Two Parents Speak Out About DCF                                 February 2010
In This Issue

Two Parents Speak Out About DCF

Holiday Appeal Update



Dear Friends,

Most PHP parents attend one of our support groups for a year or perhaps a little longer.  Sometimes they feel the situation is under control and they don’t feel the need to come any more.  Sometimes there is a change in their lives – a new job, a new baby, moving to another town – that makes coming to group no longer possible.  So we don’t usually get to know the children of parents who come to group very well.  Rarely do we watch them grow up.  But every so often a parent stays with PHP for a very long time and we get to see how their child turns out.  And when the child of a parent member grows up and sends us poem to publish, it’s a very special event. 
The poem below is by Brianna Dalton, a 20 year student at Regis College.  We are so grateful that we were able to help Brianna’s mother get through the tough times so that Brianna could grow up to be the young lady that she has become.
Thank you, Brianna, for sharing your poem with us.


Randall Block
Executive Director
Two Parents Speak Out About DCF

November 17, 2009
Hello, my name is Debbie and I am a board member of Parents Helping Parents and a group leader of the Waltham parent support group.  My experience with the department started when my daughter was 13 years of age in 2003.  My daughter has had bi-polar and anorexia for many years with violent physical outbursts towards me.  Several agencies had suggested that I file a CHINS on her but I was reluctant to get the courts involved.  The episode that final pushed me to file a CHINS was when my daughter kicked out my car windows because she didn't get her own way.
After I filed a CHINS, I requested voluntary services with the department because I knew I needed help with my daughter.  I was assigned a caseworker and she visited my home weekly and got to know both of us.  Shortly thereafter I had an incident at my home where my daughter beat me up and I called the police for help.  Meanwhile, she ran away from home and when they found her a day later she had a fingernail scratch on her from me trying to defend myself.  The police called in a 51A report and when I went to the police station to pick up my daughter the police told me that a DCF on-call case worker had determined that my daughter would be removed from my custody for at least three months.
When the 51A report was substantiated, I filed for a fair hearing.  Two years later - not 30 days as required by their handbook -- I received a letter telling me that the decision was overturned.
My point is that there was another DCF worker who already knew me and my daughter who could have been called to assess the situation.  She would have known about my daughter's violent behavior and would have known that I am a caring and loving mother who would never hurt her.  I am still very hurt and to this day do not understand why my case worker was not contacted when this episode took place.
In 2007 shortly after he became commissioner, I was grateful for the opportunity to meet with Mr. Angelo McClain, Commissioner of DCF.  He took the time to come to the Parents Helping Parents office in Watertown and listened to myself and four other parents talk about our experiences with DCF.  For over two hours, he was very attentive and responded to all of our stories with a pledge to make the system work better.
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Hi, I'm Isabel.  Before I begin, I feel the need to tell you about how uncomfortable it is for me to be around anyone associated with DCF because my daughters and I were let down by the system that was and probably still is in place today.  I'm 34 years old and the birth mother of two beautiful little girls. 

The first time DCF stepped into my life was shortly after the birth of my oldest child in 2001.  During my appointment with my OBGYN she told me that I was suffering from post-partum depression.  She also told me that she would be calling DCF so that I could get the help and support I needed.  My daughter was placed in kinship care with friends.  During this time I was able to start counseling and the meds needed for recovery.  My caseworker was able to get me started on anger management, parenting skills, and self-esteem classes.  This hard work really paid off in the end.  I got into the "Mommy" thing and I was able to get my daughter back home in four months.

DCF kept my case open for almost a whole year later so that I could have day care for my daughter.  Within this time period I got pregnant again.  DCF started talking about closing my case even though they knew I was due to give birth in three months.  I asked them to keep my case open because I needed the day care but they told me this wasn't a good enough reason and closed my case anyways. 
When I had my second child three weeks early my post-partum depression came back worse because I had a two year-old and a newborn to deal with.  After telling my psychologist how aggravated I felt towards my kids and how serious my depression was, she called DCF on me.  DCF placed my kids with kinship care with family who took guardianship of my girls.  They limited my visits to once a week for one hour.  I had to pay $10 per visit at a visiting center in Brockton.  Those were some very difficult months for me. 

Because this placement wasn't working out, I gave custody back to DCF and they placed my children in another kinship care with my friends.  DCF continued to say that I was a threat to my children.  Because of this, I started doubting myself.  I was mentally and physically exhausted from everything that was going on.  I stopped the counseling and took myself off the meds.  My caseworker informed me that these mistakes were a huge problem for DCF.  Why couldn't they see that it was all the verbal and mental abuse that caused my actions?

My reunification goal was changed to adoption.  I couldn't understand how this was possible when post-partum depression is a treatable condition.  I tried to reason with them.  I asked that DCF give guardianship to the foster family but they weren't hearing it.  DCF told me that if I didn't agree to an open adoption I probably would never see my kids again.  So in the end, after a lot of thinking, screaming, and crying, I agreed to an open adoption so that I could be at least a small part of my daughters' lives.  I now see my daughters every weekend, holidays, and a lot more during their school breaks. 

The trauma caused to both my daughters and me has made it difficult for me to fully recover.  I relive this nightmare over and over again, especially during those long, quiet cold nights at home all alone. When my daughters ask me why they don't live with me or why they have two mommies, I don't know what to tell them because they are still too young to understand.

Last year Commissioner McClain met with a few of the parents who have had negative experiences similar to mine with DCF's foster care system.  During that meeting he listened, he did a lot of writing, and he apologized to me personally.  He apologized for something that wasn't his doing.  It takes a big man to do that. I thank him for that.  He gave me the hope that through him many positive changes will come in to the system.  I hope I wasn't wrong.

Holiday Appeal Update
Thank you to everyone who sent donations in response to our holidy appeal.  We raised almost $68,000 toward our annual goal of $80,000.  All gifts, large and small, are greatly appreciated.

Our mailing address is:
Parents Helping Parents
108 Water Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Phone: 617-926-5008