> No More Secrets And Lies: Voice at the End of a Phone Line

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Voice at the End of a Phone Line

My Journal — February 20, 2009

Mary was in court today. When I sat with her alone in the little room we talked heart to heart. Not like the social workers do. And Mary came through and cried because she didn't know what the hell was going on in her life..

Then the plastic Jennys come in and yak at her about being a better person and having a great future and I want to puke and so does Mary — and I step out and ask Jensina where Kristine is, cause Mary is saying some things and saying she's now in a different room with another kid and I think she needs to hear this.

But I think I got my point across. Mary asks where she'll go if the foster home doesn't work out and Jessica says she'll just sabotage the next placement anyhow, and I turn to jess and say, she just wants to know what will happen to her, like what sort of safety net she'll have because she's been moved so many times...

I also pull the GAL aside and tell him that I think the social worker and probation officer have a problem with me and are making Mary suffer from it, and I tell him that I'm a good father.. and try to get all this in, in a few minutes. And Karen comes by and sees us talking, and looks sideways at us.. like how come I'm not talking to him instead of john, and the gal is a bit phony.. I can see, I pull him aside to see what he's made of.. well sort of ... at least I can talk to him. I tell him that Mary is getting to be just a voice at the end of a phone line..

*  *  *

Once I got back home from meeting with the psychologist in Sauk Rapids, I discovered there was a vision therapy clinic in Mankato and I told the team about this. None of us knew it even existed. But then none of us knew Mary could have received her neuropsych evaluation in Mankato either. We didn't know she could have received this three months earlier, wouldn't have had to wait three months at North Homes, would have had three months of treatment under her belt by now, and would have been three months closer to coming home. But what's three months more of unethical (or illegal?) detainment when you've been in out-of-home placement for 20 months? My insurance wouldn't cover Mary being seen at this clinic (nor the one they wanted for her in Fergus Falls), but I learned a lot about vision therapy from talking to the staff at this clinic, and I found out about other clinics in the Twin Cities which my insurance would pay for.

Mary's lawyer and I talked about getting Mary another neuropsych evaluation because we knew the evaluation she had received in Sauk Rapids was spoon-fed to her by her workers (the parental assessment portion), and I scheduled another one for her in Mankato. But at the last minute we decided not to put her through another test. But I did start looking for foster homes in the area, and I think her workers were afraid I might actually try to get her placed closer to her home, and so they scrambled like crazy to get things situated for her in Fergus Falls. A day or two later, her social worker, corrections officer, and guardian ad litem all hopped in a car again — this time headed to Fergus Falls — in order to get things all wrapped up for her out there. This was the fastest they had ever worked on a placement for Mary. The County seemed to be spending a lot of time working on a case they had already told us was taking too much of their time.

I was spending a lot of time, as well, thinking about the meeting we had just had with Dr. Tinius and how severe their efforts to separate Mary and me had now become — things I had sensed for a long time, yet still didn't want to believe were actually happening, or maybe couldn't believe.

During the two years Mary had been with the county, there was no denying these efforts of theirs. They had been in place all along and had increased as time went on. When we first began working with the County, I thought her workers would appreciate my help, like they told Mary's mother and me they would. And I thought we could all work together. I was only looking for the best solutions for my daughter and I didn't care where they came from — her workers, her parents, other members of the team, outside experts — I didn't care. I just knew that none of us had the answers. 

And I certainly wasn't trying to run things, or control things. I gave up control of my daughter when my ex-wife and I went to the County back in March of 2007 asking them for help. And we suggested out-of-home placement because we didn’t know what was going on with Mary and we were worried about her. I know most children in out-of-home placement are there because they've been removed from their homes, but that wasn't the case with us. We sought their help, and Mary's workers told us how much they appreciated being able to work with good parents like us who were very involved with their children. But maybe they weren't ready for the kind of involvement I was used to — the kind where parents question how anyone works with their child — social workers included. Maybe they hadn't experienced this kind of involvement from the parents they normally worked with.

I believe her workers tried to do the right thing for Mary, at first. I believe they tried hard. But when things started to go wrong for her — and continued to go wrong — and they weren't willing to try something different, I had to speak up. But the more I spoke up, the more they tried to shut me up, or intimidate me, wanting only one thing for Mary from that point on: the opposite of everything I wanted for her, to a fault. And when their efforts to marginalize me didn't work, things took an ugly turn. I then, turned to outside help, putting their actions off as little more than immature bullying, or insecurity, or who knows what. I really didn't know what their problem was.

They had strongly resisted getting Mary her neuropsych exam, which was startling in itself. But when the judge finally ordered them to do this, I honestly thought they would put their pettiness-turned-viciousness aside and move on. But they didn't. Instead, they ratcheted things up to a whole new level, and it began to look like this was all some twisted game to them where they needed to, once again, up the ante with a new strategy in order to checkmate me — a sick, twisted game with Mary as their pawn.

The fact that they would get a psychologist to put false information about me into a psychological test given to my daughter seemed to indicate there was more than schoolyard spite involved. And the fact that they would purposely keep Mary in a group home, far from her home, when she didn't need to be, seemed to indicate there was nothing they would stop at. And all of this told me that my involvement in my daughter's life was now more crucial than ever — that it was paramount — and that I needed to stay involved and fight for her more than ever, like any good, involved, parent would. 

It was becoming clear to me that I had to get her away from the County and bring her home, or at least bring her closer to home. And this was not only because I was concerned for Mary's well-being, but because I missed her immensely, and I honestly did feel like she was becoming little more than a tiny voice at the end of a long phone line, and I wanted her home.

* * *

Before the corrections officer, social worker, and guardian ad litem started for home that day from Fergus Falls, they phoned the social work supervisor to let her know everything was set — that they had found the perfect foster home for Mary and met with the perfect foster parents. Really. The social work supervisor rushed off an email to the team that same afternoon, letting us know that Mary's workers had driven all the way out to Fergus Falls and found this wonderful couple who would be willing to take Mary and it was all settled and they could move Mary out there real soon and everyone would live happily ever after. In a matter of days this was all set.

But I smelled a rat. I didn't like any of this, and I continued to look for foster homes that were closer to Mankato, as did Mary's lawyer and her social worker. I knew some foster home agencies from working with at-risk teens a few years earlier at Southern Minnesota Counseling Services in St. Peter, and from being licensed as a foster parent myself, by my county. That's right. Blue Earth County had given me their approval to care for other people's children as a foster parent, while at the same time trying to prevent me from caring for my own.

But even though I wasn't able to find a foster home where Mary would be the only child, I did find some homes with one or two children. I didn't find any homes run my an elderly couple. And every foster home agency I called wondered why I needed this type of placement and told me these were nearly impossible to find. But it wasn't long before these agencies refused to talk to me. They never told me why they wouldn't help me anymore, but after Mary's workers knew I was calling them, they stopped helping me — all of them, at the same time.


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