Massachusetts News

No Happy Ending For These Children

Massachusetts News
By Nev Moore
May 27, 2000

There is no happy ending to this story.

For Anna, Noel, and Joshua there will never be any ending. Their lives are shattered and they will carry their pain and confusion with them every day for the rest of their lives. I have met the kids. I have taken Kathleen to her visits and seen the children run to her with excited shouts of "Mom! Mom!" I have seen them throw themselves into her arms, hugging her tightly, and not letting go.

By a twist of fate, our daughter, Brieanna, got to know Kathleen’s daughter, Noel, in foster care, and she met Joshua in school where they became friends. Brieanna would relay to me things these kids told her, as she does about her other friends. She would tell how much they want to go home to their mother.

Last summer we had a crowd of Bree’s friends playing. I heard Josh’s name come up, so I asked the little girl if she knew him. The nine-year-old replied, "Oh, Josh is my very best friend, but it’s so sad because he’s not with his mother, and all he does is tell everybody that he needs to go home to his mom!"

All Separated

The children are all separated now. Little Josh has been in multiple foster homes. They just keep shuffling him around, moving him further and further from the Cape. His most recent "placement" was in a good foster home in Rockland. The foster parents were nice people who didn’t play games with Kathleen.

When Kathleen called a couple of weeks ago for her regular, scheduled phone call, the foster father told her she could have talked to Josh if he were there, but he wasn’t. Her little boy had been moved to a black foster home in Fall River. The man did not know their name or number. Most of the black families who we talk to, who have children in foster care, prefer that their children be placed in black foster homes. DSS policy states that they are supposed to be "culturally sensitive." In other words, place the child in an environment that is as similar as possible to their own to minimize the feelings of strangeness and alienation. So, by the same token, a little white boy from rural Cape Cod should be placed in a more familiar environment.

Like A School Bully

DSS as an agency reminds me of the school bully. We all know that bullies are cowards who try to mask their feelings of inadequacy behind aggression towards others. In typically cowardly fashion, no one at DSS wanted to be the one to tell little Josh that he would never be going home to his mother, because they realized how deeply this would traumatize him.

Thus the DSS demand for "termination therapy." Let the mother be the one to break the news so that the children could hold her responsible and therefore resent her and disconnect from her emotionally. Kathleen refused to take part in this sick game so we don’t know who eventually told Josh, but we do know that he is regressing into behaviors that are symptomatic of severe trauma, such as soiling himself and smearing feces. DSS has emotionally dissected this little boy like a bug under a microscope. We can never – ever – fix the damage that’s been done. We can never make it better. We can never put Joshua back together again.

Judge’s Ruling Is Incoherent

The judge who terminated Kathleen’s parental rights was a new judge in the area who only jumped into her case for the last two days of hearings. In his findings he writes that the reasons he’s terminating her parental rights are that she had not attended parenting classes and counseling, even though she had submitted complete documentation verifying that she had completed all services required. His other reason was that she had not engaged in drug and alcohol treatment. This was the first time these issues had ever been mentioned in her case. They were never mentioned, even by DSS, in any service plan, assessment, investigation, case file, or in the court proceedings. Kathleen does not drink or use drugs and has no history of ever having done so.

At first we thought someone had given Kathleen the findings on someone else’s case by mistake. Or, because the judge is unfamiliar with her case, did he just issue some generic findings, assuming that everyone having their rights terminated must have drug and alcohol issues? Kathleen’s attorney, Brian Sullivan of Orleans has filed for an appeal, but he tells Kathleen that it could take two or three years to get. As Judge Carol Smith of Barnstable juvenile court has told other parents, "You can file all the appeals you want. We’ll have your kids adopted out long before you get one." Somewhat akin to telling a death row inmate that they can have their appeal after the execution.

Worse Than Death

Losing a child or mother to death through accident or illness is an unthinkable thing that we all pray we will never have to face. But, if we do, eventually our spirit processes the grief and we move on, carrying a painful scar. However, losing a loved one in this cruel way leaves us grieving every day for the rest of our lives. There is no processing or healing, or "closure." Our lives are irretrievably shattered and we carry a raw, open, gaping wound that cannot heal.

The players in this story will collect their paychecks each week and go about their daily lives, sleeping peacefully at night. Kathleen, Anna, Noel, and little Joshua are not important enough to anyone else to be remembered. The family they once were, the love and bond between mother and children will simply cease to exist, evaporating like a wisp of smoke.