Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hopefully, the last open letter...

Ok, I promise I won't fill this blog with "Open letters to..." but I do have one more to write this morning before the babies who are staying with us wake up in our house for the last time.

The kids who were removed from their home by CPS two weeks ago will be returning to their home tonight and tomorrow morning.  They will be staying with their grandmother who has come down from Chicago to stay indefinitely.  Just like she did last time.

In this situation, I have learned several things - my new appreciation for mothers of multiples being just one.  But what I've learned most, what has made me incredibly angry this week, along with passive aggressive, and prone to swear and cry in the same moment, is that the system is incredibly broken and children are not protected.

Dear Child Protective Services,

My first encounter with you was several weeks ago when I called, as one more neighbor, to report the neglect and suspected abuse of seven children living in a filthy apartment with a mentally ill mother refusing to take her medicine and refusing to send her kids to school.

You did nothing but knock on a door and swallow the mother's refusal to answer with a big glass of  'it's her prerogative'.

Although you were obligated to interview the children, recorded via tape or video, you did not.

You did show up weeks later, after the police had broken down the door and handcuffed the mother, removed the children.  You were frazzled and disorganized and your first question to the children was, "Hey, guys, ya'll having a good day?"

They were not.  They were having an incredibly crappy day.

You were obligated to file a court case. You did not.

You placed the children in the temporary custody of Mercy Street and did not call any of us for two weeks.  When we finally called you, we were told you were placing the children in the care of their grandmother who, although she was saying she wanted the children, had not called them or come by to see them in the 7 days since she'd arrived in Dallas.

Grandmother was called months ago when we saw this coming on.  She did nothing.  She was here the last time her daughter broke down and when she left her daughter to care for seven children, aware of the mental instability she battled, the children were in no better shape than when she arrived.

We know because we saw them every. single. day.

In the weeks these children have been in our homes, you have still neither interviewed them or ordered medical or psychological exams.

Our opinions, our insight, our recommendations have mattered nothing to you because, although we know them better than anyone, we see the anger, the rage, the wandering around the neighborhood well past dark in the cold, the bedwetting of children well beyond a typical age, and their thriving in environments full of routine, and love, and boundries, we are not blood.

You told me that, "Unless the children might die, they must be placed with a blood relative."

And as I sat down with Hakeem (10) this morning, telling him he was going home, he said, "until it happens again?"  

"We're praying hard that it doesn't but, yes, baby, until it happens again."

I told him I loved him, I wanted him and his brothers, and I fought for him.

I'm not sure I did.  I called you, yelled at you, begged you to reconsider, to HEAR us.

Still, I doubt I fought as hard as I could have.  I felt like I was beating my head against a wall.

What I do know, I'm certain of to my core, though, is that you did not.  

You did not fight for him - for any of them.

And that is your job.


Lord, I do not know your plan, I cannot see what will happen tomorrow, let alone the end of this story you are writing, but I know you.  I know you keep your promises.  I know you fight for the afflicted.  I know you give strength to the weary. I know a bruised reed you will not break.

I know You are good

And that is enough.


Big Mama said...

This breaks my heart. Praying for you. Praying for those sweet babies.

Traci said...

Ouch. This is heartbreaking. Prayer is all we've got- it'll be enough; it has to be enough.

Joyce said...

So heartbreakingly sad. And unfortunately not uncommon. Praying for the innocent little ones.

Your letter is so well written...perhaps an edited version to the higher ups? I don't know you so don't want to presume but it might be something to think about? I will keep praying.

Stacy Ann said...

I'm so sorry. Poor precious little ones. I'll be praying for them.

Mama Chick said...

I have stumbled upon your blog through another friends blog.

Wow. That letter hit me. I am praying for that family and all that they endure. I am praying that God will somehow intervene in the lives of the children.

Mama Chick said...

I have stumbled upon your blog through another friends blog.

Wow. That letter hit me. I am praying for that family and all that they endure. I am praying that God will somehow intervene in the lives of the children.

Sitesx6 said...


I've been reading your blog for over two years. Your huge heart and love for the broken is why I keep coming back day after day. (As well as your humor and love of Diet Coke.)

This is just PATHETIC....we should be ashamed of ourselves as a country that we allow these things to go on, day after day after day.....and we put more time, energy, and money into Olympic ceremonies, what the president's wife is wearing, sporting events, and so many other things.

I'm so sorry- I really pray someone hears you!!!
Kelly in Michigan

Candy said...

Oh, Melissa! So well-written and no one can read this an not hear the righteous anger, frustration in a broken system, and ineffectiveness of government agencies which are only on the increase.

May the Lord use this to call the church to action, to fight for the least of these in our midst.



Henley on the Horn said...

What a heartfelt letter. I cried. Again. I just love your blog. You are so open and honest. Your heartache shines through. I think you need to send this to the heads of CPS, President Obama, and the Dallas Morning News. Incredible. And so very sad.

Holli said...

so sorry.... the world is broken and HE WILL Conquer and make all right!

Anonymous said...

Wow! What an incredible insightful letter. Not sure if you know this but CPS is involved with my nieces and my parents have custody of them and have for six months. There Mom has an addiction that left her pretty much in the same mental state as the mom whose kids you have been taken care of. Fortunately, my nieces have grandparents who believe in our Glorious Lord Jesus and will absolutely protect them and love them but also encourage their Mom to get the help she desperately needs. But their experience with CPS has been extremely disappointing. The problem is the system doesn't work and as you know their are children ALL OVER THIS CITY that need protection and not enough people to fight for them. CPS is understaffed and many are underemplolyed and not qualified and/or equipped for the ENORMOUS responsibility they HAVE. Our prayers need to be for all families in this situation and for the leaders of our cities/government to wake up to the need to PROTECT CHILDREN and that their would be an abundance of Jesus Loving God Fearing Foster Families willing to assist in this battle.

Love and Prayers

emily said...

So unbelievably heartbreaking that CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES doesn't protect the children. Ugg. This makes me so sad for them, for you.

Anonymous said...

So sad... I know God has his hands on you and those kids. How hard it must be for those kids. They have no understanding as to why "mommy" doesn't love them...poor babies. I wish women that had children and didn't want them would please give them to someone else...foster care is way way way better than what this mother is doing to her children. Another one of those things I want to ask our Father in Heaven when I get there...I'm so sorry.

Jill said...

Melissa, as I too sat and held the phone of CPS and HRS for what seemed like hours this week, am still sitting here with nothing to show for it. They lost our folder. The homestudy is not complete. Yes there are hundreds of children who need to be in safe places, but it is the system. I am so sorry and saddened to hear of the return to a home where there seems to be a lack of care. Your steps on this journey are being joined by those of us who have grown to love you.

Grateful for Grace said...

Melissa, If you guys would really like to keep any of the kids, I lovingly suggest you contact CASA and file a motion as a kinship placement. You have a relationship, thought it's not blood. It would require steps CPS may not want to jump through, but I think it could happen. This is how we got our foster son: a kinship placement. CPS is truly broken on so many levels. Sadly, it comes down to each individual case worker.

If you want to fight, you can.

Tricia said...

Melissa, once again you make me weep as you give voice to the heartbreak and pain so many children endure on a daily basis from those who should love them best, and then to the failure of an agency that is supposed to step in and protect them when their homes and families do not. Little Hakeem and his brothers are in my prayers. You are in my prayers, you faithful and precious servant of our Lord.

pendy said...

Praying for these children...that they have felt enough love and stability in these past few weeks to give them hope for a future.

Dina said...

Maybe it's time to call Saul Garza or Becky Oliver. They could bring some attention to this heartbreaking and unfair situation.

We will be praying for your family and theirs.

Anonymous said...

So hoping that between this morning when you wrote this and right now when I'm reading it SOMETHING has changed.

I never come across CPS stories in my world. I would never know the system was such a mess if it weren't for you.

You are making a difference.

coneymama said...

I have sent this letter to my best-friend, who happens to be a Director with CPS. She reviews all child death cases in the region. I don't know if she can do anything, but maybe she can rattle someone's tree in Dallas County. I was an investigator with CPS for several years. Often caseworker's hands are tied by the system and administrators that won't listen- it takes practically and act of congress to get a child formally removed...sometimes workers are overworked, but sometimes they are just lazy. There were several cases that I tried and tried to remove to no avail...keep reporting...flood them with reports and if that doesn't work, contact the media. I will be praying for you and these babies. If you want names of who to complain to, just ask. I'll get them.

Shawn and Jami said...

Unfortunately, this was our experience with CPS as well. It is maddening and most of all a helpless feeling. What sweet words that you communicated to little Hakeem. We will be praying for God to move in the hearts of men for the sake of the children:)

Stacy said...

How is it that soooo many people know this system doesn't work, yet no one does anything about it. It is maddening that the children aren't put first!
Thanking God they have you!
Thank you for being real and honest.

Best Life said...

As you well know, the CPS system is one that I have battled too, but from the other side. Our family spent this past summer being investigated. They called us constantly, hounded us and badgered us and wouldn't STOP giving us their attention.

Me. A loving, homeschooling, sober mom who hugs her kids everyday, plays games with them, has tea parties and dances around the house giggling with her kids and feeding them fresh bread and makes them eat their veggies.

All the while someone like Hakeem is left alone. I am so thankful that he has someone to fight for him, but what about all of the children that don't?!

Ugh! This subject really gets under my skin! Lisa~

Virtual Teacher Collaboration said...

I am so glad these boys have you. My Precious came to me through a "non-relative extended family placement". It basically means that I could be fast-tracked to have her w/o going through the long foster care cert process b/c I had a preexisting relationship with her. I was her teacher. Hopefully Grandma will realize neither she nor Mom is equipped to parent the children, and you and the others standing in the gap for these dear ones will be waiting to help them begin healing.

So hard to wait when you see hurting children.

Kim said...

Your letter beautifully illustrates the heartbreaking truth about our broken "system" in America.
Having first hand knowledge and experience with it's brokenness causes my heart to hurt for those innocent children and for you.
I can however highly recommend CASA as a great option. Their voice is heard and carries weight at CPS.
And if Grandmother will admit she is not capable of raising her grandchildren, her "blessing" to CPS as your family for a "kinship placement" will expedite the process!
Lastly, my sweet TN neighbor has a great saying that "You can pick your friends, but God picks your neighbors." So grateful that Abba Father purposeflly picked you as their neighbors. Thank you for all you are doing for the seven of them!
Praying for God to move mountains!
Love & Blessings from Hong Kong,

Bev said...

I am dealing with this VERY situation right now as well at my job in the school system and Children's sevices refuses to act. It is beyond reason that the state does not do a better job of protecting children who cannot protect themselves.

I am certain the love they receive while in your care will be blessed and multiplied in their little lives when the going gets tough again. Every loving adult in the life of these children will make a difference for these children. You are sowing good in their hearts. Never doubt that what you are doing is making a difference.

Thank you for fighting for kids.

Jen said...

I have my torch and pitch fork---where should I meet you? :)

Praying for you guys!!

Lea said...

From my days of teaching sixth graders there in inner city Dallas to having my own 2 nieces live with us because of the addiction choices of their mother AND father, I can feel your pain and anger toward the CPS and its broken system. It fails children far too often, as it is failing these in your care. Matthew 18:5-6. It has been my only comfort in dealing with this system that I do not understand. Much love!

Guard Wife said...

So very sorry to be reading this. It is things like this that just hurt my heart. I hope on of the readers' comments (the CASA kinship placement, the contact with CPS in TX) will loosen what appears to be a pretty tight situation.

These kids definitely deserve better than what their supposed 'protectors' are able to deliver.

I will keep praying for them and for you.

allthingsjuice said...

Praying for you and all children at the mercy of the "system."

The 5 Bickies said...

I hate the system. I hate the system that takes children out of a loving home like yours and places them somewhere, again, where no one cares about anything but themselves.

I especially hate a system that abuses their power by doing nothing for the children they are intended to protect.

I hope you find a solution that offers a future to those children. Knowing you, as I do only through your blog, you will! Keep on it Hood Mama!!!!

ps...I have been feeling like a protective Mama for 10 days caring for 3 African Orphans. I wish I felt empowered to take on a country to make these boys a part of our family. I am praying about it...looking for direction.

.claire. said...

Still thinking about you and your babies - all of them. You are an inspiration to many. Praying for you.

Jess said...

This. Breaks. My. Heart.

I've spent a lot of time on the internet getting to know the "other" side of adoption. There is so much passion to do anything we can to keep kids in biological families. But THIS reminds me of the reasons the system has failed so many children in so many ways and that our highest priority SHOULD BE the HEALTH of the CHILDREN!! Not just the life or death of children (barely)!

How horrible, how heartbreaking! I pray for your heart as you endure this.

Glenda said...

I LOVE your blog! The work you do with these kids is truly amazing. I could really relate to this open letter our system in Oklahoma is about the same way. I am a school teacher and have talked to numerous child welfare workers about kids that have come through my class. We even have an on site social worker. I had a child last year that was clearly abused. Physically and emotionally. When child welfare came and interviewed me i told them everything showed them where I documented things about him and Dad (Mom would never come to the school). They told me they were going to do a home visit and said they had called the Mom and would visit in THREE days! Who calls people 3 days in advance of a home visit? Based on that visit they deemed the child wasn't in danger. One week later that child was murdered by his Dad. I don't know what these people think. You have clear cases like that. Then a kid can stump his toe and they're taking him out of the home. Such a shame. I don't know what the answer is but something needs to change. Thank you for speaking out!

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for speaking up and doing what you can to protect these kids. I am a foster parent and get to see fist hand how abuse and neglect effect kids. It is so sad. We serve a God who is just and redemtive and in that alone I trust. We too are fighting to keep kids who should not go "home". Unfortunatley blood matters more then true love in this system. We will pray along with you. Btw, I'm a friend of chrys and she sent me your post.

Lea said...

Still praying for you and those sweet children! Have they moved out yet? I'm sure this weekend has been filled with grueling silence and calm--compared to the past couple of weeks. Who knew getting back to "just 6 kids" would be so quiet? You did. Just wanted you to know that you, your own family, and those little ones are in my prayers again today. Few things are that frustrating and gut-wrenching, but few things draw us to kneel down in peace knowing He is good. Many prayers and much love!

Karin Katherine said...

This breaks my heart to no end...
Lifting you up in prayer.

Angela said...

My family knows this pain, knows this battle, knows this broken system AND knows many children suffering in it..and we truly believe that God is calling HIS people to be the answer!!

Keep your face on his...
Praying for you--


Sharon said...

This makes my heart hurt. Every child deserves to be loved and to feel safe in their home. It saddens me that this is too often not the case. I'm happy to have found your blog....from one theta to another!