In Illinois, there is a status hearing for each case every three months. At this hearing, the caseworker reports how the kids are doing in their placement, how their relationships are with their birth families, etc. There was a status hearing for our boys the week they moved in with us, and so the next one is scheduled for Tuesday.
At this hearing, the main goal is to decide whether the boys' visits with their birth mom should continue. The decision will be based on a report from both their caseworker and their court-appointed advocate on whether or not the visits seem to be in the best interest of the boys, or if they are having a negative impact on them. This is based on a number of factors, including our observations of their behavior.
Currently the boys' visits with their birth mom are limited and monitored. We haven't noticed any real behavioral issues with them after visits. So when we were asked by the case worker and advocate if we had noticed any extreme behaviors after the visits, I told them no, and also gave my opinion about whether or not the visits should continue.
I think they should.
That may seem strange, but here are a few of the many reasons why I would prefer the visits continue:
First, the truth of the matter is, she is their birth mom. I will never be able to erase that truth, and I never want to. If I were to try to discount her role in their lives, I would be ignoring so many of the genetic and experiential things that have come together to form my children's identities at this point. Regardless of her ability to care for the boys, she is part of their story, and now she is part of ours. That will never change.
Second, eventually these visits with her will stop. It's hard to communicate this point well without sharing too many details about their case, but that day will come, and it will come at the end of a much-too-long journey in foster care for my children. At that point the minimal emotional confusion that the boys experience during these visits will stop being triggered by her physical presence, but it will not stop. What's more, is that eventually my children will begin to understand more clearly the path that brought them to us, and that will serve to confuse their feeling about their birth mom and family even more. My children have a lifetime of dealing with complex feelings regarding their relationship with her ahead of them, regardless of whether or not she is physically present in their lives. At this point, they are still young enough to appreciate their limited time with her, and I want them to enjoy that before it becomes clouded by all the things they are currently too young to process.
I do hope that the judge decides it is in the best interest of the boys to continue the visits, for the time being. However, I am also looking forward to the day when a judge is no longer the one making those decisions, or when they no longer have quarterly status hearings, or a case number, or a different last name...