Saturday, 19 June 2010
Jan. 2, 2001
When _____arrived for his visit, an unusually fine January morning, we first did our regular errand of taking out the garbage. I always gave him a light paper filled bag to carry out. It gave him pride and a sense of purpose to be helping Grammie out this way. When we finished our task, we stopped for a while to watch a young boy maneuver his remote control car in the parking lot. ______had never seen such a thing before and you could tell that he was amazed watching this noisy sports car boom across the bumpy pavement. Nevertheless, he remained respectful of this contraption watching from a "safe" distance, but squatting down to take a closer inspection whenever it ventured to come close.
After a few minutes, we came in and _______ headed for the kitchen to get his ritual allotment of his favorite drink, dairy eggnog. This was also a Christmas favorite of mine which I utilized in my coffee whenever I had the opportunity. Being concerned that _______ was too young to understand the disappearance of his favorite drink at the end of the holiday season, I extended its availability by freezing a number of liters in the refrigerator. I don't think the foster mother knew or cared about his passion for eggnog, but then, this made it, all the more, a special treat between the two of us.
With his drink polished off, we got ready to bake the Pillsbury Rudolph reindeer cookies packaged in the festive cardboard cylinder. "_____ cook, _____ cook" he chirped with much pride as together we donned our full aprons, mine a gentle blue with diagonally spaced dainty white flowers and his a handcrafted natural canvas with scattered multicolored hand prints. Then I popped open the tube, slide out the dough, and began slicing the disks of dough on the counter while this little angle boy eagerly waited standing by his cookie tray placed on a small table beside me.
As one by one, I turned and handed down the slices to him, I watched with delight as he, with unusual ability and without instruction, carefully spread them evenly across the pan. Then I had to laugh. As I handed a slice to him he deftly turned his back to me, bent his head slightly as he took a bite and then, without missing a beat, smoothly slid the remainder on the cookie tray. He was so cute. What a well orchestrated tricky maneuver. Did he really think I had not noticed as I stared at this now crescent-shaped cookie portraying a now one-eared Rudolph!
After the cookies were cooked and cooled, with a large grin stretched across his face, he triumphantly carried them out on a plate to offer the driver. Then he settled down in front of the Christmas tree with me to enjoy the fruits of his labor with yet another drink of his thick milky nog.
The remainder of the visitation was filled with happy play: bouncing on the spring horse; conversing with Paddy, the orange mop headed tot-sized puppet; flipping through _____'s photos and those of his brother's, my first lost sheep; and then making the social circuit in the apartment hallway, greeting the many neighbors who knew and cared about him.
When we returned from our hallway stroll, our time together was coming to a close so I decided to change ______ to make sure that he had a fresh diaper when he returned to the foster home. However, when I laid him out on the change pad on the floor and removed his pants I was concerned by the appearance of some very odd marks that appeared at the front of his legs in the area of the knees.
I remember trying to call the driver's attention to this but she did not seem interested. I looked very closely at them. They were fine lines, perfectly straight, red, but not bright red. I knew that they had been made by the application of some sort of pressure but I could not figure out what possibly could have made these marks. They looked almost as if someone had wound thread around my grandson's knees except the lines did not extend to the back of his legs. I remember telling this to the driver.
When she still persisted in her disinterest, I picked ______ up and brought him into the bathroom. Suspecting the foster mother might try to explain these marks as red ink, I determined to show the driver that this was not the case. First, I tried to rub the lines off with soap and water. Then I utilizing rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad. Nothing either lightened or removed the marks. Then I brought _______ to the driver and I specifically explained to her why these marks could not be red ink marks. Number one, as mentioned above, all the marks were perfectly straight. If ______ or someone else had made the marks with a pen they could not be so straight. Number two, the lines were too thin to be made by a pen and they were not red enough to be the type of ink usually found in a red pen. Then I demonstrated to her that I could not remove the marks with soap and water or rubbing alcohol, explaining that, if they were pen marks, I should have been able to make some difference in their appearance. At this point, the driver feigned some interest and promised that she would ask the foster mother about these marks.
Can you imagine the frustration I felt when I was to find out, later, from reading the latest update of the Children's Services’ Case Recording Report, that the document stated that
[the driver] "feels that the marks on the child's leg's look like pen marks (7)"
and when the foster mother had been questioned upon ______'s return, the
"foster mother told worker that earlier this morning ______ got into her red pen and marked on himself on his legs and ankles (7)".
My careful explanation and demonstration indicating how these could not be red pen marks had not even been reported. And to make matters worse, according to the Children's Services case recording report, the foster mother stated, when ______ was picked up in the afternoon for a visit with his father
"that she did not want to scrub it off and figured it would come off through the day in the bath (7)".
Meanwhile, the foster mother was reporting that my grandson's
"behaviors are getting worse daily. He has ruined their new carpet with crayons, broke most of the Christmas decorations. He appears to be genuinely mad. He has knocked foster sister's glasses off (7-8)"
Yet ______ was not behaving this way in my home. He had thoroughly enjoyed helping me put snowflake decals on the window by dipping them in a pan of water, being lifted into the air to set them in place. He had also helped to trim the tree and he was gentle around all of my fragile Christmas decorations.
This child described by the foster mother was not the little boy I knew. It broke my heart that it was apparent that there was something wrong, and I was helpless to do anything about it. It was frustrating that the reports seem to indicate that Children's Services were oblivious to any possible concerns in the foster home, or were unwilling to connect this negative behavior with separation trauma. Instead, they would allude to other outside causes, like too many visitations from family, or they would state that
"it is apparent that ______ is a strong willed toddler that will require a lot of energy to care for" (9).
In the documentation, they had also stated that this negative behavior was most apparent after visits with me. In this, I believed they were somehow trying to "blame" me for this behavior instead of connecting this acting out to his sadness of being separated from me again.
For months I pondered on these strange red marks on my grandson‘s knees, asking everyone and anyone what could possibly make such afflictions on the skin. Then one day, when I described these marks to a resident in my apartment building, he, immediately and matter-of-factly, responded that these were the type of marks that would be made by whipping with a fine guitar string.
People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle. - Thich Nhat Hanh
Monday August 28, 2000
It had been a long weekend without the sparkle of my grandson's eyes. Without a word, he could "play the crowd" on the bus with a tilt of his head and a swing of his feet, but most of all he played them with his eyes, his loving happy eyes. There seemed to be a whole story lurking behind those dark brown orbs, and, so effortlessly, he endeared himself to strangers - how much more he endeared himself to me his grandmother who had loved him since birth, who had cared for him, slept with him and sang to him. He was a precious soul and even before Children's Services came into our lives and snatched away my liberal time with him, I savored every minute I had with him.
Today, Monday August 28, 2000, I would be granted a meager hour and a half visit with my grandson. With such a short allotment of time, from 9: 30 to 11: 00, now every second became precious. But C. was scheduled to bring my grandson today and for this I was happy. C. was a good and honest person and she was as much a friend as a worker for Children's Services could be. She had made herself available for special times and visits which I would otherwise not have gotten except for the flexible and generous giving of her time. With this in mind, I looked forward to my visitation as I scurried around my apartment, towel entwining my body getting ready for my morning shower.
BUZZ- BUZZ. "It was 9:00! Who could be at my door so early in the morning?" When I picked up the intercom, I was quite numbed to find out that it was R., the dreaded Children's Services driver who had caused me so much trouble earlier in the spring, announcing her arrival. I heard my stunned voice asking why she was there and not C. and telling her that my visit was not suppose to start until 9:30. - There had been a change in the schedule. Now my visit was to be from 9:00 to 10:30 - I found myself asking why she had not phoned ahead to let me know of the change. - "No time" - "But you have a cell phone", I replied.
What was her point of doing this to me? Had she hoped by her early arrival that she might "catch me at something"? Well the only thing she had caught me in was my towel and I told her that I still needed to take my shower - She offered to come back at 9:30 cautioning that she would still be leaving at 10: 30. Well, no shower was going to take a half hour and I wasn't trusting that she would be back in that space of time, thus diminishing my visitation even more, so I told her to come in and watch ______ while I quickly took my shower. I wanted as much time as possible with my grandson.
Distracted by this disruption to my routine, as I rushed to get into the bathroom, I neglected to note my grandson's demeanor as he came through the door. My time was short, the day was beautiful and I wanted to get outside and spend some quality time with him. When I finished my shower, I threw on my clothes and quickly packed the stroller. Hurriedly I softly patted on his sun screen and then I strapped my "Pookie", my "sweetie", my "darling", my "love" into his seat and off we went into the sunshine - with R. in tow behind us of course.
My heart is with ______ and, as I always did, I tried to block out this stranger who imposed upon the intimacy of our family love. Can you even begin to image how difficult it is to enjoy moments and make memories with your grandson as the eyes of a hostile person watches your every move, knowing that she will twist everything and anything during your visitation and write you up in a negative manner.
This is my grandson and this is my time with him. I will make positive memories for him despite your wickedness! Though I will read your lying notes in your reports when they are filed with the court, he will not read them. His will be the memories, the true memories of this day, and you cannot take these away from him. I will ignore you and I will focus on him and I will love him and he will feel the love I have for him despite your hostile presence.
We walked along the side of the lake and when we got to the small grassed area off the sidewalk I stopped and freed _____ from the stroller straps and carefully lifted him out. We played with his toys and when _____ saw a couple jogging along the sidewalk, he tried to mimicked them as young children do in serious tones, and I laughed at his antics and joined in with this "serious job" of running.
It was during this mimicking jog that ______ fell on the asphalt not "ash fault" as it appeared in the report. And he did not cry as R. was later to put in her report. But it was when I went to help him up that I first noticed this awful hole on the inside of his hand. Momentarily I was puzzled. His tumble had been light, he wasn't crying, how could he have hurt himself so badly? Then I realized that what I was looking at was not a fresh wound. But it was a strange wound. It was a small circular hole that penetrated the inner base of his middle finger. The "meat", as I called it, was clearly visible. And I was astounded. I looked into ______’s eyes. He had been watching me looking at his wound and I wanted to cry.
"What has happened to you?" I blurted out.
And I saw a story in his eyes that he wanted to tell me but he couldn't say. He was 1 ½ years old and he was silent, but his eyes penetrated mine. Those eyes were so brave, I remember thinking they looked so brave. And I remember thinking that he is too young to be brave. A person so young should not be asked to be brave. This is not right. There is something wrong here. And his eyes kept watching me.
Immediately I took him over to R. stretching out his hand for her to see.
“What has happened to him?” I asked.
I was shocked because I understood the regular procedure was to inform me upon my grandson's arrival of any unusual marks or bruises. She had told me nothing and I was just finding out now!
"The foster mother said he touched a hot iron." she replied
"A hot iron!" I responded.- He was just a little boy! "Where was it? On the floor? He couldn't reach an iron on an ironing board. “Besides," I explained, "an iron wouldn't leave a mark like that. This is a small round isolated burn. An iron burn would cover a larger area. "
I was stunned I knew that explanation was a lie. But why would they lie? And I felt so helpless.
My visitation time was almost finished. I wanted to be able to show this to someone, to have a witness. But I was not allowed to.
"Has he been taken to a doctor" I asked.
"No, the foster mother bandaged him and put ointment on it but _____ picked it off."
All I could do was insist that he be taken to a doctor and I told R. that I would be checking when I saw him on Wednesday to see that he had been taken to a doctor.
When _____ was brought for his visit on Wednesday, R. told me he had been taken to the doctor, but when I got the Children's Services case recording reports there was no indication that this had been done. Later, when I described the burn to a friend, I was told it was a cigarette burn. I was mortified. I remember, at the time I did not want to accept this, and I pushed it somewhere in the back of my mind. Surely, this could not be correct. My grandson was no more than a baby, a mere 1 ½ years old. Surely, this was not possible - I didn’t want this to be possible! Then, when I went to see my doctor, I described the burn to her, and she immediately said, "cigarette burn". I was stunned.
I am convinced that my grandson was never taken to a doctor. Why would they do that? If they had, it would have been recognized immediately as a cigarette burn.
Almost 3 years later, I would come across a booklet published by Nova Scotia Children's Services, the very department that allowed this to happen, entitled Indicators of Possible Abuse or Neglect. Here, on page 4, I read that one of the physical indicator of physical abuse is "small circular burns". I remember, the moment I read those words, I was immediately swept into the presence of my little grandson, and I was overshadowed with a depth of pain that I had not, up to this point, allowed myself to feel concerning this burn. In response, I threw the book down and, until today I have not even been able to look into this book.
However, now that I read this page anew, it is ironic that I read on this very same page the following words:
Section 22(2)(a) of the Children's and Family Service's Act states that a child is in need of protective services where " the child has suffered physical harm inflicted by a parent or guardian of the child or caused the failure of a parent or guardian to supervise and protect the child adequately."
What is a person to do? Where is a person suppose to complain to when the Department of Children's Services are responsible for the "physical harm inflicted by . . . a guardian (the foster parents)" but they act in the "best interest of " themselves?
Tell me, what gives this department the right to cause such pain in my soul?
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. - Viktor Frankl
June 16, 2000
A chance meeting of a pleasant person on a cool spring day. This should have been a positive memory for me. Indeed, the actual meeting was pleasant. He was an older gentleman, but not elderly, finely dressed in a tailored three-quarter length coat and well groomed with that "distinguished" look. His speech denoted culture and refinement, and his accent revealed his Latin American roots. Our conversation was brief as we stood facing each other exchanging a few nondescript, unremembered pleasantries, but I recall him telling me that he was originally from Venezuela, and that he had three grandchildren, one the same age as my grandson. And as we talked, I wondered what life events and decisions had brought this person so far from his homeland in South America.
All the while, my grandson played contentedly on the grass beside me occasionally stopping to lean against my leg, shooting beguiling responsive smiles up towards me and this gentleman as we conversed. As this brief conversation ended, this man picked up my grandson, and speaking a few grandfatherly words, he quickly kissed him on the cheek, immediately returning him to his contented play at my feet. Though this action was unexpected, it did not alarm me, nor did it alarm my grandson who always relished attention as his beaming eyes betrayed. Having taken a Spanish language course, which included instruction on Hispanic culture, I knew that this behavior in this setting, under these circumstances was perfectly innocent.
But 20 feet away, other eyes belonging to the Children's Services driver, R., the person who oversaw my supervised visits, had penetrated this exchange and "other" ignorant conclusions were being reached. - "It was inappropriate of you to allow this man to kiss ______", I was told.
At this point, my mistake was saying ANYTHING!
I responded by stating that I had not "allowed" this man to kiss my grandson, it had just happened, quickly and unexpectedly. Then I tried to explain that I had not been concerned about this behavior because this person was from the Spanish culture and in the Spanish culture a kiss, even between strangers, was not considered inappropriate. I also added that in the traditional Native culture, my culture, such a display of affection towards a child within the presence of family would not be considered inappropriate either. Then, thinking I might calm the concerns she had, I told her that I understood her inability to comprehend because it was obvious that she had not taken cultural sensitivity training and was unaware of the norms of the Spanish culture. Ever helpful, I added that I knew someone who was experienced in providing this training to various government departments, and perhaps some arrangements might be made to have this training available to the Children's Services Department.
O-o-oops - though this information was given with the best of intentions, it immediately became obvious that it had not been received as such. Suddenly, all semblance of the person I had known up to this point disappeared as this woman became like one possessed: the veins in her neck engorged as a flush of hot crimson claimed her usually pale face and neck, and her eyes, distended, were intense and livid with rage. "Stop arguing, right now, or your visit will cease immediately! " she emphatically threatened.
I was shocked! This was not argument, not the non-academic argument she was referring to. I was not even attempting to change this woman's mind. I was only attempting to clarify to this woman why she did not understand my perspective. However, fearful of losing my visitation with my grandson, I instantly clamped my mouth shut, picked ______ up and put physical distance between me and this woman, all the while, being very careful not to move abruptly, concerned that such an action would be negatively interpreted.
In my mind, I attempted to screen this person out. I did not want her to ruin my visitation with my grandson any more than she already had. But I was terrified as I stood there under the trees by the edge of the lake fearfully clutching my grandson as I gazed across the water, so still and empty. I felt completely helpless! I felt as if the whole world had gone insane. I had done nothing wrong yet my freedom to be with my grandson in a normal environment had been stripped from me, and with horror, I could now see that this person, with no specific education in social work or and any other degree, was enjoying wielding this power over me.
As I stood there alone, transfixed in my fear, with no one to help me, afraid to speak, I momentarily felt transposed to another time and place. This is how it must have felt going into a concentration camp during the second world war: innocent yet imprisoned, with no voice and no one to turn to, afraid of losing contact with those you loved the most, holding your child but having no way of protecting it. How could I be living such a nightmare, in this country at this time. Surely, people do not realize that such torture is happening now in this country for if they did would they not do something to stop it? As I continued to gaze across the vacant expanse of the lake, I felt like I was a million miles away from any help, in a different dimension, alone.
Then the need to make positive memories for my grandson pushed through my pain and fear and I looked at his sweet little face, innocent of the controversy that swirled around his life. He had no way of knowing how hard I was fighting to bring him back to his family, to a home where he was passionately loved and cared for.
When I set _____ down under the trees, he wandered into the midst of an accumulation of golden brown leaves taking immediate delight in the rustling sounds as he scurried through these remnants of the previous fall. Then, as we played together, he laughed and giggled as he noted his ability to control the crunching sounds as we dashing back and forth, occasionally stopping to toss the leaves above our heads, immersing ourselves with this tattered woodland confetti.
Then, abruptly, our precious time together came to a close as the driver announced that it was time to collect our things and head for home. At this point, I guess I was feeling safer, and naively I was thinking that with the closing of my visitation I might venture to clarify myself again So as we headed home I stated that my understanding of the Spanish culture came from a university course I had taken and that I felt this difference of opinion was due to a "cultural misunderstanding".
But it was apparent that I was not enlightening this woman: her flushed coloring persisted, as she continued to adamantly declare that this behavior was "inappropriate". "In all her training she had never . . .!"
At this point I interjected, and on this one sentence, only, I raised my voice saying, "I know you don't understand, and you do not understand because you have never taken any cultural sensitivity training!" Immediately realizing my mortal slip, I lowered my voice and said "Well, I raised my voice and I suppose you will document this, won't you?" This was the only recollection that I have, in the almost 2 years that I had to deal with "these people", the Children's Services Department, that I had ever allowed myself to raise my voice, yet even now it had not been raised in anger, only frustration, trying to get this person to hear what I was saying to her. But I would pay dearly for this infraction, and what was worse, my grandson, not yet two years old, would pay for this as well.
Shortly after the driver drove _____ back to the foster home, the case worker phoned me. She would not allow me to explain myself. All she wanted to do was to establish if this person was a "stranger" - end of discussion. Then she told me that my visits with my grandson would immediately return to the office and that this issue would be raised in court - end of conversation. The unnatural circumstances in which I was forced to visit my grandson was now being made even more abnormal.
Knowing that I had done nothing to justify their taking my home visitations away, I calmly began thinking how I could defend myself against such unrighteousness. First, I decided, while this "incident" was fresh in my mind, I would immediately draft an affidavit stating the events of my visitation and the resulting phone call with the social worker. I ended this affidavit with this plea:
My home visits with my grandson are important to me. They are important for _____.. Weather permitting I take ______ outside. I live by Lake Banook where there are walkways to explore, grassy areas to play in, "duckies" to feed, beaches to sink your toes in, water to splash in, and trees to enjoy. The smells and sounds of nature are all around.
To deprive _____ of these experiences surely cannot be in his best interest. The visitation rooms [at the Children's Services office] are small with no windows. Even in my apartment, ______ likes to get up at the window to watch and hear the birds. It is summer, the good weather days of summer are limited.
In addition, I contacted my Spanish professor who wrote not only a letter of explanation to the innocence of the gentleman's behavior but included also a beautifully written message of support for me.
[insert quote here]
Once again, I was naive. I thought I had all the bases covered, but when people are willing to lie, anything is possible. As it turned out, at the next court appearance despite the declaration of the case worker and despite my specific instructions to my lawyer, the issue was not raised so that this situation was left unresolved. Instead, I was to learn after the court session, that the case worker had conversed with my lawyer, outside in the corridors before the court was called into session. And despite the importance of this conversation, I was not made aware of this until my lawyer was driving me back to her office after court.
As this rushed and busy woman wound her car through the traffic, stopping here and there at the occasional red light making turns right and left, the enormity of our conversation became apparent. Here, for the first time, I learned that the reason being given for my loss of home access was that the case worker was now claiming that when she had phoned to speak to me that I had "slammed the receiver down on her ear".
How does one react to such a bold face lie? As I set stunned on the passenger side, everything seemed to take on a cloak of surrealism. The car seemed to float as my lawyer maneuvered the corners. And though I became acutely aware of the people on the sidewalks and in the cars surrounding me, I knew they were but passing blurs unaware of the unfolding drama within the confines of this car. "I can't believe it!" I expressed in shock as my eyes bulged from their sockets as if searching for some unuttered explanation "I did nothing of the kind. She is lying! Why would she lie? I can't believe it!" "I can't believe it!" This phrase, I can't believe it, was to be repeated so often in my nightmare journey with Children's Services that I finally got to the point that I would catch my words as I began blurting them out and correct myself saying, "No, I have to wipe this out of my mind. Nothing surprises me any more, I do believe it, I do believe it!"
Yet my lawyer was not surprised. She explained that when I had supported my argument of cultural insensitivity so well, it was not unlike the Children's Services Department to come up with another, different, excuse for taking my home visits away, even if it meant manufacturing a lie. Well, if she wasn't shocked at this behavior I was - I was new at the game and I still had so much to learn.
Now, instead of the matter being brought up in court, as promised by both my lawyer and the social worker, an informal meeting was arranged between me and my counsel, and the case worker and the legal counsel for the Children's Services Department. During preliminary consultation with my lawyer, I had been instructed to let my lawyer do all the talking - yet this did not set right with me. This was to be an informal meeting. Why should I be the only one without a voice? As a result, I sought the advice of a friend who used to work for Children's Services as a driver. As it happened, she was aware of this particular lawyer, and she was aware of his ability to discern truth from lies. She, still believing that the lawyer for Children's Services would do right, strongly recommended that I speak forth because, she explained, he was experienced at recognizing a truth teller as well as a liar and that if I remained silent this lawyer would not have the opportunity to gauge my honesty.
When we met, it was on the opposition's turf, the board room of the law firm representing Children's Services. It was a large rectangular room dwarfed by a grand solid conference table that claimed all but the outer fringes of the room. My lawyer and I were the first to arrive and we sat almost midway along the left side of the table, my chair being the closest to the doorway. I remember being conscious of my lawyer's comfort in this room, surely she had been here before, but I also recall my own discomfort. Then as our wait extended I began to wondered if the room was not wired for sound and if they might be listening in on our conversation. At the time, I also remember thinking that this was an irrational concern, but I have since found that, with matters concerning Children's Services, all things are possible, and no fear is necessarily unfounded.
When the opposition entered, the case worker slid into the seat almost across from me, perhaps one seat closer to the entrance, and the counsel for Children's Services pulled up a chair at the end of the table by the door. I was to find out later that he was the "big cheese", the lawyer called in by Children's Services to deal with their most difficult cases and that he only tended to make occasional appearances during the "sticky bits". That this man became my routine opponent, I was told, spoke volumes about Children's Services desire to get what they wanted from this case. This, and the fact that, not one but, two CS lawyers were in this court case. Yet, to this day, still not knowing for sure where my grandson is, I am left speculating what and/or who was driving the actions of Children's Services.
As the discussion began between the two lawyers, as instructed, I patiently played the spectator, but it quickly became apparent that that the lawyer for Children's Services had rolled up his sleeves and was determined to block my bid to have my visitations return to my home. Then the case worker began to speak, and as she spoke, as I related to my friends, "Pinocchio's nose grew longer and longer". Now, she was claiming that she had made not one, but three consecutive phone calls to me on that particular day and that I had slammed the phone down on her ear not once but three times, all the while averting my gaze as she said this.
I am sitting across from her hearing this new extension to her lie and I am watching myself because I know that all the while I am being closely scrutinized by the other lawyer. I remain calm though I am totally blown away by the boldness of this lie. This is not right. And I am thinking that when people are doing wrong they should not be allowed to feel comfortable in their wrongness. Yet, I also know, at all costs, I must compose myself and be civil.
Any human response, no matter how justified, would be used against me, and I knew, even though it was true, that I could not directly accuse her of lying. When the worker had finished speaking , I gathered my courage and all the serenity that I could muster. I gazed across the expanse of the table and looked this woman directly in the eye, not angrily because I knew that that would be detected and used against me, but with the look that spoke what both my heart and her heart already knew, that we both knew the truth, the real truth. And I said to her calmly, with conviction, "You made one and only one phone call to me that day and the only thing that you wanted to know was if I knew this person that I spoke to. When you found this out, you ended the conversation. I did not hang up on you. And I do not lie.", with the emphasis on the I.
I am sure there must have been silence for at least a few seconds after I said this. And the Children Services lawyer did take note, and he did respond by telling us that he wanted a few minutes of private conversation with the case worker in the hall. I cannot recall if I spoke with my lawyer as I waited there, but I remember feeling venerable. Truth was on my side, but I have come to learn that truth seems to have little meaning when you are dealing with this system.
Finally, after what must have seemed like forever, the doorway to the hall opened and the opposition returned to their seats. The case worker, that I would now and forever refer to as "Little Miss Liar" was dabbing her reddened eyes. Taking note, and wanting to emphasis this case worker's condition, my lawyer made comment, suggesting that the case worker might be suffering from allergies. "No," she replied, "I don't have allergies".
From this I was to deduce that, if given time, this worker could come up with a lie, but that she was not able to do so on the spur of the moment, even if an excuse was handed to her. I felt that this weakness was important to note especially if we went to trial. Indeed, I was to find out later from another lawyer that this particular case worker had a reputation of lying but when she was on the stand, confronted with the lie, she did have a habit of recanting.
There was a noticeable change in the demeanor of the counsel for Children's Services, and this lawyer, giving no explanation, now declared that I would get my home visitations back. However, despite the fact that I had never done anything wrong, my home visitations would be returned on a gradual basis. The first week only one of my three weekly visits would be in my home, the second week, two, and then finally on the third week all three visits would be returned to my home.
I do not know what touched this man's heart that day. I believe that when he heard me speak he discerned who was the liar and who was the truth-teller, and that day he did the right thing by giving me back my home visitations. However, by not admitting that an injustice had been done and only allowing my visits back on a graduated basis, it was apparent that this lawyer was attempting to save face for the department and that it was the "best interest" of the Children's Services Department, not my grandson, which was being served.
The lack of action against those who had done wrong within the Children's Services Department, only further encouraged their inappropriate behavior. After this, that particular driver only wrote up my visitations in the most negative light, skewing every word and every action, and adding embellishments from her imagination whenever it pleased her. My only saving grace was that this transposition was blatant and apparent when one compared her written reports before and after this incident and it was also apparent that her attitude towards me varied from that of the other drivers who brought my grandson for his visits.
In the end, I have often wondered about this innocent stranger who walked into my life for only a brief moment and then walked out again, never knowing what disturbance and pain was left in his wake.
Sunday, 1 June 2008
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise. . . .
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
- Maya Angelou ("Still I Rise" )
I was naive and I was at a loss to understand the reason for this injustice. My mind was spinning, and my stomach and my heart were heavy. And I remember one of my friends, reacting to the statement in the assessment that accused me of "faking good", incredulously stating "But you are a good person!"
There was something intensely evil and wrong about this assessment with its 100% inaccurate representation of my responses to the numerous questions posed to me during the interviewing process. I was determined that I would gather my strength and rise up and fight against this foe rather than allow this injustice to stand. They were attempting to defeat me with lying words and I was not going to let these words stand unchallenged. I was determined to respond, in detail, to this assessment line by line.
Considering this was an assessment of 27 pages, this was a project of enormous magnitude. Determined to make this more than a "I didn't say that, I said this . . ." document, I planned to include affidavits to back my statements from a number of people which I specified throughout my response.
Meanwhile, my uncle, now in Alberta, stood solidly by my side, and still very much connected with this case became my co-editor. My response to this assessment was to be complete and accurate, and would consume every bit of my energy for months to come. In the end, my response was twice the length of the original assessment, but this was necessary because, wanting to clarify exactly what I was responding to, I lifted quotes directly out of the assessment, and as mentioned earlier, there was not once that my responses had been accurately relayed.
To facilitate this new relationship with my uncle, I rushed out to buy a fax machine so that we could send the various edits back and forth to each other. I felt it very strange that I should have such technology in my home, after all I was not a business person like my uncle, but then my situation was unnatural, leastwise in a civil western civilization, my situation should be considered unnatural.
Unfortunately, as I have researched the subject of injustice concerning the courts and Children's Services, I have come to realize the "naturalness" of this situation not only in this province but across this country as well. The "natural" is only believed to be "unnatural" because it is a shame that has been secreted away from all but the victimized. It is time for this shame, that has been allowed to naturalize, to be exposed.
During the horror of my ordeal, I was exceedingly thankful for the support and encouragement that I received from my uncle, my uncle by marriage, who maintained a close and meaningful relationship with his own grandson. Though he, himself, was being challenged with difficult circumstances in his own family, he sacrificed long laborious hours helping me in this case and for this I will be forever grateful. Shortly after my case began, one of his brothers developed brain cancer and his family seemed to be doing everything in their power to keep a spark of existence alive in him. My uncle’s family, a family of affluence had more options than the average, and from what my uncle relayed to me they clung onto every option that promised to extend this man’s life. I often wondered about the soundness of these decisions for both this man and his family. How difficult it must be to let go of a loved one in your family, and how much more difficult it must be if circumstances afford the availability of additional options to prolong life. These were trying times for my uncle yet he graciously gave of his time to me.
But then fate continued to grind by uncle down. Soon after the death of this brother, another brother developed skin cancer on a large portion of his back. This brother eventually received an extensive skin graph. After this, his elderly mother began to do poorly and she eventually came to live with my uncle so that he and my aunt could watch over her and tend to her needs.
Both my aunt and uncle are "good people", but eventually our relationship was suddenly and mysteriously strained. As it turned out, this mystery was just one more peculiar dynamic of my bizarre "unnatural" case.
Together, my uncle and I counseled my lawyer as to our expectations of her. First and foremost, we expected her to work diligently on completing the affidavits that I required to support my statements in my response to the assessment. It was important that the lies of this assessment be smashed as soon as possible. As drafts of the response with indicated affidavits were completed, they were immediately handed over to the lawyer so that she could efficiently complete the affidavit interviews as soon as possible. The initial plan was to file the response and the affidavits together as a single unit.
On a second front, my uncle and I wanted to explore the option of having another assessment done. My lawyer, though indicating that this was a positive move, did little to help me procure an appropriate professional person. This is a process that a lawyer working in family law should be familiar with, and a job which the lawyer should be doing for a client on their behalf . Instead, my lawyer left me to muddle through as best as I could to find an appropriate psychiatrist who was able to do this for me. And muddle I did. Halifax is a small city and as I phoned and spoke with a number of psychologist, the dynamics of this professional community slowly crystallized. Being a small city, the people in the profession tended to know each other. Most psychologists were not willing to do assessments, especially if it is meant to go up against another assessments that was done by someone else in the community. Other psychologists were backlogged and would not be able to do the assessment for months and they told me that the assessment would have to be done over a period of time far longer than my original "quickie" assessment. Only one psychologist was eager to take on the assessment and the probing questions that she fired at me led me to believe that she was personally close to the psychologist who was responsible for my original assessment. Needles to say I was not trusting this person!
Eventually, my lawyer suggested that a psychologist ---------- miles away might be available but the schedule of appointments that I would have to maintain at such a distance was impossible for me: I was working full time, I had my thrice weekly visitations with my grandson, and I did not have a car and did not drive.
Meanwhile, my lawyer relentlessly dragged her toes on my requests for the affidavits. Wanting my response filed as soon as possible, I had it filed immediately upon completion in draft form with the accompanying affidavits pending. Again, and again both I and my uncle, verbally and in writing, requested that this work be done as soon as possible, my uncle often spending considerable time clarifying our instructions to her via long distance phone calls. But all this lawyer did was dither and doddle, eventually becoming rude and telling me that she was busy.
In the end, out of nowhere, she suddenly tried to argue that these affidavits were not relevant and would be a waste of time gathering. These were not irrelevant. They were extremely important to my defense. In the six months this lawyer worked for me, she only managed to finish 3 of the 13 affidavits that she had been instructed to gather.
THIS CHAPTER NOT FINISHED
Saturday, 31 May 2008
With nervous expectation, I stepped from the cab in front of the dark Victorian home, now converted for use by a legal firm, located on the corner of a major thoroughfare and a quaint community street. It was only an hour before our scheduled court hearing, and I was to meet my lawyer to review, for the first time, the results of the assessment. I had been warned the timeframe for the release of the assessment before court would be tight, but this was cutting it close, and though I expected a positive report, a ominous feeling hung heavy in the air which I struggled to dismiss as I ascended the front porch steps. Hearing the hollow sound of ancient wood beneath my feet, I crossed the porch, turned the dented brass knob, and pushed open the door.
Upon my entrance, the receptionist phoned my lawyer who promptly descended from a narrow winding stairway near the front door. The constricted nature of this passageway was an indication that this was most likely the servant stairs, a remnant of earlier days still familiar in some of the older homes in Halifax. Clutched in her hands was the all important document.
"It is not good" were the only words she expressed as she stretched the 23 page document towards me. And the exhausted slumbering lamb that had crumpled into a deep sleep was suddenly jolted into an awareness of the realty of the surrounding danger. I was left alone on a bench in the open hallway that embraced the receptionist's office to digest this document by myself. I recall feeling abandoned, open, vulnerable and uncomfortable. What a place to read such a traumatic document! In hind sight, realizing now that my own lawyers were never working for me, perhaps it was hoped that I would display some inappropriate manifestation of emotion that could be witnessed by others.
Realizing that the relevant conclusions, the bottom line, would be at the end, I immediately flipped to the last page of the document.
I was stunned. The sense of agony, pain, and the fear of my grandson being given to strangers, never to see his family again, flooded my brain. How could such a conclusion have been reached? My first assumption was that there must have been some sort of misrepresentation of the test results from the 3 tests given me. After all, there was some very strange questions in those tests like “I have been around the world several times this week - True or False” or “I have been hearing voices - True or False”, etc. Then as I quickly scanned the entire document I was dumbfounded as I realized that not some but every statement I made during my many interviews during the assessment process was misrepresented.
Now I was a reasonable person, and even with such an important assessment, I could fathom one, two, or even three misunderstandings, but this was beyond comprehension! None, absolutely none, of my responses were correctly reproduced in this document. How could they, why would they so blatantly misrepresent me? But there they were. The lies, one after the other, splashed across the pages of this document. Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! As I skimmed through the pages, each lie left its emotional blow and my heart was on the ground bleeding and wounded. No one, anywhere, at any time, had done such a vicious things against me before, and most incredulously the worst impressions of myself came from statements that they claimed I had made, myself!
One example of the misrepresentations that filled this document was my alleged response to them asking me how I felt about the fact that my daughter and I had not spoken with each other since my grandson had been taken into care. In the assessment, they stated that my answer to them had been that “it was the best thing for her” - period. With nothing more than this, one was left with the impression that I didn’t care about my daughter. But this was only the smallest sliver of my actual answer, and taken out of context, the accurate meaning of my response had been flipped around 180 degrees.
My answer, in its entirety, told a different story: I had stated that, previous to this, whenever my daughter and I had any falling out, she had always stayed in communication with me, and that this was the first time that this communication had discontinued. I went on to explain that my daughter never accepted responsibility for her actions, that she always tended to find a way to blame me for everything and that maybe, just maybe, this might turn out to be the best thing for her, because, no longer having me around to blame for everything, she might be forced to reflect upon herself and her own responsibilities, and maybe - just maybe - this might help her.
I was astounded that the authors of this assessment felt they could lie so boldly! How could anyone justify misrepresenting every statement I had said. Indeed, insanity was there but it did not lay with me! That feeling of shock, that would become so familiar, enveloped my body, and with it came the paralyzing feeling of helplessness. This was insane! Surely, I was reading the report of another person! This reality, my present reality, was sick and disturbing, and it seemed to float helplessly in a heavy numbing soup of unreality. I was trapped in a nightmare with no one to wake me up!
Eventually, my lawyer reappeared out of the darkness at the bottom of the stairway, calling me up to her office. As I followed her, up this winding narrow stairway, reminiscent of a castle tower staircase, the steps groaned and squeaked beneath my feet. Upon reaching the dimly lit landing, we turned abruptly to the right, following the banister that overlooked the stairway to the end of the hall. Here we entered her office, a room of frugal proportions, barely large enough to contain her desk, and a small cluttered bookshelf. As she squeezed behind her desk I settled into the remaining wooden chair perched near the door.
As I sat there listening to her, I can't say that I remember a single word she said. As she chattered on, I allowed myself to think about the discomfort of having to enter a court knowing that everyone there would have read the damning words in this document spoken against me. Would people believe this document? Would people believe me? These were professional people who wrote this document. Who am I next to them? Why would anyone believe me? How could such a thing happen? How can such a thing be true? So many questions were snapping through my mind. And then I thought, I am no one special. If they have been bold enough to use such deceitful tactics against me, surely this could not be the first time. But as this thought floated through my brain it seemed surreal. How could such things be true? This is Canada! This is Canada! Things like this are not suppose to happen in Canada!
In a few minutes, I would be whisked to the courthouse where I would stand before the justice of the court, a man who I respected. In respecting this justice, I felt shame and embarrassment that I would stand before this person knowing that he would have read this document that claimed me to be narcissistically self absorbed, and not worthy to raise my grandson. But, surely, I thought, this justice, whom I believed to be a good and honest person, in all his years on the bench, must have had enough previous experience with assessments to have at least some suspicions and concerns about their integrity. Maybe, I thought, when he hears the statements made against me, it will add to his accumulated knowledge, and my case might contribute to lifting the veil of ignorance surrounding this wrong. Naively I believed that the injustice would be so apparent that the justice would surely intervene in some way. Needless to say, I was still very ignorant of judicial procedure and I wrongly assumed that justices had more pre-trial power than they actually do.
It was then that I pulled in the strength of my spiritual faith. I would stand before this human judge knowing that he had read this document that brutally dammed me, but I knew that my God, the judge who knows all things, who knows my heart, my soul, and my mind, like no other human being possibly could, knew the person that I was.
Secure in this knowledge, I determined that I could stand before this human judge, for I had no reason to be humiliated. As my lawyer rambled on, I prayed: "God, You know the truth and in the end You are the only one who needs to know the truth. I can walk into that court and I can stand before all these lies because You know the truth. I stand before You as my judge and I submit myself into your hands"
When I walked into that court with this document speaking against me it was apparent that I was being dismissed by Children's Services like yesterdays newspaper, insignificantly thrown off to the sideline. The speech of their lawyer were nonchalant, like it was the norm, old hat to them. But, this was most significant to me and though my grandson was too young to realize it, it was most significant to him. Though, for the time being, I would still be allowed access to my grandson, they had cut me off at the knees. My hope for unsupervised access was now severely hampered, and more importantly, my bid to bring my grandson home had been strangled by this deceitful document.
I am sure many people assume that out legal system is civilized and appropriate. I used to think so. But these are the kinds of assumptions made by persons who have not experienced our legal system first hand. As a person represented by legal counsel, I did not have the ability to say anything in my own defense during pre-trial hearings unless the justice addressed me specifically - this is an extreme rarity. Time and time again I was frustrated as I was forced to sit dumbly by my lawyers. In these circumstances, not having the ability to speak for myself, I was at the mercy of my own lawyers, the very people who were suppose to be defending me. In time, I came to accept the fact that these lawyers were unfaithful and unimpassioned with my case. All I was to them, was coins jingling in their pockets, nothing more.
Though I had never believed those dehumanizing jokes about lawyers before, I now passionately believed them all, thinking myself quite the fool for being so naïve. Alas, I had been raised on Perry Mason, noble Perry Mason.
However, it does grieve my soul that I was wrong about lawyers. I wish I had experienced lawyers to be noble, really caring about truth and justice. But as I witnessed one person who was self-representing in court recently say, “ This is a court of law, not a court of truth.” He was right, truth, unfortunately, has no room in our courts today.
However, though the justice had only seen this document hours before court, it was apparent that he had done his homework. In reading through the assessment, he was concerned that there were a number of people (people who did not even know me, people who only repeated lies told them by my daughter) brought forth from the other side that contributed information for my assessment against me, yet only three people I had brought forward were included in this assessment. About this, the justice was concerned enough that he ordered the professionals responsible for this assessment to immediately give a written explanation for such methodology.
Their reply was incredulous: they felt no need to speak to the people I had brought forth because they assumed all they would do was support me. Does this make any logical sense? This was suppose to be an unbiased assessment. They had the ethical obligation to hear both sides of the story.
As it turned out, 2 of the 3 people, put forth by me, who were spoken to by the assessors were so concerned that they had been misrepresented in the assessment that one, herself, pushed to get the original copy made from her telephone interview and wrote a note to the court concerning this. The other person filed an affidavit voicing her concern about the way her interview had been done. In her affidavit she stating that she was disturbed by the assessors blatant push to get only negative information about me and that she was so concerned that they were dismissing what she did have to say about me that she found herself repeating the statements she had made.
After court I went home to study this document in detail. Upon inspection it became apparent that the assessment procedure was never fully explained to me. In fact, the information I was told was totally misleading, and many important details of the process did not become apparent to me until I actually read the report.
This assessment was mind boggling! As soon as I got home, I faxed the assessment to my uncle in Alberta and phoning him spoke with him at great length. Surely, I exclaimed, to have everything - absolutely everything - I said turned upside down, is evidence of deliberate misrepresentation. Concurring, my uncle pointed out that bias in the assessment was apparent to him by the "complete lack of anything positive" said about me. I remember being struck by this. What he said was true, but it took me some time to digest this. This was a significant observation. For this assessment to ring true shouldn’t there be some recognition of some positive qualities in me. After all, I had no police record, I had never done drugs, I wasn’t an alcoholic, I was an educated person with a recognized academic accomplishments. I had graduated as highest B.A. aggregate, attained a B.Ed. and I had maintained a perfect GPA of 4.00 while earning my M.Ed. In addition, I had been an active member in the community: a brownie leader, a Sunday school teacher, and a teacher in my community conducting programs not only for children but also for parents and children together .
But the professionals conducting this assessment twisted everything against me, even my education. Though 2 educated women were signatories to this pretense of professional composition, they stated in my assessment,
_____ is a 45 year old woman who works full-time and goes to school on a part time basis. She is hopeful of advancing in her career after completion of her Masters degree. The amount of time and energy that ______ would have for [her grandson], who is a very active child, has been questioned by [unnamed] collaterals sources.
16. Like a Silent Lamb to the Slaughter
To me, this was insane!
Friday, 30 May 2008
The Documents Speak For Themselves
He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it . . . . This falshood of tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions. - Letter to Peter Carr (August 19, 1785) - Thomas Jefferson
Imprinted along the top of the paper is the stamp proclaiming this document to be
"Exhibit 'A' " , an affidavit of the social worker that would become known to me as "Little Miss Liar". "Sworn before me", it continued, "this 19th day of May A.D. ____, and then signed by "___. ___. A Barrister of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
This Barrister as it turned out was one of the lawyers for Children's Services, a wiry, stiff and steely, short-cropped red-head - or at least the faded hint of the red he once had when he was younger. His eyes were cold and blue, and I often watched him in the hallway before and after court, amazed that even there, outside of court, there was never any hint of defrost. His head was rigid, his back was hard. When I tried to penetrate this exterior to find even a hint of warmth, I found none. Instead, I sensed a heart that was frozen, and a mind that was numb, and whenever I looked at him, a chill ran through my soul. This was the product of a seared conscience, the walking dead, a heartless, mindless entity.
I was new at this - the routine of getting a copy of the latest update of the
PROVINCE OF NOVA SCOTIA
DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY SERVICES
FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES
DARTMOUTH DISTRICT OFFICE
CASE RECORDING REPORT
only a day or two before court. It was only the second installment but I was already well acquainted with it's inaccuracies and unclear, ambiguous statements. I was astounded that social workers should be allowed to write in such a fashion. I knew my university professors would not tolerate such nebulous writing. It was beyond me how this could be allowed in a profession where so much is at stake, the future of a child, and the need for clarity should be paramount?
I read through the numerous pages:
20__/03/16 ASSESSMENT OF RISKS . . .
20__/03/17 FOSTER PARENT CONSULTATION . . .
DROPPED OFF _______'S TOYS AND TAXI VOUCHERS FOR THE FOSTER MOTHER. ________ SMILED AND TOOK THE PUMPKIN TOY THAT HIS GRANDMOTHER HAD SENT FOR HIM . . .
(I had bought this stuffed pumpkin on a trip to Alberta, and, for some reason, my grandson had taken a particular liking to this fuzzy-faced veggie. Not yet granted access to my grandson and hoping this toy would form some kind of memory link between him and I, I slept with this pumpkin for several nights so that my scent would be captured in the plush. Through this, I hoped that he would smell his Grammie - that he would be able to know that I knew where he was, that I had not forgotten him and that I loved him still.)
20__/03/17 TELEPHONE CALL . . .
4:00 RECEIVED PHONE CALL FROM [GRANDMOTHER -me]. SHE ASKED WORKER WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH COURT NEXT WEEK. WORKER ASKED HOW SHE KNEW ABOUT IT. SHE ADVISED THAT SHE HAD CALLED THE FAMILY COURT ABOUT HER CUSTODY HEARING AND HAD BEEN ADVISED THERE IS A HEARING NEXT WEEK.
(while inquiring about my custody case, I had inadvertently been told that Children's Services was moving ahead with a case involving my grandson.)
WORKER ADVISED HER THAT SHE WOULD BE SERVED A NOTICE OF HEARING,
(I never did receive this !)
ADVISED THAT SHE SEEK LEGAL COUNSEL IN NOVA SCOTIA. SHE ADVISED THAT SHE COULD NOT AFFORD IT. WORKER ADVISED THAT SHE COULD APPLY TO BE MADE A PARTY TO THE PROCEEDING AND THE AGENCY WOULD MOST LIKELY NOT OPPOSE HER. ADVISED THAT (MOTHER OF CHILD) MAY OPPOSE HER BEING MADE A PARTY TO THE PROCEEDING.
(As you read what follows you will see that Children's Service's was determined that my daughter be present to oppose me)
[Granmother -me] ASKED WHEN SHE WOULD GET ACCESS WITH _______. ADVISED HER THAT IF SHE WERE MADE A PARTY ACCESS WOULD BE ARRANGED. SHE ADVISED THAT SHE IS OFF ON WEDNESDAY AND MONDAY MORNINGS.
20__/03/20 CASE AIDE/ACCESS WORKER REPORT
20__/03/21 ATTEMPTED CONTACT
2000/03/21 TELEPHONE CALL
4:30 [GRANDMOTHER -ME] HAD LEFT VOICE MAIL FOR WORKER TODAY REQUESTING ACCESS WITH [GRANDSON] AND FOR HER UNCLE TO ATTEND ACCESS AS WELL.
WORKER LEFT MESSAGE ON HER ANSWERING MACHINE ADVISING THAT IF SHE WAS APPROVED AS A PARTY ON THURSDAY THERE WOULD BE A VISIT FRIDAY 9:30-10:30 AM. ADVISED THAT THIS IS HER QUALITY TIME WITH [ GRANDSON ] AND IF [GRANDSON] DOES NOT KNOW THIS UNCLE THERE WOULD BE NO POINT VALUE (sic) FOR [MY GRANDSON] IN THE UNCLE ATTENDING ACCESS. . .
20__/03/21 ASSESSMENT OF RISK . . .
20__/03/22 SUBSTANTIATE INTAKE . . .
20__/03/23 WORKER/CLIENT CONTACT
10: 25 RECEIVED PHONE CALL FROM [MOTHER OF _______]. SHE ADVISED THAT SHE DOES NOT WANT TO ATTEND COURT TODAY AND SHE IS NOT GETTING A LAWYER. WORKER RECOMMENDED THAT IF SHE WANTS TO HAVE A SAY IN WHERE _________ ENDS UP LIVING SHE WOULD HAVE TO ATTEND COURT AND A LAWYER SHOULD REPRESENT HER.
[MOTHER OF _________] ADVISED THAT SHE WAS AT A FRIENDS IN DARTMOUTH AND HAD NO WAY TO GET TO COURT. AGREED THAT I WOULD APPROVE A CAB, GIVE HER A VOUCHER AT COURT FOR RETURN TRIP AND SHE WOULD ATTEND COURT.
CAB ARRANGED TO PICK HER UP AT [BLANKED OUT]
(Gee, I wondered, where was my taxi cab? Why was she afforded such special treatment? - she the person who wanted to give up my grandson to the system.)
20__/03/24 COLLATERAL CONTACTS
20__/04/04 COLLATERAL CONTACTS
20__/04/04 WORKER/CLIENT CONTACT . . .
12:45 RETURNED CALL TO [MOTHER OF _______] AT [BLANKED OUT] SHE HAD LEFT A VOICE MAIL REQUESTING THAT I CALL HER ON MARCH 28/00 (WORKER ON VACATION) . . .
WORKER ASKED [MOTHER OF _________] IF SHE INTENDS TO GO TO COURT ON THURSDAY. SHE ADVISED SHE DID NOT. WORKER ENCOURAGED HER TO GO AND OBTAIN LEGAL COUNSEL. ADVISED [MOTHER OF __________] THAT A NEW WORKER, KARY. IS TAKING OVER THE CASE AND AGREED THAT WE WOULD MEET HER TOMORROW AT 3 PM AT SWISS CHALET. WORKER TO CONFIRM APPOINTMENT TIME.
20__/04/05 ATTEMPTED CONTACT
10: 00 PHONE CALL TO [MOTHER OF _______] AT HOME TO CONFIRM APPOINTMENT THIS AFTERNOON. NO ANSWER.
2:15 PHONE CALL TO SWISS CHALET TO CONFIRM THIS AFTERNOONS APPOINTMENT WITH [MOTHER OF ________]. WAS ADVISED THAT SHE HAD GONE FOR LUNCH AND AMY (sic) NOT BE BACK UNTIL HER NEXT SHIFT AT 5 PM.
3:00 WENT WITH WORKER KARY. TO MEET [MOTHER OF ______] AT SWISS CHALET. [MOTHER OF __________] WAS NOT AT WORK. KARY. TO CONTACT HER AT A LATER DATE.
20__/04/05 WORKER/CLIENT CONTACT
WORKER INTRODUCED TO [GRANDMOTHER] BY ____________ DURING AN ACCESS VISIT. . .
20__/04/05 WORKER/CLIENT CONTACT
20__/04/05 ATTEMPTED CONTACT
WORKER ATTENDED SWISS CHALET WITH ____________ FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS WORKER MEETING [MOTHER OF _______]. [MOTHER OF _______] WAS NOT AVAILABLE AT HER WORKPLACE.
20__/04/06 COLLATERAL CONTACTS . . .
20__/04/07 ATTEMPTED CONTACT . . .
20__/04/07 CASE WORKER CHANGED . . .
20__/04/07 TELEPHONE CALL . . .
20__/04/10 COLLATERAL CONTACTS . . .
20__/04/10 OTHER/ MISCELLANEOUS . . .
20__/04/11 ATTEMPTED CONTACT
10:00 phone call to (mother of child) at home. No answer. 12:30 phone call to [mother of _____] at home, no answer. Phone call to (mother of child) at work. She is not coming in until later. Worker had wanted to encourage her to attend court today.
(Man, they were working hard at trying to get my daughter into court. They are working hard to bring someone into court to take my grandson into the system)
20__/04/11 TELEPHONE CALL
2:46 PM-PHONE MESSAGE FROM ________. TRIAL DATES SET FOR ____________ RE: PLACEMENT OF [MY GRANDSON] WITH GRANDMOTHER. DATES ARE MAY 29TH AND 30TH..
20__/04/12 COLLATERAL CONTACTS
(Despite the insanity of everything I had already read in this document, exactly half way through, on page 10, the strangest input was yet to come:)
20__/04/12 FOSTER PARENT CONSULTATION
10:20 phone call to foster mother. She advised that a cleaning lady who used to work in her building came for a visit the other day and advised that she recognized __________ (sic) from his grandmother's home as she cleans the building _______'s (sic) grandmother lives in. She made the comment to the foster mother that ________ is better off with the foster parent. The cleaning lady said that [ GRANDMOTHER] is right out to lunch. The foster mother did not discuss further with the cleaning lady.
Worker asked how ________ was doing. Foster mother advised that he started biting his hands. He bit them so hard that they bled. She is not sure at this point if he is doing it because he is teething.
(A wave of numbness swept through my brain, a heaviness invaded, and a stupefying, deadness took control. My eyes were stretched to capacity, as if trying to relieve the pressure building up in my head, while all the time searching the paper for words, some sort of words, that might clarify what was going on here! I knew this cleaning person well. She was a pleasant soft spoken woman. A person of truth and honesty - a serious Christian. She was a good friend of a friend of mine, also a person of integrity and a serious Christian. I knew she had not said these words so where did this lying statement emanate?
And as for my grandson biting his hands to the point of bleeding! Why was what was so apparent to me, so illusive to them? My grandson was stressed by his ordeal ! He was ripped from his loving home, shifted back and forth for a two week period by his mother and then shunted into a foster home where during this time of high stress his bottle and pacifier had been immediately ripped away from him!
What did they expect when even the soothing comfort of his sucking was denied him ? ! Don't social workers have a basic understanding of the needs of children under trauma? And is no basic knowledge of comforting traumatized children given to foster parents? In fact, the swift removal of his bottle and pacifier were touted as it they were some kind of high accomplishments on the part of the foster parents!
Where was " the best interest of the child" in all of this? And when I spoke up against this stupidity - I was stunned - I was villainized for having the common sense that apparently none of these social workers had.
As I searched this paper and read it over and over again, it was apparent that the two most likely culprits for this lie was either the social worker who inputted this data or the foster mom . The foster mom, I thought, being the less likely of the two for what possible motive could she have ? She didn't know me. She had never even seen me!
But then, why, I asked, would the social worker concoct such a story? "What is going on here?"
My mind was bursting under the stain of puzzlement for I couldn't get my brain around this and nothing made any sense. But it was early in the game, this legal game that would go on and on and I was still too naive to even begin contemplating possible motives for such a fraudulent report.
However, after recuperating from my initial shock, I endeavored to expose the lie: When the cleaning woman came to my apartment building, I invited her in, explaining what had been written in the documentation while I flipped through my files to find the offensive account. Upon finding the page, I pointed to the applicable paragraphs and I watched the shock spread across her face as she read it for herself. She was genuinely dumfounded and upset.
Yes, she explained, she knew this foster mother and when she dropped by for a social visit, she was surprised to see and recognize my grandson, but she insisted, she had never made the statement attributed to her by the foster mother. In fact, she was more than eager to set the record straight and without hesitation, she agreed to meet with my lawyer, to draft an affidavit concerning this.
Swiftly, an affidavit was written, signed and filed with the court. The lie had been stopped in its tracks - put to bed, the dragon slayed - or, at least, I thought it had. )
The last input for this report was dated May 17, 20__. It would be July 21, 20__ two months later, before we returned to court, the ninth court appearance in this case, before I would be able to review the updated Case Recording Report by the Department of Community Services. When I received my copy, I prepared to flip through the report, to search for the bias and inaccuracies that I now expected to find. Well to put it succinctly - One flip and I was there. The second entry states:
20__/05/23 FOSTER PARENT CONSULTATION
CALL FROM FOSTER MOTHER WHO INDICATED THERE WAS AN ISSUE WITH THE CLEANING LADY AND WHAT HAD BEEN WRITTEN IN THE RECORDINGS BY _____ ______. ______'S GRANDMOTHER IS INDICATING THAT SHE WILL TAKE THE CLEANING LADY TO COURT IF THE MATTER IS NOT RESOLVED.
(From this I understood that the foster mother was trying to make it look like I had, somehow, threatened the cleaning lady to get the affidavit she had filed speaking against the foster mother's words transcribed in the last report.
What was going on? Why was this lie being so tenaciously perpetrated. What could the possible motive be? I flipped through 20 more pages till I reached the end of the latest report. Without doubt I found much more to be disturbed about in these pages, but there was no clarification to this particular mystery and I remained mystified.)
Then I began reading through other papers filed by the Department of Children's Services for this court appearance. I picked up a document stamped:
OF NOVA SCOTIA
JULY 19 20__
With the title
APPLICATION FOR DISPOSITION ORDER
AND NOTICE OF HEARING
Stapled beneath this document was a second document entitled
AGENCY PLAN FOR THE CHILD'S CARE
I read through page 1 . . . page 2 . . . page 3 . . . page 4 . . . page 5 . . . page 6 . . . page 7 . . . page 8 . . .and then I finally got to the last page - page 9.
(b) Description of the arrangements made or being made for the child's
long-term stable placement -
The Agency will seek placement of the child in an appropriate adoption home
provided by the Minister of Community Services. The possibility of the foster
home adopting _______ _______ is to be explored so that ______ ______
will have continuity in his placement.
(What! This was a shocker but at least now the mystery had been demystified. At least now I had a motive for the lying statements persistently thrown out by the foster mother. The foster parents had obviously put in their bid for my grandson. This was incredible. First my instable former neighbors, Sher and Terry, had earlier declared to the DCS that they wanted to adopt my grandson and now the foster parents were doing the same.
To me it was incredulous that foster parents should be allowed to voice such a desire while there is an active court case in progress over custody for a child by family members. To me this is a conflict of interest and should not be allowed. Surely "the best interest of the child" lies with keeping the child in the family, if possible. When foster parents are allowed to put in a bid while custody within the family is still before the court, it might prove too much of a temptation to make the easier call of just handing the child over to strangers instead of taking the time to sort out what needs to be sorted to place the child within the family. Indeed, this is what the DCS was pushing for. As a family member wanting a child to remain in the family, I think I should have the right to set my request before the court without non-family competing for the same.
If all interested family members have made their request before the court and have gone to trial and have all been denied - only then do I see it appropriate for non-family to seek adoption.
Once again, the cleaning lady came forth to file a second affidavit. This time she was so upset that she and her husband were talking about possibly taking legal action against the foster mother for her slanderous statements.
She went to my lawyer so that notes could be taken for a second affidavit, but she was never called back to sign the final affidavit. This woman constantly reminded me to get my lawyer to arrange the signing of this affidavit, but my second lawyer, a woman, was proving to be worse than my first.
At this point, my best action lay with the gathering of a number of specific affidavits, but my lawyer lied, harassed, misdirected, and even threatened me when I pushed her for the gathering of these affidavits.
When I hired my third and last lawyer, I request that particular unfinished affidavit be filed. He promised to do so but never did. In the end I came to believe that my lawyers were taking instruction - BUT NOT FROM ME! )
A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.
Don Corleone, in The Godfather - Mario Puzo