Updated: Nov 27, 2020
It’s 11 o’clock in the morning, on Tuesday, and there’s a baby sleeping on my chest. In my house. Again. She has been here since July 6th, when we brought her home from the NICU. She’s latched on like a little “bean” as Wendy says, her face directed toward mine, a faint smile across her little, open mouth. This is how you’ll find her much of the time. Asleep, attached, peaceful.
About a year ago, Wendy and I began the process to become foster/adoptive parents through the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The Department’s number one goal is to reunify children with their birth families, but when that isn’t prudent and there’s no extended family willing or able to raise the child, prospective parents like Wendy and me are provided an opportunity to adopt.
But first we foster, fully aware the child we grow to love may have to leave.
It’s strange emotional territory—balancing the desire to adopt with the desire for someone to fail. We can’t get what we want unless someone else screws up so badly, DCFS severs their parental rights. While those are the facts, so is this: We aren’t responsible for the birth parents’ behavior; we’re helping the child while her birth family makes whatever choices they’re going to make. And if their parental rights are severed, she’ll immediately have a permanent home with the only family she has ever known so far in her life.
If DCFS decides she should live with her birth family, or extended family, it’ll hurt. A lot. So I often remind myself, to temper my attachment and soften the potential blow, that it wouldn’t be losing my daughter. She isn’t my daughter; not yet. Right now, I’m helping a child get a good start in life—one she wouldn’t have otherwise had—and that’ll have to be enough. Because ultimately this process, at its core, isn’t about me or what I want. It’s about helping vulnerable children when the people who are supposed to be there for them, aren’t.
Our foster daughter had a court date yesterday. She’s two months old and already has her own attorney. The goal of the hearing was to determine whether reunification services would continue for the next six months or if instead, the court would begin working toward severing parental rights and finding an adoptive home. The latter wouldn’t necessarily mean with us. Though we’d be at the top of the list, extended family comes first. According to our foster daughter’s attorney, it takes a few months to work toward adoption, and then another few months to finalize an adoption.
We arrived at the courthouse a little before 8:30am and checked in with the bailiff. We didn’t know what time her case would be heard, so we were prepared to wait all day. Around 2pm, we were able to enter the court room for five minutes of whisper-quiet, passionless deliberation whereby it was decided to delay a decision until October 16th because DCFS is still waiting on some paperwork.
She’s going to have to wait almost the entire length of her current life for a decision. Not the decision—just one decision in the step-by-step process of adoption. I don’t think she’ll mind, but for us, it’s another exercise in accepting that things are how they are; it’s a process, and not one we can control. We have power over our own piece—loving, caring, and advocating for our foster daughter. We can only watch and hope for the best as the rest of process steps and stumbles over its predetermined series of bureaucratic hurdles.