Cole had little chance surviving the effects of his birth mother's crack addiction but with lots of love, prayer, and attorneys who knew what they were doing, he and his mom will have many chances to enjoy The Dance.

November 3, 2003
Update: I just wanted to share what happened to baby #7. We received a call a few weeks ago from CPS saying bio mom's rights were terminated with baby #7. They were wondering what I wanted to do. The family who had taken the baby (biological mom's friends) also wanted to adopt her. I talked to Cole about how he felt and he said, "no matter who adopts sissy, she will ALWAYS be my sister, right mommy" and I said "yes", he went on to say, "sissy is not even l year old and she has had 3 mommies already" and he began to cry. He asked if her current foster mommy (bio mom's friend) wanted to keep sissy and I said yes. He said "I think we should leave sissy there because she needs to wake up with the same mommy and if we made her come back here, we are just as bad as the people who made her leave us".

Now this broke my heart, that a 4 l/2 year old loved his sister MORE than any of the so-called adults and professionals involved in this situation. He loved her so much that he would rather give her up, then see her hurt and confused by changing homes yet again. We will always keep his sister in our hearts and prayers and someday he is determined to find her and tell her how she was "taken from him by the bad people". Again, the system continues to amaze, discourage, and sicken me by the decisions they make. Their decisions make NO sense and continue to NOT be in the best interest of the child. This has been so very hard because I know in my heart that this little girl belongs with her brother and in a good, stable, Christian home, but my head tells me that "I have to let go" because the constant moving of this child from home to home is not good either. So, at this point, I pray God watches over her and keeps her safe, at least until she and her brother are older and can finally be together (when no "system" or "adults" can interfere in their relationship). God has blessed me so much with a little boy who has a heart the size of Texas and has more common sense then most adults I know. God Bless Rhonda & Cole

I too, am one of the war casualties of the CPS system (more importantly, my adopted son "almost" was). I received a newborn when he was eleven days old from CPS. He was a preemie, failure to thrive, and a crack addicted infant. This particular baby had left the hospital with the biological Mom, only to be hunted down by CPS 12 days later AFTER the tests results came back positive to several types of drugs. The doctors show in the reports that they were SURE this baby was drug addicted by his actions but by law they were not allowed to step in and help the child UNTIL the test results were returned. A LOT of things can happen to a newborn in 12 days at the hands of a homeless, crack addicted prostitute. This child was the biological mom's fifth child, all born affected by drugs or alcohol.

I was appalled when I received this little one, he was literally purple, lifeless, and the closest I have ever come to holding a baby knocking at heaven's door. I immediately took him to the hospital to be checked out. He barely weighed 5 lbs. and was dehydrated badly enough that he was pulling fluids off of his body organs. At that point, the pediatrician stated, "this child has given up his will to live." MY GOD, I didn't even know newborns could do that!! The doctor explained babies sense when they are loved, and wanted and this one so obviously wasn't. Well, the doctor said he could hospitalize him, BUT the fact is, he needed to be held and loved and stimulated by someone who cared and that the nurses are just too busy to sit and hold an infant. The hospital could provide the medical care but not the love. So, I followed doc's orders and took him home, put him in one of those carriers on the front of my body, and talked to him nonstop, even reading the paper aloud so he could hear my voice. I constantly rubbed his back, his hands, his body, and told him how beautiful he was and how much God loved him. I had to take him to the doctor's office every day for 7 days. They had to monitor him that closely because if he got any worse in regard to dehydration he had to be hospitalized. I took him the next day and he was up one ounce. That was a LOT to a child who had refused to eat or do anything when I first got him. I was waking him up every 1 1/2 hours and talking him into taking at least an ounce of formula; this took forever as he was so very weak. We proceeded to go to doc's office for 7 days and he continued to improve.

The birth Mom did not even want to see him for a month, THEN, when I took him to see her, she said she was in a hurry and for me to NOT leave (she was supposed to spend l hour with her son and instead she spent 15 minutes). She never held him, she never said, "I'm sorry", or "I love you" and I was amazed at the lack of bond. The birth Mom was scheduled to see him two times a week; she did NOT show up for three months. I asked CPS EVERY week to stop the visits or come up with another way because this baby had breathing problems from the crack and should not have to be out in January weather for NO reason when Mom was a no-show, month after month. FINALLY, they agreed to stop visits.

Another month went by and birth mom's 18 month old, who had been living with Mom, was taken into the system due to neglect issues and she was placed with me. The next day I received a call saying birth Mom wants to see BOTH kids, That Very Same DAY! It did not matter she had NO contact with this baby for 4 months; NOW she wanted to see him TODAY!

I took both kids and she hugged her daughter and even cried when she saw her, but paid NO attention to this little boy. It was beyond obvious something was wrong here. CPS allowed her weekly visits with both children, she showed up for less then 1/2 of the visits. The baby had started therapy (physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech) due to delays and he had VERY BAD reflux. At these visits, she played on the floor with the other child and literally had NO attachment to this baby. She would bring her "gang" type friends to the visits (which CPS "tolerated") and there was so much drama at these visits (screaming, birth mom being high and fighting, etc.) the baby would come home screaming, vomiting uncontrollably, and even began to pull his own hair out. At this point, I said enough is enough......

I called an attorney to ask, "What do I do to keep this baby"? This is when the world became unreal to me. I was always taught to do the right thing in life and it will all work out. I am here to tell you, it is not that easy. EVEN with one of the best attorneys our state has to offer (specialty was foster parent/adoption laws) we still lived in a nightmare and roller coaster ride because we kept being told, "mom has rights". My question was and continues to be "what about the children, do they not have rights?"

The other child, who mom was close to, moved into another foster home because it was too much with already having a special needs infant in my home. The birth mom would disappear for months on end, then call unexpectedly, and demand a visit, which CPS always gave her. This was allowed to continue until this baby was 22 months old. You would NOT believe the chances, the excuses, and the way the system, including the judge, made for this birth mom (such as she had a hard life, maybe she didn't' show up in court because she didn't get the letter, etc.). We even rescheduled the TPR hearing 3 TIMES, because the judge felt it was not fair to proceed because the bio mom NEVER showed up for the hearings (judge kept saying "maybe she didn't receive the court letters"!).

Our attorney FINALLY got a termination of parental rights hearing date when the baby was 22 months old. We had a pre-trial (to see if she wanted to voluntarily terminate or not) and she was a NO SHOW for court. THEN we had the formal hearing and she was a NO SHOW at court. One would think this would be a "no brainier" and would tell the judge she just does not care. Instead at the TPR hearing, we waited for 5 hours (even though she wasn't there, her court appointed lawyer was) and we still had to PROVE her unfit; fortunately the baby had good therapists to testify for him.

It took almost 2 months to get an answer from the judge that TPR was granted (again, judge had to "think about this" for TWO months). THEN, the public defender was actually going to APPEAL the TPR decision (I found out, that he receives $1,500.00 for EACH appeal he makes, how is that in the "best interest of the child")?

We had to wait another 30 days AFTER the findings of the TPR, to allow the public defender 30 days to appeal, before we could apply to adopt. This baby, is now a two year old little boy and we had been in limbo, not knowing what would happen next.

I have never prayed so hard in all my life that this guy would SEE that this child would have NO chance if he was made to go back and live with a crack addict who refused help (and God knows the system BEGGED her and promised her the moon to get drug help). You know, it amazes me how the system is so focused on the uncooperative parent INSTEAD of on the child. Where were these same "concerned caseworkers" when this baby screamed in pain from physical therapy or when he vomited over 100 times a day from the damage the drugs did to his little body.

At 31 days, we discovered he had not appealed the decision and my lawyer filed for adoption date. I am happy and relieved to share that as of last month, this beautiful child is now my baby boy and no addict, caseworker, public defender, and no "system" can come back and take him.

You see, what I want people to understand is that it should NOT be this hard to "love and help save a child's life" just SHOULD NOT be this hard.

Would I do it again? Yes, because I love this little boy. Would I wish this nightmare on anyone else? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! NO human being should have to go through what my family and this child have been put through, all in the name of "the best interest of the child". Whenever I hear this phrase, my skin literally crawls, and I feel like I am going to be sick. You know, the sad thing is, "the best interest of the child" is NEVER considered, it is the "best interest of the biological parents" or the "best interest of the caseworker or system", and it is NOT about the child.

In fact, I would like to rename CPS (child protection services) to PPS (parent protection services), or better yet, SPS (system protective services) because it sure IS NOT about protecting the child. I know how fortunate we are that our story has had a happy ending, my heart breaks for those whose story went the other way.

Am I done with the system? I think so, at least for now. I am so tired (emotionally and physically) that I just need to step back and regroup. I can only hope that someone else will take over the fight, at least until I get my second wind. We cannot make changes if we all just ignore the bad things in this world. If you are one of those people who are out there fighting the fight in the name of the child, God bless you. Just know, some of us DO and CAN win for these children. It will take many late nights, lots of energy, many nights with no sleep, endless court hearings, and money for attorneys. But, in the end, when I hold my precious son, the feeling is indescribable and when he says "wuv you mama" and wraps those arms around my neck, my reward is knowing that this child who I helped save from death, is not living in a crack house. He has his own bed, his own home, his own family, and most of all, he knows about God and he is being raised in a Christian home.

I hope when he grows up he will see and understand how very hard I fought for him and maybe he will see how important it is to fight for the things we believe in, in this world. We cannot give up the fight because this war just seems to be getting bigger and more widespread. In fact, I found out last week, this particular birth mom is now pregnant with # 6. When I asked why the system (welfare, Medicaid, laws, SOMETHING) cannot make this woman get on birth control, AGAIN, I was told by one of the higher ups at the state level "she has rights, we can't do that" (and she seemed appalled that I would even ask this question). I wondered if she would have been as appalled if she had seen the dying crack baby that I was holding 2 years ago. Where does a child's rights begin? This will be the SIXTH child who will be afflicted with some type of problem or delay due to the mother's drug abuse and no prenatal care.

One would think that consuming drugs throughout a pregnancy would be just as bad, and just as relevant, in the case of child abuse as it would be if you gave a newborn a hit of crack cocaine (guess not in America). From what I'm told, the laws (in my state) see a woman's body as hers and what she does with it, is up to her, even when it produces children with special needs, time after time, after time, after time.

People, we have to be LOUD, we have to be VOCAL, and we have to FIGHT to change these children's lack of rights. Without us, where will these kids be? Literally, where will these children be?

I know how fortunate we are that our story has had a happy ending, my heart breaks for those whose story went the other way. I am so grateful for this baby, and with God's help, I will NEVER take him for granted NOT for one single moment. However, it scares me for all those babies that are out there, just starting this roller coaster ride. I wonder what will happen to those children if they do not find someone who will fight (and I do MEAN FIGHT) for them? Will they be the kids in l0 years holding a gun in the classroom? Will they grow up and have babies themselves who will grow up in the system? Is it all about a continuous cycle? Do we all get so careless and callous to say "oh well, that's just how it is"? I don't think so.

Well, 2 years later, we have had birth mom's baby # 6 and baby # 7 with us as foster children. They have since been moved to "family members" at the biological mom's request. I continue to be amazed, appalled, and sicken that even as time goes on, the system does not improve. We had my son's biological sister (baby #7) with us for 4 l/2 months (since she was 10 days old) and she was moved to one of "bio mom's friend's home" even though the biological mom had only bothered to come to a couple of her scheduled visits. I guess the drug world keeps her pretty busy. My son is devastated since she was removed. He was aware this was his biological sister and became VERY bonded to her. They looked identical. When the baby was moved, she too was crack addicted and receiving therapies, my son cried for weeks on end. He no longer believes in God, he refuses to attend church, he hates police and does not trust them (he feels as a 4 year old, the police and God should have protected his sister), and I have struggled to help him deal with his grief. He is now so angry at the world, and refuses to talk to a counselor because in his words "it's not going to bring sissy home". He tells everyone someday he will find his sister and he will tell her all about how the "bad people stole her from him". Every time we are shopping or out to eat and he sees a baby girl, he looks and searches the baby's face in hopes he will find his sister.

The struggle with the system NEVER ends. I have decided this is the last time we will bring home any of his biological siblings because it's just too overwhelming for him when they leave. I would continue to encourage those of you in the middle of your fight to keep FIGHTING for what you know in your heart is the right thing. It's been a VERY long battle to finally look into my son's eyes and KNOW he's MINE and he's here to stay in his forever home, with his forever mommy, but, it's one battle that I would do all over, just to have him with me.
I always think of the Garth Brooks song about "The Dance", this song says"

Lookin' back on the memories of
the dance we shared beneath the stars above.
For a moment, all the world was right.
How could I've known that you'd ever say 'good bye?'

And now, I'm glad I didn't know the way it all would end
the way it all would go.
And our lives are better left to chance.
I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance.

Holdin' you, I've held everything.
For a moment, wasn't I the king?
But if I'd only known how the king would fall,
Hey, who's to say, you know, I might have changed it all.

Yes, my life is better left to chance.
I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance

If we as foster/adoptive parents would have known about all the pain, I'm afraid we would have missed the gift of knowing the beautiful children that God gave us (even if he only loaned them to us for a short while). After all, who in their right mind, would sign up for "hurt, deceit, being betrayed, treated like the enemy, risking losing the child that had become ours, and disrespected time and time again". Again, I could have missed the pain (all the drama that we were put thru by this biological mom) but, I would have missed out on the greatest dance of my lifetime, being a mommy to a wonderful little boy.

God Bless to all those who continue to fight for the children, and may the RIGHT win.

Rhonda & Cole