Thursday, April 10, 2008

Moving on to Caleb

When we were asked if we wanted take Caleb, we were under the impression that because his mother had her rights terminated with Amata, that they would automatically be terminated with Caleb. This is sort of true. Once a person’s parental rights have been terminated to one child, the state makes the presumption that you are unfit to parent any future children.

However… the parent still has the right to try and prove otherwise. And in Minnesota, the statues simply say that hearing must be held within 90 days. When the defense knows they don't have much of a case, they usually request the trial be at the end of those 90 days. I think they do this for 2 reasons, first because that gives the parent another 90 days to try to prove they have changed, and second because the parent will get supervised visits with the child until their rights are officially terminated. Also, the statute simply says the trial needs to start within 90 days. Have I mentioned that the courts tend to move a little slow??

So the initial trial date was set for January 29th, 2007, exactly 90 days from when Caleb was born. During those 90 days, his biological mother had 2 - one hour supervised visits per week. And just like before, after the first month, the visits became somewhat sporadic. Also, in order for her to prove that she was now fit, she would have to overcome the things that led to her rights to Amata being terminated, which included having a job, a permanent place to live and sobriety. The only item she had even attempted was a job, if you use the term job VERY loosely. She was helping a friend do chores on his brother's farm and getting paid about $50.00 per month - that would not even cover the cost of her cigarettes! I showed up for court on the 29th, along with the social workers, county attorney, & her attorney and we waited, and waited, and waited.

During this time, one of the attorneys came out and was chatting with the social workers and he said, "So, is the rumor true?" And the social worker said yep, it is. So I butted in and said, "What rumor?" It was one of those questions you ask when you already know the answer. Yep, Caleb was 90 days old at the time, and she was already pregnant again!@! Did she really think that was going to help her case? Finally, almost an hour AFTER the trial was supposed to begin she showed up with her current boyfriend (who happens to be a registered sex offender).

Apparently, she had been at court in the next county where she had a hearing relating to some check forgery charges (I know I just hate it when my court hearings overlap like that!?). Now I'm just saying, that if I would ever find myself in that situation and had to decide which trial to show up on time for, I think I would pick the one relating to my child, or maybe I would even call (gasp) one of the court houses to try & get one of the hearings rescheduled. By the time she arrived they decided there was not enough time to complete the trial and so it was continued until February 7th. On January 31st, she did somehow manage to get an apartment which she moved into with her registered sex offender boyfriend. That did worry me a little, since a lot of times if the parents make even the slightest effort, the judge gives them another continuance. Finally it was time for the continuation of the previous weeks hearing to terminate the parental rights of Caleb’s biological mother. A termination that I initially thought would have been completed within days of Caleb's birth. I was wrong. Then I thought it would be completed 90 days later on January 29. I was wrong. Then for some stupid reason I thought it would be completed on February 7th. I was wrong. You'd think I would have learned by now!

So, we all show up again on February 7th, and she did show up, on time, this time. Court did actually seem to me to go pretty well that day, so I was beginning to feel pretty confident about it all. That was until the defense rested their case. I thought that next there would be closing arguments & then the judge would make his ruling (isn't that what happens on TV?). I was partially right, that is what will happen next, it just did not happen that day. The judge requested written closing arguments to be submitted to him by Tuesday, February 20th. After that, he has up to 14 days to make his ruling. Huh?! That's so not how they do it on TV! Who has ever heard of WRITTEN closing arguments?! But, apparently, the judge didn't care what I thought of that, so written arguments by the 20th it was.

I was EXTREMELY frustrated at that point, I just wanted this to be done! The fact that I don't actually get to say anything during the trial or to the judge did not help, either. So, for example, when she said that whenever she couldn’t make a visit on time, she always called as soon as she knew she would be late, I could not get up and explain to her that calling at 5:15 to say you won't make it to your 4:30 visit does not constitute "as soon as she knew she would be late" (for that matter, neither does calling at 4:20 or 4:25 since it takes her a half hour to get to where the visits took place). I just had to try and enjoy when the prosecutor, social workers, & guardian ad litem made excellent points. They asked her several times why she didn't show up for treatment when she knew that was the only way they wouldn't take the baby right away. The prosecutor asked her if she was going to continue living with her latest boyfriend, when she said yes, he asked her if she was aware that he was a registered sex offender. The social workers all explained how they've been working with her for over 15 months, and she's never followed through with anything during that time, including pre-natal care. The guardian asked why they should believe her this time when she says she'll do whatever it takes to get her son back, since the guardian had documented over 6 times when she said the same thing about Amata. They also honed in on the job that only pays $50 per month, and how she was going to keep this apartment that she just rented a week ago. So, then, we waited...again! I was feeling pretty good about what the outcome would be.

Of course, the judge did use the full two weeks before making his ruling, and during that time, she was still getting supervised visits. But FINALLY on March 6th, we received the ruling that the rights on Caleb's biological mother had been terminated due to the fact that she was not able to overcome the presumption that she was an unfit parent. (Was it wrong of me to have smiled a little to myself when she called us that day asking why we hadn't shown up for her supervised visit? - I'm just saying that after all of the times I have waited for HER, it didn't hurt my feelings much that she drove all the way over here & waited for us, and then didn't even have a visit)

I bet you were thinking, yeah, now you can start the adoption process for Caleb….but of course it would not be that easy. They will still had to terminate the rights of his biological father.

Nobody had seen his biological father in quite some time. Although, rumor was that by this time he already had another girl pregnant. At first they had just been planning to publish the court hearing in the paper, but then somebody reported that he was actually living back in this area, so the judge said that they had to attempt to locate him. Several months & 2 court dates later, the judge finally decided they had tried long enough & issued an order to publish the hearing in the paper. And finally on August 13, 2007, the rights of Caleb's biological father were terminated, and we could begin the not so speedy process of his adoption.

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