I don't remember the "official" name of the meeting I attended this morning. But the gist of it was to find out what the State could do to salvage the placement of the five Rockstars with Ms. Emily.
In attendance: some lady from CPS serving as the moderator, the CPS kinship worker (the State person put in to support Ms. Emily - she does not work with the family of origin), the CPS supervisor over the entire case, Mom, Ms. Emily, and me. Halfway through the meeting, Maternal Grandma and one of Mom's sisters showed up.
The meeting started out with basic introductions. Then the moderator asked Ms. Emily and I to describe the children, one by one. This addressed the positives of the children but, obviously, led to discussions about the challenges of caring for this very large and very young sibling group.
By the time we finished discussing the children, Mom was in tears. She had little to say though. Ms. Emily and I were the only ones discussing the children. We did not discuss visits or behaviors they may or may not have had prior to coming into Care. That was not the focus of the meeting.
The moderator threw things into CPS's court. It was at this time that the CPS supervisor directly asked Ms. Emily if there was anything they could do to keep the Rockstars with her. It was at this time that I prayed hard for Ms. Emily to do what was best for her and, ultimately, the children.
It's not about money. it's not about time. But yet...it's about money. It's about time. And it's SERIOUSLY about the fact that Ms. Emily is sacrificing both to extreme levels while Mom and Dad continue to go out and party all the time. Ms. Emily knows what she's capable for long-term. And CPS made it clear that this case is not currently moving toward family reunification with Mom & Dad at all! There was some hesitation from CPS. They asked and then there was a lot of speaking in sentence fragments. The moderator made a comment. Ms. Emily made a comment how CPS claimed that WIC helps with money. The moderator made another comment. Ms. Emily tried to say how it's not about the money....and how even though WIC is a minor help, it also meant a three-hour visit in the office to get that support. Time that she missed out of her normal day. Time that was stress filled because of having all those small humans with her at the appointment. Everything was in sentence fragments, though. No one wanted to commit to any part of the topic. Everyone seemed to agree. But CPS was scrambling because, if given the chance, they wanted to not have to move the kids.
Finally someone said something and I was able to step in. The bullet points I tried to drive home included:
I love these kids. But the level of supervision they require is a lot.
I'm married and I've got two teenagers. I had help. Ms. Emily is a single parent.
I bring a lot of experience and training to the party that Ms. Emily doesn't have.
Despite all of this, I know that I can't take these kids back. (I literally said I'd have to hire someone and that's not realistic.)
I also added that I could NEVER choose which kids to keep and which kids to not keep and I would NOT be party to splitting the sibling group.
I even went so far as to say I know that I could contact the supervisor and tell him that we'd like to adopt the kids...or even just some of the kids. I'd keep some. Ms. Emily would keep some. And we'd let them all grow up in an open adoption knowing each other and seeing their parents when appropriate. And then I said...but I CANNOT do it. I just can't.
Everyone nodded. No one said anything else to Ms. Emily about her inability to continue to care for the children. CPS is to continue moving forward with her 30-day notice. The kids will need to be in a new placement by the end of the month.
Mom kept crying.
The conversation then shifted to the heartbreaking realities in this case. Once again Mom was told about the timeline. Mom was told that she has to work her case plan. Mom was told...again...that she's let a lot of time lapse and even if she does it all right now, the goals in the case might not change.
I could be wrong, but I believe that Mom's entire case plan includes: 1. have a psycho/social evaluation done 2. participate in individual counseling 3. allow random drug testing to be done 4. attend visits
Right now Mom is not compliant with anything. She claimed, in this very meeting, that she and Dad have both done the court ordered hair follicle drug test. However, CPS said that they do not have any results. Mom said she did it about two weeks ago. CPS said that they typically get results back in a couple days. CPS said they'll check on it.
Odds are, Mom lied.
At this point in time, CPS told Mom was told...again...that the goal in the case is permanent placement with a relative or other fictive kin. Mom was asked if there are any other family members or friends that can take the children. I don't think CPS emphasized the word "permanently" enough. But...he said it. He said it more than once.
Grandma asked about how she could get the kids. CPS explained the generic process again. Mom has to submit the person for consideration and a home study as to be done. Grandma will never pass a home study though. She has extensive CPS and criminal history. (Grandma even mentioned this at the meeting, today.)
As the discussion turned more toward what Mom has to do next, the moderator decided to excuse several of us from the meeting. She escorted Ms. Emily and me, along with the kinship worker, out. Once in the hallway, she stopped Ms. Emily and, in a way, apologized for the meeting. Yes, this meeting was officially in place to try and keep the kids with Ms. Emily. But the moderator said that the other very real purpose of the meeting was to try and help Mom see the seriousness of everything.
Once out in the parking lot, I hugged Ms. Emily. I said, again, that none of this is her fault. She thanked me for being there with her.
I do hope that my input about the children and their behaviors will get recorded accurately in their records. Ms. Emily had been told that, initially, CPS documented that the placement was dissolving due to behaviors from Eddie. Today, we discussed that ALL of the children bring behaviors to the party due to the trauma they've suffered and continue to suffer. Ms. Emily and I had many good things to say about the children. We both wanted it to be perfectly clear that no one child caused this disruption.
I ache for these kids. I hurt for Ms. Emily - who only wanted to do the right thing. I am saddened by Mom and Dad's inability to do what it takes to get their kids back. Both of them must be much more addicted than they seem to be. I honestly don't understand what's keeping them from working their relatively small list of things from the State other than addiction. Neither Mom nor Dad come across as BAD parents. It is so obvious how much they love their kids. Obviously there are generational issues that Mom and Dad haven't been able to overcome. It just makes me hurt for everyone.
I hope Ms. Emily isn't too hard on herself for trying. I'm sure this will haunt her for years to come. But keeping these five children, with very little financial support from the State, and not enough support in her home for the day-to-day issues, isn't a possibility.
I told CPS that they can give my information to future foster parents. I'm willing to remain a support. I am 100% positive I'll never hear from CPS about these kids again. Within the next couple weeks, they'll be moved...either to a shelter all together or split up all over the state...and my involvement will cease completely. It's heartbreaking on so many levels. Especially for the children who never deserved any of this. Foster care sucks.
I know I said, about a month ago, that I was going to write a long post explaining why we have to be done doing foster care. Obviously, that still hasn't happened.
I had a bunch of reasons why. I was going to be all thoughtful. I was going to give several reasons so others could possibly see themselves in our story and relate.
It's been a month tho. And it hasn't happened. So, instead, I'm going to give you the long story short....
My teens need me.
TT is schooling at home right now for 9th grade. He's attending an online public school. Despite having a licensed teacher for every class, he still needs me. He's got dyslexia and I have to help him stay organized. I have to read many of the assignments and tests out loud to him. (artificial intelligence still sucks, overall) I have to perform as his scribe when he needs to write things. I'm 100% OK with this role as his teacher. But it is time consuming. That's just all there is to it.
TT also brings a host of mental health differences to the proverbial party. He needs me right now. He doesn't need small humans or other teens that have suffered a shit-ton of trauma adding to the daily drama in the house.
Bart needs me too. He's in brick and mortar 8th grade. But he needs to not get lost in the shuffle. You'll have to just take my word for it when I say that when Bart feels overlooked, he goes about getting his needs met in very maladaptive ways.
Mr. Amazing is exactly that...amazing. But our marriage might not survive extra trauma right now. It's long and complicated. We're good. We recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. But we need to simplify things...not make things harder.
So our home is closed. We're done doing foster care. Even though the director of our licensing agency...who quit several months ago and now just came back...said that our home wasn't "officially" closed this morning...I told her to CLOSE it. I double checked that we're in "good standing". She said we were. I said we cannot foster right now, though, and told her to process the paperwork to close our home. She said she would.
And it's killing me.
Because the Rockstars are going to come back into Care.
Ms. Emily gave her formal 30 day notice. She simply can't handle the Rockstars.
And we cannot take them back.
Mom and Dad have worked NONE of their case plan. This case is going to move toward non-relative adoption. I know that these kids could be placed with me with nothing more than a text message or two to the case worker. We could keep the siblings together.
But we can't.
So our home is closed. It HAS to stay that way. I HAVE to focus on kids I'm currently committed to for life. There are a ton of reasons why I can't make adjustments and say "yes" again. It kills me to think about it. In fact...I just don't. When I start to think about the Rockstars, I just have to stop.
Like I told Ms. Emily on the phone last night...
We cannot control others that still have free will. Mom and Dad are unwilling or unable to do what it takes to get their kids back. The State is unable to give the level of support necessary to a fictive kin placement so that the children can be kept together. As much we want good things for the Rockstars, it's not our fault that we can't meet their needs right now. It doesn't mean that we don't love the children. It doesn't mean that we are weak. It means that we don't have what it takes to fix this particular problem. We're not falling short of any calling from God by recognizing that we're not able to "do this".
Please say a prayer for these kids....and for Ms. Emily...and for Mom & Dad. If only Mom & Dad could understand they're going to LOSE their kids if they don't work their case plan. They still don't get it. And my heart breaks. But our home is closed and will stay that way.
I haven't written in ages. Things have been so much busier than I thought they would be now that the Rockstars have moved on. To make a complicated story very short - TT has been attending a public online high school for 1.5 months. It takes a lot of coordination from me to make sure he stays on top of all the work. And, due to his dyslexia, I also have to do quite a bit of the teaching as well. He retains information so much better when it's presented by a real human being versus using AI to have it read to him or trying to read it all on his own.
The Rockstars moved to Ms. Emily's house on the evening of October 17. So far, everything is playing out almost exactly as I figured it would. This is affirming for me....the kids didn't have any "behaviors" because of MY behavior. And it's horribly challenging for Ms. Emily...I don't think she really believed me when I told her what it would be like.
Sadly, Mom & Dad have done almost nothing in their case plan. Neither of them have gone in for the court ordered drug tests. They haven't gone to a single court ordered parenting class or counseling session. And they've started flaking out on visits. In fact, I believe that visits have been suspended because of Mom & Dad's inability to show and and inability to be adequately prepared for the visits (diaper bag and food or money to provide for the kids during the time together). Yet, Mom still calls Ms. Emily completely confused about why they're talking about permanent guardianship or adoption. She simply doesn't understand how serious this is!
Dad did, however, go in and have the DNA test done. Praise God! He is the father of all the Rockstar boys!! I was so worried for Eddie! At least that worry is gone.
The kids still require line-of-sight care. It's exhausting for Ms. Emily. Eddie has brought a lot of issues to the party - including hauling off and hitting Ms. Emily one day during a tantrum. Ms. Emily was surprised by Eddie and his behavior almost immediately. She expressed "concerns" by the end of day three when she and I spoke. I never really had "concerns" per se...I just tried to practice line-of-sight care ALL. THE. TIME. And I never singled out Eddie as the "challenging" child. To me, they ALL presented with a need for line-of-sight care. Alex was sneaky. So sneaky. And Joan would bully on Bret if given the chance. Really, each child would be rotten to any of the younger siblings when left out of eye-sight for too long. Some of this was completely "normal" for a large and young sibling group. But a lot of it was due to the trauma these kids had suffered. (Frequency - Intensity - Duration are the three indicators between "normal" behavior and "trauma" behavior. Kids with special needs display "normal" behaviors with an increase in the frequency, intensity, and/or duration of their behaviors.)
Ms. Emily is also starting to grasp how developmentally delayed Bret Michaels really is. I tried to tell her. I tried. I tried to explain it without it sounding like I was putting Bret down or convinced this delay was going to hinder him for the rest of his life. But I don't think she believed me. For example, she was just sure she'd get him potty trained right away.
Ms. Emily has a grandson a couple months older than Bret. She's been able to now more accurately compare the two boys and I believe Bret's delays are now much more apparent. I have to assume that what looked like shyness before is now looking like an inability to comprehend and communicate. I know she was trying to potty train the first week. I'm not sure if she's given up on that or not. But she did have a lot of defeat in her voice this afternoon when she told me how she explained Bret's delays to CPS during an update.
Here's the part where I'm so sad for Ms. Emily.........
The State continues to push PMC (Permanent Managing Conservatorship) on her. They tell her they cannot offer anything with financial support after they close the case. Right now she's receiving the kinship stipend of just over $10/day per child. I don't know if they're paying for daycare or not yet. But $10/day doesn't cover squat when you're trying to juggle five traumatized children that you're not even related to as a single parent.
She's now being told that it's unlikely that she will qualify for a foster parent license. No one bothered to tell her when she agreed to take custody of these kids about the bedroom/square footage requirements for foster parents. And since she didn't share with me anything about her (incredibly lovely) home, I didn't ask. (Besides, it was NOT my role to tell her ANY of this. CPS has an obligation to explain to Ms. Emily all the ins and outs of taking temporary guardianship when the kids are still in foster care and what is available to her once the case closes.)
Ms. Emily has a gorgeous three bedroom home. But, she has two friends, a married couple, living with her temporarily. That means she has her bedroom and one more bedroom available for herself and all five Rockstars. When the kids moved in, she didn't even have beds for them. This was totally fine as the requirements for a kinship placement are NOT the same as regular foster care. The married couple participated fully in the home study. Everything was 100% approved. Ms. Emily made it perfectly clear to CPS from the beginning all five children were going to sleep in her spacious master bedroom when they first moved in. (CPS was very up front about Bret Michael's nighttime wanderings. Ms. Emily knew she'd want to keep all the kids close at first.)
But her home won't pass a regular foster care home study unless there is an agency that can somehow make an exception to the sleeping requirements. And no one told her this ahead of time. I didn't even think of this as a problem until she told me how CPS explained it to her recently when they set up the measly kinship stipend for her.
And CPS isn't going to push for TPR if they can talk Ms. Emily into taking PMC.
I don't want to say that Ms. Emily is in over her head. The kids have started counseling. She responded to Eddie hitting her in a stern enough way that she said his behavior has radically improved. But she doesn't have it easy. And CPS isn't doing a damn thing to help her succeed. Not really.
I've stayed back. I don't want to bother Ms. Emily. I don't want her to think that she has to be obligated to me in any way. We spoke this afternoon briefly, though, and I could hear it in her voice. She's exhausted and if the State messes with her too much or if Mom & Dad get out of line - she isn't opposed to bailing. I don't know if she'd really follow through or not. But she is exhausted emotionally and physically. (I so relate. These kids did a number on me. And I had a husband, two teenagers, and financial assistance.)
We're going to see the kids tomorrow. I'm hoping I can schedule some formal ways to help Ms. Emily out. Maybe I can take the kids one night a week or something. Not overnight, necessarily. But maybe I can get them from daycare and feed them supper at my house. I don't know. I need to find out what will help Ms. Emily the most.
Say a prayer for the kids and Ms. Emily, please. Say another for Mom & Dad and Rockstar #6 who is on the way sooner than later. I'm not sure Ms. Emily can take another baby and our foster license is closed. I worry that Ms. Emily is being set up for failure and we all know the punitive system of foster care, in general, isn't going to do any favors for parents that aren't cooperating with ANY of their case plan. My heart breaks for these families.
Moves in foster care do permanent damage to the children.
Even the move away from their neglectful/abusive situation is damaging.
Now before y'all go and get your undies in a bunch - I do realize there are a SMALL PERCENTAGE of cases where kids NEED to be removed from their families.
Miss ArguePants & TurtleTurtle (sexual abuse)
Pumpkin (medical neglect, physical abuse & neglectful supervision of a child with severe special needs)
Daisy (abusive head trauma)
The Neverland Kids (murder of an infant in the home)
Russell (starvation, neglectful supervision, and severe physical abuse)
Whiz & Rex (domestic violence)
I get it.
I know there are kids that are being abused and if they don't get moved, they could die.
I get it.
Now...move on. Because MOST kids in foster care are NOT in life threatening situations.
Dude & Dolly (neglectful supervision due to drug use and poverty)
Ricky (CPS got on a power trip for no good reason)
Alex, Eddie, Joan & Bret (neglectful supervision due to drug use and poverty)
I even struggled with putting Whiz and Rex up in the first category. Domestic violence is serious stuff. And it is horrifically damaging to children to be a part of. The only reason they're in the top category though, as opposed to the second group of kids that I list off, is because there are NO good services for a woman experiencing domestic violence if she doesn't want to leave the violent situation. If, for any reason, Mom was willing to leave her abuser and get help, Whiz and Rex would have been better off staying with her.
My situation as a foster parent is unique. We have had more severe cases of abuse/neglect than most foster families see. I'm not advocating for children to stay in seriously damaging situations. But as a whole, we HAVE to start recognizing the damage that foster care is doing to children.
The rest of this post is about the Rockstars and how I feel their case could have been handled differently. I know that some of the things I wish were possible simply aren't possible. But until we see the wrongs in The System, we can't advocate for change.
The Rockstars have very young parents. Family Based Services (FBS...a division of CPS, in Texas) started getting involved with the family sometime during Alex's first year of life (give or take). I saw the full CPS history on the family. It's rather extensive. For about five years, Mom & Dad were told they needed to be doing things differently. They were given different levels of (IMO...superficial) support. Over those five years, I don't think Mom & Dad changed any of their behaviors.
When the infant sibling was born, early this year, their family got flagged by FBS again. Mom & Dad were given an opportunity to make some changes so their family could stay together.
On June 14th, they went to court. It was on this day that the judge ordered an immediate removal of the children with placement into foster care. If CPS had better supports they could have put into place, this removal would have been completely unnecessary. FBS, obviously, didn't work. I have had several kids come into my home where FBS had been involved first. I believe that decision makers need to recognize that FBS isn't being as successful as it could be and start making changes there first. We need to do MORE to keep families together prior to even thinking about removing children.
But that didn't happen. So, according to the judge, the Rockstars needed to enter formal foster care.
I believe that CPS should have had a foster family, kinship, or fictive-kin placement in line, prior to going to court, for these kids. They shouldn't have waited until the judge ordered removal to start trying to find a home. The removal was not an "emergency". They knew the hearing was coming for weeks. CPS could have been working ahead of time to have a viable placement option in place prior to the order for removal.
I know that's hard to do. But if CPS had done that kind of work ahead of time, maybe the Rockstars wouldn't have had to have been split up. Maybe a home could have been found for all five of the kids to be together.
Do not discount how traumatic it's been for the older kids to be separated from their infant brother.
CPS didn't have a home in place ahead of time, though. Four of the kids were placed with us. The infant went to a shelter that night. The infant stayed in the shelter for several weeks. Then he was moved to a foster home.
That foster home is a brand new one. This infant was their third placement. They were told that it would be a short stay. Due to incredibly unique situations with their first two placements, they honestly thought "short" meant a couple weeks. And now, since this foster family is about 45 minutes away from where the case originated, they're having a hard time transporting to visits. We have NO transportation services in our part of Texas. So, this foster family is disrupting because they don't want to drive 45 minutes, wait for two hours, and then drive home twice a week. I can't say that I blame them. But they committed to this child and now they're dumping him. It infuriates me.
The licensing agency for this foster family is working to finalize the license for another home ASAP. They're going to move the infant to this brand new foster home. And since this move is taking place all under the umbrella of the same licensing agency, it's called a sub-move according to CPS. It's not taken quite as seriously. No one seems to care what this does to the child. It's just a sub-move that CPS will approve.
But it still means this baby is going to have yet another primary caregiver.
All the while, CPS is pushing through a home study on a fictive kin caregiver for all five children. This home study is now sitting on the program director's desk waiting for a signature. Once that signature happens, the kids will be moved.
NONE of the Rockstars know this caregiver. It will be another move to another stranger.
Said caregiver knows Mom. Thus the "fictive kin" status. Said caregiver says that they are willing to step up and care for all five Rockstars. I've heard that they'll move the four oldest kids first. Then, later, they'll place the baby with the fictive kin.
I asked CPS, last night, if they feel good about this caregiver. The answer I got back was, "On paper, they look great. And I've spoken with them three times. I've explained it's likely to be permanent. I asked them multiple times if they understand that it's five kids for the next 18 years."
And that is that. On paper it looks good. So this move will likely happen within the next couple weeks. As soon as the home study is signed by the program director, CPS wants the kids moved. They want to show "progress" to the judge before the next court hearing in October.
According to CPS, progress is another move. Not a step toward home with their parents. But a move to someone the State is now trying to push to take permanent guardianship.
I'm sick that the State is practically giving up on Mom & Dad. I'm sick that Mom & Dad don't realize the seriousness of their current situation. I'm sick that the fictive kin hasn't done anything to try and get to know the kids prior to the impending move. (I have been told that the caregiver is going to come to this Friday's family visit. That's slightly encouraging...I guess.)
There are so many times and places in this case where things could have gone differently.
In the meantime, five children have been permanently hurt. CPS barely recognizes it. The worker was in my home last night for her monthly visit. She noticed that Alex seemed like he was in a bad mood. And ya know what? He was in a bad mood. He's six years old. He knew that we were talking about him and his parents. Everything about that home visit from CPS was a reminder of how stressful his life is now. I tried to explain to CPS that he's like that a lot. But it's not exactly a bad mood. It's a constant state of stress due to the fact that he's in foster care and he wants to be home with his parents. He's stuck in a state of fight/flight/freeze due to the stress that IS foster care.
I don't think people want to see that foster care does damage to kids. They want to think that just because we plucked these five kids out of poverty and put them in "loving homes" everything is OK now. And if Mom & Dad don't follow all the punitive steps they have to follow to get their kids back, giving someone else guardianship will be better for everyone. We've got to teach Mom & Dad a lesson you know and the kids will be better off as a result.
I shudder to think of how Alex, Eddie, Joan, and Bret are going to respond when they find out that CPS is seriously considering permanent guardianship for them. They will be devastated if they can't go home.
The System is broken. Mom & Dad need REAL supports that can lift them out of the situation they're in. They need honest relationship to break the cycle and learn how to do things differently. This support could be given to them with their family intact. It could.
But it won't. These kinds of supports don't exist.
And because of that, the Rockstars will suffer even more long-term damage. It's soul crushing to me. I can only imagine how they're going to feel.
In 2011, a lawsuit was filed against the State of Texas in regards to foster care.
This sparked the "foster care redesign" movement. Texas has tried several different things in order to improve The System.
One of the things they did was close all (or at least almost all) of the family group homes. No longer can foster homes have more than a total of six children - bio, adopted, or foster. Cut and dry. No more.
Now, I don't know the timeline, but at some point in time they made an exception. Homes could, under the most special of circumstances, have more than six children. If they did, though, they had to have 24/7 awake care.
Kids get abused in foster care all the time. In homes where there is inadequate supervision, they get abused even more frequently. I don't have stats to back this up. Nobody cares enough about foster kids to track how many are actually being abused IN foster care. Not really.
I know a lot of people were upset about family group homes being closed. I, personally, don't have a problem with it at all.
However, I do believe that CPS/licensing/placing agencies should be able to work together under special circumstances like the one facing the Rockstars. Siblings belong together.
Texas made a policy change that went into effect just a couple weeks ago. Family foster homes could take 7-8 children under special circumstances. The additional children need to be part of a sibling group, fictive kin to the foster family, or being displaced due to natural disaster. So, apparently, the State of Texas agrees with me. Siblings belong together. Exceptions to the family group home rules should be made. They changed the minimum standards to allow for variances.
However, Texas did not agree with me enough to change the 24/7 awake care rule. According to the contract signed between child placing agencies and the State, the variance allowing a 7th or 8th child means that the provider must:
Complete an addendum on the family indicating how the caregiver will meet the additional children's needs including safety and supervision needs;
Submit the home study and the home study addendum to the CPS Director of Placement prior to the placement of the additional child(ren) into the foster home;
Submit a 24 hour supervision plan Form 2128; and
Obtain approval from CPS prior to the placement of any additional children.
This means that the infant brother to the Rockstars cannot move into our home. I am in no place to hire staff to stay in my house during the night. It's just not an option.
I told the worker at my licensing agency how wrong I thought the psychological evaluations were for the Rockstars. For example, I said nothing in any paperwork I had been given showed proof of physical abuse or even neglect. She assured me that she would say something to the doctor.
To shut me up, she sent me the court affidavit for removal. This paperwork was seen by the doctor and was used when the psych evals were written.
Foster parents don't typically get ANY court documents where I'm at. We certainly aren't given affidavits for removal. I'm not sure how I feel about having it sent to me. Though, I will say that some of the info contained in that document would have been nice to know from the beginning.
As of today, the Rockstars have been in our home for four weeks. CPS does have proof that they have been neglected. I still see no proof in any of their records of physical abuse. But the situation they came from is more serious than any of the paperwork I had been given at placement led me to believe.
I'm not going to stop advocating for their parents, though. I still believe these kids need to be home as soon as possible. Of course, their parents need to make some significant changes in their lives. But I still believe they have the capacity to be a healthy family.
One of the ways I advocate is to show empathy when the situation is being discussed.
Along with the affidavit of removal, my licensing worker sent me a screen shot from the County website showing me all of Dad's criminal issues.
I laughed a little, via text, and told her I saw that information the minute I got the names of the parents. I do my research. NOT because I want to "do" anything about it. But because I like to understand as much of the full situation as I can. The records are public. I'm not doing anything wrong.
I don't know exactly how my worker felt about this. My gut says she wanted me to be upset by the criminal history. I get the impression she would prefer I villainize the family of origin. I imagine she wants me to trust that CPS always removes kids with good reason.
The criminal record that Dad holds does not warrant the removal of children. It was of little interest to me when I first saw it - except to know what the kids have likely been exposed to so I can be sensitive to their needs surrounding the criminal events.
Then my licensing worker mentioned something Mom put on her Facebook shortly after removal. I replied at the same time my worker was typing another text.
My response: But she's young. And most likely unemployed. She wanted to fill her time. I didn't fault her for that. My worker's second text: I'm like yeah I would definitely be thinking about (doing XYZ activity) when my kids are being removed.
I sent another text.
I went under investigation and got my kids removed - we went to Sea World that weekend. It was gut wrenching. I had been caring for the kids for over a year. The investigation was bogus. (No citations. No disciplinary action. Nothing.) I felt weird going out. But staying home nearly killed me. All I could do was cry.
My licensing worker didn't reply. I guess she's not used to foster parents having any empathy for the parents of the kids they're caring for.
I don't know what the Rockstars' mom is feeling. But I'm not going to fault her for doing an enjoyable activity after her kids got removed. No one should expect her to just sit at home and cry. And it's not like she can force CPS to offer her all the services immediately. She's tied to their schedule - and their schedule moves slow.
As a foster parent I have little to no say over much of anything. But I can help try and shape other people's feelings.
I refuse to speak bad about these parents. Despite knowing more information about the removal, and better understanding that it was valid, it doesn't change the fact that kids need to be with their parents. Moms and Dads will be better parents if they don't use illegal substances. And sometimes Moms and Dads need parenting classes so they can better understand the impact of dangerous behaviors. But that doesn't mean that these parents don't love their kids and that their kids don't need THEM.
Just because I offer a clean, safe, home filled with all the things they need and many of the things they want - doesn't mean that the Rockstars don't BELONG HOME with their parents!
Hopefully their parents will actually work the service plan they've been given so the Rockstars can go home. I'm positive the case won't move as fast as I want it to. And I do believe that The System is not set up in a way to make the parents easily successful. Foster care is very punitive and the problems at hand are very generational.
Which takes me back to a statement I made on Facebook not too long ago.
If Foster Care actually worked...I don't think we'd see the generational cycles of repetition. Foster care sucks.
Texas requires that every foster child have a CANS assessment done within the first 30 days after placement. In theory, I think this is an excellent idea. This is what DFPS has to say about the CANS assessment:
The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment is a comprehensive trauma-informed behavioral health evaluation and communication tool. It is intended to prevent duplicate assessments by multiple parties, decrease unnecessary psychological testing, aid in identifying placement and treatment needs, and inform case planning decisions. CANS assessments help decision-making, drive service planning, facilitate quality improvement, and allow for outcomes monitoring.
DFPS uses CANS to gather information about the strengths and needs of a child to plan for services that will help the child and family reach their goals.
The Texas version of CANS was developed for children in DFPS conservatorship. A credentialed, CANS-certified STAR Health clinician administers the assessment. Assessments for children placed in the Region 3B Community-Based Care catchment area can be administered by a CANS-certified provider affiliated with the child placing agency.
If this is truly how things worked, I would be in complete favor of assessing the children immediately after they enter Care. The sooner proper supports are put in place, the better.
In reality though, this is what happened with the Rockstars... I was given a mountain of paperwork to fill out. I was supposed to assess whether or not I had observed hundreds of different behaviors for each child. The assessments I filled out included: the CAB (Clinical Assessment of Behavior) and the TSCYC (Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children).
I was very uncomfortable filling out these forms because some of the behaviors I had to assess would be COMPLETELY normal for children that had just been removed from their family of origin but not so "normal" for kids that had been in a stable environment for awhile. (And no, I don't know what "awhile" is. I'm not an expert. I just have gut feelings on all this.)
TWELVE DAYS after the Rockstars came to my home, we were instructed to drive to the CPS office - the same, exact office they lived in for an entire day when they were removed from their parents - the same, exact office that was filled with traumatic memories - to undergo testing by strangers.
The actual doctor did not do the testing. He was there, but the office assessments were performed by his assistant. Her title was "licensed psychological associate". She administered the RIAS (Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales) and the WRAT4 (Wide Range Achievement Test, Fourth Edition, Green Form) on Alex. The middle two had the RIAS and the ABAS-3 (Adaptive Behavior Assessment System, Third Edition). Bret had the DP-3 (Developmental Profile 3) test performed.
The three older children were taken, one by one, to go back to an office room with someone they had no reason to trust. I, literally, had to explain many times that even though we were going to the CPS office, no one was going to "take them" again. They were genuinely worried they were going to have to move from my house that morning.
This total stranger did little to alleviate any fears. They simply came to the waiting room and said the child's name. I stayed in the waiting room with the other three children while the child being tested was led away. I can only imagine the nervousness and possible fear they felt. I had done my best to prep the kids. But there's only so much you can do with kids so young.
When it came time to assess Bret Michaels, I was taken back to the office room with the LPA and Bret. She did a couple developmental tests and then, very quickly, interviewed me about Bret and the other three children. I did my best to be honest. Yes, the kids need line of sight care. But no, it's not because they've been horribly abused and neglected. It's probably because there are five kids, total, and they're all age six and under. Their parents are young. No, the parents aren't perfect. But the kids have been well cared for.
We were in and out of the CPS office in about 1.5 hours. But the actual assessment time with each child was probably less than 10-15 minutes total.
This is where I have a problem... Absolutely NO additional services are offered to kids based on their Level of Care (LOC). I have cared for kids that were basic, moderate, and specialized. Kids at all levels can receive play or talk therapy. Kids at all levels can have PT, OT, and ST, if necessary. Kids at all levels qualify for the care they need.
Sill, the CANS assessment "leveled' EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE ROCKSTARS as "moderate". They were given official DSM-5 Diagnostic Impressions that include (I'm not revealing what child received what Dx...only the list of Dx):
Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct
Child Physical Abuse
Adjustment Disorder, Unspecified
Global Developmental Delay
From everything I can tell, these kids haven't suffered any physical abuse. Yes, they have said they've been spanked before. But, in my opinion, it's been nothing more than discipline. Maybe not the best discipline, but not abuse.
These kids like to play "house" with our pretend kitchen, table, and chairs. They act out taking care of each other. Sometimes they're "mommy and daddy" sometimes they're "brothers and sister". But always, they are kind when they're actually playing. They are polite. They take turns. They even say please and thank you. Never have they reenacted anything that gives me concern. In fact, it's quite the opposite...because kids won't show in their play things that haven't been modeled for them.
But now they have "physical abuse" as part of their permanent record. This isn't good for the kids nor can it be good for the parents.
I'm not sure I can tell where these assessments could have determined that the kids have suffered neglect.
One of the children has a note with the diagnoses that says to "rule out" Global Developmental Delay. This child meets or exceeds developmental milestones according to everything I've seen and forms I've had to fill out at the pediatrician. I have to assume this child wouldn't "perform" for the clinical assessment in the CPS office. And now they've got this in their permanent file.
There were so many things listed in all four psychological evaluations that concern me. Things that seem almost like outright lies. There are assessments that are completely wrong and actually contradict things I filled out in the paperwork that I submitted. (There are more contradictions and concerns above what I've mentioned. But this post is long enough.)
It's almost like CPS needs these psych evals to back them up - to prove these kids need to be in foster care. And along with all that, ALL I would have to do is make my behavior reports mirror these psychological reports and these kids would honestly be leveled up to "moderate". I'd get more money - taken from an already broke System - and the kids would get nothing additional. Other foster parents might start looking at the kids in their care under a different lens. They might believe the negative things in the reports rather than what they're seeing with their own eyes. They might blow normal behavior out of proportion.
I fear for what these reports can do to their parents and the outcome of this case. I fear for what these reports could mean to the kids should they go home and then ever come back into foster care later. This shit has a doctor's seal of approval on it so the judge is going to believe it.
While I believe that children need to be assessed when they enter foster care so the State can be forced to step up and provide ALL the services these kids need, I'm not convinced it's being done correctly in my part of Texas. These early assessments on young children can easily be skewed by foster parents and how they report things. Testing kids in the way the Rockstars were tested wasn't fair to them in any way. They had no reason to trust anyone in the building the day they were assessed so any assessment is skewed by possible fear.
I sent a message to my licensing worker about how wrong I feel the psych evals are for the Rockstars. I can't tell their CPS worker because she is on vacation and I can't get the supervisor to respond to even more pressing concerns. (I need someone to get me permission from the judge for Eddie to have sedated dental treatment on Friday.) If the C.A.S.A. does their job and contacts me, I'll tell them, of course.
But I have no faith that anything in the permanent record will change. Like I said, this shit has a doctor's seal of approval and I'm just the foster parent. Nobody gives a damn about what I have to say.
All children in foster care have been failed by at least one adult in their life. Sometimes it's someone in their family of origin. Sometimes it's the person that called the hotline instead of trying to actually help the family. Sometimes it's an overzealous investigator or social worker.
Children in foster care should never be expected to just automatically trust the people that are now caring for them. They have zero reason to do so.
Trust takes time to be earned.
One of the fastest ways to earn trust is to always tell the truth. Children are capable of hearing, learning about, and understanding truths in their lives. We don't have to lie to them in order to spare them trauma.
When a child goes to the doctor or the dentist, it is a perfect opportunity to practice this. Often times there are things that happen at the doctor or dentist that are uncomfortable or even painful.
Do not lie to your children and tell them they are OK when they most certainly aren't.
Yesterday was Alex's (age 6) first trip to the dentist, ever. I didn't think they were going to actually do treatment services at this visit. So I prepped him for an examination and a cleaning. I told him they will use a small mirror on the end of a stick to look in his mouth. I told him they would probably stick other things in his mouth. We talked about the special toothbrush the dentist would use. I said it would be weird. It might be uncomfortable, but it probably wouldn't hurt.
Alex was rightfully nervous when they did the x-rays. He got tense when the doctor came in to examine him. I didn't just automatically tell him he was OK. I validated how he was feeling.
The dentist decided that the level of treatment needed wasn't so bad that they couldn't attempt to fix his teeth that very day. He sent us back out into the waiting room so they could prep a different room for the treatments needed.
I now had to get Alex ready for actually getting his teeth fixed. We had talked about it some in the days leading up to this appointment, but I went over all the details again. I told him how they would put a mask over his face and he would breathe in something special that would help him feel better and not feel things as much. I got very playful as we practiced a large mask covering his whole face and a roomful of people telling him to breathe. I talked to him about the tools they would use. I said they would make a loud noise in his ears. I said they would be super weird and uncomfortable. I tried to assure him that it shouldn't hurt too bad.
I did not lie and tell him everything was going to be OK.
When we got called back to the treatment room, we had to wait some more. I took this opportunity to show him some of the guns filled with different compounds and glues. I showed him all the silver caps in a row and told him they were going to have to find the perfect cap for each tooth and they weren't quite sure what size they would need. I compared his decayed teeth to a banana with a bad spot in it. We talked about how when you peel a banana and see a bad spot, you cut off the bad spot with a knife and you can still eat the good banana. I told him his cavities are like bad spots in his teeth and the dentist will use special tools to get the bad part off and that it might be scary. But it's the best way to take care of him so he can keep the good parts of his teeth. The silver cap is like a permanent bandaid to keep his tooth safe.
Alex did awesome when the dental assistant cleaned his teeth. The wait for the doctor was long. But he didn't get all worked up worrying about what was going to happen.
When the dentist got started, it was scary. The suction tube and tongue positioner they used was uncomfortable and awkward. I sat next to him and held his hands. I reassured him as best as I could.
Just like I said would happen, lots of different things were put in Alex's mouth. At one point in time during the treatment, I said that to him. I couldn't see Alex's eyes to know how he was feeling right then. But I believe so strong in speaking truth to kids I pointed out how the things I said would happen were actually happening so he could make those connections on his own.
The dentist felt the need to look up from doing the treatment to express his displeasure with my statement. He said that parents make their kids more scared by telling them what's going to happen. He told me that a six year old, that's never been to the dentist before, would be better served not being told anything.
I maintained my composure...but this is where I wanted to throat punch the dentist.
After a small bit of back and forth I finally said, "I've cared for lots of children through this process. Telling the truth helps."
He replied, "You may have cared for lots of kids, but you don't know dentistry."
I don't give a rip how many letters you have in the title after your name. I may not have a title other than "mom". But I know kids. I have educated myself on trauma. And this dentist could not be more wrong.
Thankfully, he didn't exactly argue with me. He didn't exactly get unprofessional. He stated what he believes are truths. I will not, in any way, change how I handle preparing my kids for the dentist.
I can GUARANTEE the ONLY reason Alex was able to get a cleaning, three caps, and a couple cavities filled was because I am nothing but honest with him at all times. I told him what to expect. And while it's only been two weeks, he is starting to trust me because I don't lie to him. He trusted that the dentist was going to take care of him because I told him what was going to happen. If I had not, I can guarantee that Alex would have likely have had a tantrum and I would have an appointment on my calendar for sedated dental treatment in the future.
Tell your kids the truth.
Tell them the dentist is going to make them uncomfortable. Tell them that shots hurt. Tell them that foster care sucks. Give them permission to hate being in your house. You can do it. It's for the kids! It builds trust and will make things so much easier over time.