Monday, June 16, 2008

The story of Joseph - New and Unwanted Help

After about four months of Julie doing absolutely nothing to regain custody of Joseph someone in the system finally figured out that she wasn't going to do anything on her own. Now to me this was a big clue that she really did have any interest in getting Joseph back. To the system if just meant that she needed someone to push her a little harder.

Since Julie was only seventeen it was decided that she would have a social worker of her own assigned to her. For a very brief time the idea was that Julie would go into foster care too and that she and Joseph would live in a foster home together. This was the idea of Julie's social worker Vera and thankfully it was nixed almost right away.

What Vera did succeed in doing was getting changes made to Joseph's visitation schedule. He still had the joint visit with Julie and Joey once a week but now instead of his additional one hour visit with Julie he would have to go to a weekly two hour parenting class with her. Vera's thinking was that getting a chance to "parent" Joseph would restore her interest in him. I was instructed to send him to the visits "hungry and in need of a diaper change". Because that's not screwed up at all.

Julie didn't show up for her first parenting class so Vera arranged for a van to pick her up after that. This really irritated me. One of the conditions of Julie regaining custody was that she had to go to her scheduled visitation. This seemed like a pretty bare minimum thing to me but now Very had arranged it so that Julie didn't even have to be responsible for getting herself to visits. She just had to shuffle onto a can once a week and that was seen as fulfilling her obligation.

For me these new visits were always very uncomfortable. I would get there with Joseph and then he and I would go sit in the room with a bunch of mothers who had been ordered by the court to be there and their snotty faced kids. The staff seemed to have given up on teaching any kind of parenting skills and instead would spend the class standing in the corners gossiping and eating grahm crackers.

I got to see all of this because in spite of being picked up for her visits Julie would often be up to a half hour late. The van driver told me that he would sometimes have to knock on her door or call her for 10 minutes before she would come out and even then she would delay and stall.

When Julie would finally show up she would do everything she could to avoid taking Joseph right away. She would talk to the other moms, slooooowly take her coat off and put it away, get a drink of water, retie her shoes, stare off into space, anything to to put off having to take her wet and hungry son out of my arms.

Sabrina came to a couple of the classed to observe Julie's interactions with Joseph. She would come to me afterwards and say "She's obviously either unwilling or unable to parent that child." Vera came to a class once too and afterwards gushed to me "Julie just loves this time with Joseph! She's so great with him!" I wondered if she was trying to fool me or herself.

Christmas was coming up soon and Vera was pushing to have Joseph back with Julie by then. I was worried for Joseph but as a foster parent there was really nothing I could do. I expressed my concerns to Sabrina (who agreed with me totally) and then sat back and watched Vera try to push Julie into being a mother.

I didn't know it at the time but Christmas was going to bring with it big changes in Joseph's situation.


Sam said...

Holy crap super sucky social workers Batman!!

Alison Wonderland said...

It's not like I had a lot of faith in the system before but reading this stuff isn't doing much to improve my opinion. But I love it, don't stop.

Jen said...

sam - The whole system is just so screwy. I don't even know if you can blame the social workers, most of the time they just do what they're pressed into doing. Although I guess there are some bad ones out there too.

alison - It's not all bad. Joseph always had some really great people on his side. Sabrina was an angel and she wasn't the only good one we came across. But yeah, I don't have a whole lot of faith in the system either.

The Gray Gang said...

Hi! I don't even know you, or you me, but I have a few siblings we blessed with through the "screwed up" system! It is a joke! May you be blessed for your efforts! Joseph sounds like the sweetest ever!

nell said...

It really sounds like Julie wasn't even able to take care of herself, and how could Vera be so naive?