I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my battle with the Department of Family Services (more popularly known as “CPS” or “Child Protective Services). I wanted to share my story. I wanted to be transparent with the thousands of people who follow me about what I was going through. I wanted to encourage others in the hardest of places and be a voice for anyone else finding themselves on the receiving end of a juvenile system that needs nothing short of an overhaul. I wanted my story to be told because quite frankly, my platform is the only place where the truth is going to be.
I had no idea what to expect from that post — how many people would take notice, how many people are sitting in similar shoes, and how many people cared. I wish I could say that my story hasn’t gotten worse — that DFS and the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) read what I wrote and decided a life assessment was in order, but I can’t. The corruption continues and I can’t say I’m surprised.
They don’t want me to speak out, but what I write here is a watered-down version of what they’re really doing. If they want me to change what I write, then they need to change the narrative because this is about more than just me or my children. It’s about the families who were targeted before me and those who will undoubtedly be targeted after me if things don’t change, for the families unnecessarily ripped apart, the ones that could have been put back together, the people who adopted because they just wanted to love orphans and were deprived of resources, and for those who don’t know how to fight or that they even have that option. Most importantly, I’m still here fighting because these are my children and they deserve that.
What Happened Next …
Allow me to bless you with the next installment of my story. After my post published a few weeks ago, I found out that 10 days prior to publishing, the family who had my kids didn’t want them anymore. You know … this is the “vetted” family who is the reason my kids were put in foster care instead of being returned to me when they were supposed to be, the family who has been posting family photos with my kids in them for months, talking about how adoption is love, and actively working against reunification. After seven months of additional trauma they were abandoned. The reasons given are not important. Those are between them and God and no reason is justifiable in my eyes.
What is important is that my husband and I were standing there more than willing to take them back as we have been during this entire process. Besides, there is no lawful reason they were withheld in the first place and I certainly haven’t been deemed to be unfit, so this was the perfect opportunity to make a huge wrong “right.” The problem? The Judge had no idea what was going on (and still doesn’t) and DFS, the Guardian ad Litem, and this family have spent months undermining the integrity of the process. What were they going to say,
“Oops, our “vetting” skills were off, we’ve been withholding really important information and/or lying the entire time and we have completely painted their mother out to be someone she isn’t, and we think she should have her kids back?”
Or how about …
“Well we would love to reunify these children with their family but mom is in and out of rehab, can’t get off meth, is looking at adding a few marks to her criminal record, is living with an abusive man, and can’t get her life together.” Oh wait … that’s not me either.
By this point I knew what the law was and the law in Missouri states that relatives have preference over any other foster placement, that the children must be placed with relatives unless specific findings of facts are stated as to why they cannot, and that these relatives be given notice by DFS. I wish I could have relied on DFS to follow the law in contacting them but since they didn’t do it before, I would have been naive to think that they’d do it this time. And they hadn’t.
They were once again trying to shuffle them to another foster family who is under the impression that they’re adopting my children. I responded by equipping my case worker with a list of relatives that needed to be contacted for placement. It’s funny how that list dwindles when they implement a list of criteria that excludes almost everyone outside of the foster family they want them placed with.
This aside, I came up with two families who by law, trump any other placement outside of a fit parent like myself: my parents (their grandparents) and my aunt and uncle. I made sure my family didn’t hold their breaths waiting around to be contacted. They immediately called that day and said they wanted to be placement for my children. This would have been amazing for them and for our family and quite frankly, they would have done it seven months ago if given the opportunity. You would think that with DFS supposedly being required to pursue reunification this would be ideal; however, DFS has a habit of pursuing reunification “in name only” meaning they don’t actually do anything to facilitate that.
My parents were the ideal placement. Nobody knows my children better than my mother who has had a relationship with them since 2013, who flew to their country, who sits on the board of an organization that builds schools and cares for orphans in Congo, who sold her house to get them here, who knows all of my children’s special needs and behaviors, and is in the same school district where they have been for over a year. My parents — a nurse and a former police officer, have no criminal records and are outstanding members in the community. Most importantly, they can’t be manipulated and could make sure my children weren’t either.
When children are placed with relatives, reunification is highly likely because those family members aren’t trying to adopt your children — they go into it knowing reunification is the goal and strive to make that happen. They want their families put back together. When children are placed with non-relatives, DFS pushes to adopt children out because most people don’t sign up for foster care for the right reasons and DFS gets financial incentives for doing so.
The “Meeting” to Determine Placement
A meeting has to be held to determine placement and my attorney was on it. My parents showed up for this meeting and suffered the same type of “interrogation” I had from the Guardian ad Litem, and this time … there was an even bigger surprise. The GAL teamed up with my ex-husband and he was conferenced in to weigh in on the children he tried to trap in Africa, the children he wasn’t paying child support or insurance for, the children he has not once shown up in court for, didn’t want, doesn’t want, and hasn’t wanted for over three years. He wasn’t even a party to the case, so who in their right mind would think it okay to give him a say? That’s like putting the fate of a woman who just got beat up by her husband in the hands of her abuser.
I wasn’t stupid though. I knew exactly what they were trying to do.
I was proud of my parents. They didn’t waiver. They were confident, asserted the truth, and stood up for my children and our rights. They asked the right questions and answered the ones thrown at them even better. Still, that meeting wasn’t going to go anywhere but to a court room because these people weren’t backing down.
This case isn’t about what’s in the best interests of my children … it’s about me and what this case could expose.
It was assured that the children were okay to remain with the family they were with for a week until we could get a hearing before a Judge, but I have long become accustomed to the games. Within days my children were secretly transferred to the foster family they were trying to place them with under the guise of “respite.” This is a very common tactic DFS uses to skirt around the law dealing with relative placement. Then they can show up at court and tell a Judge that the children had to be moved or were “just doing respite” and should stay where they are at.
A few days later a hearing was held. This was supposed to be a very simple hearing to make my ex-husband part of my case (which is required for my appeal), to remove a Guardian ad Litem who is biased, unprofessional, and has an aversion to telling the truth, and to determine placement of the children. What ensued was nothing short of a three-ring circus that lasted for several hours and was on a level for which there are no words for. You truly had to be there. I’m pretty sure I blew through my entire retainer in one afternoon and if there’s one thing I learned from that experience, it was that I should have packed snacks.
During this hearing, both of my parents took the stand to advocate for being my children’s relative placement. Their criminal background checks were perfect and they expressed their love for the children and desire to have our family reunified. DFS tried to use a 2013 home study against them where I discussed my relationship with them growing up, but it didn’t work. You can’t say a parent isn’t successful when they help a troubled daughter on the verge of dropping out of high school come back and not only graduate at the top of her class, but get through college by the time most people graduate high school.
I don’t know of anyone who would say they had perfect parents, but I would say that mine were pretty good and I probably owe them an apology for being such a turd.
You know they’re grasping at straws when they tried to make my parents choose between their daughter and their grandchildren, but this is exactly what happened. DFS and the GAL made my parents agree that if they were to get placement of my children, they could have zero contact with me — no pictures on the wall, no contact, no seeing me, and couldn’t even mention my name in front of the kids. I am dead serious.
Why you ask? Am I a child abuser with a criminal record? No. Because they are trying to manipulate my children and control the narrative. They want people to believe we have no bond, that they don’t remember me, and that they don’t want to come back. They don’t want our family reunified and they thought that if my parents had to choose between me and them, they wouldn’t go through with it.
I saw my Dad’s face on the stand when he had to agree to no contact with his own daughter for an indefinite period of time and for absolutely no valid or lawful reason. He looked at me and I looked back at him with a look that said, “You do what you need to do to get these kids back.”
Now you tell me why mothers on meth and parents who have allowed their children to be abused, parents with criminal records and jaded pasts who have had four, five, and six chances to get it right can have visitation with their kids and not only have I not been allowed visitation, my children can’t even have contact with me, their siblings, or have a chance to access their memories. I’m not even referred to them as their mother. On what planet is this even remotely okay?
If my parents can’t even mention my name, have to take down the family photos with me in them, and have to erase all evidence of my existence from their lives in order to have my kids, do you think my children are being given accurate information about me and aren’t being manipulated to form opinions that would benefit the DFS and Guardian ad Litem agenda? I think not.
I am absolutely appalled that these are the type of people in charge of “reunifying families” and advocating for children. I am shocked that this is even allowed to happen in our country. I have sat through hours and days of hearings where troubled parents come forward and in each case they are given two things: the resources they need to get their life together and the opportunity to be reunified with their children.
And then there’s me — the woman who has multiple degrees and a clean past, who started a nonprofit to help orphans and families in poverty, who found herself in a situation for which there are no words for, who spent every dollar she had to bring her children home from Congo and saved their lives, who gave up her career to parent them, who has made all of the right choices in life aside from the fact that she married a man who pretended to be someone he wasn’t, fought for over a year and a half for services to help her daughter, and who has been standing here to take these children the entire time. Maybe if I had been to rehab a few times or chose drugs as my outlet, I would be given the same opportunities … or maybe the system is corrupt and I’m just on the receiving end of it.
What I will tell you is this, it is not a crime to need resources and it takes a really good mother to recognize when she’s in a place where she needs help and is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to get it — and we shouldn’t penalize anyone for that. It takes a strong mother to put herself in the line of fire … over and over again … to remain firm when everyone else has walked away, to continue to subject herself to interrogation after interrogation, to call out the corruption, and to stand up for what is right. I can’t speak for everyone but I think most people years in to a battle like mine would have been crushed by now … yet here I am.
The Guardian ad Litem
For some reason, the Guardian ad Litem has been given absolute discretion to do whatever she wants in the court room (and in my case) and I have lost count of the lies. I no longer waste time trying to convince her of truth. It would be easier to convince Richard Dawkins that God exists and would be a far better use of my time. I don’t know why she’s doing what she’s doing or why she’s done what she’s done — money, the fame of an appeal, a personal vendetta? But quite frankly, I don’t care.
One of the things I’ve been fighting for over the past seven months is to make my ex-husband a party to the case. The GAL has been adamantly fighting against this during the entire process. She’s argued that his rights were terminated with our divorce even when I handed her our divorce papers proving otherwise. She argued that his consent to adoption sans termination order terminated his rights. She argued that he isn’t and shouldn’t be a part of the case even though he is under a court order to pay child support. But all of a sudden, she wanted the “father” added and to make him a part of the team that determines their care? This is no coincidence I assure you. This is an alliance I saw coming months ago.
It turns out that my ex-husband has been secretly recording conversations and FaceTime with our kids and sending them to the GAL. It also came out that she disclosed private and confidential mental health records regarding the counseling sessions with myself and our adopted daughter to him. Why is this a big deal? Because the ex-husband is trying to get full custody of the three bio kids he suddenly wants and I wouldn’t give him or the GAL in that case the records of the daughter he doesn’t … and neither would the Judge.
Let’s face it, I’m the one who put our family (sans absent father) in Adoption Preservation Therapy (something I now regret). He had a chance to participate and wouldn’t. He could have made their lives so much better and refused. The state paid for this service because he deprived her of insurance. He didn’t care about these records at all until he thought they could serve him and he wasn’t authorized on her file to have them as he has adamantly claimed that she was not his daughter. Most importantly, giving someone carte blanch access to records dissuades people from getting counseling or the help they need and the Judge in my state knows this. He said that without a specific reason given and an argument from both sides, no access was to be granted.
Missouri Guardian ad Litem to the rescue. She handed over these files like a gum ball machine pops out gum balls and apparently I waived my privilege of confidentiality because she subjectively deemed that an authorization for her to have the records meant she could pass them out to whomever she wanted at her leisure. I had no idea when I was authorizing her to view our records that she would hand them over to an adversarial third-person who wasn’t even a party to the case. I thought I was helping my daughter and educating her on the truth — not throwing either of us under the bus.
Oh, but it gets better. Before I ever had a chance to meet the Guardian ad Litem in my other case, the GAL in my Missouri case called him up and gave him her rendition of the “facts.” She just happened to be taking a leisurely stroll on CaseNet (in a state she’s not a resident of or licensed in) one night, accidentally typed in my name, and saw that a Guardian ad Litem had been appointed in our custody case and decided to do a courtesy and “reach out” in the name of having a “question” and all. Do you think I had an unbiased GAL when I walked into my meeting? No. I was questioned for 7 hours over the course of two days about children who weren’t a part of the petitions filed in a case that another state has jurisdiction over.
I was the woman who abandoned her children — not the woman who saved the lives of these two kids and have fought to get them resources every day since. I’m not the woman who single-handedly single parented five small children — two who were twinned, two with special needs, an infant, and four who were in diapers. I’m not the woman who took three biological children and shuttled them through their father’s abandonment, who sacrificed her career to be with them 24/7, who got her adopted children to a place where they could speak English, go to school, use utensils, poop in a potty, and function in public, who held them when they cried because their father left, answered their questions when their world changed, handled their outbursts when they witnessed the disfavored treatment, took the bullets for them, gave them a nuclear family, and has taken them to every single appointment, been at every single school function, and single-handedly single parented them to a place where they are now thriving.
A day later the ruling came out. My parents did not get relative placement. No reasons or findings of fact were given. The children were bounced around to the family DFS was pushing for — the ones who think they’re adopting my children. After a few days, my son is already calling her “Mommy” and they allow this. My ex-husband was made a party to the case and I anticipate he will come forward with a really good story and will have the Guardian ad Litem and DFS (who think he is a really “great guy”) cheering him on.
The Guardian ad Litem — the one who has lied repeatedly to the Judge, who is colluding with my ex-husband, who is undermining my ability to be properly represented in another case, who shared confidential records, discussed my case with those not a party to it, excluded evidence, is a huge reason my kids are still in foster care, and has an inability to tell the truth even when under oath is still on my case, which is an even greater loss for my kids than it is for me. I have racked my brain a million times in an attempt to figure out why the Judge denied our motion and I’ve come to only one conclusion: He finds her entertaining.
I found out after the hearing that my Aunt and Uncle had contacted DFS to be considered as placement in case my parents were denied. DFS failed to include this in the summary to the Judge or the meeting we all held to discuss placement and did not even mention it at the hearing despite my Uncle sitting in that court room. They decided, they were “third” on the list behind this foster family, which is again … inconsistent with the law. Can we get some mandatory education classes up in here? The law. Anyone? Nobody wants to follow it?
Where to Go From Here
I don’t know where I will go from here. I have spent six years advocating for my adopted children, over seven months wrapped up in this process, missed my bar exam to attend their hearing this summer because I supposedly “don’t love my children,” took the forced psych evaluation that was ordered on no grounds, have been interrogated, lied to, lied about, harassed, undermined, and deprived of my rights, provided 300+ videos to their therapist to counteract whatever false narrative she’s been given, filed my case in the Court of Appeals, have contacted senators, representatives, and governing authorities, filed grievances, and continue to advocate for my children.
DFS has consistently denied responsibility. It’s the Judge’s fault for not creating a permanency plan, for placing them with another family, and they’re pursuing “reunification.” Wrong. They deprived me of my rights long before a Judge ever took jurisdiction of my case, have consistently manipulated the process since, and none of their actions are even remotely consistent with reunification or the law. Statute after statute has been violated and my rights have been violated right along with them. DFS will pursue “reunification” until the children are in foster care for 15 months and then will push for a termination of my parental rights on the grounds that the reunification efforts they haven’t made have failed and because I haven’t had contact with my children. Funny how this works.
I think maybe the solution is to get a room full of people together on the state and national level who have the power to do something about this because I’ve been on both sides of the coin now and CPS/DFS is a problem in all 50 states. Maybe the media should start covering issues that are truly affecting American families and governing agencies should start holding DFS and Guardian ad Litems accountable. Filing a grievance at your local DFS where they are in charge of reviewing themselves is not sufficient (but you should still do it).
Maybe we should start requiring mandatory education for all DFS employees so that they understand the policies and repercussions for not following them, as well as mandatory education on special conditions many parents face like reactive attachment disorder, autism, PTSD, and sensory processing issues and how these various conditions vary among different ethnic groups and nationalities. Talking to these people about how reactive attachment disorder presents in a children that have come from a third world country and spent most of their lives inside a concrete room is like trying to teach a car mechanic how to make the perfect pesto. They just don’t get it or they downplay the severity of these conditions which hurts both the families and the children who desperately needs resources.
Maybe we should overhaul the Adoption and Safe Families Act and stop promising foster parents an adoption so they become foster parents for the right reasons and the children who actually need homes don’t get shelved for the children that have families but are easier to adopt out. Maybe we should start supporting single mothers, the poor, and those in hard places so that their families aren’t split apart in the first place. It’s called the Department of “Family Services” for a reason and if they’re not going to do what their name says then they should change it to the “Department of Legal Kidnapping.”
Finally, empathy should be required for anyone working in the juvenile system. If you are a narcissist and you can’t muster up compassion for the families you work with, you’re in the wrong profession. There’s a reason the DFS policy manual requires parents to be treated with respect and let me tell you, the Facebook messages I’ve seen among caseworkers not even on my case are deplorable.
If the Department of “Family” Services is not held accountable and guardian ad litems are allowed to bully the families of the children they represent, then they will continue to violate their own polices, continue to unlawfully target, take, and withhold children, and the corruption will continue. I’m just not the type of person who can turn a blind eye, not speak up, not speak out, and not put my words into action in doing something about it.
You can help by sharing this post, sending your story to [email protected], visiting Megan’s GoFundMe set up by her followers to raise money to cover her legal costs and any resources needed to get her children back, and can follow her blog to follow her story.