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Southern born, Southern reared. It's a quirky place and we are unique folk... These are my people and these are my stories.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday's Southern-Style Faith: Our Story Continues

Hearing the alleged charges brought against us was nothing compared with what was to come. I think, sometimes, God is like this: He allows the smaller tragedies that come with living in a sin-filled world to fall upon us first. Before the big stuff. And then the really big stuff.

In March 2011, two months after seeing J for the last time, we were cleared of all alleged charges against us. By Child Protective Services. By Casselberry Police Department. And by Seminole County Sheriff's Office Crimes Against Children. I received an official report from each of them; the latter contained a notation that the detective had gone to the foster home to see J. The foster home address was listed. I jumped in my car and drove, anxious to know. When I saw where my child was staying, I was horrified. Shambled houses, young people as well as older ambling aimlessly, liquor stores--outside which women stood, ready to sell a different kind of intoxication. More liquor stores. Second-hand stores. Litter. Graffiti.

My husband and I were invited to a meeting at CBC of Central Florida. I looked forward to the two hours we were to be there, but I should have been forewarned. When we were greeted by the case manager, it became apparent immediately that she didn't care what the police reports said. We were guilty. Why? Because the child had said so. Her cold demeanor and "I really don't care what you have to say" attitude said it all.

J's bio-family was with us and her bio-dad was "patched in" to the meeting by speaker phone. And, when he had the chance to speak, he had the nerve, the absolute audacity, to accuse my husband of sexually abusing J.

In an act I'd never seen before or since, my husband stood, slammed his hand down on the table near the "speaker" and began his own list of accusations. We'd known for years what her bio-dad had done and hadn't done to and for his child when she was a baby. It was all documented. And he wasn't denying it. My husband--my fabulously wonderful husband--had given this child love. Pure love. Never ever touching her inappropriately. He had paid for her needs, not just her wants, because her own father had not. He had held her when she was afraid, laughed at her childhood jokes, and taught her to ride a bike. Taught her to read. How to tie her shoes. He'd made sure she had food in her tummy when she was hungry and a warm place to sleep when she was tired. He'd built playhouses for her and her friends out of palm fronds. He'd held one end of a rope so she and her friends could jump over it as it swung near the ground.

He was old enough to be her grandfather, but he gave her all the energy of young dad. And, he had always treated her bio-dad with respect. In spite of his shortcomings. In spite of what he didn't do for his daughter, my husband's attitude was always, always: he is her father.

And this was how he was being repaid?

It took everything we had to get our story across to a room of about 15 people, most of who clearly didn't want to be there. The supervisor of supervisors at CBC spent more time reading her emails off her phone than she did listening to the facts of our situation. And, finally, when the case manager's direct supervisor stood and informed us that the child had all the rights and we had none, and that J didn't want to see us or allow us to get her the help she needed, we knew we were done.

So much for Children and Families.

Still, I continued to monitor J's school progress online. Even though she was in foster care, we were still the legal guardians and I still had access to her records. She was often tardy. She was belligerent to teachers. And she was in after school suspension and suspended quite frequently.

She was taken to several facilities for testing and with each report, the news grew more grim. Still, CBC and DCF refused to see the real problem.

And, like good parents, my husband and I continued to buy her clothes and those things we thought she might need and/or want. J accepted the gifts, but not us. Totally out of character from a little girl who always "thank you thank you thank you"'d anyone who gave her even the littlest thing.

In June, the State of Florida sent a doctor to talk to J for a half hour; this women--in spite of all the medical records and history--deemed that foster care and therapy would be sufficient. After a half hour with the child and no time with family or with us.

Then came July ... and something growing out of my chest. Turned out to be a form of skin cancer, which was painfully removed. I had a check up scheduled with a specialist on August 4 (I believe it was). About that time, I also received a call from the GAL office that CBC and DCF had filed a request with the court to have my husband and me removed as J's guardians.

"Will we get a notice to come to court?" I asked.
"You should," she said. "I just wanted to give you a heads up so you wouldn't be surprised." Out of all the people involved in this case, she and the GAL volunteer, and one therapist from DCF were the only ones who had treated us with any semblance of dignity.
"When is the hearing?" I asked.
"August 4," she said.

Great.

I waited for the paperwork to come, but it never did. J's aunts went to the hearing while I went to see if the cancer was contained. They called when it was over to tell me the judge had refused the petition. I breathed a sigh of relief. We were still J's legal parents; we could still fight for the welfare of our baby girl.

But then another call came from the GAL office. J had been taken into the judge's chambers after court, I was told. She didn't know the details, only that J showed such a level of mental disturbance that the judge removed our rights. "I honestly think he is trying to protect the two of you, Eva."

Devastated, I waited for the paperwork that would prove all our work, our expenses, our love and devotion were for nothing.

But it never came.

DCF and CBC of Central Florida had our rights removed and we were never notified. Not before. Not after. Not since. The Big Bad Wolf had finally huffed and puffed and blown a child's house down.

~~~

(Note: For the third time this year, J is missing from the "care" of DCF and CBC of Central Florida. But she is not alone. Right now, this minute, there are nearly 200 children in Florida they cannot account for. 200. What if one of them was yours? Just one?)

28 comments:

  1. Oh, Eva, I am SO sorry to hear that J is missing again! We've been praying, but we'll ramp it up even more for this! Love you! *hug*

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  2. Oh Eva...it's just heartbreaking. I don't even know what to say. Am praying for God to be especially close to you and your husband as you walk this treacherous path.

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  3. That is really horrible, but please try and see this as a blessing. I honestly think this girl is so far gone, she would only end up making your life miserable. You have other children to attend to and love, and a life outside of this manipultive, outright disturbed teenager. You have tried, you have given her so many chances, it is time for her to face the consequences.

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    1. "This girl" is still my little girl, my heart. And I do attend to my other children. And love them.

      "This girl" is manipulative and outright disturbed because she is sick, to no fault of her own, and has not received the treatment we could have gotten for her.

      I don't know who you are, but when you give up on your children, I'll give up on mine. And when you give up on your God, I'll give up on mine.

      As long as there is breath, there is hope.

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  4. I am so sorry to hear that she is once again missing. It just makes me sick that this has happened again knowing what I do about the streets of Sanford.
    Praying God's protection on this child...praying that she will find it in her heart to accept the love and the help that you and Dennis so desperately want for her. And praying for you and your family to feel God's comfort.

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  5. Such a heartbreak. My heart goes out to you and Dennis.

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  6. Eva, your story is so heartbreaking. I pray that God will intervene for J--since "the system" that is supposed to be helping her is so obviously failing on all fronts. And I pray for your and your family's peace and blessing as you fight this battle.

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  7. How could a system built to 'protect' children separate them from the only place they can receive the love and attention they truly need to strive...a home w a healthy family? It just doesn't make any sense. I pray that J gets the help she needs as clearly she is not well either. xoxoxoxo

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  8. Eva, I cannot imagine the horror you, Dennis and J. have been going through. Praying for healing for J, your family from the devastation and for your health. God is still able.

    He makes beauty out of ashes; and I know He can also turn this into something beautiful in time. Perhaps it will be in helping other families who are living through a similar nightmare but thought they were all alone. Thank you for sharing your heart with us - both the trials and the blessings.

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  9. I too find the actions of the agencies involved and the court unconscionable. It defies all rationale. I am so sorry for your anguish over this situation and pray for restoration for you and all of your loved ones.

    Blessings & hugs,

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  10. I am so sorry Eva Marie. How heartbreaking.

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  11. This is the second story I have heard this week that left me in shock over how messed up our system is. We've reached a place where the truth doesn't matter anymore and neither do people. I'm so sorry, Eva, for you and Dennis and for J.

    I applaud your refusal to give up and your willingness to speak out. I pray that J will be found soon and finally receive the help she needs.

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  12. I pray that God will continue to give you the strength you need to fight for J, when others would so easily give up. I cannot imagine the pain you are going through and I know if I were in your shoes, I would never give up on my child either.

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  13. Eva, I can't imagine the pain you and hubby are going through. Satan obviously wants to steal your focus and I am praying that God will give you the strength to stand firm. Never forget you are His. He's already made provision - even for this situation

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    1. I'm so sorry that J's life has come to this point. And chances are, had she been able to receive continued love and appropriate treatment, her life would be much different today.

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  15. Eva, I had a client that this happened to in my area and they were the biological parents. It was such an incredulous story it was even hard for me to believe it could happen, but many of the things you describe here they experienced as well. A daughter falsly accusing, rights terminated, no contact, no help. Family destroyed. Even the church had a hard time supporting the family because we assume that if the legal authorities are doing something so drastic, it must be warranted. It's terrible

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  16. Governmental agencies that ruin lives and families need to be accountable for their actions. An investigation needs to occur.

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  17. Unbelievable, deplorable!
    Unbelievably sad!
    Praying for you guys still.
    GOD is bigger than the Big BAD wolf!
    Can't wait to see how He redeems this one~
    would not want to be them.
    Liz

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  18. This was sent to my email address, with a request that it be posted here:

    Eva, I hope and pray that this blog helps other families that have to deal with the bureaucratic intcompetency of our "system" and at the same time brings on an investigation into these agencies that are supposed to protect the child as well as the institution of family. I
    remember the fight for J, how she longed to live with you and Dennis Daddy, how she begged you (not that she needed to) to let her live with you. She was a changed little girl when she finally had the stability of a home and a family that she longed for her whole life. She was so proud to have you and Dennis Daddy as her parents that in her mind it was a done deal...she was changing her last name to Everson. She was finally living a normal life and no longer was embarrassed when anyone asked her about her parents. Speaking of parents... I also remember the respect you showed her Bio-Dad when he was not in jail, when he would come around thinking it would be fun to play Dad for a few weeks. You opened your home on Birthdays, Christmas and whenever he wanted to see J until the day J realized that he was a deadbeat. Another stint in jail put that precious little girl over the edge that she decided her relationship with him was not worth the effort. She refused to even acknowledge his part in her life and refused to speak with him despite your efforts for her take more time before making that kind of decision .

    I lived through endless hours of her Bio-Mom verbally abusing you and everyone around her, totally out of control and J looking and clinging to you for safety. A least Bio-Mom realized she was incapable of providing a home for J, and knew placing her with you was the ONLY way J could have a normal life.

    Every week I read his blog, and it churns up so many emotions inside of me that I just want to scream. I want whoever from the "system" that is monitoring your blog and trying to find ways to shut you up to put the energy into helping J. You see, you don't know the little girl that was taking piano lessons, ballet, attending church and loving life. You do not know her! You send her to doctors for testing and ignore their suggestions, WHY? Because it doesn't fit in your budget?

    I am ashamed and afraid for the families in the state of Florida..... that incidentally pay your salary, that all they have is you, DCF and CBC to depend on. You are a joke.

    Eva, I am proud of you, I admire your courage and strength in standing up and letting your voice be heard.

    KJ

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  19. Each post I read leaves me with my mouth hanging open....I am stunned at what the system has done to your family!!!
    To think that you were willing to care for this child who needed your love so desperately, and THIS is what you get!!! I will continue to lift you all up in prayer....that J. will be found safe....and soon!!!

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  20. I remember moving down here in the 90's to work on a contract basis. I am a fan of talk radio and tried to familiarize myself with the hosts in Florida that would keep me company during my daily commute.

    I came across a host named Jim Phillips who had a show called "The Phillips File." He caught my attention because one day he said, "Central Florida hates its children." That shocked me enough to listen in. He went on to explain how horrible the system really is and told stories much like we've heard here.

    He went as far as to urge parents to take up residence elsewhere, because if God forbid, they got caught in some kind of court situation with their kids, the system would bungle it. And worse, they wouldn't care.

    I used to think that what he said was just hyperbole, for entertainment and ratings.

    Well, I don't anymore. It seems he was being truthful. And that was almost 20 years ago.

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  21. Missing again? Oh my goodness! I say keep praying and keep the porch light burning. And hold those responsible who made such a blunder!

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