This is where the story starts to be difficult for me to share, especially in such a public forum. I feel slightly uncomfortable revealing our interactions with DHS. Most of the people in our life don’t know how difficult this process ended up being, but I feel like it is time to open up about it. Hopefully it will be received with understanding.
When we decided to add the little man to our family, it was just before the holidays. DHS picked a date just after the first of the year for us to take custody and we waited. I was a little nervous because technically his mother’s parental rights had not been terminated, but we were assured that she had no desire to keep her child and it just needed time to go through the courts.
Then things took a dramatic turn.
When the little man’s foster mother was informed of his placement, she panicked. Apparently, she thought she was going to be able to adopt him. [We later learned that DHS never intended to place him with her – naturally, we weren’t privy to their reasoning – but neglected to tell her.] Our social workers backed off, canceled our original placement date and rescheduled to give her a few days to process the situation. This was stressful for us, but I completely understood.
Then she started to lash out, desperate to keep him. Again, I understood. And I felt for her – the system had failed her and I would likely have done the same thing in her situation. This left us in an odd place though. Even though this was completely DHS’s decision, we felt like the bad guys; taking a child we had never even seen away from someone who loved him.
Our date to take custody was canceled two additional times before we had to speak up for ourselves and let them know this was unacceptable. It all felt so backwards – they had made a mistake and were trying to make up for it by drawing the process out. This wasn’t helping – it wasn’t good for us or for his foster family. They agreed and scheduled one more placement date, promising it would be the final date.
A few days before our final scheduled date, the little man had an appointment with his doctor and our social worker attended (common practice). At some point during that meeting, she decided that this complicated situation needed to end and [gently, I hope] convinced his foster mother. They went to the foster family’s home to collect his things and she took him back to the DHS office.
This was in the morning. She did not call us.
Around 5pm, we were picking our daughter up from daycare and had just called some friends to tell them we were running late to dinner. Almost as soon as I hung up the phone, I got a call from our worker. She said, “Guess who I’ve got!?” and let us know that she was only minutes away from our home. We quickly called our friends, canceled dinner, and rushed to meet her. She beat us there.
My husband brought the baby inside while our worker started bringing in his things. This is when we realized that he was here to stay. She had surprised us with a baby. I still don’t know why she decided to do this – at any time during the day she could have called. This was not an emergency foster home situation where you make a late night call and bring a child by within minutes.
The little man arrived with very few things: a car seat, two outfits, a couple of pairs of socks, an extra pair of pants and extra onesie, a pacifier, half a bottle of shampoo, and bottles/wipes/diapers the social worker had purchased that morning. He was severely constipated and weighed only 8 ½ pounds (at 4 ½ months old). We quickly made numerous phone calls and prepared to settle in with our new family member.
A week later we took the little man for a checkup with the doctor he had seen the morning he joined our family. He had been on a new diet that week and had remarkably gained 5 pounds. Apparently, his entire demeanor had changed from the previous appointment – thank goodness for GI docs!
We were thrilled with his progress and were excited that the drama was over and we could start our new life together.
Unfortunately, we were very wrong. We were about to be punched in the gut with a devastating turn of events. Part III: The Shock will detail what happened next.