Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mr. Rogers!

The older I get the less inclined I am to make fun of Fred Rogers and the more I realize how much respect and admiration he deserves.

I think  "Mr. Rogers- he wasn't just the soft-spoken host of a children's TV host who wore a red sweater and played with puppets, but he truly was an educator and minister- and to some degree a child psychologist (even if he never formally earned the latter degree.) What an influential- yet ever humble and gentle- man he was!"  

Since today is his birthday, this post is dedicated to Mr. Rogers and anyone who emulates the attributes he mentions in the following quotes of wisdom he's shared during his life:


"We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility.  It's easy to say, 'It's not my child, not my community, not my problem.'  Then there are those who see the need and respond.  
I consider those people my heroes."


"Love doesn't mean a state of perfect caring.  To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now- and to go on caring through joyful times and through times that may bring us pain."


"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers, You will always find people who are helping.'

To this day, especially in times of 'disaster', I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers- so many caring people in the world."

Here's to all the helpers, those who love when it's not easy, and to anyone who sees a need and responds.  (I think many foster parents and child welfare workers, among others, definitely meet that criteria).



  "If you look for the helpers, you'll know that there's hope." -Fred Rogers

I also readily admit that we have a few wee ones in our home who watch Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood on a regular basis so I'm glad that Mr. Rogers influence can live on in their lives.


Love, Sacrifice, and Grief

A few more gems to add to my collection of "Affirmations for Saying Goodbye/Letting Go". 

My hope in sharing these quotes is that not only will they touch someone who is dealing with a loss right now but perhaps there is someone reading this who is thinking "I just couldn't do it (foster care) and have to say goodbye and see the children go back."  I didn't think I could do it either, but as Tolstoy and Mother Teresa have taught us, the bottom line is that LOVE requires SACRIFICE.  Love can lead to grief, but it is that same love which also helps to heal.



Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Review: Ezra and Hadassah (Part 2)

Have you ever come across an account of a foster or adopted child being discovered in horrible conditions and suffering neglect or abuse at the very hands of the family whose job it is to keep them safe?  If you're like most people I imagine you can't help but ask yourself, "WHY?  Why would these people even want to foster or adopt in the first place?"

I guess what I find so perplexing about such situations is the motivation behind such individuals. Surely there might be some people who are desperate enough to foster for the money, but the commitment, requirements and screening process that comes with fostering is, in my humble opinion, a huge amount of work to go through just for the possibility of having a few extra bucks at the end of the month.

As I was reading Ezra and Hadassah I found myself asking the same question: Why? Why did the Spencer family choose to adopt Ezra and Hadassah if they had no intention of caring for them or showing them love?   The only logical reason I could come up with in this case was that Ezra and Hadassah's adoptive mother needed to replace the children she previously lost (whom, I learned further into the book, had left the home or been killed in a house fire) with new children who would continue on in the role of her house servants.

Unfortunately, being treated like slaves is just one of the ways that Heather and her brother Rex and their siblings were mistreated in their adoptive home.  Although I don't want to give the whole book away and enumerate on every single injustice Rex and Heather had to suffer at the hands of their adoptive family, I would like to bring up a couple of examples of challenges Rex and Heather faced and ways their new family FAILED at meeting their newly adopted children's needs.  My hope in addressing these issues is that we can all learn something and that Rex and Heather's suffering will not have been in vain.

As I've mentioned, the first major theme that kept popping out at me over and over again as I read Ezra and Hadassah is Thank goodness for reform!  And when I speak of reform I'm not only referring to increased advocacy on behalf of children in foster care and ethical foster and adoption practices, but improved education and training for foster and adoptive parents.  Sometimes knowing what to do (or what not to do) can make all the difference in bringing about positive change.

On to the three examples of issues Rex and Heather faced as children and how their foster adoptive parents (poorly) handled them-  I have chosen these three issues because they are not uncommon among children coming from backgrounds of trauma.  Basically, the way Rex and Heather's foster adoptive parents handled each situation serves as an example of what NOT to do.

Granted, the following situations can be difficult for caregivers to face but the good news is that education and awareness of such issues has made it possible for today's foster parents to be better equipped to help the children in their care.  I just want to throw out that although fostering can be challenging, there is also support available.  I can recall specific trainings I've attended both before and after becoming a licensed foster care provider which addressed how best to handle each of the following scenarios:

1.  When a Child Discloses Sexual Abuse.  Maybe it's not common sense to everyone (hence the need for training on such delicate matters) but it just seems logical that when a child feels safe enough to confide in a trusted adult about something so personal and traumatic as sexual abuse, the most beneficial response would be for the adult to validate the child's feelings and protect the child from any further abuse from happening, if possible.

When Heather got up the courage to tell her adoptive mom about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her foster brothers in her previous foster home, the result was anything but validating. "That's over now so you don't need to talk about it" was her new mother's reply.  As if that weren't enough of a blow, a day later Heather overheard her new mother telling the grandmother that she thought that Heather's account was a plea for sympathy.   Her adoptive mother's response just served to shame her and prevent her from sharing any further information with anyone in the future.  Heather describes her reaction:

"I was crushed and humiliated.  I thought my new family was supposed to love me and care about me.  Who would admit such an embarrassing thing just for attention?  I had hoped Virginia would comfort and reassure me that would never happen again, but her response told me otherwise."  

2.  Hoarding Food.  This behavior is very common among children in foster care and although it can be puzzling or sometimes even annoying for caregivers, it must be understood that the child is simply acting out of SURVIVAL MODE.  Rex and Heather's new parents withheld food from their children as a form of punishment which is pretty much the worst thing they could possibly do in such a situation because doing so will only exacerbate any food insecurities.

Heather observed of her brother,

"At the Spencers Ezra not only ate as much as possible, he squirreled away food in his cheeks and only emptied them if Virginia demanded he swallow what was in his mouth.  It was obvious he was eating as much as possible to store up for the unknown stretch of time until his next meal."

It was disheartening to read about Rex, in particular, being starved in his own home to the point of resorting to hanging around the school cafeteria and asking for food.

3.  Peeing and Pooing Pants/Wetting the Bed.    Again, this is another very common problem in children who have experienced trauma- enuresis and encopresis are the official medical terms.

Let's face it- nobody likes cleaning up accidents.  As trying as it can be to potty train a toddler, just imagine how frustrating it must be for caregivers to clean up after a much older child, who should "know better".  Rex's bowel and bladder problems extended well into his high school years and even into adulthood. Unfortunately, his new parents did not have the patience or compassion to help him. Nor did they possess the understanding that control over one's bodily functions is not solely about physiology but has a heck of lot to do with psychology and emotional security.

Heather recounted, "It didn't take long for Ezra's chronic bladder and bowel problems to appear with a vengeance at the Spencers.  He wet the bed every night and seemed to be unable to sense when he needed to use the bathroom during the day.  Despite raising six other children before us, Harley and Virginia had no idea how to handle it."

One thing I've learned through my potty training experiences (and through parenting in a general sense) is to PRAISE! PRAISE! PRAISE! CELEBRATE EVERY VICTORY- no matter how small- rather than SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!- which will inevitably backfire and block any progress.

Heather recounted a camping trip with her first foster family when Rex poohed his pants and was excessively shamed. Their foster father was so angry that he marched Rex down to a freezing cold river to wash him off while yelling at him and spanking him. To top it off, he then announced that since Rex was too lazy to go to the bathroom, he could wear it instead.  He then forced Rex's dirty underwear around his neck and put his head through the leg holes so that he could "smell his own shit."  Not helpful in the least.

The reaction to Rex's toileting problems did not improve in his second foster home when his new parents basically shoveled out the same disgraceful punishment of making him wear his soiled underwear around his neck- but in addition, they told him he would have to wear it to school. (Thankfully, he took the underwear off before going to school).

If you're starting to get bummed out by this review and feeling discouraged about actually reading the book, TAKE HEART! I've only reviewed about the first third of the book and although there are definitely some hard parts to read they are necessary for the redeeming messages of healing, forgiveness, and resiliency to emerge from the ashes of the suffering and opposition which both Rex and Heather endured.

Having said that, the second major theme that this book illustrated to me is Thank Goodness for RESILIENCY in all individuals- but particularly in children who have had an unfair and rough start in life and must overcome so much!

Of all his siblings, Rex took the brunt of his parent's abuse. The Spencers did not have the patience to deal with his special needs or, it appears, the ability to see his intrinsic value.

Tragically, Rex's adoptive parents kicked him out of their home when he was just sixteen years old. Because he had absolutely no resources in way of money, food, friends, cars, or even connections, his adoptive parents ended up giving him money for bus fare back to Oregon where he eventually reconnected and lived with his birth family.  Heather didn't see her brother again for thirteen more years.

I had a hard time trying to wrap my head around how the Spencers could just kick their own son out of their home as casually as if they were just getting rid of an old piece of furniture, but in their eyes he was a burden.  Heather writes,

"Rex wasn't mentioned in the Spencer's house again.  We didn't have family pictures on the walls after the first year we were adopted, so it was as if he never existed.  At church and school the story was Rex went to live with extended family in Oregon.  No one questioned it.  He could have died and no one would have batted an eye."  

What's especially tragic to me is that Rex was not only shunned in his own home but equally mistreated at school and even within his youth group at church.

I fully expected Rex to end up permanently homeless or for Heather to never see him again. Fortunately, that did not turn out to be the case. If you read the book you'll learn what became of Rex including his reunion with his sister and the transformation of his life which can only truly be described as nothing short of miraculous.

I was extremely touched by Rex's pure childlike faith and his incredible ability to forgive so seemingly effortlessly. Heather wrote of her brother,

"Rex had every right to be a serial killer. The world would have understood given his early years that it was inevitable that he would become a cold-blooded criminal.  But he didn't. He chose to go the opposite way.  Not because he received world-class therapy and intensive professional help.  He didn't.  His life was lived on the streets of America and his heart healed its pain one person and one prayer at a time."  

God bless Rex for his perseverance, his humility, and his great example of being longsuffering, pure in heart, and forgiving.

As for how Heather fared, she was fortunate enough to have social support and connections Rex didn't have during their years with the Spencers.  I think this was in large part due to the fact that she was much more socially adept than her brother who had never really learned how to appropriately interact with others due to both neglect further compounded by delays.

Heather recounts,

"I survived the Spencers by finding teachers at school and leaders at church whom I confided. I tested the waters with adults telling a small story of some recent trouble I had been in at home and what my punishment had been. If they seemed surprised or asked any follow up questions, I cautiously gave more details.  If they didn't react or ask any more questions, I knew they couldn't be trusted.  In eighth grade, I found an adult I could trust and who ended up carrying me until I turned eighteen."

That adult Heather trusted was the librarian at her junior high school, Mr. Gross.  Thank God for adults like Mr. Gross who take the time to listen and guide children and young adults.
  
And now, time for a few not-so-subliminal messages:




Mr. Gross encouraged Heather to look ahead for her future and although he was sympathetic to Heather's home situation the only advice he could offer her in that regard was the encouragement to hang on until she was eighteen and then could legally leave home, just as a church leader counseled her to do. 

When Heather turned eighteen and the time came for her to escape the prison-home environment of the Spencer's house, there were four families, including Mr. Gross and his wife, who were willing to take her into their homes and offer her a safe haven as she made the transition to adulthood and independent living free from the oppression of the Spencers.

Just as Heather noted that Rex could have turned out to be a serial killer given how he was treated in his home environment, she could have easily used the excuse of the abuse she suffered in her life to justify passing on any future dysfunction to her children or loved ones, but, like her brother, she chose not to!  Resilience is a noble choice that can have a profound effect upon generations.

Heather recalled listening to stories from the adults in the Spencer household- Mr. and Mrs. Spencer and Grandma Quigley- in which they commiserated and detailed abuses they had each suffered in their childhoods.  Mrs. Spencer would use her experiences of childhood abuse to justify the way she treated her own children and would tell Rex and Heather and their siblings that they really didn't have it bad, so they shouldn't complain.

 Heather had the maturity and foresight to realize, 

"All the stories of generational abuse solidified in my heart that in my someday family, if I ever got married and had kids, no way was I going to be like they were.  I wasn't ever going to spank my kids or treat them like we were.  The abuse was ending with me."

I literally felt like standing up and cheering when I read that line.  BRAVO TO HEATHER for choosing to break the cycle of abuse and dysfunction she had grown up with!

Another eye-opening and touching part of Heather's story is when she, as a grown woman, becomes reunited and reacquainted with her biological parents, Ralph and Claudia, who are each unique characters in their own rights.  Part of Claudia's schizophrenia includes delusions that she is from another planet and the belief that as a child she was transported to earth.  She also believed that her children would be able to receive messages from her home planet when they reached adolescence despite the fact that they were part-Earthling.  Enough said!

In addition to discovering how much of her personality and temperament is attributed to nurture verses nature, being reunited with Ralph and Claudia served as a bridge to Heather's past by helping her understand, for the first time in her life, the exact circumstances that brought her and her brother into foster care in the first place.  

I don't want to give the specifics away, but Rex and Heather's case was historic not only in the state of Oregon but was actually read by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Their case makes for a fascinating study of family law and child-welfare policies, begging such questions as "At what point does mental illness or developmental disability become grounds for terminating parental rights when there is insufficient evidence of neglect and abuse?" and, once again, along the lines of Thank goodness for reform!  "How is the best interest of the children legally and ethically brought to fruition?"  

I was deeply disturbed to learn, as Heather did when she searched through the many legal documents Claudia had carefully saved over the years, 

"No one took testimony from Ezra and me or asked us what we wanted. We didn't meet either lawyer (the defense counsel for Ralph and Claudia or the D.A. who argued that Ralph and Claudia were unfit as parents) to be interviewed.  Each side's arguments came from reports filed from state social workers. No state worker was aware of the abuse we suffered in foster care. No one ever asked if we were being abused.  No lawyers represented our best interests, even though it was our future that was being discussed and litigated."  

ME after reading that paragraph: Sigh. Face-Palm. Shaking Head Back and Forth in Unbelief.

Ezra and Hadassah is a MUST-READ for foster parents or anyone considering fostering or adopting through the foster care system.  This book made such an impact on me, personally, that I couldn't get Rex and Heather- or the Spencers and Ralph and Claudia- and the themes of suffering and healing- out of my mind for days after reading.  Ezra and Hadassah is over 230 pages long but makes a very quick read (I read it for the first time in just two sittings) because it is so riveting.

Click HERE to find out where you can get your copy.

I guarantee that after you finish reading this book you will have some questions. Fortunately, Heather has put together a blog which contains updates to her life's story and answers many frequently asked questions readers may have.  For example, what is happening in her life today? Whatever became of the Spencer family or her biological parents, Ralph and Wanda?  There's even pictures so you can put faces with the people you've been reading about!

Click HERE to learn the rest of Heather's story.

Book Review- Ezra and Hadassah (Part 1)

In her autobiographical book Ezra and Hadassah: A Portait of American Royalty, Heather Young (known by her birth name Hadassah for the first years of her life) offers her readers a sobering glimpse into what it is like to be a young child in foster care.  

From the first chapter of the book Heather recounts, 

"Living as a foster child means the quality of your existence relies on the moods of those you share space with.  If it goes particularly bad for even one day, you can be packing your bags the next day, forced to leave over something you had no control over.  On the good days, the carrot of possibly making you a permanent member of the family is dangled, only to be yanked away on the next down day.  It is not unlike a yo-yo, constantly going up or down, never staying still."

Heather and her older brother, Rex (who was known by his birth name Ezra for the first nine years of his life) lived in a foster home in Portland, Oregon during the 1970s from the time they were roughly pre-school age until they were seven and nine years old.  They were then transferred into the care of a different foster home in the same state which became their permanent adoptive home.


Heather and Rex came into care not because of neglect or abuse but due to the fact that their mother was paranoid schizophrenic and their father was developmentally challenged.  Their situation was somewhat atypical of most foster children because before living in their first foster home full-time they stayed there during the day (much like a day-care arrangement) and would go home to their parents home at night.  Even when they lived in their foster home full-time they went "home" for the weekends to stay with their biological parents.
   
Heather describes her first foster home as having seven or more rotating children at a time made up of her foster family's biological children and both the longer and shorter term foster children who stayed in the home anywhere from a few days to a few months at a time.

Referring to her 'short-timer' foster counterparts, Heather remembers:

"The thing about the short timers is they never had luggage.  Their clothes and shoes and toys were always transported in brown paper grocery sacks. I thought that was terrible." 

Although the time frame for this book first takes place in the 1970s, sometimes change is slow and unfortunately, even today- over forty years later- many foster children move their belongings from place to place, including the homes they are originally removed from, in nothing but a black garbage bag.  

Rex and Heather's foster home consisted of three bedrooms- a master bedroom for the parents, a bedroom for the boys, and a bedroom for the girls.  Heather recalls "Since we had no closets or dressers in our bedrooms, the kids' rooms had plenty of space for several rows of bunk beds in each."  

As a foster parent when I first read "we had no closets or dressers in our bedrooms" I was a bit taken aback and thought, "Wait a minute- how did this family get licensed in the first place if the children in their home didn't even have personal space for their belongings?"  I had to remind myself that this was foster care back in the 1970s and not in our modern day. Were Rex and Heather to enter foster care today, Heather's foster home certainly would not have met the qualifications to provide foster care- which brings me to one of the predominant major themes/thoughts that kept coming to my mind as I read the book:

Thank goodness for reform!

Heather and Rex's first foster home had little or no structure (no rules and no schedule) a foster father whose favorite hobby appeared to be drinking beer, and two biological teenage sons who molested their younger and very vulnerable foster sisters. At just six years of age and shortly before her first runaway attempt, Heather came to the conclusion that:

"As a foster child you have no power.  You are living at the whim of others.  If you rock the boat, accusing the real children of bad things, they wouldn't be the ones leaving, you would. I couldn't risk losing what little security Ezra and I had."  

She continues,

"I didn't want to live in a different foster home.  Even though I certainly didn't like where we were, I was used to it.  The devil you know is always better than the devil you don't know."

After three years of living full-time in their foster home and with their biological parents on the weekends a caseworker visited their foster home and asked Heather and Rex, in an effort to establish some permanency in their lives, what they thought about having a family of their own- one that they could live with all the time.  It seems like a given that every child would want- not just need - a permanent home with a mom and dad (or caregivers who fulfill those vital roles in their life).  That is why I was so saddened, yet not necessarily surprised given her history, when Heather didn't know what to think when approached with the concept of having a full-time mother and father.  She described the only parents she had known in life up to that point- her foster and biological parents- this way:

"We didn't call Dorothy or Wayne our parents and we didn't call Ralph and Claudia mom and dad.  They were just their first names to us, grown-ups who took care of us." So sad.

Nevertheless, Heather was up for a new adventure and she knew that it would be a relief for her brother Rex to escape their foster father's frequent spankings so she told the social worker that it would be fun to have a new family.

The lack of transitioning from Rex and Heather's foster home to their next foster adoptive home REALLY bothered me.  Once again the repeated theme of "Thank goodness for reform!"  popped into my head.  Rather than learning anything about the family who would become their next caregivers & eventual adoptive family and assessing if the placement was even a good fit for everyone involved, one day a social worker showed up at the foster home and told the children to gather their clothes and only three personal things (because there wasn't room for anything else).   They were instructed to put their belongings into brown paper grocery sacks (Cringe!) since they didn't have suitcases.  The bags were then loaded into the social worker's trunk and everything else in Rex's and Heather's possession was left behind as they drove away from all that was familiar to them.

Just as I was heartbroken to learn that Heather was unfamiliar with the concept of being loved by a permanent mom or dad, I was equally heartbroken to read about her interaction with her foster mother the night before she left her first foster home:

"The night before we left, Dorothy came to my side at bedtime.  She hugged and kissed me, telling me she loved me.  I was elated and I didn't want to ever leave because until that night, I had no idea she loved me. She had never hugged or kissed me or touched me beyond taking care of my physical needs."  That is truly tragic.

Foster parents- or any parents for that matter- are not just there to provide food and shelter and clothes for the children in their care.  Nurturing and guidance and emotional attunement are just as vital to a child's development and well-being as are regular meals and a safe place to sleep at night.

On the ride from Portland to Eugene, where Rex and Heather's new foster home was located, Rex asked the social worker a very pertinent question, "What are my new mom and dad like?".  The social worker admitted he didn't know.  Other interactions with the children made that particular social worker's job seem more befitting of a taxi driver providing transportation for the children rather than a child welfare worker whose job actually includes looking after their best interest.  Heather recorded,

"...the social worker dumped Ezra and me and our grocery sacks of clothes in the Spencer's house and he was gone.  We were utterly on our own with strangers I was supposed to call my family."  

Can you imagine what a nerve-wracking/awkward/uncertain situation that would be for a grown man or woman to be thrown into- let alone a small child?  Again I thought, Where the heck is the transitioning in this situation?  Why had the children never even been given the chance to meet with these strangers beforehand who would become their family overnight?  Couldn't the children have at least been told something- anything- about the people and the home that was to become theirs for the rest of their formative years?  Thank goodness for reform!

Rex and Heather met their new foster family, The Spencers, along with the Spencers two adopted children- a boy and girl who were very close in age to Rex and Heather, and a grandmother who lived with the Spencers.  The children quickly become accustomed to their new home and new life because really, what other choice did they have?

I really wish I could tell you that Rex and Heather's new family was loving and welcoming and that they lived happily ever after- but the sad truth is that life with the Spencers made their previous foster home look pretty darn good, as Heather recounts:

"As the harsh realities of our adoptive life unfolded, I clung to my memories of our foster home and our real parents to give me comfort and courage.  All I had to do was survive the Spencers house until I could figure out how to get back to our old life, which I didn't realize until then, I missed terribly."

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Relinquishment and Upcoming Adoption

Last month my husband and I sat in a courtroom as the mother of our foster children relinquished her parental rights.  And we cried.  We cried because this means that after caring for Jack and Jill for a year and a half in our home we can now legally adopt them and they can become “official” members of our family.  We cried because for the first time in nine years of fostering, we won’t have to say goodbye when a child leaves our home.  We cried because although this time we won’t be the ones to have to deal with the pain and heartache that come with saying goodbye, somebody else will have to say goodbye and experience that profound loss- and that someone is a mother- our children’s mother.  Our gain is born of her loss so our tears of joy and relief that day in court were also mixed with tears of sympathy for the woman who is losing her children.

Don’t get me wrong- we are extremely happy about our upcoming adoption(s)!  And our families and friends are absolutely ELATED for us- as they should be.  But any joy or celebrating on our part is somewhat dampened by the solemn reminder of the grief that our children’s first mother will continue to feel as a result of her decision to relinquish her parental rights (compounded by any guilt she might feel about the choices she’s made leading up to the removal of her children in the first place). 

We listened that day in court as the judge asked Jack and Jill’s mother why she had chosen to relinquish and she offered up her explanation, part of which included, “I know they’re in a good home.”  We also watched as her lawyer carefully reviewed the relinquishment papers with her before she signed them and he asked her questions such as, “You haven’t received any money or gifts from anyone which would impact your decision?” or “You aren’t under the influence of any substances which could impair your thinking, are you?”  The answers of course were “no” and I was saddened to think that those questions must be asked in the first place though I do understand their necessity.

After she signed the papers, our children’s birthmother was notified by the judge that she would have up to 15 days to change her mind about relinquishing her parental rights.  However, [given the history of this case] the judge told her that the chances of that being honored in court were, quite frankly, not very likely.  The judge also made sure that she understood that she couldn't come back to court after the adoption was finalized and make objections to the adoption- in other words, it couldn't be “undone”- even if things turned around for her and she changed her mind or if, as the judge gave another specific example, she was disappointed by the amount of contact we as the adoptive parents allowed her to have in her children’s lives.  It seemed apparent that the judge had encountered such scenarios before.

The most emotional moment for me at last month’s pivotal pre-trial hearing (Thank goodness we don’t have to go on with an actual trial!) was after Jack and Jill’s mother signed her relinquishment papers and the judge lovingly acknowledged what a hard thing she had done.  He then excused her from the courtroom before proceeding with other matters- namely, terminating Jack and Jill’s birthfather’s rights- who failed to show up to court yet again- and setting up future dates for a Review Hearing and an ADOPTION HEARING!  I almost had to pinch myself when the judge announced that we would be setting the adoption date that very day- that’s when it hit me that it was REALLY happening.

My husband and I quietly slipped out of the courtroom and followed Jack & Jill’s mother into the lobby after she was excused by the judge.  I hugged her and we both cried in each other’s arms without really having to say too much to each other.  My husband hugged her and was crying as well.   The bailiff let my husband and I back into the courtroom a few minutes later to rejoin the proceedings which included the Children’s Guardian ad Liteum and others making their recommendations to the court:

When Jack and Jill’s GAL reported, “These children will continue to live in a loving home and will now be free from the effects of any abuse or neglect.”   My tears flowed freely yet again.