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Small Victory

The year end produced some good news, but I didn’t learn of it until just the other day. One of my foster kids was adopted by her grandmother after two and a half years in care. The case showed the complexities and glitches in even the most straightforward dependency cases.

N***’s 17-year-old mother was homeless when she gave birth and the biological father was one of two teenagers with gang affiliations. The mom picked one as the dad for the birth certificate. Mom (in dependency cases we always describe adults by their relationship to the child) had been adopted at the age of eight by a professional woman (the grandmother) along with other adopted children. The teen became a truant and runaway and at 16 became pregnant. N*** was born in March 2006.

Because the mom was homeless and the baby was not receiving proper medical care, social workers obtained a pickup order for the mother as a Youth In Need of Services. When they finally got the mom to court, she was ordered to live with a friend. On their way to the friend’s house, the mom jumped from the car with the baby and ran off.

Social workers finally picked up baby N*** and placed her with the grandmother whose older adopted children were out of the home. N*** settled in. Mom, still homeless, was ordered by the court into certain services and refused to live with the grandmother. In official parlance Mom had “no fixed address.”

In the meantime the social workers did a paternity test on N***. Paternity tests are easy nowadays requiring just a swab of cells from inside the mouth. The results demonstrated that the young man on the birth certificate was not the father. Workers went after the other candidate and when N*** was about a year old he was brought into court (still recovering from a gunshot wound) as a respondant to the dependency. The court ordered him into services that including a drug and alcohol evaluation.

N*** thrived (throve?) in her grandmother’s care and even attended the same day care as Mom did.

When baby mama and baby daddy failed to show up for their services the social workers filed a petition to terminate parental rights. Then someone discovered that the wrong dad was on the paperwork. So they had to refile the petition, track down the right dad, bring him to court, and order him into services. That delayed the process some months. By last June, N*** had been in her grandmother’s care for two years and grandmother was the only parent she knew. Then the state went to trial to terminate the parental rights of the father who said he wanted to take N*** with him.

That’s when I came in. I had to investigate the case, look at the social worker’s files, try to contact the dad and other witnesses, interview the grandmother, and write reports. The trial started in July and the dad showed up with his court appointed counsel.

The judge discovered (from my report) that the dad was the subject of an arrest warrant. The judge called the police and two uniforms took the guy out of court in handcuffs. The next day of trial (a week later) he didn’t even show up. After testimony, including mine, the judge terminated rights. Of my testimony the assistant attorney general commented, “Awesome.” I give good court.

That left N*** legally free and available for adoption. The grandmother applied and was accepted. Then someone noticed that the wrong dad’s name was still on the birth certificate so the state had to file a motion to order the name to be changed. The adoption was finalized in December and N*** has a new mom.

For the CASA it was a pretty simple case. All I had to do was gather information on the one parent whose record of compliance was so dismal that the trial was a no brainer. But I had to dress up three different days, drive 25 miles to court, and sit through the formalities.

That frees up my plate for another case and I should get that in a week or two.

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