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     If I could change the child welfare system, I would do it in a heart beat. There is no end to the distress any given family experiences at the hand of caseworkers, judges, and lawyers. Everyone passes the buck and no one takes responsibility for their actions... they simply blame it on "the system". One minute the system is on your side, the next minute, you're chopped liver. One hearing you're looking at adoption, the next you're looking at termination. There are so many ups and downs in this program, it's a wonder they haven't started handing out medication and psychiatric business cards with the foster parent sign-up packets. Even with all the irrational craziness my own family has gone through in the last two years, nothing prepared me for the court hearing my husband and I attended on Friday for Isaac.
     Originally, it seemed unfair, almost cruel, to make us attend a hearing for the child we had to give up just days prior. Still grieving our loss, we showed up and were greeted by the sweetest sight these eyes could've seen. Members from our church were sitting in the lobby, ready to surround us with loving arms of support, prayers, and blessed distraction! Even though they couldn't come into the court room, there was so much love radiating from our friends in the hallway that it was like they were right there in the seats next to us.
     When the hearing finally started, we sat and listened to testimony after testimony as lawyers discussed Isaac's father, determining if he was fit to parent an infant. After being told we were not allowed to have a lawyer of our own present, we were asked where our lawyer was.... with questioning glances, CYS told us that we absolutely could've had our lawyer attend, despite the fact that we have the letter from them stating that we couldn't. So, being the only ones unrepresented, I felt a little unarmed and defeated before we even started! (Particularly after each party (Including Isaac's father) was allowed to read the letter that we submitted to the judge, stating our concerns about this man taking our child.... nothing like awkward.) Isaac's mother purgered herself on numerous accounts, Isaac's father made us seem like quibbling nit-wits for writing our letter to the judge, and the CYS caseworker reported inaccurate fact after inaccurate fact. All in all, it was like being tied to railway tracks as you watch the train approaching at full speed.
     The hearing began to wrap up after an hour and a half, which made my upset tummy grateful. Each lawyer presented closing arguments and each lawyer recommended that Isaac be placed in his biological father's care. My heart sank and my stomach soured. And then it was time for the judge's declaration.
     "After hearing the closing arguments, it seems that everyone is in agreement. Everyone except for me."
     Wait, what? I found myself staring at the man dressed in black with my mouth hanging open. I looked around the room and it appeared that I was not alone. "I am here for the best interest of Isaac. And I feel that it is unfair to the Costa family, to Isaac's biological siblings that live with them, and to Isaac himself to sever ties so abruptly." The judge then addressed Isaac's birth father. "Furthermore, you have two older children that will be starting school again very soon, and you said they were very busy with extracurricular activities. Your schedule is going to be changing quite drastically and you need to make sure this is something you can handle. Therefore, I have decided that Isaac will remain in the foster care system for at least the next month. During this time, he will reside with his biological father from Monday through Friday and he will spend Saturday and Sunday with his foster family. This is scheduled to begin this Saturday, tomorrow. We will meet back here in a month to assess the situation again."
     I'm pretty sure we could've heard a pin drop in the court room. I was prepared for everything BUT joint custody... is that even something they do? I mean, children who have been with foster families for much longer than 10 months get ripped away and placed with their criminal parents all the time. I've never even heard of this! And neither had CYS, nor the lawyers, nor the other judges. Apparently, this is an unprecedented ruling, one that left everyone baffled. I want to say I was elated. My baby was coming home the very next morning!! But there was a part of me that felt angry at the judge. I had already gone through saying goodbye once... and now I have to do it over and over again each weekend? The grieving process was something I'd already started. It's like saying that the child you buried may not have been as dead as you thought when you buried them... I mean, they still may be dead and all, but you have to wait at least a month to know for sure what the end result will be. How do I deal with that??
     In the end, I chose to look at this ruling through a more eternal perspective. God knew the results of this hearing from the beginning of time, so obviously, He's got a plan. I have absolutely know idea what it is, mind you, but I know that there is one. So, I chose to take these extra weekends with my baby as a blessing, knowing that in the end, I may be forced to say a final goodbye again and to go through this pain all over again. Perhaps this is the judge's way of giving Isaac's dad time to adjust. Or perhaps it's his way of giving him time to prove he's not able to do this afterall. Or maybe he saw my eyes and knew that I needed more time to hold my little boy. I don't think I'll ever know the reasoning behind his decision, but I'm grateful for time to smother Isaac with more kisses than he can stand.
     Saturday morning came and my husband, the bolder of the two of us, met with Isaac's birth father for the Great Baby Transfer. I stared at the clock, waiting for them to return home; waiting to see my chubby cherub and his toothy smile. And when the car pulled into the driveway, it was like he had never left. We played the same, we cuddled the same, we bathed the same, and we loved the same. Cameron and Taylor were elated that they get to have visits with their baby brother. In fact, I was worried that this change in plans would put them into an emotional tailspin. But I have to say, I've never felt more proud of two kids than I have as they've gone through this entire ordeal. They've taught me a thing or two about coping and grieving. They've also shown me to be grateful for each moment. They weren't worried about what saying goodbye to Isaac later would mean for them. They were just so excited to have him for the next two days. I was inspired by their ability to live in the moment and to enjoy this special gift with abandon, holding nothing back.
     As expected, it was hard to let him leave again tonight. But this time I was able to console myself with thoughts of next weekend. I am able to focus 100% on my job, my husband, and my other two children this week, leaving us to focus all of our love, time, and attention on Baby Bear this weekend. I have no idea what the end of this situation holds. But I know what I hold. HOPE.