Wednesday, December 5, 2007

News, finally.

Our investigator, 5:15pm: "I have news, but I'm not sure you're going to like it."

JP has been indicated for bone fractures caused by neglect. That first night at the hospital we told the doctors that JP tossed Landon a few inches into the air when he was about 6 weeks old. Every doctor dismissed this as being unable to break ribs, but we kept mentioning it because it was the only remotely "rough" thing that had ever happened to Landon. Now, 9 weeks later, DCFS has seized on it as the cause of the breaks and has indicated JP for doing it. We're still trying to figure out what it all means, but the immediate result is that he has to take a parenting class, and until he completes it, we'll have weekly visits from the in-tact family services case worker. Our investigator mentioned several times that he can appeal and it "doesn't take that long". I got the definite impression that she didn't want this finding, but her supervisor was out for something and this was the best deal we could get. The supervisor even wanted to continue the Safety Plan until the parenting class was competed, which is beyond ridiculous, but after meeting with "bigwigs" above the supervisor it was decided that I could be the Safety Person until JP starts the parenting class and then the Plan could be discontinued.

I'm not sure what I think yet. It's such an unsatisfactory conclusion. It's not outrageous enough to make me furious, but it's not something I feel we can celebrate. Our investigator said they won't be petitioning in court or going back to the state's attorney, so that's definitely good. The neglect indication stays on your Illinois DCFS record for 5 years rather than 20 for child abuse, so that's better, I guess. She admitted they had no grounds for protective custody, even if we didn't agree to a Safefty Plan, so that's a relief. Our attorney found the determination bizarre, but thought it was very good we didn't have to deal with the juvenile court system. When we first met him Landon was in a shelter, so things have certainly improved. And it looks like they definitely went with our expert's report because Dr. K's insisted the only cause of Landon's injuries could be child abuse. She'd still have him in a shelter if possible, so at least DCFS was rational enough to think beyond her "medical conclusion."

There aren't any DCFS-affiliated parenting classes until the end of January, so we're looking for some to take privately. While JP is planning to appeal the neglect indication, the sooner we finish the class the sooner we can stop having any kind of DCFS intrusion in our daily lives and our lawyer reassured us that taking the classes won't hurt him in the appeal (it's not an admission of guilt). And we don't mind taking a class- we took a class about before the birth and maybe we'll even learn something worthwhile- it's the fact that we have to take one because JP is apparently a neglect parent that's so grating.

Obviously it's really hard on JP to be singled out like this. He adores Landon and it's awful to know that the resolution to this saga is, "oh, the dad did it." It's true he shouldn't have "tossed" Landon (it was seriously just above his hands), but that should never have broken ribs in a healthy baby. And we took him to the ER three times, the pediatrician too many times, and a GI specialist twice- none of whom ever thought he had broken ribs until we insisted on an x-ray. How could that possibly be neglect? He shouldn't have to fight an indication on his record. We're still planning to see a pediatric diagnostician at CHOP because I definitely believe something is, or at least was, going on with Landon's bones, and we're still waiting on the OI test results. Every doctor has stressed how hard it is to break ribs and that not much short of tight squeezing or hitting could do it. Babies that are dropped or in car accidents don't usually get broken ribs- and Landon didn't have any other internal injuries that usually accompany rib fractures- so basically none of it adds up. And it never did.

Wow, this is really one of my least organized or eloquent posts- I'm just really not sure what to think. JP's indicated. Our investigator didn't sound happy with the result. I'm Safety Person. We have weekly monitoring by a case worker. JP has to take a parenting class. He's going to appeal. Landon stays home. We don't have to go to trial. But JP's indicated.

So we're relieved, kind of. We know it could have been much worse and we have heard stories of much worse. We know that if our investigator hadn't believed us to be innocent our story would have been much worse. But we wanted to feel vindicated. We wanted to feel like celebrating. And we just feel pretty beaten down.

38 comments:

  1. Well I'm livid on his behalf! And yours! I mean, I'm glad it's not worse and it could have been, because they're tyrants with no sense at all, but still! It's the most ridiculous charge, and utterly groundless and WRONG. And that you still have to be dealing with them at all is horrible. But I am glad for the good parts of the news!!

    I'm just really mad about the idiotic parts.

    Still, at least now you know something and that's good.

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  2. It just doesn't surprise me. They were looking for something, anything, to grasp at to avoid letting the matter go and looking completely stupid. If you'd told them you think you had his sweater on too tight one day, maybe that caused the breaks, they might have gone with that instead. When you get it overturned, they can blame it on appeals and lawyers and "the system" instead of their own stupidity in pursuing groundless accusations. Pat themselves on the back, job well-done.

    Well, as infuriating as it is for JP having to be the scape goat, at least you know where you stand, and any appeals/further steps you take can only help your situation rather than hinder it. You don't have to be afraid of stepping on toes anymore. After all, they finally cleared you, and they also said there was no abuse. So step all over them!

    Hopefully you'll find some answers from the doctors at CHOP.

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  3. Like Citations said, I'm glad for the good parts and mad about the rest. And like you said, you might learn something from the classes, even if it's just plain ridiculous that you have to go in the first place. I hope you appeal the indication, and I hope you win. Most of all, I hope you can get back to living a normal life as a family.

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  4. As everyone else said, it's really hard to tell how to feel about this news. I guess I'm infuriated in a &*%$-bureaucracy kind of way, but relieved in the sense that this is finally coming to an end and nothing exceptionally bad is likely to happen from now on kind of way. I agree with proto attorney also that this is probably just DCFS trying to cover up its own mistakes. You shouldn't let them pin the blame on you when it's all their fault.

    Please tell JP that my thoughts are with him as he is unfairly singled out and unjustly accused. Best of luck to all three of you.

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  5. Poor JP! Having that kind of thing on his record for 5 years sucks! Hopefully the appeal will work. The good thing is that it's unlikely Landon will participate in sports much before 4, but what if JP wanted to do something at church or volunteer at a local school. This is so unfair!! :(

    KUP on the parenting classes. I'm so very sorry to hear this, although it's good that there is at least a small bit of good news.

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  6. So ridiculous.

    I seriously hope you guys can get through this, and be stronger as a couple and as a family. I know it must feel so hard right now. My thoughts are always with you.

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  7. That totally sucks. You will still be in our thoughts and prayers. Good luck, and remember how much you love each other and that special baby as it continues.

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  8. Hi! Relatively recent reader, first time commenter!

    I just wanted to say that no blog I read causes as many mixed emotions as yours does. On one hand, I think that if they're investigating your case so ridiculously, then surely the children out there who are actually being neglected are *also* being investigated in this much detail.. Which in some convoluted way, is actually a good thing.

    Then I remember that Britney Spears still has her kids, and you guys are stuck dealing with idiotic bureaucrats. And that is so incredibly wrong on so many levels.

    Fantastic blog. Keep fighting the good fight!

    Luisa.

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  9. It's ridiculous that anything happened, but I certainly share your relief that it wasn't worse.

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  10. It seems like kind of a stretch.
    In order to indicate for fractures/neglect, the agency has to show blatant disregard, that is, that the danger to the child was so imminent and obvious that no reasonable person would have done whatever it was.

    Is DCFS saying that tossing the child a few inches is blatant disregard because no reasonable person would do this. Or are they saying that they think the tossing
    was more violent than admitted to because of the severity of the injuries but no harm was intended.
    Either way, the caseworker has to
    defend this finding in the appeal hearing and it seems internally inconsistent, suggesting that rib fractures CAN be caused by minor
    trauma. Apparently their expert
    is saying that is not the case.

    Is there a public safety caution on
    this issue. Otherwise, how would a reasonable parent know not to do this.

    In any case, 75% of appealed founded investigations get overturned. You would need to ask your attorney if you could delay the parenting class until the appeal is done. As to the intact family caseworker, you should educate yourself on their assessment process, which is very intrusive and requires the sharing of a lot of personal information which is NOT expunged after five years. Service records, generated by the intact caseworker, are kept for decades. Your attorney can advise you as to whether the formal assessment can be postponed until the appeal is done, to minimize the amount of information you must share for this permanent record.

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  11. I am also furious on your behalf. I'm happy for the good parts of this, but the rest makes me sick to my stomach. The comment by anonymous just above mine says it all, I think. How can this be labeled as neglect?! Is there a parent who hasn't gently tossed their baby in the air at some point?

    I was so hoping that you would post something saying that this was all over for you, and I am so, so sorry and sad that it is not all over. I am glad that they are not taking Landon away and that you don't have to worry about that anymore, but I think that you shouldn't have to worry about ANY of this!!!!!!

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  12. I feel so relieved for you that this is the 'worst' that can happen now...but I'm so, so angry at DCFS also! Why can' they just admit that they were wrong, that you and JP are great parents (which by the way things sound, you are) and be done with it.

    Why does Dr. K have a vendetta against you guys? From pictures, Landon is obviously not being neglected. What baby that smiles that much and looks that chubby and happy is neglected?

    I think part of the reason this enrages me so much is that there is a child at the daycare I work at who daily comes in with huge blisters on his hand (oops, grabbed the curling iron while mom was getting ready), or a gigantic black eye (sister hit him with a toy?), and all kinds of other major injuries (like dislocated shoulders, broken fingers, etc.) and DCFS/CPS won't do anything about it because we don't have THREE MONTHS worth of documentation. To me, having multiple injuries like he does is much more of an indication that he might be neglected at home than Landon's one time rib fractures.

    Ugh, I'm so mad for you guys! Please know that I am still praying about you and I read this daily, even if I don't comment. I know this must be so, so hard for JP because he loves his baby...but hopefully this means that you guys are one step closer to being out of this nightmare forever.

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  13. I’m sorry that the news was not all good but at least the case is finally moving, hopefully to the shredder. Pay close attention to the other anonymous as it appears she is on the inside looking out. I too work for CPS and the best advice I could give to JP is to do nothing until the appeal. It could really come back to bite him in the butt. DO NOT settle for anything less than an unfounded. I really feel that if you fight this you WILL win. They’ve pushed long enough, now you’re in the clear and you can push back. So get to pushing girl!
    Still prayin’ for ya here in Texas.

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  14. I'm glad that this is close to over and that you finally have a decision, even if its not the ideal one. Hopefully you can put this all behind you now.

    Mel

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  15. The lesser of evils is still an evil none the less. I'm so sorry JP has to deal with something like that. The only good thing is that they didn't lump you in with JP so at least you can be the safety person. I guess given all the alternatives and how the supervisor and Dr K were out for blood that this one of the better outcomes. I hope he can get this all resolved soon and off of his record. But in the grand scheme of things you guys have Landon and no more safety people so things are looking up. Small victories.

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  16. I feel bad that JP was indicated. That really stinks :(. Unfortunately, it just isn't a good idea to toss a 6 week old for a variety of reasons. While I do not think it caused the fractures and that DCFS is grasping at straws, at 6 weeks, babies just don't have the neck control for that type of behavior.

    That said, I am pulling for you both because 1 little mistake - especially where there is no clear connection to the breaks in Landon's ribs - is totally not enough to warrant DCFS investigation. They are just scapegoating you guys at this point. :(

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  17. Who hasn't thrown a baby in the air and caught them? SO ridiculous. I hope it gets dismissed on appeal.

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  18. Wow. I've been reading and holding my breath for awhile. It seems like they were looking for ANYTHING to indicate. I hope your attorney is able to successfully guide you through the appeals process!

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  19. That's absolute BS. I'm glad you won't be having to do any explaining to the Texas bar, but it's ridiculous that JP ends up with any sort of record, 5-year or no. Absolute BS.

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  20. emergencyped12/6/07, 10:55 AM

    Well, everyone is here to villify DCSF, but a fracture in a baby's ribs
    is one of the most common indication of abuse. I am not suggesting at all you or your husband abused your kid, but look at it from DCSF's point of view. You show up with an infant with multiple rib fractures. There is no report that this happened at birth (which by the way is extremely rare), there is no indication that he was extremely premature, suffered from any bone disorders, or even involved in a serious accident like a fall for which emergency medical help was seeked. Everyone, including you, knows SOMETHING happened to this baby, something traumatic enough to fracture a few ribs. By all means they should investigate. Yes they may be rude,inefficient,stubborn and all else, but wouldn't you rather, as an agency, they erred on the sign of caution and being overzealous? How many stories do we hear about abused and subsequently dead children, who fell through the system's cracks. I hope you get the answers you need, and you find happiness, a sense of normalcy soon so you can enjoy your baby and family.

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  21. I'm really torn on this one. If the ribs really broke when Landon was lightly tossed up in the air might make sense due to early delivery snd lung medications. Baby who was a premature - given medication for lungs can temporarily deplete bones of calcium (see pampers.com What could be the cause of my premature infant's broken ribs?

    Answered by:
    Suzanne Dixon, M.D., M.P.H.
    View Biography

    Question: My son was born two months early and. stayed in the NICU for a month. His doctor found two broken ribs that have healed. The doctor thinks that my son has been abused. The doctor that delivered him says that his ribs were not broken during childbirth, but I don't believe that. Because my son was born two months early, his bones would be even more fragile than a normal baby's. Also, the doctor used forceps to pull his body out. How often do injuries occur when forceps are used? What kind of injuries are common? Please tell me what you think.

    Answer: I can't be completely sure what has caused your infant's rib fractures but I can make a pretty good guess, and it has nothing to do with anyone abusing your son. Infants born prematurely often have very weak bones and will get fractures with even normal handling. This is because at the time of birth the bones of preemies have less calcium deposited than if they had been born later. Then there is the problem of getting in the calories and calcium to do the catch-up growing and hardening of the bones. I'm sure you remember how hard it was to get feedings going with your little guy. Added to that is the fact that the activity of the parathyroid gland that regulates calcium is slower to get in gear in the preemie. Finally, some of the medicines that are used and very much needed to help with lung and heart function for the early-born child actually pull calcium out of the body.

    So it's unfortunately not uncommon for these weak bones to break. The good news is that they mend well: Any lumps or bumps present now over those ribs will smooth over and not be noticeable at all. At delivery, your doctor applied the forceps around the baby's head to assist in getting him out. It would be almost impossible for the forceps to get near the rib area, so a rib fracture is nearly unheard-of in that circumstance. Rib fractures can occur if the infant is in severe distress at birth and requires chest compressions as part of a major resuscitation effort. In that case, be glad your son is with us as the procedure probably saved his life.

    Take the parenting class, appeal the decision, and think of the vast knowledge you have acquired in the past 60+ days.

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  22. Imagine how good it's going to feel when you get medical proof of your suspicions, and you send a photocopy of that and your middle finger to DCFS.

    The saddest thing about your whole story is that it's made me afraid to be totally honest with my pediatrician.

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  23. (I'm apologizing first for the bad language that I might let slip)

    What the (#$(#&????? This is total bull$&^@!!
    I'll try to be positive for a moment: Having kids is a scary ordeal, and having parenting classes MIGHT teach you something new and helpful. (And yes, I'm glad it's not any worse than this...)

    But hello??? Do you know how many times my parents tossed me in the air?? It's a thing people do out of joy and happiness! How how how how how is this something that can finger neglect??? It's understandable to say that a child so young shouldn't be tossed in the air- but a lot of new parents aren't going to know that. So fine, send him to parenting classes, but don't put a big black mark on his record!!! That's obscene!

    And to emergencyped:
    "Yes they may be rude,inefficient,stubborn and all else, but wouldn't you rather, as an agency, they erred on the sign of caution and being overzealous?" As an "agency" I would expect them to NOT be rude, inefficient or stubborn- it's incredibly unprofessional. And in this case, they may have been what some call 'erring on the side of caution', but they failed to use any common sense whatsoever. DCFS should spend their time and energy with children that really ARE being neglected, instead of traumatizing those that have proven time and again that they will stop at nothing to make the lives of their children better!

    I can't believe the outcome on this, and I hope to God that you fight it at all costs. So absolutely unacceptable...

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  24. I see the good in this. Again, now that you have your answers you can fight the good fight and not be cowed by the fear that your baby can be taken from you if you irritate one of the higher ups.

    I say, concentrate on your finals as much as you can right now, enjoy Christmas with your family, and in January, fight with everything you've got.

    My prayers will be with you and your family this season!

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  25. While I'm sure this is much easier said than done, try to see the glass half full in this situation. I never do, I'll admit, but from the outside looking in, I hope that you can. There is progress -- not exactly what you'd hoped for, but call it a tiny step forward. Stay positive and follow the advice of the experts you have at your disposal to do whatever it is you need to do from this point forward. I just hate to think of DCFS causing you any more distress, particularly at this time of year. Don't let this be a sad Christmas -- this is Landon's first Christmas and I hope you can enjoy it (even if it requires a little bit of denial!) Good luck!

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  26. I'm a lurker (and fellow law student and Texas ex-pat) who has been checking your blog daily hoping for the post that says "It's over! There are no charges!" I'm really sorry that this is the resolution for now. I hope you can fight like hell and win. I can't imagine what it must feel like for your husband to be blamed for something he didn't do.

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  27. We're terribly sorry to hear about the way it's being resolved, but glad to hear it's going to be resolved in a way that lets you keep your son! We're still praying for you.

    -E&S

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  28. What bastards! I cannot BELIEVE people in DCFS would hold such a GRUDGE on a family that obviously is nothing but loving. Is it because you are of a (or going to be) a higher income rate? Is this reverse discrimination? Is that supervisor thinking "WEll, I won't let these so and so's get away with it". I could just punch someone over the whole situation. I also feel so bad for JP. I am glad that you guys will continue to try to find out what happened. Having a form of collagen defect myself that was only diagnosed at 23 years old, I can only say thank you for trying to figure out what happened. Hang in there and know there are a ton of people pulling for your family.

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  29. This is probably the least bad thing they could do to you, considering the supervisor was out for blood. I'm really hoping you win on appeal and JP isn't indicated any more. I happened to glance at the DCFS website a few days ago after visiting your blog, and it does seem that your chances of winning are much, much better on appeal than they are when dealing with them directly.

    Still thinking about you and your family, good luck.

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  30. "No grounds for protective custody" - that's awesome, and it's about time! I can't imagine the fear you've lived with the last few months, wondering each morning if someone will be showing up at your door to take away your child that day. That's over, and that's awesome!

    But the rest of it... yeah, that just sucks. JP must feel just horrible. I'm glad that you have a better place to stand and fight now. Still praying for justice...

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  31. it's such a mixed blessing to finally have an answer, but to have it not be the one you want (not the worst case scenario, either, though, so hooray!).

    I know DFCS is supposed to only want what's best for the child, but as this drags on, it just seems like more and more of a witch hunt.

    You are stronger than I could've been in this situation.

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  32. absolutely insane! I'm so mad on your behalf and yet so relieved as well. You'll continue to remain in my prayers.

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  33. appeal. I'm an attorney who handles CWS appeals in another state. I review all the cases before they go to trial. There is no way I'd take this.

    Hon, I so wish I could talk to you, but I could lose my job.

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  34. Emergencyped--please get all the facts first. They are all in this blog. Landon was, in fact, born premature and was in the NICU for 12 days. An experienced, board certified pediatric orthopedist has reviewed all of the records and numerous x-rays and submitted a report indicating that the breaks were not suggestive of child abuse and could very possibly be due to injury at birth, however rare. The doctor who reported this has no evidence besides "rib breaks are usually child abuse." There was never any bruising or any other signs that would indicate a bone break, except at birth. He has been seen regularly by his pediatrician, who saw no evidence of abuse and disagrees with the reporting doctor. The genetic results have not come in yet.

    Yes, they should investigate every report of possible child abuse. But when evidence is overwhelmingly against an indication of child abuse, the state's attorney has refused to prosecute, and numerous pediatricians and DCFS themselves say that tossing the baby like that could not break ribs, it is illogical and ethically wrong to draw the indication out and determine that the father broke the baby's ribs by tossing him. Furthermore, there are plenty of other children that need their time and effort.

    I am not here to villify DCFS. I doubt many other people are. A few people actually seem to be DCFS employees and state's attorneys in the same or other states, trying to support Lag Liv. We are not angry about DCFS in general, we are angry about THIS CASE.

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  35. Lag liv- I have been reading but not commenting because I usually lurk. I am sending so many good thoughts your way. Appeal, and don't do anything that might suggest, even in the slightest, that you're admitting guilt. I am so angry on your behalf. Good luck.

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  36. Oh! I can hardly think of what to say I am so tortured for you. I've been reading (and praying. and crying.) since Amy first linked to you and wish I could send you everything you need from one mama to the next.

    You are brave and strong and so beautifully articulate about the unarticulable and you make mothers everywhere proud. This is inexcusable that you are going through this and I wish I could do everything from your laundry to say the right thing.

    Just know that you are believed and honoured and truly hoped for even now. There has to be another outcome and I, for one, am hoping for total vindication for you.

    Don't give up.

    ~ML

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  37. emergencyped suggested we should want DCFS to err on the side of "caution", whatever that really means. I disagree. We must demand that all government errs on the side of EVIDENCE, aka knowledge.

    When we do not know the facts, the truth, the cause, we must have the humility to admit that. To say "we do not know". Anything less than that is to assume guilt until proven innocent.

    To stepmama who said "We are not angry about DCFS in general" -- I respond, we should be angry about DCFS in general because it is a 50-state system that is out of control beyond accountability by statute and rigged against family preservation. It is a tragically flawed outgrowth from the gender-biased Violence Against Women Act of the 1970's which resulted in the anti-family agencies plaguing society today and victimizing not just fathers, but mothers too! But even worse, victimizing our children whom we are obligated to protect.

    Please peruse http://www.nccpr.org/issues/6.html "HOW CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES WORKS"

    To Lag Liv: I bow my head in sorrow for your and your husband's distress. I've been there. Two years ago tonight I was exonerated after five months hermetically sealed from any and all contact with my 4 year old twin girls and wife having been falsely acccused I am desolated to say of sexual abuse. I mobilized, fought back and stayed true to my faith: Like Job I refused to curse God, but I vowed to reform CPS if it didn't utterly destroy me first.

    Two years later, tonight, I am reunited with my family and virtually all is restored. But I am profoundly altered yet blessed.
    God will bless you as well. I am rllavallee@hotmail.com

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  38. BS BS BS BS BS...

    For JP to be demonized is just such a horror!!!

    I've not only tossed my kids in the air, I've had the 2 olders wrestle with the youngest when he may have been too young. Such S@@T to pile on JP just to have something when they know there is nothing!! Tell JP SORRY!!! I'm just sickened by all of this to the point of stupidity!!!!

    Cindy

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