Written by a Mom who wishes to remain anonymous:
This is about an injustice to a foster child’s rights and the lack to serve her needs in the foster care system. As “Christine’s” foster mother, for almost two years, I have been treated very poorly with very little support to care for a difficult child whom I became bonded with as well as she with me. I have fought for a difficult child to have a chance in life and a family. I have also been a county social worker as well as an FFA worker several years ago and now work as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern. I have worked with foster children and parents for years before I decided to become one. I am very aware of the system and rights of the child and foster parent(s). My foster daughter’s case gives me great concern.
It began when my foster daughter was hospitalized for an emotional melt down from her past abuse. The social workers decided to give me a break and have “Christine” further evaluated by placing her in another foster home but this went on and on for about 2.5 months with no clear end or plan. She has been diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress and psychosis NOS with several abandonments in her life. By the social workers decisions they have intensified my daughter’s problems and insecurities. Her diagnoses requires extensive therapy and not to be continually experiencing abandonment. I was told by the FFA social worker if I hired an attorney and fought for Christine I would never have another child placed with me and I would not see my daughter.
Why did they want me to go away so badly? The policy AB408 went into effect this Jan. 04. It states the child should have continued contact with those they feel a connection to, especially the older children. Her wishes are to continue to be in contact with me, her previous foster/adopt mother and other family members in my family as well as her biological grandmother and younger half-brother. She was denied all contacts. Until I fought and went to the state ombudsman and was able to setup on-going visits with her grandmother. Christine still has not seen her brother. And is told I have no legal rights to see her.
Because of this foster parent, who Christine had stayed with during that 2.5 months (back and forth) – told the judge she witnessed Christine kiss me on the lips good-bye and Christine was pressed up to me hugging me – she thought we appeared to have a relationship other than mother-daughter. My daughter was crying on me and hanging on to me saying “mommy, I don’t want to go I am afraid I will never see you again.” About a month later I told the social workers enough is enough make a decision – and they said fine you will never see Christine again. That same day with no warning they dropped a bomb shell on Christine and told her I didn’t want her anymore and she was never going to see me. I know this because Christine called me and I reinforced to her I never gave up on her and she was always wanted. Christine also wrote to me stating “mommy, please don’t give up on fighting for me – I am afraid”.
Since that day I never stopped fighting for my foster daughter – who I will always consider to be my daughter. She continues to call me “mommy” and hopefully now knows there is nothing this system can do to break our bond. Christine has repeatedly snuck calls to me on several occasions. Christine’s parental rights were terminated over two years ago, leaving total parental rights with this one county. It is very frightening to me because they have so much power and no one to be accountable to. I finally went to the National Youth Law (the attorney has informed me he has called Christine several times and left messages but Christine has told me she is not receiving the messages), Community Care Licensing (who is now investigating), DSS, children’s service and operation evaluation branch (also started their investigation), American Civil Liberties Union (reviewing the case), State Ombudsman Office (She has also informed she calls often and leaves messages with no response and Christine again tells me she is not receiving these messages), Governor (office took action), Senator (not heard back from) and Congressman (the county denied an independent review request by the congressman’s office) as well as the newspaper(they are taking the story hoping it will be printed this April) and television talk shows (I have not heard back from yet).
I have also had other friends in other states call their Senators and they called California to see what is going on over here. I continue to stay on top of my daughter’s case. Which this county wants me to be quiet and go away. Christine is now 13 years old and resides in residential care an orphan of the system. Christine has informed me she has not been receiving any therapy and she has continued to deteriorate in her mental and physical health. Overweight, poor eye sight, failing school, isolated from those who love her, and over medicated, why is all of this happening to her if she is suppose to be getting more services and the group home gets more money to take care of her. Is she just being warehoused until she turns 18? Or she just another one of those kids in the child welfare system that no one cares about and we all turn our backs on? What is wrong here why has the system failed so poorly? Why is it a crime to give you child a hug or a kiss? Why if the child needs reassurance and holds onto you longer is it seen as something else? Are we not suppose to touch these children who have been abandoned and abused.
My daughter also wrote once that she is no longer beaten to death but loved to death. She also wrote that there was no hope for her in being loved – everyone tried and gave up on her until she came to my house and I wouldn’t give up until the system did. She asked me why I loved her so much. Aren’t we suppose to give children the message that they are worth something and important. I am not only fighting for my own foster daughter and myself but for so many other foster children and foster parents who are treated so poorly in this child welfare system in California. (worse in some counties more than others). I was told that my foster daughter is now a statistic and to move on to the next. What happened to don’t give up on a child. One child at a time. Heal the hurting soul. If we view children as statistics because the system has failed and we as foster parents and general public do nothing – we all have failed. Please don’t listen to my pleads but my foster daughter’s cries. Don’t turn away and close your eyes and ears to what is happening to our lost children who become our future adults and will remember what we did to them when they were growing up. What a scary thought.