Another successful meeting with our social worker. Successful because this past month we’ve survived the dentist, the doctor’s office, vaccinations, Kindergarten registration for Big J, Head Start registration for Little J, meetings with teachers and counselors and our Licensor. Check ins with our CASA (Court Approved Special Advocate), our Family Liaison at school, and our social worker.
Nobody warned me that I’d have to put on armor and fight for just about everything. It’s maddening. There is so much bureaucracy, a result of DSHS being ruled by a budget. And I get it, I really do. If it wasn’t that way, everyone would have a Massage Envy subscription for stress management and a pantry full of Le Creuset. It’s the same reason we don’t go out to eat every night – it’s not a necessary expense. But ensuring that you both are healthy, and happy and THRIVING, that you have the means to be resilient — everything related to that goal is necessary. Everything.
Back in December a woman from DSHS called me and asked me a series of questions from a pre-printed questionnaire, twice – for both of you. It was maybe 7 minutes of dialogue each time and at the end of this approximate 15 minute phone call the lady determined that Little J was not in need of any sort of Mental Health Counseling or evaluation. I was stunned. Livid. I mean how can someone who has never met you, who hasn’t heard your full story, who can’t even begin to comprehend the depth of what you’ve experienced determine that after a brief phone call? How does she have that kind of authority? She isn’t a licensed mental health practitioner… given her job title, she may have a bachelor’s degree, and that’s a coin toss. Come on, she reads from a script all day. And the decisions she has the authority to make are life altering. It’s scary. Her reasoning was that you were probably young enough that your memories of any trauma, any neglect would be low. You are 3 years old and scientifically there is probably some truth to that. You don’t remember much about your biological parents – in fact, you recently saw your biological mother at your maternal grandma’s funeral and you didn’t know who you were looking at when she asked to take a photo with you and Big J. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need any help or services. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need play therapy or a safe neutral place to talk to a professional and process what you’ve experienced. I wanted you to be assessed by someone possessing the appropriate qualifications to make that judgment. And your teachers and family liaison at school were 100% on board, they even prepared documentation of behaviors and concerns for you. So at our court date, I asked the judge to please order at the very least an assessment. And he graciously agreed, stating “I order that Little J be given an assessment…” That day I messaged our CASA, our social worker, the counseling team, and let them know. We should have had you in your initial intake for counseling the very next day… but the counseling team and DSHS would not allow it as the judge had not created a written order. They said this order was purely verbal and would not count. I sat in court with both the AAG and DSHS Supervisor, and it’s egregious that they didn’t have record of this order – someone could have pushed this through. So we pressed on with our CASA and about a week – week and a half later we had the written order for treatment. And, within an hour of receiving that news, I had you scheduled for a 2 hour intake appointment where we’d later meet your counselor and play with a PT Cruiser Barbie car together on her office floor.
… what about the kids in foster care that don’t have someone to negotiate for them, to fight these battles? God only knows, there’s a million+ What happens to them? Or the kids whose foster parents don’t have the time and energy to advocate for these necessities? It’s a FIGHT for just about everything. I have the freedom of being my own boss and setting my work hours around your agenda and needs. That’s a luxury most foster parents don’t have. We are so fortunate, I can’t even begin to express how lucky we are. To have you in our lives. To make ends meet. To advocate for you. The system is broken in more ways than I can count. But you will always have people on your team that will go to bat for you any day of the week.