RIP Lyla

This post may not exactly be relevant to child welfare or my adoption process but it shook our household to the core.

On Monday, I had to put my four legged child and best friend down. She was suffering and our last visit with her she was miserable and couldn’t breathe. It has been very hard and challenging for me. And I thought it was going to be harder on my child than it has been. He hahandled it very well and was a rock for me. It shocked me that later he said “well she was your dog, she didnt love me”. I had to remind him that she loved him in his own way. She was scared of him on multiple occasions due to his anger and rough housing. But she did care for him. I reminded him by showing him pictures he didnt remember me taking.

He is ready for another pet to love and is excited by the thought. As for me, I’m still devastated. It hasn’t even been a week yet. I remind myself of how good they were together the first time he met her and how much that helped solitify me wanting him to join our family. She liked him more than any other kid she met through my job.

I am somebody’s child: The Regina Louise story

I watched this movie recently and while I saw instant family I feel as though this gives a more accurate picture of what our children actually go through and the child welfare system. While based in a different time where there was racism and discrimination you see what these children really go through in regards to placement changes. Children seen as having “behavior problems“ tend to be put in group homes/shelters. You also tend to see more children on psychotropic medications when they may not necessarily need them.

What our children do need is a connection like the one the main character had with her counselor from the shelter. Whether it’s for the purpose of adoption or the purpose of having someone you can lean on in your most lonely times. Even if it looks odd or strange to you as a case worker it’s not up to you. Whatever feels natural to the child and gives them a glimmer of hope is what’s important.

There are so many children in the system who have paid mentors so more than likely that mentor is not going to be around as a natural support if they leave the system. While being a CaseWorker I have personally volunteered to mentor one child that I formed an automatic connection with. While this child did not end up in my home I was there for her in the times that she needed someone the most. When she ran away and fell victim to violence and human trafficking, I was the one that she would reach out to for help and the one my agency would count on. Other people saw her as a behavior problem. And while I know that she didn’t always make good decisions I didn’t necessarily have the same issues when I was around her. When I was present she treated people with more respect and held her self to a higher standard than she did when I was not present. And while I thought about it heavily and was very close to trying to ask for her to reside with me, something told me that would interfere with her being able to be with her mother. And I was correct. She did end up being able to go home for almost the length of time needed to close her case. However I received an alarming phone call from her where she was calling me crying desperate for help, feeling in fear of her life. Which brought her back into the system. I know I served as an important lifeline for that child.

I watched this movie with my baby I have placement of and while his story is not the same as Regina I couldn’t help but feel the pain her counselor/mother had. I feel like I lived that pain. Before I knew I could take him in, I had to try to encourage him to be willing to meet adoptive families. There was a period of time where I was blamed for his acting out behaviors and wasnt allowed contact with him. I kept asking about him, and asking people to let him know I cared. While I cried(more like bawled my eyes out) watching the movie I turned to him and said “What if you had to go sleep at people’s houses while I was trying to get you?” He turned to me and said “I’d run away and be mad they didnt let me live with you sooner.”

There are so many things I could dive into. But my main point is, if it is what the child wants, and they are not going to be at risk of abuse or neglect, why would we stop them from having the family they are desiring?

Tips for foster parents from a caseworker

As a caseworker, I like to work hand in hand with a foster family. It makes my job easier and provides more support to the child. Yet sometimes I cannot fathom what foster parents do, dont do, say, and/or how they act. So here are some of the things I would like to pass along

  • Know what decisions you can and cannot legally make. And what decisions the parent may want or need to be a part of making. Piercings, immunizations, tattoos, psych meds, hair cuts, etc.
  • Be nice to your worker. We have a never ending to do list that gets longer even when we get a few things done. We are blamed for everything that goes wrong. We are cursed at, ridiculed, threatened, and sometimes targets for personal vengence. Some of us have even been assaulted.
  • Do not expect us or ask us to take a child to every appointment. We cannot take children to every doctors appointment when we have so many things we need to get done.
  • If you are doing it for extra income, turn in your license now. Because we can all tell when someone fosters for the wrong reason… even the children.
  • If you are trying to adopt and that is the main reason you want to foster, please talk to the agency about only placing children in your home who have an adoption goal. It is also clear to us when someone does fostering just because they want a baby. It also does not help with reunification.
  • Know your limits, get some support, and have coping skills at the ready. Our children come traumatized.
  • If you dont know something, you can ask your caseworker. We will not judge you for not knowing something.
  • Do not give parents legal advice, or ask them to sign over their rights so you can adopt their child. It is inappropriate and out of the duties you have as a foster parent.
  • Do not write off the parents. Not all of them are a danger to you or your household. You can ask your worker for their impression of the parent.

Family vacation…

When you picture a family walking on a beach with all smiles… that definitely isnt me. Our family vacation isnt going that way. Maybe it is the age, maybe it is the trauma, maybe it is all of the above and then some.

It is supposed to be a time of relaxing, having fun, and making memories. Instead I have had the presence of “survival skills” that I hadn’t seen in awhile. Defiance over doing things that are different and pure self absorbed and isolating behaviors. And while things are sadly much better than the last time I had family around, it is still heart breaking.

So I googled some things to try to mentally prepare for my day of parenting tomorrow and i stumbled across a blog i enjoyed reading. While god and bible verses aren’t my thing at all, i know we have the same struggles. And sometimes, I just need that understanding.

Dear Adoptive Parents walking the hard, hellish, lonely road of trauma…THIS POST IS FOR YOU. And ONLY YOU.

I also really appreciated and agreed with this post on another blog.

The Selfish Thing You Need to Do When Your Child’s Mental Causes a Holiday to Be Too Stressful

So thank you to these authors for helping me feel less lonely.

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.

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.

Sometimes though, the abandonment cases are failed adoptions. I have seen people just throw their hands up and not be willing to try something different to make things better. And sadly, I have had to be the one to tell them they were never going home. And it is excruciating to see the emotional turmoil the child faces when they are abandoned by the people that were supposed to be their forever family.

I have never once seen abandonment criminal charges filed against a parent thus far in my career.

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