Justice & Maybe Healing Can Begin

Last November when the Penn State Scandal first erupted I wrote a blog stating my feelings on the case, a link to it is below:

https://prairieguy.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/a-response-to-penn-state-scandal/

Last evening I attended the Arizona Diamondbacks vs Chicago baseball game. Because of this I did not hear the initial reports of the outcome of the Jerry Sandusky trial.

While driving home from the game I was listening to a news radio station; the story came on of the finding of guilty on 45 of 48 charges. I had to pull over to the side of the road as tears began to well up in my eyes. As I approached the side of the road the tears became a full blown cry.

I cried because it was a feeling that justice had finally became a reality for the 10 identified victims of this predator. The tears began with the joy that this happened but soon turned to tears of sorrow.

It took  courage far beyond what many would be able to muster to overcome fear and state before the world what happened to them and how it has affected their lives. I cried for the pain they had endured for so many years. I cried because people did not believe them when in some cases they told those whom they trusted about the abuse but it turned out it fell on deaf ears or an unwillingness to hear and believe. And folks wonder why it can take so many years before one comes forward.

I cried with hope that maybe, just maybe, healing may begin for those 10 young men as well as those who were unable to overcome their fears, shame, grief to come forward. Yes, I believe there are more victims out there. Sandusky did not begin his predatory actions when he began his non profit where he trolled for his potential prey; I believe he had been doing it for years!

Sandusky’s conviction is not the end of this case. Others still face trial for perjury, investigations are still going on as to who knew what and when. Other victims I believe because of the results of trial and the fact that 12 jurors believed the story of those who testified others will overcome their fears, shame and grief and come forward. A young man of 30 as well as Matt Sandusky, Sandusk’y adopted son whom he adopted after he aged out of the foster are system, came forward before the trial even ended.

It took me over 40 years after I was sexually abused, for which no one was ever held accountable, to overcome and finally share with others what happened to me. Though it is now over 50 years since it happened there are times, like last night, when all of it comes back to me as though it happened yesterday. It is something that will remain, to some degree, a part of me until my last breath.

It is my great hope and prayer that Sandusky’s conviction will be the start of the healing process for his victims. It is my hope that their community will not just move on to other things now that this trial is over but rather will be available to these young men & others as help is needed. The 8 men who testified took their fist steps in healing by overcoming fears and having that courage to testify against their predator but they will have many more miles to walk before they can say healing has happened.

Hopefully folks will realize total healing  never occurs; their experiences will always be a part of their lives but the healing will allow them to move forward with their lives allowing them to be in control rather than the experience controlling them. I know how my life has been all these years from the experience.

Because of his conviction Sandusky faces a minimum of 60 years in prison and a maximum of over 400 years. It means he will die in prison…rightfully where he belongs  and where he deserves to die! He will never be able to abuse child and steal their youth again!

Now I await others that need to be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof have there day to be held accountable.

Boys Town Alumni Honor Their Fallen

It is rare I post a blog entry that does not deal with foster care or adoption. However, today I must make an exception.

This past weekend (July 29-31, 2011) Boys Town Alumni returned to the place they call home for a reunion. It was a time of sharing memories of days gone by, renewing friendships with brothers/sisters (Boys Town began accepting girls in 1976). It is a time many of us look to every two years.

This reunion, though many events were memorable, had one event that stood above them all. Saturday (July 29) was dedication to the restored and updated Veterans Memorial honoring fallen brothers in service to their country.

Boys Town dedicated the original memorial at a reunion in 1991. It was simple but definitley left one who visited know that the young man who answered the call of their country and fell would not be fogotten as time went on. However unless one personally knew one of the fallen most alumni did not how many or who had fallen.

Each reunion a ceremony is held at the memorial to remember as a whole those who died. It usually gathered a not so large crowd of attendees as few could relate on a personal level to anyone.

George Buckler ’64  at a recent reunion had an idea to refurbished the memorial and to include marble slates on which bronze plaques would be placed inscribed with the name of the fallen. The idea was quickly adopted by the Alumni Association Board and the project was underway in November 2010. Funds were raised (over$20,000 was need and this goal has not been completely met as yet), planning, designing, etc.

On Friday I however made a visit to the site alone. I wanted a private time to reflect and shed a tear for one young man whose name is now on the wall. James Acklin was one of my best friends during years at Boys Town. He was also my debate partner in our senior year. I remember the grief when hearing of Jim’s death. Of course the greif was far, far greater for the young wife & two sons left behind (Rose, Jamie & Joey).

Saturday brought the fruition of all the efforts that had been made. The dedication was simple but memorable. This year hundreds made sure they were in place for the ceremony. It began with Posting of the Colors by the Boys Town Junior ROTC Color Guard, National Athem, Pledge of Allegiance & Prayer.

The guest speaker was John E. Hamilton, Junior Vice Commander VFW.

Flags that were flown in Afghanistan were given to the BT ROTC and Alumni Association by SSgt Mary, Baille USAF, herself a Boys Town alumn and recently returned from Afghanistan;

It concluded with a Prayer, Taps & Retiring of the Colors.

I know a few tears, mine & others, were shed during the ceremony. I concluded being there by slowly going to the wall and gently touching Jimmy’s name.

Now alumni and current residents of Boys Town will know by name those who answered the call of their country  and gave their all by name.

Seventy-one ( confirmed deaths )young men’s names are now on the memorial: forty-four from WWII, four from from Korea, seventeen from Viet Nam, one from Iraq/Afghanistan and six while still in uniform. Some new ones may be addeed in time when confirmation of their deaths are received or future conflicts.

Father Flanagan taught, his sucessors continued to teach, that one must honor their faith, family and country. These men learned that lesson as well as many others who have served and were able to return home. Over 800 alumni served in WWII. Over 2,000 aluni have served whether during war time or at peace.

After December 7, 1941, the 22 member class of 1942 wanted to immediately enlist. Fr. Flanagan convinced them to await their graduation. On the afternoon of their graduation they marched to the recruitment office..all 22!

Most of these young men were never able to fulfil the dreams they dreamt while at Boys Town. Most were never to marry and watch their chldren grow up. They heard the call of their country and they answered.

In the future I am sure a young woman’s name will be added to the wall as girls are not only now a part of the alumni of Boys Town but also are serving our country.

There are cities in this country that have memorials which may remember 71 young men/women who have fallen. I am sure however there is no high school in the country as Boys Town who have had so many serve as well as so many fall in that service. Service to country and others is a trademark of Boys Town.

Boys Town and its alumni are proud to call them brothers of the family of Boys Town. It is hoped for generations yet to come that they will be remembered. This newly refurbished memorial should help to accomplish this mission. It is hoped by me and some others that soon the Alumni Board will approve a move to make any alumni who has fallen in service to their country will be made Lifetime Members of the BTNAA. The majority of alumni who have fallen fell before there was the BTNAA and others fell too early to have had the chance to possibly even join the association yet alone become Lifetime members. This and the memorial is the least we can do in remembrance of the sacrifice they have made in our behalf.

When someone asks me about heroes…I will point them to this memorial of 71 heroes! Rest in Peace my fellow Boys Town brothers!

Fargo/Moorhead Youth Fill the Dome Project Exceeds Goal!

My blog normally includes articles written by me or others I find on the Internet about foster care, thus the title of my blog.

However I am so proud of the youth here in my hometown community of Fargo, North Dakota/Moorhead, Minnasota that I just have to share this story beyond our area.

In the fall of 2007 a group of local high school seniors wanted to do something as a gift to their community. They wanted to collect non perishable foods and funds to be given to those less fortunate in our community. Each year since new seniors have continued the effort.

They did not think small but decided to issue a challenge to all the local schools.

Fargo has what we call the Fargodome. It is the site where North Dakota State University plays their home football games and where numerous big time stars have given concerts. The football floor contains 80,000 square feet.

The group decided their goal would be to fill the dome floor with food items. Thus began the FILL THE DOME PROJECT.

Since that first year (2007), though the foor did not get filled, they were able to raise over 60 tons of food and over $60,000 for their efforts for 2007/2008 combined.

This year the set their goals higher than what was reached in the first two years:

Goals for Fill the Dome 2009 include: 
Raise $75,000
Collect 75 tons of food
Engage 7,500 volunteers

Fifty-eight local schools and a few outside the local community were involved in this year’s effort. Each school would have a square on the dome floor to fill with non-perishables.

There is also a square designated for the community as a whole participate by dropping off items on the designated date or to purchase a food bag from Hornbackers ( a local grocery store gain ) which would be collected and taken to the dome on the given date.

Yesterday was the culmination of the 2009 effort. Schools each had a scheduled time to brings the results of ther collection drives as well as the food bags purchased by members of the community.

Early this morning, after boxing, weighing, and placing all the food on a number of trucks for distribution the results were announced:

97.1 tons of food that came in and out of the Fargodome.
$96,000 (and counting)
2311 food bages were purchased by community members at Hornbachers
(Yes I bought a couple)
Over 2,800 people who have signed their name, acknowledging hunger is an issue in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The Fill the Dome Project not only exceeded their goals for 2009 by a wide margin but also exceeded the total of the two previous years combined.

The Great Plains Food Bank distributes food to local pantries and shelters. Of money raised, 30 percent goes to local groups and 70 percent goes to a mobile food pantry to help in rural western North Dakota.

These same youth, in many cases, helped save the Fargo/Moorhead area by filling and laying over 4 million sandbags this srping in the effort to save our area from flooding. Without their efforts our city would have definitely suffered severe lood damage.

These youth make me proud to live in Fargo and continues to give me faith in our next generation of leadership.

Hats off to ALL involved; many less fortunate will not go without in the months ahead!!

 

Some of the food collected yesterday

 

To date (2007-2009) Fill the Dome has raised over: 

Over 156,000 tons of non perishable food items

Over $157,000

I will be nominating this organization next year for CNN’S Heor of the Year!

 Below are photos from the 2008 drive:

http://fillthedome.org/ftd/Photos.html

What Foster Parents Wish Social/Care Workers Knew & Did

I have mentioned in previous entries that I belong to various on line message boards dealing with foster care and adoption.

Recently I was reading threads on a board I belong to and came to one that definitely drew more attention from me than many others that day. It was entitled, “What foster parents wish social workers knew and did.”

Though I am not a foster parent but rather a foster care alumnus I could very much relate to the issues discussed. During my eighteen years in foster care I was rarely spoken to about decisions being made about my future; just as rarely were my foster parents ever made a part of the decision making process.

In matter of fact as far back as I have any memory I remember my foster parents being told of the decisions after the fact. Their advice was not asked for though they were supposedly part of a team. It appeared to me that there were viewed as “babysitters” rather than the temporary parents that they were.

The social workers seemed to think they knew ALL the questions as well as the answers to them. This was despite the fact that many of them were young, right out of college and never parented children themselves. Their maybe twenty minutes, if lucky, spent with the foster parents or youth per month carried ALL the weight in the decision making process rather than the ones who cared for me twenty-four/seven.

I firmly believe the attitudes of many of the social workers in the field today need to be changed. Some of those who posted to the thread entitled above say it far better than I as they are current foster parents.

Thus I have snagged some of their comments, having changed the wording of some, as to what they wish social workers knew/do. I decided their suggestions needed a far wider audience than the message board I saw them on. Thus I am relating them here; though I have removed any identification from them so as not to put anyone in a bind with their social workers. Some of the suggestions may be repeated…it means they were stressed more than once and one should pay heed to them!

I believe that if they even adopted a few of the suggestions they would make for more informed decisions and have far better relationships with foster parents as well as the foster youth.

Here are just some of the ideas stated:

BE HONEST:

1. We know the youth may be damaged; we just need to know how and in what way.

2. Tell me if you have 75 cases so I will know I am pretty much on my own.
 
3. Tell me if the teen uses drugs or if sexual abuse is involved in the case.

4. Tell me if this is the youth’s first time in foster care or a return to care. Tell me how many previous homes they have been in and how long they have been in care.

5. There is no reason to lie to us; we’re all supposed to be on the same team.

6. Tell me if you know the youth has more appointments in a week than there are days. I have a job that I need to work around.

7. If a teen is involved; tell me if on probation/parole and why.

8. Tell me if the youth has a different religion and what I need to do to respect it.

9. Tell me reimbursements are delayed, don’t tell me it is in the mail.

TRUST US:

………. because we are with this child day in an day out……

1. We should know if the youth is peeing in the corner.

2. Yes the child needs to see a doctor; I know how to use a thermometer.

3. I am not in it for the money, though it helps.

4. I saw the youth get on the school bus / I walked the youth to their class.

5. You did a background check, psych evaluation, and contacted everyone in the world who knows me. If I was like that it would have been found out sooner.

6. I have no reason to lie.
 
RESPECT US:

1. We are suppose to be part of a team, don’t blow smoke up our behinds and tell us we’re part of the “team” and leave us in the dark, ignore us, or discount what we try to tell you. We usually know more about these children than you or anybody else involved in the case. We do not have the time or energy to make things up or exaggerate. If we tell you about a problem or concern, take us seriously. Don’t dismiss us. Don’t blow us off. Don’t interrupt with excuses or get defensive, but listen to what we have to say. If you don’t know the answer, be honest — don’t tell us more lies. Find out and get back to us. We really DO want to work together.

2. I will not yell at you, don’t yell at me.

3. I have to replace my (appliance/air conditioner/plumbing/roof/car) because the last kid broke it. I am not asking you to pay for it.

4. I only called your supervisor because I have been calling you for 2 weeks.

5. I had the decency not to yell at the bio-parent when they were yelling at me.

6. Believe it or not, I have a career aside from being a foster parent.

7. I am much smarter than you realize.

8. I don’t really mind too much if you are 5-15 minutes late now and then, but when you don’t show up at all, don’t call, and show absolutely no respect for my time or the children’s pre-visit anxiety, it really ticks us off. There is no excuse for that. We DO have a life, we DO have things to do, and we DON’T have time to wait around on them. We are NOT sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for them to throw us a crumb. We are busy people with things to do and families to tend to.

9. They also need to be reminded to keep your egos in check. YOU are NOT God, you do not know all things, you need to remember that you have these children’s lives in your hands and you will one day answer for the decisions you have made, so you better make good ones. Don’t be spiteful or ruin the kids’ lives because you want to show the foster parents how much power you have or you just want the file off of your desk.

UNDERSTAND US:

1. We have been bitten/slapped/punched/spit-on/pee’d on/poo’d-on/cursed at/ by someone who is not our family member and still found it in our heart to forgive the little person who did it and even love them.

2. I was attached to the child. Of course I cried. At least I waited until they were gone. I want you to realize that these kids are NOT just a number on a case load to US. They are OUR children…even if it’s temporary…We LOVE these children.

3. I absolutely hate it when you a social worker…or worse yet your supervisor thinks they know more about a child that they have spent 20 minutes a month with (or worse yet…never met) than a foster parent who has cared for that child for MONTHS or YEARS.

4. I wish caseworkers wouldn’t say I know how you feel – because unless you have loved, rocked, held, fed, etc this child you have know idea how I feel.

5. When we were going through the roller coaster of adoption – Our caseworkers would keep saying to us we want what you want, we want her to be yours forever; we don’t want to see her go back into that situation. Yep, but at 5 p.m. you go home to your family. This child is not my job she is my life and there is a huge difference. If she goes home tomorrow you still have a job – we have a huge hole in our hearts and an empty quiet house full of memories!

SHOW INTEGRITY:

1. Please get your facts straight before 1) going to court, 2) calling me accusing me of something I didn’t do, 3) writing about me or my kids in a report.

2. Please care enough about the kid to know his correct name, age, where he goes to school (after he’s been in placement for long period of time already)

3. Please listen to me when I say I need help. You know by now that I can handle most anything, when I say I need help, I’m over my head, listen to me

4. Many, many excellent foster parents quit due to caseworker stupidity. Work with us, we’ll bend over backward to work with you.

5. Don’t blame us when you’re the one who screwed up, forgot something, didn’t do your job, etc. We have enough to deal with without taking the blame for things we didn’t do or are not responsible for.

 BACK US UP!!!!!
 
1. with birth parents (tell bm why we didn’t buy designer jeans for her child)
 
2. with lame investigations (stand by those who do the hard job and dont turn your back on us when times get tough. support us dont act like we are guilty until proven “unsubstantuated”)

3. with therapists (tell them that the child has beaten the crap out of us, dont tell the therapist that he has some anxiety about the foster home…hello it is not us that cause him to beat us up)
with the schools (help us fight for IEPs and in school services)

4. with GALs and in court (LET US SPEAK. We have something to say that might just make a difference.)

5. with our disipline when the child tried to separate and divide (tell that kids that they have to follow rules of the house, dont negotiate with them for lesser punishment without speaking to us first)

6. with getting the paperwork done on time without excuses. (We know you are busy, we know you have other cases, but the kids under our roofs are the most important things in the world to us so acknowledge that and don’t give us lame excuses.

7. with telling us what is happening with the case, all of it. We understand confidentuality and all but we are in the middle of this case too and we, once again NEED TO KNOW if Dad is out of jail or if grandpa is dangerous AND if bm has shown up to the visit high….this might effect our childs behaviors.

8.with showing us pictures of the bios so we will know if they walk up to us in a store.

9. with inviting us to court.

10. when you talk to a foster parent be honest. WE WILL FIND OUT SOON ENOUGH IF YOU HAVE LIED TO US. So be upfront from the start so that we can go into this with trust and a sence of teamwork instead of us vs you.

11. by not treating us like a babysitter. We DO “need to know” and so don’t pull that “it is on a need to know basis”

12. with showing respect for us and what we do and tell us that once in a blue moon, we need to hear it too. Our job is no easier than yours.

13. with not picking the child up once a week for a short time and then try to tell us about his behaviors and what you have decided will work for him because more than likely we have already tried it.

MEAN WHAT YOU SAY & SAY WHAT YOU MEAN:

Examples of how many sayings seems today:

WHAT THEY SAY:
He’s a very busy little fellow
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He’s destroyed my office apart in 20 minutes flat.

WHAT THEY SAY:
She seems to have a little cold.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Her temp is 102 and she can’t breathe for coughing.

WHAT THEY SAY:
The family situation is slightly chaotic.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
They’ve been living in the family car which has been re-possessed.

WHAT THEY SAY:
Mom needs to get a little more organized.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Mom doesn’t remember where she left the baby.

WHAT THEY SAY:
These children need an organized, consistent atmosphere.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
They’ve never worn clothes and they eat off the floor.

WHAT THEY SAY:
You’re the only one I would trust with this child.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Everyone else has turned me down

WHAT THEY SAY:
This child is a picky eater.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He eats only cheetos, twinkies and Mountain Dew.

WHAT THEY SAY:
She has difficulty with peer relationships.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
She tried to kill her foster sister in her last placement.

WHAT THEY SAY:
We may want to talk about counseling in a few weeks.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
She thinks she’s a dog and barks constantly

WHAT THEY SAY:
It’s a complicated case.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
I think the grandfather is also the father but he may be the uncle.

WHAT THEY SAY:
I know I promised to take the child on the visit but I have an emergency.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
I’m dumping it on you.

WHAT THEY SAY:
Don’t you think you are overreacting?
WHAT THEY MEAN:
I don’t know what to do either.

WHAT THEY SAY:
He needs a lot of love and understanding
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He’s locked himself in a workers car and he has a knife.

WHAT THEY SAY:
The school staff seems fairly unsupportive in his last placement.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He held the principal hostage.

WHAT THEY SAY:
We’re going to move quickly to get the child home
WHAT THEY MEAN:
We can’t find his mother

WHAT THEY SAY:
Previous foster mom has switched jobs and can’t deal w/ him right now.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He’s 2 months old, weighs only 9 lbs, can’t keep anything down, screams constantly cuz he’s starving, and nobody can figure out what food he can keep down.

WHAT THEY SAY:
She’s very unique.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
She has so many mental and/or medical issues that even the doctors get confused.

WHAT THEY SAY:
It’s only temporary…
WHAT THEY MEAN:
…Unless no one else wants a 16 yr old with RAD, ADHD, dyslexia, autism, texture sensitivity, eating disorders, anxiety, bi-polar, fascination with fire, a history of acting out violently and sexually towards other children and adults, has been expelled from twelve schools, etc. ad nauseum.

WHAT THEY SAY:
She’s a very easygoing child.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
She’s probably RAD, so she doesn’t care if you’re there or not, or where you take her, or what you feed her, etc.

WHAT THEY SAY:
His hair needs to be washed, and he has a rash around his diaper, but he’s a sweet little baby.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He has lice, so you better wash his hair and clothes and bedding and then repeat the process for everyone else in your home after you discover this.

WHAT THEY SAY:
You work well with boys like this one.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Lock up is full and they have no place to put him.

WHAT THEY SAY:
It’s interim, he’s going into a residential program.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
They haven’t found one that will accept him.

WHAT THEY SAY:
He needs close supervision.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
He runs away.

WHAT THEY SAY:
Keep him away from younger children.
WHAT THEY SAY:
He has sexually assaulted little boys and girls..

WHAT THEY SAY:
I’ve been meaning to call ______________(pick one or all: the therapist/the attorney/the parole officer/the bio mom/you)…
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Now that you’ve left me 15 messages and gotten a hold of me completely by accident….I’ll pretend to get right on that thing you’ve been bugging me about for three weeks now.

WHAT THEY SAY:
You’re just wonderful to do this
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Its 5 o’clock and I’m out of here!

If social workers were held accountable for their actions or decisions they might stop and think before making them.

A social worker, if they have children of their own, should think of how they would like their children to be treated if someone were making the same decision about them as they are about someone else’s children before making them!