Observations by Key Monroe~~Home of Right Opinions, Cynical Viewpoints, and TMI in Hefty Doses
|E-mail: keymonroe [at] alltel [dot] net

August 09, 2004

It's Called a Family Conference and Multidisciplinary Team Meeting

That is where I was Friday at 2:00pm.

We were in the board room of the local DFCS office. Those in attendance were the caseworker, his supervisor, me (foster mom), the birth parents, and two independent agents, one working on behalf of my foster son, the other working with the birth parents.

So, we worked our way around the table, each stating opinions, observations, suggestions. I realized that I was the only one NOT on state payroll, and therefore the only one NOT subjected to any particular rules governing what I was or was not allowed to say.

I would take advantage of this fact. But I would gather information first.

I listened as the first worker described the filth and the roach infestation problem in the old trailer where my foster son formerly resided. Her description combined with the appearance of the natural parents was all I needed to gather more of a visual than I actually cared for.

The mother was younger than I am, which I wouldn't have known had I not been told. The drugs have aged her. She's too thin, has no teeth, her eyes were sad and desperate, and her two-toned frizzy hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

To her credit, she didn't look at me with the same loathsome disgust that her husband did. I was told he was twenty years her senior, but he easily looked sixty, which doesn't add up. His hair had been combed, but it was so greasy that I don't think hurricane winds could have loosened a strand, every mark from the comb's teeth apparent in its matted state.

I was wondering why anyone with indoor plumbing wouldn't shower before such an occasion, when I realized it was my turn. I was told to describe the progress my four-year-old foster son has made in the two months that I've had him. Because I'm aware of dwindling attention spans here in Blogworld, I'll sum up by saying that he went from a thin, pale, UNpotty-trained little boy who had never heard of the ABCs and had no social skills... to the boy they had interviewed earlier in the week. (All of these things have been rectified and then some. He's happy, healthy, and amazingly, not developmentally delayed in the least.)

I expressed that my main concerns are obviously a regression in any of these areas, the most immediate concern being the exposure to smoke. I have no doubt he's been exposed to it in heaping doses since conception, if his constant cough and congestion are any indication. It's getting better, as it does with most foster children once their lungs are allowed to heal. (I've only had one whose lungs were too badly damaged to bounce back completely; she was diagnosed with asthma.)

Finally, the next worker spoke up, and she ran the disclaimer that she was there on behalf of my foster son. Period. She wasn't there to send him home if that wasn't the best thing for him. This got both foster mom's and birth mom's attention as I applauded the idea, while she sniffled and teared up.

She started by validating my point about the smoke, (for which I was grateful.) "According to your child's medical records, the smoke has been cited on more than one occasion as the reason for his chronic congestion. You do need to remember whose habit it is, and whose habit it isn't."

She then went on to deliver the biggest recommendation. She insisted in her report that both parents receive inpatient treatment for their addiction. This was the first sign of discord. The mother was completely agreeable initially.

The father had a problem with it. He was worried about losing his disability check THAT THEY ARE BOTH LIVING OFF OF, SINCE NEITHER OF THEM HAS A FRIGGIN JOB.

This is when I became ill.

I was waiting for one of the others to jump his lazy ass, but of course they weren't going to. They've been conditioned not to. Rather, one suggested that the state could hold his check while he was institutionalized, and the other volunteered that she thought the hospital could actually receive the check and save the money for him.

Am I hearing this? I was boiling, yet I waited.

Picking up on her husband's agitation, the mother decided to get irritated. She remembered that the last time she went to rehab, they tried to get her to leave her husband. (I wanted to applaud that sentiment, but managed to refrain.)

My foster son's worker explained to her that if she went through rehab, and her husband refused, her going back to him afterwards made her recovery completely pointless.

Okay, that was good, I woulda had to say it if she hadn't. But aren't we still missing something?

They let it go. I knew they would. I couldn't.

"If we could go back to the disability issue for a moment, I have a question." I was given the floor, so I looked at the father. "May I ask why you receive disability?"

His (predictable) response: "I was in a bad car wreck a while back and I got a bad back. That's why I take the medication too."

I clipped off the last word as I snapped, "Half the country has a bad back. Mine is severe, and no one's ever offered me oxycontin, nor have I applied for disability." Moments earlier, the man had been walking down the hall carrying his forty pound son (after their bi-monthly visit.) I let that go, but went on to say, "Wouldn't you two be better off financially if you both had jobs?"

Shock. The idea! Have I forgotten that the country owes them something? Shit, I must have. How politically incorrect of me.

The silence finally dissipated, and the ballsiest of the workers decided to seize the moment. "I was going to ask you how you plan to support yourselves and a child bringing in only $800 a month."

No answer. She softened the blow, obviously feeling some sympathy for the mother (who had unfortunately married a scumbag), when she added, "I understand that you have had some issues with depression."

Ya think?

I had to excuse myself. It was time to pick up my daughter from school, but I had to give the mother some parting words. I wanted to tell her that she needed to suck it up and develop a life outside of her husband. Instead I said, "You really should consider some sort of outlet. A job would be ideal, because you'd get out of the house and have an additional source of income. I'd be depressed too if I had nowhere to go all day and only one person to talk to."

That was it. That's all I could say. I can't beat them over the head and tell them to grow a brain. I can't scold the government that bought them drugs with my tax money. But I do what I can.

I do what I can on a personal level. It's not a government's job to be compassionate...and frankly, they suck at it anyway.

posted by Key on 12:37 AM | Comments (6)

Key, Bless you for doing what you do. The world is lucky there are families like yours with enough love to take in a few who need it.

I don't know how you do it.

Years ago, I was a social worker for the state of Missouri. I had a foster care caseload. It was unbelievably horrible - the juvenile justice system in Missouri would want the kids back with mom and dad no matter how many years the kids had been away from them. Oh, gosh, I get nightmares just thinking about it all.

Posted by: Beth at August 9, 2004 01:03 AM

Vote for John Kerry. He'll fix all that shit. See, you don't understand. GOVERNMENT created the problem, so the only solution is MORE GOVERNMENT.

Posted by: Acidman at August 9, 2004 07:31 AM

Bravo! There a many, many kids out there who need protection from their own parents who are too stupid and lazy to give a damn. I don't argue that fact with you one minute!

Posted by: Michele at August 9, 2004 10:02 AM

Once again I am reminded that there is not one qualification to become a parent.

Posted by: James Old Guy at August 9, 2004 01:02 PM

Oh, Key. It's got to be so rewarding yet so depressing to face this down every day... Still praying for you; holding you up to our Lord so that you have the strength you need to do what you do for the kids...

Posted by: pam at August 10, 2004 03:02 PM

Dear Key:

There are volumes to write here (and my attention was held firmly by your tale); but I'll refrain.

You are a saint.

That's all that need be said.

(That, and a rousing agreement with James, who has an equally good point -- there are NO requirements for parenthood. Sad.)



Posted by: Will at August 10, 2004 04:34 PM
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