Wednesday, June 29, 2016

transportation concerns

Wednesday is the day the babies are supposed to visit the grandparents. Many, many visits were missed in April, May, and the start of June. It wasn't until last week, when I assume Bopper got a little more involved, that Grandma did something different. Instead of no-showing (like what had happened at several other recent visits), Grandma cancelled...but asked to make up the visit.

Grandma had NEVER asked to make up a visit ever before in the history of this case.
Maybe she didn't know she could. 

So, we made up the visit last Friday. I didn't know what to expect today. But I loaded those babies up in our car and drove to the CPS office.

Grandma was there already. She was also there with all five of her children.

This shouldn't be that big of a deal. But Grandma only drives a five passenger vehicle. That means her own children did not travel to said visit safely.

Normally this is something that I stay out of. I have called the police when I see kids visibly walking around in a moving vehicle. But most of the time, there's nothing I can really do if someone else is transporting their children in an unsafe manner.

But THIS - to me anyway - is a big deal.

This is also where it gets VERY complicated.

Children should never be removed from their biological parents simply due to poverty. This is something I believe pretty strongly in. It is better for a family for services to be provided that enable the family to stay together than it is to separate children from their parent(s), put them in a very punitive System, and then make impoverished parents have to work some plan just to get their kids back. Foster care rarely works the way its supposed to. Let's keep as many kids OUT of foster care as we possibly can! m'kay?

That said, I struggle with this when it comes to relative placements. I'm still trying to decide exactly how I feel about it. Because while I believe that requiring a bio parent to have a vehicle is ludicrous – I somehow want to hold relatives to a higher standard if they are being considered for placement. And I'll be honest...I'm not sure that's right on my part.

So, before I go any further, let me vaguely mention that I have many more concerns than just poverty when it comes to placing Russell and Star with these grandparents. I'm only discussing the poverty in this post though. (Poverty in the fact that they don't have the means to purchase a new vehicle that could safely transport their family now...and they certainly don't have the means to purchase a vehicle that could transport their entire family should they get custody of Russell and Star.)

I handed Russell and Star over to the family. They left the waiting room and went back to a visitation room. There were no tears - thank God!!

I then asked if I could come back to the receptionist's office (vs. having to talk through a tiny window) to discuss something with her. She buzzed me through.

I explained that I wasn't trying to meddle but I wanted to bring something, that in my opinion is very serious, to the attention of decision makers at CPS. I told her that Grandma came to the visit and that she did so illegally because her vehicle isn't large enough to accommodate all of her children plus herself. I asked that the receptionist get ahold of the caseworker and/or supervisor. In my naivety, I hoped that someone would discuss this with Grandma before the end of the visit. I never thought that CPS would call the police or prevent her from driving away when it was over. But I hoped it would be discussed.

Think about it - a hospital won't let you leave with your newborn until they've examined your car seat. Shouldn't CPS (Child Protective Services) care just as much about the safety of children? Isn't that their job.

And NO! I don't think that Grandma should have had her children taken from her today. I'm not going there with this post. I just think the safety of her children needed to be addressed with her. This isn't some random, minor thing. She was breaking the law in Texas transporting her children without car seats.
Texas Law:
A person commits an offense if the person operates a passenger vehicle, transports a child who is younger than eight years of age, unless the child is taller than four feet, nine inches, and does not keep the child secured during the operation of the vehicle in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system.
Grandma had four children under the age of 8 with her. None of them were buckled correctly. I believe she had one car seat but I think it was a booster. And if that's where she put her 1yo baby...that was illegal as well.

I spent the two hour visit trying to not be too upset. Russell and Star were safe. I have to compartmentalize everything else. It was HER children that were going to be in transported in a manner that isn't safe and that needs to be on HER.

Mr. Amazing said he would call the cops. He said he knew I wouldn't though and that if he were in my shoes, I'd talk him out of it. My Genius Sister let me vent too. She agreed as well about not calling the police. I couldn't do anything more than tell CPS what I observed and leave everything up to them. If I were to try and involve the police, it would do nothing but damage any kind of a relationship I have with the grandparents and would send a message to CPS that I'm meddling in the case. (I currently have NO relationship with the grandparents. I haven't seen Grandpa since March, at the last visit held in my home. There were 10 cancelled visits. And Grandma is the only one coming to visits now and she speaks no English. She never shows any sort of interest in talking to me about the children - even when a translator is available.)

I got back to the CPS office just before the visit let out. I asked the receptionist if she had contacted the worker and/or the supervisor. (I called Bopper twice during the visit time, but she didn't answer.)

The receptionist said she hadn't talked to anyone.

< insert primal yell that I wanted to - but didn't - scream >

Then the receptionist said something about talking to the visit supervisor. I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes. The third party company that supervises visits in the CPS office has NOTHING to do with the case. They certainly wouldn't care whether or not Grandma transported her own children to and from the visit legally. Their only job is to take notes on the interactions during the visits. They don't redirect anything – they simply take notes.

When Russell and Star came out from the visit, I smiled, took them from Grandma and her kids, and we left to our vehicle. Bart was with me. (I love summertime. Having that extra set of hands after a visit makes things so much easier.) Then I saw two caseworkers coming out of the building. I got an idea. I told Bart to finish buckling the babies and I'd be right back.

One of the things that I've run in to with this case is that I've seen things with my eyes. But because I'm the foster mom - that means NOTHING in the case. For example, back in January, I saw Star's dad in the parking lot after a doctor appointment picking Mom up. Star's dad was deported to Mexico back in September last year. He dropped off the radar for CPS. He's never met his daughter and he has no contact with his CPS lawyer. Mom continues to say over and over (and over and over) that she broke up with him. She says she doesn't know where he's at. She says they have no contact with each other. It's not true. Social media and my own eyes say otherwise. But here, social media isn't used at all in CPS to build a case and my word means very little.

Of course I told Bopper right away when I saw him. But my word alone means nothing. The court would immediately twist it that I was saying things for my own personal gain. That I was meddling.

So me telling Bopper that Grandma drove to the visit with five kids unsafely ultimately means nothing. So I went across the parking lot to the caseworkers.

I was more emotional than I wanted to be. I apologized for that. But I asked if they were caseworkers. When they said yes, I asked them to simply observe Grandma buckling her five children in to a five passenger vehicle. I explained that I was trying to do Bopper a favor so that the information this happened wouldn't be coming from just me. They asked my name and of course I told them. It was awkward. I apologized and made sure they knew I wasn't trying to meddle - I was simply reporting something that happened. I didn't expect anything from them. They thanked me and I thanked them.

I sent Bopper a text message when I got home.

Bopper really needs to grow a set of balls.

Her only response is that she'd "talk to Grandma". Now, granted, that's all that I really wanted to have happen today. But I would have preferred that it be dealt with immediately. It would have been nice if Bopper's supervisor could have been involved today as well. This is a very good reminder that what I want is irrelevant and I have to be OK with that. I am the foster parent. I'm not "part" of the case. My job is to take care of the children and advocate for them within the boundaries of The System. If you're not OK with letting CPS drive the case, so to speak, foster care probably isn't for you.

I told Bopper that two other caseworkers saw it. She thanked me for speaking to them. Because ultimately...Bopper doesn't want to place with the grandparents. She just doesn't have the balls to do anything about it. She's entirely too wishy-washy.

Bopper did tell me that she started to staff this case with her supervisor yesterday. They didn't get to officially go over everything - but she did tell her supervisor that she's not recommending placement right now.

I have to assume there will be another extension in August when we go to court. In the meantime, I will continue to support whatever the State says should happen. That is the biggest reason why all I did today was report facts to CPS. If they determine that the grandparents should have custody, it will be up to me to make the transition to their home a pleasant one. Calling the cops on someone would not have facilitated anything good between the grandparents and me. I cannot damage that potential relationship.


Empty Arms, Broken Heart said...

I have dealt with having to report a grandparent for unsafe traveling with her own child. the grandmother brought my 3 year old foster daughter back to me late one Sunday evening. I was outside to wave her in as she drove down my street (she was very turned around). When she pulled up to the front of my house, I saw her 8 year old son sitting in the front seat holding her less than one year old son in his lap. From what I could tell (it was dark and the back windows were tinted), the girls in the back seat were strapped in appropriately, but I was appalled to see the little one out of a car seat. She made the excuse that he wasn't feeling well and being out of the seat helped him to breathe better. I reported this to my case worker and she notified the county work who "talked" to grandma. Our relationship, which was never terribly strong began deteriorating (another reason for that being I hated how late she brought the child home and wasn't quiet about my displeasure - 10:30-11:00 on a Sunday night??? No.). By the time the little ones moved home with their mom the grandmother refused to associate with me, preferring to pick the child up and drop her off at the baby-sitters place (who happened to be another foster parent). My case worker too told me to call the police, but my thought was, what are they going to do, chase her down? Now, the laws in PA have changed and we as foster parents are mandated reporters so I would have to call the Childline and report what I saw.... It's not an easy thing at all, especially when you really just want to make the behavior change, not cause other hurts....

Bharath Gopalan said...

Valuable information! Looking forward to seeing your notes posted.
baby care

Alice said...

I hope all is well (though with foster care never is...). I'd love to read an update from you when you have time.

-M said...

I had to tell you: You inspired me to write about our own journey! Thanks for being an inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog. I have been reading a few foster blogs and debating about fostering. All those cancellations and the car situation. Frustrating and scary to say this least.