Monday, January 30, 2017

What I know about Daisy

I know I put most of this up on Facebook. I've been a pretty lousy blogger lately. But a reader asked me about Daisy and her case so I figured I'd update here.

All I know is that Daisy is still in foster care. I don't know where she's at exactly. I don't know how many foster homes she's blown through. And I know that the State is trying to terminate rights on both of her parents.

I'm able to "follow along" with this case just a little because the county Dandelion's murder happened in puts their CPS cases up online. Since I know the names of the involved parties, I can look up the case and see when things are scheduled to happen. It's limited information. I can't help myself though. I check it regularly.

The TPR jury trial is currently scheduled for February 13.

On January 18th of this year, both Mom and Dad were finally indicted on a criminal level for the murder of their daughter, Dandelion.

"injury to a child with intentionally causing serious bodily injury"

It's a First Degree Felony. Both are still out on bond. But the criminal proceedings have finally begun.

I'll be following along with this as much as I can online as well. I'm curious as to how it will all turn out in the end.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Where are Russell and Star?

A reader asked me yesterday where Russell and Star are.

I sometimes forget that not everyone follows my drivel on Facebook.  :)

This is a super fast recap of how that case ended...

I went to court on the morning of August 1, 2016. Russell and Star had been excused so they stayed home with Mr. Amazing. I was pretty sure the case was going to take a major change. I just had no idea how major and how fast.

Mom was there. She made it clear to everyone that she wanted the kids to stay with us. She no longer was in favor of them going to stay with the grandparents. First she tried to tell her lawyer. He ignored her. Then she tried to tell me. I brought the babies' lawyer over to translate.

I honestly don't know how it all happened. It was rather fast and overwhelming.

Lawyers and CPS went into the judge's chambers. Then, as fast as it started, it was over. Everyone said they were in favor of the babies being moved to the grandparents' home. Even though the lawyer for the Russell and Star expressed concern, she ended up saying she was in favor. Mom's lawyer lied and said that Mom was in favor.

The hearing ended and CPS told me they'd be by in about four hours to pick the kids up.

The case had reached the legal end. If they had wanted to do the RIGHT THING and actually TRANSITION the kids to the grandparents - they would have had to extend the case. Everyone decided against this option.

No...that's not true. No one even discussed it. A transition was never an option.

Instead, they gave the grandparents Permanent Managing Conservatorship. They did not terminate rights. Mom was given a visit schedule so she could keep seeing her kids. And just like that, CPS was out of the case. There was to be zero oversight. Zero transition. It was just going to be done.

I went home and packed up as much as I possibly could. CPS showed up. The babies' things barely fit in her car. Bopper gave me the phone number and address for Grandma. She also gave me Mom's phone number. I cried a lot. It was so unfair for Russell and Star. They had barely seen the grandparents over the last several months. They had never been to their house. They had never had an unsupervised visit of any kind. The kids were just swooped up and moved.

As the week progressed I got super sick. I chalked it up to everything but what it was. I ended up being hospitalized on August 7 with Clostridium difficile (C. diff). I was in and out of the hospital three times over the course of the month. (I also developed pancreatitis and severe mouth ulcers that left me dehydrated. Oh...and they found a tumor on my liver during testing for C. difficile. I don't have cancer - the biopsy was negative.)

Because of the illness, I neglected updating the blog at all. The grief of losing the babies the way we did was pretty intense. I mean...I knew they weren't going to stay with us. I knew that even though Mom changed her mind, no one was going to listen to her. I just assumed that CPS would actually transition the children to the grandparents. I figured there would be visits and at least a little bit of communication. Instead, there was nothing.

I did manage to switch licensing agencies though. That process took a lot longer than I thought it would. We are now licensed through a new one and I'm hoping things work better than they did with our last agency. I'm not holding my breath though. Most of what's wrong with foster care is wrong on the State level. No licensing agency can change that.

Whiz and Rex moved in with us on January 18. I certainly didn't "plan" on taking two babies again. We're licensed for ages 0-17. I figured we'd take older kids. These two babies had been placed in a shelter though. I have no idea why we weren't called when they were removed initially. We would have said yes then. When I was told about them being in a shelter though, it just seemed like the right thing for them to move in with us. After all, I've got two cribs, two car seats, two high chairs, and two baby jails. Whiz is almost 19 months old and Rex just turned 8 months old on the 27th. I didn't have to rearrange anything in the house. I just had to get the baby toys out again.

As for Russell and Star - I hear tiny bits and pieces about them. Their mother accepted my friend request on Facebook. When she posts pictures of the kids, which isn't that often, I get to see them. The grandparents blocked me on FB and won't return any of my text messages. (I never tried to call because of the language differences. But I can text them in Spanish...and I did. And my texts were ignored or not received.)

Russell is still seeing the same occupational therapist as he did when he was in my home. She hasn't broken HIPPA...but she did tell me that every single concern I had about Russell going to live with the grandparents is true. He's dirty and sick all the time. The level of neglect is significant. But, there isn't anything serious enough that anyone can call the hotline.

Russell and Star's mom is pregnant again. She's still with Star's father (the man suspected to have broken all of Russell's bones). Star's dad has been arrested again though and is in federal custody. I'm sure he'll be deported again. But, due to where we live, I'm sure he'll be back on this side of the wall as soon as he can be. Hopefully Mom's new baby will be perfectly healthy and Dad will have no reason to abuse any children again.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Grey

Most kids in foster care are there because of grey reasons. It's simply NOT cut and dry. Most kids are in foster care because of the ambiguous term "neglect".

I found this data to be interesting and it definitely backs my claim. It says that 81% of all confirmed cases of maltreatment in Texas were neglect-based. Eighty-one percent. Let that number sink in just a bit.

Foster care is necessary. I'm not saying it isn't. But out of those 81% of children that were neglected, how many were taken from their families of origin and placed with strangers? And how many of those times was it REALLY necessary?

Sadly, I've had quite a few "black and white" cases come to my home.
  1. MissArguePants and her sister, TurtleTurtle, had been sexually abused (and physically abused and horribly neglected).
  2. Pumpkin had been medically neglected and physically abused and neglected to the point of being totally alone where she wandered the streets. (Pumpkin is non-verbal and functions on the level of a toddler. This was really serious neglect.)
  3. Daisy had been shaken almost to death.
  4. The Neverland Kids watched their infant brother be killed right in front of them. They needed a safe environment. I'm not 100% convinced they NEEDED to be taken from their mother permanently. She wasn't the abuser. But the death of a child is incredibly serious and the situation was very significant. I stand behind CPS removing the children so they could assess the full level of danger in the home. I'm not sure I stand behind how CPS handled things after the kids were forced to leave my home. CPS terminated rights on Mom and Dad and the children are in need of an adoptive home. Odds are, the siblings are being split up. At least that's the last information I heard.
  5. Russell had 15 broken bones, a lacerated liver, and he had been starved almost to death.

All of these children NEEDED to be taken from their families and placed into a safe home. Foster care really is a necessity.

However...
  1. Dude and Dolly were being neglected. There was never any evidence of physical abuse. They were being fed and clothed. Their needs were being met for the most part. Granted, their mother just walked away when they were taken. And then she spent quite a bit of time in jail. But could the case have gone totally different if she had been given better services? What would have happened if she got help and her kids stayed WITH her?
  2. Ricky NEVER needed foster care. Yes, he needed to be out of the home with his mother. But he had already moved to a good place. Rebecca took excellent care of him. She had already been caring for him for years. CPS did not need to get involved the way they did with Ricky.
And that brings me to our newest kids: Whiz and Rex.

Their case is grey. Oh so very grey.

It doesn't look that way on the surface. After all, Whiz has been in foster care before. Domestic violence and alcohol abuse are damaging to families. I do not know what happened for real during the first year of Whiz's life. I don't even really know the whole story of how he got to me. I know that Rex was born and the State did not remove him. He stayed at home with Mom and Dad. I know that Rex is fat and happy. I know that someone took good care of him. And for the last couple months, when Whiz was at home with his Mom and Dad, I think they cared for him OK enough as well.

Maybe they didn't. Maybe there's more to this than I know.

But it's not my job to go down that path. It's my job to help this family get back together.

Really. That's part of my job as a foster parent.

I'm not "allowed" to do much with the family of origin. I'm not allowed to supervise visits. I can't provide transportation or do anything outside of our contact before and after visits in the CPS office. But I can smile at Mom. I can use respectful language and not look down on her. I can ask her about bedtime rituals, favorite meals, skincare products, and more. I need to show her that I value her as their mother.

I will struggle a little bit more offering this level of respect to their father. If the criminal charges against him are true, he needs more help than CPS is probably going to provide. But...it's not MY job to judge him. It's my job to care for his children and to support the goals of the State. And despite his mistakes, I can still be a decent human being. I don't have to vilify him. I can encourage a positive relationship with his kids.

I'm not 100% convinced that the children needed to come into my home in order for Mom and Dad to get the help that they need though. I do NOT have any answers. But I do know that foster care, no matter how wonderful the home, is damaging to families. Whiz was plucked from everything he knows and placed with strangers. It's been weeks and he's seen his parents 1 or 2 times...tops. Nothing about my house looks or smells or sounds right. And there's nothing I can do to fix this. All I can do is meet his needs and help him see that he is safe and loved.

I pray that all the services CPS offered to Whiz and Rex's parents are good. I pray that they get the help they need. I honestly do. Because these awesome little boys deserve to grow up with their family. Every kid does. I hope this case is a short one.