Monday, June 7, 2010

Peace. Out.

Given life's recent events, I've spent the last several days doing a lot of thinking. I've had to come to the unfortunate decision that I should stop blogging.

Now it's not that I don't have anything left to say. I have plenty to say about a wide variety of things, not just foster care and post-adoptive life. I have things to say about politics, personal finance, Judaism and a great many more topics, but now is not the time to voice those opinions.

Over the past few days a lot of disturbing things have happened. I've received a number of threatening e-mails, our daughter's camp has confirmed that they have received at least one suspicious telephone call, and I've been made aware that a third abuse allegation has been made to social services.

We've already been in contact with the Department, and don't yet know how things will turn out. Either things will end as a big, fat annoying nothing like the other two allegations, or they won't. In either case, FosterEema and I have had some very long talks about what this means for us. Whatever the outcome, we have come to an accord on a number of issues that divided us, and are at peace with whatever happens.

I have to admit, even as creepy as all this has been, that there's a part of me that's the tiniest bit flattered by the attention. I find it hard to believe that a blog, which I thought hardly anybody bothered to read, could inspire such incredible passion in people. If I stumble across a blog that I don't like or that offends me, I just drop it from my feed reader. I can't imagine being inspired enough to go to the effort of hunting someone down and stirring up trouble in their personal life.

The worst of this isn't that someone has caused trouble for me. It's annoying, but it's not the end of the world. This boils down to a certain amount of harassment and some public embarrassment, but that's really about the extent of it. I think the person or people involved in this know that they are walking a very fine line between what constitutes free speech and what becomes criminal harassment.

So I've been embarrassed. Big deal. Heck, I've done plenty to embarrass myself before, and I'll likely do it again. It's part of life. Once, I managed to spill enchilada sauce all down the front of my shirt during a lunchtime job interview, so it's not like feeling stupid in front of others is a new experience. What makes this so bad is the upset it has caused Danielle.

Danielle has an inordinate amount of fear when it comes to social workers. From her perspective, social workers do nothing good. During her stay in foster care, workers constantly talked about moving her to another foster home, but never did. During the year prior to her adoption, we had a worker who would tell her, "I'm doing everything I can to make sure you stay," while at the same time fighting against us as hard as she could in court. She even went so far as to say things that weren't true while testifying, and she wrote statements that were provably untrue in her reports. Because of this, Danielle sees social workers as liars whose sole purpose is to remove children from their homes.

Danielle is the big loser in all of this because another investigation means yet another visit from social workers. Not only will they want to talk to us, they'll want to speak with Danielle, which will be quite upsetting to her. The first time an abuse report was made against us, a social worker showed up at her school. She called home, traumatized and upset. The second investigation, though brief, was much the same. Each time social workers talk to her, she is terrified.

This just seems so senseless.

In retrospect, perhaps I shouldn't have written so openly about my feelings, as it has obviously gathered the ire of some people. Although there are a great many foster and adoptive parents who write about their experiences, most aren't so open in their blogs. Perhaps it is because they fear criticism from the wider community, fear exposure, or feel guilty for having strong feelings about their troubled children.

When I started blogging, more than four years ago, I couldn't believe some of the stories I'd read and heard about foster care. I couldn't believe that the system could be so broken and that kids could be so troubled, until it happened to me. In many respects, I think my experience has been worse than some (though better than others) in part because my wife and I are queer. I think most of the scrutiny we were under prior to Danielle's adoption was motivated purely by discrimination, and it has also been at least part of the motivation for the abuse referrals after.

Do I regret blogging? Absolutely not. Perhaps I should have been more circumspect in what I said, but I think the story needed to be told. People need to be aware that the foster care system is broken, and that damaged kids are being adopted out to families without the needed and necessary supports being in place. When it comes to post-adoption support, the government's attitude seems to be, "well, you adopted the kid, now she's your problem."

If you look at the situation from a societal perspective, this is an incredibly stupid and irresponsible attitude. It is today's troubled and damaged kids that become tomorrow's criminals and prison inmates. Given that the annual cost of incarcerating someone in prison averages about $23,876 a year, and many offenders return again, again and again, it would seem wise to put programs in place to prevent this outcome for our at-risk youth.

Just like so many things in life, society finds it easier ignore the root cause of problems, preferring to address them after the damage has already been done.

My story is a story that needed to be told. Although some might worry about the damage it would do to Danielle, we've talked as a family about a great many things I've discussed here. Some of the more difficult topics were discussed more gently than I've voiced here, but we have shared them as a family. Even without discussion, Danielle understands just how difficult her behavior can be. When asked, "How would you feel if...?" she expresses many of the feelings that I've shared here. Danielle, too, sometimes expresses regret about the adoption. She recognizes, as do we, that there are a lot of things we wish were different.

Bottom line, despite all our extreme frustrations, we do care about one another. We care about Danielle, and I think she cares about us, even if she isn't always able to express it.

As for me, this isn't the first online forum or community in which I have participated, and it certainly won't be the last. I cut my teeth online back in the days before the Internet, and I can't imagine not being an active participant in the online world. Ideally, I'd like to bring back my blog at some point, but now is definitely not the time to do so.

To my bloggy friends, whether I know you or not, I send my thanks and appreciation. Your support, comments, and constructive criticism have meant a lot to me. Your kind words of support and good thoughts have given me strength during some of my darkest hours. There really aren't adequate words to thank you.

To my trolls, haters and stalkers, I also have words of thanks. Your remarks, though often profoundly unkind, have made me think. They often have made me consider my actions and challenged my beliefs. Even if I rarely agreed with you, debating and defending my actions was most certainly worthwhile.

If you have been following my blog for a while, I hope that my words here have been of some value. Whether you are one of my supporters or not, I hope that I've managed to make you think, too. I hope that for those of you who are considering fostering or adoption, that I've opened your eyes to what can be a very dark and troubled system. For those of you who are already fostering or have adopted, I hope that my story has made you feel just a little bit less alone. If you are parenting a troubled child, you are not alone. I hope that the discovery of knowing that there are other parents who are struggling, as you struggle, reduces your sense of isolation and despair.

I'd like to think of this message not as a "goodbye" or "farewell," but more as a "see you later." I have every intention to come back to the blogging world at some point, though I don't know when, or what form, that will be. Please leave me in your blog readers and RSS feeds, because if and when I come back, that announcement will be here. If you'd like to stay in touch, please feel free to shoot me an e-mail. My address can be found on my profile page.

Although the damage done to Danielle by my Internet stalkers is pretty significant, I'm also sad that it has done damage to my readers. I am sure people will pause and wonder how the story ends. What will the results of the child abuse investigation be? How will Danielle behave after she returns from camp? Will FosterAbba and FosterEema be able to resolve their differences and strengthen their relationship?

It makes me sad that I might not be able to tell you all how the story ends. Of course I don't know how it will end, either.

So for now, I send you all a cyber hug. Know that I am thinking about you, and that I know you are thinking about me.

Peace. Out.

- FosterAbba

Friday, June 4, 2010

What Happened to Your Blog?

Over the past 24 hours, I've received a fantastic number of e-mails from people asking, "What happened to your blog?"

Here's the answer:

We have discovered that one or more people from the Internet have taken it upon themselves to cyber-bully, stalk and harass us. We've received a number of directly threatening e-mails including statements that they intend to make false reports of child abuse to the authorities. These messages have made it clear that the group's goal is to have Danielle removed from our home at any cost. Some of these messages have included our personal identifying information. There is also some indication the group may be aware of Danielle's current location, and may be planning to harass or abduct her.

We are taking appropriate security measures to ensure her safety.


These people may not realize it, but cyber bullying is a crime on both state and federal levels.

The federal law states:
Whoever...makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications;...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. [47 U.S.C. 223(a)(1)(C)]

Forty-seven states now have laws that include electronic communications in their stalking and harassment laws. Many of these states take this behavior seriously. Missouri, for example, has made this type of conduct a felony.

Since some states require that victims of cyberstalking formally demand that the harassment stop, here is my message:

    Stop harassing me, my wife, my child, my family and my personal and professional contacts. Stop sending me threatening messages, and do not attempt to interfere with my child while she is at home, at school or away. Furthermore, my blogs consist of copyrighted material, and under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Pub.l. 105.304, 17 USC 512 et seq.) I demand that you cease and desist from redistributing my copyrighted materials, and that you immediately remove all copies of my copyrighted materials from the Internet.

A great many of these messages that we have received seem to indicate that the person or persons behind all of this are operating under the mistaken impression that removing Danielle from our home will be some type of rescue, and that she will be better off returned to foster care than remaining in our home.

I can't speak about the reality of foster care in other communities, but what I can say is that in our county this is most certainly not true. Our county's budgets are dwindling, and supportive resources for kids in foster care are becoming fewer and fewer. Whether you agree with our parenting style, or believe that we are bad parents, it's highly unlikely that ripping Danielle away from another family and returning her to foster care could possibly be in her best interest.

Knock if off, you guys.

By the way -- Danielle is safe and we've had communications with her and her current caregivers. All is well and she is doing great.