Triggers

Carter and I woke up today. Had a great morning, laughing and joking around. He even spent some time using his Bible app, he had it reading to him. Then something innocent made a turn for our day.

I began singing the song “I’m bringing home my baby bumblebee”. I don’t know why it came into my head, but I sang it aloud none the less. Carter instantly came into the room and rudely stated “Don’t ever sing that stupid song again, I hate it.” Now while I can appreciate that he was clearly triggered in someway, I could tell by his body language and his close to tears look in his eyes. I calmly (although I wanted to raise my voice to his and unfortunately don’t always stay as calm as I should) stated that I didn’t like the way he was expressing how he was feeling, and asked why he was so upset. He angrily said no reason which I knew wasn’t true. I was sitting on the floor dusting so I replied, when you normally don’t like a song I’m singing you ask me nicely not to sing it aloud. This clearly had a much stronger responce so I’m sure there is a reason. I said that if he wanted to talk I was here, and if he wanted me not to sing that song or another one he needs to ask me nicely. He then although with aggravation in his voice stated Mom can you please not sign that song. I said sure.

Unfortunately, I knew that while it was good that he could say it nicely, that if he didn’t express what was wrong that he would act out. I reminded him of our three and talk rule. Meaning if he continued to act out that after the third time we needed to talk about it before we moved on. He said he knew and again that nothing was wrong.

Sundays are kinda a morning where we ease into our day, this snowy Sunday day was no different. We have an evening service right now at our church. So we often stay in PJs until we shower and get dressed for church. Carter knew he had to get in the shower, before we went to church, as it was the super bowl after and we wouldn’t be getting home until late.

He began to find ways to pick a fight with me. I’m not going to shower, and I replied that’s your choice. Then he said so you won’t give me an unhappy face. He was referring to his behavior chart where he earned smiley faces for game time. I said you are free to chose, but if you chose not to shower you know you will get an unhappy face. Of course at this he started slamming around the house in anger. I told him that was one. He said no it’s not. I ignored him. Then he started by trying to argue with me about video game ratings. I simply said you know the rules I’m not going to fight with you about it. He got rude again. I told him that was two. I asked if he needed a talk or a hug or something else that would help him. He said no I don’t need anything, nothing is wrong. I was listening to a book on my Alexa he came out and rudely turned it off. He said I don’t want to listen to that. I said then go in your room and close your door. It isn’t on loudly and you can close your door and you won’t hear it. I don’t want to close my door. I said that is your choice but I’m not turning off the audio book. He got furious saying that he can’t do anything right, and he never gets his way. I said well not when your trying to picking battles with me. You are upset and when you get upset you try to pick battles. I then said that is three.

Now you maybe looking at this as normal teenage behavior, and sometimes it is. The truth is I knew I triggered him with that song. I didn’t mean to but I did. It is hard to describe because it wasn’t just his response it was his body language and look he gets in his eyes. He wanted to talk I’m guessing because he was trying to pick battles with me. For when I said that was three. He sat down in a huff but resigning himself to a talk. He has at times refused and walked away and thrown more of a fit. He has gotten a lot better and honestly I think he wanted to talk but I still wasn’t sure why he still can’t just say that.

He said I’m sorry. I said why are you sorry. He said because I just was trying to get on your nerves. I asked him why. He said because I really don’t like that song. I asked him why and he hesitated. I said do you know why and he nodded his head. He said it reminded him of his mom. That she used to sing it all the time (this made sense because back in the day we both worked in the same preschool and we often sang this song at school). I asked why it upset him though. He said that when his mom was upset she would sing that song to try and calm down. That wouldn’t work and then Carter would eventually do something that upset Mary. Unfortunately, Mary would then hit him. It was no wonder why it had triggered such a strong response. I said I’m so sorry sweet heart no wonder why you got so upset. That was very wrong and it shouldn’t have happened to you. I told him I was proud of him for being brave and telling me. I told him I’d do my best not to sing the song anymore. But that we needed to talk about this is therapy this week. Also, that there are better and more productive ways to express his feelings. He agreed and apologizing for his behavior we went on throughout our day. His behavior was good for the rest of the day. When we got to church he took a little snow off the car and teased he’d throw it at me. So I got some snow too making a snow ball, telling him I would return the favor. He touched me with the snowball on my back but I thought he had thrown it at me. So I took my snowball and put it down his shirt. We went into church laughing and carrying on.

This was a good outcome and it was solved relatively quickly. However, sometimes he can carry on for a whole day or days when something like this triggers him. Especially if he is triggered and I’m not around. If I can tell something triggered him I can comment on a similar situation or ask questions. When I don’t know what happened it can take a lot longer to get to the meat of it. Carter is a great kid, and I am learning and have been learning about how to deal with his trauma responses.

Resources to help deal with a child’s trauma:

https://childmind.org/guide/helping-children-cope-after-a-traumatic-event/ . This is a great resources and helps you deal with the trauma also giving specific advice for different age groups.

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/child-trauma.pdf. This was another great resource I found.

Another resource was a book read “Healing the Heart” by Christine Fonseca

Differences between Kinship Guardianship and Adoption

I get a lot of questions about Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG) vs Adoption. This entry is to try and explain the pros and cons of both.

KLG is custody of child you are related to or a legal relationship (i.e. step parent). This came about back in 2002, when a lot of relatives were providing long term care of a children in care, and there was a lot of pressure to reduce the amount of time kids are in foster care. DCPP may or may not be involved, most likely they were involved at one point, even if it was for a short time. KLG gives you custody of a child but it doesn’t terminate a parent’s rights. A parent still has the obligation to pay child support (although you have to go to court to get it), and they have a right to visit the child. KLG does not give you the right to change a child’s name, and you can’t choose where the child goes if something happens to you. If you get KLG through DCPP there are clothing stipends. If you don’t have current DCPP involvement like I don’t there is a kinship wrap around program that will give you $500 a year for helping with clothing costs. You can find more about this in my resources page. KLG gives you the right to make all medical, and educational decisions. It also gives you the right to help the child apply for college, a drivers licence, and any other services a child might need. In order to get KLG the child has to be living with you for a year. They do background checks, a home inspection, and meet with you and the child. You have to get background checks and fingerprinted. It can be an overwhelming process but if you get your paperwork in it goes relatively quickly. It was about 5 months from start to being awarded KLG for me. Also, to apply for KLG it is free, look in my resources page for more details. KLG is great for a lot of families. Most judges will award it because it’s about providing a stable home for the child, and the parental rights aren’t being terminated. It is a lot easier to get than adoption.

Adoption is exactly what you know the term already as. It terminates all rights of a parent and gives those rights to you. This means you can change the child’s name, name a guardian if something were to happen to you, make all medical and education decisions. While in my case we are applying for adoption and I’d agree to keep visitation the same. This isn’t usually the case, also once adoption happens it isn’t enforceable. Meaning if you agree to do visitation with the birth parents but don’t keep your word, there is nothing the parent can do legally about it. There is a home inspection, doctors checks for you and the child, they interview you and the child, and you have to get fingerprinted and police checked. There is a lot of paperwork the packet alone was 40 pages.

I think that about does it. I hope this helps!

A HUGE step in the right direction

I woke up so nervous today. I woke Carter up, and he said are you cooking a hot breakfast. I said that usually is the plan. He then said “Well today is such a stressful day, can I just have come cereal.” I agreed, knowing that usually he loves when I cook breakfast. Today was the big court day and he knew it. He is just like me when he is stressed we don’t eat well. I dropped him off at school and I headed to meet a friend for breakfast. I got two eggs over easy with toast. My friend Jackie is such a sweet person. She is also pastor Calvin’s wife. She got pork roll egg and cheese, which is what I would have gotten if I felt like I could eat. Instead I got two eggs over easy with rye toast. Jackie said she was hoping to distract me, so sweet of her to rearrange her day to be a good friend to me. We chatted about life and things going on. We also talked about the upcoming hearing and my worries and fears. Also, a truth I don’t say often but I will share here. Its not that I don’t want Carter to live with me, or that I don’t want him or consider him my son. I very much do, in fact I introduce him as my son to new people. He prefers it so I try to honor it. That being said if I’m being completely honest, I wouldn’t be doing this if Carter didn’t want it. Kinship Legal Guardianship, gives me all the rights I need really. Without severing my sister Mary’s parental rights. I support Carter don’t get me wrong, and I understand why he wants this. It’s just more complicated than that for me, but at the end of the day I’m going to do what is best for him. He deserves to feel loved, cared for, and most of all wanted. I mean if nothing else comes out of this whole thing, at least he knows he was fought for. Jackie did a great job of distracting me, and also making me feel loved and supported. It was a huge thing on a day like today. She prayed with me, she is such a good friend.

I arrived at the lawyers office at 1pm and I was so nervous. I must have seemed it too, because as soon as the lawyer came into the room he said you seem nervous. I said I was, and he told me not to worry. It was to be held on zoom because of this whole Covid thing still happening. When we got on Mary and her Lawyer were already on the call. The court clerk was talking. Then the Judge came on. She walked into court saying that she was going to have to get used to this. Previously with this Judge she had been on Zoom at her home. So I’m assuming this is new for her to be in person with us on Zoom. We actually saw less of her as we were looking at her from above. The Judge opened by first thanking Mary’s court appointed lawyer, for taking on the case, she said sometimes that’s the most you get but none the less she was thankful. She then stated that this was something new. She had asked her clerks to try and find other cases of Kinship Legal Guardianship turning to Adoption and said she didn’t really find anything. Then she said that this was a case management hearing and she asked my lawyer for any updates. He said that we asked for this hearing as Mary objected to the hearing just a day before the adoption hearing was due to take place, and we are hoping to come to an agreement. He also said that he sent the Judge a copy of Carter’s letter and it was shared with Marys lawyer as well. My lawyer also explained that we offered to keep visitation the same for after the adoption, and that he was waiting to hear back from Mary’s lawyer.

Mary’s lawyer then stated that he objected to the letter being sent to the Judge because they could not cross examine the letter. The Judge then stated it wouldn’t be entered as evidence. Mary’s lawyer then said that Mary stated she wouldn’t agree to this adoption no matter what.

The Judge began addressing Mary. She told Mary that it was clear from the adoption report that the reason we are here today is because Carter wants the adoption. The Judge also noted that there was no petition before the court to reverse the KLG (Kinship Legal Guardianship). The Judge then stated to Mary’s lawyer that she wouldn’t entertain one either. That Carter was in a safe and loving home with his Aunt and that was where he was going to stay. She definitely read Carter’s letter. Mary’s lawyer nodded in understanding. Turning back to Mary she stated that it has been almost a year since the KLG hearing, and you have yet to take advantage of the parental rights you still have. I’m not going to talk about how you aren’t financially providing for your son, because it’s clear that your sister Carter’s Aunt is doing all of that. As Carter is living with her full time, and you aren’t paying child support. You haven’t maintained contact with your son, as visitation is still not set up. I would say that this is the reason Carter wants to be adopted because he feels abandoned, maybe he is also hurting but I think that because of the lack of contact. I’m sure that Covid was a factor when we were shut down, but that doesn’t account for all the time. Mary kept looking off screen and turning her head completely sideways or so all you could see was the side of her head of hair. Then she would put her head all the way down and then pick it back up. The judge said that it is clear you do love your son because you are here. As a mother do you really want to put your son through a trial? I could pull him in here and have him tell us himself, why he wants to be adopted that would be really hard for him. Carter is a big boy now he’s not a little kid, it’s only a couple of years until he is 18. There is a saying that the days are long but the years are quick. Shelby is your sister, I would bet to say that she wouldn’t keep Carter from seeing you if he wanted to see you and you were doing well. So, as his mother I would suggest you think about what you will be putting your son through by not agreeing to the adoption. The judge said that we will set up mediation, then have a case conference and then a hearing after that. She also said we will put all these dates on the calendar today. This doesn’t have to go on any longer. The Judge asked if there was anything else anyone would like to add.

My lawyer spoke up saying that the judge has the letter from Carter’s therapist about how contact should be therapeutic due to the issues Carter and Mary have. He stated he will get an updated letter for the Judge. My lawyer also brought up about the positive drug test Mary had previously. The Judge nodded her head and said yes I would like an updated hair follicle test. Do you know of any place that does that? I usually have DCPP set that up, but they are not involved in this case. My lawyer brought up about the place that did her previous hair follicle test. Mary spoke up and said that she had concerns about that place. That a receptionist took her hair sample and didn’t even ask for ID. The Judge said okay fine then you find a place to do the hair follicle test. Mary then said well they didn’t ask me what medication I was on. The Judge stated that’s not their job, their job is to provide the results. Mary was putting food in her mouth while the judge was talking. What did you just put in your mouth the Judge asked. “Peanuts” Mary replied. The Judge stated “This is a official hearing, you shouldn’t be eating or vaping or smoking. I don’t mind if you have a sip of water but you should take this seriously. Mary stated I’m sorry. The Judge then continued, their job is to only provide the results. Your job is to sign a medical waiver and have your prescribed drugs released to your lawyer and then to this court. The Judge then said that goes for all forms you provide this court. They are not to go from you to your lawyer to this court. They are to go from the institution to your lawyer and then from the lawyer to this court. Mary then said “Who pays for the hair follicle test?” The Judge replied “You do”.

My lawyer spoke once more, asking for all the DCPP notes on the case. The Judge said that she can request them, and she doesn’t mind but she will go through them. The Judge stated that she will look at them and release under protective order the ones she can.

The Judge then said you will have a mediation to try and resolve this. I hope the mother considers what is the best thing for her son. After the mediation we will have a case conference hearing and finally we will have a court hearing about the adoption. Please stay on while I exit and my clerk will give you dates, as I don’t want any more delays in this case.

The clerk came on and the dates are as follows. Mediation is scheduled on March 21. The case conference is scheduled for April 14th and the court hearing is scheduled for May 18th.

It sounds drawn out and long, because it is. I think it is because the Judge is trying to make sure there is no room down the line for a ruling to be challenged. I was very happy about this court hearing. I finally felt like Carter was heard, that someone recognized that I was speaking for his wishes not my own. I honestly feel like this is all going to work out. God has shown that this is true.

After the hearing was over it was 2:15pm and I decided to go pick up Carter a little early from school. Thought I would fill him in and get some ice cream. It was also a perfect day because it was 50 degrees so it wasn’t so cold for a February day. Carter was so excited to hear about the news. I didn’t tell him everything just that it went well. The Judge recognizes that this is what Carter wants and that the lawyer felt positive about it as well. That there will be some court dates but only one he has to attend and I’ll know more about that as time goes on. We celebrated and then we drove both getting quiet. I said you know it’s bittersweet for me too. Carter replied yeah it’s sad. For the truth is, while it is a win it is also a loss.

Resources for those in NJ

These are some helpful resources, that I have found along the way. I hope they can help you too. I know have NJ ones on here, those are the only ones I know about. If people let me know about more in other states I will post them! Let’s all help each other.

Mobile Response: 877-652-7624 This is a 24/7 hour hotline. You can call if your child is out of control or you need help. They offer crisis intervention and counseling free for all children 5-17 (although exceptions are made on both ends). They give you 8 weeks of therapy but it can be extended and changed to a long term program if needed. They will come out right away if you need or within 24-48 hours. They are a great resource, and again it’s FREE counseling that can happen quickly. I used this for Carter when I first got him, knowing he we need counseling and help. We are in the long term program. He has been able to keep his therapist the whole time. They have helped us with costs of things he needs for school. When we moved they gave us items of need for our apartment. They can help with security deposits. They are amazing.

Kinship Wraparound Program. Just call 211. They give $500 a year towards things of need for your child. It’s only once a year but it’s amazing. They just require receipts and they are willing to help with bigger items like beds or a computer for school in place of the $500 dollars. We use it for clothing and bedding costs generally. You can get toiletries, food, bedding, beds, and more. There are certain rules with it but they are easy to navigate and abide by.

Kinship Navigator Program will help you get Kinship Legal Guardianship for FREE through their program. You call 211 as well for this. You have to had the child living in your house for a year but then you can apply for it. It is a lot of paperwork, but it is all stuff that I had organized already so I just had to get it to them. This gives you all the rights of a parent. The right to make medical decisions, school decisions, everything. The parents maintain their parental rights. Which through guardianship are: to visit the child and pay child support. Although you have to set up the child support stuff separately.

Call 211- They have a ton of resources that they can point you as well.

Anxious about the future…

It’s funny how you want something so badly and then you get it and anxiety starts. I think Carter and I are both feeling that right now. I found out yesterday that we have a case management hearing scheduled for February 10th. We have been waiting almost two months for a new court date, and I’m glad it isn’t that far off. Carter doesn’t have to attend, so my plan was to avoid telling him. However, he of course as he has every single day since the last court hearing got canceled asked me if we got a court date. I explained that we did it’s a case management hearing and that he doesn’t have to be there. He had a hard time yesterday and today. He is acting out and anxious and I realize it is going to be a hard two weeks. To be honest I’m just as anxious. It’s a zoom hearing so that is good. At least I can sit in the comfort of my own home with my dog on my lap for comfort. This hearing will ultimately decide if I can adopt Carter right now or not. With Mary objecting it’s not a simple just go ahead. The worst that can happen is that they will says that Mary should have more time to get her life together, and that we will reevaluate at another time. Honestly, I’m worried about the hearing. I’m worried what the judge will say, and I honestly am thinking they will say smart should get more time. Our lawyer doesn’t seem to think that is likely, but we have had this same judge before. She had a soft spot for Mary, and had felt sorry for her. So I’m nervous… this is what Carter wants and at 14, I think what he wants should weigh heavily. I told my lawyer that Carter was open to keeping visits the same situation as now and that id still send updates to Mary regularly (which I do now and don’t have to). The situation would be she can got to therapy and work on her relationship with Carter. If their relationship got better and she was sober and stable she could actually spend time with him. We shall see what will really happen. Mary had a lot to prove to Carter. Our lawyer thinks that Mary has had plenty of time, and that since she hasn’t done one thing that’s been asked of her from the beginning that it will have a heavier weight and the judge will grant the adoption. Only time will tell.

Update on Adoption Stuff

So Mary’s lawyer had told my lawyer that he hasn’t talked to her that was yesterday. However, I guess they talked today. They came back and said she might be open to an open adoption where she can see Carter and call him. Carter had therapy today so we discussed it in therapy. The thing is it doesn’t matter what I want, it matters what Carter wants. I want to make sure I’m representing his wishes accurately. During therapy Carter said he doesn’t want to see her or talk to her ever again. I asked him if he’d be willing to keep the same arrangement we have now. They need to go to therapy first (once she set it up) and repair their relationship. Mary would also need to be stable, clean, and sober. She would have to prove a lot. I don’t want them to never talk again. I would love them to have a good relationship. Mary has to get healthy first. Apparently she wanted a guarantee that she could go to Carters graduation. That is four years away. I told the lawyer it would depend on her. She isn’t coming around unless she is stable, clean and sober. Hopefully this means that she might agree to the terms and no longer object the adoption. This would be the best situation for Carter, who is the one who wants to be adopted. We shall see, only time will tell. On the upside, he seemed to handle it well. We haven’t had any acting out about it.

Where it all began…

Our story starts really when Carter was born. He made me an Aunt, and it was such a gift. About 3 years ago, I gain custody of my nephew who was 12 at the time. This blog entry will tell you where we were and where we are now.

It was the end of May when I got a call that my sister was having a mental health crisis, along with drug and alcohol issues. I immediately thought of my nephew and I drove to go collect him. When I arrived, the police were there. They told me I could take him home. My sister had been threatening to kill herself, and a friend of hers called the police. I took my nephew inside to collect his things for a few nights when my sister drove up. It was a like a scene from a movie. The cops were really good to her though. She pushed them three times before they took her down and cuffed her. Even then they didn’t press any charges. At the time, I was really grateful. Thinking my sister didn’t need any more problems, and that she’d be better once on the correct medication. Looking back I wish they had. She drove up drunk and had been driving around like that. She also has to this day not gotten the help she needs.

My sister Mary went into the psych unit and I took responsibility for my nephew Carter. This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened but, this time was different. I realized that right away. For one, Mary didn’t seem to think anything was wrong. She called Carter telling him not to say anything. What she didn’t want him to say I wasn’t sure. When DCPP showed up they talked to Carter alone. After they didn’t say much just that they’d be in touch, and if there were any issues to let them know. I did inform them I’d be calling Moblie response to get Carter therapy for everything he was going through. They agreed this was a good idea. Carter has admitted to playing with fire while in his mothers care. That was something I wasn’t going to just ignore, he was obviously hurting.

The weekend went by and next week started, I kept Carter busy. Mary was just so focused on her and her boyfriend, she never even asked about Carter. I went to see her over the weekend but all she cared about was her boyfriend. She didn’t even ask me about Carter at all. Mary bragged about how she had snuck her e-cigarette when the nurse had the door open and wasn’t looking. Ironically, after she said that the battery in the e-cigarette went dead. She then said “You just are bad luck aren’t you”. Mary also didn’t seems remorseful and she told me that Carter was damaged goods. That he did things that scared her, and she said she thought he might be sociopath. To be honest I was worried about Carter, so I didn’t know what to think. Mary had always loved Carter and talked so highly of him even when he messed up. I didn’t know what to think. I now know none of this was true. Carter had been acting out, but he has come a long way from that scared 12 year old boy.

I was driving Carter to school on Monday morning. He asked me if his mother was getting out of the hospital today. I told him probably in the next few days. The last time Mary had a problem she was living with my dad and step mom. So I took Carter until she came home but they were there for him too. My dad and step mom had since moved away and Mary and Carter had been on there own for almost 8 months, when everything had gone terribly wrong. When I told Carter that his mother would be getting out soon. He started to cry and say please don’t make me go home with her. I pulled the car over and looked in the back seat, I asked him why he didn’t want to go home. Carter told me that his mom was leaving him home alone for days at a time, that she was hitting him, and drinking too much. I promised him right then and there that I would fight for him. I told him I couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t have to go home, but that I wouldn’t stop fighting for him. I still haven’t. My hope at the time was that Mary would follow the discharge plans and get the help she needed, and maybe Carter could just stay with me. It wasn’t ideal I was renting a room at the time, but for short term it would be okay.

I called DCPP and they told me that they will have to remove Carter (they also told me that Carter had told them the same things, I wish they had told me that). They told me I’d have to send Carter home and then they would pick him up a few hours later and bring him back to me. Also I wasn’t allowed to tell Carter about this. I thought this sounded horrible and I stated as such. The DCPP worker told me I could also go and file for temporary custody in the court, and then he’d never have to leave my care. I thought this was the better option for sure. Had I known what I know now I would have never done that. See DCPP they lied, they wouldn’t have had to physically remove Carter from my care. It would have been paperwork, and a hassle I’m sure. But that ugly scene of him going home only to come back, that was a lie. You see since I went down to the court and filed for temporary custody. The courts removed Carter, not DCPP. So DCPP got to close their case, because Carter was now in a safe environment. The system is a mess. There was no support for Carter and I. I was a single mom raising a teenage boy overnight with a very limited income. I got emergent temporary custody and it turned to temporary custody two weeks later. While DCPP weren’t involved; they informed me that Carter who was 12 was not allowed to be left alone, because of his fire setting while in his mothers care. Oh and I had to supervise visits between Carter and his mother, and phone calls. This was a disaster, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The day I got emergent temporary custody, I called the hospital Mary was at to let them know. I knew they were planning on discharging her, and I thought she should find out while in the care of professionals given the situation. They told me she was soon to be discharged and that they would tell her and see how she responded. I drove straight to Carter’s school to give them the paperwork and set up arrangements for a bus. I was in his guidance counselor office when Mary called me from the hospital. She started threatening to kill me, and I how could I do this. I hung up on her and apologized to the counselor, and then I called the hospital straight away to tell them. The doctor said that she handled the news very well, and I explained she had just threatened to kill me. The doctor stated well she is obviously in control of herself though. They discharged 20 minutes later.

I took Carter home from school. The social worker at the school was great. She gave me some clothes for Carter. He came with one outfit of clothes that didn’t really fit and one size too small of PJs. I had taken him over the weekend for a few things, but to be honest I didn’t exactly have a lot of money at the time. I was very grateful for the clothes. My parents both sent a little money to help get things he needed as well. We set up his bus stop a little ways away from the house. After the social worker heard her threatening my life she as was I, was worried she would try to snatch Carter from the bus stop. The school was very good about everything to be honest. They were a great resource. Also I had called Moblie response. They were amazing as well. Carter got free weekly therapy in home. They helped me get him evaluated for the fire setting. They also gave me parenting support which I needed. I did just inherit a 12 year old boy overnight.

In the beginning I really did think that I’d only have Carter for maybe 3-6 months, while my sister got the help she needed. I am still holding out hope to be honest. But man it was a fight right from the gate. It wasn’t even a week and she went and tried to get Carter back by filing an emergent hearing. This was after she got on the phone with Carter and started yelling at him because he told DCPP and me what she did to him. She said that if that’s how it’s going to be then he could stay with me forever. I told Carter to say he had to go. He was crying and it was just horrible. Mary started calling my phone leaving me horrible messages threatening me again. When I had a minute alone and after I calmed Carter down which took the better part of an hour I called her back. I told her that we needed the weekend to settle Carter in, and that she could talk to him Tuesday after school as Monday was a holiday. Keep in mind while she was in the hospital she only talked to him once, and it was to tell him not to say anything. I felt as though we needed the weekend to get in a routine and a rhythm, and also give her time to calm down and get her head on straight. She didn’t like this of course, and left me more messages. I was at the park with Carter when I got the call from the court because Mary was there filing for emergent temporary custody. The judge asked me what was going on, and I said what happened. The judge told Mary that my request was reasonable. She also said that she wasn’t going to be able to get the order reversed like this. She had to wait until the court date in two weeks.

Mary had visitation with Carter with me supervising. We were at the place we were supposed to meet. Mary called she was already late and canceled on seeing her son. Carter was upset and acted out behaviorally for two days after. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the last time she stood us up or canceled last minute, in fact it was just the beginning.

We had court two weeks later and when we got there Mary was convinced that she was going to get Carter back that day. When I showed up, Carters biological dad was there. Mary had a domestic violence restraining order out on him. Also, he hadn’t seen Carter is over 7 years at this point. Carters’s dad said that Mary had always been on drugs and had a problem. Carter’s dad Aj told the judge he wanted Carter back. The judge told him to sit down. When it came time the judge told Mary that she hadn’t completed a program, she wasn’t enrolled in the correct program and that this needed to be done. Mary was so worried that Aj would get Carter, that she agreed easily that Carter could stay with me. The events that unfolded over the next couple of months I never would have guessed would happen. Mary had always seemed to put Carter first, and loved him a lot. Something had changed and gone dramatically wrong, I still don’t know exactly what that was.

I had to get Carter in a summer program of some sort, he couldn’t be left home alone and I had to work. I was able to get him into a Christian sleep away camp for a week. He also the poor kid, had been kicked out of his Boy Scout troop because he hasn’t been going. I was able to get him in another troop and he was able to go to Boy Scout camp. Then I found out that The Children’s home Society offers vouchers for childcare. I filled out the paperwork. I didn’t make much so my copay was minimal. I did learn that they really help kinship families. I got the voucher, but then I couldn’t find a summer program that wasn’t full. I only got Carter less than a month before, and I was scrambling. Finally, I found a program that had a spot open and took him. I didn’t get the best one, but for three weeks until I was off for summer break it would have to do. Carter was a trooper, I felt bad there was so much extra stuff at camp I didn’t know I had to pay for. He never complained and I always tried to get him in it once I knew about it. Because we were late coming in we didn’t get all the same information as others had.

Visitation… it was a nightmare. Mary was angry blamed me, saying I was the reason she didn’t have Carter. At first I brought Carter to Marys house but that quickly became a bad idea. I was doing school online and supervising visitation and working full time. I did visitation three times a week in the beginning. Carter would just go outside and play and Mary would cook something. Carter would come in and eat and then leave again. I expressed my concern over the visitation being for them to spend time together, but it wasn’t taken the way I meant. Then when things got bad one day I had to end the visitation early. Mary got so mad that I then had to say we could only meet in public places. She wanted time alone with him, but I was told not to let that happen. I also wanted them to have some freedom, but it always came back to bite me. Before one visit Mary had gotten a new court date to get Carter back. I told her not to tell Carter about the court date as it would only upset him. She didn’t realize that Carter didn’t want to go home to her, and I didn’t know how to tell her that. She promised she wouldn’t. However, as soon as they were in the water swimming she told Carter. Carter got back in the car and then of course was not only upset but now mad at me for not telling him. He was convinced he was going home. Mary told him she had completed her program and was told she would get him back no problem. She of course told Carter this, which caused more nightmares and acting out at home. Myself and Carter’s therapist explained that she wasn’t completing the correct program to easy his worries, but it didn’t help. I was taking Carter to go see his grandfather and grandmother. My dad and step mom they lived in Florida and it took me a month to get Mary to sign the paperwork to take him. Everything was a battle. She spoke to him everyday on the phone counting down the “days until I get you back”. Literally our days on “vacation” consisted of them talking and two-three hours of Carter acting out, then we went to the beach. He was all good by the time my parents came home from work. It was a long and exhausting “vacation”.

The system working slow. I didn’t make much and needed help. I went to file for food stamps for my nephew and I couldn’t get them. This was because Mary was already getting them in a different county. By the time the fraud case got handled, Covid had hit and I couldn’t get down to food stamps for a bit. Then of course she was now collecting on Carter and herself in another county and the whole process started over again. Two years after she no longer had Carter in her care is when his food stamps got cut off from her. She literally was stealing food out of her child’s mouth and it took 2 years to fix! No one seemed to care that she was literally taking food from her child.

Two month after being in court (although she tried a few emergent hearings) we went to court again. To my surprise we walked into a room with a mediator. Aj walked in pulled up a chair next to Mary and held her hand. I almost fell out of my chair. She was back with her abuser? The one she got a Domestic Violence restraining order against because he supposedly rapped her in front of Carter! I felt sick to my stomach. This was a pointless meeting. We sat in a room where a woman asked questions, and Mary and I went round and round. She wanted me to give Carter back, and I said no way you haven’t completed the programs you were supposed to. You need to get yourself right and stop trying to take the easy way out. At one point Aj said that Mary never had any drug problems (even though the last court date she did), that he had his Associates degree in Addiction counseling and that she doesn’t not and has never had a drug problem. This was far from the truth and he knew it. When he met Mary it was right after she had gotten clean from Herion. I felt awful sitting there, I kept saying to call the DCPP case worker. That Mary was supposed to complete a drug program, and Mary kept saying I was lying. At one point Aj asked me if I was such a God fearing woman how could I keep Mary from her son. I replied with because as a Christian I am trying to do the right thing and protect my nephew. The mediator left to go talk to the court to get a date for a hearing since we couldn’t agree. When she came back She had Mary and I sign something. Mary got up to leave and the woman stopped me. She told me she had talked to the social worker and that she had confirmed Mary was supposed to complete a drug program. She also said that now I have more time I should make sure that all my evidence is given in advance so that it can be shown to the court. I said yes I get that now. She honestly gave me hope, I felt like someone finally was seeing through what was really going on. I had tried to get a lawyer for Carter, if DCPP was involved they would have gotten him a child advocate and a lawyer. But because DCPP wasn’t involved I couldn’t get any of those things. We couldn’t get legal counsel because the number I had called Mary had called first and they were already helping her. I couldn’t afford a lawyer. All I wanted to do was protect my nephew and keep him safe. It felt like the system was working against me.

Sky zone visit… Mary asked if we could do a visit at Skyzone. I agreed as long as she was paying for the two of them to jump, I didn’t have any extra at the moment for that. She agreed and she did pay. It was the day after the last court date. Mary kept walking away on her phone. Then she looked like she was trying to record things Carter was saying. But something about Carters face, something seemed more off than normal. I didn’t know what to do. I called my family support worker that I got from Moblie response. She said she wasn’t sure what to do. She said she’d call her supervisor and get back to me. Mary then came out of the bathroom yet again asking if she could show Carter some pictures on her phone. I said of course and thanked her for asking. I was so naïve. Mary was sitting with Carter and he looked like he got upset, and then he went to the dodgeball court. When Mary tried to get him off he wouldn’t. My Family support called back and said if you have a bad feeling end the visit. So I went over to Mary and said I’m ending the visit and that id call her later and we could talk about why. I called Carter and said let’s go. Mary asked why and I said we can talk about it later. I wasn’t sure exactly how to handle this situation but I knew we had to get out of there. Mary kept taking and saying it wasn’t fair and that I couldn’t do that. Carter and I got into my car and I started to drive off. Carter started crying and I replied I’m sorry I cut your visit short. But before I could finish he said no thank you for cutting it short. She was being awful and I didn’t know what to do. I said what do you mean. He began to tell me that the pictures she showed him were pictures but things she wanted to say but didn’t want me to hear. She wrote down that I told the judge she was on drugs and that I lied about it. He asked me if I told the judge that information. I didn’t know what to say I felt like I was in an impossible situation. I told Carter that anything that was discussed at court wasn’t for him to know about. I did promise him that I didn’t lie to anyone about anything. That answer was good enough for him. Then he started to say that his parents are back together, and they are fighting together for Carter to go back to his mom. This was confusing for Carter, as he hadn’t seen his dad in years and his mom made it clear he was no good to him. It took me the rest of the evening to calm Carter down. We talked and I reassured him everything would be okay. He told me that he didn’t want to go home to his mom, and I said that will change when she gets better. He said that he didn’t think she really wanted to get better. I replied with I think she does, she just isn’t sure how to just yet.

After the Skyzone visit I didn’t allow any more visits that I couldn’t hear or see everything that was going on. We started meeting at Dunkin Donuts, but Mary didn’t want to meet there. The first week she stood us up and then didn’t even call Carter back when he called to check up on her. When we met the following week at Dunkin he asked her about it. She said that she didn’t want to flip the fu** out on Aunt Shelby so I didn’t come. Carter said why didn’t you call me back, she never really answered his questions. Mary was becoming hostile and after Skyzone we came up with a code word if Carter felt like we needed to leave. He used the code phrase and I said that we needed to cut the visit short if she didn’t calm down. She said why and I explained that if she didn’t calm down then we would have to leave. She said I’ll calm down, why don’t you go sit over there so you can’t listen to our whole conversation, bit**. I ended the visit and it was an ugly scene. By the time the next visit rolled around I got court documents that Aj sent in. Apparently him and Mary had gotten back together and she ran up his credit card and was doing drugs. Aj also stated that while we were on the Skyzone visit that Mary kept calling her from the bathroom asking him to come and slash my tires. It also stated that Mary was pregnant with Aj’s child. To say I was upset was an understatement. So I canceled visitation and told Mary I had to find someone else to supervise visitation. Mary said she didn’t need supervision and I said that is not what DCPP said. With Aj sending in the papers we got a nice visit from DCPP that week and they confirmed that I still shouldn’t allow Mary to be alone with Carter. Carter told the social worker all about the sky zone visit. But since Carter was in a safe environment the case was closed. I asked if they could supervise visitation but they said they couldn’t because they didn’t remove Carter. I asked if they knew how I go about figuring out visitation and was told I don’t know. I called the court and they told me about preferred behavioral health. I called that same day and got the ball rolling on visitation.

I did all my paperwork and sent all needed paperwork into preferred. Mary of course needed to meet with them and that took a bit for her to set up and also for someone to be free to supervise visits. They didn’t go well either to be honest. The first visit she was late and Carter and I hung out in a room waiting for her to show up. She canceled a lot last minute, and told Carter it was because she had to pay for visits. However, that wasn’t entirely true she just didn’t fill out the paperwork. When we went back to court in December it was decided that Carter would stay with me. That if Mary passed a hair follicle test then she could start to have unsupervised time with Carter. It also said they needed to have three therapeutic visits through preferred first. This was put in the court order so that Mary could apply for the grant to get the therapeutic visits paid for. She started missing more visits and then even though she wasn’t supposed to she told Carter that she would start getting unsupervised time with him. That she had to take a test that showed she was taking her medication and then once it did she could start to transition him home. He freaked out and continue to for months…

I was in an awful position I couldn’t tell Carter about the drug test, and I certainly didn’t want him to know. I didn’t lie to Carter, and that was a big thing for me. We had trust built on that fact. But now Mary had lied and told him about a test. I couldn’t explain about the test because I didn’t want to lie to him. Then of course, everyday I picked him up from daycare he asked me if we got the test results. When we finally did get the result I told him we got the results but I was instructed by the judge not to share them with him. He was mad and upset and rightfully so. Carter wanted to know if he would have unsupervised time with his mom. I told him no not now. It was all I could say. However, this did seem to settle him down. Carter was still just getting regular supervised visits, I had agreed to let those continue until the therapeutic could start. Mary said she was doing the paperwork and I wanted to give her time. They had a bad visit right after Carters birthday. She accused him of cheating. When Carter said he didn’t She replied well I just don’t believe you because you’re a liar. Carter got so upset they had to end the visit early. Then Mary was texting me about just signing him over to me. I calmed her down it was so hard. She was also upset because we had gotten a new place and was moving soon. I think it was hard on her, but we couldn’t live in a one bedroom with two of us. They had a good next visit and it wasn’t canceled. However, Covid hit and the world shut down. By the time we started up visits again in August so much more damage had been done, to their relationship. Mary wouldn’t call when she said she would or she would forget things, and then ask Carter again. Carter felt like she didn’t care and I think Mary felt like she couldn’t get it right. I tried to help on both ends but what they really needed was therapy. So much damage had been done to their relationship. When visits started up again Carters nightmares got bad. He cried and begged me not to make him go. I told him if he didn’t want to go then he has to tell the woman supervising visits that. I wasn’t canceling and I think it was important for him to have a relationship with his mother. However, the visit didn’t go great. To top it off Mary had lied she never filled out the paperwork for the visits. So much time was lost. Carter’s behavior deteriorated and his therapist who had been seeing him regularly stopped all visits until therapeutic visits started. It’s been a year and a half and they still haven’t seen each other. In fact it got so bad even on the phone calls that communication was ended as well about 5 months later.

We moved to a one bedroom apartment. In July of 2019. Carter has the bedroom and I have a nice set up in the living room. It works perfect for us. It is home. We are very happy here. I look forward to the day I can buy a house but for now we are more than good.

Communication ending was not easy. Mary had called wellness checks on us and Carter was mad. To top it off Mary said she called because she thought he wasn’t safe. Carter was mad, and struggled to understand that his mom was sick. He still does. She promised him that she wouldn’t fight kinship guardianship because he wanted it so bad. I told him she would change her mind and that was okay. I was trying to prepare his heart, but I quickly learned I couldn’t prepare his heart well enough. She called a few weeks later and told Carter she had to fight it because she wanted him home. Carter said he needed to be somewhere he felt safe. She said you were safe with me. Carter said no I wasn’t. Mary said why not? Carter said because you abused me, and you left me alone, and you didn’t put me first. Mary called him a liar and some other choice words and so I ended the phone call. Carter had another horrible week and his therapist said no more phone calls until therapeutic visits were happening.

Mary started showing up at the place we lived. She got chased off by the cops and still came back. I filed for a restraining order. The temporary was granted but when we went to court the Judge said that if she doesn’t remember coming back to the apartment (even though we had evidence that she did come back) there was no intent to harass. In other words because she has mental illness she could have been delusional and therefore no intent to harass. I was granted the kinship guardianship. Just a little shy of our two years of the start of all this mess.

Carter has asked me to adopt him. He wants my last name, he wants to know he won’t have to go to foster care if something happens to me, and he just wants me to officially be his mom. We had a court date for December 2nd, 2021. But two days before the hearing (even though she had been served in plenty of time) she said she had Covid and couldn’t make the hearing. My lawyer explain to her that it was virtual. At which point she went down IN PERSON and filled to object to the adoption, and ask for a lawyer. It is now the end of January. She has counsel and we don’t have a new court date yet. Carter felt even more mad saying that his mom can’t figure out the paperwork to work on their relationship but she can figure out the paperwork to mess up the adoption.

God through it all. I’d be amiss if I didn’t say all the ways in which the church and God have helped us. The prayers through this whole process. People who helped us with getting our new place. I didn’t have much furniture, my bed wasn’t even my own. People helped furnish this entire thing. A good friend of mine set up a Amazon wish list. Everything we needed right down to our beds and bed frames were bought. I of course had some things but really so many people in our church family helped us, by being following Gods prompting. When Covid hit I was laid off. I was stressed about food and bills. It took weeks for unemployment to kick in. Fortunately, my church gave out gift cards for food every week. This helped us so much. Luckily, I was only laid off for 6 weeks. Another God moment. Carter wanted to get baptized and he did. Our pastor who is named Calvin really takes time to spend with Carter. Our youth pastor Jayden also is intentional with Carter. These who men in Carter’s life are strong Christian men, and I am grateful that they poor into him. There have been countless times where God has provided, from big to small things. Things like Carter getting to play soccer, and getting to go to the local school to me getting a raise and graduating college. He has been faithful through it all.

That brings you up to date. I will start blogging as things happen. Thanks for reading!