I remember the first MDT meeting that we attended. We had no idea what to expect or what to do. My daughter’s court appointed attorney advised her to stay quiet during the meeting and just hear what the workers had to say. My attorney, also court appointed, chuckled at that statement having had a few conversations with me, and told me that he knew remaining quiet was not an option and he also did not believe that it would benefit us in any way. Instead, he explained that these meetings were the only time that I would talk to any of the workers or other attorneys, including the GAL and that it was important that they recognized where I stood on the issues.
The first thing that I did was to ask questions. This is important because, no matter how many people have been through this, the amount of information available on line is not adequate to prepare you for what you will undergo. I am a researcher by trade which means I have to have answers. How did this happen? What can we do? How are my grandchildren? When can I see them?
Mind you, in the state of West Virginia, despite the fact that I was a respondent in the case since they lived in my home, there was no regulation stating that I could have visitation. However, after a drawn out meeting during which I held my composure in the face of significant adversity from the foster parents, I left with a visitation schedule. I seriously do not believe that this would have happened if I would not have spoken up during the meeting.
The second thing that I did was to do the leg work and come prepared. My grandson suffered six fractures. His left femur had a spiral fracture. There were bucket handle fractures above and below both knees and he had a posterior rib fracture. While the timing of the fractures was in question and the bucket handle fractures were in question due to his young age, the fact remained that the femur was broken and this injury occurred while his father was handling him. The question was, however, was this intentional.
Do not get me wrong, my efforts were not intended to prove him innocent but, if there was a reason other than abuse we needed to know. Although this dragged the case out, I presented evidence for possible answers at each MDT meeting and requested the testing to rule out these possibilities. At the time, the workers were pushing for a TPR but, even within this potential outcome, if my grandson had any medical condition I wanted to make certain that he would be taken care of. I read EVERY medical document. I attended EVERY appointment for testing and I brought back the gained information to the next meeting.
I pushed and I pushed until I was out of ways to push and my attorney said that it was time to face the fact that my grandson really was abused. Although he was court appointed, my attorney had listened to my every explanation and completed the paperwork for every test. He did not attempt to silence me. So, when he said that it was time, I agreed.
I NEVER lost my cool. During these meetings, the workers will try to get you to say things that they can use against you just as they did when the case began. Remain calm. Do not expose outbursts. Do not use profanity. Do not flail your hands or use negative body language. Even in the face of being cursed at, put down, or blatantly disrespected, ask politely for a change of tone. If you cannot control your temper in this setting, then the workers will portray you as being out of control in court. ALWAYS remain in control of yourself as your children or grandchildren are counting on you. Present yourself as if you are holding them in your arms because your actions are determining their lives.
Speak directly to the GAL. I remember in court, the GAL stated that he knew that I had read the medical paperwork but that the judge had not been given the opportunity to see how adamantly involved I had been with the case. The GAL spoke, in court, of my inquiries and behaviors during the MDT meetings. During the meetings, I would direct my request towards him and remind him that these tests or the appointments were in the best interest of my grandchildren and that he and I were on the same side when it comes to them. We both wanted what was best for them. I said this with the most sincere heart and he reacted accordingly. During the hearing, the GAL recommended that I be dismissed completely from the case and so it was granted.
MDT Meetings are your Only Time to be Heard
Do not be silent.
Do be polite.
Do be prepared.
Do not appear angered.
Do stay in control.
Do work with the GAL.
Do be sincere.
Do show up!
I do not know if other people have similar experiences in MDT meetings because I could not find much information about these meetings during my encounter with CPS. I would love to hear how others handled these meetings and what their outcomes were. I know it is hard to relive these times but it is important that we share our stories and what we learned so that others may have a fighting chance.
We cannot prepare for what we cannot see. Let’s share our vision with others.