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Foster Care: Expect the Unexpected

Foster Parent with kids

I always say that anything can happen in foster care, and yet I am still surprised in big and small ways. This week was one of those weeks that brought big surprises.

I mentioned in a former post that we had court this week and the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) trial would begin unless our little guy’s father chose to surrender his parental rights. I fully expected a TPR trial because we were told that the father was not going to agree to surrender his parental rights.

I have been anxious all week and the day before texted some close friends to ask for prayer because I did not know what was going to happen. At 4pm that day, I got a phone call from our case worker telling me that the father had changed his mind and would consider a surrender if we increased the number of post adoption visits we would put in the legal agreement. The minimum number of visits he would accept was more than we wanted, but the possibility of a surrender instead of a protracted court process was very appealing.

I immediately texted my husband and we discussed it after the little guy was asleep. We don’t like to talk about this kind of thing in front of him. He is young, but he probably understands more than we realize and we try not to say anything negative about birth parents in front of the kids. (It’s good to try to always be positive, but you also need to be realistic in making important decisions).

In the end, we decided to agree to the proposed number of visits. One of the main benefits of a surrender in a case like this is that it is final. An unsafe person can never get custody of the child again. If the court did not decide to terminate the father’s rights and he followed his case plan, he could have a chance to get the child back, in spite of his history. Even if the court did decide to terminate his rights, he could appeal and that could go on for a year or more.

Because the visits upset our little guy so much, we also decided it was better to end the twice-weekly visits now even if it meant agreeing to more visits over the years (with a TPR, there would be no post adoption visits required). In the future, we can also be there for visits, which would hopefully make them less traumatic. If the father falls back into old patterns, there is a possibility he would violate the surrender conditions and the visits would end. If he truly does change, then our little guy having some relationship with him may be a positive thing.

Even after we agreed to the terms, there was still a chance the father could change his mind or they would adjourn the hearing to work out the details, so we still didn’t know what would happen that day. Thankfully, everything went smoothly and the surrender of parental rights was finalized and our little guy was freed for adoption!

Signing the intent to adopt was kind of surreal, but exciting. I was also thankful that I could contact our little guy’s first Mommy to tell her that the adoption plan she made for our little guy (before the father reentered the picture) would really be happening.

Because the change was so last minute, it still hasn’t fully sunk in, but we are grateful we can begin the adoption process and that our little guy will finally be able to have a permanent family!

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