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”

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Yes, You Will Always be a Princess! Happy Birthday, Clarabelle!

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First and foremost, guys, isn’t she beautiful?

I mean, yes, she is physically the epitome of beauty (perhaps a little biased here) but, if you have read any of our “Toddler Talks”  then you know she is beautiful from somewhere within. She has the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child as well as the eyes of someone who could easily have been shattered by the adult world but chose to not let this smudge on her life define her. She is the inspiration that I hope everyone takes from the CPS stories that we tell because, yes, they stole her, tried to remove her concept of family, and tried to teach her that the world is an ugly place, but she refuses to hold on to those lessons. She turned three on 9/13/2017 but, today, since we had been evacuated for Hurricane Irma, we celebrated her birthday at home with family. Today, we celebrated the ability to do so!

You see, last year, we celebrated at the local bowling alley under the watchful eye of her foster parents. Granted, we were there. We brought the cake and the food. Her mom, Ashley, had carefully ironed on the patch of the number 2 onto her birthday outfit. We brought gifts. We brought love. We brought a birthday to remember (but we try to forget). Her face looked a bit sadder than usual. Her demeanor, by this point, was slowly slipping away. Her awareness of what was going on in her world was taking over her innocence.

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Of course, she is home now. She is no longer monitored for her actions. We are no longer monitored in our ability to love her. She can now smile! AND SHE DOES!!!!!happy.jpg

Clarice Isabelle (AKA her “Princess Name”) was born on 9/13/2014 with eyes wide open and ready to take on the world. In her three short years, she has endured more than most people will in a lifetime. And yet, she lights up the room with a love for life that we could all stand to learn from. Just as royalty, she may be a little spoiled (oops) but she sees the world for what it is….a place that needs more love and laughter. And, just like a true princess, she does her part to make this a reality. So, yes, Clarabelle, you will always be a princess. You will always have the wisdom that comes from hardships and the heart to make a difference. You will always be Clarabelle!

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl.

May you always be strong but never again have to prove it!

“Gigi”

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”

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”

Blogging Journey Day 18: To New Friends

I believe that this was the primary reason for beginning this blog, to know that we are not alone and to let others know the same. Life is hard but it is so worth it and much more enjoyable when we have others to walk beside. So, thank you for being by our side.

WOW! I never would have guessed that only 18 days into this journey that we would have had a day yesterday with over 500 views reaching more than 1700 views to date. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting us know that we are not on this journey alone.

I believe that this was the primary reason for beginning this blog, to know that we are not alone and to let others know the same. Life is hard but it is so worth it and much more enjoyable when we have others to walk beside. So, thank you for being by our side.

There are so many different avenues that we discuss because there are so many different aspects of our lives that we feel others may also be encountering. A lot of our views have been related to our CPS case and I pray that we are providing a sense of hope for those who are going through this and a greater awareness to those who continue to believe the assumptions about CPS. Ashley has opened up about her relationship with Mikey and has found support from other men and women who have a significant other serving in the armed forces. There is a great pride for their loved ones but also a loneliness that can be lessened through these friendships. Ashley has also been able to connect with other mothers to discuss tips and swap stories. I have met countless of other families of children with Down’s Syndrome and we have been able to discuss the beauty of celebrating every milestone. You all have celebrated my Gloria’s birthday with us, prayed for my dear friend Heather as she nearly lost her life and underwent amputation. You have tagged along to the beach and heard the wisdom of my granddaughter, Clarabelle. There are so many journeys to come and more details to provide. We look forward to continuing to meet others and grow as a community who will overcome all obstacles together!

Together, we are better!

“Gigi”