Taking Charge in your CPS Case

Be active. Be present. Be heard.

“Gigi”

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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”

Prisoners of War: Bringing our Children Home from CPS Captivity

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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”

Why am I pretty?: Toddler Talk

Pretty, for so many of us, is a natural reaction to someone’s appearance. We hear that beauty is skin deep with confirms this reaction. Beauty, or being pretty, is taught to be something that we see with our eyes. 

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This morning, sipping on coffee on the front porch, Clarabelle joined me with breakfast pudding (yogurt) still shimmering in her curls. Now, as I have said before, she has officially entered into the “why” stage of childhood where everything that we say,  we must be prepared with a follow-up explanation. This morning, however, as I looked at her dimples and blonde girls in the morning sunlight I immediately said, without planning for a follow-up, “you are so pretty” to which she replied….(insert drumroll), “but why am I pretty?” and I knew that I was at a significant crossroads with this young, impressionable little girl.

Pretty, for so many of us, is a natural reaction to someone’s appearance. We hear that beauty is skin deep with confirms this reaction. Beauty, or being pretty, is taught to be something that we see with our eyes.

Beauty is NOT skin deep! It comes from within!

Now, every time we speak to a child we are teaching them. We have the power to shape their perception of the world and of themselves. We have the power to teach them why they are pretty!

Back to the immediate conversation. “but why am I pretty,” I thought for a moment and responded, “you are pretty because you are smart. You are pretty because you are sweet. You are pretty because you say please and thank you. You are pretty because you are nice to other people.” “REALLY?” she asked with a sparkle of amazement. “Yes, those are the things that make you pretty!”

I took this conversation and thought about how it applies to our daily lives. We become so attached to our physical traits, our appearance, our body that we forget what truly matters about ourselves. My dearest friend, Heather from Why do we Wait? and My Dear Friend.. , is at this very moment being prepared for an amputation of her lower leg. When we faced this possibility a couple of years ago, she could not imagine that she would be the same person following such a surgery. She believed, at that time, that she was only the sum of her parts. I am so proud to state that she is braving this surgery with the open eyes of a nearly three-year-old as she now knows that her beauty, her kindness, and her intelligence is the whole of who she is.

I realize that, as my granddaughters grow, they will be faced with the world’s version of being pretty. It is my prayer for them that they always remember that they are beautiful because of who they are and that they are not who they are because of their physical appearance.

Beauty can only be seen with our eyes closed,

“Gigi”

Hold your Apologies: What not to say to the family of a Child with Down’s Syndrome

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First Day of School!!!

Can you imagine, you are holding what you believe to be the most perfect child in the world. She has blonde hair like her mother, hazel eyes like her father, and the cutest little dimple on her chin. Now, the lady in the next room also has her “perfect” child and recognizes that your baby does not have brown curls like her new bundle of joy… “Oh, I am so sorry,” she says! SORRY FOR WHAT? Sorry because your child is different from hers? Sorry that she believes her baby to be superior to yours due to one characteristic? Sorry because she does not understand having a child with blonde hair?

Can you imagine how you would feel? Immediately you would jump to defend your precious new gift or perhaps you would be so shocked that you could not even find the words to say. Are there even words to say? To need to apologize, one would have to have done something wrong. In order to empathize, one would have to have experienced something similar. To need either of these responses, there would need to be something wrong!!!

Of course, this situation would not happen in the newness of a labor and delivery wing so I will go beyond the color of their hair. Moving forward, let’s look at high school graduation. The little blonde girl graduates at the top of her class while the brown haired baby with perfect curls finishes her high school career among the middle range of her classmates. While the blonde may deserve congratulations for her hard work, the brunette would not expect sympathy. She completed her studies and did so respectfully. How would you feel, if someone offered sympathy because your child was “just average?”

What about glasses? Braces? Stuttering? Speech difficulties? A freckle? Birth mark? Do you apologize to the parents of these children? Do you say, “I am so sorry that your child is different than mine?” Do you say, “I’m sorry that your child has less the ‘perfect’ traits?”

Of course, you don’t because that would not be NICE! That would not be ACCEPTABLE!

When my granddaughter was born, we all stood around the nursery noting every little finger, every little toe, every cry, every smile just as the other families did for their new additions. We were elated that she would soon come into our home and brighten our lives forever. We prayed together when she was on oxygen. We leaned on one another when they mentioned flying her to a larger hospital. We waited together to hear the doctors tell us that she was going to be okay. And she is! She is better than okay. She continues every day to laugh and learn, grown and amaze us. She is PERFECT!

Yet, for some reason, when one of the family says, “she has Down’s” the immediate response, without exemption is “Oh, I’m sorry…” and we want to yell “WHY?” We are not sorry that your child has blue eyes or straight hair. We are not sorry that your child has freckles. We are not sorry that every time your child learns something new the whole family does not celebrate. We are not sorry that your child’s first steps or clearance from a heart doctor did not send you straight to the bakery to pick out a cake. Instead, we are thankful that your child is perfect in your eyes and would like for you to know that Gloria is perfect in ours.

 Happy Birthday, Gloria! 

A Race To The Finish Line 

There is nothing wrong with her. She is in excellent health and is moving along the developmental chart at a steady pace. The pace may not be the same of your child, but your child’s pace is not at the same pace as someone else’s child. And they are NOT SORRY!

I get it, you may not know what to say. You may have heard scary things about Down’s Syndrome. You may think that this is some form of life threatening situation and that your heart felt “I’m sorry,” refers to the inevitable loss of her ability to have any quality of life. I get it. You do not know about it so maybe your apology is for your lack of awareness. I do not know a thing about raising a child with red hair. I have no clue about freckles and sensitive skin. But I am not sorry for the parents who have children with red hair because this is a beautiful characteristic of their perfect child. I feel no need to stare or apologize but, if I really felt the need, I would ask respectful and caring questions like, “what brand of sunscreen do you use to protect his/her beautiful skin tone?” or “what type of conditioner makes their hair shine like that?” I could even accept questions like, “Do you have extra health care concerns because of this characteristic?”

To apologize to a parent because of a single characteristic that makes their child unique or special is not only disrespectful but also hurtful. Families of children with Down’s Syndrome are simply families with children. Please think before you speak and, if you cannot compliment or ask a question tastefully, then please just smile.

 

Normal is unattainable for anyone! Special is in our DNA!

“Gigi”

Behind The Scenes of My CPS Case. 


April 16, 2016.

That date will forever be burned into my mind. I knew there was something wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know until the Doctor came in the room, told me that my son’s femur was broken and asked that my fiancé leave the room and not come back in until CPS was notified.

Flashback to the night before when 19 of my closest family and friends along with all of our newborns and toddlers were having the time of our lives at a big cabin in Gatlinburg. Everything was perfect. The kids were all being good, the parents got to relax a little. Perfect. 

A couple of weeks go by of me consoling my hurt 3 month old, trying to figure out how the man I was about to marry could do such a thing, and having interviews with my case worker who, at one point, told me that this would be the first case she ever had that she wasn’t filing on the mother for failure to protect.

April 28, 2016

Let me tell you. That was a picture perfect morning. Clarabelle was playing in her pool. Elliott was in his swing on the porch with us. The sun was warm and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Then we went inside to make some fruit pizza. We ate and laughed so much that day.

Nap time came around and I had Elliott laying on the couch with my hand on him. Trying to get him comfortable enough to sleep. When I hear a knock on the door. A police officer, my case worker, and another woman was standing at my door. They inform me that they would be removing the children from my home and putting them in foster care with my (now) ex fiancé’s parents and asked me to gather their things.

I wake my mother up with the scariest news either one of us had ever received. And we go back to talk to them. A few heated words and a supervisor call later I walked down my driveway to take my car seats out and put them in the case worker’s car.

With tears in my eyes and an aching in my chest like I’ve never felt before, I gathered my children’s things, hugged them both tighter than I had ever hugged them, put them in a stranger’s vehicle, and watched them drive away.

The next year of my life was filled with supervised visitations, having Christmas in the meeting room at a Hardee’s, postponed court dates, MDT meetings, and a whole lot of tears.

Hearing my daughter ask “mommy why can’t I come home with you?” Was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever heard. Mommy didn’t have the answer. I didn’t know why I couldn’t have my children back. I hadn’t done anything wrong.

I missed my son’s first steps. I only saw them later through a Facebook video message. I missed his first Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, first tooth.. All of it.

After a whole year of looking for answers and coming up empty every time, we finally got in front of a judge. This was the first time outside of the preliminary hearing that a judge was going to give a ruling. The first time in a year. 

After hours of testimonies and being belittled by the most “sacred” of all systems, it was finally time. The judge set the date for Chris’ termination hearing, dismissed my mother off the case, and turned to me.

This was it. 

I sat there with my heart in my throat going through every emotion possible.

That’s when the most beautiful words rang out of his mouth like a harp played by an angel. “You have done nothing wrong here. You are dismissed off of this case and your children will return home to you.”

I have never cried so hard in my life. A year of depression, fear, and confusion rushed out of me. We went home, packed our van, went to the MDT to sign papers granting me full custody, and I picked up my children. For the first time in a year, I was a mother again. I didn’t have someone watching my every move. They were my babies again.

We left West Virginia, headed south to the sunshine state, and never looked back.

-A.

Tips on the MDT Meetings

We cannot prepare for what we cannot see. Let’s share our vision with others. 

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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.

“Gigi”

 

Happy Birthday, Gloria!

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I will never forget the morning that I was told that I was going to be a grandmother. I mean, who could forget a morning when not one, but two of their children informed them that they were pregnant (especially when both of them were teenagers)! I was scared that my children would face the same hardships as did I. I was afraid that my grandchildren would have to do without the stability that I had also struggled to provide for my own children. I was afraid that this trend that I had set into motion of being a teenage parent would simply make things harder for them.

Of course, I was also elated! At the age of 36, I was going to have two granddaughters! I went to nearly every appointment. I woke them up with gift bags or essential baby items more often than I can remember. The excitement was intense and only became stronger as we learned that the girls were due one day apart! Yes, ONE DAY!!!!

Now, when you are dealing with two teenagers (18 and 17) that are also pregnant (my daughter and my son’s girlfriend), then there will be tensions. As I am blessed with a close family, the only major tension that we dealt with was who was going to win! Who was going to bring home the first grandchild? Who was going to change my name from “Mom” to “Gigi.”

Weeks and months passed. Baby showers and crib assembly occurred. I was fortunate that my home would be the first home for my girls and I walked through impatiently awaiting the sounds that would come along with their entry.

Then, the morning happened. Chelsea (Gloria’s mother), was going to be induced due to low fluid levels. Ashley, despiting wanting to “win the race,” was excited that she was going to be an aunt while I was ecstatic that I was finally going to welcome my first granddaughter. Damion and Chelsea were excited and scared and all things that expecting parents should be! Zachary was happy that he, and he alone, was not about to be a parent but rather was going to be the cool uncle that could watch from a distance.

Labor was hard. It was hard on Chelsea, it was hard on me and her mother, and it was hard on Damion. The nurses did not get a break and the doctor was running late. The day was anything but magical as anyone who has had children can imagine. It was hard. Then, I looked over at my son who had tears running down his face asking how he could make it easier for the mother of his child. It was beautiful! No longer were the sounds of childbirth echoing in the room as the sounds of love and family took over

Then, I looked over at my son who had tears running down his face asking how he could make it easier for the mother of his child. It was beautiful! No longer were the sounds of childbirth echoing in the room as the sounds of love and family took over the space. My son was about to be a father and I was going to be a grandmother.

What seemed to be only moments later, I saw the most beautiful face I had ever seen. My granddaughter, Gloria Ann, entered this world on August 27, 2014, and changed the way that I will forever see the world.

In the days that followed, Gloria encountered medical scares that she overcame before being sent to a pediatric hospital. We were told that her oxygen level was not regulating and that she had a bowel obstruction. Yet, with the power of love and prayer, Gloria Ann was able to surpass all expectations. Then, when my son called me to the hospital, he looked at me with fear in his eyes, not fear for himself, but the kind of fear that a father feels for his child.

“They believe she has Down’s,” he managed to mumble through his tears. Immediately, I took him in my arms not as a child, but as a parent. “She has something extra and we will love her for it.”

That was it! That was all that had to be said. Gloria continues to surpass the expectations placed on her. She has no medical problems that are typically associated with Down’s Syndrome. She attends school and acts as a typical toddler. She continues to open up our eyes and change the way that we see the world just as she did the day she changed my name to “Gigi” and I will forever be grateful to both Damion and Chelsea for allowing me to tag along on this journey.

Happy Birthday, Gloria Ann! May you always win the race!

“Gigi”