Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Story of Joseph - The Group Home

Once Joey was out of the picture the new and brilliant plan was for Joseph to start spending his weekends with Julie. The idea was that Joseph would have 4-6 weekend long visits and then move into the group home with Julie. Do I even need to say how apprehensive I was about this?

We were told to drop Joseph off at the group home at 3:00 on Friday afternoon and then pick him up at 5:00 on Sunday evening. I went a little overboard when I made preparations. I packed three times more clothes than Joseph would need just in case. I packed his favorite snacks and toys. I even wrote up a list of Joseph's schedule to make things easier for Julie. I mean, it was partly for Julie's benefit but it was mostly for Joseph. I knew this was going to be a huge change for him. Since he had been three weeks old we had taken care of his every want and need. Now people who didn't know him at all were going to have to try to take care of him without knowing anything about him.

I was sick to my stomach the day we had to drop Joseph off at his first weekend visit. The group home was in a nice neighborhood but something about the house just seemed "off". I realized that I was projecting my uncertainly about the plan onto the actual physical house itself and told myself to knock it off. I mean, how bad could it be? After all, this was a group home for mothers like Julie who needed extra help learning to care for their children. It was staffed by professionals. It had to be halfway decent.

We walked into the group home and were greeted by about a dozen grubby kids wearing pajamas and diapers. At three in the afternoon. A loud voice came boomed from the living room and commanded us to "bring the baby". We followed the voice and found it's owner to be a large (very large) woman wearing a mumu and sprawled out on a love seat. She introduced herself as "Big Mama"* and said she was in charge. Five teenage girls and a half dozen more children sat on the living room floor starting open mouthed at the tv blaring Sally Jesse Raphael.

I was determined to be positive about this so with a big smile I pulled out my list and started to show it to Big Mama. "Yeah yeah" she said as she waved her hand dismissively "We know how to take care of babies. Just leave it in the bag for Julie and she'll read it."

Now, several people involved with this case had already told me they didn't think Julie knew how to read so Big Mama's plan didn't seem all that wise to me. I tried to respond. "Um. Ok. Well, it's just that his feeding schedule is on here. It's pretty important that Julie stick to it because Joseph won't ever let you know he's hungry. You just have to..."

Big Mama laughed and cut me off. "Babies know how to tell you when they're hungry! Don't you worry about that!"

I could see this wasn't going anywhere but I tried again to make her understand. "Most babies yes, but not this baby. That's why I made up this....."

"Julie!" Big Mama yelled, cutting me off again. She fixed her eyes on me coldly and said "We know how to take care of babies."

Julie wandered into the room. Big Mama instructed her to take Joseph and his things downstairs and get him settled. I tried to quickly fill Julie in on Joseph's feeding schedule and how to not give him anything with egg in it because it would give him diarrhea. I don't think she could even hear me over the sounds of Sally Jesse yelling at troubled a teen and Big Mama telling us "We've got it under control! Thank you! Goodbye now!"

Jesse and I retreated back down the stairs and out the door, a small army of grubby, half dressed children following us all the way. Just as the door started to shut I glanced back and saw Julie standing at the top of the stairs. She was holding Joseph awkwardly and she looked miserable. Joseph was smiling at us.

Once we were in the car I didn't know what to do or say so I just kind of laughed. "Oh my god." I said. "Can you believe that woman?"

"Yeah" Jesse responded grimly. "Can you believe we have to leave Joseph there until Sunday night?"

I cried all the way home.

*She actualy called herself that. I'm not even kidding.


Laggin said...

Could no one see that Julie didn't care? Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my God. That is awful.

Alison Wonderland said...

Stop stop, I can't take it!
Well, no don't stop but... You know.

kik said...

How old was Joseph at this point?

This is almost unbelievable. I wish that it wasn't so true or so common.--

Thank you for sharing, even though you're breaking my heart

Cathy said...

Yeah - I wanna know how old Joseph is too!?!?!

nell said...

Oh wow. I guess you have to do what you have to do when you're working with a system like that but man, that must have been so hard.

Sam said...

Train wreck! I can't imagine how hard that must have been for you.

Jen said...

laggin - I don't think anyone cared that Julie didn't care.

wheelsonthebus - It was awful. I've felt bad all weekend just remembering it.

alison - Not much left now!

kik - My memory of the exact timeline is a little fuzzy but I would guess he was about 8 months old at this point.

cathy - 8 months or so I think.

nell - It was hard. Not being able to do anything about it made it all that much harder.

sam - It was tough but we were mostly worried about Joseph. Luckily he's very adaptable!