Friday, August 30, 2013

Only in Foster Care...

"That Awkward Moment When Your Children's Bio Moms are Jail Buddies..."

Yep!  I received that late night message from my unofficially "adopted" daughter, Heaven, a few months ago.  Turned out her mom and Bug's mom met in jail and became fast friends.  Neither one had any idea that they were connected in any way.  Poor Heaven made the connection as she was visiting her mom and had to play dumb until she had a chance to talk to me.  Our 2:00am conversation went a little something like this:

Heaven:  "So...  Really weird visit with my mom today...  Wanna guess who my mom's new friend is?  ...That awkward moment when your two kids' bio moms are jail buddies..."

Me:  "Shut up!  Are you serious?!?"

Heaven:  "Dead serious.  She told my mom all about Bug and how she's considering adoption for him.  My mom doesn't know you have her kid, but they bonded when she told his mom that her grandson (Booger) was in foster care as a baby and had a loving home, blah, blah, blah..."

Heaven made the connection as her mom told her the story about her friend's (then) 8-month-old son named (Bug's real name) in foster care and a few other things that helped her make the connection.  Heaven said that it sounded like Bug's mom was going to be incarcerated for a while because she was being transferred to the same jail that her mom was being transferred to (another reason they became fast friends).

Heaven:  "My mom told her that you were a great mom to Booger and that you are there for me because she can't be and a lot of nice things about you.  She's accepted that you're my mom too.  :-)"

That whole statement made me want to cry because I've always worried that Heaven's mom didn't like me at all.  It would be totally understandable for her to resent me because Heaven and I are so close.  The fact that she was saying such nice things about me when she had no idea that her daughter had a vested interest in what Bug's mom ultimately decided meant a lot.

After talking for over an hour, we came to the point of trying to decide how to handle our new-found knowledge.  Part of me wanted Bug's mom to know that the awesome woman that her new friend had been talking about was actually the woman raising her son too, but at the same time I was worried that the connection might look like I was trying to sway her in some way.  It wasn't as if we'd planned this though!  I mean, really!  It's not as though Heaven's mom deliberately got arrested and put into the same pod in the same huge jail for the sole purpose of convincing Bug's mom to voluntarily relinquish her rights so I could adopt him.  The chances of them becoming jail buddies was so ridiculously minuscule that no one could possibly accuse me of anything, right?

By 3:30am, we had decided that Heaven would go ahead and tell her mom what we suspected - that the baby we call "Bug," the little brother that Heaven talks about babysitting all the time and who Booger and Banana talk about seeing at Mimi's house, is actually (Bug's real name), her new friend's baby.  Heaven was going to see her mom that weekend, and was going to tell her.

At this point, Heaven got frustrated about the whole situation.  Heaven loves Bug something fierce, and having this new development come up five days before the permanency hearing put us all in a bad predicament.  Heaven was terrified of saying something that might get me in trouble, but at the same time we were so very anxious to see what might come of the friendship that was developing between her mom and Bug's bio mom.  We still couldn't believe that they had even met!  There are hundreds of women in the jail that they were in at the time.  What were the chances?!?

That's when the conversation turned to more specific things like what Bug's mom was charged with, things that she told Heaven's mom about her past, how she felt about Bug, her feelings about her mother intervening for custody, her thoughts about adoption, etc.  Heaven's mom told her that she had a soft spot for Bug's mom because she was so sad and that no one ever came to see her.  I learned more secondhand from Heaven's mom than I had in the previous six months from anyone in CPS!  A lot of what I learned made me feel sorry for her.  My family and friends always tell me that I have a soft spot for bio moms, and they're usually right.  Heck!  I brought one home with me early on (Booger's bio mom ended up living with me as a foster placement for seven months)!  The more I learned about Bug's birth mom, the more I wanted to at least talk to her and tell her about the son that she had abandoned (although I certainly wouldn't use that exact word) and let her know that he is loved.

We finally said goodnight, and the next morning I immediately sent Nice Lady a message asking her to call me when she had a few minutes because I had an interesting predicament that I wanted to talk to her about.  She called me right away, and started laughing as soon as I told her that Heaven's mom was in "such and such jail" because she knew immediately what I was going to say.  We talked it through, and she talked to our agency director just to get his input, but the general consensus was that nothing bad could come from Bug's birth mom finding out that I'm his foster mom.  I had the "okay" from my agency, so the plan was in place!  Heaven was telling her mom!

That Sunday, Heaven went to visit her mom and told her what we had figured out.  Her mom ended up sneaking Bug's mom into the visiting area and Heaven held a recent picture of Bug up to the window so she could see him for the first time in six months.  When she saw his photograph, she yelled "Oh my God, that's really my son!" and she fell to the floor and sobbed.  Heaven's mom told her that he was very loved, and his mom had to leave right after that.  The whole thing broke my heart (you know...  that soft heart that I have for birth parents...)  As messed up as so many of these parents are, most of them truly do love their kids.  Some of them just can't seem to heal (like Monkey's mom, Bug's mom, and Heaven's mom for that matter).  It doesn't mean they're bad people.  They just can't raise their children in the way that their children deserve.

Heaven and I tentatively made plans to go up to the jail to visit both moms the following Wednesday morning.  I wasn't about to bring Bug with me.  I really wanted to avoid bringing my baby to jail if at all possible.  Heck.  I had hoped to avoid ME going to jail, but in this case I thought that Bug's bio mom needed to be able to talk to the person who was raising her son, and going up there before she was transferred to the other jail five hours away was probably the only way that was going to happen.  I knew I needed to let Bug's caseworker know what was going on first though.  I had no intention of doing anything that might jeopardize Bug's potential adoption.

The conversation that Heaven and I had while planning the potential visit was hilarious.  I was asking tons of questions about how the jail visit thing works, and Heaven was all worried about me being nervous meeting Bug's bio mom asking me "What do you say???  Hi.  I'm the person raising your son because you can't???"  I laughed and told her that I have had this conversation several times before (just not in jail), and that I probably wouldn't be using those exact words.  ;-)

I had to keep reminding myself that this was the same woman who never once asked to see Bug in the past six months that he was with me.  I had to keep reminding myself that I could have compassion for her because it was the right thing to do, but that didn't mean that I had to put her feelings before my son.  If I went to visit her, it would ultimately be for Bug.  Not for her.  It would be so I could tell Bug in the future that I met his birth mom and give him whatever information I could about her.  It would be so I could tell Bug that I had told his birth mom what an awesome son she had.  It would be so Bug could see me (his Mom) showing compassion to someone who needed it and hoping that he would do the same in the future.

As it turned out, I didn't need to worry about any of it because Bug's caseworker was hesitant for me to go.  I think I completely confused the poor woman when I tried to explain who was who and how everyone was connected.  She wasn't at all upset that we had made the connection, but she had the same initial concerns that I had when Heaven first told me about her mom's new friend - that it might be construed as me trying to pressure Bug's mom into voluntarily relinquishing.  In all honesty, I was relieved!  Court that day ended in setting a date for TPR (termination of parental rights), and things were looking very good when it came to Bug staying with me permanently regardless of what his birth mom wanted, so I'm guessing that visit wouldn't have gone too well.  ;-)

The next week I got another message from Heaven letting me know that she had talked to her mom again.  Apparently Bug's birth mom decided to tell Heaven's mom all sorts of things that you probably shouldn't be telling the mother of the young woman who loves your child like a fiercely protective older sibling.

... That awkward moment when your children's bio moms are jail buddies - and then the younger one  infuriates the older one to the point of screaming at her, so the younger one tells the guards that she's afraid the older one is going to hurt her, so they separate them and they never speak again ...

Apparently those jailhouse friendships don't last all that long.

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