Sunday, August 28, 2011

Into the dark

I'm in that place today.  It's a dark place with jumbled thoughts and feelings and every ounce of my being feels like it's in battle with each other.  It's not a place I like to be, and I didn't buy a ticket to be here but it's a place that I belong with the things that have gone on and the things I can't comprehend.

It swirls around me, the darkness, on days like today. These days don't come often thank goodness but when they do it is always the same.  There's no sense to be made because the rules have been broken and the pieces strewn around like a jigsaw puzzle.  And even if I tried to put it together it's impossible, it's a mixture of so many puzzles that none of the pieces even fit anymore.

I have learned to just let these days come, consume me, and then leave again.  They heal, each in their own twisted way but the scars they create multiply.  I find myself becoming cold, callous with each that passes and for a long time I fought it, but I don't have the desire to fight anymore even if I have the strength.

I flow into the darkness, this maze of fear and pain and agony knowing that I will come out the other side as I always do.  I've come to welcome these days, as torturous as they are.  They remind me of who I was, who I am and who I will be.  They keep me grounded and humble as they steal a piece of my soul, change it, and return it as something new I have to figure out how to incorporate into my entirety.

My scars are hard won, each represents a victory not a defeat.  And as long as I can continue to say that I wear them proudly.

Friday, August 26, 2011

WilCo can indict a ham sandwich..

WilCo can indict a ham sandwich!

I couldn't help but crack up for a second when a dear woman sent me a message saying this the other day.  Until I realized she was absolutely right.

We got lucky y'all.  We went up against and fought Williamson County Texas.   The county that boasts on it's own website that it's reputation for being one of the toughest counties in the US on crime.  The county who puts people in jail for simple infractions that may just get a warning anywhere else.  The county that mocks neighboring Travis County by doing the opposite, putting away people for any little infraction.  Evidence is rarely pertinent in WilCo, they don't need it.  DA John Bradley seemingly snaps his fingers and the bars close around people for years.  More than their actually being tough on crime is their need to constantly remind everyone they are tough on crime.  

I personally know people who will not so much as drive through Williamson County.  They will go out of their way to drive AROUND the county when going to Austin from the north.  I also know a guy that sat in WilCo jail for MONTHS while waiting for the judge to decide on his case.  His crime?  Driving without valid proof of insurance.  That's right, no insurance=jail time in WilCo.

Never mind CPS and other government agencies.  Last year CPS took a families son from them.  Their charge?  Teaching the child to mistrust government by not allowing CPS to enter his home.  They also claimed the child (age 7) had emotional problems because he cried when CPS and law enforcement entered the home in SWAT gear to take him.

I don't know how.  I don't know why.  But somehow we did it.  Austin's charge now reads "Dismissed" and our CPS charges "unfounded".  I don't know how we did it....

But we BEAT WILCO!!!!!

And now begins processing and healing.  It'll be a long road.  My son saw and experienced things as a child sitting 2 months in adult jail that will never leave him.  That he will never be free of when he closes his eyes to sleep at night.  We lost time we can never get back, all of our children lost a big peice of their innocence this summer.

But we will survive.  Because in beating this corrupt county we all learned that we are tough as nails and can face any challenge that comes our way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I don't give you permission to affect my happiness.

"We are responsible for our own behaviors, moods, choices, problems, attitudes, happiness, character defects, thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, mistakes, the way we treat others, and whether or not we allow others to abuse, manipulate, or mistreat us. We are not responsible for other people's choices, behaviors, bad decisions, addictions, the consequences of their choices, their hopes, dreams, character defects, thoughts, feelings, problems, attitudes, and moods. We are responsible for ourselves; we are not responsible for others. Does this mean we do not care about others? Of course not. It simply means we give others the respect of being responsible for their own lives, and we give ourselves the same respect of being responsible for our lives"

This is very powerful for me, especially today.  I take a lot of responsibility for other peoples' happiness.     I thank a dear friend for pointing this out to me today whether she knew she was or meant to or not.  But it's true.

There's a situation going on in my life right now where this completely applies.  It's a hard pill for me to swallow.

Having trouble focusing my thoughts on it right now.  But I'm going to print this passage out and keep it in my purse and pull it out frequently when I feel defeated by other peoples' choices.  Because their happiness is not mine to create and mine is not decided by their actions or words or feelings.

Although what I am going through is not alchohol related, the 3 C's definitely apply:

"I didn't cause it, I can't control it, and I can't cure it"

Monday, August 22, 2011

Growing out my horrible pixie cut. Or why I became an alchoholic.

By the way I'm not an alchoholic (how the HELL do you spell that?) lol and never have been.  Considered it?  But unfortunately I'm far too poor for that kind of habit.

So. In January I did the unthinkable.  I cut off all my hair.  All of it.  Notice my long pretty hair in this pic.  This is generally how I keep my hair.

Well one day I was bored and apparently got bitten by the stupid bug and decided to do something like this.  I brought my trusty laptop to my hairdresser and said "do this".  "Are you SURE???? She asked" Yep, chop it all off.  I'm pretty sure a field sobriety and a psychological evaluation should be required before any stylist agrees to doing such a thing.  But she listened like a good stylist and the next thing I know all my hair is in a pony tail and being cut off at the skull.

$80 later and I walked out of the salon and home to the shock of my family members.  "It's cute" my husband said after the shock had worn off enough so he could speak.  I didn't successfully regain my ability to speak for quite some time.  I promptly went on ebay and made sure to click expedited shipping.  Enter the wig stage.    Wearing the wig are the only pictures you will find of me during this stage as I sobbed like a small child everytime I took it off.

I spent hours and hours and hours scouring the internet for something that could help.  I considered extensions which my stylist assured me would only result in me having a mullet something like this with the length my hair was at the moment.

I read tips online, trim, don't trim, take herbal supplements and prenatal vitamins to make it grow faster.  Put a paper bag over your head and sob uncontrollably.  There is no fix for a pixie cut but time.  Lots and lots of time.  I tried baseball caps which only proved to make me look like an ugly boy, I tried headbands which looked as bizarre as the hair did, I tried clips which would fall out since my hair was so short.  I cried, I kicked, I screamed, I drank vodka.  Finally I decided I would ditch the wig and just let it grow and try not to look in any mirrors and avoid cameras if possible.  Unfortunately some pictures were taken.  I'm not proud of them and will laugh at them some day but for now the sting is still fresh.

The "you look like Hannah Montana's grandma" phase (above) as my kids named it.  Pass the vodka.
And the "omg I have a strange growth trying to come out of the back of my head and wtf is wrong with my mullet?" phase.  Make it a double.

And here I am now.  It's been 8 months and I'm finally at the "I guess I can sober up a little now so I don't burn myself with the flat iron" phase.

My friends, the pixie cut looks great on Halle Berry.  It doesn't look great on most women and you won't know until you chop every strand of hair an inch from your head.   If you decide to get one do 3 things first.  Grab some whiskey, picture yourself, while growing it out like some twisted version of Billy Ray Cyrus for months, and find a stylist who will slap the shit out of you and refuse to take your money until you get professional help.

If you've gotten the pixie already.  Call me, come over, and bring Vodka.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Winds of change.

So a friend posted tonight on her blog about change.  Oddly I had been thinking this post out in my head all day.  

I try to live without regrets.  I think everything is a learning experience and we change and grow because of change and growth.  But i'm struggling.

I really REALLY thought in moving to Texas we were doing what we were suppose to.  It felt right.  Even a few months after the move Craig and I would just look at each other and say "i love it here".  And we did.  Sure we missed our families and friends.  It was difficult having no one around to rely on or to even have an afternoon chat with, but we were excited about spreading our wings and felt that for the first time in our lives we were actually on our own.  It was very freeing and exciting.

In the 14 years we've been married we've overcome a lot of struggles.  The first place we lived in was a downright dump.  It was missing part of the ceiling upstairs and one bedroom was completely closed and locked off because it literally had no windows.  It ought to have been condemned (and was actually recently torn down).  We moved up from there, slowly, slowly.  Better pay, better home, better cars.  Until finally we bought our own home in 2003.  

Moving felt so right that we were happy to leave behind everything we had worked for and start new.   We were confident it would work out because we truly felt it was right.

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't.

But tonight I find myself again living in someone else's home.  I've lost my home to forclosure now, a home that we had never had a late payment on in 7 years.  For the past 8 months we have struggled just to pay each bill as it came, a lot of the time not making that happen and bargaining with utilities to just give us one more week.  We sold most of the valuable things we owned to keep the lights on in Texas.  And then it got worse.

Things are looking up with our move back to Wisconsin, looking up very much.  Craig is making double what he was in Texas and our cost of living is less than half.  The CPS stuff has come to an end and it looks as though Austin will be home by this time next week.  Everything is falling into place effortlessly.  Showing us, I think, that it was very right for us to come back.

I can't help but wonder why we felt so led to a place that would threaten to tear our family apart?  That uprooted our kids from their friends, their schools not once but twice in one year.  My daughter commented yesterday that this will be her 3rd high school, and she's just starting 10th grade.  It makes me sad and the guilt I feel is overwhelming.  

And then there's the part of me that says it was worth it.  I had lived my entire live in a 2 county span.  I needed to see that the grass wasn't necessarily greener somewhere else.  We moved in an effort to give our kids a view of more of a world than they would ever see in northern Wisconsin, and we did that.  We moved to give Hailey a chance to realize her potential, she did that.  Hearing her say "mom, I know I can do good here, I'm not taking anything less than A's and B's this year, because now I know I'm not stupid" is priceless.  We needed to spread our wings and stand on our own two feet on unsteady ground to know where we belonged.  And we did that too.

No regrets.  I can't and I won't.  The past 9 months have been hard.  As odd as it may seem I would say they've been as hard as the 9 months following Alex's death, just a different kind of hard.  But we made it through that a stronger family, and I have to keep my faith that we will make it through all of this stronger yet.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let me have a little pity party.

Ya know.  I definitely try not to wallow in the whoa is me.  I try to find the positive in things and to be happy and count my blessings.  But when can this family catch a break?  In the past 6 years we have been through HELL.  We have endured things that I could have never dreamt of.  And it just keeps coming.

Austin's court date approaches, monday.  I want my son back.  I've already lost one and now I'm facing losing another to up to 10 years in the state jail.   He's not perfect, but he's a goddamn CHILD.  He's not old enough to vote, he's not old enough to decide whether he wants to go to school or not, he's not even old enough to fight for his country yet he is sitting in ADULT jail with ADULTS.  He is given none of the rights of an adult but all of the responsibility.  WTF is THAT?

Yes he's made mistakes, and he's had to answer for them.  But this?  This is such complete bullshit it could make a blue eyed blond's eyes turn brown.  He's young, he has a chance to change his ways but 10 years in state jail will change that.  They will turn him INTO a criminal because after spending a third of his life in jail he won't know any other way.

I'm trying to stay strong, and I will for all of my kids.  But hasn't this family lost enough???

Monday, August 15, 2011

CPS and qualified immunity

CPS and other government agencies are protected by something called Qualified Immunity.  Qualified Immunity protects public officials from being sued unless they violate a "clearly established" law that a reasonable official in their position should have known.

Seems kinda..... wishy washy doesn't it?

I hear time and time again people in cases with CPS saying "I'm going to sue their asses off once this is over!"  My response is always, good luck.

This is where my rule #1 comes into play for your benefit though.  Always record EVERY conversation with any CPS worker.  (Again, check your states wiretap laws for information on doing this LEGALLY). If you don't have that audio/video you cannot prove anything, it's your word against theirs and who do you think a judge is going to believe?  A government employee or the person who "abused" their children?  Easy enough.

In the past few years there have been some supreme court cases on this where parents have won and removed the qualified immunity of CPS workers.  Most of them stem from the 4th amendment.  You see, no government official (not even police!) can enter your home without  your consent, a warrant signed by a judge, or exigent circumstances.  If they do, and a judge finds that they violated your constitutional right (as in the FLDS case and in Gates Vs. TDCFS) they lose their qualified immunity and can therefore be sued for damages.

Exigent circumstances are defined as:  reason to believe an illegal or abusive act is currently occuring, or will be occuring in the imminent future.

Below is a link to the CPS memorandum after the Gates case that went out to all CPS workers.  It basically states "stop violating civil rights", but I'll let you read it for yourself as it pretty clearly outlines what cps can or cannot do and what defines exigent circumstances.

Arm yourself with information.  Your family depends on it!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What else is there to do when it's 108 degrees out?

So when we left Texas (the kids and I) we went to Oklahoma for a few days to stay with a friend.  Oh yeah, I mentioned that.  Anyway, so as hot as we thought it was in Texas it was consistantly hotter in Oklahoma (wtf??), and humid-er.  Yes that's a word, it's a word because I just declared it a word so shut your mouths.

AAaaaanyway.  So when it gets too hot to breathe, go to the splashpad!  I think they should have these absolutely everywhere.  Kids can play with no chance of drowing (well, mine ARE pretty talented).  And momma can sit in the shade and play with her er.... take pictures of them with her iphone.  Except I think these pictures were actually taken with my friends iphone and then uploaded to my computer.  I couldn't say.  Regardless. Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Find out who is

You know how it goes.  Go through something trying in your life and you'll really find out who your friends are.  But what about family?  Family is suppose to be there through thick and thin.  Family is suppose to not care what you have to give back, if you are wearing tattered blue jeans, if you are keeping up with the Jones' right?  I mean family doesn't mean having expectations but rather accepting people for who they are and realizing that the bonds that tie you together are precious and that just because someone doesn't live the life YOU would choose, that doesn't mean theirs is less.

For the most part Craig and I have that kind of family.  His mom and dad, my mom and step dad, my sister... have all been there.  They didn't always agree with the choices we made, in fact us moving took an emotional toll on them as well.  They didn't take offense when in trying to make a life in an unknown place we didn't have time to maybe reach out.  But they answered the phone when we called and needed an ear, they answered the phone when we called to say hey, how ya doing?  They supported us without asking anything in return and knew that once we had the pieces of our life in some kind of order again we would be able to reach out and return the favor.  They didn't look down on us because of what Austin was going through, because we didn't have much money, or because we didn't make the decisions THEY would have had us make.  I thank the Gods every day for these members of our family, because without them this last year would have been much, much more difficult.

I wish I could say the same for the rest of the family.  

My brother has apparently written me out of his life.  I dont' know why but he seems to think he has to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, shut everyone out and pretend everything is great.  Doing this pushes people away and when you push people away long enough they may stop knocking after a while.  When I stopped knocking he finally noticed I wasn't there and is now angry.  I do hope things can get better between us in time.  I hope in time he can let his guard down and know that we accept him and his family no matter what, he has nothing to prove and nothing to hide.  His wife and I have an arms length "facebook "relationship of sorts, which is fine for now as it allows me to keep up on my neice and nephews but I would like it to be better for sure. I witnessed two of my nephews come into the world and would like to be an active part of their lives.

Then there's Craig's mothers oldest sons.  I refer to them as such because to ask Craig, he has no brothers.  Harsh as that may sound, it's been many years in the making and this past year has been the straw that has broken the camel's proverbial back.  His brothers I think really DO believe they are superior to most other people.  In the past 14 years I have listened to one of them cut his ex wife down to sand in front of their children, and encourage the children to join right in (which after a while of it, they have), cut their own mother down behind her back,  drink constantly (which is never a good thing anyway), and can do no wrong.  Once upon a time I didn't mind them, even actually liked them I would say but over the years I sat back and watched and began to wonder where these boys came from.  All 3 boys are from the same two parents but you would never ever even guess they were related to each other to look at them or speak to them.  

A few months ago Craig decided to cut ties with his brothers completely.  I told him I wanted absolutely no say in his decision because I did not want to be responsible for his family being broken apart.  He told me that this isn't just the past 14 years, they have treated him like crap for a very very long time and this was the last straw and every time he has to be near them he is unfortunately biding his time until he can leave, which is sad because he really enjoys spending time with his mom and dad but these family get togethers were so stressfull for him.  For me it was a no brainer.  When I heard through the grapevine the comments that were made about us surrounding Alex's death...... they ought to be glad I was in Texas and had time to spit the bad taste out of my mouth a little before I was within driving distance.  I won't repeat such filth here, they aren't worth it but I certainly hope there's a special place in the firey pits of hell for people who would badmouth a deceased baby, their own nephew at that.  

Thankfully we have some very good friends who have acted the way our family members should have during this time of change in our lives.  And of course the few family members that have acted are so precious in our lives. We are very blessed, and if people want to be a part of the life we live and love then great, if not, it's their loss.  

But MAN are the holidays going to be a little dicey this year!  I may need copious amounts of vodka and prozac.

What to do when CPS comes to your door. Part two. You are STILL in control

Continued from

So now the initial visit with your significant other is complete and the CPS worker wants to meet your children.  And you really start shaking in your boots and want to throw up on her shoes.  Again, remain calm and play the game.

"Sure Mrs. Duck.  This week is pretty busy for us but I would be happy to set up a time for you to meet my children, how does the end of next week sound?

If you've set her at ease with the first visit she may accept waiting.  You NEED to get yourself some time here at all costs.  Because the minute she leaves you are going to get on the phone with your pediatrician and have the children fully examined.  I don't care WHAT the allegation is, a FULL examination is needed, you don't know what they are going to make up later.  Make an appointment for the kids and at the appointment explain to the Pediatrician that there has been a frivolous report to CPS and you would like your children examined and it thoroughly documented.  This includes checking their private parts, I know that's invasive but you want your bases covered and your kids trust their doctor.  You'd rather have THEIR doctor doing it than some stranger in the ER when CPS has it done.  Then tell the pediatrician that you will be by tomorrow to pick up a copy of her notes.  

If it's during the time of year your kids are in school you also need to GO to the school and speak with the receptionist, the school nurse, and the children's teachers.  You dont' need to tell them what is going on, just tell them that if ANYONE, and you mean ANYONE, even a government agent comes to speak with your children at school they must call you.  Print a copy of your state's CPS laws on this and bring it with you.  (Most school officials believe they have to turn a child over to CPS for questioning, they DO NOT.  And YOU need to inform them.  Again if you need help finding this information please let me know.

Now, it gets sticky because if CPS has not had an opportunity to see the children and the allegations are of a serious nature they may say "i'm sorry, but I need to see the children tonight and make sure they are not in immediate danger nor have been abused recently".   

It's sticky because right now, if she feels the children may be in danger she can exercise "exigent" reasoning to have your children removed, today.  *shudder*.  Thank goodness laws have very much tightened on them with some big court cases (see Gates. VS. TDCFS links below) but they still have the power to yank, then prove so walk lightly.

If she says this, this is not defeat.  YOU are STILL in CONTROL.

"Ok Mrs. Duck.  I can understand that and would very much like you to see that my children are healthy and happy."  As you know, my children are currently at a friend's, and it's almost lunch time so how about I pick them up and meet you at XYZ restaurant and we can chat while we have a little lunch, on me?"

She won't like this for a couple of reasons, #1 being that you are showing her YOU are in control and she has very little.  She may agree or disagree to this, likely she will disagree and state that next week is fine.  The reasoning for this is you want her to see the kids in neutral territory with as many people around as possible.  ALL of those people become witnesses later.  You want that.

As I said she'll probably not like that and agree to next week as discussed.  BUT, this MAY be a ploy to gain back control.  Watch out.  There are two ways you can proceed and I would suggest the first one.

After she leaves you go in the house and pack an overnight bag for your family, then you pick your kids up and go stay with a friend (NOT a family member, too easy to find you) for the night.  If she's going to cite "exigent circumstances" and yank your kids she's going to do it in the next few hours.  
Or simply leave your kids at the trusted friends' house for the night while you and your husband stay home.  

OR, you can call their bluff which can be dangerous.  

You can get your kids and stay home.  And wait for the CPS worker and the Sherriff to show up.  Contrary to what you may think, she DOES NOT NEED A WARRANT TO YANK YOUR KIDS!  I dont care what anybody tells you, I repeat, SHE DOES NOT NEED A WARRANT TO YANK YOUR KIDS!  

So leave for the night, or until you feel safe.  However keep in contact with her so she doesn't suspect that you fled the country.  A simple "Hi this is Mrs. Smith, I'm just confirming our meeting for Thursday May 24th at 9am at XYZ, please call me back at 343-7ii-2345"  Will suffice.  


What to do when CPS comes to your door. First meeting. YOU are in control.

When we first became involved with CPS I scoured the internet with questions.  What do I do?  How will my reactions affect their decision.  Should I cooperate with CPS or should I fight?  

I found many answers.  They ranged from something like

"Hand over your children, kiss them goodbye and move on" 


"put bars on your doors while you pack your kids and everything they own, plant bombs in your yard and move your family to a remote island, learn how to grow grass for food, and never be heard from again."

Ok, maybe slight exaggerations there, but only slight.  

It seemed one common thread was to tell you don't pass go until you've retained an attorney.  Well this is great advice, however there are some issues with that.  CPS rarely targets affluent, powerful members of society.  Usually the people on the ass side of CPS are poor or middle class folks living paycheck to paycheck.  Also, there are few lawyers who will take your case, the ones that will are usually NOT working for you.  The one's that are working for you, the ones who "hate" CPS can actually make things much worse for you.  

I happened to have the unfortunate decision making to move to Williamson County, Texas.  Otherwise called WilCo. (That's right, they are so important they get an acronym).  Any google search will show you that WilCo is as corrupt as they come, a fact I didn't know upon moving there.  When I called lawyers to help us, 8/10 refused to take a WilCo case, PERIOD.  1/10 said Suuuuuuure, I'll take it!  Thankfully I was able to find a diamond in the rough who said "girl, you are better off on your own.  Any lawyer that will take a WilCo case is definitely NOT on your side, the few that take WilCo cases are, in fact, very well compensated by the powers you are trying to fight to help you lose your case.

Now your county is probably NOT as corrupt as WilCo.  But I'm here to tell you that you CAN fight CPS without an attorney, and you're probably better off that way.  

So what should you do when CPS comes calling?  #1 remember YOU are in control.  ALWAYS be the one in control of the conversation.  You will be shaking inside and want to throw up on her shoes but remain composed and in control.  You can fall apart later.

If the allegation against you isn't life or death they may start with a phone call.  It will go something like this...

"Hello Mrs. Smith.  This is Daffy Duck from the department of family services and I would like to come and talk with you and your husband, can we set up a time that works for you?"  Your response should be.  "Sure, can you hold one moment while I grab my audio recorder?  I will be recording our conversation".  (It is NOT required that you inform them of this in every state, but for your own protection it's always best to inform them).  Then you should say "Ok, I have begun recording, can you restate what this phone call is about?"  She will then reiterate what she just said.  Next you should say.  "I absolutely would have you come and speak with my husband and I, I know we can clear this misunderstanding up in short order"  (Always speak in your sickeningly sweet voice btw).  Then you and Mrs. Duck will set a time to meet at your home.  

You might have cringed when I said At. YOUR. Home.  Don't.  Because 1 hour before Mrs. Duck arrives you are going to bring the children to a trusted friend or family members house and you and your spouse/significant other will be sitting on the front porch (or if it's cold outside in the garage with the door open) waiting for her.  She will pull up and walk to the house and you both should walk to meet her, shake her hand politely and invite her to a seat outside.  You will inform her that you will be again recording (video this time if you have the capability to do so) your meeting.  Again check your state laws on this or email me and I'll look it up for you, in most states you need to INFORM, not gain PERMISSION to record.  

Offer her something to drink and sit down.  She will likely pull out a computer to type on or maybe just jot things down on a piece of paper.  She will likely begin asking you questions about the children and the allegations at hand.  Keep your answers very concise.  Yes or no will work 99% of the time.  Resist the urge to spill your guts and tell the whole story, as interesting as it may be.  Also resist the urge to say things like "My husband would NEVER do that".  While you know he wouldn't, it makes it seem like you are taking the side of your husband right off the bat, and that's NOT what she wants to see.  Bite your tongue right off if you have to, but shut your mouth and think before you speak.

After the line of questioning about the allegations she will launch into her "Sometimes we get called for one problem and there's bigger problems in the home" schpeel.  "I just need to ask you a few more questions about your family to close the case".  Don't fall for it.  She's going to ask you how you discipline, which, unless the allegation is REGARDING your discipline is irrelevant.  She's going to ask you about drug and alchohol use, again unless it's relevant it's irrelevant.  She's going to ask you if you have ever been treated for mental illness like depression.  This is NEVER relevant.  You can simply tell her.  "I understand that sometimes there are bigger issues in a family, and I respect your desire to make sure all children are safe, but can you please explain to me how that question is relevant to the allegation?"  Keep her on task or you will open up a whole NEW set of allegations.  Simply stating "yes, 8 years ago when my grandmother died I was on medication for depression" red flags you. 

Here's a bit on how these answers are documented.  Each CPS agency has a standard form they use.  It will have questions like "Do parents have mental health issues".  The answer will be "yes".  That is all.  Nothing to state that your "mental health issue" was situational from losing your grandmother 8 years ago.  Now, the investigator knows your answer, but SHE doesn't make the decision on your case, the supervisor does.  And that "yes" answer is all the supervisor is going to see.  So shut up.

The next thing she will do is tell you she needs to tour your home, again, "to close the case".  Again this is where you must consider the relevance to the allegation.  If the allegation was that you have no food or that your kids live in squalor then by all means you should allow her to tour the home (I'm assuming you in fact DON'T make your kids live in squalor and DO feed them.  If not, then you're on your own and your kids DO need help tyvm!).  If you decide that her touring the home has some relevance to her allegations and allow her in I have two very good tips for you.  #1, do NOT invite her into the home and do not VERBALLY give her consent to enter right away.  Simply opening the door is NOT consent to enter and if she takes it as such and enters (and remember, you'll have it on video) she has just given you the hope diamond in defense later on (more on this in an upcoming post called "Constitutional rights and qualified immunity).  

If she's aware of this she may wait for you to give verbal consent.  Damn.  But that's ok really, that means she's doing her job right.  At least that part.  That's a good thing, I promise.  

When y'all enter the house make sure you bring the video camera with you and use it behind her to document the state of every room and every cabinet she may look into.  That way if her report reads "dirty clothes on the floor in bedrooms" you have video evidence that is not true. Chances are she's going to take a quick sweep through the house and then get out quickly, they don't like being behind walls with people who hate them.  It's scary.  

The final thing she's going to do is tell you that she needs to interview the children.  This is where it gets very sticky and I'm going to leave it for another post because it really deserves it's own space.  Stay tuned!

*I am not a lawyer, just a mom who fought and beat CPS.  NOTHING in any post I write should be taken as legal advice!!!*

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Does he know?

I try not to think about it, but there are times just before I fall asleep that it comes through.  You see, there's nothing I can do about it.  No action or reaction on my part is going to change it today.  It's a waiting game, sometimes it's a game of waiting to see if my heart will just break.

My 17 year old son sits in adult jail with 900 other inmates.  I try to hope he's made some friends (although definitely not the kind of friends I really want for him.)  I try to hope that he's not been hurt, that he's doing ok.

Truth is, I don't know.  I don't know if he gets my letters because I've never gotten a response.  He doesn't call,  he doesn't write.  I haven't seen or heard from him in over a month.  I don't know if he knows how hard we've fought for him.  I don't know if he blames me, is angry, is hurt.  I just don't know.

I'm 1300 miles away from my baby.  And it kills me.  I know we had to come back to Wisconsin, save the many at the expense of the one someone called it.  A mother never wants to choose between her children, never wants to drive away from her child.  But it's a position I was put in and a choice I had to make.  

And it hurts.

My CPS and WilCo story part 4

My big mistake.

I woke up the next morning in a panic.  What had we done?  Not allowing them to interview the kids would certainly arouse suspicion, right?  OMG what had we done.

So I made my biggest mistake.  I called and left Christy a voicemail saying I would have the kids at the advocacy center at 9.

And so we went.  Hailey went first, then Chris, then Jack, then Nate.  When Nate was in there Hailey and I becan texting about how it had went and she told me they asked her all sorts of weird questions and non were about Austin.  They were yes or no questions.  Do your parents hit you?  Do they get drunk and act crazy?  Do they do drugs in front of you? and on and on and on.

Mommy instinct took over and I walked down to the interview room and demanded my son back.  I sent Nathan back to the play room with Hailey and told the Mr. Battencort I wanted to speak with the CPS worker who was in the next room immediately.  He told me to hang on and entered the room.  30 seconds later I walked into that room, sat myself down at the far end of the table and said "let's chat".

I asked them what they thought they were doing and why they were NOT in fact asking "open ended" questions.  It was apparent our definition of "open ended" was completely different and I took my children and went home.  The kids were very upset, all 5 of them crying and confused.  My 4 year old was in hysterics and asking me why they thought he was bad.  It was all I could bear.  I called the CPS worker, her supervisor  and the head of the advocacy center and was told that what they had done was appropriate.  I informed them that I had every single conversation documented on video and audio and was not afraid to use them in court or in the media.  (Legal to record with 1 party consent in Texas).

I truly believe this last statement is what led to the outcome of our case.

I had no idea if someone was coming to my house to take my children, and so I made the decision that they needed not live in that stress and we left with a couple suitcases and some toys.

The kids and I went to stay with a friend for a few days until we could sort things out and then we packed up our belongings and moved back to Wisconsin.  We knew the CPS investigation would likely follow us, and we knew we could be charged with interfering in an investigation.  We were willing to accept this risk.

We settled into our home and yesterday in the mail came the most blessed letter.

From the TDFS:

We have found 5 counts of sexual assault by Austin- UNFOUNDED
We have found 5 counts of neglectful supervision by Kat- UNFOUNDED


My CPS and WilCo story part 3

So Ms. Shaw leaves and I call the CPS worker who was Austin's "probation officer" in Wisconsin and tell her what's going on.  She is flabbergasted and tells me that our family was never investigated in Wisconsin because there was nothing to investigate.  Austin was NEVER a threat to his siblings and we always gave appropriate supervision.  I asked her to please call Ms. Shaw and explain that to her and she says she will.

Below is my dated documentation of the events following:

July 6, 2011 10:30am- I receive a call from Mandy Shaw that our request to have Jacksen interviewed by a therapist who works with ASD children has been denied by her “supervisor’s supervisor” as it is their policy not to close a case without interviewing the children at their facility and that if we don’t comply they will have to file an “aid to assist” court order to have the children interviewed there.  I tell her I will discuss it with my husband.

July 6, 2011 11:15am-  I call Mandy Shaw and ask for the contact information for the supervisor she spoke with so that I can speak with her regarding my concerns of having Jacksen interviewed by someone not trained in ASD.  She does not supply the name or any contact information but tells me she will have her call me. 

July 6, 2011 12:30pm.  I contact the DFPS department of consumer affairs via their web form and am responded to with and apology and the name of the supervisor’s supervisor.  Ms Patricia Villifana-Nunex and a telephone number to contact her.

July 6, 2011 1:00pm- I call the number provided, unfortunately it is not Ms Villifana-Nunex but another worker who takes my information and says she will give Ms villifana-Nunex the message that I am aware she had discussed my children’s interview with Ms. Shaw and had denied my request for an interview done by someone trained with Autism and would like to discuss my concerns with her as soon as possible.

July 6, 2011 2:45pm- Received a call back from Ms Villifana-Nunex.  She stated she was aware of my concerns with Jacksen with “these kinds of allegations it is essential for us to interview the children” I asked her what the allegations actually were.  She said she was surprised Mandy hadn’t discussed that with me and that the charges were of Neglectful supervision by Craig and I and sexual assault by Austin.  I asked her what neglectful supervision meant and that we had all the safe guards in place as far as the door alarm, my leaving my job to be home, the “must be seen AND heard” rule.  She stated that sometimes even though we do our best to make sure nothing happens sometimes it does happen.  I asked her how that would be neglectful supervision and she didn’t really answer my question but stated that they would consent to Jacksen being interviewed by the therapist we had in place but that the other children needed to be interviewed in the controlled setting of the advocacy center.  I informed her that I had Mandy on video stating that she did not believe we had intentially put our children in danger at the conclusion of our visit last night and she did not respond to that but to reaffirm that our “normal” children needed to be interviewed at the advocacy center.  I corrected her that we do not refer to our children as “normal” and “abnormal” and prefer to use words like “typical”.  She responds with ok “typical” as you say. I told her that I would talk to my husband and should I call the advocacy center directly to request a tour and she stated that I should call her first.

July 6, 2011 4:00pm- Attempted to contact Ms. Nunex at the number she provided, she did not answer multiple pages to her from the receptionist.

July 6, 2011- 4:35pm- Ms Nunex calls me back and I tell her I would like to tour the advocacy center, she tells me she will call them and I can call and set up the tour in 10 minutes.

July 6 2011- 4:45pm Spoke with Mikey Battencort at the Williamson county child advocacy center and set up tour for Monday July 15th at 4:30pm since Mr Battenocort stated that the tour would have to take place at the 4:30 mark and Monday is the first available date to do that and have the investigation the following day as he requested. I am informed that Detective Vasquez will have to decide if he can do the interview Tuesday. I am confused by this, since CPS is investigating why the detective is the one requesting the interviews??  I will call the CPS supervisor again tomorrow to clarify this.  I will be visiting an attorney tomorrow at 1pm and discussing the case with him as well.  I am still planning to keep the kids’ appointment with the therapist at Lonestar circle of care and will decide pending attorney advice which environment would be least stressfull for the children.

July 7, 2011 9:00am- Spoke with Kelly Van Gilder of Barron County CPS asking her if she had any information on what we had spoke about yesterday as to why Wisconsin does not interview children based solely on the fact that Austin lived in our home.  She asks if I would like a letter to the fact and I say yes.

July 7 2011 9:30am-  Kelly leaves me a voicemail saying that her supervisor stated she cannot provide me with that information.

July 7 2011 9:45 am-  I receive a call from Mikey Battencort of The advocacy center who says to me that he had talked with Christy Smith who is taking over our case with CPS while Ms Shaw is on vacation and since he has a meeting on Monday he would like to reschedule our tour of the facility for Wednesday July 13th at 4:30 PM.  I agree on that time and date.

July 7 2011 10:00am- I leave Kelly a voicemail stating that I would like to view and copy my record as per my rights under Wisconsin statute.

July 7 2011 11:40am- Kelly calls me back and says that while she cannot provide me with a letter as to why they decided not to investigate our family that I absolutely may review my record and she will confer with her supervisor as to the steps I need to take to do that. She asks me what I am looking for and I tell her that I am just trying to arm myself with information to defend myself.  She asks what is going on and I tell her that we are being charged with neglectful supervision and Austin is being charged by CPS with sexually abusing our children.  She states that there has never been any question as to our ability to protect our children, that we followed every rule in place and that there was never an investigation done on our family because there was never any reason to do so.  She also states that she had told Ms Shaw that we were always very cooperative.  She tells me that there really isn’t anything in my record that will be very helpful since there was not an investigation as to our family so there is nothing to find on one.  I tell her I understand that fact completely I’m just really feeling attacked and am trying to do whatever I can to protect our children.  I tell her that they are trying to force us to have our children interviewed by their interviewer despite having an appointment with a therapist in place already for the 19th  that was initiated by me and that they have a signed release from me having access to speak with that therapist about her findings upon evaluation and that I am very uncomfortable with my children being forced into a sensitive line of questioning by a forensic investigator with no real reason to subject them to that as she knows I have always been the first to say that if Austin had done something wrong that he should pay the consequences for that and have always been forthcoming with any information to that fact to which she agreed.  I also told her that on the flipside of that I have a vested interest in protecting Austin’s innocence if he has not done anything wrong as well as protecting my other children’s innocence from interrogation.  She agreed with me on that as well.  Kelly told me she would call Christy Smith and explain to her why an investigation was not done and that we have always followed all of the rules and that there has never been any reason on their part to suspect we were not or were not capable of protecting our children in our home, if there ever had been they would not have allowed Austin in our home and she would call me back, she hoped that her conversation with them would help them to put an end to this.

July 11th 2011- 9:00am.  Austin’s hearing.  I was not able to speak to his attorney but his attorney approached the bench and for reasons I could not hear asked the judge to reschedule the hearing.  Rescheduled for July 29, 9am. 

July 11 2011- 10am- Left a voicemail with Austin’s attorney asking him to return my call and let me know why it was rescheduled.

July 11 2011- 1:30 pm- Spoke with Brooke Hall who called me wondering how court went.  I told her that for some reason they rescheduled the hearing and I have not been able to speak with his attorney despite 2 voicemails today to get an answer as to why they did that.  She asked me to please let her know when I find out anything as since she’s juvenile and this is an adult case she doesn’t know anything unless I tell her.  I clarified with her that this is not a probation hold this is a new charge and she agreed.  So right to a “speedy trial” would come into play here.

July 11 2011- 2:20pm- (see audio recording) I called Christy the CPS worker who has taken over our case for Mandy Shaw due to her vacation and asked her about who was requesting the interviews with the children as I had been told by Mr Battencort at the CAV that it was Detective Vasquez and he would be present for the interview.  Christy informed me that she thought that law enforcement had dropped their part but that she would check for me.  I also went over with her our concerns about having our children interviewed with explicit subject matter with no allegation, she said that they would not be able to ask any leading questions or approach any subject matter not brought up by the children but that on our tour on Wednesday they could talk with me more about how they go about their questioning.  She told me that after the tour to please call her on her cell phone number to discuss anything that came up in the tour.  She reiterated CPS policy not to close a case without interviewing the children and I told her that I understood that but that as parents our children’s well being and being protected from questioning on subject matters they shouldn’t know anything about was of our utmost concern.    She gave me her cell phone number and asked me to call after the tour on Wednesday to discuss any further concerns with her.

July 11 2011- 3:30pm- (see audio recording) Received call back from Brock Kumbuck, Austin’s public defender.  I told him that after being in court this morning I was aware that Austin’s hearing had been reset and was wondering why.  He told me that the state hasn’t decided what they want to do with this case yet so that was the reason for the reset.

July 13, 2011 4:30 pm-  My husband and I arrive at the Williamson county children’s advocacy center with S and N.  (see audio recording).  We learn that the video is not submissible in court and that we will in no way be allowed to view the interview not even by closed circuit camera.

July 13, 2011 6:00pm-  I leave a message on CPS worker Christina’s voicemail asking her to please return my call as I have questions about the interview

July 13, 2011- 8:40pm-(see audio recording) Christina returns my phone call  and I discuss with her my concerns about bias, subjectibility, and the interview being legally defensible due to the fact that Mr Battencort stated that the DVD was not admissible and could not be viewed by anyone but CPS.  After a bit of clarifying my question she said she would contact her supervisor and find out the answers to me

July 13, 2011- 9:00pm- (see audio recording). Christina calls and we talk about the video, she states that the dvd is property of CPS and it is at CPS’s discretion who sees it.  I again address our concerns about subjectivity and ask why we simply cannot have our own therapist talk to the kids since there haven’t been any allegations, and reiterated to her that if something came out in therapy the therapist is, in fact, a mandated reporter, plus they also had a signed release of information from us.  She re-affirmed that that’s not how they do it at which point I informed her that my husband and I had serious concerns over the subjectivity of this interview and it’s bias and that we would not be consenting to an interview and that we would, at this point, be most comfortable with a judge, upon finding, probable cause, making the decision that it’s necessary.  Advised her to familiarize herself with the Calbreta V Greene case as it is very similar to ours.


My CPS and WilCo story part 2

So.  Austin and I left the police station and got the travel permit for our Monday trip to Wisconsin from his probation officer.  Then returned home for a relaxing weekend in the pool.

Fast forward to Monday, June 17th.  Our trip to Wisconsin was put on hold while things unrelated to any of this got worked out.  So while Craig was at work the kids and I just hung out.  At 1pm there was a knock on the door.  It was that same "I'm hercules" knock I had heard Friday morning so I was not surprised to again see Detective "good ole boy" Pascoe and Vasquez standing on my porch.  They asked if Austin was there and as Austin stepped out onto the porch they handcuffed him and Vasquez led him to the police car.  Pascoe told me he was being charged with failure to register as an S.O.  His bond was $25,000 (which I later learned was  lie).  And said "Are your kids safe?"  "I replied to him that they were very much safe with a quizzical look on my face.  "Come down to the PD at 3:30, we'd like to talk to you".

In this interview were a few of the mistakes I made in my case.  Mistakes I learned from and know now not to ever make again.  I'm not perfect.

So I show up at 2:45.  If there's anything I like more than being prompt it's being just early enough so that people haven't fully prepared for my arrival.

Detective Vasquez greeted me and took me back to an interview room and shut the door.  Detective Vasquez asked me if my children had ever been harmed by my son.  "Absolutely not" I told him.  "We have talked with all of them about good touch, bad touch a few times, they have all denied anything".   Detective Vasquez asks me about Austin's contact with a girl he had met in school and asks that I show him the cell phone Austin had been using to communicate with her.  I hand him the cell phone and he reads the text messages.

"Well, given their age difference this wouldn't be a crime in Texas even if they had a sexual relationship so there's nothing there that pertains to me, however I would like to look at the photos on the phone since usually if they are texting they are sending pictures".  I inform him that mms messaging and data is blocked on that phone so there would have been no way for that to happen but he was welcome to look.  He looked through the pictures and said that our cat must be very popular, as there are about 80 pictures of the cat on the phone and that's about it.  He handed the phone back to me and I put it in my purse.

Then detective Vasquez asks me for the names and birthdates of everyone in the home.  This is where I probably should have shut up.  I gave the information to him and he told me that since Austin was living in the home and "as careful as we try to be things happen" he wanted to arrange forensic interviews of all of the children.  Just to be sure.  I informed him that my 8 year old is Autistic, and this may prove to be very stressfull for him and he told me he would gladly arrange a tour beforehand to acclimate our son to the environment.

As we were finishing up he asked me if any of the children had any "odd" behaviors.  "Define, odd" I said.  "Like bedwetting...." he said.  "I told him that my autistic son has occasional bedwetting accidents as most autistic kids do".  He informed me that "this is a very big red flag for us".

Then he said.  "Now I'm going to tell you something, and I don't want you to get upset because well, some people hear certain words and they freak out.  I'm going to have to make a report to CPS about this."

I asked him if we were finished and he said we were.  I got in my car, burst into tears and drove home.  Upon returning home I noticed that detective Vasquez had deleted all the text messages off the phone.

So the waiting began, and the cringing everytime the doorbell rang, and the not sleeping at night.  And the waiting, waiting, waiting.

I decided to take the children to their pediatrician to have them examined.  She did not notice any signs of abuse and I asked her to refer us to a therapist to speak with the kids.  I figured (wrongly) that if I could present this information to CPS this would all just be overwith.

15 days after speaking with detective V, with multiple calls and emails to him from my husband and I, I finally emailed him informing him that since there was no allegation we would be declining the forensic interviews and if he would like the children's pediatrician's report as to their physical state I would gladly provide that to him.  2 hours later Mandy Shaw from DFHS called me to set up to come talk with us.

She comes to the house on Thursday and of course we video tape the entire meeting.  The meeting took place on my front porch with the kids having a pizza picnic in the front yard.  She asks why we are refusing to have the kids interviewed and we tell her that we are not entirely, however putting our children, especially our autistic son through that was a big concern for us and that we had taken measures to secure an appointment with a therapist they could follow up with longterm and we would be happy to allow her to speak with that therapist.  She had us sign a release  (and tried a bunch of crap, see ideo below).  which we made a photocopy of and she went on her merry way.

Continued in next post....

My CPS and WilCo story part 1

So we moved to Texas.  Wait, you knew that part.  And I got a great job.  Oh, you knew that part too?  Ok, well we settled in nicely actually.  We were loving the warm weather, the culture, the world at our fingertips.  In April we decided it was time to bring Austin to Texas to live with us.  (Austin is my oldest son, to refresh yalls memory).  Hey, I picked up a little bit of souther while I was there, so sue me.  

Anyway, the end of April I drove to Wisconsin to get Austin and bring him home.  It was wonderful, our family once again as complete as it could be without our sweet Alexander, the son we will never bring home.  

Austin is on probation and registered as a sex offender at 17 years old for having a sexual relationship with his 13 year old girlfriend when he was 16.  So when we got to Texas his supervision had to be transfered from the Wisconsin department of social services to the Williamson county Texas juvenile probation devision.  Insert probation officer Brooke Hall.  There were many hoops to jump through in Texas.  We  had to install a door alarm on his bedroom door and he had to be supervised 100% of the time.  I had to leave my job to supervise him (ever tried securing "day care" for a 17 year old registered sex offender?).  His probation officer was almost a daily addition to our lives either with visits or phone calls.  We looked forward to February when his "supervision" would end and he could once again be somewhat of a normal teenager.  For now he was under lock and key.  The kids couldn't have friends over,   If I was in the kitchen doing dishes, he was in the kitchen.  If I went to the bathroom, he was in his bedroom with the door alarm set.  He was always to be seen AND heard and we took this very seriously.  It was stressfull for all involved, but we ticked off the days on the calendar as they came and looked forward to a brighter future where we wouldn't be essentially prisoners in our home.  

Upon bringing Austin to Texas we notified the state of Wisconsin SO registry of his whereabouts, we registered him in Texas with his probation officer overseeing him fill out the forms.  We did what they asked, got him a picture ID, took his fingerprints, gave his DNA sample.  We did everything right.......

except we didn't.  

On June 14th the bottom dropped out of our lives.  We woke to a knock on the door and two armed plain clothes detectives greeted Austin and I on my front porch.  They identified themselves as Georgetown PD detectives Pascoe and Vasquez.  They told us that Austin was in violation of the Texas sex offender registry.

How??  We did that?!

No ma'am.  You didn't.  You registered him with the state and the county, not the city.  Please bring your son to the police department this afternoon.

And so I did.  We arrived at 2:30.  Austin was taken back to register and I was left in the lobby.  After 5 minutes the detective came out and asked me to come back.  "That boy doesn't get it".  He stated to me.  "When I ask him questions he just nods, barely speaks, and just says "I didn't realize".  

Now, I could tell you first hand that my 17 year old son with a cognitive ability of a 14 year old roughly did NOT actually get the true seriousness of any of this.  However, it's understandable his lack of words.  Every time in the past he has spoken to police his words have been twisted and used against him.  His attorney had advised him not to speak, as per his 5th amendment rights and he was executing them.  Open your mouth and incriminate yourself, he had learned that well.

So I go back with him and we complete the registration and they fingerprint him a second time.  The detective got very snappy when I informed him that we were planning a trip to Wisconsin on Monday (this was Friday) and demanded I call him monday morning before we left.  I found this slightly odd but didn't really realize what was going on at that point.  

The weekend was quiet, and then Monday brought a whole new surprise that really began the worst summer of our lives.....

continued tomorrow.