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Keeping Your Feet on the Ground After a CPS Visit!
I have questioned many people lately and have found that CPS happens to nearly every parent. Of course not only do I know this from an advocate perspective, but I asked around recently to find that even the most respectable parents in good positions (like law enforcement or boys and girls club facilitators)... one thing we all have in common... every parent seems to have had at least one visit from CPS in their lifetime. Isn't that frightening?
I have advocated for a long time for parents involved in custody issues. Even trusted our local CPS office, since I have been a part of this community for a lifetime. But as a Mom of four, I was bound to get "the call" sooner or later. And later finally came January 17!
But listen good because in the end my kid's father and I went on the aggressive so quick DCFS didn't know what hit them.
It All Started When...
My 6 year old and fourth child, was injured on school property under the care of staff at the Boys and Girls Club early January. A difficult kindergarten teacher did not bother asking me how Coda's ear got bruised but just called DCFS instead.
It did not help that Ms. Reta and I had personality conflicts from the beginning. And I suppose the prescriptions I saw on her desk for Prozac, and some sedatives on the first day of school should have tipped me of that there might be problems.
The Knock At The Door
The social worker comes to our home at 6 pm on the weeknight of January 17th, we all know why they show up then, who's house is running smoothly at this time of night?
I refuse to let the witch search my parents home (in-which we are house-sitting for nearly a year). I inform Ms. Donley to investigate the B&G Club for abuse since Coda was injured there. I allowed Ms. Donley a quick look at my son, who didn't want her near him. They say kids have good instincts about people.
Then, like an angry mother bear, I roared her off my property (parents property).
This was not a serious injury and not that consistent with child abuse... Most of all the injury in question did not occur under my care.
All those horror stories I am privy to as an advocate kicked in my memory as she began hurriedly off to her car on the street 100 feet away. Motherly instincts and my own personality mixed causing me to yell at her while she ran to her car, the nice policemen stood in the middle. I couldn't help but call her a child stealing witch. I knew that people like her took pleasure in lining their pockets with the bodies of stolen children from innocent families.
I guess I should not have been so aggressive because as she literally ran to her car with officer between us.
Before leaving Ms. Donley made it clear our family was now under an ongoing investigation of child abuse. My loud but well made points of the injury occurring somewhere else should have closed the case right now, but she proceeded to slam her car door shut!
Fear Rears It's Ugly Head
Then fear kicks in, what did I just do? I just scared the crap out of a SS worker and pissed her off? You know I was this close to grabbing the bb gun (which looks like a shot gun) off the cabinet wall.
While Charlie proceeded to quickly clean the house, I got my two kids (still at home) into the 'safety' of my car. We drove by the court house and the DCFS office to see if her vehicle was parked in either place as if trying to obtain a late night court order. Apparently she had gone home.
I knew I would be safe for the night. The little ones were unaware of any real trouble so we tucked them in, but Charlie and I did not sleep a wink as I thought of all the horror stories from AFRA.
My heart pounded at the thought of our poor little boys, scared and alone, away from Mommy, Daddy and the comfort of their own home, cold and afraid in a strange place; a dark bedroom. Coda had been partially deaf till he was four and very shy of others. His bond with me was great and being ripped away from me would have put that little boy in shock. I was not scared for myself but my children's well-being. I shuddered at the thought of my boys confused and alone in foster care.
Temporarily insane with worry, lack of food and sleep... I e-mailed Leonard some dark thoughts.
By 7 am my head had cleared, Charlie and I got busy, he took the day off of work. His bosses were sympathetic and willing to help. Amazingly, my head cleared, my legal mind kicked in and we got to work.
Down To Business
First thing on the agenda was to file a 'statement of fact' with social services office.
I created a one page statement to social services, stating the facts regarding any allegations with a promise to provide 5 items of documented proof with in 48 hours (actually got all of it to the office by 4 pm that day). Charlie and I notarized the statement and hand delivered it (date officially stamped by receptionist) while Ms. Donley happened to be at the front desk area watching (with a glare I might add). In addition, 2 more copies were stamped, received, and given to Ms. Donley's supervisors and the Head of our local DCFS.
Then I officially took my boys out of school for the remainder of the week. This to keep them safe from incognito SS attempts to question and steal my children while we were separated from them. It is not truancy if you go to the school, inform them that your children will be out for the rest of the week on a family emergency AND request all homework for those days to be missed. Charlie and I then drove our kids to the Indian Reservation where my sister lives with her husband... sovereign land that is safe from local authorities.
Documentation Is Important
We arrived at the Boys and Girls Club even before they opened, to get staff members from Boys and Girls Club to write an official written statement on Coda's hurt ear. Staff at B&G Club happy to help, partially feeling responsible for the CPS fiasco -- and rightfully so. They had never officially documented the incident, and I could have asked them the same questions CPS would have asked me, "Why was my 6 year old under a hockey table, why wasn't I called right away?" But I didn't see the need.
While I stayed at B&G Club, Charlie went to Hospital Records Department and obtained ER reports from early December regarding Coda's knick in the ear when I cut his hair (just to cma). ER reports nothing unusual. Cut was very minor and physician only put on butterfly band-aids to make mom feel better. Doc sees this kind of thing frequently and doesn't feel it is consistent with child abuse.
After explaining our situation to the receptionist at our busy family physician, Sharon squeezes Coda in for a doctor's appointment at 2:15 pm. Sharon is also miffed at the circumstances. Our family physician evaluates Coda's ear. No medical treatment was required at the time of injury nor was it required now. It was a minor injury and not consistent with child abuse. Nor had he noticed any patterns of abuse in our family the 20 years he has known us. The child was in great condition, playing happily and interacting with parents. No pattern of abuse was evident.
We then re-rented our camcorder from RAC, Video taped our clean house during normal daytime hours -- the house I refused to let her search at a messy 6 pm. Since Coda was available after the physician's appointment, we taped him playing happily, watching DVD's, teasing parents, and playing... well dressed.
Viewing this tape, I think to myself, if one of our local Judges sees this, will he believe that our child is abused or neglected? Knowing our local Judges are cautious about social services and re-viewing the video tape, I am comfortable that this will speak for itself in court.
We gathered our three 'personal' references requested earlier that day, my son's former teacher with the school district, Charlie's boss (well respected businessman), and my own grown daughter (best reference ever, a child you already raised). They all confirm our decent parenting skills and involvement in children's lives.
All this was turned in by 4 pm to DCFS office. We felt it was best to keep the boys at the reservation with my sister's family until Saturday. When we heard nothing back by Friday night, and of course no one from DCFS would return our phone calls, we allowed children back home. In three days we barely slept and I had lost 11 pounds.
Handling The School Problem
On Monday, I called Coda's special education kindergarten teacher, Ms. Reta, and not only informed her of the B&G Club injury, but confronted her about calling CPS. I actually got an indirect admission of guilt. I let her know Coda would no longer be attending her class and immediately removed Coda from that school entirely.
A week later I filed a complaint against that 1st year teacher with the school board and the school district. Fortunately the school administrator who got a copy of that complaint knows me as Susie Homemaker (she judges the holiday recipe contests I win every year). The school administrator hears the details, confesses she has had problems with Coda's teacher anyway. She assures me she will take it from here - the situation will be handled.
Coda does not legally have to attend school, however since he needs social interaction and some kind of education to catch up his speech, I have been working with trusted members of the school district, who I have known for sometime, and he is now attending another school with a regular classroom. Today at 10 am, I am going in to review Coda's school records and his teacher's notes (which CPS can review at any time) to amend any errors in judgments made by Ms. Reta.
Since January 17th, we have not heard one more word from CPS, but I am ready. Just bought a house and moved in, the camcorder is waiting, fully charged at any moment in case of a surprise visit.
I have two or three more tricks up my sleeve, which I am saving up, just in case I really need it. My friend Wilma at CBS local Channel 2 news, and then there is our long time family friend, the Senator.
So we wait, I mean after all... we were notified January 17th that we were under an ongoing investigation of child abuse and until I am informed that is the case is closed, we must stay on our toes.
If something happens, it will be war. My kids won't be taken from me quietly and it will be filmed! I have raised enough of a fuss over this already, I think anyone else would think twice before pulling a Ms. Reta again.
But if so, I am ready!
Updated June 8, 2008