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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.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Friday's Southern-Style Faith: Our Story Continues

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.


  1. Dear, dear friend - I am so proud of you for taking a stand. Your message is so needed. Father God please protect the children and those who love them from people who do more harm than good.

  2. We have taken care of our grandchildren since they were born, with no legal protection. When our daughter took off with them for 7 months, she had no place to live part of the time, no electric, water or groceries, typical nightmare for us.

    When the baby's doctors and therapists started calling to find out why she was missing appointments, I went to the local DFACS office that knew where the kids were and who had already substantiated 39 neglect allegations. When I told the director that I would hold her personally responsible for their deaths, she informed me that she was not afraid of "dead baby" investigations, that they state of GA has them all the time.

    They do NOT care about the children, they care about the image they project of "trying to keep the family unit together". We now have voluntary guardianship, God help either of the parental units if they try to take these children again.

    Love you, my heart aches for what you are going through.

  3. You were trusted with this terrible story and you are remaining faithful to that trust by giving it a voice - and being the voice of hundreds of other parents and children abused by those who think they know best when they are lost, themselves, in the very system they've created.

  4. Thank you, all of you. Bea, what a blessing you are in the lives of your grandchildren ...

    Eva Marie

  5. You said it so clearly - you do this because you do not know what else to do. We are writers. We are speakers. We believe words have power. We serve a God who used words to speak creation into existence. He is a God who made us in His image, so it is no wonder that we believe we can speak into existence and change its state.

    You keep speaking, friend. Words matter.

  6. Thank you Rebeca. Words do matter.

    The words "I love you" matter too. I never said "I love you" to J, over and over and over again, but what I didn't mean it with my whole heart. Would have given my life for her. Still would if it would change things for her. I know God is not finished with her yet. He's not. He's not.

  7. Eva...J's story is the story of I know many children who are just a number to DCF. I pray that J will get the help she needs somehow and one day she will walk through your door and the good and loving memories will all come back.
    Praying for her and for you.

  8. Sounds like a letter to the editor of your local paper is in order.

  9. This has become much more personal to me because of what's happened to you and other dear friends (who have now moved to protect their family, exactly as you wrote) within the past year. These horrible nightmares have come upon two families with huge hearts who gave more than their all to care for the least of these. Are there caring individuals within the system? Yes. Is the system broken? More than anyone could ever imagine. And we don't realize it, don't know about it, don't have a reason to know about it until it slaps us--or someone close to us--(Southern expression just for you) upside the head.

    Write on, Eva. Write on.

  10. Thank you for being a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, Eva. Press on.

  11. Dear Eva - As one who has a passionate and wholehearted love for children and families (adopting 20 from foster care with my husband) and who has given every breath of my professional life to working to improve the systems - ALL the systems - child welfare, mental health, the justice system, education, and on and on - that are there to help but just as often hurt and even at times destroy the very children and families they are there for - I applaud your deep and abiding commitment to J - every child deserves such solid permanence in their life. I weep with you and with J. I believe that many in her life have failed her through a variety of kinds of neglect - personal, professional and systemic - and I also believe there were many with good hearts and genuine sincerity about trying to do what they thought best. And yes, you are correct - all are caught up in a system that, in spite of improvements over time (yes - things ARE better for MOST children now then in the old "almshouse" days or orphan train days ) - but in spite of those improvemens so VERY VERY much work still remains so that NO child and NO family biological, foster, kinship, guardianship or adoptive will EVER, EVER have to experience this nightmare in their lives.

    Every child needs an advocate but just importantly every system needs the advocates willing to stand up and say "Enough" and willing to roll up their sleeves and put in the elbow grease, time and even money to create the CHANGE we know needs to happen.

    Thank you for being a voice that is working towards these ends. Continuing prayers for your family and for j

    Sue B

  12. Feeling your pain and praying every day in every way for you and your whole family. You encourage me to press on!

  13. Praying for J, that the Hound of Heaven is her watchdog and retriever. God is not finished.