30 Jun Reunified Families, Strong Families
Put yourself in the shoes of a parent whose children are in foster care. Can you imagine it? Open up your mind and ….
You are sitting in your house, and someone knocks at the door. It’s been a rough day and you don’t want to deal with it. Your back is killing you again, like it has everyday since you had your car accident. You’re out of oxy again. It just doesn’t cut it anymore and you are angry all the time now. And the kids won’t stop screaming. They are always fussing and fighting and needing something every second. You are so tired of it all. You’d be happy not to hear anyone yell “Mom” for just one hour.
On my gosh, they won’t take the hint. They are still at your door knocking and someone is calling out your name. You go to the door and peak out. You don’t know this person and she has a police officer with her. What in the world is going on? You break out in a cold sweat. You’ve been buying Oxy from your neighbor Jim for a few months now. Ever since that stupid doctor said he wouldn’t prescribe them to you anymore. Are you getting busted?
You open the door and the lady starts telling you she is with Department of Children and Family Services and she needs to come into the house and visit with you and the kids, take a look around, and she needs you to do a drug test. She explains that someone made a report about physical abuse based on bruises on Lindsey’s arm and neglect because your home isn’t safe and your kids are dirty.
You are shocked. You’re a good mom. You play with your kids, have set bedtimes, cook…well maybe not as much since the car accident. You might have been a little too rough a few times lately, but you aren’t an abuser.
Your drug test is positive for oxy. You knew it would be. Of course, you can’t produce a current prescription bottle. If that dumb doctor hadn’t cut you off, you’d still have a bottle and more money. It was so much cheaper when you actually had a prescription. You still can’t get over this woman standing there in the same room with you while you pee. This is an invasion of your privacy! How can they just walk in your house like this? If that officer hadn’t been there, you wouldn’t have ever opened the door no matter how long this woman called your name and knocked.
You get a little angry when she takes your kids into another room to talk to them alone. The officer had to tell you to be quiet and sit down. They are just little kids- just 7 and 4. They must be scared and need their mom. You hear Lindsey crying.
It’s a nightmare. The woman goes through your house room by room. She says it isn’t safe. Says there is environmental neglect. What in the heck is that? It’s messy, okay it has gotten a bit dirty. You used to take the trash out and wash dishes every night, do the laundry. When did it get like this? Still, it can’t be that bad. It’s just a dirty house…a really dirty house. She’s asking about the bruises on Lindsey’s arm and on the back of Nikki’s legs. Maybe you were a little rough, but they just bruise easily. For God’s sake, you wouldn’t hurt your kids!
You lose it, flat out lose your mind when this crazy lady says she’s taking your kids. You yell at her that she’ll take them over your dead body. They are your kids! You have to protect them. You are all they have since their dad walked out. The police officer makes you sit on the couch. The girls are both crying now. The lady takes a garbage bag out of your kitchen and is putting some of the kid’s stuff in it. She’s talking about a court date and foster care. None of it is really registering. Dear God, where are they taking your kids?
You are angry, afraid, guilty, sad – all at once. You are alone. You curl up in a ball on the couch and cry for what seems like hours. When you finally are able to stop crying, you call Jim. You really need an oxy. Just one more.
Run the clock forward.
For the first few months, you are so angry. You are in denial that any of this is your fault. You are looking for anyone and everyone to blame – your sorry ex-husband, that jerk that T-boned you in his old truck, the doctor who cut you off, that nosey lady next door that always talks to the girls, Lindsey’s teacher, that awful lady who came to your house and took your girls, the cop. Then you start to accept.
It’s been almost a year since the night your world broke down. You’ve been going to AA/NA for 8 months now. You’ve been clean for almost 6 months. Who would have thought that the girl who wouldn’t even smoke pot in high school would end up with an addiction? But you are so proud of yourself and excited about getting a chip at your next meeting. You have a full-time job again. It’s been hard to work meetings and time with your therapist around work, but you’ve done it. You started to have the girls for weekend visitation last month and it’s been wonderful to have them home again even if it’s just for visits right now. Isn’t that crazy? Visiting your own kids.
You learned a lot in anger management and now have skills to keep you calm so you don’t ever hurt the girls again. You took parenting classes and you learned new ways to interact and discipline. The girls still fuss and fight, but you can handle it. Everyone involved with your court case just told you last week that they are recommending your kids come home at the hearing next month. They call it a trial home placement, but they all seem to think it will be over soon.
You really hated the foster mom at first. Some lady who probably thought she was better that you at being a parent. The first time you heard Nikki call her “Mama Betty”, your blood boiled. But you’ve actually come to like her. She sends you pictures of the girls all the time, she invited you to lunch with them on Mother’s Day, and she never acted like you are a bad person. She’s even told you that she would be happy to babysit for you on your late night at work when the kids come home.
This past year has been hell. But you feel like it’s finally almost over and you actually feel stronger now. You are more of the mom you were before the car accident. Maybe even stronger. It’s nice to have someone local who can babysit too, someone who loves your girls. Your mom lives out of state, and you really didn’t have anyone else. Your nightmare is finally going to end, and some good things have actually come out of it.
Were you able to imagine it?
Removing a child from the home isn’t a light thing. It causes trauma to the child and to the entire family. When a child is removed, the goal is to get that child back home as soon as possible, as long as it can be done safely. Services and resources can help the family move toward reunification and can strengthen the family. Pulaski County CASA supports reunifying and strengthening families. We recognize that children do best when they can safely return home.
There are multiple ways to become involved with Pulaski County CASA – become a Court Appointed Special Advocate, serve on our Board of Directors, financially support Pulaski County CASA, and follow us on social media and like and share our posts. June is National Reunification Month and we love seeing families reunified with skills that will help them be successful. One of the wonderful things our Court Team does to celebrate reunification is prepare reunification baskets with needed household supplies for the reunified family. To help with this, check out our Amazon Wish List.
You can support CASA even more by loading your cart and then switching to Amazon Smile and selecting Pulaski County CASA as your charity of choice.