Friday, July 29, 2011

Good indeed...

"Zackary do you know mommy thinks you are simply adorable?"

"Yeah..... hey mom.... it's a good thing you had me and not some other kid."

Yeah little man... a good thing indeed....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Emails to FoTB

Over the last two weeks I have sent a series of emails to FoTB. If you wonder why I'm not posting here... I'm too busy dealing with behaviors and/or writing emails. After the latest incident we took a sort of gloves off approach with him in our communications. We are not rude, per say, but we are direct.

For the last two years or so people have sugar coated things for him. No one has told him directly what his actions have done to Zack and no one has called him outright on his BS. Perhaps that is one of the faults of working within the system for as long as we did (we were DHS involved for about 15 months).

After DHS dropped out, it became about avoiding the conflicts. If something was going to become a fight we sort of took a how important is it approach. However, the only thing that got us was compounding problems. What was something minor just sort of snowballed into a lot of much larger problems until, as you have probably figured out, we have found ourselves here. We go to mediation on the 15th to try to work out a different visitation schedule.

Until that point, when things arise we are now addressing them directly, instead of avoiding the conflict. Last Wednesday when we went to pick up Zack he wouldn't even make eye contact with us or speak more than two words to us. I don't think he likes this new way of doing things....

"My question to you is why and how would you allow this to happen? How would you ever think it was ok to act this way at all, let alone in front of your son who is already scared of you because of the domestic abuse he witnessed?"

"We try everything in our power to encourage Zack that he will enjoy his visits with you. That he will have a great time. That said, you need to remember that his first lasting memory and impression of you is that of you throwing a glass at my head and screaming at me. [...] When you become upset like this, Zack assumes that someone is going to be hurt. Zack has yet to develop a sense of comfort and security around you and now this happens. On Saturday you scared Zack so badly that he ended up wetting his bed and had two night's in which he could not sleep. [...] This should not be happening to a 4 year old....EVER!"

"Zack is terrified of you when you act like this and he spends each visit on pins and needles wondering if it will happen again. [...] Zack has said he likes to visit the three of you. However, when he is asked if he would like to have a visit with just you his answer is no. He has repeatedly told us and Dr. B that he would not want to go if it was just him and FoTB."

"We cannot tell you what to do in order to begin building a bond and a relationship with Zack. That is up you. However, the truth of the matter is, no matter what you may believe, nothing you have done over the past 2 years has done anything to foster it."

"At some point, your focus needs to turn to 100% about what is in Zack's best interest as it pertains to Zack."

"You are in a position where you need to create an atmosphere and environment where Zack can begin to trust, respect and love you without fear. [...] Should you not do this and should Zack continue to feel this way about you, he will in the long run, decide by himself, the fate of your relationship with him."

"First of all, I am a bit confused by the recent phone calls you have made both yesterday and this evening. You went two months without calling, texting or emailing me to check on Zack or his well being. [...] On the 14th, and the 19th, I sent you two emails regarding Zack and his behaviors both at home and at daycare since we started visits again, and you never contacted me to discuss his behaviors [...] Then suddenly, we set a mediation date [...] and you start calling two days in a row."

"Look, I am all for you trying to change your life and make things better for Zack but I have to wonder if you are calling because you want to, or because [girlfriend] or [lawyer] told you to. Given the fact that, left to your own devices, you did not call, text or email for almost two months, I am left feeling as if it is the latter and if that is the case, just know that you are not doing Zack by favors by calling him because someone told you to."

"If [...] you really do miss talking to him, then I think now is probably an appropriate time to set a few ground rules for phone calls."

"When you were calling before and he said he didn't want to talk your answer was always why not? I miss you... I want to talk to you. Don't you want to talk to me? It is inappropriate to put a guilt trip on a four year old. He is entitled to his own thoughts and feelings and if he doesn't want to talk on a certain night he should not have to be questioned as to why."

"Secondly, there are certain nights that we are busy or have things going on. [...] it is not helpful for you to leave me messages getting angry that I didn't answer or that we didn't call you back."

"Finally, when you are talking to him it is not appropriate to ask him if he misses you or he loves you. It is not his job to validate those feelings for you and it makes Zack really uncomfortable. [...] He is entitled to his own feelings and he should be able to say what he feels, not what someone else wants him to say."

"Also, as I mentioned before, I have sent you two emails regarding Zack's behavior and have gotten no feedback from you on how you feel about addressing the behavior. [...] Again, I think it would be very helpful for us to get into some sort of co-parenting counseling together to address some of these issues. It seems as if you are not fond of Dr. B because he asked you to get the drug evaluation but right now, he is the most likely choice as Zack trusts him and he could help the two of you work on Zack's trust issues with you as well."

Sometimes the truth is the best and hardest thing you can say to someone. At the end of the day, it has to be about Zack and nothing he has done has made me believe that Zack is his first priority. Unfortunately, in my inability to speak up, I have probably given off that impression in areas as well. That is all changing now......

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Anger Management...

So much has been happening since last Friday that I'm not even sure where to begin. Often when there is a million different things running through my head I find it helpful to make a list, so that is what I'm going to do. Please excuse the somewhat jumbled format of this post but if you have questions or want me to expand on anything, feel free to leave a comment or email me.

  • On Friday, Zack had a great day at daycare. As a reward, Jim picked him up and too him out to dinner and then they had boy time while I went to a meeting

  • On Saturday FoTB got his first full day with Zack since the end of May

  • Rather than spend that day at home, bonding with his son and catching up on all he missed he chose to get in a car with his girlfriend and drive two hours each way to her Grandma's house (who has no air conditioning in this 110 degree heat)

  • So of the nine hours he had him at least four of those hours were spent in the car

  • When we picked up Zack at 5:00 pm they said the visit went fine

  • On Sunday, Zack wet the bed again

  • He had not wet the bed in over a month

  • Then he cried in church

  • He never cries in church

  • Then he refused to sleep, two hours lying in his bed grinding his teeth, clenching his fists and most importantly... not sleeping

  • Monday he had an appointment with his counselor where I expressed my extreme concern at the behaviors we were seeing after just one nine hour visit with them

  • When I left the room his counselor asked him if he was scared

  • He told him yes

  • He then asked him what his dad did that was scary

  • Zack told him a story of FoTB yelling at the girlfriend's son and then slamming on the brakes, pulling the car over to the side of the road and trying to get Zack out of the car but he couldn't because the girlfriend locked the doors

  • After a text to the girlfriend it was established that this incident happened on Saturday when they were having a visit

  • It was 115 degree heat index on Saturday, what the hell did he plan to do? Stand on the side of the road and wait for his mom to arrive?

  • On top of which, he had not had a full day with his son in over 45 days and he couldn't control himself for nine hours

  • Consequently, we now know exactly why Zack wet the bed on Sunday morning

  • Lawyers were called, game plans were made, an email was drafted and then sent to FoTB and to the girlfriend explaining our concerns

  • There is no law against him acting like an idiot and yelling in front of his son

  • So we went with the honesty approach, we stopped sugar coating everything when it comes to him and Zack

  • The email explained to him that Zack is terrified of him and that every time he acts like this he only makes it that much worse

  • It explained that if he does not get his act together and start controlling himself it will not be us that decide that he can't see Zack, it will be Zack who decides that he doesn't want to see him

  • I hate all of this

  • Every bit of it

  • Zack has to go there for two hours again tonight

  • He has only been over there twice and already they are once again questioning him and making him question his thoughts and feelings

  • Why don't you want to spend the night over here? You have fun when you come here don't you? etc.

  • It makes me sad for him

  • Did I mention I hate all of this?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The visit...

Ahh.... the visit...

Well, the visit its self went fine. At least it seemed to. I picked a third party supervisor, FoTB's uncle, whom I feel comfortable with and whom I felt would keep Zack's best interest forefront for the entire visit.

The aftermath of the visit... not so great. First of all when we got there I got cornered by his girlfriend and asked all sorts of prodding questions about why she couldn't be a supervisor and what we were hoping to accomplish with all of this. Luckily Jim realized what was happening and got out of the car to come inside with me.

I won't rehash every detail but basically she wanted to know why she couldn't be supervisor - we picked a non-interested third party because a week ago you tried to kidnap our son. She also wanted to know (yes... she speaks for him... I controlled him, his mom controlled him, and now she controls him... is it any wonder he refuses to grow up?) why we felt overnights were so bad and if we were willing to give some extra time to them during the week to make up for time they were missing if they didn't have overnights.

I asked her what time they were missing and that is when she hit me with well, if you take him at 7 and we pick him up at five we are missing a few hours. He only sleeps 7 - 8 hours. Ummm.... ding, ding, ding... there is your problem. No, he sleeps 10 - 11 hours, every night, consistently. And that is why we want the overnights taken away.

Of course he had to make some smart ass comment about how he tried to do this without lawyers but no... we had to go and get our lawyer involved. To which I reminded him, that actually, if we wanted to get our facts straight... I tried to do this without lawyers four months ago when I offered to pick Zack up at 7:00 at night and bring him back at 8:00 the next morning, thereby only inconveniencing me and they flat out refused and told me he would just have to adjust.

Then... and this one is lovely... then she hit us with, well if we are amending the visitation I think it is important that we put in a time line for when we will go to joint custody.....

**chirp, chirp... can you hear the crickets**

Excuse me? You think what? FoTB screws up and you have the nerve to think we are going to agree to MORE custody? Needless to say, we politely declined her request and simply said that we had no way of knowing when that would be and that we were not willing to put in a certain age because we had no way of knowing what Zack would be comfortable with.

They are oblivious to the fact that anything could possibly be their fault. At one point FoTB asked me how I could say that Zack's complete turn around was because he hadn't seen him. Well, because it happened in the time he hasn't seen you. He of course came back with well, he has been seeing a counselor. Actually, if you would pay any attention to your son at all you would know that he had been seeing the counselor for a month BEFORE all of this happened. But hey... who is counting.

As for Zack, his fallout from all of this has been just as great. Yesterday he hit someone, he kicked someone, he pushed someone, he spit on someone, he yelled no at his teachers, he ripped a book.... need I go on?

I took the opportunity last night to email FoTB and explain to them a few things. First of all, his girlfriend gets to be supervisor (on the advice of our lawyer and in the great spirit of giving a little to get a little) but we reiterated our desire to remove the overnights from the custody agreement. We also explained to them the day he had yesterday in the hopes that perhaps they would see, or at least no longer be able to deny that they knew, that their presence does affect Zack's life.

Do I think this is because of something they did wrong? No. Do I think it means that he hates it over there and should never go back? Not necessarily. I think it just means that Zack is confused. FoTB was there and then he wasn't and now he is again. I'm sure there is part of him that was happy to see him again and part of him that was scared of what will happen and the anxiety he felt before.

More than anything it shows me that FoTB needs to get his sh!t together or he needs to disappear because being in and out of Zack's life like this is too hard on him.

One day at a time... hopefully today will be better....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

They made him go

I think that post title explains it all. A meeting of the minds this morning. Counselor, lawyer, me. We don't want him to go but legally we have no other option. Fully supervised by a supervisor of my choosing we can not make the argument that we have a safety concern. Without it I am in contempt with no defense. So, he has to go. I want to cry. I dropped him off at 5:00. 7:00 can not get here soon enough.

The family court system in this state sucks.....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Treading Water

Well, we are still here. I really have no new news to report right now either. It has been back and forth and back and forth with my lawyer and the counselor and FoTB's lawyer but no "official" paperwork has been filed.

As of right now, I have not heard anything from FoTB since last Wednesday. He was supposed to contact me to set up an agreeable supervisor for a visit tomorrow night. He has not called or text me and it is 10:30 am. I am operating under the assumption that a visit will not be happening. I told my lawyer that I felt I needed at least 24 hours notice to approve the supervisor and discuss with them my expectations for the visit so the time for that is closing in quickly.

As for whether there will be a visit at all, that is still up in the air. If he arranges a supervisor and we withhold the visit, per Zack's counselors strong recommendation, we could be found in contempt of court. If we send him, against Zack's counselor's recommendation we could be doing further damage to Zack. Who, according to the counselor yesterday, seems happy and well adjusted to this change that has happened.

However, if he never contacts us to setup a supervisor or a visit, we are not in contempt, there is just no visit. We are banking on that option right now. Every time my phone buzzes I jump. My heart beats a little faster as I check it to see who it was that text me. Was it him, does he want his visit? So far, nothing....

So, we wait. We tread water a little while longer hoping to stay afloat for another day....

Thursday, July 7, 2011

He did what??

Even now... as I try to type this, I can feel my heart start to beat faster and my breath catches in my chest. Even now... over 24 hours later it is still terrifying to me....

Yesterday, my ex husband tried to "kidnap" our child.

I use the quotes in that sentence only because he never got his hands on him, and I am uncertain as to the duration that he planned to keep him, not because I am any less terrified by the prospect of what could have happened.

On Friday he took the last of the four weekly drug tests required of him by our original divorce decree. However, he did not provide me with the results of that drug test. Per the original decree once he had passed four UA's, no less than one week apart, he was supposed to start supervised visits again the Wednesday following when notice was given of his clean UA.

Notice was given to me yesterday at 12:30 pm.

On top of giving me notice he was also supposed to contact me and arrange for a mutually agreeable third party supervisor to be present at the visit. FoTB has not communicated with me at all since Friday, June 24th.

So, considering no supervisor had been arranged and he did not give me notice until 12:30 yesterday I was under the assumption that no visit was to take place yesterday.

At 1:30 pm my phone rang and it was the director of Zack's daycare. She was calling to ask me what was going on because she had received a call from FoTB saying that him, or his mother, would be there to pick up Zack.

He planned to just go to daycare and pick up Zack without saying a single word to me. I would have gotten to daycare at 5:30 and Zack would have been gone and I would have had no idea where he was.


Who just picks up a child from daycare without informing the person who has primary custody of said child? A child whom he has had no contact with in 36 days and whom he has not asked about since the 24th of June.

My hands began to shake as soon as I got off the phone with her and within 15 minutes my mom was on her way to get Zack. When I questioned FoTB his answer was that he had given me notice so he was entitled to a visit.

No care or concern was given to Zack's well being. No care or concern was given to the fact that he had not arranged a supervisor or told ME that he was planning on picking up Zack. He was just going to go there and pick him up and lord only knows when I would have gotten him back. What hoops I would have had to jump through. Would he have just stuck to the normal visit schedule? Would he have refused to let me come pick him up?

Even now, it makes me want to throw up knowing that he tried it. Knowing that he had every intention of just taking him from daycare without telling me.

He is not in his right mind right now. Do meth addicts ever recover a right mind? Either way, Zack's counselor says he is not safe around Zack and I agree. Steps have been taken to ensure that this does not happen again. Rules have been put in place, organizations have been contacted, and yet... I feel no comfort sitting here at my desk. I feel like a line has been crossed and invisible barrier I had in place to give me comfort (at least he has never tried to take him from daycare) has been shattered and I am left here, trying to pick up the pieces.

The next step, he is pulled from that daycare and transferred somewhere else. Somewhere where FoTB can't find him until all of this is over. I don't want to do that, I don't want to make this harder for Zack then I'm sure it already is but I will do whatever I have to to keep him safe.

This is starting to get really ugly and I fear this is only the beginning.....

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Failure of the Social System

Last week I posted an update about being contacted by FoTB's lawyer and the process which we were beginning. On that post, a lovely reader asked a question about Social Workers. Basically to the effect of have we tried contacting and/or talking to someone from social services.

Ahhh.... the joys of the Iowa Department of Human Services...

Also known as... big fat failure to our kids....

Want proof?

Back at the beginning of May when this all started I emailed our old DHS worker asking her what I could do because FoTB had left Zack and an eight year old alone, overnight in a tent. She was appalled and immediately told me to call the 1-800 number and file a report with social services.

So I did and they came out right away. And from the moment I met with the lady in my living room (Intake person, not our old worker) I knew that while she wanted to help me... there was absolutely nothing she could do. Her hands were tied, the laws were the laws in our state and what he did is not "bad enough."

So she met with him and he told her he did in fact check on the boys over night and that was enough. Unfounded child abuse claim... case closed. Never mind that there were 2 - 3 hour spans in there where the boys were fully unsupervised. Never mind that at any point my son could have wondered off during that period... nope, he checked on them so that is all that is needed.

During that same visit she also asked him about putting Zack on a motorcycle. His answer, it is not illegal. Really, that is what we are using to justify what is right and wrong? In that case, my gutters need cleaned so I'm just going to put Zack out on my roof and have him clean them. What?? It's not illegal!! (Please note the EXTREEEEEEEEMMMMM sarcasm here and the fact that I will not even let him be in a room on our second floor with the window open for fear he will fall through the screen let alone on our roof....)

N-E-Way... so we move on, and right before she is due to close that investigation he drops a dirty drug test. So once again, I email my old DHS worker and once again, she is appaled and tells me to contact the intake worker and/or call the abuse hotline.

So..... I call the intake worker and I explain to her that Zack has described watching FoTB roll a joint to his counselor and now FoTB has dropped a dirty drug test. Her answer, was first one of, I don't really want to be bothered send me how you know this and I will get back to you.

After a week and a half she finally met with Zack, in a room without us or his counselor where she claims he told her that he had heard the story not seen it first hand. He is four, how did you ask him, what EXACTLY did he say? She would not tell us but her suggestion to us was to go to family court.

I would like to help you, but I can't. The courts often ask how high was he and since Zack is saying he heard the story this will get overturned. Go to family court.

So, that is our experience with Iowa DHS. Completely worthless. Everyone WANTS to help us but no one can. Everywhere we turn there is another loophole, another catch 22 that makes it so in this case, for this reason, nothing can be done.

And once again, I say to you... in the State of Iowa, the Department of Human Services and the family court system is failing the children. Every time you see a story on the news of another child that was abused, fell through the cracks, died at the hands of someone who had been investigated 2, 4, 6 times already by DHS this is why.

Because everywhere I turn to try to help my child, to try to keep him safe I am turned away. Because right now, it is just not bad enough. Because right now there is not the money or the resources to keep the children safe. Because right now, the only person who will stand to be an advocate for my child in this state is me.