I have no idea how I managed it, but this time I did it. I not only trapped Skittles, the very wily, skittish kitten I failed to trap a year ago, but I trapped her three babies as well.
T.A.R.A. agreed to take the kittens (thank goodness) if I managed to trap their mom and have her tested to ensure she's healthy (and by association, her kittens hopefully). I managed all of this, took Skittles to the Humane Society and had her spayed, tested and vaccinated. With paperwork in hand, I delivered the three kittens to T.A.R.A.
There was no question of T.A.R.A. taking Skittles. She'd been on her own for a year, a truly feral cat, and their advice was to release her. Given that I'm about to embark on a two week traveling venture away, I kept Skittles in my house long enough for her to recover from the spay surgery and then followed through and released her. I feel horribly guilty about it though. I've given her mom and her sister a home. They're now happy and healthy members of my household, yet I ejected Skittles back into the urban wilds of my back alley.
I worry I'll never see her again, that she'll disappear like she did a year ago and that will be the end of my journey with her. At least this time I know if she does show up again, she won't have kittens surrounding her, potentially shortening her lifespan. It's the only comfort I'm able to find.
Wishing her safety, comfort and a happy life of freedom.