Sunday, December 23, 2007

Better and worse

We finally got to go visit Niblet at her aunt and uncle's house. The visit, although great, has left me reeling and I'm having a really hard time pulling it all together again.

The worse:
We got the specifics of the injuries her "parents" inflicted upon her that day. She was severely beaten. She has a diaper-area injury that still hasn't healed because she's still in diapers. Her aunt changes her uber-frequently, but the cut still opens up regularly. Based on a description of the injuries, an online friend of ours said that Niblet's mother (the one we all assume did the harm) should be sent to prison as a sex abuser and made to register when she's released. I can't say I disagree.

We also found out what poor Niblet has been enduring over the past year. There have been other bruises that we never saw. Her aunt saw them, and on one occasional called CPS, but nothing was done. She was basically starved. She weighed 18 lbs when she was in the hospital. She's 2.5 years old. She weighed exactly the same - 18 lbs - when she left us at 1.5 years old. They apparently sold her WIC checks - for drugs for the mom (and probably the dad, who knows) - and most days she was given a cup-o-ramen and that was it. This is a girl who was eating us out of house and home at 18 months old. Her mom was taking the dad's monthly check (social security?) and using it for herself.
We couldn't have known this. Almost everytime we picked her up, they were in the process of feeding her. Either shoving mac & cheese in her mouth, or she was sitting in front of the TV with a frozen dinner, or something. They must have been doing that on purpose.

And all the guilt I've felt for not calling CPS for the various little things we've seen, well, there's no point in that. Get this...the aunt said she saw hand-marks on Niblet's face, and choke marks on her neck, and she hotlined it. Called CPS about it. And NOTHING HAPPENED. WTF!? We have a foster child with random bruises on the outside of her leg, and we get pulled into a months-long ordeal...they obviously slap and choke their child and they get to keep her long enough to beat the f*ckin' crap out of her?? CPS is totally at fault for this child's injuries.

A year ago, when she left us, she was a happy, healthy, normal little girl. Now she's still the strong, smart, happy girl she was, but she has scars. She has eating/hoarding issues. She is seriously delayed in speech. She's already slated to get PT, OT and speech therapy. They can't even do psychological counseling because she's pre-verbal and we don't live anywhere fancy enough to have good shrinks who work with pre-verbal abuse survivors. Who knows what kinds of issues she's likely to have in the future?

To top it off, she now has the same case worker she had when she was with us. The one that sent her back to her father. The one who, initially, told us that we would adopt her, that she was going to convince the father to surrender, that she was going to TPR the parents. Then when the county changed it's mind - she changed her tune and never gave us the time of day from there on in. Now she's giving the same song and dance to the aunt. Granted, they have a better case against the father this time, and she might feel responsible in some way and actually give this little girl safe permanence, but I'm not holding my breath. What I do know is this - if they make motions towards sending her back to her father or mother, you're going to see this story on the evening news. That's our only recourse - shaming the county into doing the right thing - and we're going to use it.

Now the Better:
Niblet is wonderful. She is flourishing in a loving family. She was all smiles and Niblet-ness during our visit. We hadn't seen her in a long time, and not since she was hospitalized, so it was probably a little confusing for her to see us out of context and everything, but she was so happy. She sat on fostermama's lap and hugged her for a good 10 minutes, but then started playing with Squeak and let us show her how to open the presents we'd brought for her. Then she was running around, being silly, and basically being our little Niblet. It was so good to see. Her cousins are 8 and 11 years old and obviously love her. And she them. She didn't act scared around them like she did around her parents. Her aunt told us about some of her issues and how she's made sure to teach her that she can always eat as much as she wants and there's always more. She brought her to the supermarket and showed her that that's where food comes from and that they will always buy more.

She's teaching her not to be afraid. Not to hide. And helping her find her words. She'll copy a word if she's told to: "Niblet, say whale,"..."whaaale". It's cute. But she doesn't talk on her own. We're pretty sure that it's because she was trained by her parents not to express herself at all. She wasn't allowed to cry, to laugh, to be loud. So why would she have learned to speak for herself? It would have just gotten her in more trouble.

We're so thankful that Niblet is with this loving family. We are crossing all our fingers and toes, and praying to any gods we can think of, that she gets to stay there forever.

Now for the feel-good, holiday-ish part of the post:
During our visit, Niblet's aunt complained that the agency that was going to provide some christmas gifts for Niblet sent over 3 small, lame toys for her, and gave Niblet's *parents* a bunch of stuff for their new apartment - plates, towels, etc. The aunt and uncle live in a nice, but poor, part of town and have their 2 boys to shop for, as well, so while they do have some clothes and a couple of toys for her, they were feeling bad about it.
We have some clothes in her size that we were going to offer them, so we did and the aunt said they'd love them and that "every little bit helps". So we mentioned this to some family and friends who have known and loved Niblet since she came to us, and they are pulling a few toys and books out of their attics, or sending us a little cash to shop for her with, and we'll bring it all over to Niblet in the near future. It's not quite a Christmas Miracle, but I'm happy to be able to show Niblet and her new family just how large and extended their "Village" really is.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Niblet is safe and with family

Yesterday at court, a couple of people surprised us by doing their jobs.

The private agency social worker who was responsible for Niblet's parents' counseling last year has shown up and gotten involved, and she ironed out the differences between Dad and Aunt (aka Godmother) so that Dad would support Niblet going to Aunt. So it was even more clear, and that's what happened.

Also, the County lawyer brought up a subpoena for Niblet's medical records from when she was hospitalized 2 weeks ago, and a restraining order against each of her parents. For her father, so that his visits will be supervised until after his abuse trial. For her mother, so that she cannot see her at all until she's appeared in court.

It was a relief and a disappointment to know that we wouldn't be trying to get Niblet placed with us. We had changed our minds 2 nights before (in the middle of the night) and decided we would take her even temporarily. But we didn't want to deal with that if it wasn't necessary, and it's better that it's not.

We're hoping that Aunt will let us see her, and that maybe eventually Dad will surrender his parental rights to Aunt. Or at least let Niblet stay there indefinitely. With kinship foster care, the parent doesn't actually have to lose their rights at any point, it can just go on forever. At least that's my understanding.

So yay for Niblet. At least as yay as anything is for a kid tied up in the foster system.
We do feel like she's lucky. She has us, she has this social worker who was her father's counselor who clearly cares even if she doesn't agree with us about everything, and she has this aunt and uncle who are willing to take her in who seem like really good people.

It's not over yet, because her father could get her back and neglect her some more, or her maternal grandmother could somehow prevail in court and get her moved to her maternal aunt's custody in a far-away city (her birth siblings live there, but this aunt has turned Niblet down before and has only met her a few brief times). Those don't seem like the most likely outcomes, though, which is nice.

We are anxious to give Niblet hugs of our own, but we are happy to know she is getting all hugged up by people she knows and loves.