Friday, September 25, 2015

Our Experience: When CPS Falsely Accused Us

  I have always wanted to write a post about our experience with CYS but 2 years later my emotions are still raw. I still get a lump in my throat, my heart beats faster and my stomach threatens to turn over when I think of those awful months we had. Months of not knowing whether or not we could adopt the little girl who had been in our home for 18 months, the little girl we had come to love as our own.

    In June of 2013 we placed our son Braden at Tap (The Attachment Place). Despite ongoing therapy, Braden was growing steadily worse. He was older, stronger and in school so he had more people to manipulate, more people to "tell stories" to. Dean and I felt God leading us to find a treatment home for him, somewhere where he would receive therapy 24/7 versus 1 hour a week, which by the way, is often inadequate for a child with RAD.

    At the time of placement, we were pursuing adopting Lia. Parental rights were terminated but mom appealed so we were waiting to hear from the judge.

    One day CYS called Dean and I into their office because they had some questions for us. Legitimate questions which we were only to happy to answer. I want to add that they were only doing their job by asking questions. One of their concerns was that we "got rid" of Braden. Rueters had just released information about what they called rehoming. And Children and Youth Services were under scrutiny by many people, so they obviously wanted to be sure we hadn't passed Braden "Under the table" where he could vanish without a trace. We shared information on TAP, explained why we placed him there as well as answered any other questions they had. Finally the caseworker agreed that we did what was necessary, we made this decision for Braden's emotional well being not out of spite, so they left Lia stay. We rejoiced and thought that was the end of it.

   From time to time I asked Lia's caseworker C, if they had any concerns and she assured me they didn't. 

  In October, the 3rd to be exact, S from COBYS, the agency who did the adoption paperwork came to our home to gather more information about Lia, which is the customary practice. She insisted Dean be here when she comes. It didn't really suit him but she was adamant that he be home when she comes for her visit.

   S made small talk then asked if we were aware that CYS still had serious concerns about allowing us to adopt Lia. We were speechless, I had asked C just one week prior if there were any concerns and she said there weren't.

   We asked S how to handle the situation, should we be hiring an attorney? She said it was up to us but she thinks it would be best if Dean and I, herself and all the CYS staff involved in Lia's case were to sit down and discuss the issue. She promised to attend as she was Braden's advocate through some prior interaction we had with COBYS, other than adoption that is.

   Emails flew between S, C, Dean and myself, not all of them good, as S struggled to have CYS agree to a meeting. We finally scheduled a meeting in October. In the meantime we did hire an attorney as we sensed CYS wasn't being totally honest with us. We informed CYS we had hired an attorney and she would be attending our meeting, which in retrospect was not wise.

    When the day of the meeting finally arrived, we met D, our attorney and proceeded to the CYS office where we met C and her supervisor D. Right away we knew things were bad, they were less than cordial and C wouldn't look us in the eye. We proceeded to the meeting which began with a bang. Accusation upon accusation. D our attorney, interrupted and asked if everyone could please introduce themselves, which we did. J, CYS' attorney was in attendance as well as C and her supervisor D, our resource worker A, and her supervisor M. Poor Dean was the only male in a room of women, all of whom had one mission: settle Lia's fate.

     Without going into great detail, here are a few accusations we faced: We were getting rid of Braden, which made us parents of the worse kind, I was mentally unstable etc.... none of which was true. The meeting became a heated, one sided yelling match. CYS told us we were awful people, bad parents and said they never should have allowed us to foster or adopt....they had concerns about us all along they said. In the end they unanimously agreed that Lia must be moved ASAP. Everyone that is except Lia's guardian, B. CYS said they would give B 2 weeks to decide if Lia should be moved, if she agreed, then they would begin looking for another resource family, if not the case would go to court where a judge would decide. 

          B said she didn't think CYS' accusations were enough to warrant moving Lia after she had been in our home 18 months, but of course she would be thoroughly investigating the matter. We thanked her and with tears, turned to go home. We had many people praying that day and I knew they were wondering how things had gone so I sent mom this brief text: "looks like we will loose Lia, don't call me, I can't talk"

   That afternoon I sat and held Lia. She wiped the tears from my eyes making me sob even harder. "Why God?" I asked. We followed your leading, we placed Braden at TAP because we love him and want him to get help while he is young enough to heal, what did we do wrong?" It seemed as if God was silent and my heart broke into a million different pieces.

    The next day my mom came because I was to emotionally exhausted to care for my family. I remember eating a total of one teaspoon of soup, food simply wouldn't go down. I couldn't eat, Dean couldn't eat. Of course our traumatized children reacted to such a huge change in us and reacted accordingly. Dean told Tristan a little of what we were facing because Tristan was so concerned about us. Lia woke up multiple times a night whimpering, "Mommy! Mommy!" Sometimes she wasn't even awake, she simply cried out in her sleep. And my heart broke a little more if that were possible.

      S, Lia's adoption worker wasn't at the meeting and I was hurt because I felt she could have spoken on our behalf and perhaps calmed the other people down. When I asked her about it she said CYS never told her they were having a meeting. "They didn't want me there because they knew that I knew what they were doing wasn't right," was her conclusion. 

   Shortly thereafter we began to get emails from CYS with further accusations. We received them any time, day or night and once on a Sunday morning. The accusations ran from not allowing Braden to go to Sunday School, to locking him in his room, which we did not do.

   Through various means a man from Philadelphia by the name of J called Dean. It turned out J was over various children and youth agencies and he was going to be auditing our particular agency the following day. He asked for names and other information, then promised to get back with us. J fully understood why we needed to place Braden where he could get more therapy and thanked Dean for his honesty.

   After J's visit, the emails stopped abruptly and we wondered what had unfolded. When J finally called back he wasn't concerned. He said Lia's GAL (guardian at litem) did not want Lia moved and he himself didn't think CYS had a case. 

   In January Dean and I had to go for Forensic Parenting Evaluations, where we were evaluated (cross examined) to see if our stories lined up as well as to see if we were emotionally stable and competent parents. The man doing the evaluation said we were parents who had a difficult child, we did what we thought was best but our caseworker was pushing the issue to far. Those aren't his exact words but I shall refrain from sharing them in their entirety here.

   Whether we would adopt Lia or not, depended on the evaluation and while we knew that the evaluation was in our favor, we were still very anxious as we waited and waited to here what the agency had to say. One day when C came for her monthly visit and said, "You may adopt! I am so glad the county is finally allowing you to adopt Lia!" Dean and I looked at each other as if to say, "What? You were the one sounding the alarm and making the accusations!"

   From that visit onward, C never came to our home alone, she always had another caseworker with her. I don't know if she expected us to retaliate or do something to get back at her or what. 
   
   This post is only a small piece of the story. I will add that up until this episode we had enjoyed a good relationship with the various people from our agency. This experience was hard, it is extremely hard to love a child, plan to adopt him or her only to face having her removed due to false allegations. I struggled knowing how to relate to Lia, I loved her dearly but in my humanness I wanted to shield my heart from further pain by placing a wall between us. However when I heard her sad cries and held her as she clung to me day and night, I knew there was no way I could possibly do less than give her my full heart, all my love and if I had to give her up I would have to trust that God knew best. Oh but it was so hard!!! Thanks to the many people who were on my "secret email list." When things seemed to be out of our control or when my fears threatened to overcome me, I sent out an email asking for prayer and without fail God came through! Sometimes the situation was resolved, other times he removed our fear and a deep peace settled in our hearts.

   Sometime during this experience God impressed upon my mind these words: Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord! This was such a comfort when we would be faced with an an accusation yet again.

   While this was hard, God used it for his good. I can now say that, "God is all I need." I knew that even if our worst fears came to pass, I would be okay because God was by my side. How did I know this? Even when we were certain she would be leaving, we had a peace that can only come from God. JESUS is all I will ever NEED! What a blessing, what a privilege, what an honor to have the King of kings meeting our every need!

*I use CPS (Child Protection Services) and CYS (Children and Youth Services) interchangeably in my blog. The agency we fostered with was called CYS but CPS is a much more common term

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