Everybody Harmed

originally posted 8/8/2008

I have been an elementary teacher for 33 years. I am a foster and adoptive parent, including one who was a victim, one who is a convicted offender, and one who is facing charges.

The day before Mother’s Day, 2004, my 6-year-old foster child told us that another foster child in the house had just “humped” him. He told us matter-of-factly, not distressed in the least. He had been bribed and allowed to play the older boy’s video games while the incident took place. The offender was an extremely immature 18-year-old whose birth father had been incarcerated for sexually abusing another son. It was a dilemma deciding what to do. It being a Saturday, I could not contact my (youth services) caseworker. I wasn’t sure what truth lay in the claim since that child was not always truthful. Also I knew that any decision I made could have a lasting impact on both children involved.

By the next day, however, after prodding the child more, I decided not to wait until Monday and instead called a youth services hotline. The conversation was contentious. The hotline worker seemed insensitive to the family dilemma and spent more time quizzing me as to why I had waited a day to call.

I found out only much later that that worker filed a neglect claim against me. The investigative unit substantiated the claim, using such bogus reasoning that I had left the children unsupervised (because I was in the yard putting up a swing set while they were in the house). In their brief they said I should have been more watchful of the older child because of his sexual abuse history, misleading the court and my lawyer into thinking that his history was as a perpertator rather than a possible victim. I believed they pursued me because the claim was instigated by the youth worker. My own caseworkers remained supportive, defying a recommendation that my house be closed and obtaining a waiver so that I could adopt the 3 foster children who remained with me, including the victim. The finding of neglect (which would have cost me my job as a teacher) was later reversed on appeal, though I had to surrender my foster parenting license. Just recently that prevented me from caring for children of another former foster child.

As for the offender – that same day – Mother’s Day – the police came to the house, interviewed him (I told him to just tell the truth), and arrested him. He has been incarcerated from that day to the present, now half-way through a 10-year sentence! Youth services, for all their claim of mission to protect their children, provide no legal assistance for children in trouble.

Now another one of my former foster children is being prosecuted for an incident that may have occurred when he was 15. It is based on a claim by a female friend of the family who was 11 or 12 at the time of the incident. He has been depressed lately as he sees his life unraveling. He was to begin college in September, but now thinks he may lose his federal grant. He thinks most professions are now closed to him, including the ones he wanted to pursue. He worries he will lose his job as a security guard. He does not know how he will pay me back money he borrowed for his lawyer.

Today I went on line with what I thought was an improbable task of trying to find a support group for sex offenders. I was surprised to find a site which gave voice to so many of my complaints. Thanks.

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