Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The End

One of the recurring flashbacks/nightmares I have about the DCFS investigation involves me sitting in the little windowless room in the hospital with the police detective, frantically trying to figure out how I could convince him that neither I nor JP hurt Landon. How do you convince someone that you love your child and despite his crying, his reflux, his colic, you still couldn't imagine actually harming him? How can you make a total stranger understand how completely insane this is, how loving we are, how well we know each other? After a few seconds of just sitting in silence, panicking that my silence was somehow an admission of guilt, I looked him directly in the eyes and said in a steady voice, "I know, with absolute certainty, that there is no way my husband or I hurt Landon. How can I convince you of that?" That's when he suggested the polygraph test, which we took the next day and of course passed (not that it wasn't a terrifying experience anyway). JP passed it so conclusively that the detective administering his told him as soon as he was done that he had nothing to worry about. It was a nice gesture in a time when people weren't making many of those in our direction.

Today, more than three weeks after the deadline, we finally heard back from the administrative law judge who heard our appeal in May. JP's indication for child neglect has been overturned and his record has been expunged. She found no credible evidence pointing to him as the perpetrator and recommended DCFS reverse the finding; that opinion was sent to the Springfield office for their review, and they agreed to expunge his record. Nine months and four days after that horrible trip to the doctor, the nightmare is over - or at least the administrative evidence of it.

When I called my mom to tell her the news she started crying, she was so happy and relieved for us. I had almost no emotional reaction. Neither did JP. Maybe it's because we're so removed from it now, maybe it's because we'd already let ourselves believe we'd get good news, or maybe it's because we have no emotions left to give- I'm not sure. I think for me the lack of relief is due to the fact that I now know the permanent effects of our experience and this finding, well deserved and just as it might be, doesn't remove those scars. The fact that it happened at all remains, the shelter's presence in my memory remains - will always remain, the nightmares remain. I was thinking the other day that the thing I resent most about the whole experience is that it's a part of me now and though it will fade, it will never be erased.

I'm happy, of course. I don't want to take away from the good news- that JP's record is clear, that we finally won something with that God forsaken agency- it means a lot. I hope that just as it took a while for the negative aftershocks to reveal themselves, it will take a while for this good news to sink in too. I think that in another year it's going to matter an awful lot that we appealed and we won.

This should be the end of the "The Nightmare" label. I still think about it more than I wish, but less than I feared. I remain overwhelmingly thankful for the love and help we received from our family and friends, both in real life and virtual. I am grateful that if anything our marriage is stronger from the experience. I thank God that Landon remembers nothing. I wonder if and when we'll tell him the story. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for following along and lending your support, prayers, and outrage. I'm glad we can finally say "The End."

66 comments:

  1. Delurking to say CONGRATULATIONS! That is wonderful news. We had a run-in with our local CPS agency 4 1/2 years ago.... scary enough but nothing in comparison with what you dealt with. I'm sure it's a relief that it's finally over.

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  2. It's weird to say congratulations for something like this, but I'm so happy for you all that you don't have to worry about them anymore. I feel like they owe you something more than expunging the record, but I guess that's the frustrating part of government agencies. If moving to Texas wasn't the beginning of the new and improved chapter of your lives, then surely this/Landon's first birthday is!

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  3. We've never met, and we probably never will, but I am one of many who followed The Nightmare (several Moms at my law school read the blog starting when Landon was born). Many people you don't know are just so very happy for you and your family today, and admire you for the way you handled this whole awful experience.

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  4. This makes me so happy! I hate like anything that you ever had to go through it -- I was one of the many who were so shocked and appalled when it did. Obviously it's not something that can be made right by simply expunging a record -- a record that, quite frankly, never should have existed -- but it is incredibly wonderful to know that the agency as a whole have, essentially, owned up to their mistake. It doesn't make it right, but at least it makes something that was horribly wrong better.

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  5. Thank goodness... I can understand the reaction (or lack of it too) - maybe it's because it doesn't change all the hard stuff you guys had to go through. But still, I'm so relieved and happy for you.

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  6. Yay! Every time I check this website I have been waiting to hear this good news. I have enjoyed watching Landon growing up through your words and pictures. In a way, I feel like your family is an extension of mine. Even though we've never met you don't seem like a stranger. I am so relieved for you that this ordeal is over, at least officially. Good luck on the bar exam!

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  7. Oh thank god.

    I think you should really considering writing this whole experience into a single essay. I honestly think this story needs to be told. Contact a paper or The New Yorker or someone.

    It's remarkable, and I wish you hadn't had to experience it.

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  8. First of all, it's about darn time a little justice came into the picture. Too little, too late, but still a big relief.

    I am vehemently against the idea that bad things happen for a reason. I do, however, try to look for silver linings. You won't look back on all this and laugh. It will never be a funny story. You now know (what you knew before) you have friends you can count on, family who will do anything for you, a husband with endless patience and strength, and formidable resources within yourself.

    And an adorable little boy who always looks as though he wouldn't dream of being a moment's trouble!

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  9. You may not have cried (yet), but I am just reading this.

    I am so glad you two pressed on to sort this out.

    I love reading your blog and seeing and hearing about Landon, the law, and swimming, kitchen cabinets, bar bri and puffy pancakes.

    I probably wouldn't have found it but for The Nightmare, so as they say there are silver linings, and ill winds and so forth. Maybe many people will be a less judgmental about child abuse indications now?

    In any case, happy birthday to Landon, and the very very best for you, Landon, JP and your life together.

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  10. I am so very happy for you guys. I work in "the system" and read along through the nightmare in outrage. I understand that DCFS can't always be perfect and make the right decisions. Unfortunately, that is just reality. But, as someone who makes huge decisions regarding other people's lives on a daily basis, it was a wonderful reminder to me that I DO effect other's, and to never, ever de-humanize the people I serve. The only way I am able to deal with bad experiences is to step back and reflect on what I learned - and to shift my perspective and outlook on things. Although you have had a trip to hell and back, you have a beautiful family, a wonderful marriage, a new J.D., a gorgeous home in a place you and your husband love - and this experience probably makes you appreciate all of your blessings much more than you would have before. Congratulations!

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  11. Thank God! I am so glad this is over.

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  12. I'm so glad that the appeal came out the way it did. At least you don't have to worry about dealing with DCFS anymore.

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  13. Congratulations. So glad this is FINALLY over for you.

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  14. inI am very glad to hear of the outcome of your appeal. About time someone saw the light. Do know that we all suffered with your family. We remember when our little girl fell down the basement stairs in an (evil) walker. We were put through just a small analogy of what you went through, partly because we rushed her to the ER in our Saturday chore clothes. That was enough to make us leery of the system.
    You have been an inspiration to us. Great things in store for you, JP, and Landon.

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  15. Thank you for putting your story out here. Your bravery has touched more people then you will probably ever know. I too am crying the tears your not ready to yet - out of anger, out of relief and out of love.

    I am so happy that this is wiped off the charts in their books, and pray you will find millions of other happy memories to replace the scars this ordeal has left.

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  16. I got a little choked up. Big hugs from our family to yours

    - Andrea, Dan, and Becca

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  17. Yay!

    That pretty much says it all. :)

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  18. CONGRATULATIONS, can't believe there is an actual end to this saga (and thankfully a good end).

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  19. Congratulations, indeed! I echo the sentiments of many . . . now you can put an end to that awful period in your lives and move on to bigger and brighter things!

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  20. formerlawstudentcurrentmother7/9/08, 7:59 AM

    I am so relieved for you and completely understanding the murkiness of your own reaction. Your nightmare should never have happened and I am so glad for you that The End comes when you are in such a happy place in your life (bar exam notwithstanding)

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  21. It's about time! Yay! I'm so glad this is FINALLY over! I just hope and pray that you guys can remove this nightmare from your memory as best as possible and remember the good and happy time of Landon's first year!

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  22. I'm so relieved to hear that it's finally over. I've been reading your blog everyday since the whole mess began. It's sad that it took the nightmare for many of us to 'connect' with you and your blog.

    Best wishes and get back to studying. ;)

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  23. Thank goodness. It's wonderful to know that, sometimes, justice is served.

    True

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  24. Oh I am so happy for you. I got teary just thinking about all you've been through. I just wish there was more you could do to make things right. Good bye Illinois!

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  25. I am so glad that the worst 9 months of your life are OVER and we can close the door and that chapter ... I'm sure you've learned something ... I know I have.

    Congratulations and cheers to putting The Nightmare label away forever!

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  26. I dont even know you in real life but I'm totally crying right now. (maybe it's because Sydney's around the same age that Landon was when all of this shit started and it makes it more "real"). I am so happy for you and glad that this is finally over. I hope your heart heals soon.

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  27. I'm glad you can finally get some closure, along with finally being cleared.

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  28. I am SO glad to hear its over. Congratulations! Again, the true blessing is that Landon will never remember.

    With our babies just days apart in age, your pain was distinctly real to me. I will never forget reading about the shelter experience, crying big fat tears while nursing my own baby. Never.

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  29. Also, wanted to add that a long time ago that I commented that I had found out about you because of the Nightmare but that I looked forward to it being over and reading your happy stories.

    Still here, still reading. :-)

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  30. Finally! Awesome, awesome, awesome. I am glad something finally worked out in your favor.

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  31. Thank God! Finally, The End.

    So happy for you and your beautiful by.

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  32. Yay! It is about time they came to their senses and cleared JP. Congrats.

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  33. YAY! I'm so glad this whole thing has ended for you!

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  34. Thank GOD! I am so happy for you both - how wonderful for you to finally be able to close that chapter of your lives at a time when you are starting your wonderful NEW lives in Texas!

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  35. I am so, so pleased that the end result of your nightmare was justice. I am so glad that there are no lasting legal effects from this. And your kid is so cute that the scars should fade with time. Happy Summer!!!

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  36. Outstanding! Glad to hear that for once the system corrected itself in the end. I agree that you should draft up an article and shop it to some big magazine, this is a story that should be told.

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  37. Congratulations, congratulations, CONGRATULATIONS!!! I am so happy they finally did something right!!!

    We never doubted your innocence for a second, but I am glad that they finally see it too.

    Give JP a great big hug from the internet!

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  38. Thank goodness it's "officially" over! I started reading because of the Nightmare and i'm looking forward to continuing to read minus that label :)

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  39. I have been hoping to read this post for so long...but I'm sure my wait was nothing compared to yours and JPs. Yes, the experience is a part of you now...but just from reading your words I know you will somehow use it in a positive way. You've successfully cleared that hurdle...now good luck on the bar exam!

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  40. It's nice to have the official record reflect whst you know is true. You'll be glad you got it settled. I'm so happy for you.

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  41. YAYYYYYYY!!! I can't tell you how glad I am for you. Maybe you'll never rejoice over this - but you also won't have to wrestle with whatever ramifications might have come from this having been in JP's record. Oh, I am so, so, so glad for you.

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  42. Congratulations on getting the record set straight.

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  43. Yea for the end!!!!! I am so happy for you. I had a good feeling about the hearing with the judge. I know it doesn't undo all the horror you went through but at least now the law is on your side and DCFS once again has egg on their faces.

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  44. I am so happy for you all that I'm crying. I can't imagine how you've held up through all this, much less graduated LAW school.

    You and JP are both inspiring, and I'm so happy for you both.

    Much love and good thoughts!

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  45. That is the best news I've heard in quite a while! Congrats!

    And did I just hear a cork pop? ;)

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  46. Wow, what news! What a birthday this will be!

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  47. CONGRATULATIONS! I am SO happy for both you and JP (and of course Landon).

    ... I also wish I could show up in Chicago at Dr. K's (or was it a different letter?) office and shove a piece of paper with this notification in her face. For real.

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  48. I'm so happy to hear that you finally have some closure in this. I could only wish that DFS in the State where my grandchildren are would be so diligent. Isn't it pathetic that the interpretation of abuse and neglect of children is so subjective. Landon has wonderful parents, is obviously loved dearly and is well cared for. If you care to view this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhc6fstXk7k
    you'll see that quite the contrary is true with our granddaughters.

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  49. I'm not sure what to say.

    It's good that they finally did the right thing. And I'm glad that the physical and temporal distance has helped you.

    So, since you're experiencing the relief of having this somewhat behind you, and you're enjoying your son, I'll just feel angry for you.

    I agree with those who suggest writing about this, when you're ready, in a magazine or book (or magazine article leading to book?)

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  50. Well it's about damn time! I'm so happy and relieved for you. Sounds like you're finally settling into the wonderful, normal routine you should have started nine months ago. Normal...it's a lovely thing.

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  51. Oh my gosh, I have tears in my eyes. Finally an outcome you and your family deserve. You should have never been put through this in the first place but I am so happy for you that, as you say, administratively it is done.

    If and when you tell Landon, he will know instantly how ridiculous it all was.

    It's funny--I came to this blog because someone on a baby message board had linked it because of the whole DCFS thing. And I stayed because I enjoy your writing, and because my daughter is just a bit older than Landon and it's fun to compare (in a non-competitive way, of course!). I logged on tonight thinking to myself "I forget, when is the bar again? Is she almost through it?" Quite a difference from a few months ago when I breathlessly awaited "The Nightmare" updates!

    Again, I'm so happy for you and your family.

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  52. And by the way, my phrase "breathlessly awaited The Nightmare updates" was not intended to be breezy. I was outraged by the whole thing. But I think you know that. :-)

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  53. I'm so happy for you that it was a happy ending! This can only help with the closure!

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  54. Seriously, this is the only way it could have ended . . . It is very sad this whole experience happened to you but to be honest there are those power hunger people out there that I swear just love to show their power by hurting people . . . there was a real case on Dr. G were she testified on a same type of deal that you were going through and just her frustration of how stupid that CPS did not follow simple logic . . . it really scares me how really stupid, ignorant or I don't know how these peoples brains are wired and they just cannot process simple logic. It still frustrates the heck out of me that you had to go through this . . . but there are many more people out there that are going through what you went through.

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  55. ...it's finally OVER. if not relief or happiness i hope it provides you with a sense of closure. i'm almost tempted to ask if you can sue them but i'm sure you just want to leave it all behind. take care of your beautiful family and kick butt on the bar!...

    -ash

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  56. I absolutely agree with the commenter above who said you should write an essay on this. There could be other parents out there who might not have the legal background or the knowledge of what to do if this happens to them. Your story was a literal nightmare, and I'm glad you are entering your son's second year with it behind you.

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  57. OH, I got chills when I read the word "overturned." I'm so, so glad to hear that wonderful news. And I have just been reveling in your summer, your move, your happy, happy tone of late.

    Big Internet hugs to all of you!

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  58. I started reading you blog about a week ago. Hearing your story nearly broke my heart, but when I read this last entry today I was so happy to hear that everything worked out for you.

    I am a first year associate at a large law firm and I look forward to reading your experiences as a working mother/lawyer when you begin your job in the fall. I hope you keep up with this blog because I look forward to reading about your family in the future.

    Best of luck with the Bar, it will be over before you know it!

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  59. Hi LL - You don't know me, but you know my brother, Robert, from the UT Swim Team. I've been reading your blog for a while, and am SO relieved to see this post. This brought tears to my eyes knowing what you have been through. All the best to you and your family!

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  60. Jen in Seattle7/10/08, 2:05 PM

    LL,

    I have been reading your blog since "The Nightmare" began. I, like your mom, was so happy I was brought to tears with the news that JP has FINALLY been exonerated from this whole ordeal. From your post I can tell you and JP have done nothing but love for your little one. I admire the courage you must both have to have been through such trauma.

    I know I am not the only one out there who has kept your family and this whole crazy ordeal in my prayers. Justice, finally!!

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  61. Gave me chills to read the news. Yay! Yay! Yay!!!

    My SIL works as a family counselor for court ordered child protective stuff and when I hear the things that happen to kids in there, I get so angry at them and so angry for you--not the people they should have been going after in the first place!

    Very happy for you!

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  62. Delurking to say that I'm so glad to read of the conclusion!

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  63. I am so glad to hear your great news! I follow your blog (my husband is in law school and he blogs) and have loved seeing Landon grow up! Best of luck with the bar!

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  64. Congratulations!! I'm so happy for you, I can't express it. I heard an expression, though, once, about justice delayed ...

    Nevertheless, terrific news. My best to JP,

    M

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  65. I'm a little late to the party, but I'm so happy for you and your family. Congratulations!

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