Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A House, a Home?

My mom and I have moved into a new house in the city I was trying to escape even a couple months ago. It was not an easy decision to remain in Michigan when I really wanted to move to another state entirely; I still want to. But as I said in previous posts, this move is not for me. This move, this house, this moment in time is for my niece and her sisters. It is for my family. As most things in my life are...this is for someone else.

The house is a little oasis, and I thank God for how we found it. It has been a tight season financially; acquiring the lease, paying the appropriate people, and securing help to transfer our belongings to the house has been a challenge. But every time I want to cry about the money that has evaporated from my income or the desires I had to do my own thing having to take a back seat to other more pressing issues, I think about my family and how I am truly sowing seeds toward my own marriage and kids one day.

I am already planning for dinner parties and ladies' nights at our house with my friends. I look forward to meals shared and guests visiting. I am excited about celebrating birthdays and my niece having friends over for the weekend. The house is so much bigger than the other places we have lived together and separately. And the truth is I fell in love with it at first sight because I knew it would be the right place to care for my family and friends. It would be the right place for us...for now...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

This morning when I came into work our principal made an announcement that it was okay to turn on CNN so the kids could watch the inauguration festivities, so they could be a part in a very small way of this historic day in American history. I do not remember in my early years of education of seeing something so profound playing across my classroom television screens, except perhaps the viewing of the Challenger explosion.

But for this predominantly African-American high school, this is not a sad occasion. This is an exciting moment for the students here. And for me as well. Tears are building in my eyes as I look at the sheer numbers of people blanketing the memorial mall area in DC.

My aunt, my mother's sister Pamela, is there this morning. She received a ticket from someone she knew and was able to take time off from work to travel to Washington DC for this event. Then my mom's best friend's sister Bev hooked her up with a hotel room available until Thursday when there were no rooms available anywhere. At any case, she helped my aunt out, and now I am living vicariously through her.

I told my mom to tell her that she is an ambassador for our family, a representative of my grandparents' lineage, standing in proxy for them - though I know they are watching from heaven. She will be standing in DC watching this amazing moment for us all. I am planning to call her later so she can tell me what it felt like to be there. I wish I could have gone with her, but this was not my opportunity.

One day, I am making the vow to myself to take my nieces and nephews to DC while Barack Obama is in the White House. I wish they could meet our new president but even if they can't I want them to know that this is their generation's time to stand up and make a difference in this world. They have an obligation to do just that in their lifetimes. I expect nothing less from them. This is their day; this is our time. Change is indeed here...TODAY...RIGHT NOW...for us all.

Happy inauguration day, everyone!

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Conspiracy Against Fathers: The Foster Care System

In my research and study in anticipation of my niece's court hearing my family will be attending a month from today, I have run across several articles and research studies that deal with the foster care system and the ignoring of father's rights. In the beginning of this whole ordeal, I really was trying to find some sort of loophole, some way of saying that my brother's rights had been trodded upon in support of the mother's rights and the foster care system's ideological foundations.

I didn't have to look very far. I happened upon a research study online entitled "What About the Dads? Child Welfare Agencies' Efforts to Identify, Locate, and Involve Nonresident Fathers." This study took place in 2004 and ended in 2005, with findings compiled in 2006 and updated in 2008. What appeared to be a fluke in my family's situation turned out to be a regular occurrence in the lives of fathers that were left out of the decision to place their children in the homes of complete strangers. Not only that but paternal families, like ours, have not been considered for placement for various unfounded reasons.

The fact that a study had to be administered in four states because of the wide number of complaints and the vast number of children in the system verifies what I felt all along. The government, the very one I work for and pay taxes to, has perpetuated the fatherlessness that is prevalent in our inner cities and in our communities by not including fathers that do indeed deserve to have a say in what happens to their children. The breakdown of the family lies within the laws that this country has instituted. I truly hope that President Obama will begin the process of reconsidering how the laws are written concerning the foster care system and father's rights.

My mother received a letter last week from Child Protective Services (a few weeks after calling a complaint in to the CPS Program Manager overseeing the worker that botched my niece's case). The letter stated in regards to my brother: "Typically, we do contact the legal father as well, and apologize for not seeking your assistance in this matter at the time of removal."

In other words, CPS admitted to not trying to locate my brother when his daughter was placed in foster care. They did not, however, admit that she should never have been removed from our care in the first place when prior incidents dictated that my niece reside in the care of my family. The worker had my mother's phone number as well as my brother's last known address but did not attempt to contact. This was totally illegal in my eyes. It would have been different if we had never been involved or my niece's paternal family was unknown. But we have been in her life since we learned of her existence.

In terms of this case, Child Protective Services has a real problem. The violation of my brother's paternal rights will be brought up in court and a grievance will be filed against CPS and the placement agency that handled the housing of the girls. Once my niece and her sisters are placed (hopefully with my family), a lawsuit is pending.

The book I wrote "Father to the Fatherless" touches on some of the beliefs I have about single parenting and the absence of fathers in the lives of children. (If you get a chance, please read the chapters I have posted on my other blog.) But now, as I start to conduct this research (not only to help my family, but others as well) I am beginning to see the correlation between the government and the demolition of the family unit. More often than not, fathers that can and rightfully should be considered for first placement when their children are removed from the mothers' care and extended families for an alternative placement are not considered at all. Children are separated from their families and placed with strangers to increase the amount of governmental funding states receive for the foster care system.

The reason? Most biological families are not foster care licensed.

Now unlike in other years, biological families have to become licensed in order to care for children and teens that are wards of the court. But this is not widely publicized, and I can tell you, in my family's case, we were not notified of this amendment either by CPS or the placement agency. We learned this from a lawyer we consulted about actions we should take to fight for custody should the mother lose her rights. This rule came into effect the latter part of 2008, and it is my mission to make sure families know that this is what is happening now. Biological families must be licensed before children can enter their care. Basically, if families do not attain licensing children can be placed wherever the agencies see fit.

This is what happened in my niece's case.

My mother and I are going to be licensed for foster care by the end of February and are preparing to attend the training sessions the end of this month. My brother is working to find employment and to get established in order to take custody of his daughter, though it may take a while. This is why we are fighting alongside him. So we are truly doing our homework. But my question, as I raised before, is the same:

How many families are losing their children; how many fathers' rights are being ignored? How many children are being placed in the homes of strangers (as in the case of my niece and her sisters) needlessly?

I do believe there is a book in this as well. As I am fasting and praying during this time and beginning some new writing projects, I am certainly seeing that this issue needs to be brought to the forefront - not only on the written page but in the public view. Stay tuned for more because there will be more.

This is much bigger than what is going on with my niece, her sisters, my brother, and our family. This is clearly an epidemic. Satan has long attacked our families, and his strategies are being uncovered. As I said in my last post, I am studying spiritual warfare because truthfully my family is on the frontlines. As the weeks go on, I will make sure that you are kept up to date not only with the concrete findings I uncover as I fight for my family. I will also include some Scriptural findings that may help you engage in warfare for your families as well.

We must fight back against the systems of this world and against the kingdom of darkness which at times work hand-in-hand. I am not saying that Child Protective Services and the foster care system should not be instituted for the protection of children. I just believe that a total overhaul is needed because it has become more about the protection of a money-making system and less about the children and the healing/reunification of families.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Season of Seeking

I am starting out this year as I do every new year: with fasting and prayer to get my heart focused on what this particular one should mean and the direction I should go as I enter into a new season. Typically most Christians fast during the season of Advent (the season of waiting) but the church I have been attending these past 11 years has always called for a 21-day Daniel fast (see the book of Daniel in the Old Testament - a fast of only fruits and veggies, water and 100% juices) every January. It usually starts the day after New Year's and ends just before the end of the month. Some years we have even gone as long as 40 days - ending in February.

This year I am abstaining and consecrating, redirecting my thoughts and my behavior to make room for God in the busyness of my life - and boy, did it start getting way too busy! There is so much that I need to do to give Him the throne of my life, so this is how I begin to do that.

These are my prayer requests for those of you that are willing to pray with me during this time:

(1) The custody of my niece and her sisters
(2) The opening of my life to the possibility of being an adoptive mother to a 4 year old and 1 year old before I even get married, before I even have my own children (that I will be a good mother to them if that is what God desires for me)
(3) The publication of "Father to the Fatherless" and "We Run From Ourselves"
(4) Enrolling in graduate school for a Master's in Youth Ministry
(5) Marriage
(6) A deeper spiritual walk
(7) A new church home more conducive to where I believe God is leading me at this time in my life

There are other more general requests but these are the ones that deal exclusively with me and my path for this season. Of course, I hope you are praying as I am about the state of our nation and the lives of the hurting, the poor, the disenfranchised, and the broken. That is what we all must do to fulfill the mandate of God in this world.

I am also beginning a study on spiritual warfare and the strategies of war as highlighted in the battles written about in the Old Testament. This has been on my mind for quite some time, and perhaps I will get into this in more detail later. During this time of the year I like to center my heart and mind on the things of God - a good way to start out any year. I need to hear His voice before I begin afresh.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Let Me Add Mine to the Plans for 2009

I got the following quotes from The Dude Abides (blog on my list below):

"We have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world." - Jill Bolte Taylor "My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey"

"Lord, protect my family and me. Forgive my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will." - Barack Obama's prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

I have decided to use these quotes in this first post of the 2009 New Year. There are so many ways to state and restate what these two have so eloquently said. But the truth is, I affirm what they mean in my own life.

I do believe in resolutions but not for the same reasons that others may make them. A resolution for me is an affirmation of faith, of what we already know to be true that needs to be manifested into reality, of what we have heard God whisper deep in our spirits that we must stand upon as a testament that our lives must be lived on purpose and with purpose in mind. So my resolution for this year is to live as lovingly, honestly, and forgivingly as I can. I resolve before God and man to be the woman God intends for me to be and to make an impact in this earth as only I can.

About three weeks ago, I taught the second installment of Write Outloud at the school where I work. And the one truth I wanted the young poets under my charge for those 90 minutes to get was that they all have a voice, they all have passion, and they all have purpose. I wanted them to understand that their words are powerful weapons. And this year, I resolve not only to help young people use their individual voices but also to use my own in a more public, open format.

I know that one if not all my books will be published this year, and to be a public writer in contrast to a closet writer is a very great responsiblity so I must do my very best to tell the truth God deems I tell. I must not take lightly the blessings sure to come my way this year, just like I must learn the lessons God wills for me to learn through the hard seasons that may come as well. And both will come. That is what life is about.

I resolve to embrace God and my destiny with much more sincerity and focus this year. I resolve not to turn down an opportunity to live in freedom and truth just because those opportunities may have never been done before. I owe that to my God and to this world. To do anything less would be a sacrilege.

What about you?