Monday, August 24, 2015

How are you?

Quick overview: Tuesday was the visit and accident. Wednesday was the day we saw bruising, a CPS report was made, and the kids were removed from our home. Thursday Baby 9's adoption worker came out and told us she had asked for Baby 9 to be removed as well, but her supervisor denied her request and chose to wait until a finding is made in our CPS investigation. Friday was the day that the CPS investigator came out and interviewed me, Brandon, Baby 4, and Baby 9. I feel like that went well. the investigator said that when she interviewed baby 13 in his new home, he did not have a consistent story and did not seem to know what timeline anything happened on. That is totally normal for a 3 year old, but not super helpful in an investigation. She said, The only thing I know for sure is that he was in a car accident Tuesday evening, and we don't know the severity of it yet. It didn't sound like a sure thing, she thinks we're innocent, but it sounded like she was being fair and thinking through all possibilities.

After the investigator left on Friday around 2, I slept until 9pm on the couch. My parents took my kids out to the park and the mall. I stayed in bed most of Saturday too. It took extraordinary will to get up at 2 pm to shower. Yes, I was laying down, half-comatose for 24hrs. I'm writing it because I'm trying hard to be honest. I got out of the house Saturday night for a babysitting gig I had set up a while ago. Having clean clothes on and forcing myself to drink water did perk me up.

I'm still getting tons of support from everyone, but now people are wondering how to handle me. I'm getting a lot of What do you need? How are you feeling? Really, truly? I don't know.

I feel exposed. Like everyone found out some deep, dark secret of mine. It's not that I did anything wrong or had something I was hiding. I feel like everyone can see I'm just human. I was out with my friends completely unaware that my kid needed me. I don't have supernatural powers to know when a kid is lying or telling the truth. I can't guarantee I'll give Baby 9 everything I thought I could promise her family. It's my job to keep my kids safe. I took that very seriously, and still Baby 13 got hurt. I couldn't help him. I couldn't write a compelling email to fix it. I can't find a community resource to help. I can't advocate for a better situation for my family. I'm just me, and I'm a the mercy of CPS like every other Mom in their caseload. I feel like I failed. I know I did the best I could muster for all my kids while they were here. It stings the back of my throat to realize along with everyone else, that my best wasn't enough.

I'm just human, and it's not enough.

Feeling all of that is too much on me, so I need to sleep. I can't be awake with all these thoughts. They are physically painful.

I'm scared, and sad, and frustrated, and anticipating it getting worse before it gets better. I don't miss the kids yet. I know that's coming, but it hasn't hit me, and when it does it will be bad. So, I have that to look forward to.

I obviously can't say that to all the people asking, so I say, "I've been better." or "I'm getting there."

Then I crawl back into bed. Just like I'm going to right now. I lay and wait for the storm to pass.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The drop off

Everyone rallied around me when we got the news that our new kids were being removed. I was getting calls and texts. My parents came to help pack. Friends took my 3 other kids to their houses. Baby Girl's nurse came back after her shift with plastic totes and to help with Baby 11.

I was dazed. I started pulling clothes out of all the closets and drawers. I went through our toys, and shoe boxes, and laundry, and diapers. I located all the medical cards and WIC checks and wrote down all the future appointments and phone numbers that could be needed. I packed up medicines and wrote down schedules for feedings and meds. I tracked down bottles, and baby hats, and socks. I packed up all the new school supplies and uniforms I had gotten for Baby 12- who starts Kindergarten in 2 weeks. I took down all the Frozen party decorations and packed them in gallon sized ziplock bags so they could be re-hung in the new house.

My house looked like a war zone. I cried with reckless abandon in front of everyone. And there was my tribe.. packing those horrid plastic totes and making light small talk between my breakdowns.

Forever will not be long enough for me to pay them back for those moments.

Brandon came home from work, and we packed the cars. We needed both cars to fit everything. I took Baby 11 and we headed off.

When we got to the door, Mom answered. This was bad. This was very bad. I have been told over and over again how violent Mom is. She has threatened other foster parents, physically attacked caseworkers. I'm never supposed to be alone with her and she's never supposed to be alone with the kids. Yet here we were. Relative resource was not home, and me and the kids were alone with Mom.

She did the unthinkable.

She hugged me and cried, "I am so sorry they are being taken from you." She went on: I grew up in the system since I was my kids' age until I aged out at 18. I know a good foster parent from a bad foster parent, and right from the beginning I knew you had genuine love for my kids. You're not in this for the money. My kids love you and they are going to miss you, so this is bittersweet for me. I have them with family now, but they aren't with you.

I didn't have the time or energy to process what was happening then, but now I see we were having a real, human moment based on the relationship I always hope I'm building with my kids' parents.

I apologized, I'm sorry I don't have any answers for you. We would never hurt your kids. They were always loved while they were with us. I told her what I knew about everything.

She said she had asked 13 what happened to him, and he said his biological brother hurt him. "I told him I knew [brother] didn't do anything to him because we were all at the visit together. Then he told me it was [Baby 4]."

Mom let me say goodbye and hug and kiss all the kids. She told me we could still see them when we wanted to. She told me she had never gotten along with any other foster parents, and she would have been mad if this had happened anywhere else.

I loitered around smiling and chatting until the relative resource came home. I knew I wasn't supposed to leave the kids with anyone else. She seemed nice, albeit already out of compliance with court orders. Brandon was quiet. Mom pointed out the tears in his eyes.

Then we left. I picked up the girls from my friend's house and came home. Baby 9 asked, Where's the birthday party?

We anticipated the CPS investigator coming out any time now, so we needed to get the house in order. I intended to just rest my eyes for a moment, but I fell asleep hard in my bed while Brandon cleaned. I don't think I could have handled one more second of that day. My spirit was tired and my mind needed to be done racing. It wasn't a pleasant sleep. It felt like death.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What happened?

This is the first of, I'm sure, many posts coming in the next few days. Our world is flipped on it's side and while I'm not comfortable sharing any of it, it feels like lying not to:

On Tuesday night, I went out to dinner with my friends. We painted pottery, and ate seafood- all while giggling about insignificant gossip and shared stories. It was exactly what I needed after leaving my house. 6 kids were at the table dropping rice and squishing plums. Everyone was hyped up because the new 3 kids came home late from their visit- missing their play/wind down time before dinner. The transport car that was bringing them home had been rear ended. The person who called to let me know said it was just a tap and the kids and both cars were totally fine, they just needed to exchange information. When I did get home everyone was sleeping. I frantically decorated our whole downstairs in Frozen themed posters, banners, confetti- essentially anything I could find at the party store with Elsa's pointy little face on it. I sat down to watch some TV and fell asleep.

Wednesday morning started off like every other; with kids up before 7 jumping around and playing in their rooms. I called down Baby 12 to show her the Frozen birthday extravaganza that we set up just for her 5th birthday. She was so excited!! She put on her "Birthday Girl" shirt and matching tutu. I had her pose for a picture next to the table that now held her gifts and candles that would go on her cake, tonight after daycare. We'll have pizza and cake, and you can open all your presents. Then I called down the rest of the kids for breakfast.

Brandon caught Baby 13 at the bottom of the stairs and immediately changed his diaper. He called me over, Teresa, come look at this. I was positive I was going to find a diaper rash that we would just apply some cream to and move on.

I was wrong.

Baby 13 was covered in bruises. Big bruises. Bad bruises. Bruises that weren't there the last time I saw him.

I asked him what happened? He told me he hurt himself on the wall. I scooped him up and took him upstairs to his room and asked which wall? He pointed to all of them. I asked very softly while he was in my lap, who hurt you? He was soft but clear when he answered Baby 4. I asked, What did Baby 4 do? He said, Nothing.

I called Brandon upstairs so I could get hysterical and cry in my own bedroom. Brandon told me the night was completely ordinary, and I knew the morning was just like any other. So what happened?!!

I called Baby 4 upstairs and asked how did 13 get hurt? He asked questions like he genuinely didn't know. He got hurt? When? Is he OK? I didn't want to talk too much to him. I knew this was going to be a big deal, and I wanted his information to be unaltered by anyone else.

We all need to get dressed. Baby 13 needed to be seen by a doctor right then. I called Baby Girl's nurse up to tell her what was happening and let her look at him to decide if we were going to the pediatrician or emergency. She looked at 13 while I got dressed in my room. When I came out, she asked, Did he tell you what happened? Her eyes were wide and I knew in my gut he had told her. I asked what she heard; He said his biological brother did it. The 8 year old who lives with a relative resource, but visits with them all on Tuesdays.

My friend came over while I packed up Baby 13 and gave directions for the morning. Baby 4 would go to her house, Baby 9 &12 would go to daycare, Baby Girl and Baby 11 would stay home with the nurse. Brandon went to work and I headed to the doctor. The kids all saw me crying. I told them I'm sad that 13 got hurt.

We got to the pediatrician and I was still a mess. Baby 13 seemed totally unaware that anything was wrong. He wanted to make sure he wasn't getting any shots and that he had enough juice in his cup. They took pictures, gave me tissues and pats on the back, asked him what happened (I hurt my face on the walls at my house), and called in a CPS report.

That CPS report cited his injuries, noted they were inconsistent with the story given, and alleged that we had provided inadequate supervision.

I cried my way through Walmart while 13 and I picked up cookies for daycare and cake for 12's birthday party. Then I dropped 13 off at daycare.

About an hour and several phone calls to/from various caseworkers later, the decision was made to remove all 3 new kids from our home. 12 & 13 would go right from daycare, and I'd drop Baby 11 and all their belongings off that evening.

If I'm being perfectly honest, my first and primary concern was the placement of Baby 9. She has only ever known us her entire life. CPS has to prove something bad happened at our house before moving our adopted kids, but they can move 9 simply because the mood strikes. We could fight it, and we would, but she needs to stay home. My next concern is what happened to 13. I don't know. There's not even a Mom-gut inkling. But he's hurt and I want to make sure it never happens again. My third concern is what the CPS investigation will turn up. I've been in the system long enough to know the truth isn't always the same as a CPS finding. I also know you can get different findings in the same case depending on the worker interpreting the evidence. In the end, our foster care license and Baby 9's adoption depend less on what actually happened and completely on what gets written by the CPS investigator. She has 60 days to make her finding. 60 days of torture.