Thursday, July 16, 2009

One Tough Little Girl

Last week flustered me. I had been bumping along, writing my blog, with a few readers every day. I am not very good about self promotion and getting myself on other blogs. But I was happy, putting my thoughts out there. And then AD connected, and WHAM!

Funny. Years ago, I was a newspaper reporter for a large metropolitan newspaper. I remember being excited the first time I had a banner on the front page, but it happened fairly often thereafter so I got used to it. But it has been a few decades. and I was flummoxed.

What do I write now? I thought. I don't usually write about my work as a caseworker for Child Protective Services. And I won't write often again. But last weekend, I told my son and a friend one of my stories I hadn't told before, and they liked it. So I will try to recount. This is bitter-sweet.It has some satisfaction for those of us who take satisfaction in consequences. And some hope.

Long after the investigation, long after the official stuff had been done, I was assigned a sibling group that had been brutally raped while well under five years old.This story deals with the oldest girl, whom I will call Jody, because that is to me a strong name. And she was strong. She had been completely penetrated when less than 3 years old. She had been isolated from her siblings, as they were from her, by the threat they would be killed if they told. They all went to family who were unusually well equipped to deal with the trauma, being foster parents for a private agency in far South Texas. Bureaucracy being fiscally conservative, I went down every three months to spend a day with these kids and talk to the aunt and uncle.

When Jody was six, she began to misbehave and become increasingly disruptive and violent. The foster parents asked me to move her; they could no longer manage.
So, knowing the abusive past and the extent of her trauma, I was able to pick her up and move her to a therapeutic treatment center for young kids. As I say, she was six. I left her hiding under her bed.

Later on, her sibs joined her at the same treatment center. They weren't housed together. They couldn't be. They were too damaged. They were in separte group settings. They could go to school and perform well. All were bright. But Jody, well, she shone. She touched people both with her personality and her intelligence.

I continued to spend a day every three months. You wouldn't think it would matter, would you? But I was continuity as the years went by. I showed up when I said I would. I gave them my day, and we talked. We walked down the street to a wonderful toy store called "Toy Joy"-doubt if it is still there. It had cheap to expensive educational toys that were wonderful. I sent cards and called between visits, but still. They weren't used to much continuity. They relished my visits.

This was early to mid-90's. The kids had been in foster care for years by then. State legislation came up to define "unconstructed abandonment", when parents don't visit, do services, OR relinquish their rights. The state legislature decided such children should not languish in foster care because their parents would do nothing. In this case, it was mom's boyfriend that abused. She said she didn't know about it. Divorced father was passive. The kids were spending year after year in foster care. The state said we could terminate rights and offer the kids for adoption. (As it turned out, both relinquished voluntarily.) Later, I tried to talk to the kids about possible adoption

Jody, ever the pragmatist, asked,"How much do they have to pay for us?"

I thought about the voluntary expenditure adoptive parents paid then, about $5,000 in legal fees which they took on and the state didn't pay, and I told her, "Nothing." Because, in my mind, children aren't bought. I thought the money spent to adopt was noble.

Her face went white and her freckles stood out.

"You mean we're worthless?" she asked.

I spent a very busy hour then. I don't know if I made much sense to them. I just knew I had taken a hit on seeing life from her world.

When she was 9, Jody was at last asked to testify against her abuser.

All those years. all those years.

Well, some kids block out the memories. Jody hadn't.

She not only was able to remember what had happened when she was little more than a toddler, she was able to draw a floor plan of the house, of who slept where and whether on the floor or in a bed. Her memory was phenomenal.

She was determined to testify, although terrified. She was positive she would be killed. And she was determined to go through it anyway. Her abuser had promised he would kill her if she told She had been under 4 when he told her that. She still believed it, and she was determined to testify.

The day before, the assistant DA and I gave her a tour of the courtroom, told her what would happen, showed her the witness booth. We gave her a teddy bear to hold. We introduced her to the bailiff, with his holstered weapon. The judge had decreed she had to testify in the same room with her abuser. We told her over and over we would take care of her, that she would not be harmed. She was determined to try. And she remained convinced that he would kill her. She was only 9 years old, and she was going to risk her life to testify.

Remembering that hurts.

The next morning, a half hour before court, the defendent caved, pled and threw himself on the mercy of the court. No jury. Jody didn't have to testify. The judge sent down one of her staff to interview her on what she wanted. I wasn't allowed to be in the room. But I heard her scream, " Kill him! kill him! kill him!"

I sent her home with many hugs.

Two weeks later, a friend in law enforcement told me with a chuckle, " Well, you know the judge has a bit of a Southern drawl (she did). And when he was being booked, that is when he found out she hadn't said 4 to 5 years."

I called Jody, and told her that a new Texas law meant her abuser couldn't get out of a 45-year sentence for at least 15 years. All excited, she said,
"Charlotte! We'll be in our careers by then!"

Soon after, I transferred counties and Jody got a new caseworker.

Years later, CPS made it against regulations to check in and follow an old case, but before that happened, I found Jody was adopted. I hope it worked well. She had so much going for her. Pain or not, I pray for a good life. I pray, and I will never know. But I hope.


Ambulance Driver said...

Another good one. I hope she's having a good life, too.

The Bus Driver said...

As a School Bus Driver and CASA volunteer. Thank You!

charlotte g said...

Bus Drover: Lord, you are busy! don't see how you have time to have a bus. Thanks.

charlotte g said...

AD, with the Texas conections, I hope to meet you SUMTIME. Meanwhile, I love to read you allatime (except when you go into the guns and my eyes xeozz--Matt G would understand. I do the same to him.)

Bus Driver, you have so many blogs, I don't lnow where to start,and thank you. CASA often makes it work.