I submitted my fingerprints for FBI processing several months ago. I can't do anything with B.A.C.A. children until my fingerprints have cleared. My State clearance came back right away. And even though I was a licensed foster parent (that had obviously passed Federal background checks), B.A.C.A. requires I pass a Federal check for them.
Well, I found out last night that my first round of fingerprints got rejected. (I was worried that the ink wasn't dark enough the first time around but the gentleman taking my prints said it was fine. Sadly, it wasn't.) Anyway, I had the pleasure of paying another $20 and getting inked again last night at the meeting Mr. Amazing and I went to. Hopefully this second set of prints will process better. I was told that we should know within the next two months or so.
Until that time, all I can do with B.A.C.A. is attend training meetings and go on rides without children. There is a Level One (described below) being done locally next weekend. I'll be able to ride with the group to the meeting point but I won't be allowed to go to the actual Level One with the child. I think I'm going to go though. Becoming a patched member isn't a guarantee. And B.A.C.A. requires that once you are patched that you attend at least one "child event" every single month. It looks good to attend a child event before the background check comes back because it shows you're dedicated to the cause.
Since most people aren't fully aware of B.A.C.A. and how it works, I'm going to describe the process of bringing a child into the organization. Their mission is very defined and how they go about functioning is also defined within an organized series of events that are really very structured.
Things start happening for a child when B.A.C.A. receives a referral. This referral can come from the family/guardian of the child, through CPS or other State or local agencies. However, B.A.C.A. doesn't accept every child that has been referred into the group. The first thing B.A.C.A. does is have an initial contact meeting with the child and family. Around six B.A.C.A. members go to the home to meet with the child and their family/guardians to assess the situation and see why B.A.C.A. has been called.
Most of the time the referrals are legitimate. B.A.C.A. serves to empower children that are frightened. B.A.C.A.'s role is to, by their very presence, help the child overcome their fear so that they will be able to testify in court against their abuser(s). However, sometimes B.A.C.A. will receive a referral from a family member that is looking for vengeance against an abuser or something like that. Retaliation is not the role of B.A.C.A. Members of B.A.C.A. stand to help children and no one else. Cases have to be legitimate. If laws have been broken (by an abuser), B.A.C.A. won't get involved unless the authorities have been notified and the case is being processed in the legal system.
After the initial contact, and after the case has been determined to be legitimate, B.A.C.A. arranges for a Level One ceremony. Members of B.A.C.A. from all over the state will ride in to the ceremony. Primary B.A.C.A. members (2 of them) are assigned directly to the child. The child is given a biker vest and a road name. (No one in B.A.C.A. goes by their "real" name...not even the children.) There are also other parts of the ceremony that can be done differently by each chapter. Sometimes the child is given a stuffed animal or a blanket. Sometimes the child will elect to go on a motorcycle ride themselves. The ceremony lasts roughly an hour. When it's done, the child knows exactly who they can call, at any hour of the day or night, if they are afraid. In fact, the children are often told to test their Primary contact by calling them at 3:00AM to see what happens. B.A.C.A. Primaries are supposed to pick up the phone each and every time their child calls – no matter what.
The B.A.C.A. chapter then works to maintain contact with the child at least two times a month until the child goes to court to testify against their abuser. Most of the time the contact is via the phone. However, when appropriate, the Primaries to the child can meet with them in person and go out for ice cream, or pizza or play at the park. This type of contact is very much led by the child though. The role of B.A.C.A. is not to become a close friend, confidant, or therapist. The role of B.A.C.A. is to empower the child to not be afraid. Anytime the child feels scared and feels the need for the presence of
his new B.A.C.A. family, the child may call upon these bikers to go to
the child's house and provide the necessary reassurance to feel safe and
protected. B.A.C.A. members and supporters also support the children
by: providing escorts for them if they feel scared in their
neighborhoods; riding by their homes on a regular basis; supporting the
children at court and parole hearings; attending their interviews, and;
staying with the children if they are alone and frightened. The B.A.C.A.
members never go to the child's house alone and never without the
knowledge or permission of the parents. Their mission is not to be
permanently engaged as the child's power. The mission of B.A.C.A. is to help the
children and their families learn how powerful they can be.
I'll describe more about B.A.C.A. in future posts. Feel free to ask any questions that you might have about the group now though. I'm anxious to get my background clearances finished so I can start having contact with the children. It will take at least a full year for me to prove my dedication to B.A.C.A.'s mission before I receive my back patch and become a full member myself. Until that time I'm considered a "supporter". Once fully cleared, I can attend Level One ceremonies and I can go to court to support a child. But until I get my back patch, I cannot be a Primary contact.
I had to smile last night during the training. There are a lot of similarities in the emotions of a foster parent and a B.A.C.A. member. The leader at last night's meeting discussed the role of the Primary contact in great detail. After a child has attended court, verdicts have been made and sentences against abusers carried out, contact with B.A.C.A. is to become less frequent and then eventually stop. Of course the child can initiate contact whenever they want. And if for any reason they are afraid, B.A.C.A. will be there for them immediately. But if B.A.C.A. has done their role correctly, they will have empowered the child and the child will no longer be living in that crippling fog of fear.
The leader at last night's meeting said he misses the kids he has been a Primary to. Sometimes when he's out and about it's all he can do to not stop by and say "hi". But it's not appropriate and he has to be OK with the final goodbye. He looked at the crowd of potential B.A.C.A. members (our chapter here is still forming so there are no full patched members yet) with a look in his eyes that screamed, "You don't understand. You'll have to say goodbye. Goodbyes hurt."
All I could do was smile back. "My heart understands goodbye. I get this."
I really can't wait til I can say "hello" though. I'm missing being a foster parent and I'm anxious to be involved doing something.