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Through a Child's Eyes
Posted November 28, 2004
I watch the hustle and bustle from my window, everyone is coming and going so fast these days. The streets are lined with huge red bows, the subtle smell of pine wafts in the air from pinecones tied to every bow.
Yes, Christmas preparations are underway. For those with family close and friends so near, the days filled with expectation can fill a heart with joy and thoughts of happy times. Making the season almost magical in nature. But for those with loved ones lost, making it through just one more day can seem like a tremendous chore. For those seemingly alone the emptiness can echo through a burdened heart like a canyon.
With a Heavy Heart
My heart gets heavy when my thoughts drift to parents and children who have been seperated and lost to each other. During this time of joyous activity the children are left to wonder what will become of them. Will Santa be able to find them in their new abode? Will I get to see my mother and father? Will they remember or have they forgotten me already?
Parents are left to wonder if their children are getting plenty to eat. Are they sleeping well? Will my children hate me for life and be scared forever because they have been taken from me? The fear can be just too much to handle.
Yes, Christmas is just around the corner. What will Christmas bring for your family? Just how would you feel if your children were ripped from your arms, without the luxury of a good-bye and an I love you dearly.
Children deserve every chance in life we can give them, every opportunity we can muster to help them grow up happy and healthy, in body, mind and soul. We owe it to them to work to keep every family together.
If our government via child protective service organizations is willing (and apparently they are) to spend $600 - $1500 a month on foster care services, then parents deserve no less. Why is a child without housing removed from parents who are unable to provide shelter for them? I must ask myself and we must ask each other, what kind of "service" is it to traumatize a child by ripping him or her out of a parents arms and leaving them with a complete stranger. What kind of person could do this?
Have we as a nation, lost our compassion? Where are our legislators and why are they asleep at the wheel? Just who is looking out for the welfare of our children? State governments across the nation have manuvered themselves into a position of authority. They tell us they have a vested interest in the welfare of our children. If that is indeed so, then why are children left to languish? Why are families being systematically torn apart?
Families struggle and the good Lord knows we all have our trials but you don't kick a dog when it's down. Why are we kicking families?
Services must be made available to families in trouble. Every effort must be made to keep each family intact, even if that means a few slip through the perverbial crack. From the evidence I've seen, the crack couldn't get any wider than it is now. Reports of children being injured or worse, killed in foster care is rising.
We must do a better job of providing housing for families in distress. Many of the housing laws are stacked against parents. One case comes to mind of a father who being young and foolish committed a felony at the age of 17, it was not a violent crime or one where anyone was injured. The family due to his felony record is not eligible for public housing.
This family of six has been virtually homeless for the past year, living in a tent, a motel and the homes of family and friends. The children are still with the parents but that could change if a report is made. This family is vulnerable, the children could be removed at any time, all it takes is for someone to make a telephone call.
One might wonder why a family would want to get involved in the foster care business. Most good families won't bother because they aren't interested in coming under government scrutiny, putting their own children at risk. Families who do take in children are often doing nothing more than running a business. Some families take in as many as a dozen children. If even one of those children is classified as special needs, the profits can be enormous and become very tempting.
People often wonder how I became involved in fighting CPS and the government take-over of the family. I've never lost a child to the system. I was a child of the system. I lived in half a dozen foster homes, in as many months, before I finally ran away at the age of 14.
While in fostercare I served as one families maid and childcare provider, left to wander the streets, at will, when I wasn't needed for household chores. I was moved from home to home without any regard to my feelings, no one seemed to care what I wanted. In another home I was forced to sleep with a girl I didn't know and deal with cockroaches, something I had never seen at home. I was molested and then called a liar when the truth came out.
Running into Trouble
I started skipping school, smoking and taking drugs. Since I was never given any money of my own I started stealing as well. I finally ran away, only to I end up living on the streets, sleeping under a bridge in the middle of winter at the age of 14.
When it came time to go to court, the wheels turn oh so slowly ... Social workers badgered me to lie and tried to put words in my mouth. They blamed my mother and charged her with failure to protect and removed my two sisters as well, because she dared to seek help.
I've seen first-hand in many cases, families are destroyed for ludicrous reasons. I have one friend who lost her children to her ex-husband because the ex-husband's father is an assistant DA and didn't want his son to have to pay child support. He made dozens of unsubstantiated reports to CPS workers. He finally found sympathetic cops to do the dirty work. The children were yanked out of her car for no apparent reason and no warrant.
Another friends children were removed from her home, the mother charged with "educational neglect". The children were enrolled and regularly attending a local charter school ran by the public school system, it wasn't a matter of truancy either. The icing on the cake was that these twin boys were "A" students.
I personally know yet another mother whose children are small for their age (ages 3 and 10 months). They come from a small family, one child was born premature, but they removed the children anyway. The social worker didn't care what the facts of the matter were. She just wanted to exert her power of this family. They were bullied into taking the children to a doctor of the states choosing, refusing to allow the parents to see their own docter. The doctor did what he was hired to do and substantiated the claim of "failure to thrive".
When the grandparents were finally able to get the children back from CPS, they removed after only two weeks of being in their care because they attempted to have the children seen by another doctor. During the time the children were living with the grandparents, the children were not allowed to see their mother, except during weekly CPS supervised visits, even though the child continuously cried for the mother, refused to eat and was in obvious distress over the separation.
Letters Pour In
Those are just a few of the cases I have first-hand knowledge of. I have hundreds of other stories, many of which have meticulously documented facts. I could tell you story after story, it's enough to break your heart.
To add insult to injury, families are financially drained of the few resources they had, fighting the very system that was intended to help them. After hiring an attorney to represent them, paying for visitation supervisors, psychological testing, therapy and parenting classes, many families are forced into utter poverty. Mother's and Father's have lost employment, their homes as well as their children, making the prospects of getting them returned even more slim.
This insanity must be stopped. Children need their parents, like they need air. I'll never forget the feeling of total aloneness, when I was out on the streets. I was scared, hungry and I missed my family but I knew I couldn't go home. I couldn't pick up the phone and call home because if they found me, they'd take me back into fostercare, where I was not safe. I'd be stuck in a system that benefited everyone involved, except for me and of course my parents.
I can't sit here this holiday season and feel helpless. I have to reach out. I have to share my burden and hope that you will feel some compassion, that you will act on the hurt. I'll continue to post your stories on this website. I'll continue to write my congressmen, sign petitions and pray for the hurting families that litter this country.
Letters from parents arrive in my inbox weekly, pleading with me to help. I feel so helpless at times that wish I had a law degree so I could plead their cases in court but I don't. I have a working knowledge of the legislative process and have helped to write and pass legislation. I do my best to provide resources to parents in need of answers but my main focus has been to promote awareness and help parents avoid this nightmare altogether.
What Can I Do?
The best advice I can give to any parent is to avoid any contact what-so-ever with and child services provided by the state. Know your rights under the law and know how to exert them.
If you have read this far, I strongly encourage you to speak out in anyway you can. There are many ways you can help, please do what you can.