I am often asked, "Why are you doing this?"
Meaning "the blog."
I thought I'd take a break from talking about various mental health issues that can claim our children ... and/or about our story in particular ... to answer that question.
I do it because, God forbid, it ever happen to any of you.
I do it because the State of Florida--in particular the Florida Department of Family and Children, and Community Based Care of Central Florida--need to stop thinking they are the do-all, be-all of child and family services and come to realize that there is a difference between:
1. The abused child
2. The vindictive child
3. The mentally ill child
These agencies have the ability to know the difference. But, they don't want to know the difference. They have--and I have this on the word of those who have worked within the mental health system for decades, who have worked alongside organizations like these--spent so much time and energy on swearing that every child who claims abuse is abused, if they go back now and try to correct that untruth, they will open Pandora's Box.
There are those, right now, who are serving time for abusing children they never laid a hand on.
There are those, right now, whose reputations are destroyed because the lies or mental unrest of a child were not dealt with properly by the organizations who should have known better.
There are those, right now (my gracious, how many of you have emailed me privately) who have boxed up, packed up and moved, leaving no forwarding address, as soon as their child, foster child, or guardianship "child" ages-out of the system. Why? Because the system has done such a poor job of helping the child, they are now a dangerous adult.
Every effort I made to help J was stopped by the work of DCF and CBC of Central Florida (if you, or anyone you know, if aiding CBC of Central Florida financially, I implore you to demand they get their act together on issues like ours before you give another dime).
DCF and CBC of Central Florida swept into our lives without ever once coming to our home to see where J lived, how J lived, or the level of love poured out on her. They hardly ever returned a phone call or an email. They spoke to us with such contempt, we knew they'd accused us, tried us, and convicted us without so much as hearing our side of the story and without full disclosure from a doctor. Or, in our case, doctors.
They gave all the power to the child. The word "parent" meant nothing to them. The word "permanent" meant nothing to them. They snatched J up, threw her in the worst possible area of one of Central Florida's towns -- a place I dare say none of them would allow their dog to stay -- and then treated us with contempt.
When this much power goes to a group of people who claim to have a child's best interest at heart, but who don't even know the child, we have a problem.
More than once, J ran away from foster care. She was gone about a week the first time, thirty-one days the second time. She lived in every whore house, crack house, and abandoned house (according to what I have been able to piece together from family and law enforcement officers and J's own friends) in Sanford, FL. My husband and I worked tirelessly during that time to find her. Her great-aunt -- my dear, sweet friend -- and I worked side-by-side. We were constantly on the phone (my phone bill doubled the month of her second leaving), in the car, on the Internet. Our friends and J's old friends "from before" did the same. We were not afraid to put out posters, knock on doors, talk to people, beg if necessary.
What did DCF and CBC do?
Notified a website. Notified family (more than 24 hours after she was missing with a three-line email essentially saying, "J is missing."). And then they went on about their business.
When J was found the first time, CBC's director issued a statement to the press (because I had gone to the press to plead for assistance) that (paraphrased slightly) "each child in our system is important. Like one of our own."
Really? I don't once remember bumping into you on the streets. I don't once remember you calling me to find out what I knew, me the one who kept her ear to the ground. I bet you never lost a second of sleep worrying about J, while her aunt and I were on the phone and on the Internet at 2 and 3 in the morning. I'd be willing to bet you don't lose sleep about J or about the hundreds of kids the State of Florida cannot account for on any given day. Hundreds. Some as old as 17. Some as young as six months.
How dare you ...
Finally, I do this because I love J. I never let a day go by that I don't pray for her. She is one of my first thoughts in the morning and my last at night. I do this because I have 11- 1/2 years of precious memories and only a few weeks worth of nightmare. I do this because, I believe, one day she will knock on my door and say,"I love you, too." I do this because I don't know what else to do.
I am not doing this to draw any attention to myself as a writer or as a speaker. Let me make that clear. I have all the attention I need, thank you.
I do this because--for nearly 12 years--I protected and loved and adored. And I was loved and adored in return.
And then, one day, I was told by a system sworn to protect families to "back off," and get on with my life.