This is not a blog about CPS (Child Protective Services, aka DSS, CYS, etc). It is, however, important to me that I share our story to educate others, and for now, this is my only “stage”. So here goes. Also, the term RAD in this post refers to Reactive Attachment Disorder. I am using RAD to refer to our daughter only for the purpose of avoiding confusion when telling this story, because we have other kids, and to avoid any identifying information (her first name is quite unique). She is NOT “just her diagnosis”, and that is not what I mean when I use that abbreviation. It’s for simplicity’s sake only.
The idea that kids are not removed unnecessarily by CPS is absolutely incorrect. I have personally connected with too many parents where this has NOT been true. I have known the details of their stories intimately.
I have also been there.
I am part of a same sex couple, to get that out of the way and clarify. My wife and I both identify as bisexual. I had 2 boys when I met my wife, from my first marriage. My wife’s daughter (RAD, now 12) was born in 2002 as the result of a relationship with a man that was brief and did not last, but he was involved in his child’s life and had visitation rights that he exercised regularly. There were no issues, things were amicable.
I came into the picture when she was a baby. I co-parented her with my wife, and my wife had primary physical custody. I would like to point out that she was bonded to us both and securely attached. I stayed home with her. She was attachment parented by us both. She was a very happy, healthy, robust little girl with no behavioral issues and was ahead developmentally. She also adored and was adored by my sons and thought of them as her brothers.
When she was two years old, her father made some sexual advances towards my wife while dropping RAD off after a visit, and was summarily rejected. My wife told him she was happy in her relationship with me, end of story. He was not happy and his ego was injured. He continued to have his court ordered visitation but things got tense.
Shortly after this incident, he asked for a few extra days beyond his normal weekend visitation because he wanted to take RAD to a family reunion out of town. My wife agreed. She packed extra clothes for her and made sure her father had a copy of her current insurance card in case of any emergency while on the trip.
Meanwhile, at bio father’s house: he had a relative (adult woman with kids) staying with him after a fight with her husband. We had no idea this other person was there and we believed he was out of town with RAD regardless, but he had come back early and not told us and hadn’t brought RAD home.
This other person’s estranged husband called CPS to report his wife for “doing drugs” around the kids, and CPS showed up at RAD’s bio father’s house to investigate. Due to the allegation, the worker demanded on the spot drug tests of all adults in the house. This other relative failed her test for marijuana use. Bio father passed his, but because the other person didn’t, the worker ordered ALL CHILDREN be removed from the home.
Instead of doing the logical, rational, good father thing and telling the CPS worker that RAD was JUST there on a visit and NOT a regular member of the household and should NOT be a part of this investigation, he saw his opportunity to hurt my wife. He told the worker that my wife had abandoned RAD and he hadn’t seen or heard from her for months. We don’t know if he told this lie before or after the drug test results, but he told it and that’s what matters.
The worker told him that RAD would be placed temporarily in foster care. He freaked out about this and talked the worker into placing RAD with his sister, several hours away, someone we did not know and who RAD had never met in her life, to avoid care with a stranger.
The worker never thought it might be a good idea to check out his story about my wife “abandoning” RAD, even though workers are specifically told to contact the “other parent” in cases like this with 2 parents involved who don’t live in the same household. If she had, she’d have needed about 30 minutes to locate my wife and
clear this up since we were not in any way accused of anything. If she’d taken five minutes to look through RADs belongings when her father packed them up, she’d have seen her current Medicaid card in her bag, dated that month, issued within 2 weeks of this even, with our address on it.
She did none of these things, however, and RAD was placed in “kinship care” that might as well have been stranger care. By going with kinship care, this became a “voluntary placement” and no court hearing was ever held or required to be held.
We did not find any of this out through CPS, but through her father, who immediately (after she was gone) called and acted frantic about how CPS had taken her and he’d begged them to return her to us and so forth.. all lies which we discovered later.
We called the CPS worker immediately, of course, and as any innocent and loving parents would do, we demanded that she be returned home! We were not under investigation! We had done nothing except make the mistake of allowing him a few extra days beyond the court ordered visit, which we thought was a good thing to do; we never wanted to interfere in her relationship with her father regardless of his crass advances towards my wife. A little give and take seemed like the proper way to handle things with him. Little did we know!
So the CPS worker responded by demanding drug tests from us which we were happy to give and ran out to do that DAY, since we are not drug users and had nothing to hide and were frantic to get her home.
Surprise surprise, mine came back “positive for meth”. Um, what? I have chronic sinus and allergy problems and take Sudafed daily, which a quick Google search showed to be a very common cause of false positives in urine tests. T he lab asked me for a list of prescription meds I took. Nothing about over the counter stuff was mentioned. I had never been drug tested in my life so I certainly had no idea I *should* have mentioned it.
Again, thinking logically, and naive to the whole CPS circus, I simply tried to explain this all to the worker. She informed me that my test showed “high levels” of methamphetamine and she did not wish to discuss it further, that because of my drug test results we would NOT be getting RAD home any time soon.
Again, Google showed me that a urine test of the kind used by CPS (the cheap kind) is just a screening and it only tells the lab “yes” or “no” as far as the presence of any substance. It does not specify “levels” of a substance. And again, my explanation of this to the CPS worker fell on deaf ears.
So I went to the lab directly and had them write a letter explaining the high rate of “false positives” that occurred frequently with OTC Sudafed use, and the “high levels” nonsense. The same lab she sent me to, I had the manager write this informative letter. I sent her a copy, certified mail. She ignored me. I called her. She again told me she was not discussing this with me and we’d just have to “wait this out”.
Our child was in a stranger’s home! We were not allowed to see her, no one would tell us where this woman lived, and we were not being given any options or plan for how to GET her home.
So, I paid out of pocket for a hair follicle test. I used the same lab (pretty much the only game in town) and it cost me about $200. I did this within 2 weeks of the first test, and hair follicle tests go back 90 days. Surely THIS would clear it up and clear my name and get RAD home. Right?
The results came back. Negative for everything. Ahah! Vindication! I hurriedly mailed off the results and a letter to the worker, all certified mail. Again she ignored me. I called her. S he ignored me. I called her again. And again. And again.
Finally I got her to reply. Her response? “I’ve already seen all the test results I need to see.. perhaps you should worry about your OTHER children who are STILL IN THE HOME and stop calling me?”
So there you have it. She believed me to be a meth user, but did not think my older two kids (at the time they were 7 and 11) were in any danger by being in our home.. but believed that RAD was not safe in our home because of my supposed “meth” use? Logic anyone? And yes, she absolutely implied that if I didn’t back off, she’d remove my other two kids.
I was frantic as a result of her threat. I had my mother and my ex husband and my Grandmother all sign temporary guardianship papers “just in case”, hoping if she did come for them they’d at least be placed with family. I was frozen with fear, worrying about protecting them yet with us desperately trying to get RAD home, but being thwarted at every turn.
This nightmare of a story goes on for many more paragraphs. Long story short, RADs father used this entire situation to keep us from RAD and to eventually abduct her completely. He kept her hidden away from us for an entire year. He continued to have CPS involvement while he had her because he was reported more than once for neglect. She was living in houses with no running water, with holes in the floor. She was left with a string of women he had her call “Mommy”. She was told that my wife and I didn’t want her any more. She was told that we were dead. She was beaten with a belt for having potty accidents. She was handed off to one stranger after another. She lived in five or six different homes in that 18 months she was gone.
The police wouldn’t help us because she was “with her father”. The National Center for Missing Children couldn’t help without a police report, which we couldn’t get. We searched and searched on our own, going to everyone we knew that knew her father, asking everyone and anyone, with no luck. He’d moved to other towns. We were finally able, after a year of trying, to get an attorney who heard our story and said he’d help us pro bono. He used his own private investigator and it still took several more months to find her.
He was certain that her father would be charged with multiple counts of violating the court order, with parental abduction, etc., and hopefully would do some jail time. He was very gung-ho to “get him” when we finally did get her back and get to court.
When he found her, the police were called (and paid attention since it was an attorney? I guess?) and RAD and her father were brought to court.
Incredibly, the same CPS worker was involved and there was a recently opened case with RADs father for neglect, reported by the Head Start program she was in. Oh, and she was in Head Start because of the CPS worker had concerns about his ability to properly care for her and had basically “ordered” him to put her in Head Start.
The CPS worker came to court. A CASA worker was present, and she never spoke with RAD, or my wife, or RADs father. She only consulted with the CPS worker who told her RADs father’s “story” about my wife supposedly abandoning RAD. The attorney refuted this abandonment nonsense in private chambers, my wife was not allowed in the room.
The CASA worker told the judge that she “believed dad” in this case, after her five minute conversation with the CPS worker. The CPS worker, CASA worker, and the judge were all very familiar with each other and talked and joked a lot with each other during our “day in court”. My wife was not allowed to speak. Ever! The judge did not ask her any questions. He asked RADs father questions, and RADs father maintained h s story about the abandonment. Said he’d had no idea where my wife was and had just been raising RAD on his own, just trying his best.
Unbelievable as it may be to you, the judge granted RAD’s father temporary custody that day. Based on NOTHING but a repeat of the “story” that started all this. My wife tried through the attorney to get our evidence presented, the records of our searching, the proof that she was not abandoned (current Medicaid card), all of it. We don’t know if it was discussed in chambers but it was never brought up in open court. A close friend of ours worked for the district attorney’s office (she is an attorney herself but not at all involved in family law).. she tried to speak up for us because she was familiar with all the details and had been trying to help us all along but she was not allowed to give any opinion or input.
When RAD saw us that day in the hallways, it was the absolute perfect example of “seeing a ghost”, the look of shock on her face. She totally remembered us and it was absolutely clear she thought she’d never see us again, from the look on her face!
Custody had NEVER been legally changed all this time. He told CPS to follow up with us and we’d come back to court after a month. He ordered supervised visits only for US!!
We were then (again) thoroughly investigated by CPS, same worker. Home visits and so forth. Then we were allowed weekend visits at our home, unsupervised. We started documenting everything. She would come to us for every visit, filthy dirty. We’d bathe her as soon as we got her to our house and the tub would have a dirt ring. We took pictures of all this. Shoes so tight she had blisters. She would try to duck down in the car every time she saw a cop and said it was because they’d “take her away”. She told us incredible stories about life with her father. She was 3.5 now. When she was taken, at two, she was not even speaking in sentences, and was just beginning to potty train. Now she was a “little girl” and not a baby.
The CPS worker paid attention this time. I think she was starting to realize how monumentally she’d SCREWED UP. We reminded her again about how she should have known he was lying based on the Medicaid card alone.
She questioned RAD about the things we’d told her… and RAD confirmed it. Belt whippings for potty accidents. Being locked in a fridge “for fun”. Lots of mommies. Living in a house with a hole in the floor and being told to throw her trash in the hole. Living in a house with no running water. Living in a place with “worms i n he toilet”. Being told the cops would take her if they saw her.
Within two weeks she returned full custody to my wife, ordered RADs father to have supervised visitation only for a period of three months.
RAD’s father missed every supervised visit. He complained he had no money for gas to come visit, and then had no money to pay for the supervision fees at the center. When the three months were up (he had no visits at all), he was supposed to be allowed regular visits again. He would call and say he wanted to come see her, then not show. He did this repeatedly. Meanwhile we were trying to find a lawyer to change the visitation back to supervised only without involving CPS again. After repeated no-shows, we stopped expecting him to actually show up. So we were not home when he called on a scheduled visit day and he threatened to go to the cops. Hilarious huh?
He went away after that. No contact. He died three years ago, and never had any contact with RAD again after we got her back home.
And our life with RAD began. Her symptoms started after a few months home. She was diagnosed with RAD a couple of years ago. Her RAD is 100% entirely because of the actions of CPS and her father.
Our story is just one among MILLIONS of stories of CPS screwing up and taking kids they should not be taking, and disrupting the lives of happy children, and messing everything up.