Thursday, 24 April 2014

An Update About my Daughters

My apologies for not updating you until now; so much has been going on lately that it’s taken its toll on both my health and sanity. 

To everyone who have been sending their messages and prayers of support for the well-being of my daughters, I thank you with all my heart; you are the ones whom have held me up and given me hope that things will work out. To those of you who still have faith in the Children Protective Services system, I am happy that your experiences have been so positive; in my case, this situation has come upon me and turned into a nightmare. My biggest mistake was ever giving them the benefit of the doubt. I will post this part of the story when the time is appropriate. Since so many aspects of this investigation are still open and active, I must refrain from discussing them.

My belief is that the CPS system is highly prejudiced. The same day the story was recorded, (but had not yet aired on Global News Edmonton, I was visited (suspiciously, given the timing) by two social workers from CFS. One worker was there to tell me what options were available to me where the girls’ care was concerned and the second social worker is an assessor whom I will refer to as “A,” in order to protect her privacy.

I invite you to please subscribe to this blog via the email box on the right as I am now in the process of writing about how the system is acting in the unilateral interest of one parent, instead of truly looking after what the children need. As I write this, I am not directly criticizing any one person; especially since the children’s assessor (herein known as “A”), has gone beyond her required call of duty to mediate this situation. However, instead of following through with all of the “help and support” they had offered and in a way, “promised” in order to buy time to properly examine the situation as to cause the least amount of trauma and stress on my daughters, all this support was suddenly pulled out from under our feet the instant their father (herein known as “H”), decided to come out of hiding and return to Edmonton. 

Based on the speed at which he was able to come return and judging by the offers that were made to bring my parents here to take the children while sorting things out, I believe (and not stating this as a fact in any way) that CFS paid to have him fly back to Canada. 

It was as though the children’s guardian and I instantly no longer existed. The moment they heard he was back in town, most of the arrangements that had already started gaining momentum were dropped, despite the fact that those arrangements are/were still required even if he did show up--if they really wanted what was best for the girls.

I had put off writing this post until now, because I've been wading through a sea of bureaucracy and utter confusion. What was once a quest to place my girls in a safe home has now turned into a custody battle which was initiated through the caring attention of CFS. Then, when both the children’s guardian, or I approach them about the matter of their father breaching the parenting order, they tell me, or the guardian that this particular aspect is no longer their problem because they apparently don’t get involved with custody situations—yet a significant amount of tax-payers’ money has now gone to support the very parent who has abused and neglected those girls since they were born. No, they were not constantly beaten up or given bruises (though there have been alleged cases of physical abuse that the children slowly revealed to third parties over the summer and through the fall); the abuse they were forced to endure was much worse: psychological and verbal abuse that doesn't leave visible scratches or broken bones, but affects their very souls and senses of selves as children.

So very-long-story-made-short, despite there being a court order in place regarding visitation three times per week and daily phone access, I have only seen my daughters three times since March 7: the day their father returned. This is only because “A” did the girls and I a tremendous favour by facilitating these visits. The last time I saw or heard from them was on March 29.

There are many circumstances involved, but “H” is using the fact that I requested a restraining order against him (due to legitimate fears for my own safety and mental health from his constant abuse) as an excuse not to bring them to see their mother. There are many ways around this, yet having been presented with at least six-or-so workable options which I passed on to him via CFS, he refused all of them without stating valid reasons for ruling them out. The onus is on him to transport the children to me, so however he chooses to do it, he now needs to figure it out for himself. I’d suggest he get a friend or acquaintance to help him with bringing the girls here, but like most paranoid people, he has no friends or support system to speak of.

The last time I saw my daughters, I couldn't believe the change that had occurred in them in only a few short weeks. It took all my remaining mental energy not to appear upset or to cry in front of them. My older daughter kept telling me over and over again, as though a mantra, how she “couldn't feel anything,” a very strong indicator of depression. The worker who came to pick them up then refused to drive their favorite game 200 meters away to where their father would be waiting, so until this day, they have been unable to play chess. Sadly, the best comparison as to how the girls have changed would be that of a person who just joined a cult. They are no longer the happy and energetic children that were portrayed in the news, they have turned into quasi-zombies who have forgotten how to play or behave as children should behave: carefree and happy.

The common piece of advice constantly offered to me is that I need a lawyer, but unfortunately, despite AISH (disability benefits) being my only current source of income, Legal-Aid has turned me down stating I earned too much money. It seems as though I'm up the proverbial creek without a paddle or a boat.

Thank you once again for all your ongoing prayers and support; the last six weeks have been one nightmare after another. My apologies if this post seems somewhat disjointed; concentration has not been one of my strong points these days.

**Addendum: Please share this post with as many people as you know. Perhaps there is a lawyer out there willing to take on this case pro-bono. If so, the "contact me" box on the left does indeed work, or send me a comment with your email. Don't worry about your email's privacy, I can simply delete the comment, then email you directly. Thanks**
~Sarah


Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: a weekend update--Part II

Part II--the Good

Now on to the Good! It looks like I may have found a family! This started before dad decided to finally reveal his whereabouts and I'm praying that in the long run, this will work out for all parties concerned.

To help you understand, I want to offer an analogy. Is there a hobby that you love so much, that you live for it? It's on your mind day and night and you can't get your mind off of it. If you're unable to work on it 24/7, then you're looking up pictures or information online about that hobby, or boring your family to death for the umpteenth time about some stone you found while hiking in the mountains? This is how things came about for this family.

First of all, I have to admire their tenacity and creativity as to how they got my attention. Knowing that they'd be one among many people trying to get my attention, they took rather creative measures to get my attention. I had a short-list of about four or five families and, at that point, I barely read 5-10% of the total correspondence sent to me. 

This family's email came to me via a slightly different route and while they were among three families I passed on to the social worker, their email was constantly on my mind and I couldn't stop thinking about them. Finally on Friday, I emailed them, asking if they would be willing to meet with me to discuss the situation further and get the chance to fill them in on some information that isn't in the news--including the then-situation with the girls' father.

Our talk lasted close to 2 1/2 hours and I was happy to learn about their family dynamics and and how my daughters would be integrated into their family. They were able to give me the magic answers (in my own mind) in regards to certain questions regarding my daughters and from then on, I was sold.
What I really appreciate (among many other things), is that they realize the importance of the girls having access to their mother and their willingness to make changes around the girls, even if it means making small sacrifices here and there in order to work with their best interests at heart.

We ended our visit on a positive note and made arrangements so that they (and their children) could meet my daughters on Sunday.

Sunday came along and they finally had the opportunity to meet with the girls. We chatted some more while their children and mine played together at a nearby table. We were able to ask question we missed on Friday and after about an hour, I suggested we join the kids at the table.

Their own children, whom had wanted other siblings for ages seemed to be sold on the idea, as were my daughters. They then got to truly meet my daughters and show them pictures of their home and share with them what their family life was like. They discussed each others likes and dislikes, as well as what types of activities each liked to do.

Overall, it was a very positive experience and I'm praying that they are still willing to accept the girls along with the potential dirty laundry that may soon follow. There are several other backup families, but with my wanting them located in a week, I hope that the social workers involved can hurry up and touch base with each other in order to make this happen.

Everything runs on God's time, I guess... Please keep your prayers open, that these girls may be protected from any potential harm, as well af finding the happiness and stability they really need.

God Bless everyone for your continued prayers and support!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: a weekend update: Part I

Part I--the Bad & the Ugly

This has been both a wonderful, yet stressful weekend. I was blessed with many great things, yet I also now have to deal with the negative aspects of having gone public. I hate ending a blog post on a low key, so I'll start with the bad and the ugly first.

While things have been going great, so far, I was sitting by bed on Saturday when the phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, so ignored it in favour of continuing with what I was doing. The phone rang two or three more times before finally stopping; there was a voice mail. Thoroughly exhausted after another another day of non-stop visitors and calls, I let my curiosity get the best of me and I checked the voice mail. It was from my husband...in Egypt...telling me that he "knew everything" and was going to return to Canada as soon as he could, unless he heard back from me.

There are a few problems with this:

  1. He is abusive. He was abusive towards me throughout our marriage, and continues to be so when he doesn't hear or get exactly what he wants. This includes verbal, psychological and occasionally, physical abuse.
  2. He is abusive towards the girls. He is mostly verbally and emotionally abusive, but it's not beyond him to be physically abusive when certain buttons are pushed. Remember that these are young children! When most of this occurred while in his care, they were 6-7 and 7-8 years old.
  3. He is psychologically unstable. According to DSM-IV, an adult needs to meet a minimum of 3 out of seven criteria/symptoms for at least 6 months in order to be diagnosed with PPD (Paranoid Personality Disorder). He met all seven criteria.

    This means that the girls had minimal contact with the community at large, never had friends, rarely got out for exercise and fresh air and if some friendly person on the bus would (of all the possible horrors!) actually say hi to them and perhaps ask their age (as friendly strangers often would ask young children), they were not allowed to answer back.

    Since they were still being homeschooled (dad refused to school them because he felt that the work involved for HIM--not the girls took up too much of his valuable time. As you can see, it's not the girls' best intesest he's looking out for, but his own.
  4. The girls are scared to death of him. It took over six months for them to feel safe in his care and now he wants to pop up into their lives and return them to the misery they were previously forced to live in? My older daughter was shaking when she realized that his return could imply their return to his primary care.
These are only the tip of a very large iceberg. Because he is losing control over where the girls might end up (despite repeatedly "firing" their guardian and expecting me to move them out), he'd rather give up his only chance for a career in Canada in exchange for rushing back here without a job, a home, or any support network to do what? He has no plan whatsoever...at least nothing that is workable. What will he do? Take the girls and house them in a shelter instead?

It looks like your donations will find a need indeed, so to those of you who found it in your hearts to share your generosity, I thank you. I have a feeling that a lawyer may soon be required and legal aid (which is NOT free in Alberta, but they make the payments affordable) refused my previous request for help in varying the parenting order for this exact reason; not wanting to put the children through constant drama and psychological trauma.

Like everyone on this vast planet, I'm not perfect. I have good personal qualities, as well as bad ones. The difference is that I'm willing to admit my shortcomings and work on improving them. He doesn't think he has any. Like any mama bear, I will do everything I can think of in order to assure the safety and well-being of my proverbial cubs.

More about the good parts of this weekend coming up shortly.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Wish Me Luck!

I'm meeting with a prospective family this evening and I hope that it's a positive visit. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

It's been a long day...

I haven't seen the girls today. Their guardian phoned and was rather giddy (in an excited way) and declared that they (meaning her and my kids) were going shopping at WEM. for the day. It's not WHAT she said, as much as HOW she said it; in one of those devious-yet-excited tones of voice. I have no idea what's up, but something is certainly in the air! It's obvious that with so many families responding to my plea, stress levels are finally coming down on all sides. I hadn't heard her that happy in a long time!



I am still reading through inquiries and and offers and I feel like I barely scratched the surface of all your messages! Your response has been incredible and it would be a shame if the ideal family got away (who knows, maybe one of you lives down the street from me?).

I've already been in touch with some people to let them know that I'd like to chat with them further. Interestingly, I received a large number of offers from people in Ontario and Nova Scotia and while Edmonton (and then Alberta) is my clear preference. However, should a placement here fail, I wouldn't be closed to an out-of-province transfer

The social worker from CFS came to see me this morning to see how things have been going and to see how she can help me out with sorting through families. I appreciate the time she took to follow up on me and I gave her the info on a family that has captured my interest. Since she is already registered as a foster parent, she should be able to track her down with the information I provided. I have several other families that I have already short-listed and contacted with a message letting them know I would be in touch. Knock on wood that something comes out of this. 

Another reason she stopped by was to see if I can convince the children's guardian to accept assistance in order to help her and her family out until the girls move in with their new family. This way, we can buy some time to transition the children over slowly, instead of a sudden overnight switch, and they can benefit from assistance with my girls which has been a source of stress for them.

Update & Why is There a Donation Button, Suddenly?

Note: this message has been re-edited from this morning's original post.

Good morning, everyone. I'm still wading through replies and many well-wishes have been bringing tears to my eyes. I'm continuing to surf through the surge of messages and still need a day or two before I can make any phone calls. Please be patient, this isn't a decision I want to make likely. Many inquiries have questions about the girls, which I will attempt to answer later this evening. 

Meanwhile, many people have been asking if they can help out financially and I want to say thank you. Their needs are currently being provided for and any funds offered will go towards their transition or, if there is anything left, it will be deposited into their RESP.

Have a nice (yet) cold sunny day and God Bless you all.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Thank You for Such an Overwhelming Response!

The interview aired yesterday (and will also air at lunch today) on Global News in Edmonton. In case you missed the news clip, you can find it at their site online, along with an awesome write-up.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone who heard my call to find a home for my girls. They are excited that so many people have come forward.

I am so grateful to be living in a community with so many wonderful people. My daughters are excited to know that there is a family out there that will be able to take them in and I'm starting to feel a sense of relief that I haven't felt in months. I look forward to get to know some of you in the coming week; you have all reminded me why I chose Edmonton to be my home.

It will take a day or two to read through so many responses and I will try to reply to as many as I can and will keep everyone updated via this blog.

With Sincere Regards,
Sarah