I used to live a relatively carefree life. It wasn't perfect, but it was my life. For the first 5 weeks of XXX's life, I spent every waking moment playing with her and holding her. I also used to love my job. Life has changed...drastically.
My everyday life has changed. I wake up at the crack of dawn with stomach pains and headaches. I get up, showered, and out the door. I'm at work by 7:30, so that I can get off work at 3:30. I then drive the 30 mile trip to my dad's house. That's where my day really begins. I get to love, cuddle, and parent my child until about 9pm, when it is time for her to go to bed. I am so thankful that my parents have given me the opportunity to make all parenting decisions. Now that she is eating solids, it is dinner time when I get there. I come in, make her dinner, feed her, cuddle her, and lay her down for a nap. After naptime, it is playtime (my favorite part of the day!) Then it is time for a bath and bed. I put her in bed, tell my dad goodbye, and drive 30 miles home. I get home around 9:30 or 10...and then I get ready for bed. On weekends, I get to dad's house by 8am and leave at 9 or 9:30 at night. So...in a given week...I drive 420 miles to see my daughter. I get about 24 miles to the gallon in my car, so that's 17.5 gallons of gas. At the current price of $3.65 a gallon...I spend $63.88 a week in gas to see my daughter. She has been gone for 23 weeks, so that's about $1,469.24 in gas alone! Although, I would spend every penny I have...if that meant seeing her beautiful smiling face!
My work life has changed. My career is in abuse prevention. More specifically, I travel to the schools in our county providing prevention education to kids. For the little kids, I teach child abuse prevention (mostly physical and sexual abuse). For 4-6 graders, I teach bully prevention. 7-high school get a healthy relationships program. In the 2009-2010 school year, I saw 3,289 kids. This year, I have seen none. Since my job is contingent on being able to pass a DCFS screening, I have not been able to work with kids while my case is being investigated. My agency has taken it a step further. I am not allowed to do prevention work with adults either. I can have zero client contact. On days I'm in my office, I am allowed to write program for other people...this is only 2 days a week. On all other days, I am forced to clean the agency offices. Last week, I did the following: Tuesday: clean the domestic violence shelter top to bottom...mostly scrubbed walls all day. Thursday: Continued scrubbing walls at the shelter...also did an inventory on all food items at shelter and hand sanatized every toy in the shelter. On Friday: I scrubbed the kitchen floor by hand for 3 hours trying to get all of the worn in dirt off the floor. I went to school for 7 years, so I wouldn't have a job as a maitenance person! What is more sad is the number of kids who are not receiving prevention education while I am sitting back. Last year, I averaged about 5 discolsures of abuse each week. The kids who would have likely disclosed abuse to me...for me to help them...now have nobody to turn to. How is this protecting kids? If my case is ultimately indicated, I will lose my career forever. That's 7 years of school down the drain. I can't even get a job doing anything else in public health (that's what my master's degree is in), because I can no longer work with kids.
My personal life has also been greatly affected. I haven't spent time with friends in 5 months! Every spare moment is spent at my father's house iwth my baby. I still have friends and family who have not even met my baby!!! I can't take her on play dates. I can't pick her up and take her shopping. I can't do any of the "normal" things that parents do with there kids. My dad has been great at going with me places, but I don't want to push him too hard, either. I feel bad asking him to take us somehwere. I also have not slept in my own bed in over 5 months. Going home to an empty apartment is sad. It breaks my heart to see an empty crib. I have moved in with my mom for the time being. I don't want to live in my apartment without my daughter. I have been paying rent for a home I don't even live in. To date, I have spent over $3,000 on rent and utlities for a home I don't live in.
Even when XXX is home, I will forever be looking over my shoulder. I was a clutz growing up. By the time I graduated high school, I had already suffered 2 broken bones and had stitches like 7 times. Do I need to worry if XXX follows my footsteps? WHo is going to call DCFS on me, then? Kids fall...they get bumps and bruises. I'll be afraid for anyone to see the bruises on my daughter.
My entire life is also under scrutinty. All of my medical records (past, present, and future) are not subpeonable. I have a case worker that I meet with on a regular basis. I have a court appointed special advocate that comes to observe me with XXX. I have experienced 2 psychological evaluations. The second one lasted for 7 freaking hours. Both went very well, by the way...with the psychologist recommending immediate reunification. How much more will be taken from me?
Since my court appointed attorney didn't do jack squat, I was forced to hire an attorney. I've already spent $2,500 on legal fees. How much higher will it go? I can thank some pretty amazing ladies over on WTE who have helped with this! (I HEART you all so much!)
Someday...this nightmare will be over. Changes will be made to our child welfare system. Second opinions will be mandated...there will be "XXX's Law." More on that later!