Today's hearing was to determine if the judge was going to move forward to terminate rights -- or if he would allow the parents an extension to become healthy and safe parents for little miss.
The judge did NOT grant an extension.
This could mean one of two things:
1) The parents could relinquish rights. If they do, that will happen in a short time, and we will move forward with adopting little miss. We have offered an open adoption -- meaning that the parents will still get to see little miss (supervised of course) one or two times a year for the remainder of her childhood.
2) The parents could NOT relinquish rights. If they choose to do so, we will have a closed adoption (meaning no communication at all between our families). The case could take much longer to close. Little miss would still stay in our care, and the plan is still adoption. But this will be a messier option for all involved, and our adoption of her is not guaranteed.
As a result of today's hearing, we will be starting with our adoption home study right away, which will be a timely and paperwork-extensive process.
We have a new social worker on our agency side (my 6th social worker on the case, by the way, since we started with little miss), and I had a chance to talk with her for about an hour prior to the hearing.
I am super glad we had the chance to talk. She has an amazing story (and maybe one day she'll let me share), and it really solidified in my mind that we are doing the right thing.
I say that because you need to know that sometimes I doubt whether we are doing the right thing or not.
Sometimes it feels like I'm taking someone else's baby. I still have days where it feels like I'm babysitting rather than taking care of a little one who has the potential to one day be ours. Ryan and I both have moments of doubt that we are on the right path. (Those moments quickly fade, though.)
You need to know that being a foster-to-adopt family is not like the joy of having your own brand-new, healthy baby.
When you have a new (alive & healthy) baby, there is no good-bye. There is no tearing a family apart first to form yours.
But little miss already comes with a family. She's had two actually. And now both of those families have (or may) be going through a "tearing apart" where she is no longer "theirs."
They would have loss before we would have gain.
And as a mom who has been forced to say good-bye to two of my own babies far too early -- I really struggle with watching the other moms say good-bye.
I struggled with first family. When I found out that they were not an adoptive home, and that the family little miss knew from 3 days old would not be her forever family, I just balled. It took me awhile before I could just feel happy that she was with us, without also feeling the pang of loss her first family must be feeling.
And now that's how I feel about bio parents. While clearly the state does not see them as able to provide a healthy home (since they are pursuing termination), and I would agree, I can't always see past their love of her.
But I know sometimes love just isn't enough.
And it's not enough for little miss. She has to come first.
So I studied bio mom and dad in court today. Bio mom asked for prayer prior to the hearing. To me, that really shows that Christ was there. I'm thankful to be working with a Christian agency where the parents feel free to ask for that.
During the hearing, mom was nervous, wringing her hands but with a stoic face. Dad seemed more distraught.
It really is hard to be present to hear a judge point-blank tell them they will likely lose their child. I think you would have to be very hardened in heart not to feel their pain in this circumstance.
Now -- you might be thinking that I'm being super unrealistic. Have I not forgotten that they CHOSE this route? They have had a year to get their act together -- and their choices have brought them where they are today.
Absolutely I remember. Sometimes I make myself remember.
When I first met them, I was so angry with them for their choices. So angry that little miss is in the position she is in.
But God started asking me to soften my heart. And I couldn't do it -- so I had to pray to God and ask Him to do it for me. To learn to respect them as persons no matter their choices. To see them with compassion.
God alone has changed my heart (and continues to do so) -- but truly I can say that I hold no anger toward them. Maddy, little miss and I see bio parents weekly, and I have a much better "working" relationship with them now than I did at first. I'm figuring out, slowly, how to let them parent her while we are all together, rather than want to take control.
I enjoy sending them pictures now, telling them of her progress, and giving them her crafts from daycare.
I am little miss's foster mom. Maybe one day, if a judge decides it, her forever mom. But I'm also a Christian. I am a representative of Christ to these parents, maybe one of the only they will see, and the way that I treat them and pray for them is super important.
Just as God longs to have a relationship with little miss -- He yearns to have a relationship with her parents.
And so my prayer is that through God's heart shining through us -- through the moving of His spirit -- bio parents will accept Christ and experience a whole new, redeemed life. As you pray for us, I hope and ask that you would also remember her bio parents.
I do know that God's in control. And whether ultimately we adopt her -- or her bio parents get to keep her-- God's got my heart all the same.
Thanks so much for all the prayers today, dear friends. I can't tell you how much I crave and appreciate all the support you all have shown us.
P.S Please pray for us next Thursday, specifically, and for our upcoming hearings.