Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Unfair Scrutiny

Andrea over at Peanut Butter Burrito, a 3L at Harvard who just had a baby girl, wrote a lovely post today about her husband and how he sees being a dad as just "as important and active a role" as being a mom. Reading it reminded me of the fact that somewhere in my saved, partially written posts, there's one titled "The Evolution of (a) Man" where I described how wonderful it's been sharing my life with JP and watching him change from boyfriend, to husband, to father. And what an amazing partner he is in the parenting process- like even when he was working long hours and I wasn't in school, he still got up for every other night feeding, and didn't think anything of it. He was (and is) so in love with Landon, it just made me love him that much more. I started that post on October 4th, moments before I took Landon to the doctor's appointment that turned our lives into a nightmare. I never had a chance to finish it and reading it now just reinforces how this investigation has affected us because it comes off to me as a defensive rather than loving commentary.

DCFS's decision to indicate JP for "bone fractures caused by neglect" in no way answers the question of how those ribs broke- it was just an easy way for them to end the investigation. And yet I feel like JP is scrutinized far more for his parenting than I am or than he would have been without the investigation. Comments we never would have received before like, "Is JP being careful with him?" and others are so frustrating for him- and to make it worse, I sometimes find myself doing it to. Being identified as the "perpetrator" of your son's fractures is bad enough, I hate that his interactions with Landon feel so watched and judged.

We finally got the official letter from DCFS with the indication finding. Our investigator told us that a neglect finding stays in their records for 5 years, but the letter says it's 20. We were going to appeal anyway, but that just gives us more incentive. Reading it felt unreal- even after all that's happened. How could we possibly be getting a letter from the Department of Child and Family Services indicating my husband for neglect of our child?! My husband who insisted on asking every doctor we saw about that popping noise we'd been feeling in Landon's ribs? My husband who went to my prenatal appointments and was so excited about the birth of his son? My husband who was more confident with our newborn than I was? My husband who has no temper and drives me crazy because he gets silent and calm when he gets mad rather than arguing back? My husband whose arms make our little boy feel relaxed, safe, and secure? Yes, apparently that one.

The letter gave instructions for requesting a copy of our DCFS file and notifying them of our intent to appeal. The appeal will be the first time we actually fight back and defend ourselves, but it's so hard to muster up the strength to voluntarily place our emotional state back in their hands. The thought of going through the file, talking to doctors, meeting with our lawyer, etc. makes me feel tired. Just when our life is starting to feel normal, I'll be thinking about the case again. This time, Landon is safe in our care and the worst thing that can happen is we're left with the situation we have now, but part of me wishes we could just ignore the finding. The in-tact case is basically closed, there's nothing worse they can do to us, and I want to spend a while pretending like this didn't happen. I'm trying not to voice this to JP because it's important to clear his name and I'm behind him 100%, but I'm struggling.

Our in-tact caseworker came by for a home visit last week. I was surprised to hear from him because I thought the file had been closed before Christmas, but to my even greater surprise not only is the case still open, the Safety Plan is still in effect (with me as Supervisor). It was supposed to be terminated when the parenting class began, but his supervisor wants to see the certificate from the class first (because that will provide deep insight into JP's parenting). The in-tact case should be winding down and officially closed soon. I made it quite clear we weren't following a Safety Plan anymore and that we felt our end of this bargain had been fulfilled, and our case manager agreed. He said one to two weeks more, which means that by the time we move in June, the file might be closed.

So that's where we are- DCFS indication letter in hand, and trying to muster up the energy to fight again.

10 comments:

  1. That is tough. Being ready to move on but still having to deal with the aftermath. I hope this can all be resolved quickly and you guys can make a fresh start of it all when you move to Texas.

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  2. I'm sorry. That must be so awful for JP!

    I can see why you'd want to fight it, if nothing else to have the opportunity for vindication. On the other hand, it may take a long time and will be expensive, both financially and emotionally. Since you are leaving Illinois for good, maybe it would be worth it to just ignore it and let it stay in the past? You, and everyone who knows you, know that JP didn't do anything to Landon and maybe that's more important than wasting any more time and energy on DCFS than you have already expended.

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  3. Don't give up. It seems you have a very good chance of prevailing on appeal, and you might really regret it if you don't try to get some measure of vindication. Good Luck!

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  4. It's exhausting, but try to focus on how good it will feel when JP's record is cleared. Even if it came off his record in a matter of months, it would always be something that haunted you both. A little vindication is good for the soul.

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  5. Ugh. :( The fight will be worth it in the end when, four years or so from now, JP can coach soccer or participate in a church activity with the kids. Imagine the feeling if he was barred from doing so because you didn't fight? I can only imagine how hard it is to get back into that place where you can deal with this but hopefully you'll look back and be glad you did.

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  6. Fight, fight, fight. It must be hard to muster up the anger and the energy again, but JP doesn't deserve this. I'm no lawyer (or even a law student, lol), but it seems that you're going to have a much better chance of ending this on appeal. I wish you the very best.

    I can't even remember how I came here in the first place (an iVillage message board, I think), and I kind of figured once I read the Nightmare story I would go away. But I always come back, both to see how this all plays out, and to see how Landon is growing. He's so close to Sam's age that it's kind of fun to compare (not in a competitive way, in a nice way, I promise!). He's such a cutie!! And no matter what our situations and interests, I always enjoy reading about how other working moms handle the pressure.

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  7. Aw, I think your feelings are totally normal.

    #1, when you've been swimming in the ocean for an hour or so, then get out, the last thing you want to do is climb right back in. You want to rest, you want to relax and maybe you'll think about it again later.

    #2, no matter how I try to explain PK's parenting style, it ALWAYS comes off as me being defensive of him. So I can imagine the double whammy of defensiveness you have and feel for JP. For every father who adores his child there is a mother who must present that to the world as proof of the intact family unit.

    Hang in there. You might not feel like fighting, but you are stronger than you know. You can do it.

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  8. You need to fight. JP deserves to be cleared. Then you will be able to put the nightmare behind you. Good luck!

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  9. This is so ridiculous. I DID have a neglectful father (and I do mean neglectful to the point that it would qualify as abuse), and yet, the courts consistently kept granting him joint custody with my mother after their divorce, right up until I was a teenager, and he's walking around today with a clear record.

    I always feel like mothers are more scrutinized than fathers when it comes to parenting, just because fathers get all sorts of praise for doing totally normal things (like, for instance, my husband's female coworkers practically have fainting spells over the fact that he gives our son his bath every night. WTF? I take care of the kid all day, and no one tells me I'm a saint for doing it), and mothers seem to take more of the blame if a kid has behavioral issues (for instance, before my son's eating issues were discovered to be part of an underlying medical disorder, I had more than one doctor imply that some deficiency in MY parenting skills must be playing a role in his behavior, yet said nothing about his father's parenting being a factor, even though his father was also present for two of three meals out of each day. Ditto just about all family and friends we spoke with about the issue-- they often said that I must have been too anxious about my son's eating, that I must have been somehow transmitting my stress to him-- nothing about his father, who was also involved in feeding him on a daily basis).

    But, your post made me think carefully about my position, and I realized that you are right-- fathers are more scrutinized than mothers in many situations. People often express worry that fathers won't be able to take care of kids "on their own" without a woman around to help. And fathers are MUCH more scrutinized in situations where physical abuse is a question. I suppose that is because, statistically speaking, men are indeed generally more prone to violence, but it still isn't fair.

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  10. how exhausting. just seems like this won't go away properly. Although you're very tired, it might be worthwhile to get it appealed, especially since JP is anything but neglectful.
    Defintely a tough choice...I feel for ya! But all of us will back you up either way.

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