Camaro and Luna were actually the second and third of 4 children that their biological mother had given birth to, and the first and second of 3 children belonging to their biological father. Marie had first been reported to Child Protective Services when her first child, a daughter, was about 6 months old and was found to be covered with bruises. When reported and brought in for medical evaluation, it was found that the child had developed Leukemia. It was quickly determined that Marie and her partner were not capable of keeping up with treatment for a seriously ill child, and so she was placed in the custody of her paternal great grandparents. Parental rights were terminated in a later trial, and so Marie moved on. The baby continued to struggle with Leukemia, and was later formally adopted by the great grandparents. She passed away shortly afterwards, at the age of 6 years.
Soon after losing custody of the baby, Marie met up with David, and they promptly gave birth to Camaro. Cam was born with a cleft palate, a tethered frenulum, and jaundice. He was also septic, experiencing active seizures, and had recently (either just prior to or during birth) suffered a stroke. He was placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where he remained for 3 weeks. While there, genetic tests were run and it was discovered that he had some chromosomal abnormalities that were unique in all the world. He also failed 2 hearing evaluations – making his auditory status both unknown and unknowable for the next several years. Shortly after his birth, Marie and David disappeared for several days, and so the child was reported as abandoned. When they eventually returned to the NICU and were observed feeding Cam a Tootsie Pop, social services were already involved. Due to gross negligence, Cam was discharged from the hospital directly to Patty and Sly’s foster care.
Because the cleft palate made it impossible for Cam to form a suction and feed from a regular bottle, he was discharged with a nasal gastric feeding tube and a pump. Patty and Sly reported to me that it was a hassle to use, so they pulled it out and used a bottle instead. Unfortunately for Camaro, the calories he expended in trying to procure his food exceeded the calories that he took in, and so he continuously lost ground and was eventually labeled as “Failure to Thrive.” A nurse was sent to the home and Patty reported that she enjoyed the visit, but did not see the need to continue work with her, and so the issue of feeding was dropped.
Camaro’s caseworker signed him up for therapy services, and so he was taken to Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy. Case notes that later arrived in the Big Box of Documents indicated that their attendance at appointments was poor, and that he was eventually discharged at age 12 months because he had finally learned to sit, and was therefore deemed making sufficient progress. Nevermind that he was still heavily sedated by seizure meds and had not yet undergone surgery for the palate repair or tethered frenulum. Nevermind that he was shortly thereafter hospitalized again for meningitis.
Due to Camaro’s fragile health, Marie and David were not allowed unsupervised visits, but they were entitled to supervised visitation on a weekly basis. They were also given a long list of conditions upon which their fitness to parent would be based. They had financial, housing, hygiene, parenting skills, and anger management classes to attend, and were also required to complete psychiatric evaluations. They had numerous forms of in-home assistance afforded to them, provided all free of charge. After a few years of this, with the conditions left unmet, parental rights were terminated again and Camaro was free to be adopted.
By then, Luna had been born and, despite the State policy of providing a fresh start to parenting with each successive birth, Luna was placed – after an uneventful birth – with Patty and Sly. Unlike Camaro, however, she was subject to lots of unsupervised visitation – including regular overnights – with Marie and David. Documentation by caseworkers and visiting professionals state that the environment was extremely unhygienic, and included floors and carpets that were littered with animal feces and dirty diapers. The social climate in the home included violent outbursts and the presence of known drug dealers. Luna was expected and forced to lie amongst them for her rest.
Marie and David quickly established a habit of giving birth to children pretty frequently. By the time Cam was 19 months old, Luna was born. When Luna was 22 months old, Rose was born. By this time, the family had stabilized a bit and so Rose was left in their custody. Again, there was a long list of conditions upon which Marie and David were allowed to continue parenting in their home. Luna continued to visit and got to know her new baby sister. By the time Rose was 6 months old, the State had thrown all the resources they had at the situation, and had supported Marie and David with rent monies and education and warnings and all manner of support. In spite of this, they still managed to be evicted due to violence and unhygienic living conditions, so there appeared to be no choice but to discontinue the State efforts at reconciliation and move to a plan that provided for permanent safety and stability for the girls. At that point, Luna was placed with me, and Rose was given to the adoptive care of Daniel, his wife Olivia, and their 6 year old daughter, Molly.
At this point, all visitation became supervised and took place at the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Arrangements were quickly made for the girls to have visitation at the same time and so, at the pre-arranged time, I knocked on the back door of DSHS and was introduced to Rose’s new family. Both families quickly communicated a desire to remain in contact with each other throughout the raising of our children, so that they would continue to have access to each other. Weekly, we gathered at DSHS and, while the girls visited with Marie and David, and while Molly played with Camaro, Olivia, Daniel, and I got to know each other and made future plans for our newly expanded extended families.