Guest post by Christy Lopez-Acevedo, Esq., Managing Attorney for Children’s Legal Services.
Ben came into the foster system in 2012. He is a victim of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, exposure to substance abuse and exposure to domestic violence. At first we only knew about some of the abuse, but as the case proceeded we learned about what this child had actually suffered, so we moved immediately to terminate parental rights (TPR).
He was placed in a foster home pending an Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC )for possible placement with his grandfather. During the ICPC process, the child deteriorated mentally to the point of possible psychosis. The psychologist working with the child was integral in this process. He evaluated the child and then worked with the child’s therapist, the foster parents and the grandfather to literally save this child from becoming completely psychotic. At this point, it was recommended that he not change placements until he was stabilized. He was bonding with the foster parents and this was the first time is a long time that he had a stable home.
We were very concerned about Ben’s mental state. We knew that he would eventually need to move with his grandfather but did not want to do anything that would jeopardize his emotional well-being. Also, we needed a way to keep the foster mother involved as the child had developed a significant bond with her.
The time came for him to visit with his grandfather. We were all concerned as to possible deterioration due to this visit. I asked the foster agency if they would pay for the foster mother to travel with the child to West Virginia to visit the grandfather. That way, the child would feel safe while seeing his future home for the first time. The agency did not hesitate to approve this. Not only did the foster mother travel with the child, but so did the case manager. They extended the weekend visit to a Monday so that the child could receive his mental health intakes and services wouldn’t be delayed in any way. The visit went great and the child was looking forward to coming back as there were other children in the home and he wanted to be with his grandfather.
Shortly after the trip we went before the Judge to discuss placement. Prior to the hearing, I met with the psychologist and discussed the type of transition that we needed. We agreed that it needed to be smooth and the foster parent and grandfather needed to work together.
The court granted the change in placement on a Friday. After speaking with the grandfather and the foster parents, it was decided that the child would spend one more night with his foster parents so they could spend special time with the child and allow him to be part of packing his things. I then asked both the foster parents and the grandfather to make it a positive “goodbye” on Saturday morning so he would see that the foster parents were part of his family.
The grandfather thanked the foster parents for all they had done and promised that they would remain in the child’s life. The child’s psychologist and therapist will be working with the providers in West Virginia to ensure that the proper services are being provided and there is a continuation of what the child was receiving. So many moving parts came together to help this young boy so that he could have a fresh, safe, nurturing life.