Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Heartfelt Concern

I have been debating about whether I wanted to blog on a certain dilemma that is going on in my family for the last month because there are a lot of legal ramifications surrounding it and also because I didn't want to reveal too much personal information about my baby girl. So, I decided not to disclose too much of the story except to give some meat to the topic so you can understand where I am coming from.

My 16 year old niece is the love of my life, along with my three other heartbeats (as I talked about in an earlier post). Our relationship has had its share of ups and downs, but I have always fought to remain in her life. You see, my brother and her mother were never in a real relationship and her conception was not planned (to say the very least). But I believe that her existence on this earth was no accident, and she was a thought in the heart of God long before she made her debut.

Long story short, she was raised in her mother's household but my mom and I have always tried to provide a second place of respite, a second home for her - so much so that when she was having trouble at home, my mom got guardianship of her last year. For nine months we were in and out of court, fighting against sending her back to her mom because of the drug abuse, domestic violence, and alcoholism taking place in her mom's home. The judge agreed with us and we kept her as long as we could. But then, a CPS worker in the county where her mother lives recommended that the guardianship be terminated and my niece be returned home, although every other authority figure involved felt that it would be a huge mistake.

It was.

My niece and her two sisters were placed in foster care three months after my mom's guardianship was terminated by recommendation of the CPS Worker. They were taken from her mother because of the same reasons we had raised in court - her mother;s lifestyle and her mother giving my niece controlled substances. The CPS Worker that removed my niece from my mom's care was the same one that removed her from her mother's and placed her into foster care. He never informed us of this and we found out four months after the fact that my niece was no longer in her mother's home. We had tried to maintain contact with her, but her mother had intercepted us each time and by the time this took place, we were almost too late. My niece got in touch with us after being bounced from one foster home to the next.

Now, despite the pleas for her return to our care and our interactions with case workers and CPS workers and supervisors, my niece and her sisters still remain in foster care, in the home of strangers. There is more to the story that I cannot get into right now, but one issue that keeps coming up is that we, my niece's extended family, has no rights, and in fact, my brother, who is also demanding for the return of his daughter is being ignored by the foster care system.

It makes me wonder how many other fathers and how many other families are losing or have lost children to the system that really wanted to retain custody of those children. Of course every story is different, but the jist of it is this: the system that is supposed to be all about protecting children and also the reunification of families can also be guilty of destroying families. We were told that my niece's mother picked where her children would be placed with no regard to my brother's rights or the rights of the other fathers/family members that wanted their children with family. And this was okay and permissible.

I have realized that there are many levels of institutional racism and paternal discrimination that are at play in my niece's situation. I do not like to play the "race card" as they say, but it is very obvious that race has probably played a factor in the disregard for my niece's placement. Her mother and the family chosen to house my niece and her sisters are Caucasian. The authority figures deciding if we can even have contact with her (which we have not been allowed to, for no apparent reason) are Caucasian. And my brother unfortunately has played the role of the Black deadbeat father in the past making it easy for decisions to be made without a say-so from him or us, but at this point he is stepping up to rescue his child because his rights may be terminated too if he does not.

Tomorrow we are meeting with a lawyer and also going to a meeting between my brother and the Case Worker assigned to my niece's placement. He does not want his daughter staying with the family her mother chose because there have been many lies told and attempts by this family to keep his daughter from visits and phone calls with him. He wants her to be returned to our family's care. I believe things will be changed. But all of this raised a lot of questions in my mind about the role of the foster care system in destroying families, instead of protecting children.

I have some questions for anyone that reads this post.

How many of you know of children or teens that were placed in the foster care system, in the homes of strangers or unrelated families, when their biological families were readily available to take them?

We were told that my niece and her sisters were placed together, even though they all have different fathers and families that wanted to take them. There is a federal law on the books that CPS has to abide by that states in brief that children should be placed together, even if it means they are placed in the homes of complete strangers and not with family members who want them (if they have to be separated amongst family members). As in the case of my niece and her sisters, children who have different fathers may have to live with complete strangers just to keep them together, and those biological families may risk losing them altogether.

That is the place where we are, and we are fighting with everything within us to keep my baby from rotating through the system. I know so many children that have been in foster care and have not been allowed to see family (family that should have the right to love those children and be in their lives).

There are many stories about children taken from their parents that had families whom wanted to work together to keep the children, perhaps in different houses but still maintaining contact with their siblings. But CPS would not allow that because the children were not physically living in the same house and ended up putting the children in foster homes. There are very few foster homes that can house three or more children and inevitably children are separated anyway - most of the time with foster families and not with biological relatives. What sense does that make?

If you have experienced the loss of children to the system or know of any families that were not granted custody of those children due to the laws that are on the books that dictate that fathers rights may be disregarded for the good of a flawed system, please let me know. I am very concerned that there are:
(1) children that should be with their families but have been placed in foster homes unnecessarily;
(2) fathers rights are being overlooked, disregarded, or trampled on when children are taken from their mothers;
and (3) racism is affecting the placement of children in the foster care system.

My family is prepared to fight for my niece to the fullest extent of the law, and most likely, she will be returned to my family once her mother's rights are completely terminated in February. But truly, children should never be placed in the homes of strangers over the homes of family members simply to fulfill unrealistic laws established by the federal government at all. I know that this law was written with the best of intentions but no law should override what would be in the best interest of children.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Brilliant Idea!!!!

Okay...I was blog-browsing via my girl FullComplexity's blog and I realized what I have been missing all along. Another fellow blogger has a blog solely focused on a book she is writing in the blogosphere. So my new idea is just that: I am going to start two new blogs - one for my novel and the other for my memoir. Please check them out and let me know what you think. I love to write and it really isn't as important to publish as it is to build an audience. So please help me out and let me know what you think...

Myowneworlddestiny will remain the same as always...stay tuned...

Nice to Be Noticed

I was named an Honest Blogger (really?) by FullComplexity. I love that. So I am to name at least 7 bloggers in return that I think are honest as well.

You can link them below but I will highlight the ones I think you should look at:
Shauna Niequist
One Good Reason...
Jonalyn Grace Fincher

I got this from a blog I was reading today and decided to copy it.

10 Things you wish you could say to ten different people

1. Take care of your kids so I can focus on having my own.
2. Don't try to manipulate me because I used to be stupid enough to let you.
3. If only you weren't married. Actually thank God you are.
4. I love you more than life itself.
5. I am NOT the token black girl; I am the token CHURCH girl.
6. NOW you want me. TOO LATE!!!!
7. I don't care if you don't like me. I certainly won't cry over that.
8. At the rate you are going, you will never be Father of the Year.
9. Can you hurry it up?
10. You need to go on "What Not To Wear" yesterday.

9 Things about yourself

1. I give up my life for other people quite often and sometimes I get sick of doing that.
2. I love my short hair.
3. I wish I was married.
4. I miss my dad.
5. I love to cook new things - especially from scratch.
6. I hate being looked at like I am a piece of meat.
7. I wish I could write and do art full time.
8. I love being with my friends and family.
9. I do not think all men suck. Just the ones I somehow ended up dating...

8 Ways to win my heart

1. Love God and family like life depends on it.
2. Be present; be there.
2. Focus on building a real relationship with me and not just try to get in my panties.
3. Make me laugh until my stomach hurts and I can't breathe.
4. Listen to me.
5. Talk to me about the things that matter to you.
6. True, legitimate, lucrative employment
7. A sense of humor
8. Strong sense of family

7 Things that cross my mind a lot

1. God
2. Writing
3. Marriage
4. My future
5. My career
6. My family
7. Change

6 Things I do before I go to sleep

1. Brush my teeth and wash my face.
2. Kiss my mom
3. Drink some water
4. Pray
5. Go to the bathroom
6. Take off my nightgown and slide under the covers

5 People I couldn't live without

1. My mom
2. Erika
3. Shalantae
4. Davon
5. Anthony

4 Things I am wearing right now

1. My night gown
2. ?
3. ?
4. ?

3 Songs that fit my life perfectly

1. Get Up - Mary Mary (I think that's what it's called)
2. Play Your Cards Right - Keyshia Cole
3. Beautiful - Musiq Soulchild

2 Things I want to do before I die

1. Get married and have a family
2. Travel to a foreign country (Italy or Sierra Leone)

1 Confession

I think I am beautiful. I didn't always believe that. I also believe that I matter. Didn't always believe that either.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My First Babies Are Growing Up

I blog alot about my friends babies and put pics up of the adorable bundles of joy quite often. But many moons ago, there were four other babies that had my heart all wrapped up in their little fists.

I have four nieces and nephews (and a great nephew) that have always been the lights of my life. They were my babies then and they still are now - although they are approaching adulthood pretty quickly.

The youngest one turned 12 yesterday, and my heart skipped a beat. They are all pretty much teenagers and are no longer the little children they once were, growing up so fast. Two are in high school and the last two are in middle school, beginning to expand in the knowledge of good and evil (just kidding).

They have already seen a lot and experienced a lot in their lives. Sometimes I worry about them more than I probably should but as I always say I want them to make it to adulthood (out of high school) in one piece (in one peace). It is difficult to watch them suffer because of parent issues and family turmoil, but I know it is all for their making. They will be great adults if they overcome the issues life will throw at them.

More than anything, I want to be a good aunt to them, even as they become adults. I want them to know that I care very deeply about their futures. I pray that they will be the people I know they can be, that they already are.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Family's Nonexistent Christmas Dinner

My family used to be really close. Every Holiday Season we made our plans to connect at my grandma's house for dinner and to open presents. I looked forward to seeing my cousins, my uncle, my aunts, and my nieces and nephews along with my mom and brother at the home of the woman we adored more than life itself. We would enjoy the delicious turkey, dressing, greens, mac-n-cheese, and other sides. I would secretly hope I had enough room for one of the desserts waiting on my grandma's kitchen counters for someone to dive in. There would be laughter and story-telling and football on television that was barely watched but became the background music to our festivities. And most of all there would be the unity that God shines on in every family.

But now...

Since my grandma's departure from this life and our world three years ago, things haven't been the same. To be honest, we haven't had a real Christmas since she went home to be with the Lord. The Holidays are so hard now because all I can do is think of what used to be and also how lonely I am. I miss being surrounded by my family. I miss the beauty of seeing my grandma's eyes sparkle when she watched her grandchildren and great-grands open presents, sitting around her feet. I miss my uncle's awesome stories and the way my stomach would hurt after laughing so much. I miss snuggling with my mom's older sister and talking about everything under the sun with my mom's younger sister.

Christmas is not the same for so many reasons. And there is this sense that I am nostalgic for a new tradition; I want a husband and children to build a new family tradition with. I even want in-laws to spend the Christmas season with like so many of my friends (have to) do. But for now, I am in a position of waiting for something to change. This is the season of advent and I think that in this time of waiting and reflecting I am truly waiting for love to surface in my life. I want a family more than any gift I could ever be given. That is what I desire, deep down, but I don't really say anything about it when people ask me what I want for Christmas or what I am getting for Christmas. I rarely get gifts anyhow and truly don't care about material stuff (though I would like an iPod).

Christmas used to be a wonderful time for gathering together for my family. I wish more than anything that I could still relish in the light of my family's presence. We all go our separate ways during the Holidays now because it is too hard to celebrate without my grandma. This year will be no different. We won't see each other, though we will call each other on the phone. I may cook but not the extravagant feast like we used to eat. My mom and I will spend the Holidays together without a tree or lights or wreaths decorating our surroundings. There will only be one present - a new place to call home. We are moving to a new house the weekend after Christmas.

But I really wish there was a family filling that home with all the good things that made the Holidays what they were before. I hate to sound so depressing but this is where I am at right now. Every year, as lame as it sounds, I tell myself this will be the last year I will celebrate the birth of Christ without a man in my life, a family to love, a place to belong. But this year, my prayer is still waiting to be answered and I am sad.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More Baby Pics and a Hair Cut

I decided to do a relatively smaller post today. What's most important are the pics. I am once again in love with babies. In two of the pics I am holding my friends Laneisha and Richie's new baby. I wrote about her when she made her debut seven weeks ago. Now she is definitely growing into the queen of many hearts. The third pic is of my little prince Josiah, who is seven months now. I think this pic is absolutely gorgeous. I still haven't met him yet but during my Christmas Break from work at the end of this month, I am hoping to see him and be introduced to his highness...

And as you can probably tell from the picture with me and Queen Zariyah, I cut my hair a little more. I knew it was going to happen. I really did try to grow my hair out but it just didn't look right, so I went back to my comfort zone. Sorry to all those men that think women should have hair down to their behinds; that will never be me. Love me or leave me; take it or leave it. I think I look good with short hair. What do you think?