I know I haven't updated the blog, but we'll just have to play catch up some other time. Basically, I had a Judicial Review today to see if I'm compliant with the case plan that DCF had set out for me. The case has gone so wrong and so stupid, that I knew that we'd have several issues to discuss today, and I was a nervous wreck.
I've said this before, and I will say it again ... I seriously have the best friends EVER. Today was soooo intense, and soooo stressful. By the time I got to the courthouse, I was wound tighter than an eight-day-clock. I sat down with my attorney, and he looked at me point-blank and said, "So much has happened with this case, and even I don't know all the details. You're going to do most of the talking." ACK!!! Ummmm .... errrrr .... ok. They called our case, and as I approached the stand, I felt this huge wave of calm crash over me. Thank you so much, praying friends, I could feel every single one of you lifting us up!!! So, these are the basics:
1. The first words out of the DCF attorney's mouth were that I was not being compliant with scheduling the therapeutic visits for me and Red. She barely got the sentence out, the judge turned his eyes to me, and I opened up. My words were confident and strong: Your Honor, please let me inform you that this is NOT a matter of my scheduling these visits, I would love nothing more. The case manager in charge of our case spent the better part of four months not doing our paperwork so that the therapist was assigned, had her paperwork, and was properly funded. Our caseworker also spent that time ignoring phone calls and emails, and telling everyone that ***I*** was the one being the problem. Our last official visit was May 14 of this year. I've been trying to get the visits scheduled since that time. Just this past week, the paperwork was finally submitted correctly, and we had our visit this past Sunday. ... The judge was not pleased that this is what had transpired. While he didn't admonish the caseworker from the bench (I'll admit it, I would have gotten a wee bit of pleasure out of it), you could tell that he was upset. I can safely say that there will no longer be an issue with making sure our service providers are in order.
2. The next issue up at bat was if I had completed all of the aspects of my case plan. There is one outstanding issue: a domestic abuse class that had not been assigned to me. It was in the case plan, but no one had brought it up or sent me a referral. My attorney admitted to the judge that it had even escaped his attention, as it had been something of a side note scribbled in and not typed up and formal. The judge asked if I knew about it, and I said that I was not aware that it was a separate thing that needed to be done, I had thought it was just part of all the other counseling we had done. He's given DCF - and me - 30 days to get this assigned and completed. We have to go back to court October 28th to make sure that it is taken care of.
3. The attorney for the guardian ad litem's office spoke up next and said that her office is quite upset with the fact that Red has been participating in family activities without the supervision of the therapist. She said that she had spoken to Red's primary therapist and he was adamant that Red and I spend NO time together AT ALL (seriously, she was shouting) without a therapist present. DCF's attorney chimed in, actually in my defense (scary, right?), stating that "The Grandfather" (my dad, where Red is living) doesn't have transportation, and she had spoken at great length with Dad. The events that I had wanted to attend were school activities, meetings with teachers (like the conference my Dad went to last week with Red's algebra teacher), and medical appointments. The DCF attorney was quite clear in saying that both my Dad and Red had expressed interest in me attending these events. After she finished speaking, I took the floor and said that at no time are Red and I are ever alone together. When we transport Red, it is always me and Hubby, at the very least, and often the other three kids and my Dad are there, as well. Neither one of us are comfortable spending one-on-one time together yet, so that shouldn't be a concern. The judge took all of that into consideration, but would like to hear from Red's therapist and from my therapist (who does our supervised visits) before deciding to lift the restrictions. That was fair.
4. Finally, the DCF attorney said that after several conversations with my Dad, she wanted to make sure we were all on the same page regarding the final disposition of the case. Yesterday morning, Dad spoke with the DCF attorney, and they were looking at permanent guardianship. Basically, Red will live with my Dad until he turns 18, and Dad takes care of all of his needs. I would retain my parental rights and still be Mom. If it is easier, it would be very similar to joint custody in a divorce ... with my Dad having residential custody. Obviously, there are a few differences, but that is the closest that I can compare it to. My Dad made it very clear that he wants me to be as active as I possibly can in Red's life, they both want me there by his side. The DCF attorney essentially summarized this to the judge. The judge agreed with what she said and questioned why this would even be a discussion. I spoke up at that point: Your Honor, yesterday afternoon, I received a phone call from a member of the GAL's office. I was told that I had two options, either Red comes back to live with me or I would need to surrender my parental rights. The attorney for the GAL tried to argue, but I shut her down. I said that it didn't matter to me what they felt was going on, I had been threatened, and as long as we continued to have communication breakdowns like these, we were never going to get anywhere. The judge agreed, and made sure that everyone understood that from here on out, everyone needs to communicate clearly and effectively and not threaten anyone with rights and responsibilities.
The judge was not amused by anything that happened today. As I said, we go back in October to see if this domestic abuse class has been taken care of, and then we have yet another judicial review in February, and hopefully that is when the case will be closed.
I will never be able to thank you all for all the prayers and thoughts y'all sent me. I have a distinct fear of speaking up for myself in front of the judge, and I was able to speak clearly and confidently today, and not let them take any ground away from me. This battle was won in my favor ... but the war is still not over. Until next time ....