We Got the First Haircut!!! (Regardless of how many firsts we lost)

It was a week before court and the foster parents called my daughter to ask if they could take my grandson to get his first haircut. She immediately began to cry. Elliott was only 3 months old when he was ripped from his mother’s arms. She had one Valentine’s Day and one Easter with him but every other first, she had lost due to the CPS investigation. She missed his first time crawling, his first steps, his first tooth, his first Halloween, his first Christmas, and the list goes on and on. You know how many firsts happen in the first year of a child’s life! But this, this first could wait!

Apparently, the foster family had to gain permission from the worker and the mother before altering his appearance. My daughter would not give hers unless she was present. Instead, she offered to have one of her visits to be used for her to take him to get his first haircut. THIS WAS NOT ALLOWED!!!! She was not allowed to have his haircut!

So, she decided that it simply would not be done! Now, my little blonde haired baby boy has hair so light that he looked nearly bald regardless of the strands that laid over his ears so we figured that he would be just fine until he came home.

A few weeks later, he was back in his family’s arms and we kinda enjoyed seeing his little wisps blow as we walked with him along the beach. He still had a little while before it would be necessary to cut it so we waited and held on to the anticipation of his “first” in the same way that we would have naturally anticipated his first steps had the system not robbed us of that moment.

Today, was the day! Today, my grandson received his first haircut with his mommy standing by his side and his Gigi reassuring him while snapping every possible photo possible. This was OUR first and today will forever be embedded into the story of our lives!

When they take all they can, do not give them anymore!

“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

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”

Bedtime Routine: Adjustments after Foster Care

Last night was a hard night for Ashley and the children. For the first time, in the nearly five months since they have been home from foster care, Ashley had to work an evening shift. This meant that it would be the first night that she was not able to tuck in her children since the year that she sat next to their empty beds every night making certain that everything was in place for their return and cried at the thought that the day may never come.

When children return from foster care, they also suffer from the uncertainty of “forever.” It was important to them, as well as us, that we normalize their routine as quickly as possible. Of course, the first few nights were spent blowing bubbles and simply holding them close, but then we gradually began to implement a bedtime routine.

Every night, Clarabelle has me to read her “own stories” which means she grabs a bunch of stuffed animals and we make up a story about each one. Then mommy reads her a story from which ever book she selects. Elliott, not being as vocal as she enjoys the stories but does not join in on the selection process. I sit with him while mommy reads and then we switch back as Clarabelle insists that I sing her “own song.” Elliott now sings along until he drifts off to sleep and Clarabelle stares off into the night until her eyes finally close. I often wonder what she is thinking about but I figure sometimes there are things we just need to work out in our own thoughts.

But last night, she told me what her little mind was processing. “I don’t want mommy to work,” she whispered as I was singing. “Mommies work when it is shining (her word for daytime) not when the sun is sleeping.”

I explained that Mommy only had to work this night and that everything would be normal again tomorrow but then I considered the word “normal.” Which normal would she fall asleep anticipating in the morning. For a year, her normal was seeing Mommy three times a week.  For more than half of his life, Elliott’s normal had been falling asleep in the arms of his foster parents. For a year, our normal had been fear and heartache.

I quickly adjusted my statement and said, “tomorrow, Mommy will tuck you in like she did last night.”

“Okay, Gigi. I love you.” And she drifted off to sleep.

There are so many “firsts” that we had to miss while they were gone and now there are so many “firsts” that we will face because of this. Like the first time that he asks about his father or the first time that he asks about how he was as a baby. We may not be able to prepare for all of this but we can make sure that their “normal,” is love and security with their family.

 

You can only move forward so do so with a purpose.

“Gigi”

Beyond the Anger: Emotional Stages of CPS

Leaving the courtroom that day, I moved to a stage that I had not anticipated. Embarrassment. I walked out of that small-town courtroom and passed people that I had once worked with. I saw the faces of others who were so worn down and seemingly alone. I did not pick up my phone to call anyone. I did not tell my father, my best friend, no one.

At first, you will be angry. Of course, that stage does not leave you. It does not leave you throughout the case and, as we are learning, it does not leave you after the last court date. You are angry because of the lies. You are angry because you cannot believe that this could happen. Let’s face it, this list could go on and on. But there are other emotions and reactions in play that affect others that we often forget.

For me, the first of these was shock. How could this happen? Surely this will resolve quickly. The department is just making sure. That lasted until the preliminary hearing when the judge appeared to be drifting off and the first of the lies surfaced inside a courtroom.

Leaving the courtroom that day, I moved to a stage that I had not anticipated. Embarrassment. I walked out of that small-town courtroom and passed people that I had once worked with. I saw the faces of others who were so worn down and seemingly alone. I did not pick up my phone to call anyone. I did not tell my father, my best friend, no one.

You see, I was known as that go getter Mother and Gigi. My college advisor once gave me a postage stamp with the image of Atticus Finch. Her statement was that my relationship with my children reminded her of how the character allowed his children to figure out the world but always stood close by to offer gentle guidance. To me, this was the greatest compliment that I could receive; someone complimenting my parenting! I attended every prenatal visit possible, stood in the room as each of my grandchildren were born, helped to select Gloria’s therapists, helped pick out names, and bragged nonstop about my growing family.

But, as we all do, I have a past and many of the things in my past I am not proud of. I just knew that this small town would echo my younger days and that everyone who now knew me as a grandmother would believe these lies based on who I once was. I was afraid they would look at me differently. After all, they all had the assumptions that I discussed here earlier (5 Things I thought I knew about CPS), so why would they think anything else? I knew everyone would turn their back on me so I turned mine first.

When I finally began to speak, I spoke ill to those who I was most embarrassed to tell. I wanted to push everyone away so that I could be alone in my misery. I knew that I was being judged by the state but I could not take being judged by those who actually knew me.

Following embarrassment, I found myself in isolation. Only my children and my mother were allowed into my world at this point. Once you reach isolation, then you have two choices Depression or Survival. I chose the latter. I used all of my now free time from others to focus solely on the case. I not only turned my back on all others outside of the case but also on all responsibilities other than the basic survival needs.

ALL OF MY ENERGY WAS ON SURVIVING THIS AS A FAMILY!

As I stated before in Prisoners of War: Bringing our Children Home from CPS Captivity, I did not make it out of this case without any regrets but I made it out regardless. It does not matter how you make it. You may need to lean on others. You may need to isolate. You may even need to take a moment of depression to allow your brain to reboot. But you DO NOT need to feel embarrassed. You did not deserve this. You do not have to feel regret because, although we are all here for you in this war, this is YOUR battle and it is your knowledge of your family that will help you to choose the best way to come through. All that I ask, is that you remember that YOU WILL!

 

May your outcomes be worth your regrets,

“Gigi”

Facing your Fears: Encountering Health Care after a CPS Abduction

The most important thing to remember from our CPS case is that my grandson has healed completely from his injuries and the state finally realized that his injuries were not caused by any wrongdoing on our behalf and returned full custody to their mother (Ashley). We carry with us a copy of the formal decision and transfer of custody. There is one in the van, one in the file cabinet, one in the diaper bag, and the list goes on. We are NEVER without this piece of paper.

But the paper does not give the details. The paper says that custody was returned but does not state that there was no fault on her part. The paper says that the children are hers, but it does not explain why she needs that paper.

As I stated in  We Blew Bubbles: Ten Minute Memories that Helped to Get Us Through, we did not stick around town once we had this paper. This means that we did not pick up any other paperwork including shot records so, when we reached our destination, we had to have these faxed from their pediatrician that had been used by the foster parents. Notably, this meant that the pediatrician was unaware that they would ever be sending these records out of state.

So, here we stood filling out the medical release form and knowing that we would have to send a copy of this document in order to prove that my daughter had the right to sign for the medical records for her own children. As Ashley discussed in CPS Stole My Peace Of Mind. , the fear is unreal when you live day to day wondering if the unthinkable could happen again. Could we be struck by lightning a second time? If we mention the case to these “mandated reporters,” would we have to answer questions again? Could they manipulate the situation and cause problems for our family?

Obviously, we would not put our fears above their medical needs and we stood next to one another and began to explain. Fortunately, the office took a copy of the paper and congratulated us on our reunification. The records were faxed and the office took excellent care of the children.  But the fear remains. What happens if she injures her self in gymnastics or he takes a hard hit in football? What happens when the first x-ray he has to have shows the healed fractures from his infancy? We will always have to explain, and we would have regardless of our case, but now we explain with a fear of one word being twisted into a tornado that could wreck our world.

Where fear exists, there is a reason!

“Gigi”

Save Yourself: Your Children will Need you When they Return from Foster Care

If we would have entered that courtroom having forgotten who we were as a family, then we would not have been able to portray this to the judge. If we had entered that courtroom looking defeated, then we would have been defeated.

Many years ago, we were called the “boat people,” because every time we went into the local thrift store we were looking for attire for our next cruise. This was just our thing to do. Vacationing is a way of life and so many people would ask how we were able to afford this. Well, the first clue is that we were called this in the local thrift store. I mean, seriously, when were we ever gonna wear those dresses again? Vacationing defined us. People were always asking about this trip or that location and we did this on minimal income.

When the girls turned 6 months old (the youngest allowed on a cruise ship), yep, you guessed it, we were boarding in Miami! It was the perfect trip as we convoyed three vehicles from West Virginia to enjoy this milestone, this entrance into the family addiction to vacationing.

In March of 2017, we were approaching the one year mark on our CPS case. The house was empty and our momentum was beginning to decline. The lawyers had told us to stop looking for any other explanations in the case and to just use everything that we had done to show our side in court. The court date was approaching and idle time began to take its toll.

Then, we remembered who we are and how much of “us” the case had taken. We spent time with the children that week at our visits, packed up the van, and my mother (Nanny), my daughter (Ashley), and I made the drive to Port Canaveral to board a ship.

WHAT!!!! People were quick to ask if we had lost our minds. “Won’t this look bad in your case?” “How can you have fun while the children are going through this?” “How can you afford this with all of the legal fees and associated costs?” “This is soooo irresponsible.”

In short, our response was, “we had no choice.”

If we would have entered that courtroom having forgotten who we were as a family, then we would not have been able to portray this to the judge. If we had entered that courtroom looking defeated, then we would have been defeated. We had spent nearly a year looking through medical files, legal cases, attending visits, attending doctor appointments, sitting up at night crying in the silence. This had drained our very spirits and, when there was no more research to do, we felt hopeless.

So, we found ourselves again. We found our strength. We took a moment to remember how important it is to enjoy each moment of our lives and the people who are in them. We laughed. We cried. We stared out into the horizon and envisioned what was just on the other side.

When we came home, we approached that horizon. We entered that courtroom claiming that our family would be returned. And they were!

CPS takes everything that they can from you. They not only alienate you from your children but also from your very being, your soul until there is nothing left of you to fight for. Hold on to who you are because, WHEN your children come home, they are going to need that person to be there!

 

You are Important Too!

“Gigi”

Custodial Rights: If you know a child CPS could ruin your life

Even if you are Not a Parent, CPS Corruption can Ruin your Life!

Custodial rights is a term used by CPS to include nonparent parties in the CPS claim and further alienate the children from the life and people that they know. This can include parties that live in the same home or have spent any considerable amount of time with the children (ie babysitters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, significant others of family members, etc.). Once the party is placed as a respondent with custodial rights (different than parental rights) the party will be placed on the child abuse and neglect registry. (As our case was dismissed, we are working on the grievance to have our names removed from the registry).

One of the first questions that everyone asked when they removed my grandchildren was why didn’t I have custody. Now, as many of you know, family placement is a rarity anyway but our case was a bit different because my daughter’s family lived in a separated section of my home. The state considered my now late fiance and me in the same household and therefore respondents on the case as the state said that we had custodial rights over the children. My mother (who also lived in the home) was not a respondent and there was no concern that we had harmed the children as (A) there was a confession and (B) they did not remove my minor son from the home. However, due to the close relationship that I had with my granddaughter, who we had a complete body scan of which showed no signs of abuse, they knew that the only way to keep from placing the children with me was to place me as a respondent in the case.

I couldn’t understand how I had no legal rights over the children but now I was a “custodial guardian” because I lived in the same home. I began to investigate this and found that living in the household was not the only way that they can claim custodial rights. Babysitters and extended family members are also placed at risk if they have a close enough relationship that would indicate the need to consider them for placement.

Again, we were fortunate with many aspects of our case and I cannot speak for all cases involving CPS.  But I do ask you to realize how wide spread this issue truly is and join the fight for reform before you find yourself in the whirlwind that thousands have already experienced.

Stand together!

“Gigi”

 

Prisoners of War: Bringing our Children Home from CPS Captivity

pow

I will once again preempt this post by stating that everything on this site is intended to promote hope and bring awareness to obstacles that we have faced in our family. I understand that our tactics in working through the hell of CPS may not work for everyone and may come across as somewhat sheepish as we smiled through our tears, spoke politely, and held our tongues about our anger with the system. Regardless of these differences in approaches, the fact remains that my grandchildren are safe at home and we did not have to jump through mandated hoops. Our anger at the system, our shock that this could happen in a “free” country, was the same as so many others are feeling right now and all that we could find online was stories of TPRs and brutal war tactics. We chose to use war strategies that worked in our case.

However you fight your battle, know that it is possible to win. That was all that I wanted to hear the entire case. I wanted to know it was possible. I wanted to know that all of the stories online did not have to be MY story. I wanted to know that there was a way to bring my family home. Just as when two families have of Prisoners of War received the news that one has been freed, the other family then has hope that their soldier will come home, I wanted to hear that my grandchildren would be returned. Not being able to find this could have led me to a state of depression with no way to come out of it. Not being able to hear that there was a chance could have cost me my life as it has so many other broken parents. I WANTED TO LIVE THROUGH THIS! So, I decided that I would be that positive outcome at all cost and that when it was over, I would tell others that it is possible and that they must continue to fight every day.

The difference in how I tell my story is that I am not filled with hatred. I could be. I could wake up each day fueled with anger and go into attack mode. But (A) my grandchildren need my happy goofy self to play on the floor and I cannot do that if I only focus on the negative and (B) we did not win our case by coming off as being in attack mode. Yes, THIS IS WAR but WARS ARE NOT WON WITHOUT STRATEGY!

When you enter a war, you assess the situation. You learn as much about your enemy as possible. You find out what allies you have and who is still on the fence that may serve your cause with a little bit of influence. You find out who the actual enemy is and who is simply a soldier following orders. You can take out all the soldiers that you want but unless you go for the true enemy, then you only win a battle rather than the war.

When we watch the news, we often wonder why our military leaders make certain decisions that seem to be detrimental to the primary cause. Why do they appear to be diplomatic when there are clear threats to our safety, our freedoms, and our way of life? There is a bigger picture that the news does not cover. There are interactions that we may never know about. There are moments that even these leaders question their own tactics but move forward with confidence so as to not show weakness. But the fact remains that all tactics, all strategies, all methods of winning are justified when the outcome is favorable. One battle at a time. One soldier returned. One life saved. Every win serves to justify the choices of these leaders.

In the war against CPS, and trust me this is a war against the entire system, we have assessed the primary enemy. We are aware that we must stand together against the corruption of the system and this must be done with all of our emotions. When the military wages war, it does so with a primary goal of defeating the enemy. THIS IS THE PRIMARY GOAL and we cannot waver in our efforts. However, when a soldier is taken captive, we must first be diligent in bringing them home. Often times, we must use diplomacy rather than aggression.

OUR CHILDREN ARE PRISONERS OF THIS WAR!

Make no mistake, throughout our case, we were aware of the primary enemy. We knew that we would continue to fight once our battle was won. We knew that bringing home my grandchildren would not be the end of the war. But we were in that battle at that time and there was no one else that could fight it for us. We read all of the posts that told us to scream and yell and never be agreeable. For some, this tactic was working but for most, I watched their battle continue with devastating outcomes. I grieved as I watched prisoners of war essentially become casualties of war. I feared for my own family. I feared for the families of others. I spent countless nights watching and listening. I studied the battles of others and strategized accordingly just as military leaders review previous battles and adjust their tactics.

To some, we may have appeared weak and, even as we tell our story, our tactics are under scrutiny. In fact, many times we question ourselves. Some moments throughout the case are not without regret. But I will stand by our choices because, at the end of the day, we won our battle and came back up to continue to fight the war.

Our children did not enlist for this war. They did not come into this battle with an understanding that they could become prisoners. They are not trained to withstand the manipulation, the hardships, and the emotional distress of being taken a prisoner. They are depending on us to bring them home from their captivity at all costs.

When one tactic fails, do not give up, re-strategize!

“Gigi”