"They're going to move Maxim. They are putting him in Methodist Children's Home in Detroit. He's to be ready at ten o'clock on Monday."
All I could think was - I can't let this happen to him!
As any reader of this blog knows, Maxim is a challenge. Maxim is not precisely a ray of sunlight in our home...but I have committed myself to helping him. I have vowed to protect him.
And this is a boy who is terrified of abandonment, distraught if I am even a few minutes late picking him up from school. How could they think of doing this to him? I was overwhelmed with the need to stop it somehow. I knew I couldn't call from work, I was beyond upset....so I wildly asked my assistants to take care of the catechist who was on her way to see me, and I raced home, hardly knowing how I got there.
History: Maxim has had five "primary" caseworkers in the county where he was originally placed in state care. The first one, despite the fact that she was by law required to see him in person monthly, didn't lay eye on him for over a year - even though for much of that time he was right there in her county. The day she did see him in person - at a meeting with a number of people present, including her supervisor - she pretended to know him. I was disgusted, frankly, at her attempt to act as though the two of them had some little joke together. I wasn't previously enamored of her, frankly. She had taken a superior tone with me from the beginning, responding to innocent questions with orders, stated as though I were deliberately trying to be difficult or obstinant. But,then, she disappeared somewhere.
The next three caseworkers were merely names. I did not get to talk to them, e-mail them or ever communicate with them. They were not "active" and I was glad enough. My experience with #1 had been sufficient. Fortunately our local "courtesy" caseworkers were nice ladies. They "saw" Maxim once a month as required. That was about it.
But late last summer, a new caseworker (L) from the distant county gave us a call. She was unlike the others! The first thing she did was call and say she was driving to Lansing to meet Maxim. Well! That seemed unnecessary to me, but nice. The local caseworker heard of this and just looked confused and couldn't see why that was necessary. When L. arrived, we could immediately see she was a young woman, full of energy; she appeared to be nice, but from the beginning of the conversation it was so odd! "Would you like to write an order to have him removed?" The first time I think we both ignored this non-sequiter. But three more times she asked - "So would you like to sign an order to have him placed in a different home?" Why was she pressing this? I tried to explain that, we might like to find a different home for Maxim sometime in the future, and he had told us he preferred a home where he'd be the only child - but it was important to us all that he stay near his friends, his support system and his school (where we've paid hefty tuition all this while!). That's the way we left it, but we thought her approach was really odd.
So, she apparently was stuck on the idea. Removing him. Why is this her main idea? I still don't know. I've even wondered if she could be getting some sort of kick-back from the residential treatment center? But, no. That makes no sense. They have a hard time finding spots for kids. None of it mades any sense to me.
But, here was this hanging over us. How could I let this happen to him? How could I let him be taken from his cozy home and a school where everyone loves him to a residential treatment center? He is very adaptable....and I certainly didn't want him to adapt to that setting! That's why we'd worked so hard and sacrificed so much to keep him in this safe and positive environment. And to have it all destroyed so suddenly!
My mind was going round and round. At first I'd think of things like school, friends, classes! Then, I'd get a vision of his hugging Rosie, or putting his special Christmas ornament on the tree - and it would all seem even worse. Unbearable. I've never felt so helpless.
That afternoon was hellish. I couldn't reach anyone for several hours. I now understand the idea of "rending one's clothes" because I actually had the impulse to do that. (Craig said I actually did it.) My energy had no where to go. Finally, I reached L on the phone - with voice trembling and tears falling I asked her what her thinking was, begged in every way I knew how for her to reconsider. She kept talking about "safety" and so forth. For heaven's sake! She spoke as though his thrusting a bunch of papers into my face was a full-out attack!
Would we be able to get him back? See him? She didn't know (didn't sound like she cared.) She hung up.
Why I didn't think of it earlier, I don't know, but finally I remembered CASA. Court Ordered Special Advocate. When the judge at Maxim's name-change assigned him a CASA worker it seemed really unnecessary to me. Now it seemed providential. But I couldn't reach them!
I left wild messages on his advocate's phone, and on that of her boss.....
Meanwhile the weekend loomed. I had to go pick up Maxim from school! What would I say? I did pick him up. How miserable could anything be? I wanted to be strong and matter-of-fact - assure him....I'd stick with him no matter what. But, I took one look at him and started crying. Actually, that was good. He listened to me with a softer heart.
And, blessedly, he really didn't understand his danger. He took something of it in....but I think (as children will) he really had faith in us to protect him. So he comforted me. And we processed through the weekend with this ominous thing hanging over us. On Sunday afternoon as we were delivering the papers, Maxim said, "Can you help me finish my paper for religion after this?" My breath was taken away. "Maxim! You may not even be at that school any longer, honey - you don't need to do the homework." Perhaps at that moment he understood a little more. But it was also then that I decided that they'd have to fight me for him. We were NOT going to have him packed and ready the next morning!
On Monday, I took Maxim to school like usual....but told him to be prepared....if someone came to get him, behave. Be good. We'd be doing what we could to get him back. Meanwhile, Craig was on the phone. And between Craig and the CASA workers, we stopped it.
I'd thought that L, herself, would be coming to get him in her car....so she could talk to him, explain things, counsel him. Little did I know that they were actually sending a big, strong security person to take him there - like a prisoner. No. No counseling. No comforting was planned.
But....we headed it off. I called school and had him come to the office so I could tell him everything was OK.
We still wonder what that was about. Craig had hoped to get some advice, some support. Perhaps some referral to anger management. Somethinge helpful! But, oddly, "helpful" is not really in their vocabulary.
I managed, on my own - to locate family counseling. And I pushed and shoved, and used the help of the CASA workers to get us approval and financing.
However....stressful and emotionally taxing as all this was....more was to come. And, from an unexpected direction.