Unfounded: How we handled false accusations as foster parents.
today at 12:04 pm
It’s not a matter of if, but when. That’s what seasoned foster parents will tell you when you first enter the world of foster care. False accusations come with the territory of raising other people’s children, especially when those people are angry, bitter, and possibly struggling mentally.
When those mothers, fathers are in a place of “fight or flight” — and choose fight.
My wife and I have been under investigation by our local Department of Children and Family Services office for the past two months. That sounds dramatic — our part mostly consisted of an interview, then waiting.
Our former two youngest children’s mother was abrasive towards us from the moment we met her. She told us straight away that her children shouldn’t be living with white people. She told us her children shouldn’t be living with LGBTQ people. She told us we had no right to kiss them on the cheek goodnight, or let them sit on our laps when they needed a snuggle. She confronted us in the court lobby.
She told us their struggles weren’t a result of trauma, — of being in foster care, or past abuse or neglect — but a result of living with white people.
She told us she would report us.
And she did.
The first time she called the hotline on us, we considered giving notice. That is, we considered asking the caseworker to remove the kids from our home, to protect ourselves and our other children.
But we couldn’t stomach the thought and took the risk to keep them home with us. Kids aren’t stray dogs to be re-homed, and we just couldn’t toss them out because their mother didn’t like us. It wouldn’t be fair, and it would set back all the progress they had made.
We compromised with the agency – we will keep them home, if we don’t have to interact with the mom ourselves anymore. All communication was to go through the caseworker.
Then she reported us again. I’m not even getting into what she said, because it’s so disgusting and ridiculous it doesn’t bear repeating.
She had told our caseworker just days before that she wanted the kids to stay with us instead of moving back in with their grandmother, whom she has also accused of abuse. She had seen progress in them under our care.
As you know, grandma did end up taking the children. The same day the move was arranged, we were informed an official investigation against us had been opened.
My heart froze, stomach dropped, anger, fear and disbelief set in. You uproot your life for someone, only for the worst imaginable to happen.
The kids moved. We waited. And waited.
I actually called the investigator myself after I got sick of waiting — “hi, it’s Brittany, a foster parent in McHenry County. I think you are supposed to be investigating a complaint against us? Can you give me a ring so we can set up a meeting to move this along? Thanks!”
The investigators finally came to our house, decked out in gloves and masks as the Coronavirus pandemic was ramping up. They separated my wife and I for interviews. They interviewed our remaining daughter, asked her about what happens if someone misbehaves, what punishments we dole out, is she happy, is she safe? They took photos of her arms and legs, stomach, to make sure they weren’t missing any signs of mistreatment. She told them “Jes and Brittany have never once abused me.”
She shouldn’t have to think about things like that. We are supposed to be that safe haven home, which is what bothers me the most about this situation.
They took photos of each room in our home, gave us some parenting brochures and a business card. They told us not to leave matches or lighters around, to make sure when we cooked the pan didn’t have its handle sticking out into the kitchen, and to lock our doors at night, buckle up when we drove.
They said this rotely, with the qualifier of “I’m sorry, but we have to go over it with everyone. I’m sure you know these things. It’s a shame when foster parents have to go through this, because it’s one less bed open for kids in need. We will try to get this completed as soon as we can.”
They asked for phone numbers of family members, of our kids’ lawyers, of our kids’ CASA workers, our kids’ therapists.
They left, with the promise that “no news is good news”
We didn’t hear a thing from then (March 31) until today.
We haven’t been accepting new placements simply because — in addition to taking a needed break to deal with the pandemic, with the grief and loss — our license has been paused, temporarily closed.
Today we got notice that the report has been deemed unfounded and we can file a document to DCFS that we believe it was an intentional false complaint — which we plan to follow up on.
More than angry – oh which I am – I am sad that it had to end in that way. I am sad for their mother, who was so insecure and close minded that she attacked the people trying to do right by her children in a time of need and in the end caused even more disruption and trauma in their little lives. It was unnecessary and selfish and I’m sad for the kids.
But now our license is open again. I’m anxiously awaiting our next call, and wondering if I’m batshit crazy for wanting to do it all over again.
Baby baby baby baby baby give me a baby. That’s all my mind is doing right now. I miss having a toddler running around — baby snuggles, chubby thighs, hearing “no” 1,437 times a day — oh, wait.
But that’s another story.
I feel like despite it all — despite loss and heartbreak, despite frustration and drama, despite foster parenting intended to be a temporary situation whenever possible, despite supporting reunification and families first WHEN it’s in the kids best interest — my kids are out there somewhere. I don’t know if they have been born yet. I don’t know how old they are right now. I don’t know where they are or what circumstances will bring them to me. But I believe with all my heart they are out there.
And I will wait in the middle for them, despite it all.
We will see what happens in the future. As shitty as it feels to be put in this situation to begin with, I’m simply ready to move on with our lives and so happy that DCFS saw the truth of the situation.
This foster parenting shit isn’t for the faint hearted.