Time to Foster Change

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I would like to share with you a story about a courageous young boy. His name is Grayson and he entered this world an opioid addict. Before he drew his first breath he was placed in the custody of DCF (Department of Children and Families). Grayson became a ward of the state because while in utero he was introduced to a wide variety of drugs, heroin being the most prevalent. Grayson spent the first six weeks of his life in pediatric intensive care suffering from addiction withdrawal. As an infant, only days old, he was given methadone to help relieve his withdrawal symptoms. This beautiful little soul went through literal hell before he was a month old. After almost two months in ICU, Grayson’s luck was about to change. He was taken to a home of a woman who spent a good part of her life as a foster parent. This woman took in mostly newborns back in the 60’s and 70’s, but this time was different, this baby had been drug exposed which would require an entirely different skill set. Sure, she was capable of caring for this infant, she did after all have four children of her own and fostered over forty infants over the decades. But, in all that time she never experienced having to care for a little one who was already so physically and emotionally traumatized. It was heartbreaking for her to listen to his perpetually crying, never knowing if it was the pain he was suffering from the bloody raw skin hanging from his bottom due to severe diarrhea caused by the methadone or the lack of being held or touched for the first months of his life. She understood that no child should have to begin life this way and she was bound and determined to do her best to make up for Grayson’s undeniably rough start. Month after month she cradled, nurtured and fussed over this little guy. I know this to be true because I was blessed to have been able to witness this incredible act of love. I had an up close and personal view of this baby boy’s extraordinary physical and emotional transformation. The reason I was fortunate enough to watch this story unfold is I just so happen to know this woman. She’s my mother. 


I am not one to believe in coincidences. All things happen for a reason in my book of life. So, meeting this lovable young soul was not a fluke. The second I met him I knew he was special. I just didn’t know at that moment in time just how profound an effect he would have upon me. Around the time Grayson arrived at my Mom’s, I had suffered another miscarriage. Spending time with Grayson helped me climb out of a woeful period. How could I feel sorry for myself as I watched this child struggle just to make it through a day? If that doesn’t put life in perspective, I don’t know what will. When Grayson was about three months old, my Mom asked me if I could watch him for a week while she went on vacation. My husband and I agreed to stay at her place so the baby would be around familiar surroundings. It was during this time with Grayson that something very strange occurred that to this day, I find difficult to explain or fully understand myself. I have no words to describe it other than divine intervention. Just so you know I am not a religious person. I can’t even remember the last time I stepped in a church. I was baptized Catholic, went to church every Sunday as a kid, didn’t eat meat on Fridays, stations of the cross during Lent, observance of every holy day, and twelve years in a parochial school. By the time I was an adult I was over it. I made a conscious choice to step away from my childhood faith when it occurred to me there exists a difference between religion and spirituality. It was this spirituality that prompted my attention to focus on the emotional moment I’m about to describe. I remember the night in vivid detail. I was awoken by Grayson’s cries so I went to check on him. It was 2:20 in the morning. The moonlight was so bright that I decided not to turn on any lights. His diaper was dry so he must be hungry. I warmed some formula and spent 20 minutes trying to get him to take the bottle. It became obvious that hunger wasn’t the issue. So, what did this little guy want so late at night? Grayson had stopped crying and was quietly laying in my arms looking up at me very peacefully. I couldn’t help but to be mesmerized by his big beautiful eyes. This went on for ten minutes, the two of us locked in a staring contest in the middle of the night with nothing but the moonlight illuminating our faces. All of a sudden, I felt a shiver run through my body. It was like this little soul was trying to talk to me with his eyes. I heard the words, “I’m already here.” I immediately had this intuitive understanding. Whether it was God, the Divine, the Universe, or Spirit (whatever you want to call it),I have no doubt something higher than myself touched my soul and was telling me that this baby boy was here for me. He had arrived in a way that I wasn’t expecting, but nevertheless, he was here and something deep down told me we were supposed to play a significant part in each other’s lives.


As someone with experience in the dealings of the Florida family court system, I was well aware how dependency cases worked. I knew this was a long shot. Many moving parts would have to align perfectly for this particular outcome to become reality. So, for the next several months I watched and waited for the legal process to play out, trying hard not to get my hopes up. I remember sending an intention out into the universe that I would repeat everyday. It went something like this, “I wish only the best for this child. If I am meant to be a part of his life, then thank you, if not, this was not meant to be and I know he is meant to be elsewhere.”  When it became apparent that reunification was not going to be an option, I came forward with my idea of adoption. My husband was on board with very little convincing because by this time, my entire family had formed a tender bond with Grayson. My mother was elated because this outcome would allow Grayson to remain part of her life too. Because let’s face it, devastating heartbreak occurs when you have to return a child to welfare services after nearly a year of attachment knowing full well you were the only family this baby has ever known. The child welfare agency on the other hand was not so keen on the idea and were unwavering in their attempt to find a suitable family relation to take permanent custody. They had their robotic agenda to follow and were not the least bit interested with our adoption suggestion.  So, I decided to pursue another avenue. I wrote to the Judge assigned to Grayson’s case file. I respectfully asked the Court’s permission to be considered as a permanent placement alternative. I explained all the circumstances, including the length of time Grayson had been with my mother, that made our family a plausible option for adoption. I shared with the Judge how my husband and I formed a relationship with Grayson during his time as a foster child and that a loving home could and would be provided for him. I also volunteered that we had enrolled in a foster parenting class and would soon obtain our foster care license (I knew you had to be a licensed foster home for any child in the system to be placed in your home). I also thought it important to reiterate that as Grayson’s prime caretaker for the past year, my mother  would remain very much a part of his life. And lastly, I couldn’t help but make the point that a loving bond with a child doesn’t require a bloodline. That the love we all have for Grayson is as powerful and genuine as any loving bond can be. For those of you unaware, anytime communication is sent to a judge (in this case a letter), it is shared with all parties connected to the case. Needless to say, the child welfare agency was not pleased that information they were holding back made its way to the judge. To be honest, I didn’t rightly care what the agency thought. My only concern was the Judge and Grayson’s Guardian Ad Litem. As fate would have it, an impression was made on both. A few months after sending the letter I received a call from the child welfare agency. They were letting me know that the judge would be signing an order to allow Grayson to be transferred into our care until the severance of parental rights was completed. After that we were free to move forward with the adoption.


Happy news indeed. It may sound like this entire process was a rather easy walk in the park, it wasn’t. It was one hell of a roller coaster ride. A journey full of anxiety ridden court hearings, countless sleepless nights, and constant run ins with an agency so inflamed that someone dared to interfere with their staunch objectives  But, after what had transpired that moonlit night, I was able to retain a quiet faith that something I couldn’t explain was at work. Anyone familiar with the child welfare system knows that the unfolding circumstances preceding Grayson’s adoption was a rarity. Like I stated previously, many variables were in play and all of them had to synchronize accordingly for this beautiful boy to become part of our family. I can’t come away from this experience without acknowledging a few things I’ve learned in regards to faith and the power of prayer. First of all, prayer to me is a form of communication between ourselves and whatever we believe to be higher and more powerful than ourselves. I believe anyone can pray, it’s not an act reserved for the religious. It is a private and sacred experience for each individual who believes in its power. The same can be said of faith. It is also something anyone can choose to possess if they so desire. Both of these things, prayer and faith, play a huge role in my own spiritual practice and the reason I believe all things are possible. In the many months between the night Grayson and I had our staring contest and the morning the judge signed the adoption order my belief in this sentiment never wavered. Despite my own sense of hope, I can’t deny the countless positive intentions and prayers from so many others from various religious and spiritual backgrounds that were offered on behalf of this baby. This child had so many people pulling for him. From my very devout Catholic mother and mother-in-law to my agnostic best friend. I can’t even begin to count how many candles were lit and rosaries said. My Mom’s best friend’s sister was a Carmelite nun. Every morning for months her order of nuns would devote a special prayer for Grayson. One nun had a close friendship with a priest in Japan who dedicated a Mass to Grayson’s well-being. During this same time period my mother-in-law, whose dear friend was also a priest, would devote an hour of prayer for Grayson on a daily basis. She also had many friends who enjoyed traveling so she would ask them to stop and light a candle at whichever shrine was closest to their destination spot. Prayer intentions were made at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal; Our Lady of Lourdes in France; The Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre in Quebec and Our Lady of Częstochowa in Poland. And because old habits die, even I felt compelled to light a candle at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes while visiting Notre Dame. I knew deep down no matter the outcome, this little soul’s fate was going to be just fine. 


I don’t even know where to begin in my attempt to describe how much Grayson has changed me as a person. He has been my teacher, guiding light, and my hero. His path into this world and the journey he has been on ever since has been a heroic battle he never asked for. Watching him struggle with everyday tasks that most of us take for granted, I’ve come to appreciate his inner strength. He has shown me what the word perseverance actually means. In my eyes he is pure inspiration. My love for this child is unwavering and bottomless. It has been through him that I’ve come to understand what it means to give and receive love unconditionally. This child is also the reason I have become enlightened on such topics as the foster care system, adoption, and special needs. It is because of him and his in depth experience with each that prompted me to bring these subject matters to the attention of the human collective. As human beings we have much to learn about compassion and responding to others who may be different than ourselves. We all know that the problem isn’t the difference itself, but the response to that difference. So, may I ask from anyone who is interested in trying to make the world a bit less harsh to please watch your words, as well as, your actions when making judgments about another human being you know nothing about. Grayson was wanted as much as any other child brought into this world to awaiting parents. So, it breaks my heart when I hear asinine comments such as “I could never adopt, it just wouldn’t be the same as having my own.” Another idiotic remark I hear on occassion is “Do you find yourself treating him differently?”  Seriously? The only thing that truly runs through my mind when I hear such callousness is how clueless can one be? Anyone with this type of mentality obviously struggles with the understanding of the word love and must suffer from some serious ego issues. Why else would one think that love was impossible unless a child was an extension of oneself? Adoption means to take in as one’s own. What could be a better example of love on earth? Sadly to say, what has become very apparent to me since Grayson’s adoption is that our society is infatuated with that label. I have seen the word adopted in more forms and documents than I care to admit. Everyone seems to be interested in whether or not your child is adopted. Why? I can understand why medical and mental health professionals may request this information, but other than that, I don’t see how this information is relevant. Why do school applications, sports participation forms, physical, speech and occupational therapist evaluations, insurance questionnaires, dentists and optometrists, etc, need to know if a child is adopted? How does this information enhance the ability to do one’s job? Does society understand that by requesting this information another label is slapped upon this child? Forcing this child to stand out when there is absolutely no need to do so. Many of these children have already been affixed with a variety of different labels prior to their adoptions. Neonatal abstinence syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, autism, asperger, RAD, DSED, ADHD, ODD, CD, OCD, PTSD, to name a few. They don’t need society adding yet another one. I would like to take this moment to educate the world on the difference between an adoptive child and a biological one. There is absolutely positively no difference at all. Love is love and if you can’t grasp that simple concept then adoption is an option you should by all means stay clear of. Adoptive parents feel the same unconditional love for their child as any other emotionally healthy parent. Why is it that every time I read about the children of a celebrity there is always a snippet about which ones are adopted. I just don’t understand why some are so keen on pointing out this distinction. As if the parent is posing as a substitute. We are not second stringers stepping in for anyone. We are stepping up declaring these children as our own. So, please do not refer to me as an “adoptive parent”, I am just a parent, a mother, period. And while I do believe a child should be told of their adoption, what they ultimately chose to do with this information should be of no concern to society. If I wasn’t trying to bring awareness to his plight, I unequivocally would not be bringing Grayson’s story and background to life. His journey has encompassed drug exposure, foster care, adoption, special needs assistance, atypical education options, and inadequate state healthcare to name just a few of the specific struggles and roadblocks that he and tens of thousands of other children just like him stare down daily. It is my hope that he’ll come to understand my motivation for sharing his personal history so that he and children like him are recognized and acknowledged. There is an entire generation of children, worldwide, suffering from the effects of drug exposure and hence confronted with all the other obstacles that follow. Current societal contributions such as healthcare and education just don't cut it with these kids. These children are afflicted with issues that clearly need to be better understood by our society, followed by better support services set into place that adequately address their distinctive needs. 


In case you haven’t noticed, I really dislike any kind of labeling, especially when it comes to children. However, it’s become the norm, an essential piece of branding used in various societal occupations and professions. There is no escaping it. You see, without such identification, it’s almost impossible to obtain the proper medical, physical, emotional, and/or educational assistance a child may need in support of their special needs diagnosis. In the short time Grayson has been on this earth he has been diagnosed with at least a dozen different labels by healthcare professionals. It saddened me greatly every time he was diagnosed with yet another set of initials. It was heart wrenching to watch this little boy carry the weight of all these characterizations upon his shoulders. It’s unfair, but if you wish to obtain the specialized healthcare and educational assistance that’s necessary, you learn to play the game. These labels are used for, at least in the state of Florida, public school 504 plans, CMS(Children’s Medical Services - specialized health care plan within Medicaid), SSI(federal disability benefits), ABA(applied behavioral analysis), and a wide assortment of therapies such as speech, occupational, physical, social, feeding, cognitive behavioral, there are too many to name, but you get the idea. And while I do understand why designation may be required for such programs, we tend to overlook how this labeling wreaks havoc on a child’s self confidence which can then adversely  affect their  socialization skills. Older kids, especially, become very self-conscious of their “label” and often find themselves separated from their peers. Having to attend a different school, class, or program does not help their self-esteem. Neither does attending weekly therapy visits because they can’t speak correctly, button a shirt, balance a bike, or control emotions. We use these labels over and over again to a point it becomes ingrained in these children and it leaves them no alternative, but to believe this is who they are. We are basically telling every child with an acronym slapped on their medical file that there is something wrong with them. That being who they are isn’t enough. We as human beings have very clear notions of how we expect individuals to act, speak, learn, and emote, thereby making the above statement not far from the truth. I am well aware of such expectations because I was guilty of it myself. With every new diagnosis Grayson received, I became more and more fixated on what could be done to help him, cure him, fix him. Until I finally realized there is nothing wrong with him, he is enough just as he is. I was the one preoccupied with “normalizing” him. Grayson was just doing Grayson. It was me trying one attempt after another to “repair” him. Once I adjusted my need to standardize my son, that is when he began to shine. All he ever needed was three simple things; acceptance, support and love. I understand these children have very different needs than their peers and their uniqueness requires assistance, but it doesn’t need to occur in ways that demoralize their self worth. Many in society really underestimate these children. Love and acceptance of these kids will move mountains. Add to that the proper support which should include patience, understanding, and compassion and these kids can and will knock down any obstacle put in their path. One of my favorite programs at the moment is Ted Lasso. There is a scene in season one where the main character is playing darts after wagering a bet. He is behind by many points when he begins to describe how everyone always underestimated him. One day he saw a quote by Walt Whitman “Be curious not judgemental.” The gist of the rest of the scene was if folks were just curious enough to ask questions instead of being quick to judge, maybe they would have known he had played darts since childhood. He then goes on to hit two triples and a bullseye. I’m not doing this scene justice, you should really google Ted Lasso Dart Game and watch it for yourself. It was so poetic and gave me chills. Watching that scene made me think of Grayson and the insensitive remarks others have felt justified to opine. I have come to understand most judgments stem from either an ignorance of the facts or an intolerance to appreciate and comprehend the struggles others may face. I get that most young kids lack the maturity and awareness to consider their thoughts and opinions, but adults? I’m not talking just strangers, this includes teachers, coaches, neighbors, people who should know better. It’s okay to be inquisitive, it’s the ignorant judgementality most of us can do without. 


Especially when that judgement is directed at children who through no fault of their own are faced with a set of life circumstances no one should ever have to endure. 


Most adults looking back upon their childhood would likely agree that their school experience played an important role in their formative years. Attending school for many of us was our first introduction with social interaction. It’s where best pals were made, peer groups formed, and personalities established. But, there was always one thing that every kid tried to avoid and that was to stand out. Nobody wanted to be “that” kid. Well, society, I have news for you, there are hundreds of thousands of “those” kids out there in today’s world. These kids don’t stand out purposefully, but stand out because of difficulties they were born with. Children like Grayson, didn’t do a damn thing to deserve the hardships they were dealt, but nevertheless, they struggle with issues that interfere with the way they learn and comprehend, socialize and relate. Because of these specific issues the parents of these kids are faced with limited educational choices. The reality that faces these kids is that the education system in general, whether private or public, does not deal well with children that learn in non conventional ways. On top of that, school systems are not equipped to handle emotionally and/or behaviorally challenged students. We have hundreds of thousands of children who suffer from the consequences of drug exposure and I guarantee you that their educational needs are not being met, let alone being addressed. The public school system is of course required by law to make available education for any child, however, the educational assistance kids like Grayson require is unique and intense, and the two options available, an IEP or 501 plan, are not well equipped or sufficiently managed to appropriately work with the consequences of drug exposure. The individualized education plan (IEP) offers kids with a defined disability under law specialized instruction and related services. This plan is developed by an “educational team” involving numerous individuals within the public school system. The parents are involved as well, but are often cautioned to have reasonable expectations. If a parent should disagree or change their mind about the plan there is a legal process that needs to be followed. Once the plan has been signed it becomes a legal document that follows the child from district to district, state to state. In other words, the IEP process is very complex and tricky to maneuver. In addition, there are numerous nightmare stories found on the web that warn about the lack of communication between the education team and the teaching staff as well as the oversight of the plan’s enforcement. Parents of special kids have enough going on, legal entanglement with the public school system and reliance of others opinions on what is best for their child without thoroughly knowing and understanding all the underlying circumstances the child struggles with on a daily basis is a recipe for failure. The second less intrusive option offered by the public school system is a 501 plan. This plan does not require specialized instruction, but offers to any child with a defined disability under the law the assurance that effective accommodations will be made to suit the child’s specific circumstances so academic success can be achieved. Modifications such as extra test time, less homework, a seat in front of the classroom, etc. Slightly modified adjustments would not be adequate enough to help kids like Grayson. Next up, private schools. Many private schools nowadays proclaim to have tailored programs that meet the challenges or disabilities that interfere with a child’s learning. Our experiences with such institutions run the gamut. Our first experience involved a school that promised an excellent education along with any necessary therapies. The education that was administered was a joke. The school turned out to be nothing more than a glorified daycare. Second experience involved a school that offered on site therapy, one of which was ABA (applied behavioral analysis). This type of therapy is rarely, if ever, covered by insurance so we had to cover this cost out of pocket. We were told during Grayson’s evaluation that after a few months of ABA therapy he would be able to attend the school. Well, a year later, after spending thousands of dollars on therapy, the administration decided that Grayson wasn’t a good fit for the school. So we were left with only one option, homeschool. It actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was able to find a certified teacher who left both the public and private school systems to start her own tutoring service. She became Grayson’s full-time private tutor and has been faithfully at Grayson’s side for most of his elementary school years. She stuck with him through good days and bad days, never once giving up on him. This earth angel of a woman gave Grayson the ability to see his worth. She challenged him consistently, but gently, and he has thrived under her instruction. This school year, for the first time ever, Grayson has been able to attend a private school where he is flourishing. This was only made possible because he had a compassionate, understanding, and very patient instructor who believed in him. This is what it takes for children like Grayson to succeed. We were very fortunate, not only with finding an incredible teacher, but having the resources to fund this choice. Not everyone can afford this option. So, what are these kids to do? What options do their parents actually have that will address their unique issues and needs?


This country needs to realize that the number of children born every year with a dependency to at least one substance has quadrupled since the 1990’s. We will soon be dealing with a generation of children who spent their entire time in utero addicted. The consequence of this exposure impacts the child’s brain development and nervous system. It causes a delay in physical, cognitive, and emotional development. It results in damage to memory, movement and attention. These are just some of the obstacles these children are faced with, sadly, there are many many more. I can tell you from experience, the current educational system we have in place is not equipped to properly address the issues that follow these children. Many of these children are being misdiagnosed as just ADHD or dubbed problematic. Attention issues, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior may be prevalent symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome, but hardly the extent of the damage. These just happen to be the symptoms most recognizable. Placing a common label such as ADHD on a child such as Grayson, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the afflictions these children deal with on a daily basis. The system desperately needs educational adjustments that take into account the predominant and long-term effects of drug exposure. If this reality continues to be ignored it won’t just be the kids who are harmed by the lack of educational opportunities, society will eventually feel it too. 


Another constant struggle has been health care assistance. Most of the children born addicted to narcotics are placed in the custody of DCF. They are then either adopted or placed into the care of a relative. In either case, the child is entitled to Medicaid. Medicaid is a federal/state program run within federal guidelines by state and local governments. It is a needs based program that offers no cost medical coverage to low income people. It is also a benefit provided to kids in foster care and foster care adopted children. Needless to say, half of Medicaid’s beneficiaries are children. I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised that the health coverage provided to children, the disabled, and low income individuals is a whole different story than the medical coverage offered to Medicare recipients. Medicare, after all, is an entitlement program given to anyone aged 65 and over, whereas Medicaid is only offered to those who are extremely poor, disabled, or foster kids. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which group has an easier time advocating for the best possible medical coverage. If the government treated Medicare the same as Medicaid there would be a national uproar. Because Grayson is an adopted foster child, I’ve had several years of experience dealing with this so-called “benefit”. All I can say is shame on our government. I believe every politician and lawmaker should be required to utilize Medicaid for their entire term in office. Maybe then they could see for themselves what kind of care is made available to those most vulnerable. I am not saying all providers who accept Medicaid are sub par, but many are indeed questionable. The first obstacle one has to jump over is finding a qualified provider that accepts Medicaid. Many do not. I finally found a pediatrician (32 miles away)and a dentist (47 miles away) who are wonderful, but the search was long and tedious. Sometimes I would step in an office just to walk right back out. Other times I wouldn’t even get out of the car, just looking at the exterior of the building was enough to turn me off. We all know that even for a healthy individual more is needed then a doctor and dentist. Children suffering from the after effects of drug exposure have so many physical, emotional, and mental issues that have to be addressed. Many specialists are needed to assist these kids with the proper treatment they require. I have yet to this day found a mental health professional willing to accept Medicaid. Grayson’s mental and emotional help has all been paid out of pocket. Most of the therapies suggested by medical and mental health experts have also been paid out of pocket. No one within a 200 mile radius would accept Medicaid for ABA therapy. I was also hard pressed to find a speech, occupational, or physical therapist willing to accept this insurance. I did finally find providers for these services, but it wasn’t easy. These kids live with constant struggles and are in need of specialized assistance.  I would like to note that Grayson is covered under a speciality plan referred to as Children’s Medical Services (CMS). This is a plan for children with special healthcare needs that require extensive preventive and ongoing care. The government may like to think such services are made available, but the true reality is that physicians and specialists in the areas needed can accept whatever insurance they wish or none at all. Medicaid doesn’t encompass some special power that requires any of these doctors or therapists to assist the children covered by it. As a parent to one of these children I can tell you from first hand experience the medical coverage offered isn’t that special. I will concur that finding physical and speech therapists was relatively easy, but finding help with mental, emotional, and/or behavioral issues is a joke. Mental and emotional healthcare is paramount, however this type of assistance is just not easily accessible for Medicaid recipients. Many times over the years I felt the urge to forego Medicaid and just add Grayson to our private insurance. I choose not to do so because I wanted to hold the government accountable for their promise of assistance. I’m sure they would like nothing better than to have adopted parents take on the insurance coverage, one less child to be accountable for. The truth of the matter is that these parents have to pay out an astronomical amount of money to help acquire the much needed services their adopted/foster child needs. This is because of two main reasons: Medicaid doesn’t cover the treatment or the specialized health care provider won't accept it. Either way the child is still in need of the service, so what is a parent to do other than to pay for the proper treatment required to help their child?


In addition to medicaid, adopted foster children are entitled to other types of government assistance. A very important benefit that isn't highly touted is the adoption subsidy. When a foster child is adopted this subsidy is made available for the adopted child. However, DCF will do their best to play on the emotions of the adoptive parents and actually ask if this financial offer is wanted. Do not let them guilt you into foregoing this financial assistance. Trust me, I’ve been there. Adoptive parents are over the moon with joy and may feel awkward or greedy for accepting this benefit. Keep in mind your child is entitled to this financial support so there is absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I can almost guarantee with certainty that this subsidy will eventually be put to use for your child’s welfare. These children no matter what type of trauma they have suffered; drug addiction, sexual abuse, physical injury, abandonment, etc., will eventually need the appropriate help to overcome this damage. Should you be lucky enough for this not to be the case, take it anyway, and put it in a savings account for their future use. For all they have endured and will endure in their young lives they have earned it. I would also like to point out that should you find out after the adoption that the health care expenses are over and beyond what you can handle, reach out to DCF and make a request for a medical expense subsidy. They will make you jump through hoops, but every little bit helps. Parents need to be made aware of these options because I can tell you from experience DCF won’t volunteer it. Make yourself aware of all the benefits your child is entitled to and advocate for them. The most compassionate thing we can do for these kids is to do everything within our power to bring forth the proper help and support (financial and/or otherwise) that they are entitled to receive so they may have a shot at living their best life.


I realize that I have not spoken very kindly of the child welfare system. But the actions, decisions, and attitudes that exude from this program have left me beyond bewildered. On one hand there are rules and guidelines that go to extremes, yet on the other hand the bar is set so low it’s almost comical. To give an example of the former, we had this case worker come out to our home to check off all that was necessary for re-licensure. She was adamant that we needed to post a fire drill sign with the steps needed to exit safely. I asked her why that was necessary when the foster child was less than six months old. She insisted it needed to be posted up on the wall in case of an emergency. I just looked at her, smiled and said “Would you like me to post it closer to the floor just in case the baby figures out how to climb out of his crib, crawl to the front door and miraculously read the exit strategy?” My sarcasm was completely lost on her, because she responded by saying, “No, eye level is fine.” DCF will insist on this kind of nonsense, but allow a violent parent with a history of abuse to pass an anger management class (which they pay for) so the child can be reunified for most likely more abuse. I also noticed that the bar was set quite low when it came to screening foster parents. Not all individuals who attempt to be foster parents should be. Unfortunately, many do not have the best intentions. I get the system is desperate for foster families, but this is one area that DCF needs to remain stringent. It would also help to empathize with the child and activate some common sense. If a case worker licensing a home is thinking to themselves “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live here.” Then why in the world would DCF think it’s okay to eventually place a frightened child in that same circumstance. Desperation on part of the government is no reason or excuse to further traumatize a child. I have witnessed the system be many things: inconsistent, nonsensical, unfair, overbearing, standardized, indifferent, unresponsive, but the one characteristic that has bothered me the most has been the apathy that oozes from many of its workers. In a child welfare case there are so many different players vying for their own personal interest. The court wants to clear their docket, DCF wants to close their case, the lawyers want what is best for their clients, the government through the laws they enact want kids back with their parents for various reasons and most of them have nothing to do with the child's best interests or well-being. Everyone, but the child has their own agenda, but make no mistake, it will be the child and then society that ultimately pays the price in the end.


I believe this country’s child welfare system is a complete and utter mess. But, oddly enough I believe we need it! We have to rely on something other than the Family First Prevention Services Act as long as there continues to be children like Grayson whose reunification with biological families would be a devastating error. Tens of thousands of children across this country should not be placed back within their biological homes. That has always been the easy answer, the easy fix. I can see where such a solution would benefit many, including our government, if such matters were so simple. DNA does not create a safe, nourishing environment. The sooner we grasp a hold of that concept, the sooner we can rebuild a child welfare process that actually does what it’s supposed to do and protects the child. 


The government, both federal and state, can also do their part by apportioning more funding for these children in lieu of the shameful pittance that has been allotted year after year. Federal and state legislatures can do their part by enacting laws that require the appointment of an attorney as the child’s advocate, not a Guardian Ad Litem. Laws in place that hold DCF and third party contractors accountable would also be useful. Making it a criminal offense should a child welfare agency, case manager, case worker, foster parent, etc., negligently place a child in any danger resulting in physical, sexual, mental or emotional damage would definitely create a deterrent for doing so. The local child welfare agencies can do their part by setting strict financial and housing criteria so a child is never placed in a dump with individuals who may have ill intent. Training employees to have compassion and respect for foster parents who are trying to do a good job would be most welcomed, maybe then there wouldn’t be such a mass exodus of foster families leaving the system. Requiring all personnel to undertake an emotional intelligence course so they comprehend that it is a child they are dealing with not a case file. My point being with these suggestions is that the system can be better if that is what this country truly wanted to do. It might not be an easy fix, but it is a necessary one because the way the system operates now is appallingly shameful. These kids are left completely exposed, vulnerable within a system that will decide their fate without a second thought. They have no alternative but to trust, yet that trust is severed again and again each time one of these children is abused or neglected a second, third and fourth time. And let us not forget those children that never make it back into the system due to some unspeakable act. We need this system. We need alternative solutions. We can’t continue to move forward with the perspective that all families are ideal. It’s just not reality. 


What a difference we could make if we just embraced a different, yet enlightened way of thinking. Many of these children would thrive if given the chance to be surrounded by ones who possess actual concern for their well-being and not a damn about where they come from. There are plenty of folks out there just like me ready to adopt, willing and ready to give love, time and effort to make a difference in these young lives who unequivocally understand that a bloodline is not needed to give and receive love. I can’t be the only one tired and fed up with passively following along with archaic perspectives on children, women, race, sexual identity, and anything else that is vehemently unfair. There are thousands of causes affecting millions of people in existence at this very moment that need attention. It’s beyond frustrating that so many face such harsh adversity everyday because they lack the recognition, protection and respect they deserve. We are so overdue in regards to turning archaic ideology on its head that it’s just a matter of time before such narrow-mindness is dealt with for good. American perspectives are expanding at a very rapid pace and our tolerance is wearing thin when it comes to adhering to laws that no longer resonate with our ever expanding world. Watching two little ones struggle through their own personal hell was enough for me. Change is what’s needed so I’m going to begin by invoking my own butterfly effect…a small trivial action that could ultimately result in a much bigger consequence. 


Until this country enacts legislation in which innocent children are as well protected as any adult I will not stop advocating. The child's best interest standards are nothing but guidelines. And as far as parental rights, they should not be given priority, especially when constant and continued abuse is present. Grayson, Quinn, and all the other foster children who have been left abandoned without protective rights are duly worthy of much better treatment from the supposed leaders of the free world. Please join me in advocating for these kids or any other injustice you would like to see put right. 


Don’t allow difference of opinion, fear, intimidation, backlash, or any other blockage stop you from speaking your truth. Every voice matters. 

It has taken me several years to be able to talk about this young soul. Every time I tried to organize my thoughts and put words to paper my emotions would get the better of me. I didn’t want to share this story until I was sure I was doing it for the right reasons. I will readily admit I was disappointed, frustrated and angry in regards to not only how this child was treated by the foster care system, but how my family was treated as well. I am well aware that bad mouthing the child welfare system is nothing new and it’s certainly not the main objective in my decision to share this story. Contrary to what one might think at this point, it is my true belief that we need to keep the foster system going. Without it the only other remedy would be to keep these damaged kids within their abusive environments and that for sure is not the answer. The current system as it now operates needs to change. It is in desperate need of a complete overhaul, requiring the enactment of new laws that better protect the rights and well-being of the children who are placed within it. I have seen how this system operates with my own eyes and I have felt the apathy with every fiber of my being. Such an experience is not quickly forgotten, it can and does linger for years. As troubled as I was with the county child welfare agencies that I personally dealt with, I realized that this dysfunctional system doesn’t begin or end with them. Once I began to peel back the layers, I found the reason for much of their ineffectiveness originates with the federal government. The federal government’s influence on child welfare policy, as well as, its financial contribution has a direct impact on state action. This is not to say the states are blameless. State budget allowances and legislative actions also affect child welfare practices and the role DCF plays, but individual states no doubt take their cue from federal mandates. What I have come to learn through my own experience within the system is just how much these local agencies' hands are tied. I’m in no way making excuses for them. They are, after all, the ones who have been entrusted with the ultimate responsibility of protecting these children. It also falls upon them to properly educate and train employees to carry out their duties so children in the system aren’t further traumatized. None of these positions should be taken lightly or performed with lackadaisical efforts. These children have their emotional, mental and physical beings at stake and each and every one of them should be treated with extreme care. Every decision, action, and order made on behalf of these children should embody this all-powerful nugget of truth. I do realize, however, that to do all that is needed to properly protect the children under each state’s care the dismal amount of money that is apportioned on an annual basis to fund these agencies requires a ten-fold increase. The minuscule amount of money designated to child welfare by federal and state governments is shameful. In addition to serious budget concerns, these agencies have to operate under dependency laws that show a protective bias toward the parent which is also a limitation beyond their control. They have no alternative, but to follow the laws as they are written. Although these laws may refer to the best interests of the child, the underlying goal found in the language of these statutes is unquestionably a reunion between parent and child. So, how may I ask can one protect a child’s best interests when there is the ever present conflicting objective of reunification? In the majority of dependency cases, no matter how detrimental it may be to the child, the parents will be given a case plan and the opportunity to regain custody. This is because there is a cemented, yet defective belief in our society that the blood that runs through our veins is somehow relevant when it comes to our overall well-being. Somewhere along the line in our human development it was decided that our congenital traits and DNA should elevate in standing above love itself. How are these children being served by treating them as extensions of their egg and sperm donors instead of the unique individuals they are. We are unparalleled individuals who enter and leave this world alone. We are separate individual beings that should belong to no one, especially abusive kin. Being a parent is a privilege and a blessing. Responsibility for another life should be a right that is earned, not given. I watched with a sense of helplessness as Quinn slipped through the cracks along with any of the mental and emotional progress that was made in the eighteen months prior. After thinking of this child every day for the past five years, I have come to realize that in order to be the change I want to see I needed to put words to paper. I wrote in large capital letters on the top of every page of my notes...keep emotions out of it, stay neutral and just be real. So, this is me being real speaking up for an amazing, one-of-a-kind kid and all the other innocents that were made to walk the same path as this gentle child I had the pleasure to know. 


When Quinn first arrived at our home the child spoke only a few words. I thought at first it was due to a language barrier due to the fact the little one was of a different ethnicity. But that turned out not to be the case after placing Quinn with a language specialist who informed us the child knew and spoke only the English language. This poor child was also very sickly, suffering from constant respiratory and breathing issues especially at night. Our pediatrician finally diagnosed the toddler with moderately acute asthma in which three different meds were needed daily. In addition to Quinn’s health issues, like so many other foster kids, Quinn suffered from mental and emotional issues that required immediate attention. We sought the services of a play therapist, speech therapist, and a tutor to help assist with severe developmental delays. As a foster parent you have to rely on state provided medical insurance, which is Medicaid, to help offset the cost of these expenses. Unfortunately, the medical coverage Medicaid provides is severely inadequate when it comes to care outside a primary physician. A pediatrician and dentist aren’t the only professionals needed for a child’s well-being, especially a child who has endured various types of trauma. If you are lucky you may find a speech or occupational therapist who accepts Medicaid, but it’s definitely slim pickings. And should you be in need of a psychological evaluation, psychiatrist, educational tutor, and/or an applied behavioral therapist it will more than likely be an out of pocket expense. I have yet, in over ten years, been able to find providers in these areas who will touch Medicaid. But, you do what you have to do. Quinn was struggling, so we paid out of pocket to get the help that was needed. Our good intentions, however, were constantly being met by roadblocks either from the agency or from Quinn’s “father”. This man argued against any effort in procuring relief for Quinn’s respiratory issues because of his distrust of doctors. We also received a lot of push back from the Child Welfare Agency when we asked for Quinn’s medical records. For those of you who think HIPPA laws play a part in this situation, they actually don’t. HIPPA would ring true most of the time, but there are some exceptions, and foster parenting is one of them. Can you imagine not being able to know the medical history of a child you are legally responsible for? The reason for the agency’s unwavering procrastination in providing Quinn’s medical records only became apparent after Quinn was taken from our custody. 


During the time Quinn spent with us I had the opportunity to get to know and spend time with Quinn’s biological mother and her extended family. No mention of her or her whereabouts was ever made by Quinn’s case worker so I was surprised by her sudden appearance at a medical procedure for Quinn. I befriended her that day and we became close. She shared with me that she was very ill and had recently been in and out of the hospital. I never knew and I never asked what she was sick with. I just assumed it was serious because the case workers never mentioned reunification with her at all. In fact, they never made any mention of her, period. So, I would visit her in the hospital on my own so Quinn could spend time with her. As the months went by she became sicker and the hospital stays became longer. It was during one of these hospital visits that I met Quinn’s Aunt, the mother’s sister. From the sister I learned quite a bit of information about Quinn’s birth and upbringing. She told me about the violence and neglect Quinn’s mother endured by the presumed father. She stated that Quinn’s mother and “father” never married and broke up soon after Quinn’s birth. The “father” had only obtained custody because of the mother’s illness. It was under his care when the system took custody. I was informed by both Quinn’s mother and the aunt that the “father” had a violent temper and questionable past and they did not want Quinn returned to him. I knew reunification was the goal and even though I was concerned for Quinn considering the condition the child was in when initially arriving at our home, I wasn’t sure there was much I could do. A few months later during one of our visits, Quinn’s mother confided in me that she was dying and didn’t have much time left. A week later she called me one morning to ask if my husband and I would please try and adopt Quinn. I also received calls from her immediate family asking the same request. I promised to do my best to look after Quinn. She passed away soon after that conversation. Unfortunately, Quinn’s case played out just like I knew it would. Reunification was the goal from the beginning and no amount of convincing otherwise was going to change that outcome. 


Although I had been fed a narrative of the “bio Dad” by Quinn’s mother and family, my ultimate opinion of this man was based upon my own observations and experience. I witnessed first hand for almost eighteen months how much thought and concern this man put forth toward Quinn. Month after month we waited for him to complete his case plan. The months turned into a year. The time he was allowed to complete his case plan, all the while not having to contribute emotionally, tangibly or otherwise was beyond reasonable limits.  Never once did he contribute financially or in-kind (no clothing, toys, medication). Holidays went by. Quinn’s birthday went by. Absolutely nothing. In addition to his financial absence, he also chose to distance himself physically and emotionally as well. As time wore on, visits became less and less frequent with no phone calls or FaceTime chats whatsoever. Many times I felt like this guy was not only taking advantage of the system, but us too. His lack of respect for us became abundantly clear when he decided to claim Quinn as a dependent knowing full well his child was in the custody of another family who had the right to this benefit. He didn’t care. Why not exploit the situation and reap some benefits all the while shirking any parental responsibility? But, oh how things changed once Quinn’s mother passed away. He quickly finished his case plan after her death. Can’t help but wonder if the social security benefits Quinn would be entitled to had anything to do with his sudden motivation. The child welfare system might not see anything wrong with this complete and utter bullshit, but then again it’s not the system who develops feelings for this child and vice versa. Just as long as the child is eventually reunified and the case closed. That’s the preeminent objective and nothing else really matters. What the system insensitively ignores, however, is during the elapse of all this time other lives are affected. Does it matter to anyone how Quinn thinks or feels? The child is left within a foster home just long enough to feel secure, long enough to feel better physically and emotionally, long enough to realize there are others who have come forward with love, and long enough to recognize strangers have become family. But, the law is very clear. It is in the best interest of the child to remain within the family unit, for this is the good of everyone. If everyone means the parents and the government then I guess that would be true. 


Looking back now, I should have filed an action for permanent custody. I continue to second guess that choice to this day with it still weighing heavy on my conscience all these years later. And even though I am sad, frustrated, and disappointed in regards to the reconciliation outcome, I have no other option at this point other than to hope for the best. In Quinn’s particular case, it didn’t matter one iota that this young soul had a chance at a better life. In many other foster cases, similar to Quinn's, the child’s actual best interests are ignored because the government is so hell bent on maintaining an utopian view of blood relationships. Blood doesn’t carry within it love, tenderness, concern, or responsibility. When this notion finally seeps into legislative consciousness maybe more of these children will be allowed the opportunity for a more deserving existence. Children like Quinn, will never be granted access to a better life unless we disperse with the antiquated belief that parental rights are more commanding of protection than the basic human rights of their children. 


The best interest standard is not enough.  This standard is interpreted by a select group of individuals who are programmed to follow a biased set of statutes that provide a distinct edge to parental rights. Unless the parental rights become severed, the parents will be given a case plan and the opportunity to regain custody. This is the norm in any dependency case whether or not the birth parents rightly deserve such an advantage. As is the case with many of these children the odds of being returned to an abusive/neglectful parent is pretty damn good. To be clear, I am not at all saying a child should be taken from a healthy family dynamic, it’s the unstable, unhealthy and unsafe environments that concern me. Unfortunately, if DCF finds cause for the child’s removal, it's most likely the case that the circumstances surrounding the child(ren) are far from being stable, healthy and/or safe. 


For the life of me I do not understand how it is possible in today’s age that the United States does not have in written form consistent human rights for children. Despite the fact that Quinn suffered from significant developmental delays, both physical and emotional, a guardian ad litem was never assigned to this child’s case. Quinn was left unrepresented even though it is a requirement that every child that enters the system be entitled to have a guardian ad litem represent their best interests. Many children, just like Quinn, travel through this process unprotected the entire way. There just aren’t enough volunteers to go around so the ones that are available are assigned to cases deemed more egregious. We had Quinn in our care 16 months before a guardian ad litem was appointed. The appointment came only after a year of me trying to acquire one. When one was finally appointed this person met with Quinn about a handful of times. I often wonder why I even bothered to obtain this person if such an insignificant amount of time would be spent in understanding Quinn’s circumstances. Quinn was part of our family for 17 months (24 hours/7 days a week). This volunteer spent no more than 6 or 7 hours at the maximum with this child. However, the influence this stranger wielded was mind-boggling. She had more say about the fate of this little one then either my husband or I who had come to know this child better than anyone in that courtroom, including the parents. Where is the common sense in these laws when a child’s “best interests” are determined by absolute strangers. I find it incredibly unfair for any child to be tossed about by a desentized system without shatterproof protection. Children cannot fight for themselves, they are helpless and unsuspecting. Because of their vulnerability the rights they should be afforded ought to be unambiguous. Their protection should be paramount, yet they are treated as second class citizens. They deserve no less than any other human being who is required to appear in court without the means to pay for legal representation. In fact, because of their unquestionable innocence they are far more worthy. It's time for dependency laws to incorporate some common sense. If these children are to be without consistent, unequivocal written rights not up for interpretation, then at least allow the child to be represented by a licensed attorney. The current best interests standard applied by the courts allow these kids to be subjected to wandering differences of opinion. These kids are not granted the same due process and equal treatment as their negligent parents and many of them are returned again and again into unsafe circumstances just because of their DNA. These children are at the mercy of the system and the courts. They deserve more than a roll of the dice.


It would be much easier to accept Quinn’s fate if the circumstances during and after the child’s departure from our home weren't so disturbing. The day after reunification took place, I received a call from Quinn’s Aunt, his mother’s sister, who I met previously during a hospital visit. She was calling to inform me that she had just received a call from the foster mother of Quinn’s infant sibling. The foster mother was calling to let her know the infant child born to her sister a few months before she died tested HIV positive. She wanted to relay that information to me along with the revelation that Quinn’s mother had died from AIDS. Quinn’s Aunt shared with me that she had just found out about the infant’s diagnosis, but that her sister had been infected with the virus since her teenage years (both of these facts were later confirmed by written documentation provided to me by the family). She advised that my family and I be tested because Quinn’s mother had been fighting this battle for some time and there was a very good possibility that Quinn was also HIV positive. Needless to say, at that very moment it became very clear why I had not been allowed access to Quinn’s medical records. For some reason, the child welfare agencies involved with placing Quinn in our care didn’t want us to know any of this. I was shocked, numb, and then angry in that order. Sure, I was upset that my family may have been exposed to the HIV virus, but I was more troubled by the fact I could have had Quinn tested and treated during the time with us. Instead the child welfare agencies behind this placement decided to play games and jeopardize the health of not only the child, but other innocent people. Why?


From the time Quinn entered our home and for seventeen months that followed, I continually asked for the child’s medical records so physicians could better assist with all the medical issues that plagued this child. We took Quinn to see a couple of doctors and blood work had been taken, but a specific test for HIV was never given, why would it? It never entered my mind that such a test would be needed. Each and every request for the medical records gave the case worker, along with his supervisors, an opportunity to come clean. Instead a decision was made by someone to have the case worker ignore my inquiries or respond with the incorrect excuse of HIPPA. Because of my legal background I was already aware that HIPAA privacy protections made exceptions for individuals acting in loco parentis (persons having the authority to act on behalf of the child in making health care decisions), such as a foster parent. I became increasingly frustrated and then suspicious with each new request. Finally, after sending a formal written request with legal citation that confirmed the validity of my request, I received word from Quinn’s case worker that he would bring me the requested documents. Instead of being handed a file folder with the information in a neat orderly fashion I was given a four inch thick stack of files and the case worker’s laptop. He told me I could find what I needed within these stacks, as well as the files on his computer. He then proceeded to tell me he couldn’t leave the files or the laptop with me and that I would need to go through it then and there. It was at this time I became convinced significant information was being deliberately withheld. I took pictures of the stacks of files and sent notice of the incident to the Court and DCF. I also requested a meeting with DCF. It was at this meeting I was informed that the case manager involved in the medical record fiasco had quit his job and wouldn’t be able to be in attendance.  He was actually a good person...I’m sure he was only doing what he was told to do, but it makes me wonder to this day if they forced him to leave or if he left out of guilt. It was very apparent at that meeting that the actions I had taken up to that point on behalf of Quinn were making these folks very uneasy. I could sense they were not used to having someone question their actions and authority. It turns out the welfare hierarchy isn’t too fond of a foster parent who pushes back. I then began to think of all the pertinent information that had been withheld throughout Quinn’s time with us. It wasn’t just the medical history, there were many unexplained matters. The whereabouts of Quinn’s mother for starters. Why hadn’t she been allowed visitation? Why was my first introduction to her by chance and months after taking custody? Why was a GAL never appointed even though the law requires it? Why did it take over seventeen months to finally convince the court the child needed one? Why wasn’t a paternity test given to this “father” if the mother claimed they weren’t married or living together as a couple? When I questioned paternity, I was told “why else would his name be on the birth certificate?” Really? This is the excuse you give for not completing a $300 test? I have experience as a judicial family law clerk. I know any name can be placed on a birth certificate and this is not a factual source to rely on. Many men have been blindsided with the news they aren’t the biological father in custody disputes. Which leaves me to ponder why wouldn’t the foster care system take more precautions. Shortcuts are made and bars are lowered because there was a ready available “parent” Quinn could be returned to, so that automatically became the case plan. The second Quinn was brought into the system the child’s fate had already been decided. 


Why did these case workers and their supervisors find it necessary to deceive? Are these agencies really that desperate for foster homes that they find the need for such actions? Once the initial shock wore off I placed a call to Quinn’s most recently assigned case worker. I asked flat out if what I was told was true. Unsurprisingly, the caseworker asked how I had found out. As annoyed as I was by that question, I ignored it and began to speak for several minutes without pause. Trying to keep my voice calm I made statements such as “You placed a child who was possibly HIV positive in our home for seventeen months without our knowledge”. “You not only tried to deny, but sabotaged any of my efforts to obtain Quinn’s medical records”. “You deliberately put Quinn at risk because we unknowingly did not seek the proper treatment needed if the child was HIV positive”. And lastly, “You placed my entire family at risk and any other innocent person who came into contact with the child”. After I stopped to catch my breath, the case worker began to cry. She went on to explain that anyone who speaks out gets “blackballed” and it becomes nearly impossible to be hired elsewhere. I shared with her that there was no justifiable excuse for her actions or the actions of her supervisors. Before hanging up I asked if she would see to it that Quinn was tested. This conversation and the sudden turn of events just seemed so unreal to me. I just kept thinking to myself how could so many different individuals tied to this case be so aloof, insensitive and uncaring. As it turned out each of my family members had to be tested more than once. Thankfully, our tests came back negative. I was informed by my own doctor, however, that our negative results didn’t necessarily mean Quinn was negative too.  Of course I never got to know the answer to that question.  After discussing these disturbing sets of facts with DCF and the other agencies involved, we never heard from them again. 


These agencies not only bestowed upon us their silence, but one of them, who I found to be the most culpable, refused to file a required questionnaire in regards to our foster parent abilities. Which is actually a bit ironic since it was this particular agency who voted us foster parents of the month. I guess they would have looked kind of ridiculous turning in a negative review after conferring such an honor along with a gift basket and card stating what amazing foster parents we were. By the way, this same agency, whom I wrote about to DCF, the Court and even the Tampa Bay Times, lost their contract with the state a few months later. A year after that the executive leadership of Florida’s Department of Children and Families appointed a foster care review panel to take a look into the county’s foster care system. More specifically, the practices of the head agency and their contractor affiliates. I wrote an email to each member of that panel asking them to look into Quinn’s case file. I wanted the panel to understand the lengths these agencies had taken to hide information that put our foster child and my family at risk. I wanted them to know how unfairly Quinn was treated by not having a proper legal advocate. I wanted them to understand why we chose to no longer remain foster parents. I wanted them to realize how flawed the system really was. It is now 2022, several years after all this took place and I’m not sure much if anything has changed.


It is my wish to make public what transpired during Quinn’s time with my family because I would like the entire welfare system, including all the agencies and individuals who came into contact with this child to recognize themselves. I would like all of them to understand and accept the part they played in choosing to place their own selfish needs before Quinn’s. How each and every one of the individuals involved in Quinn’s case withheld pertinent information from a family who put undeserving faith in them. How each of them was entrusted with this child’s best interests, yet a majority chose to remain quiet and follow directions they knew were not ethical or right. How each involved individual consciously came to conclude that self-preservation was more important than the responsibility of safeguarding a child’s well being. I would personally like to say to all who participated in turning a blind eye that when your actions become robotic and you begin to march in tune to directives that are not well intended, maybe it’s time for you to find another job. When your position, agency status, and/or paycheck becomes more significant then the child you are entrusted to protect you are definitely in the wrong profession. And in case you missed the memo, the child welfare system was developed to safeguard children, not you. The responsibility for these children should not be taken lightly nor should the obligation to each of the foster families who open heartedly welcome these children into their homes. Honesty and respect should be given freely. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that without these key characteristics present, a lack of faith and trust begins to develop towards the system. Once this happens, foster parents will be unwilling to renew their foster care licence and without these essential individuals the system will begin to falter. It is already obvious that this has begun to happen. Children are being placed in homes that have no business taking in children. Children are sleeping in case workers’ offices. Foster teens are on the streets. It also appears the government is getting desperate for other solutions. Why else would Congress enact a federal Act that encourages the use of funds for prevention services that would allow candidates for foster care to stay with their parents/relatives. Yet again, here is another federal statute presuming DNA should play a major role. Some of these parents and families do not deserve this assumption! By the time the state sorts it all out, the children in these homes will already be well on their way to being physically, mentally, and emotionally damaged. We cannot solely focus on this method as a solution to this country’s child welfare woes. The foster care system, in my opinion, is something that this country can’t afford to lose. There needs to be other options for these kids besides relying on bloodlines. We need to treat these children as separate beings from their parents. The sole focus should be on their individual selves. We need to concentrate more upon what can be done to safeguard every aspect of their well-being and less about where they came from. I know what I am about to say is not grounded in reality, but I do believe each of us as human beings should be free to live from any form of abuse. None of us should be victims in someone else’s storyline. No one has the right, including family members, to inflict their unresolved issues on another. When we come to understand such a simple concept, maybe our laws will begin to project some much needed enlightenment. 


The importance of sharing my foster child’s nearly two year journey within Florida’s foster care system is the only way I know how to bring attention to a very screwed up child protection formula. For those of you who may not have already guessed, I am hiding the real identity of our foster child for various reasons. I would also like to share that I have been granted permission from Quinn’s mother’s family to discuss her background and illness. As for the rest of the other participants in this unfortunate series of events, I do so hope you recognize yourself. I would like all of you to understand the mess of emotions one endures and the strength it takes to watch as the life of a child becomes singularly affected and changed by the automated choices and decisions you made on their behalf. My hope is that all those involved with this child’s case stop for a moment to reflect and realize the everlasting fate you handed this child. Maybe after some soul-searching you will have the courage to come forward and admit these facts. By doing so you can assist me in bringing attention to the laws and practices within your current or past profession that you are all too familiar with. 


The entire point of this website is to evoke change, but in order to move forward with this transformation major perceptions need to be upended. Bloodlines need to be irrelevant when it comes to abuse, any kind of abuse. Laws need to be enacted that give the child the same legal protection as the parent. Attorneys, not Guardian ad Litems, need to be appointed for fair representation. Information and observations of foster parents should be allowed on the record and taken at face value. Reunification with an abusive parent(s) should not be the be all and end all of a child’s case. The best interests standard should be replaced with children’s rights, not conceptional criterion open to interpretation. Quinn was never made a priority. The individuals responsible for protecting these so-called “best interests” failed miserably. Case workers and supervisors ignored medical issues and tried to derail any avocation by the foster parents, no visitation was set up to see the mother, no advocate was appointed until the very last second, the bio father was allowed a year and a half to complete his case plan, necessary psychological therapy was not provided, and the original judge assigned was on leave for the majority of the time leaving the case to be heard by different magistrates and judges. It became very clear after the fact, that the absence of a continuous presence on the bench familiar with the case was a major detriment to Quinn. The only objective that was obvious to me through this entire process was to return the child to a parent and close the case file. Which in the end is what occurred and one of the main reasons I am bringing these circumstances to light. We tried to protect the well-being and the rights of our foster child, those efforts are well-documented. The system, however, was locked in on another outcome, one that in their opinion was in Quinn’s “best interests.” It is important to educate those unfamiliar with the system just how much these children are victimized without much empathy or concern. The laws in this country that protect our children are unfair. These statutes have become normalized over time, not justified. So, if what I have written resonates with you at all, please join me in convincing our legislatures that biology, genetics, DNA, bloodlines, whatever you wish to call this adhesive tie, means nothing and assures even less. These children deserve so much better.