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Foster Care Part 6: Our Big Court Date

Emily Saunders

To make a long story short, it took from April 2020 (the height of shutdowns) until late Fall to have a date for our TPR (termination of parental rights) hearing.  THEN, our first date got cancelled due to COVID exposure, our 2nd date got postponed (all were present) due to an attorney issue, and FINALLY January came around.

 

We all knew the case was strong, but we really didn’t know what to expect.  Lesson #1 of foster care is that ANYTHING can happen anytime.  This process is especially grueling for those of us who enjoy predictability and logical conclusions like me 😊. 

 

I created a really fantastic and comforting worship playlist that I listened to on repeat for weeks. Anticipation creates big emotions!

By the 3rd court date my husband and I were more than ready.  As we entered the socially distanced court room, we had to sit six feet apart.  The attorneys began and dove into each and every detail on each grounds for the termination.  Each State has certain grounds for which DSS can file for termination.  One is necessary, but our DSS filed on three.

 

One parent was not present.  The other’s attorney said very little except asking for more time and another chance.  I’ll never forget what the judge said near the end.  “It’s not the kids’ job to to wait for the parents to get their lives together”.

Unfortunately, the “system” doesn’t always work out in the best long-term interests of the kids.  But for our boys it did.  The judge granted the TPR and then my husband went on the stand on our behalf (I was a blubbering mess at this point) to share our commitment to love and raise our boys. His voice shook at both the blessing and depravity of the moment. My tears were plentiful.

 

 I’ll never forget that moment or the edification I felt as she commended our efforts and commitment over the past years as well as her stern warning that trauma sometimes plays out many years later. It’s very rare that foster parents are at all involved in court proceedings, so this was both challenging and special all around.

 

After the hearing we went to lunch to process what had just happened.  Usually, we are very talkative during our kid-free time, but we just kind of stared wide-eyed as we rehearsed the events of the day.  There were a lot of deep breaths of relief and very few words.

 

And then we waited.  Judges usually sign orders 30 days after the order and then the parents have 30 more days to appeal. That was a LONG 2 months.  You see, if the parents appeal the case, it can take a YEAR longer. But we made it.  There was no appeal.

 

The word adoption became a real part of our vocabularies and I’ll never forget the day that we shared the news.  I had rehearsed the conversation SO many times in my head and it went better than I could have ever imagined. 

 

“We just found out that you get to stay forever” turned into so many smiles, hugs and a sweet celebration that keeps on going. The picture of the brothers hugging and celebrating is forever etched in my memory.

 

More on that in Part 6!  Coming soon!

 

-Emily


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