Star was fussy during the night. I had gone into her room to feed her a bottle at some point in time. She has a twin bed in the room she's sleeping in. Rather than go back to my bedroom, because she seemed out of sorts, I stayed in that bed so I could more easily tend to her if necessary. At about 7:45am, I heard Russell crying in his room downstairs.
Immediately I knew something was wrong.
Russell NEVER cries in bed. And he NEVER cries first thing in the morning.
Again, just like the night before, it wasn't an outright cry. It was more like he was fussing because something wasn't right. It sounded like he was in pain. But nothing severe!
I grabbed Russell and brought him upstairs to Mr. Amazing. I changed his diaper and got him dressed. I raced through the shower. We were at the ER by about 8:15am, I think. I didn't even feed Russell breakfast. I packed it in my diaper bag so I could feed him in the ER.
There wasn't much of a wait. We went right back to a room. The doctor saw him almost immediately.
The doctor was kind and compassionate. He was gentle. He examined Russell.
There were no signs of trauma. No redness. No swelling. No signs of anything being wrong visibly. Even the doctor called Russell's response to pain "inconsistent". He ordered an X-ray.
I fed Russell breakfast in between things.
The wait was relatively short. The X-ray tech didn't say much. (Of course they aren't supposed to. The doctor is supposed to read the films.) It was awful telling the technician that Russell had suffered 15 fractures prior to coming in to Care. The tech nodded and said that he could see them on the film. That's about all he said though.
Not too much time passed before the doctor came back and told me that Russell had a new fracture in his right leg.
My heart sank. I literally felt like my life was over. I was devastated that my foster son was hurt. I was horrified that he got hurt while under my care. And I knew the investigation could ruin me and my family. The doctor said he was ordering X-rays of the left leg to make sure that the fracture wasn't genetic in nature. I shook my head and told him that something like that would have come up already due to the vast number of fractures Russell had suffered prior to coming in to foster care.
The rest of the day is a blur. I'll give you details but don't quote me on exact times or the exact order of events. Just thinking about it as I'm writing this causes my chest to get tense and painful. (PTSD is real in Foster Care Land. Just look up any of my posts labeled "investigation" and you'll know where I'm coming from here.)
After the second X-ray was done, the doctor confirmed that the break wasn't genetic in nature. He asked me again if I knew how it happened. Again, all I could tell him was about the exersaucer adventure from the night before. The doctor insisted, politely, that the break had to have happened from some sort of trauma. He said Russell would have cried out in pain. Did he fall off a couch? Did he fall down the steps? It had to be something big to cause a break like this. All I could do was shake my head and say that nothing big happened the night before. The doctor was very clear in explaining that tugging to get Russell's leg out of the exersaucer opening would not have caused this break.
The doctor told me that he was required to call this sort of an injury in to the child abuse hotline. I nodded my head. I understood. A nurse came over to get all the information about me and the people in my house so she could make the report.
While waiting, I started calling people. I called Bopper several times. She didn't pick up. Because it was a Sunday, I didn't leave a message. Bopper should be allowed a day off. I sent a text to Rainbow. She reminded me that I needed to actually call the on-call worker at my agency. So, I did that too. I also messaged and/or called Mr. Amazing, and My Genius Mother, Brother, and Sister.
Then I just waited in the ER with Russell. I prayed. I cried. I held him. We played together. As long as I wasn't moving him much, he was as happy as always. Even when I moved him, he barely fussed. I thought about all the things that were going to happen. I couldn't imagine a happy ending at all. Our last investigation took almost two months between the removal of the foster children from my care and their return. We have court at the end of this month. I know my agency has a very limited number of open homes that can do respite - and an even fewer number of homes that take infants.
Bopper called me back while we were waiting. She apologized for not picking up. (Bopper is too kind sometimes.) I told her what had happened. She was super protective of me immediately. She insisted that there is NO WAY I would have ever hurt Russell. She said she had to drop her mother off at somewhere but that she would come to the hospital immediately.
It felt good to know that Bopper trusted me. But I still felt hollow inside. How on earth had I hurt Russell?! I felt horrible!
Bopper got there right as we were being moved up to a room. Per protocol, the hospital had to admit Russell so that CPS could do a proper investigation. The ER doctor told me that the break is a simple one that would normally be treated in outpatient care. They had splinted Russell's leg. No one was going to do any more tests of any kind in the hospital. He was just being admitted so I could be investigated and his safety could be ensured.
I spent all day waiting for some official looking person with a badge to come interview me.
We were wheeled up to a room on the third floor. Bopper kept telling me to have faith. Bopper is very much a woman of faith and she knows I am too. Bopper was insistent that God would see me through this and that I had done nothing wrong. She kept on saying I had to have faith.
I looked at Bopper and said, "Oh, I've got faith in Jesus. My faith never wavers. But Jesus doesn't work at CPS."
As soon as they wheeled Russell into the room, several nurses came in. One of them was insistent on seeing Russell right away. She took one look at him and exclaimed, "Oh my goodness! He looks so good! He's so much bigger! Oh my!" She went on and on about how wonderful he looked. She just beamed when I told her that he was walking, and understood some sign language, and was happy and playful all the time.
Obviously, this nurse cared for Russell one year ago when he was hurt and originally came in to foster care.
This nurse looked at me and said, "Yes, I took care of him. He was so hurt before. I remember going home from work that night and just crying."
The doctor on the floor came in while Bopper was still there. He was kind and gentle as well. He indicated that the Down syndrome could also have contributed to Russell's fragile bones. Repeatedly, this doctor told me not to worry. He almost apologized for having to admit Russell. He said that it's just protocol. He said it didn't look like I had done anything wrong. He didn't suspect me of abuse. He said over and over not to worry.
Every time he told me not to worry, Bopper would say, "See Ms. Cherub Mamma? You don't have to worry!"
It was nice to know that I wasn't honestly being suspected of abuse. But it didn't really calm my nerves at all!!
Bopper left. Russell and I spent the afternoon in the hospital room together. Mr. Amazing held down the fort at home. CPS and my licensing agency got busy with the work of handling the investigation and managing the safety of the children.
The investigator on-call that Sunday was located several hours away. I kept thinking they were going to come in person. But Bopper indicated that this hotline call must not have been prioritized very high. I guess a "P1" call means the investigator has to come immediately (think life or death situation). A "P2" call means that the investigator has something like 48 or 72 hours in which to make contact. Bopper said that because the investigator hadn't shown up yet, it must have been prioritized as a "P2".
That didn't ease my nerves much. It meant that we might be stuck in the hospital for several days waiting for someone to start an official investigation.
Still, as the day progressed, the on-call investigator spoke with Bopper. Bopper kept me in the loop all day long. She said she insisted to the investigator that she didn't suspect me of a thing. The investigator told her that was good to hear. The investigator said it's uncommon to actually hear from case workers during the start of investigations and she was appreciative of Bopper's take on things.
My agency reminded me that I needed to call the hotline too. Any time a child is admitted to the hospital, the foster parents have to call the child abuse hotline and report it. I took care of that.
By late afternoon, I was told by my agency that they were required to put Star in emergency respite care. This crushed me. I didn't want to make my baby girl stay with strangers. I discussed how to coordinate it all with the on-call worker. Star's car seat was in my vehicle at the hospital. So the agency worker couldn't just show up at my house to pick up Star. (They don't have their own stash of car seats. They use ours for transportation when necessary.) I also told the on-call worker that I needed to go home and pack Star's bag. Mr. Amazing is pretty awesome. But he would be nervous packing a back for a baby like that.
We kind of went back and forth. The on-call worker discussed things with the state director of our licensing agency. I guess it's helpful that I know the state director personally. (She just happens to be the worker that licensed my husband and I when we started this foster care journey in Texas six years ago.) The state director gave permission for me to personally drive Star to the respite home.
So yeah...I'm under investigation for hurting a baby. But I was given permission to go home, pack Star's bags, and drive her to the respite home myself.
The on-call worker from our agency stayed with Russell while I took care of that.
I cried almost all the way to the respite home and most of the way back. Even if tears weren't falling down my face, I was completely crushed on the inside. My two foster kids were suffering trauma that was directly related to me. I felt so responsible - despite not knowing how I actually hurt Russell at all.
It took almost 3 hours to go home, pack Star up, drop her off, and get back to the hospital.
Russell slept almost the whole time I was gone.
The on-call worker left. I stayed with Russell.
Sometime between about 8:00pm and 9:00pm that night, the orthopedic surgeon walked into our room. He took one look at me and said, "You need to know this did not happen because of abuse. I charted it accordingly and I'll tell anyone that needs to hear it. You didn't do anything wrong."
Through tears I looked at him and said, "Then how did it happen?"
He smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Kids."
He insisted over and over that this was not my fault and I didn't have to worry.
The weight was lifted from my chest just a little. I hadn't been able to eat all day. But I knew I'd at least be able to sleep that night.