Mother’s day

Our first mother’s day together has been great. This is the smoothest holiday we have had so far. My baby has been thoughtful, kind, and more than generous. He tried to prank me by spraying perfume in my cup of tea but made another cup without perfume in it. He even addressed my card as “mom”.

While I know people who lose their rights still have love for their kids, I am sure this is a hard holiday for those parents. However, I think these parents need to think about their kids and how much they have put them through. They think about themselves and want to have some recognition on this holiday but how many birthdays did they miss? How many promises did they break? Where were they for meet the teacher night?

I am sure it wasnt their intention to be an absent parent. An addict. Or to ruin their child’s childhood. But the most selfless thing you can do after you royally mess up is to allow them to move on and let them know you want them to have what they deserve.

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Out of my hands

Being in this field, you have to always remind yourself about the things that are beyond your control. The amount of things feels like millions and is overwhelming. There is such little support and a never ending to do list.

Sometimes when a case comes in the children are still unsafe because they are with a parent who can not safely care for the children.

Sometimes you are unable to prove what you know.

Sometimes the court makes a ruling that is not in the best interest of the child’s safety.

Sometimes you give your all and everything fails and falls apart.

Sometimes you are threatened.

Sometimes there are sleepless nights.

Sometimes your computer crashes when you were almost done a court report.

And at the end of the day, you have to go home and live with yourself. Reminding yourself, “All I can do is my best and at least I have tried”.

Criminal charges for crimes against children

Sadly, throughout my time as a caseworker, I have barely ever seen justice for heinous crimes committed against children. While I believe some families can be reunited and that some people just need help, there are also cases where no care plan/case plan should be offered. And sometimes, the state attorneys office decides to press criminal charges and DCF also determines taking the child(ren) is necessary.

I have seen evidence of crimes committed against children and been involved in criminal cases because of it. And while I find the criminal justice system to be fascinating and a beast of it’s own, it doesnt feel right the way the outcomes have been.

I have seen a parent beat a child to the point that the child will never be able to heal because there is physical evidence of the trauma from head to toe on their body. I literally couldn’t understand why that child wasnt taken sooner. The child was in kindergarten and had such a sweet fenperment. That baby was just targeted by the evil that was in that parent. I never saw any remorse. And that individual wasnt sent to prison.

I have seen cases also where somehow, no criminal charges were filed. Where I have wanted to see them filed. There are also more likely for child neglect charges filed than abandonment

I believe any crime perpetrated against children should automatically have a victim advocate assigned for the criminal justice system. This way to provide a voice for the victim without retraumatization. And to provide justice by putting people who act like animals in a cage. And while it sounds curt, there is such a big difference between one incident causing injury to a child versus perpetuating ongoing vicious abuse.

Some states have adopted animal abuse registries which are almost like sex offender registries. I truly believe that there needs to be some sort of statute throughout the county to protect the children and prevent these individuals from having children in their care unless deemed to no longer be a threat. There are abuse and neglect data bases for child welfare workers in each state, but if I lived in South Dakota I wouldn’t be able to access Nebraska or New Hampshire for example by logging into my system. You have to submit a special request to that state and you are lucky to even get a response most of the time, despite the Adam Walsh Act.

Snap

A poem inspired by my child.

Sometimes the time just flies,

All smiles. No problems.

Exchanging of hugs. Playing of games.

Feeling like you are all mine.

But there is that cloud.

The cloud that hangs over you.

The cloud that follows you.

The cloud that can swallow you.

Just like that, with a crack,

A sting much like a slap.

Words with such hate,

Preconceived.

Like a bullet in a chamber.

Abandonment

Abandonment is defined as “to leave completely and finally; forsakeutterly; desert

Abandonment is something that I think can cause as much or more trauma than some other forms of abuse. Children who are abandoned question themselves for such long periods of time or forever, and ask questions that can simply only be answered with “I dont know”. I have not yet seen a case where a parent has been criminally charged with the abandonment of their child or children.

The majority of the abandonment cases that came into the system in my experience, have been older children. Or children who were dropped on another family(often relatives) who cannot care for them without assistance. And when they are teens, they often look at their caseworkers as a parent like figure. We end up being their one call when they need someone. The one who has to pick them up from school or take them to the doctor because their group home can’t or won’t. The one who takes them to extracurriculars and helps them through a break up.

Our story

“So this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down.’

A few months after I graduated college, three children in another state were removed from their parents after law enforcement entered the home with a search warrant due to concerns of drugs being made in the home. DCF didnt try to take them right away but they had no choice. The parents weren’t doing right. They were neglecting the children in their education, providing adequate supervision, and exposing them to drugs. I have my theories as to what was going on with the older two children. I know they were using. Calvin was only 7 or so. The baby of the family. The kids were running around doing what they wanted s good amount of the time. The parents were selling everything for drugs after they fled the birth state of the children to prevent serving time.

I was working as a child care teacher and working a part time job. At almost a year, I was looking for jobs in states that would allow me to work with abused and neglected children without a degree specifically in social work.

During that time, they were probably still all together. Living in a home where they weren’t welcomed to the fridge. Had no air conditioning. Were disciplined in very inappropriate and basically an abusive manner. Calvin’s older sister was running away to use with their parents. His older brother got arrested for a very serious crime that made the news and SWAT responded to. It was documented that he had behavior problems… what would you expect? A model citizen?

I visited a sister that lived out of state and interviewed for a job as a Child Welfare Case Manager before I flew back home. I was so excited to get the job. I put in a month notice and prepared to move out of state, not knowing a soul.

I got a case after I changed agencies when a worker was fired and I was advised “this case needs some attention”. After reviewing it, I was baffled. Almost every family member was using drugs, except the youngest child who was 7 at the time of removal. The case was going on its third year in the system. The children were originally in a foster home that was cruel and did not deserve a license. The parents had done basically nothing on their plan. The parents were “missing” and a search was being done for them… when really they kept getting arrested so they wouldn’t have been hard to locate. The goal for the case was changed to adoption for the two children who didn’t age out, 8 months prior and nothing had been done yet.

I jumped on it. More like I pounced on what needed to be done like an animal attacking its prey. And that was when I first talked to Calvin. I explained the different goals the case could have, and he chose adoption. He was with relatives at that time. And his brother was detained in a program and expected to be released at some point in the next 6 months. His brother also chose adoption.

Calvin started getting into trouble with the law right before his brother got to their home. After 5 or six months, it was becoming impossible to find a way for the placement to work. 3 months later, it was court ordered for him to come back to foster care here. I arranged flights and advised the courts and social worker where he was at of the plans. His relative cried on the phone to me multiple times before it was even determined he would have to return to the state that was trying to salvage his placement so he could be adopted. She said, “I pray to god that if I cant have him you get him.” And she was dead serious. She had never met me and vice versa. I had never met Calvin or video chatted with him or anything. She wanted him with me and she stuck to it. She didnt even want him with family. I thought she was crazy. I thought she was high.

I scrambled. Trying to find family to place him with. I tried to request an out of state homestudy on an individual who was fictive kin, trying to grasp at straws and find a loophole to give him the best shot at a yes.

We had such a good time on the flight and being around each other was natural. But I could tell he had been crying. He smelled like he had been hot boxed in a room filled of cigarette smoke. I tried to keep it light and not bring up going to a group home.

I knew this was going to be hard, even if he didnt want to act like it. I also knew he really needed a strong parent like figure so he could behave better. He wasnt getting parented. He was getting to do whatever he wanted and exposed to so much that I didnt even know of until I was in high school.

His first placement was a group home, which I tried to demand they not do to him. It took weeks for me to get them to change his placement. One time he cursed at a female and I shut off his tablet. He cursed me out and I laughed and told him I loved him to then swiftly hung up on him.

I had a lot of hope for the next one. It was a traditional home. They had adopted two children recently. They were nice and he didnt run away or break anything.

But, he was also getting away with doing whatever he wanted. He had a cell phone and was talking to his mom every day face timing. They didnt keep up with his medication. He skated across a busy area to go to the house his father was staying at. Where I knew drugs were getting used daily. He met with people he shouldn’t have met up with. They didnt even ask who he was going with or how long he would be gone. They didnt monitor how much time he was spending online every day. He would be up so late. I found a video online with him wearing a bandana pretending to shoot a gun to a song that was very inappropriate to say the least. They ended up having to leave the state and didnt even tell him he was going to have to leave until the last minute.

Then he was placed at a home with some old people that I could tell hadn’t parent a child in at least one or two decades. They made rude comments to him. Made him feel bad for not wanting to spend fathers day with them the first weekend he was there. Which, you aren’t supposed to force a child to be a part of. And you are supposed to be trauma informed.

They acted like he was going to kill them in their sleep after he through a tantrum. He then had to go to a group home I hate. Kids run wild and do whatever the hell they want. Which is the last thing he needed to get on the right path. He cried when I came to pick him up. And in that car ride. I set rules for him and expectations. After that, was the first time he mentioned wanting me to take him. He said, “why cant i just come home with you?” I said, “because I have to be your caseworker”. He replied “well you would be the one taking care of me, and that would be better.”

My heart melted. And I knew that I needed to keep being active and involved. At that point, I was trying to see if I could help his sister get to a point that she could get him. She had overcome so many obstacles and was doing good considering. But she was expecting, and we both knew she wouldn’t be able to get him.

I knew he must have smoked while he was there. When I found out, I showed up with his sister and tried to get a drug screen. He flipped and she chased him as he ran out the door cursing. He ran away three more times after that. One night, he wasnt back that night. He was gone over 24hrs. I was sick to my stomach all night. I couldn’t sleep. I was distraught. When he was recovered, I made sure he was brought to the police station. I took all of his shoe laces. I cried and tried to talk to him about his behavior. He couldn’t even look at me. He just said “I didnt want to go to another home again.” Even though I kept my word after he said he wasn’t going anywhere I didnt approve of and with people I hadn’t met. And he knew that I liked the home he was going to.

I loved this foster parent. But he struggled with her calling him out on his behavior without even knowing him. He went postal in front of her two very young adopted children. He blew the placement in the first five minutes. I was so mad at him. I sent him outside and told him I couldn’t talk to him because he disappointed me so badly. I was an emotional wreck again.

To be continued…

Statistics

Even though I knew that I was a single woman, and I made barely any money, the thought of how many children were in foster care and the number of children waiting to be adopted disgusted me.

According to research from the Children’s Bureau on “trends in foster care and adoption”, in 2017 the United States had 691,000 children in foster care. 270,000 entered foster care that year. The rest were already in foster care. Some aged out, were reunified, went to relatives, or were adopted out of the 248,000 children that left the system that year. In 2017, 123,000 children were waiting to be adopted. So 443,000 children were sitting in the system.

These numbers do not include children placed with relatives and non relatives. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/trends-in-foster-care-and-adoption

For children at age 18 or 21 who did not exit the system by being reunified, a family arrangement, permanent guardianship, or adoption the statistics are disheartening. It is called aging out.

I have learned throughout my career and use of sites such as SharedJustice.org, nfyi.org, childwelfare.gov, adoption.com, childrensrights.org, and Florida’s DCF website the hard facts and challenges these young adults face.

  • 3% or less of children who age out earn a college degree by age 26.
  • 70% of girls who age out become pregnant before age 21.
  • 20% of youth are homeless when they age out.
  • 1 out of 4 children who age out do not have a diploma or GED.
  • 1 out of 2 children who age out of the system become addicted to substances.

Teens

When people think of adoption, their first thought is an orphanage or a baby. And a lot of people do adopt a child internationally or an infant placed for adoption. And by no means do I think people should stop doing that. But adopting from foster care can cost little to nothing. If you have the emotional strength to help a child adjust to your home and the behavioral challenges then please adopt an older child.

While I have seen teenagers who chose to enter foster care, and stay in foster care, I have also had teens on multiple occasions ask me to adopt them. Despite me being less than 10 years older than them. They can be so desperate to find a place to call home and family to have forever.

I have seen teenagers who have been abandoned, physically abused, sexually abused, and mentally abused. I have come across teens who have been exploited and teens addicted to drugs because their parents did drugs with them.

Overall, there aren’t enough traditional family foster homes that take teens. The more group homes they are in, the more negative behaviors they learn from other kids. They pick up ways to manipulate the system and manipulate others. Have most of their items stolen. Try drugs they have never tried before. Get beat up. Run away with other kids. Teens raped by other kids or sexually abused by a staff member. tricked into human trafficking. You name it.

Not all group homes are bad. And not all staff are bad. But how loved would you feel having people in a house who get paid hourly to basically babysit you? You dont have anyone to come to your special school events or anyone to be invested in all aspects of your academics.

Yes, teens are sometimes the most challenging. But when they are sweet, it is one of the greatest feelings.

Doubt

To me, even with my educational background and experience in the field, I constantly am questioning myself. Was that the right thing to say? Should I have not let him do that? Am I going to be able to be good enough? Am I going to lose my job?

In order to help myself through this process and gain confidence that I am doing the right thing and I am going to be a good mother, I reached out to others. So far, the most positive people have been my best friend, other adoptive parents, and an adoption professional on the opposite side of the coast who has never met me. I also have one college friend who has been positive.

For the most part, people act like this was an impulsive choice to take in a child that is half my age. I get judged when I say my age. I am sick of hearing “you are really young to be doing this”. I have been told that I should give him back and I dont have to go through this. I have even had a service provider suggest that I should threaten him with going back to foster care. I may not be a therapist or a mental health professional… but I am pretty sure a child that has been neglected, mistreated in foster care, and thrown away by foster parents, doesn’t need that threat. And I really didnt need or want that kind of advice.

Newsflash, I am well aware that I am young. I am well aware that I have not raised a child before. I am well aware that I am a single working professional in a mentally challenging field that pays too little. None of that means I cant be a good parent. Or that I cannot be the parent he needs and deserves.

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