Caught in a Lie

October 14, 2008

A few weeks ago, I decided that because I had worked more hours than I am paid for, that I would flex some of my time and take 2 days off to go see a friend out of state. Great. So the afternoon before I get on a plane, I go do one of my monthly visits of one of my kids living with a relative. I expected the visit to take not more than 30 minutes, as I have been in contact with the family and not a lot had changed. Of course, I was wrong.

Essentially, I get there and the child is not. Grandma tells me he is at daycare, but when I go there to see him after my visit with grandma, he is not there. I make some phone calls, and even find out that grandma asked another relative to tell me that the kid was with her, even though he was not. Uh oh.

Now this is the grandma that I recently had a “difficult conversation” with. I know she doesn’t like the Dept. being involved and doesn’t see the original problems that got us involved. I also knew that she wasn’t always being upfront with me about things. So I called my supervisor who suggested that I have an in-person conversation with grandma about her lying to me. A million thoughts go through my head while I am driving back to the house. How will she react? Will she get violent? Why would she lie to me? Where is the kid? Am I going to miss my plane? Will I have to move this kid today?

I get there and mom and kid are at home with grandma. After I ask only 2 or 3 times, grandma admits that she let mom take kid with her, which is a violation of the court order that stated mom is only to have supervised contact. Now that truth is out there, then come the excuses/reasons/dismissals of my concern:

  • The Dept. shouldn’t be involved at all
  • The kid is fine – she didn’t hurt him
  • She loves him
  • You don’t know what you are talking about because you don’t have kids
  • Why don’t we have a social worker from the closer office
  • The child needs to be with his mom

I probably should not have been, but was a little surprised by the personal attacks that came at me. But I stayed remarkably calm. I again emphasize that while they may not agree with the court order, they must follow it, and more importantly, grandma agreed to follow it. I talked with my supervisor some more who also talks with our attorney, and they decide to have grandma sign a safety plan that states she will prevent mom from having any contact with child until we have a court hearing or meeting. Neither want to agree to that, and I really didn’t know what to do with that. Basically, they were telling me that they didn’t want to agree at all and I wanted to snap back at them and say, so you want me to just take him now? They are playing hardball with me but I don’t think they realize the consequences. As I am trying to figure out how to deal with that curveball, my supervisor asks if I want her to talk with grandma. Now my supervisor usually comes across as a very nice, sweet lady. But she can intimidate the crap out of some people and knows what language to use to convince people that she means business. Fortunately, it worked once again and grandma agreed.

So now we have a meeting where we are going to hash everything out and I am going to seek to have the child placed with another relative. And I did make my plane, although, I did not pack very well and I was not very relaxed. And I did have to do a little bit of work, writing a report and speaking to other parties, while out of town. Unfortunately, it is going to make me wonder about going out of town again because I am swamped, not just with this case, but also with my other cases that seemed to just be waiting for me to try to relax.


Conflict, but not at court

June 12, 2008

So apparently sometimes I worry too much about things. Or, just about the wrong things. I went to court today and it was no big deal. Actually it was kind of boring, except for maybe the attorneys, who at times seem to start stuff to just start stuff, like middle schoolers do. The Mom was actually excited to see me. We chatted a bit and then it was back to the office.

One of my big tasks recently has been organizing visits for a new case to our unit. Three kids in three different placements with a mother that has almost 2 dozen aliases, numerous cons (for thousands and thousands of dollars), and severely medically (and educational and ‘regular’) neglect. This Mom (I need aliases for these parents don’t I? So we’ll call her Blue) is quite a charmer and we already know that this is going to be very contentious in court. So I have been trying to juggle the schedules of the kids, the foster parents, Blue, and our contracted supervisors. And then once I get those down, then it is trying to find a place for the visit to happen. This has not been an easy task and I know people are frustrated. Unfortunately they are directing it at me, but I feel like I am doing the best that I can and trying to make it as simple as possible. Of course, that is not so easy.

So yesterday I had called Blue in the early afternoon offering her a makeup visit for today (10-12) because I thought I had figured out a schedule for the one of her kids that lives far from the others (today I found out that it won’t work out at all because of vacations. Grrr). I asked her to call me back either way to let me know so we could organize it. She didn’t call me yesterday – I checked my messages at 8 pm. She didn’t call me this morning – I checked my messages at 9:15 while at court and therefore canceled with my scheduled supervisor. I do get a message at 1:45 saying that she had called me the day before (she had not) and was confused about the times and requested that I call her back. So I do and offer to have a visit tomorrow (we need to make up lots of visits because of schedules) which she agrees to.

But then it is this big thing about she is not happy with the current location of the visit. Previously the visits were at a large mall. First, I don’t think that a mall is the site where a quality visit can occur. There are many distractions when the focus should be on the kids and interacting with their parent. Plus, she has three kids (1, 4, and 9) so it is hard to keep track of them in a loud, crowded mall. Finally, there is the issue of supervision. There have been previous reports of Blue saying inappropriate things to her kids, especially the 9 year old. A mall is just too difficult for a supervisor to monitor everything. Well, Blue wants the visits to go back to the mall – does she not like the intense supervision she gets at the new contained location? I tell her that while I hear her concerns – there are many that she tells me repeatedly – I am not going to change the location of the visits at this time. I do tell her that I will look into alternative locations. Blue again tells me how great the mall is – even though she agreed to change the location when we did it in the first place – but cannot take no for an answer. She really goes on about this for about 20 minutes. She talks about how bad the department is and how slow we are to getting her answers and how we don’t put her kids first and how we ignore her and on and on. I repeatedly tell her that I am hearing her concerns, that I will look into and consider a different location, but at this time I am not going to make that decision. Finally, I say that I am not going to argue with her over this. Well, she backs down about this and reassures me that she is not going after me (right) and that she is not trying to argue with me (sure). And after another 5 minutes are finally able to wrap up the conversation. 35 minutes to confirm a time and location for a visit. Whew.

Afterwards, some of my colleagues (who heard the conversation and knew immediately who I was talking to) congratulated me for surviving my first argument with a client. It was really different from anything that I had done before. I really had to stand my ground and be firm with her. I really felt like she was trying to push me around so that she could get what she wanted. And I think that I did ok, but this is something that I am going to have to get a lot better at. People are going to try to push me around and I have to be firm and make sure that I am doing what is best for the kids and not just what the parents want me to do.

Tomorrow: Potential Conflict in Court

June 11, 2008

So I am going to court tomorrow for a hearing for a case that I have been supervising the visits for at Mom’s treatment facility. I (and others) have had some concerns about this Mom; mostly that she seems to struggle parenting more than one child at a time (I supervise visits with a 6 year old and 1 year old). Most frequently, she is focusing all of her attention on the 1 year old and does not engage much with the 6 year old (although the last 2 visits have been better). This concern is further exacerbated by the fact that Mom is 8.5 months pregnant. Will she ignore the 1 year old as well once there is a new baby in the picture?

So there is potential for concerns, particularly this one, to come up tomorrow at court, which I am planning on attending. Now, I will not be the one saying any of this in court, but I could see this being brought up, Mom not being pleased at all, and then her confronting me about the concern. Then what? Do I defend my position? This does not seem to be a good idea: I have no desire to argue something that has no potential of resolution. But Mom does have a right to voice her opinion. So I guess I will try to acknowledge her disagreement, but stand firm that it is a concern that I have in some of the behaviors I have seen. And then try to leave it at that. We’ll see how that goes. And my guess is this will also have an effect on future visits, which will also be interesting.

I just don’t like conflict – I am the product of two very skilled conflict avoiders. But I know that I am now smak-dab in the middle of conflict all the time, so I guess this is a good time to get into it. Sigh.