September 20th, 2018 was the worst day of my life. My kids were removed from my custody because on September 19, 2018, my boyfriend used corporal punishment on my younger son.
He did it because my son flooded our new apartment and the basement three days in a row by removing a piece from the toilet. After the third time, my boyfriend hit him with a belt, leaving red marks on his back and arm.
The next day, my son went to the school nurse. When they asked him what happened, he said he fell down the stairs, he went into a wall, he got beat up. He came up with like six different stories. Because he had so many stories, the school called me and then they called child protective services.
I felt terrified. I also felt betrayed. For a year I was asking for help for my son’s behavior and nobody was willing to help.
MY SON WAS DIFFERENT
From early on, I noticed that my younger son was different. He walked and talked before any of my other kids, and when we have outings, he notices things before they do. He’s interesting, smart and fun. He shows love and tells people that they’re beautiful. But he can also be hard-headed when he doesn’t get his way, like with snacks, money, or phone. When he’s in a rage, he hits, throws things and doesn’t like to be touched.
At first his problems didn’t seem too serious. He graduated from kindergarten and I enrolled him in a charter school in 2017.
But he had a rough first year there. For starters, they put him back in kindergarten because they said he was reading at level C instead of D.
But being held back meant he was bored. He would walk around and clean up the class, and then he would walk out and run around the school. He cut the tie of one of the deans with scissors because the dean grabbed him and he doesn’t like to be grabbed. For that he got suspended for two days.
I was confused because none of my other kids acted out like he did. My other kids are 12, 9, 8 and 2. They listen. He doesn’t. They respect me. He doesn’t. My older kids are honor roll kids.
I thought maybe he was jealous because he was the baby before his sister was born. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong as a mother.
I tried to manage his behavior by taking away snacks, no play time, no games or phone, talking to him before bed and school. But nothing seemed to work. After that, my discipline was a pop on the butt. I never used real corporal punishment, although later ACS said that even putting my son in the corner was corporal punishment, so I guess I don’t know what corporal punishment means.
Nothing I tried had any effect.
I KEPT ASKING FOR HELP
I also kept asking the school to help him get an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) so he could get special services. They said he didn’t need one he just needed to stay focused. They said it’s just his age and he’s probably bored in class ‘cause he’s older. I felt like they could help me better but that didn’t happen.
At the end of his first year, they said to put him in the summer program to help him get into 1st grade. But when he came back in the fall, they put him in kindergarten, again!
I was frustrated with my son ‘cause I knew he could do the work.
I also felt like less of a mother ‘cause I had been pushing him so hard to go to first grade and he didn’t make it.
And I hated the school for not giving us any real help and then making him repeat kindergarten three times.
My son was very mad. He felt like the biggest kid in class. I think him being mad at school made him act out more at home. He wanted it his way or no way at all.
He was in school about two weeks before the case got called in.
ALL MY KIDS TAKEN
Because I didn’t answer CPS’s questions about what had happened, they assumed that I was the one who hit my son and they removed all my kids.
My children were first sent to two Children’s Centers, one for four days and the next for six. After that they were sent to a house that was terrible. On the first day, the foster father immediately called EMS on my younger son for saying he would burn down the house. He told me he said it because the foster father had screamed at his little sister, and he was angry. He was hospitalized for three days.
Then my 2-year-old ended up with a rash from front to back. I saw it five days after they were put in that home, when she was brought to the agency smelling like urine and diarrhea.
My kids were removed from that home the next day because I refused to leave the agency till they moved them. Because of my complaints, the agency investigated the home, and closed it down the following day.
But in the new home, the foster mother was mean to my daughters and made them cry every day. Her son stole and got my son in trouble. They went to bed around midnight on school nights. My older son had a cell phone and he would call me, which is how I knew. One weekend the last call from my son was around 3:50 a.m.
The foster mother also left my older son in front of school at 6 a.m. by himself when the doors don’t open till 7:45. Luckily my mom lived close by and got him. He was frightened and so was I.
‘SEND US HOME’
Those first two months were unbearable because I only got to see my children once a week. They cried every visit and during phone calls. They said again and again that they wanted to come home.
Plus, being in care only seemed to make my younger son worse. The caseworker for my older children really tried to help. But the caseworker for younger son didn’t do much for him. Within days of his first hospitalization, he was hospitalized for two weeks because he was throwing things in school.Within 24 hours of being released, he went back into the hospital overnight because they cancelled the Halloween Party and my visit and he started tantruming, kicking and screaming in the foster home.
Since the first day they were removed, my godmother had said she would take my kids. I had to keep pushing my lawyer to make ACS place them there ‘cause my kids were tired of being in that lady’s home. They kept asking, “Why we can’t be with you? We wanna go home with you.”
It was more than a month until my kids were placed with her. My younger son went first. A few days later, they sent my other kids there, too.
FIGHTING FOR MY SON
My kids didn’t like living there at all, either. But at least I was able to see them every day.
I’d get to their home at 6 a.m. and take them to school at 8 a.m. Then I’d pick up my younger son and then my other children.
I also had weekend visits. We played cards, dolls, did hair and cooked. We’d go to the park, and sometimes to the movies if I had the money. Both my sons are in football on Saturday and my daughters are in cheerleading. My oldest kids managed to remain on the honor roll through all that time.
But because of my case, I had to drop out of school, got my benefits taken and fell behind in my rent. I felt like less of a parent. Still, I did not let that stop me from fighting for my kids or moving forward with my life.
I was accepted into a training for parent advocates at Rise three days a week. When I wasn’t in training, I was with my 2-year-old as much as possible. I struggled a lot saying good-bye to her. Every day she said, “I wanna go with you.” I would cry in the elevator once I left.
My younger son was also hospitalized again. He was on the pysch floor from November 9 till December 17, followed by residential treatment for three weeks because he got frustrated and started cursing and throwing things in school. At the hospital he was diagnosed with ADHD and a mood disorder.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
My kids were in care for more than seven months. They came home while I was writing this story. I still don’t know how to explain what happened to them because they hate talking about it. I just keep trying to show them love and that no matter what I’m going to be there for them.
When my younger son came home, I found him a new school and, with help from the parenting facilitator at the foster care agency and the leader of my Parenting Journey course, I found him therapy at the Northside Center and services to help him in the community.
He’s also on a lot of meds now. I hate pills but my son asks for them. I think they help him. He still has a lot of problems but in school his behavior is better, because the school he goes to now understands him better and the medication helps him.
Although he has finally gotten a lot of help, my son’s behavior is still a challenge. When he has a rough day in school, he acts out when I pick him up and starts hitting.
I try hugs, kisses and snacks. Sometimes, though, he also needs limits, and that’s the hardest, because now he believes CPS can always be in the picture if I say or do anything wrong. When he gets really upset and hits me, sometimes I feel like I’m in a DV relationship with him. It’s very hard but I just keep working with him, talking to him, and setting limits.
BLAMED AND NOT HEARD
If my son’s charter school had helped me when I said I needed help, I think CPS would have never gotten involved in my life. And being unnecessarily separated harmed my children.
CPS stands for child protective services but there’s no real protection ‘cause they take the kids and don’t seem to give a damn where they end up or about the pain it causes once they take them. Why don’t they listen when the kids are fighting to stay with the “neglecter”?
Yes, my boyfriend hit my son. But ACS paid no attention to the fact that I’m the one that didn’t back down and never stopped trying to get my son help no matter what. When ACS came into my life, they didn’t treat me like the parent. Instead, I felt like a kid being told what to do.
I wish I had been listened to sooner. Whenever parents say they need help, everyone who works with children should understand that those parents are seeing and saying something important, and that help is needed.