We got them back with a list of rules, and a stomach full of anxiety. How would this time go, and would we be able to keep them this time? How could we trust the ministry with all they had done? How could they trust us with the children they placed in our care, not knowing if we were being truthful or really had harmed them, and were able to convince people otherwise?
Whatever questions and anxiety going around from both sides, the children were brought home, and we were grateful.
The children had been enrolled in school and daycare while they were back in care, and this was something we had to continue. Unfortunately, their foster home was in a different bus district, and we were unable to transfer them once they were back home.
With our son in fourth grade and after school care, our older daughter in half day kindergarten, and our younger daughter in two different preschools four days a week, it was tricky, and time consuming to drive them to all of their programs and back. Above this, we also had many appointments and meetings to attend each week.
My husband had been laid off of work very shortly before the children had been removed, and had this not been so, it would have been impossible for us to follow all of the ministry’s demands. For all of that time while our children were back home with us, he was unable to search for other work, as the ministry required him to be present and participate in all of the meetings, and the care of the children.
Their time in care caused many challenges for our children. They came back home with a strong lack of trust or respect for us as parents. Their already fragile attachments had been broken, and their challenges more pronounced than when they had first been placed with us over two years prior. They lied more, stole more, fought and argued more, raged more… it was a difficult year. A year in which none of us had a chance to heal or overcome due to the demands placed on us by the social workers.
Our older daughter, being overwhelmed in attending kindergarten, would come home raging every day. We could not distract her, or calm her, and leaving her to rage meant great fears over the children being removed again. For that reason we, along with several of her specialists, requested after school daycare for her as well.
As she would require a one on one assistant to attend daycare, which was highly challenging to get funding for at the kindergarten age as they limited that funding to a couple of hours a day, and she would require about 5 hours a day, we had to battle quite strongly to have this put into place.
When we got that for her, she would go straight from school to daycare, come home for supper, have her bedtime routine, and go to sleep. She wouldn’t have time to rage, and in this way, we were able to deal with her going to school. It was the only way.
However, unless we had in writing from the specialists, which the ministry would accept, we could not have this funding continue once our children were moved back to an adoptive placement (which we were told was the goal.)
So when we spoke with the Intensive Family Preservationist, who we were required to see once the children were brought back home to us, we spoke of these concerns, and asked her to, in no uncertain terms, write that in order for our daughter to attend school, we would also require the funding for her to attend after school daycare. She wrote that down, and we agreed to her wording – but in the end, the social workers twisted the wording, and used it against us. So unfair, as we asked for it to be put there in the first place, and all they would say to that was, “that is not how we understood it.”
Before the children were moved, they were eating diets free of sugar, food dyes, wheat, and cow’s milk. I found it had a significant impact on the behaviour of my middle two children, and the health of my youngest. They all had really good appetites, and would always take seconds, lick their plates clean, and thank me for their food. When they were given back to us, we were no longer allowed to restrict their diets.
This made meals a lot cheaper and easier to prepare, however, the children’s appetites became very poor. During almost every meal, at least one would complain about the food. Most of the time, this was food they had requested, or enjoyed the last time we had it. It was very difficult to get them to eat, though what they did eat caused them to appear bloated.
How the food affected their behaviour during that year made little difference, as they were struggling anyway, but was this what the social workers felt good parenting was? Providing foods that were less healthy, and caused bad appetites, just to get them to gain weight in unhealthy ways? It didn’t make sense to us, but still we followed through.
This move also taught our children that if we didn’t give them what they wanted, or if they were upset with us, all they had to do was say we were hurting them, and they would be able to go to “grandma and grandpa’s” house. This was very bad, and happened very frequently during those last 10 months in our home, and it was no longer confined to one person, or even the person closest to them.
There were times when the social workers were even in our home talking to us, when one of the children was across the room from us, screaming that we had scratched, hit, or hurt them in some way. It was obvious this was not the case, but that is an example of a truth about our children that the ministry chose to ignore.
On one occasion, our son was at one end of our breezeway, heading towards our van. My husband was on the other end, about 20 feet away, when our son began screaming that my husband had punched him. We dropped him off at school, and I broke down and cried as I said to my husband, “they are going to be taken away, and there is nothing we can do.”
During those months, there was so much required of us and the children, that even though neither my husband or I were working, it still took all of our time and energy. For hours each day we were taking the children places, and in between, we had meetings and appointments to attend. The children, also, were feeling the pressures, and were pleading with us to allow them a break – but we had no options, we had to do what we were told.
That is no way to raise a child, and they knew it. Pretty soon they learned that we were powerless to help them, and their trust for us as parents was strongly impacted.
It was a very difficult year, but it didn’t have to be that way. It felt to all involved (including the children’s many specialists, psychologist, and pediatrician) that the social workers were piling all of these things on us in order to cause us to either fail, or give up. We did neither.
In the end, it wasn’t something we did with the children, or even an accusation against us, that caused them to remove the children from our care.
In the end, it was about respite and mediation, and nothing more. The social workers, for whatever reason, decided that the children’s respite provider (their previous foster parents, who they knew as “grandma and grandpa”) would no longer provide care for the children.
While the children were still grieving that news, they brought in a new foster parent, a complete stranger, and told us all that she would be taking the children for the weekend. That was hard on all of us – especially the children and I.
I did my very best to prepare the children for that weekend, and to get them excited about going to a new place. The new foster parent had a pool, and since all of my children liked to swim, I thought that would help them.
She picked them up from daycare, and never even told us where she lived. I provided her with a booklet containing my children’s routines, and what I hoped would help make the transitions easier. She thanked me for that, and was on her way. I went home and cried.
Two days later, when she brought my children home, they were all screaming. She wouldn’t even let me go in to comfort them, but pulled me off to the side to tell me that “for no reason at all, the social workers could take your children away from you.” She was upset with me for telling the daycare that she was our respite provider (how was I supposed to introduce her?)
She was upset with me for giving her a list of routines, that were impossible for her to follow since she didn’t know them ahead of time – how was I supposed to give them to her, I never had the chance? She was upset that the children had to be supervised at all times; apparently that wasn’t possible – I couldn’t understand that one, she was a foster parent after all.
When I finally got away from her, and was able to return (very shaken from her conversation) to my children, I was told in tears by my son that she had discussed her drinking habits with him, and that she was a smoker, and would go off to have a cigarette. All of my children were upset from the weekend, and begged to never return there.
That is when I asked for mediation. It was for my children, because I needed to be able to say, “that is enough” and have some way to stop the ministry from adding in something that was harmful.
Instead, they took the children, saying that asking for mediation meant that we were too stressed out working with them. They told us right from the beginning we could ask for mediation. They promised right from the beginning they wouldn’t do this… they lied.
They moved my children into that foster home which my children had begged never to have to return to. Six weeks later they moved them again to their previous foster home. Six weeks later, they moved my older daughter to another home, and tried to move my son, but that placement fell through.
After they were told specifically they couldn’t handle change. After they promised never to do this again. After they admitted to me that we hadn’t done anything wrong. Still they moved them, and six years later, it still breaks my heart. It didn’t have to be that way.