I emailed the Guardian ad Litem program this morning to let them know that I was no longer interested in volunteering with their program. I was disappointed in a way, but relieved at the same time.
A Guardian ad Litem, in case you didn’t already know, is a volunteer who works with children in foster care. They are assigned to the child, hopefully from the moment they enter the system, and they are involved with that child through everything. They aim to be a consistent figure in the child’s life, sticking with them through multiple placements if necessary, and they act as that child’s voice in the court system, always keeping in mind what is best for the child above all else.
But to really understand how I’m feeling at the moment, I need to start a little further back…
I can actually remember wondering about adoption all the way back in elementary school. I used to say that I would never have my own children because there were so many children already who needed homes. I always thought that if I ever wanted to be a mom I could just adopt instead. Helping children is something I have wanted to do even when I was still a child myself.
Three biological children later, I have decided that I still wish to adopt. So we started the process. During this process I have learned a lot about how the system works, and I decided that I wanted to get more involved. What better way to get involved with helping kids than to become a Guardian ad Litem?
So I filled out and submitted the application for the program. The application asked whether or not I have ever been involved in a DCF investigation.
I’m honest. I had to answer “Yes”. And I had to fill out the explanation section.
See, a few years ago there was a misunderstanding. My oldest child wrote a story depicting an abusive situation and shared it with a friend, who then showed it to someone else, and that someone else showed a teacher.
And the investigation begins…
And the investigation was quickly closed showing no indication of any abuse.
The Guardian ad Litem program has this rule that states that if an applicant has been involved in such an investigation then they must do their own investigation into the facts of that case before they can consider approving that application. They have to have a copy of the closed report, it can only be closed with a status showing there was no indication of abuse. But, even that isn’t enough… they also have to have a written statement from the applicant explaining the situation, they have to speak with the investigator who handled the investigation, and they ask if you can provide them with any additional information, documentation, references, etc. that will back up your story.
So this morning I withdrew my application. I don’t wish to go through that all over again.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past week or so. I’m not sure I agree with the concept of “Mandatory Reporters.” Or, at the very least, I think the system needs to be tweaked a bit.
This investigation was the result of a complete and total misunderstanding. My child wrote a story and showed it to a friend, who showed a friend, who told a teacher. The teacher is REQUIRED to report ANY suspicion of abuse to DCF. If a report is submitted, DCF is required to investigate it. Once we have been investigated, those records stay on file at DCF, with no way (that I can find anyway) to have them sealed, deleted, expunged (whatever word you want to use), and any time I want to do anything that involves working with children I have to defend myself and subject myself to an investigation all over again.
We are not perfect parents. We make mistakes, just like everyone else does. However, we have a safe and happy home, free from abuses of all kinds. And it makes me so angry that four years later, with an approved adoptive home study in my hands showing that the state is willing to trust us to adopt a child from foster care, I am still being asked to defend myself against these false allegations.
If a family is investigated and absolutely no indication is found of abuse, that family should not be forced to reveal that to anyone. If DCF wants to keep it on file to show that they have, in fact, been called to that house in the past, fine. But other agencies should not have access to that data, and I should not be required to mention it.
I understand the need to protect the children, but we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in this country. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that if someone is falsely accused of a crime that doesn’t have to do with children they are NOT required to tell anyone and continually defend themselves against those allegations.
So, why do I have to?