Jacket’s mom has been trying to convince me that her sister and sister’s boyfriend, who recently moved into her apartment, are getting their 4 kids back next month. However, now I understand that Jacket’s mom has told ACS that she is going to court to get 3 of the 4 children. These are the kids the foster agency (and Jacket’s family) asked me to take right after Jacket was returned to her mom.
One child will not be available because that particular sibling’s foster parent fought to adopt early on. It is my assumption that Jacket’s mom has no way in hell in getting custody of her nieces and nephews, especially since she lives in the same home as the parents (although they deny and cover this up when people check out the home). The ACS worker thinks that the right, or rather wrong, judge just might give her the kids.
Mind you, this sister is the sister who originally called ACS on Jacket’s mom- so the cycle continues. I wish that Jacket’s mom would put her energy into Jacket and her education instead off trying to get her sister’s kids.
Jacket’s mom’s ACS case is still open but it sounds as though it won’t be substantiated. It breaks down like this:
1. Child- healthy, unharmed
2. Home- no concerns
3. Mother- history of mental problems, showed certificates of completion, still investigating but there’s not much hard evidence
So, here’s the bombshell I’ve wanted to shout on this blog for almost two years now- the only mental health (not to mention developmental disability) services that Jacket’s mom has ever had is from an ART THERAPIST*. Mind you, I know some amaaaaazing art therapists who do life-changing work. In fact, I asked them about their experience in ruling out diagnoses that psychologists have brought into question. They all quickly and unabashedly said they were no more qualified to do that than a school teacher would be.
Now, before your panties get into a wad bigger than a StormKing sculpture, let me say that no one referred Jacket’s mom to an art therapist. The foster agency referred her to what I assume is Neutral, Legit Anonymous Agency for an evaluation and a comprehensive package of mental health services. Instead Jacket’s mom found the art therapist either through her sister (as she claims) or her attorney. This puts the foster agency in a sticky situation because duplicating services is a big no-no (ethics, tax dollars, etc). A bachelor’s level case worker was on the phone with a person who stated they were “a licensed therapist” seeing Jacket’s mom weekly (i.e. for the bare minimum of 30 min sessions). Who are they to say “We doubt your clinical opinion because we didn’t select you ourselves”? And yay for a mom who is being proactive and resourceful to get her own mental health services, right?
No one knew, not even the very involved law guardian social worker, that Jacket’s mom’s therapist was exclusively an art therapist until I told them 8+ months into the case (now do you see why Jacket’s mom’s attorney despises me?). The therapist’s full name was on a court paper I received in the mail for the permanency hearing (everyone gets one). And I was all “She IS seeing a counselor? And he/she HASN’T referred her to a psychiatrist? What the?!” so I googled. The clinic she is at came up with articles of Medicaid Fraud again and again. I took a closer look at the credentials after his/her name and I was all “Hmm, I’m not familiar with an LCAT” - so of course, I looked that crap up and started going bat shit crazy on folks asses.
So, again, Yay for art therapy. I LOVE art therapists, I really truly do. I swear I’m not being sarcastic here. BUT, I don’t know any legit ones that are willing to single handedly write a letter to court essentially certifying someone’s sanity. That’s all. Oh, and Jacket’s mom reports that they don’t even do art together. Maybe sometimes? No. A colored pencil drawing? Some magazine clippings at least? No and no.
Fast forward to now. A bachelor’s level ACS investigator has reasons, but not mom’s-running-in-the-street-naked reasons to be concerned about mental health issues. But the mom whips out certificates* and letters. Court loves those. So this takes me back to what I call Rebecca-now-solves-the-social-woes-of-the-universe-gag-me-with-a-spoon, but I’ll just say it anyway. The biggest problem I see is having bachelor level case workers instead of licensed social workers do this kind of consequential decision making. An LMSW on the case beginning to end would not be bulldozed over by attorneys, art therapists or even me.
YET, I must remind myself, this whole abuse investigation was started by two sisters fighting and calling in false allegations out of revenge. Ultimately, I’m simply grateful that another set of eyes has reviewed Jacket’s case (and life) with a fine-toothed comb.
*I’m not even going to count those standardized slapped-on anger management and parenting courses that meet for a couple of hours once a week for a couple of weeks. Everyone says they are a crock and imagining myself trying to teach a big group of maybe-sober, court ordered parents who are feeding off of each others’ anger, well, I can’t. I struggle enough as is to get engaged college students to “Break up in groups of 3 and make a list of strategies to address….” I can feel the angry glares of the parents just thinking about it.
Call from ACS looking for Jacket. My heart is pounding like crazy in fear. I can already tell this is a GOOD, SANE case worker. I essentially said “I have no new concerns” and that Jacket “looks and acts healthy enough to me but I’ll always support someone checking in on them” (I wouldn’t blog about any of this is such was not the case). Then I got a call from Jacket’s mom asking me to take her for 3 weeks. Still in a car on my way.
Jacket’s mom is apparently in a fight with her sister and she has sent the cousins back home. I started receiving not-so-subtle text messages earlier today “Do you think her kids are dirty?” . My replies are always written with the expectation to one day hear them read out loud in court:
“I hadn’t noticed. Are you worried about them?”
The truth is, yes, the cousins are always dirty, but not to the extent that I interpret it as a safety issue. The 5 year-old and 9 year-old do not use utensils (they eat lasagna with their hands despite my protests) and there’s never a consideration to wipe their mouths or wash their hands afterward. With no one running after them to get it done they inevitably have a constant layer of food crust on them. It is what it is. I assume it’s a result of overwhelmed parents and children who have spent important years bounced around between foster homes. It’s sort of like they are feral. I can’t make a judgment on how things are going at this moment in the home. God knows I took Jacket to daycare a sticky gooey mess on occasion. I can already hear the ACS hotline worker saying to Jacket’s mom “Well then give them a bath already. There is no case here to accept.”
Of course, Jacket’s mom is winding tighter and tighter since I’m not engaging in her abuse claim - she’s upped the ante (I’m starting to see how I ended up snorting coke in Macy’s). Now the story is that her sister and brother-in-law [the cousin’s parents] are always on drugs. This is brand new. I’ve interacted with them a few times and I don’t have any reason to suspect they were under the influence. I responded, in anticipation of her*actual* drug addicted sisters returning in place of the little cousins, “It sounds like a good idea to keep Jacket away from people who are struggling with drugs. Jacket is our #1 concern.” It sounds a little condescending but in her state of mind, I don’t think the reminder can hurt.
I was at a training recently with professionals from all different city agencies and I was sitting next to a public high school social worker in Jacket’s district. This of course led me to mention Jacket and we chatted about the local schools. Eventually, I ended-up asking about Jacket’s 5 year-old cousin going to kindergarten in the fall without being potty trained (mentioned in last post).
The nice, 60-something social worker turned to a lady next to her and said “Oh, you probably know the answer to this…” and repeated my question much more articulately to the older woman. Said lady gave a completely nonsensical response that sounded like a politician’s rhetoric about a child being potty trained by 2.5 years. I repeated my question “Will public school accept her in diapers?” and the lady said more off-topic things with strong conviction. I nodded politely and gave up.
Later in the day the public school social worker was venting about some of her ACS experiences and then quietly pointed to the lady next to her and gestured in a “for example” way. I didn’t understand and she had to spell it out to me that the lady giving the nonsensical response to my diapers in kindergarten question was a “very high management person at ACS”. I was all “Whaa? You’ve got to be kidding me.“ But then I remembered how this validates my [admittedly] anecdotal experience that the “seasoned” ACS staff are totally cuckoo for coco puffs (except for one awesome medical consultant I met). The younger staff (and by younger I don’t just mean in their 20s but also 30s and 40s) have been brilliantly professional and bright.
I always suspected that I had a deep-seeded ageism thing going on (being from Florida and all) but this social worker strengthened my perception of the old school/new school divided at ACS. I guess it’s a good thing that the new blood is starting off on the right foot? Or do the sane ones eventually leave and it’ll be inevitable that the least competent hold on until the end - thus repeating the pattern?
“The foster agency” is the non-profit hired by ACS (government). Once Jacket was returned to her mom the foster agency was completely removed from the case and the family gets bounced to yet another ACS office, I believe this time it is a “Family Support Unit”. The Former, note former, foster agency worker asked me about the uncle/boyfriend only because he’s showing up at her office, accompanying Jacket’s mom on visits with Jacket’s cousins who are still in foster care at her agency.
And of course, Jacket’s mom is not being honest about who he is and where he lives. But now Jacket’s former foster care case worker has contacted the current ACS worker and shared everything that you know plus some addition bits. Hope that helps. I know it’s confusing…
Regarding Jacket’s mom calling her boyfriend her brother— I’m assuming it’s because she doesn’t want her husband (Jacket’s father), in prison upstate to find out…
I had actually heard good things about him from the inside. I’m a bit weary of his replacement…
God bless him, I wouldn’t have taken his job for a kazilla-trilla-wadilla dollars.
I hear you all, and totally and completely agree that Jacket’s mom was not and is not ready to have her back. Jacket was removed for good reason (Yay ACS) and I did not see the original removal issues rectified or even appropriately addressed.
It was my impression however that most of the ACS workers and most of the foster agency staff were not in favor of returning Jacket to her mom when it happened. Jacket’s mom had a really skilled, seasoned and unusually invested [court appointed] attorney. Ultimately, it’s the judge’s decision (and the attorneys’ if they think they can’t win in court).
I so wish I could tell you more. There are a lot details and it’s all really complicated. There’s also a lot that I actually don’t know, but in general, I trust(ed) Jacket’s advocates that they did the best they could.
Except for the crazy, enmeshed visitation coach, of course.
I’m starting to learn, especially through a case at work, just how powerless so many ACS workers feel. It rocks my world view actually, and was part of my freak-out on the teen in the deli. It’s scary to think that the people you expect to protect you (or others) feel completely helpless.
By all means, please continue to be outraged. I’m just not sure where to direct the anger yet…And I still haven’t identified exactly what it is that needs changed. Any ideas?
The past two days at work have been complete hell. The kind of social worky hell that I don’t dare blog about because I expect it to blow-up in the news at any moment. So after a day of calling 911 and every governmental agency hotline in the city, listening to and comforting crying staff, then me crying in my supervisor’s office, it’s 11pm, I’m home and all I want is a Diet Coke.
But there’s a girl in line before me at the bodega slapping another kid in the face, screaming about how she’s only 14 years-old, pouring sodas on everyone, and demanding a fight from an adolescent boy who takes off his shirt in preparation.
My blood pressure took me to that place in my brain where it couldn’t get enough oxygen to keep up. I grabbed the “14 year-old” and put her in a hold reserved for adults with mental retardation, gently slammed us both up against a wall and started ghetto screaming “OH HELL NO, I’VE BEEN ON THE PHONE WITH ACS ALL MOTHER-FUCKING DAY. I. AM. NOT. DEALING WITH YOU TONIGHT. YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE PROBLEMS, BUT YOU OBVIOUSLY ALSO CAN WALK YOUR ASS HOME AND NOT DO THIS. GO. HOME. NOW. I JUST WANT TO GO HOME AND WATCH THE DAILY SHOW.”
You think I’m kidding.
Fortunately, white girl gone psycho-street, wielding 6 bottles of
crack Diet Coke and wearing a fluffy rainbow skirt, was enough to stun the wanna-be Crips and Bloods war that was about to start.
And all this to say, I don’t know how one of the bachelor’s level case workers in the city, who are put on the front lines of hell, hasn’t gone completely postal. They really need to be revered up there with the police and firemen and women.
Email I sent last night (Note: OSI is a division of ACS that investigates abuse):
“Dear Jacket’s attorney and the ACS attorney and so-and-so,
I’m really sorry to pester you all post-reunification but I’m very upset and I think you can help.
Jacket’s mom has been reaching out to me (e.g. WIC questions, immunization questions) and she asked me to have a birthday party for Jacket at my house. I compromised by planning a party (and paying the deposit) at Chuckie Cheese.
Jacket’s mom left me a message at 11:15pm (Thursday) saying that because of my current OSI (that the SVU detective told me was called in by ____________) her attorney said that I’m not allowed to be around Jacket. I assume this to be true.
I have taken the drug test and, of course, it was negative. The OSI worker actually left me a voicemail message wishing me luck at the Chuckie Cheese party on Saturday (Ms. T_________ 212.xxx-xxxx and 646.xxx-xxxx). If Jacket was still in [foster] care OSI would not have removed her from my home. Also, Detective C_______ (718.xxx-xxxx) was planning to attend. A detective for goodness sake.
For Jacket, could you please reach out to Jacket’s Mom’s attorney to discuss the situation and ask her to reconsider? Jacket is expecting to see me at Chuckie Cheese tomorrow- she doesn’t understand what’s going on at all. Jacket’s Mom said in her voicemail that she had been looking forward to the party. Even if she could plan a party she told me she doesn’t have anyone to invite. Jacket’s Mom literally has no supports. I’m it. At the discharge meeting I was the only person approved as a babysitter (despite discussion of the current OSI)- grandma was not approved due to ______________.
At a minimum, please ask Jacket’s Mom’s attorney if the party can go on if I’m not there. Kids from Jacket’s daycare are coming and they didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. Her babysitters, my friends, everyone was looking forward to meeting Jacket’s mom and to offer her support (e.g. free babysitting). If Jacket’s Mom’s attorney is so invested in Jacket’s well-being she is also more than welcome to attend.
If you could respond in some way, I would really appreciate it. There isn’t anyone who can say that it’s not in Jacket’s best interest for me to stay involved in her life to the extent that Jacket’s Mom wants me to. Rebecca”
In case you missed it, the day before court last week an anonymous (but identified) child abuse call was made against me. I was so devastated by Jacket leaving that I didn’t have any emotions left over to freak out this time. I was very blase with the OSI ACS worker (investigator):
“Just tell me when and where to get tested. Of course I wasn’t smoking crack and weed at the same time outside of the foster agency while pulling Jacket’s hair. I get a babysitter when I do drugs and I like to smoke pot hours after I do a hit of crack to help me come down. I’m actually glad you’re here because when Jacket goes back to her mom you’re going to be in her house all the time, right? Good, the more the merrier.”
Remember, I was crying the whole time so it didn’t come across as snarky- just defeated. I was supposed to go for a drug test a few days later but that landed in the middle of packing Jacket’s stuff and sending her home. I had lots of friends helping and, with a bit of convincing from Brian, I said ‘fuck it’ and didn’t go. I called the OSI worker nonetheless on Monday and apologized offering to go in for surprise testing anytime in the future to clear my name.
She called this past Friday at 3pm asking me to go in Saturday (yesterday) between 10am-2pm. I had already scheduled to go to the children’s museum with Jacket and her mom (which of course didn’t happen) so the other option given was to take the test by 4pm the same day. I was emphatically told that they close at 4pm. It was 3:30pm. I told the investigator that I would make it happen.
Fast-forward to t 3:57pm and I’m having a heated argument with a livery (taxi) driver about letting me out of the damn car so that I can run to the clinic. “Clearly it’s not just one more block because you said that 10 blocks ago!” Walking HAS to be faster. I have no cash so I have to pay an extra $10 to use my credit card. Fine, I don’t care. Just hurry, please.
I make it into the clinic at 4:03pm and am sent to a window where they pull that bank teller move of looking you in the eye and then closing their shade. It must of been the atmosphere because I turned into a junkie “Please, please please- I have to be tested today. I’m supposed to see my foster child tomorrow and blah blah blah.” Ok, photo I.D. please.
SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT. I left my driver’s license at the YMCA two weeks ago when I enrolled Jacket in swim lessons. I hadn’t been back yet to get it because I knew that I’d break down crying when the lovely receptionists inquired about Jacket’s whereabouts.
I gave the lady my work I.D. That’s all I have seeing as I stuck all my other I.D.s in Jacket’s purses. No good. They need to see my date of birth. I caught a break when I figured out that my job probably has a copy of my license on file and they could fax it over. They turn their phones off at 4:30pm. It was 4:29pm. Three fax numbers and three more years shaved off my life-expectancy and I’m in the bathroom trying to pee in front of a girl with rollers in her hair. Big, big rollers.
I wish I could say that I performed better this time than the last but I didn’t. I had plenty of supply…I was ready to go when I left work at 3:30pm and now it was after 5pm… but I only managed a few drops. “Is this enough?” I asked. Big rollers said “No.” So I strained and tried again. “How about this?“ “No.” “THIS IS SO STRESSFUL.” Finally she said “That sounds good”. Thank god.