You won’t believe how they treat her!!! (The greatest compliment about my granddaughter with Down’s Syndrome)

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Recently, we were on a great adventure (aka running from hurricane Irma with four toddlers) that landed us in my small hometown staying at the late grandmother of my childhood best friend’s home. What a crazy turn of events that led to this moment but these crazy moments are what life is made of! Oh, it was magnificent! Four generations hitting the open road and spending every minute laughing instead of worrying about what we could have possibly lost in the hurricane. After all, we have experienced loss. We have experienced the possibility of loss. And yet, we are together and no longer worry about such things.

I have four incredible yet different grandchildren with their own way of showing love and their own way of driving me absolutely batty! But that was always the plan. When Ashley and Chelsea were pregnant with my girls and due a day apart, I told them repeatedly to never compare milestones. This was before I knew that I would be blessed with a grandchild with DS. This was before I knew which girl would arrive first. This was before I witnessed both of their entrances into this world. I remembered raising my own children and knew that each child was different. However, I also knew that each child needed the same consistency.

At one point in my life, I was a long term substitute for the “special needs” class in my hometown. I met a young lady named Sylvia (and I pray that this reaches her and her mom who have inspired me for so many years without knowing). Sylvia entered the classroom one day and asked me to tie her shoes. Her mother, who had walked her into the classroom, quickly scolded her and told her that she knew how to do this and that it was wrong to make people work harder because she wanted attention. Oh, I cannot tell you how often I have used that line with all of my grandangels. But, to move to my point, she taught me that it is possible for all children to learn everything both academic and social so long as they have guides to help them along their way.

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This is what I explained to my son the day they told him that they were testing Gloria for DS. This is what I knew in my heart to be true. This was the line that I would not cross with my first grandchild. She would be loved and guided but she would also be expected to be good and to learn everything that she could. She would be different because we all are, but she would not be treated “special” in her home.

With that said, we have all agreed, as a family, that this would be our approach to DS. We would understand that it may take her longer to do certain things but this would not be an excuse to NOT do them. And you would not believe how much this has helped her (and the other three). They all pace themselves together. They all push each other to the top. They fuss with each other. Share with each other. Tattle on each other. They do everything together. Gloria gets more time, but she does not get “special” treatment any more than they ALL do.

Now, to move forward, I have to give you a little insight on my girl. Gloria Ann is the sweetest child. Her favorite activity is going to one side of the room and running, with open arms, towards the adults and making us guess which one is going to get her hugs. She cracks up when the ones not chosen pretend to cry and then runs back to do it again. This can go on for hours! She helps to pick up toys in the evening and also helps to dump out the numerous toy boxes in the morning. She eats well and carries her plate to the counter when she is finished. She is beginning to verbalize better but still uses some sign language for clarity. Most often we see “more” and “please.” When her signs do not get her whatever she was asking for, then her bottom lip trembles and she drops to the floor in a tantrum which can also last for a long time. She waits for her attention. Unlike the other children who will tug and pull at whoever is on my lap, Gloria will wait for my lap to be empty and then climb on up. She does not fuss at bedtime. She goes straight to her “big girl bed” and covers upon command. In general, she is a typical and well behaved child.

She does, as they all do, have her moments and habits that we have to address. For instance, Gloria likes to chew on things. This was never really a problem before she started school other than the poor Barbie dolls who lost the shape of their hands. However, now that she is out in the world, I have been worried that she may put something in her mouth that could hurt her so I have been working consistently on this. We are starting to make progress which makes me one happy Gigi.

This consistency has led me to this post. You see, we were staying with friends during Hurricane Irma and, like most people, they were not sure what to expect from Gloria. Four toddlers in a house that they don’t know is no joke! We said “no” “stop” “don’t put that in your mouth” “don’t lick that” “give that back to him/her” and “sit” more often because as soon as one was finished the next one would start. I do not consider this to be bad, just magnified from what most people face due to the number of children. Anyway, my best friend Heather, whose parents were hosting our evacuation, spoke to my daughter, Ashley on the phone. She said, “I was so upset yesterday when my father announced that I would not believe how they treat Gloria.” My daughter bucked and said “WHAT?” Heather laughed and said “Exactly! That’s how I felt but then he said ‘they treat her exactly the same and so do the other kids and it is beautiful!'”

To me, that was the best compliment that I could have received. I realize that few people will understand this but there is a method behind our madness! hat

All children are different and all children are special but, I have found, that all children just want to be allowed to be children. Let them learn. Tell them they can. Expect them to and they will surprise you!

To all my babies, be the best “you” that you can be!

“Gigi”

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The World Changes: Prepare your children for what will be

I have spent a great deal of time with older members of my hometown this week. Keep in mind, that this is a generation of retired miners, farmers, and generally Appalachian good ole’ boys who love their momma’s, Jesus, and trucks and I mean that in the most positive manner. These people who helped to shape who I am are honest, hardworking men and women who have never harmed another person. They are good people. They bring casseroles when someone dies and help to shovel each other’s driveways simply because they finished their own a bit faster. They sit with the sick and care for the young. I am super blessed to have been raised in a hometown that emphasized so many strong values in my upbringing. However, I am not here to be raised at this point. In fact, I am here having raised my own children and now helping to raise my grandchildren. I am now part of the older generation yet I see something that they cannot.

Having left home and traveled, I realize that not all communities are as frozen in time as is my hometown. They raise children to become mirror images of themselves which, regarding the basic concept of taking care of one another, is not the worst thing that one could say about Appalachian living. The issue is that these small communities are afraid of change. They sit around the table and try to find ways to prevent change but the fact is that we cannot. Change happens.

While discussing the differences between how I view the world and how I am “supposed” to view the world based on my childhood teachings, I quickly realized just how much I had learned after childhood. You see, people believe that they are to raise their children based strictly on the values that they had when they were children. Now, I am not speaking of religious values or ideologies but rather on the way that they assigned values to other people or objects in their environment. The problem with this philosophy is that our children, our grandchildren, will not grow up in the same society.

I always said that I was not raising children but rather that I was raising adults who would function in the world outside of their childhood. In order to do this, I had to anticipate what that world would look like. Slang words or stereotypes that may have been acceptable in my grandparents’ young adulthood were certainly not acceptable during mine and the same would be true for my children and grandchildren. We are not raising children who need to survive in OUR society but rather who must survive in THEIRS.

I realize that we are parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I realize that this means that we are likely not psychics! We cannot know exactly what their society will look like but we can be certain that it will be different from our own and that this is okay. This is expected. This will be their time! So, instead of teaching children what your grandparents thought of same-sex marriages, teach your children tolerance and acceptance. Instead of telling your grandchildren about the racial division in your high school days, talk to them about the importance of unity. Instead of highlighting all of the negative characteristics that you were taught about a certain gender, ethnicity, or even socioeconomic status, teach about lifting up one another and the importance of all members of society succeeding.

We do not have to teach these things with a specific characteristic in mind. In fact, it is better than we do not. We do not have to remove history but rather focus on the future. We do not have to teach through words but rather we should speak through actions because, if we are lucky, we will still be around to watch our children and grandchildren flourish in their society and know that we gave them the foundation to do so.

We do not design the world for our children. We prepare our children for their world.

“Gigi”

 

Daily Prompt: Sting

A sting comes abruptly. There is rarely any warning outside of the gradually increasing buzzing sound that could either reflect the closening of the little insect or a shift in the wind that is carrying with it the sounds of the world around. Most often, one assumes that the noises are at a distance and continue on about their conversations or soaking in the beauty of the outdoors. Then, all at once, a pain so shocking and excruciating stops you in your track as the bee, who gave its own life to bring you this pain, takes a look at its victim and retreats leaving a part of it with you.

In much the same way, we heard the buzzing of the CPS workers around us but believed that the sense of uncertainty was simply carried over by the wind from the case they were building against my grandson’s father. Never did we imagine that the threat was so real or so close. We knew the bees were in our yard but thought that they were there to pollinate and make our yard, our lives, more complete by protecting the children.

Yet, it what seemed like a frozen moment in time, we felt the sting. We looked in the face of the bees that were willing to give up their own humanity to leave us with a hole in our heart where they had placed their stinger. We pulled the stinger and watched our lives slowly seep out of the wound that they had left. We felt our breathing slow as our souls reacted to the poison that had infested the very roots of our family tree.

We watched as the hive celebrated the accomplishments of its members. We watched as the queen gave honors over the fallen in the name of the mission. We watched in horror as others flew from the hive to have other families meet the same fate.

Love, for the record, is a powerful treatment for a sting. Family is an amazing insecticide. Prayer can make a hive fall from its tree. We can shake CPS. We can heal from the sting. We can bring back the humanity.

The hole is still there. The wound is a reminder. My grandchildren are home, but we will not forget that the threat to all families continues.

Until every sting has been healed and every stinger removed,

“Gigi”

 

via Daily Prompt: Sting

Trashbags: What this “luggage” means to foster children

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Have you ever wondered why when we move to a new home we use disposable packing supplies but when we go on a trip we use luggage? My thoughts on this are that, when we move, we plan on staying in that location but when we travel we value our possessions enough to keep them safe until we return home. When we move, we do not need to return the items to the bags and boxes because we will not be leaving. We will not be returning. We are at our “home” and this is where our belongings belong. This is where they will stay. We move them from the bags and boxes into a more permanent storage such as a dresser or closet and do away with the disposable items that remind us of the process of packing. We are done with that process and expect to settle securely into this new setting. When we travel, we may enjoy our different destinations but we always know that we will be putting our items back into our luggage and returning to the home that we know.

When we move, we do not need to return the items to the bags and boxes because we will not be leaving. We will not be returning. We are at our “home” and this is where our belongings belong. This is where they will stay. We move them from the bags and boxes into a more permanent storage such as a dresser or closet and do away with the disposable items that remind us of the process of packing. We are done with that process and expect to settle securely into this new setting. When we travel, we may enjoy our different destinations but we always know that we will be putting our items back into our luggage and returning to the home that we know.

When we travel, we may enjoy our different destinations but we always know that we will be putting our items back into our luggage and returning to the home that we know. Our luggage is as much a part of our travels as it is of our home. We remember our home and where the luggage will be stored until our next adventure. We may even dream of staying in that beach house forever but we see our luggage and know that home and the life we have built is waiting on us. So we hold onto our luggage until we return.

One of the ways that the foster care system begins the process of alienation is the very method of transporting the children’s belongings from their home to their temporary residence. How many of you have been told to throw a few things into a trash bag? How many of you dropped off some items in Walmart bags or grocery store bags? How many simply had time to pack a diaper bag as the workers placed your child into a strange vehicle to go to a strange home?

When the children arrive, the bags are tossed out and the children see their items being put into more permanent storage and no longer see any resemblance of their home. There is nothing to remind them that they will be going home. There is nothing to state that this is a temporary placement and that they soon will be returning home. There is nothing to say that it is okay to be comfortable and even, if possible, to have some good days while they are there, but that it is important to always remember that they have a home and life waiting for them once the CPS case is over. They have to know that their belongings belong at home with them and their family and they cannot know this if they cannot envision how their belongings will be returned.

They have to know that their belongings belong at home with them and their family and they cannot know this if they cannot envision how their belongings will be returned. Their disposable luggage has been disposed of just as the system wants them to believe has happened to their life before placement. But we, their family members, are not disposable. We are their permanency. We are their life before, during, and after this whirlwind that is called child protective services.

We are their luggage! We are their way home!

We must serve as a reminder to them that their lives are there waiting for them. For us, we chose to buy luggage as a reminder for ourselves that they would come home. We packed these bags with plenty of items for our move the moment that they were returned to us. We often re-sorted the items and changed them out based on their growth and the season. But we always knew and we never let them doubt!

I have read articles that talk about the inhumanity of dropping off children with trash bags as if they are homeless, unwanted, and unworthy. I have read about programs that are intended to help with this issue. We are currently looking into these programs to find out more about the avenues for assisting as well as to find additional research that will foster additional support for this critical but often overlooked aspect of foster care. I will keep you posted on our findings and hopefully, we can work together to minimize the stress on these children until we can find a way to truly reform this broken system.

Until we can bring them home, let’s remind them that they have one!

“Gigi”

Peculiar: Things Never Noticed Before Our CPS Case

This storm and process of evacuating Florida to avoid Irma’s fury toting four toddlers have made it difficult to concentrate on blogging and, for that, I apologize. I remember thinking, during our case, that I could not believe that the rest of the world could keep turning while my family was in ruins. I could not imagine that people were cooking turkeys or worrying about graduations when MY family was under attack. Of course, I think back now and realize that I was fighting to be able to enjoy those things in complete oblivion once again. I wanted to focus on the larger picture and be able to concern myself with the problems of others rather than singularly thinking of my own family.

Then the case was won and my family was returned. But, I could not go back to oblivion. I could not only focus on jumping back into the life of the Jones’. My eyes have been opened and every thing that has happened to us is also happening to others. So, thus the apology. Yes, I can get distracted but I should not get so distracted that I lose contact with those who are struggling as we did. Those who are out there who want to be concerned with this large storm and the safety of others but can only concentrate on the fact that their own family is hurting. Please know, that your job right now is to do what you are doing.

Your worry should not turn to ours but rather ours should turn to yours.

You are in a battle that affects all of our lives. I felt like less of a person, disconnected from the world. We who have overcome this obstacle to happiness should not allow you to feel those emotions. Instead, we should always let you know that you are not alone and that you are doing everything that you can. The destruction that I may find at home following the storm is nothing compared to the destruction that your family is going through and I know that this realization has not been properly portrayed through my absence this weekend.

In a loss for words and a tired mind, I turned to a daily prompt provided by a fellow blogger and found the word “peculiar.”  I couldn’t find the connection between my need to connect with you and this word. Strange, different, directly associated with…Discussing CPS is not considered peculiar to those of us who have encountered them and those who have not encountered this injustice would not understand any metaphorical connections that I might make. So I nearly closed up my laptop and went to check in on the little ones before turning in for the night. But I still felt like I was missing something that might keep my mind awake through the night. Then it hit me, there are things that I once thought were normal but now I see them as peculiar to the child protective system that has destroyed so many lives and families. So, these are my thoughts on the oblivion that CPS stole from us all:

  1. The Oblivion: I once saw two people having a discussion about maybe a reunion whereas one of the friends brought their laptop to save the plans and the other one could not get a baby sitter for the day so they had to bring their children alone. The friend with the children may seem a bit distracted but the friend with the laptop was clearly inspired as she typed away and checked for any messages that were perhaps from other friends engaged in the planning.
  2. The Reality: These are not casual meetings and they are not friends. The individual with the laptop is a supervised visitation provider and the distracted individual is trying to both interact with her children and appear engaged with the provider. I want to call out to her and tell her to truly be in the moment . I want to ask the children if they are okay. I want to tell the provider to put herself in the parent’s shoes. I see the drain in their eyes. I see the fear and the sadness. I no longer think of a planned reunion but rather of a plan to prevent reunification.

 

  1. The Oblivion: I saw those billboards asking for foster parents and I envisioned families reaching out and putting aside their own needs to help children who had maybe became orphans or their parents were getting treatment. I saw good in a system where people would willingly open their homes just to make certain these children are not alone while their family mends. I saw the billboards and saw hope.
  2. The Reality: I can no longer feel hopeful driving down the interstate and looking up at these billboards. In fact, I cannot even look. I see people who will stop at nothing to replace the family bonds with those that will program the children into what the government wants them to be. I see the foster families as carefully selected computer programmers and the children as pawns to be bartered or sold to bring revenue for this mission. I see the parties who were involved in our heartache and those who are involved in yours. I see a loss of hope and fear that others feel the same.

 

  1. The Oblivion: All families are happy on the holidays. Or so I thought. I lived in a world where I understood financial struggles but I also knew that the holidays always worked themselves out. We made silly boxes of Christmas Eve necessities. We made peanut butter bonbons. We held the grandchildren up to the tree to hang the star. I believed, and loved the idea, that all families were doing the same thing at the same time.
  2. The Reality: Every happiness can be ripped away at no fault of our own and this means that many families are not doing these things. Many families are unable to put up a tree or bake cookies because of their sadness and loss. Many families are struggling to open up their social networks to reach out for help because they will immediately see the family photos with Santa that will surely flood their news feed. Not everyone is happy and not everyone is ready to deck the halls.

Do not get me wrong, there are so many other moments and situations that I would never have found to be peculiar during my previous state of oblivion but these are just a few that my tired mind can recollect. At times, I would like to go back to feeling hope for all of the society and believing the best in every situation. But, if I were to do so, then I could not reach out to others and try to help to guide them through the maze that is CPS. And quite frankly, I am afraid to be oblivious now as we can never let our guard down.

So, when you feel that your whole world has changed because of this, know that you are not alone. But also know that we can change the whole world because they have changed ours.

Please let others know that oblivion is a dangerous place to live,

“Gigi”

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Peculiar

Taking Charge in your CPS Case

Be active. Be present. Be heard.

“Gigi”

One of the most frequent complaints I read in the forums about CPS is that the lawyers do not submit the requests for different orders that the parent feels may help their case and bring their children home to them.  It feels as if we depend on our lawyers to actually do their jobs and speak up for us, their client, in a timely manner so that we do not have to spend years in the nightmare of CPS. Yeah, it feels just like that alongside a smack in the face that the world of family court does not actually work that way.

I was lucky to have a lawyer who readily listened to me and this required a great deal of his attention as you all now know that I can talk A LOT! However, I did not know that he would follow through with our conversations early in the case and decided that it was best to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. In other words, I kept him in the dark about my intentions at each move so as to avoid him redirecting what I aimed to request. I could not afford the element of doubt as I had to maintain my image of confidence.

I am not advising you to go against the advice of a lawyer but I am saying that if you are adamant that something should be done and you have done your research, then do not leave it up to them to get it done.

My grandson did, in fact, suffer from broken bones. The father was charged with these injuries and they removed the children stating that we must have known that he was abusive. Our job was to prove that we did not know. I mean, the fact that we took him immediately to the hospital and left the father sitting there the moment we knew what happened should have been an indicator that, had we known there were previous injuries, we would have done the same sooner.

Regardless, here we are with them telling us that we must have known. They said that it was impossible for us not to have known even though the doctors had stated that the only way to know a rib is broken is through an x-ray. But, CPS “knows more than the doctors” and therefore took my grandchildren.

There had to be some answer that would explain this. I had never seen or heard anything that would make me think that this man would harm his own child. I never believed my grandchildren were in danger. I began to look into the concepts of medical kidnapping. I got copies of medical records and began to learn about the everything from copper levels to osteogenesis imperfecta. That’s when things began to change in the case.

I arrived at the next MDT meeting toting every medical document I could carry along with a typed summary of what I believed to be true. Briefly, just as we entered the conference room, I told my lawyer that I wanted my grandson tested for OI. I had found the name and number of a geneticist that specialized in pediatric medicine and handed him this information.

As the meeting began, before the worker could even start to speak, my lawyer gave me the floor and I presented my case. The order was agreed and the tests were scheduled. The tests thankfully were negative but there were other tests and options to follow up on. At each meeting, I reported the findings and proposed the next steps. I knew every piece of medical record inside and out. I pushed for depositions and attended each of these. My presence and overwhelming attention to the possible explanations could not be dismissed.

When I first met the GAL, he stated that he needed some possible explanation for these injuries. I worked tirelessly to provide an explanation other than what was already known at the point that the children were removed by GPS. In the courtroom, the GAL made note of my position in the case as well as my efforts to find the truth at all costs. He then recommended that my case be dismissed.

When you need answers, find them. When they need answers, do the same. Your knowledge and confidence will win your case, not the lawyers or case plan.

 

Be active. Be present. Be heard.

“Gigi”

You Cannot Impress CPS with Expensive Clothes (In fact, you may make your case worse)

Know your case like you know your child! Leave nothing to chance!

“Gigi”

When I was researching what to wear to CPS court (you can read more about that research here) I expected to find that name brand and fancy attire would help to show the judge that you had the financial means to support your child and that you paid close attention to every detail. After all, we are all aware that CPS is a money racket and that they often target members of the lower socioeconomic status group in order to minimize the ability of their opponent to fight them in a legal battle. Being poor somehow gives them the impression, or ability to make the impression, that a person cannot be stable enough, smart enough, or caring enough to raise a child. So, I thought that it would make sense to show them through my attire that we were not poor.

Granted, by no means do we typically wear expensive clothing. I have even bragged about our thrift store shopping. However, when it comes to my grandchildren, if I thought it would help, I would have found the means to do so. However, as I read deeper into the research, expensive clothing is considered offensive to many of the workers and, at times, even the judges. I found that this is due to three reasons:

  1. They already know your finances and can view your dress as a mockery.
  2. They may not be able to afford such attire and therefore you come across as a show-off.
  3. They may find that you spend more money on your own clothing than on your children.

Okay, so I may have not agreed with B on this list but I suppose we do not know everyone’s financial circumstances. So, I continued to read and found that modest clothing that is neat and clean is far more appropriate. We purchased new clothing for each court appearance but made certain that no labels were showing, the clothing was neatly pressed, and we were confident yet comfortable in what we were wearing. This helped to show that we felt ourselves in this type of clothing and prevented the court from assuming that we were being phony to gain favor.

 

I continue to note that every single detail of your case will make a difference in the outcome. So many people will tell you that it is an impossible battle and, without a careful strategy, that is exactly what it is. But, if you continue to pay attention to the details and refuse to fail, then your children will come home to you where they belong. You did not put yourself into this situation but you can find your way out of it!

 

Know your case like you know your child! Leave nothing to chance!

“Gigi”