. She knew she had tried many times but still couldn't stay on the right track and serve Corazon's needs but she loved her. Now all she wanted was for Corazon to move on and be adopted. At that point, with tears in her eyes Corazon's worker and supervisor left the room. Within minutes they returned with a phone and both attorneys on the line. They determined that if we signed an open adoption agreement with mother before the appeals were filed, the judge's order would not stand. Linda could get one visit per year (that is what she asked for) and it would be over. (An open adoption agreement had been presented more than a year ago and rejected by Linda. Now it was her best hope for seeing her daughter.) Linda was apologetic for all the hurt she had caused her daughter especially over the past year. She told me that if she had signed the agreement then Corazon would be adopted by now. She started to cry.
I told her I understood why she couldn't sign that agreement then and I really think I did. I said that if she had given up fighting then she had to live with that and so would Corazon. At this point we would all be able to tell Corazon that her mother loved her and had fought to the end to get her back and keep her in the family. How could I not understand that? How could I not support that? It was something that might help Corazon as she got older and started to wonder and ask questions. Linda and I hugged and cried. There was not a dry eye in that room. Could it be that it was finally over?
The judge would have to agree and we all agreed that with this judge we just couldn't be sure... We were still in limbo...