My feet hit the floor, and the first thought is … coffee. I have barely shuffled into to the dimly-lit kitchen, silently greeting my husband as he packs his lunch for work, when I hear her little voice from down the hall.
“Mommy? … Mommy?”
Mr. Bean snickers. He fully understands how much I treasure the few minutes of solitude with my morning beverage and book before another day begins. Then, he jokes that she tracks my scent to know that I’m awake. Because this has been happening for about the last four mornings.
So, although I’m disappointed to see my quiet morning routine go by the wayside today, I actually think he might be on to something. She does track me.
We are at the park. She climbs to the top of the play structure. Then, turning to find me, and confirm that I’m still watching, she proclaims, “TA DAH!”
It is the middle of the night, and she has lost track of her beloved blankie. It can’t more than 12″ from her, but the darkness and separation cause fear and disorientation in her 23-month-old mind. “Mommy? … Mommy?”
In the dark, I root around, eventually finding blankie. And then, because we’ve done this dance so many times, I shift my hands from corner to corner, eventually finding the one with the silky tag.
Gathering the tag corner, I rub her back and place it back into her hand. She is sucking her left thumb, but her outstretched fingers wait patiently for me to return blankie to her.
For nearly a year, I have been her caregiver in the eyes of the law. Caregiver. This moniker is accurate, yet rankles.
As “caregiver,” I’ve resigned from my profession of 21 years to care for her and Little Bean at a critical developmental period. I have held vigil with her in the twilight hours when all we both needed was more sleep. My phone tells the story of how she has morphed from a stumbly, nonverbal infant to a precocious, confident toddler over the last 10 1/2 months. And together with Mr. Bean and Little Bean, we have worked at setting a new rhythm to our family’s schedule that accommodates the needs of our growing family.
Her arrival has altered the course of my life.
For nearly a year, she has been my daughter.
Filing for De Facto
Tomorrow, I return to court for Sweet Potato. Her last hearing was continued due to an administrative issue with her adoption paperwork. As I write this, the glitch has still not been resolved. Furthermore, it may be another two weeks before we even hear what the next steps will be. So, I anticipate still more time in court. (I hope I’m wrong.)
With our previous 3 placements, I never filed for De Facto, but I will file tomorrow. If granted (and I do not see why it would not be), there is a possibility this may help Sweet Potato in the event that court is continued again.
If I would have known a few months back that we would be having issues now, I would have filed for De Facto then. But, … do we ever really know how a foster placement will go? Like, … ever?
So, what is De Facto?
As a De Facto parent, you are deemed to be “in fact” the child’s parent in the eyes of the law. In a nutshell, its a tiny rung above being a caregiver. Not every state has De Facto. In some states, this type of status change may be called something different. But if you are in California, and would like to know more about filing De Facto, you can click here.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule, it is generally frowned upon for foster parents to file for De Facto unless a child has been in their care for at least 6 months. De Facto parents have a few more rights and privileges than foster parents. These rights are:
- To be present at dependency proceedings (note: as a caregiver you can go to all dependency review and permanency hearings even if you are not a de facto parent);
- To be represented by a lawyer if you hire one, or, in some cases, the court may appoint a lawyer at no cost to you if the judge thinks that is necessary;
- To present evidence and cross-examine witnesses; and
- To participate as a party in the disposition hearing and any hearing after that.
Your reasons may be different.
Sweet Potato’s permanency hinges on one silly form at this point. A form that must accompany her adoption paperwork, that is already written up. However, the state of California continues to waffle on their requirements for the proper completion of this form. The form has been submitted and rejected a couple of times.
Most frustratingly, no one seems to have an answer as to how to resolve this issue, fill out the form, and move on with our lives.
De Facto won’t change any of that.
So instead, I will keep showing up for her. I will get my booty into that courtroom every chance I get, and become that judge’s BFF. So he knows I’m tracking this. And, because my De Facto status WILL allow me to do this, I will give him updates on how Sweet Potato is doing.
Not a nameless foster youth. Not another form to fill out. But a human being. A child.
I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for your questions and prayers!