Posts Tagged With: Crime

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

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?

Categories: Adoption, All About Ellen Cabot, Children & Parenting, Government & Politics | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Should volunteering really be this difficult?

I went back and edited my original post regarding the inefficiencies of government, where I included a bullet point list of the things I have been struggling to accomplish lately, and I combined two of my goals.  Helping out local crime watch and volunteering at the sheriff’s office are close enough to be considered one, I think.  They both have to do with my desire to give back to my community as well as put a stop to crime.

We have, unfortunately, had a number of run-ins with local criminals.

Two years ago our house was broken into, while my children were at home, and my laptop and external hard drive were stolen off of my dining room table.  My daughter happened to walk out of her bedroom and find the thief half in/half out our back door.  She actually spoke to him; he claimed to be looking for a friend.  She later identified him for the police, and he is currently serving time for a string of break-ins in our town.  And, yes, I got my stuff back.

Back in September, my bicycle was stolen right out of my driveway.  This wasn’t just any bike.  I purchased that bike instead of a car.  It was my primary form of transportation.  I rode it to work, I rode it to the grocery store, I rode it for exercise, and I rode on the bike trail with friends for fun and as a social outlet.  I put a couple hundred miles on that bike per month, and for that reason I actually spent quite a bit of money on it; I wanted, and needed, a nice, comfortable, easy to ride bike. I never did get that one back, and have only recently accepted that I never will.

In addition, we have noticed certain things have come up missing from our garage (which we used to be in the habit of leaving open for brief periods of time in the past… though that does NOT happen anymore), like the grill set that my sister had given to us for Christmas a couple years back.  It had never been used, and was just sitting in the garage near the grill waiting for summertime…  *Poof*… Gone.

One day, in the middle of the night, a car drove up onto our lawn, the driver jumped out and ran between the houses to disappear into the *woods* behind our house (the woods being maybe 100 feet of trees and a retention pond).  The windshield of the car was cracked.  No, not just cracked, seriously broken.  We called the police and we were informed that someone had run down a motorcyclist right around the corner.  The windshield of the car was broken where the motorcyclist had hit it.  The driver of the car had taken off, and apparently thought our front yard was a good place to dump the vehicle (which was, obviously, stolen).

I started to get mad.  I considered moving.  Then one day I realized that you can’t run away from crime.  Unless you live in a really dangerous neighborhood, which we don’t.  The criminal activity we were noticing was the sort of criminal activity you find anywhere and everywhere.  If you try and run from it you will ALWAYS be running.

So instead of running I decided to fight back.  I thought that maybe if I become closely involved in local law enforcement, got to know the local sheriff’s deputies, became more familiar with the area, and with what to watch out for, that I would be less likely to be a victim.  I researched what it would take to start my own neighborhood watch program, and how to build an effective one.  I searched out crime watch groups already established in the area.  I signed up for, and completed, the “Citizen’s Academy”, a program our local Sheriff’s office offers to give citizens an inside look into how the local police operate.  I filled out a volunteer application for the Sheriff’s office, and I also found a local crime patrol that was in need of volunteers and I filled out an application to work with them as well.

Turns out the crime patrol and the sheriff’s office require you get fingerprinted and background checks must be completed before you can work with them.  In addition, the Sheriff’s office has a volunteer orientation that you have to attend.

These aren’t really unreasonable requirements.  Until you find out that they only do fingerprinting during regular Mon-Fri business hours, and they only offer the orientation from 1pm – 4pm.

I have a job.  I work during those hours.

So I asked, “Can’t I get fingerprinted at the police station near my work?  Then I could go at lunch.”

Nope… you have to come here, and it has to be during those hours.  😦

We have an approved adoptive home study!  We’ve been approved to adopt a child from foster care!  Can you just trust their background checks?!?

No! You have to come here, and it has to be during those hours!

I can’t, and won’t, take time off of work to attend orientation or get fingerprinted so that I can volunteer.  I am already taking time off of work and altering my schedule on occasion for the adoption.  My employer is absolutely understanding when I have to take time off for meetings with social workers, but a person’s employer can only be expected to be understanding for so much…  My job has to take priority.

I noticed on the Sheriff’s office volunteer application, where they ask you what areas you would be interested in volunteering for, fingerprinting was one of the options.

I hereby volunteer to assist with fingerprinting and coordinate volunteer orientation sessions in the evenings, after 6pm.  When I, and the rest of the working world, can make it to the office to get it done.

Categories: Government & Politics | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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