My husband and I have three children, ages 12, 8 and 17 months. Our oldest has deafness and ADHD, our middle child has blindness andADHD with severe behavioral problems, and our toddler has asthma, is developmentally delayed and has had liver transplants.
Last October, CPS came to our home late at night, claiming that our middle child was coming to school in dirty clothes. It’s true that he has favorite clothing that he likes to wear for weeks at a time. But instead of reaching out to me, the teachers called CPS. CPS didn’t listen to me when I told them that I am on top of my son’s medical and behavioral issues. They said I was being neglectful. Without making any findings, they kept my case open for six months.
Then, last May, our baby had a transplant. While he was in the hospital, CPS said that if we didn’t move to another apartment, they would place the baby in foster care. Now they are complaining that our apartment is too small. Sometimes I feel that they will never be satisfied.
When I was about to give up, I learned about the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network of New Jersey (SPAN). Geraldine at SPAN helped me organize all my papers and figure out my situation with the school and CPS. Shirley helped me with healthcare issues and expenses. Both women are parents of children with special needs, and Geraldine had also dealt with CPS, so they really understood where we were coming from. They treated us with respect, which we didn’t seem to be getting from anyone else.
In a few months, we’ll have a mediation meeting with CPS, all the doctors, Early Head Start, the Division of Developmental Disabilities, and Early Intervention Specialists. Luckily, SPAN staff are coming with us to provide support.
Recently, I got the chance to become a Resource Parent at our son’s school. I took SPAN workshops about parents’ rights and resources for children with special needs. I am becoming a real parent leader. It feels good to be able to give back so that other parents don’t have to go through what my family has been through.