Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Story of Joseph - Part of the Problem

After my last chapter in this story a couple of people asked how old Joseph was when he started going for his weekend long visits. My memory of the exact timeline is a little fuzzy but I think he was around eight months old.

I had thought dropping Joseph off at the group home was bad. Picking him up was even worse. When we got to the group home the tv was blasting loud again, this time with the news. Because there's nothing kids like more than their daily dose of information about rape and murders. The army of grubby kids was there in the same state of undress as they had been when we were there on Friday. When we got into the living room Big Mama was sitting on the loveseat again. She was wearing the same mumu she had been wearing on Friday.

This time Big Mama hardly even looked at us. She just called Julie in, told us everything had gone well and then waved us away. Julie handed Joseph to me, gave Jesse the diaper bag and then turned and walked away. She didn't kiss Joseph goodbye or kiss him or even look back at him.

As we walked out to the car I realized that Joseph's diaper was so wet that it was soaking through his clothes. I went to do a quick diaper change in the backseat before we drove off and when I took of the wet diaper I saw that Joseph had a terrible diaper rash. This was pretty unusual for Joseph, he wasn't really prone to diaper rash. When I opened up the diaper bag for a new diaper I was almost knocked out from the smell coming from the bag. Laying there on top of all the neatly packed clothes, toys and snacks were several outfits soaked through and stained with urine and poop. I was so upset. I turned to Jesse and said " I think she just let him get so wet that he would soak through onto his clothes and then she just threw them in here with all his other stuff!"

There were hardly any diapers missing from the ones we sent along. The clean ones that were left in the bag all reeked of urine after having the wet clothes on top of them. All of his toys were wet and smelly. The carefully packed bags of dry cereal and raisins had all been untouched but they would have to be thrown out because they too were covered in pee.

As I changed Joseph I noticed that he wasn't his usual cheerful self. I chalked this up to his diaper rash. We buckled him into his car seat and headed home. As we were pulling into our garage I smelled a familiar smell. "Great" I muttered "He's got diarrhea. She gave him something with eggs in it."

As soon as we got Joseph inside I gave him a bath and then fed him. He polished off an eight ounce bottle, two jars of baby food and some Cheerios. This was a child who was never a big eater so it was almost disturbing to watch him eat so much. I got angrier and angrier as I watched him eat. Hadn't anyone fed him? Did they just figure that as long as he wasn't crying in hunger then he was ok?

Once Joseph was done eating I passed him off to Jesse and made a very irate call to the shelter home. My call was answered by a woman who was actually very nice but who pretty much told me that there was nothing that could be done. According to her the staff at the group home couldn't intervene unless the situation was "drastic". I told her that a child who was hungry and allowed to sit in urine soaked clothes until he got a diaper rash was "drastic". I also let her know that I would be calling Joseph's social worker to fill her in on how the visit had gone. The group home worker agreed that was probably a good idea.

Bright and early on Monday morning a placed a call to Sabrina and I told her every detail of how the visit had gone and the condition that Joseph had come home in. Sabrina was aghast. She three wayed me in to a phone call with Joseph's guardian ad litum and we went over the whole thing again. The call ended with Sabrina promising to call the group home and making sure that this sort of thing did not happen again.

Later that afternoon I got a call from a person at the group home that I had never met before. She let me know in no uncertain terms that she did not appreciate me calling Sabrina. She told me that I was "undermining Julie by complaining about the way she cared for Joseph". She then told me that by bringing up the issue at all I was "part of the problem". I can still so clearly remember her words. "If you continue to point out to everyone where she fails then she's never going to be able to get him back." In other words, I should just look the other way when Joseph was neglected so that he could get back even sooner with his mother who had neither the ability nor the desire to care for him.

I let the worker know that I would continue to call every time there was an issue. I said I would call the group home, I would call Sabrina, I would call the guardian, I would call anyone else I could think of who needed to know who the visits were going.

I was not very surprised when it was arranged that a van would pick up Joseph and drop him off for all following visits. I pretty much refused to let that happen though. I called Sabrina and demanded that I be allowed to at least pick him up from his visits. I wanted to see how he actually was after visits, not how he was once a staff member had a chance to clean him up and feed him. And yes, I suspected that that is exactly what would happen. The goal of that group home was to get Joseph living with Julie. I don't think they cared how bad it really was for Joseph. It was agreed that I could pick Joseph up. I'd like to say I was happy about that but ..... "Yea! I get to see how badly this baby I love is being cared for!" Not so much.

In spite of how badly the visits seemed to be going the plan was still for Joseph to move to the group home in two months unless something drastic happened. Something drastic was about to happen but it was something that I don't think anyone expected.


Laggin said...

Oy vey.

Sam said...

It is amazing how much they let the bio mom eff up over and over. Again, I am SO glad that you are his mother.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why Julie wouldn't just abandon him outright, rather than dragging it along. If she didn't care about him, why not let someone else?

Procrastamom said...

Wow, I know that you are his mom now and that he is safe, but I still feel uneasy reading that and wondering what will happen next. Don't leave us hanging for too long!

Alison Wonderland said...

I love/hate the way you always end with a cliffhanger sentence. Do you also write for soap operas? (I mean that in a good way. Really.)

Jen said...

laggin - Indeed.

sam - It was frustrating for me at the time too. I've got a different way of looking at it all now but I'll go into that in the next part of the story.

wheelsonthebus - I think she wanted to let him go but she didn't know how. She had a lot of pressure on her to keep him.

procrastamom - The thing Ihad to keep telling myself as I wrote this was "It's all over now. Now he's safe!" It was hard dredging all this up again.

alison - I'm just trying to keep it interesting! It's all ending soon though.

Cinthia said...

Joseph's story is so hard, but it's a really fascinating read. I can't wait to read more... and I too am glad he is with you now.