Friday, November 2, 2007

(Very) Cautiously Optimistic

Well, we had our meeting this morning at the apartment. We met our case manager from "in tact family services"- he seems competent and nice, a welcome change from the last DCFS person to come to our apartment on a Friday morning with our investigator (the evil/harsh supervisor). He said we are being referred to a parenting class and will have weekly surprise visits from him for 45 days and then we will move to bimonthly visits. The visits are just to check on us and Landon and make sure nothing new is going on. Once the parenting class is over, he thinks our file will be closed. After hearing all this the investigator again said that if our case is "unfounded" then everything is completely dropped and we don't need to complete the parenting classes or have any visits. So I'm still not quite sure why all that is starting up a few days before she thinks the investigation will end, but I guess this is just the way things work. She also reiterated the importance of the pediatric orthopedist's opinion (I think I called him "Dr. B" earlier) and that if he says something definitive about why this is not abuse, the saga will end early next week. It also did not sound like we will have any sort of Safety Plan even if things continue with the parenting classes and weekly monitoring after an indicated finding. However, she again mentioned the possibility of going back to court and taking protective custody again. That seemed so at odds with what both of them were saying that I think it would only happen if Dr. B's opinion said we were child abusers after all.

So right now it looks like if his report can make DCFS feel comfortable saying that whatever happened to Landon was not abuse, then we'll be done with this next week. If his report is a little more open ended (not that it was abuse but that he can't say well enough what it was to rule that out) then it seems like the worst case scenario is we have some visits, attend a parenting class, and this drags out for another couple months. We did ask about Thanksgiving and our case manager didn't think there was any reason we couldn't travel to see family (although he has to ask his supervisor b/c that issue had never come up before). That was a big relief and something I was previously afraid to even ask. However, we're not celebrating until we see Dr. B's report. We're also still waiting on the OI test- we're supposed to get results Nov. 12 and our investigator thought the file would probably remain open until we get that result. But she still felt my aunt could go home next Friday, so I guess it means the file will remain open but we won't need a safety plan after Dr. B's opinion. But once again, I'm always hesitant to predict anything when DCFS is involved.

I'm now off to a coffee shop to open my MPRE book for the first time. Right now my plan is to rely on the multiple-choice test-taking skills that I honed in High School. The test is tomorrow morning and afterward we're all hitting up the Lincoln Park Zoo to show Landon some animals (not that he's ever noticed Lilly the cat in our apartment) and eat a Chicago hot dog. Might as well show my aunt a bit of fun as long as she's stuck here with us and take our minds off the constant waiting to hear news.


  1. Just reading the words "surprise weekly visits" makes me want to scream in terror. But I suppose compared to what you've already been through, it seems like nothing.

    Enjoy your extra hour this weekend!

  2. argh... hope landon gets to back to texas for thanksgiving!

    ps multiple choice test skills are important ones to have =))

  3. I'm sorry it is still dragging out like this but it does sound more promising. I'll keep praying for you guys. When in doubt on the multiple choice test pick B. That is what I always do. Enjoy your day at the zoo. It is good for you guys to get out and do normal family activities and who doesn't love hot dogs?

  4. I've heard that the trick with the MPRE is to pick the second-most-ethical option.

    I really hope this whole nightmare is winding down, never to be heard from again. It's time for it to be done.

  5. LL, I am cautiously optimistic for you, too. Much that you wrote in this post sounds positive to me...I hope that it really is positive news. You so deserve for all of this to be totally and completely over. I will be watching for your updates, and as always I am thinking about you!

  6. It seems like they really don't want to commit to anything quite yet, but are doing a lot of CYAing (cover your ass).
    One way or another I'm glad they are now relying on Dr. B rather than the heinous DCF doctor!
    Crossing my fingers for the MPRE!

  7. Check with your attorney or the ombudsperson but I don't think you have to accept "surprise visits."
    You can schedule them. I don't think you have to cooperate with an assessment or service plan either.
    You can decide what you want the agency to know about the details of your life and family history, although many clients don't realize this. In fact, I don't think you even have to accept an "intact worker," especially since a finding has not been made. And the agency can't let your decision to refuse services affect its decision, although many parents under investigation fear this.

    As in most child welfare agencies, DCFS caseworkers are not required to be licensed clinical social workers and, in fact, are not even required to have Masters degrees in social work or a related field. Their supervisors are required to have Masters in social work or some similar field but they are not required to be licensed. Neither are their administrators. Professionally, the Department operates on a very low level.

    I would have your attorney review any kind of assessment and service plan your caseworker develops before you sign it, if you sign it. DCFS service records are not destroyed for decades, only investigative records if. Make sure you review your records periodically; there are provisions for access. Certainly you should review it before closure.

    Or tell the agency you want to hire your own licensed social worker who will send in reports that you and your attorney approve.

    Because of their highly inadequate educational preparation, DCFS caseworkers provide a low level of service. If you can pay for
    your own licensed clinical social worker or counselor to provide reports to DCFS, that's a route I would take. If not, insist on a choice of caseworkers, public or private, and review their qualifications and background before a choice.

    Remember, just because the caseworker is nice doesn't mean
    they are competent; in Illinois,
    they probably aren't.