One Woman's story
One of the most significant changes that occurred in my life has changed me forever. The holidays, which were once a joyful time in my life, have now become the most dreaded time of the year. It is during the latter part of the year that I find myself recalling this past event and battling post traumatic stress disorder and major depression. I also tend to think of what I could have done differently and how my age at the time played a significant role in the outcome. Since this happened, I have learned a lot and have grown into a stronger willed woman.
Twelve years ago, I was a single mother living in Arkansas and trying to take care of two small children. I was receiving government assistance, getting help with housing and food. I started talking to a man who lived fifteen hours away in Virginia. After talking for a while on the phone; this was before computers were so widely used; he sent a bus ticket for me and my two children to come and live with him. This would be the first mistake I would make and live to regret for a lifetime.
The weather outside was chilly; the trees had lost their leaves and it hadn’t been long since we’ve had our Thanksgiving feast. I was home alone after dropping my boyfriend off at work and the children off at the babysitter. I was supposed to work but called in sick. Soon, there was a loud knock at the door which made me jump. When I opened the door, there was a tall, slender man in a state police uniform and a woman wearing a dress suit standing on the porch. Before they even spoke, I felt dread in the pit of my stomach realizing that my day had just gone from bad to worse. After quick introductions had been made, they proceeded to tell me that they had taken my son, Lance, and my boyfriend’s daughter, Angel, into custody because they suspect child abuse. They also stated that they had received a report from the babysitter and that both children were at the hospital being checked out.
The day before this happened, I had worked all day at Dairy Queen where I was a cashier. My boyfriend had taken care of the children that day because he didn’t have to work. He was sitting in the parking lot in his burgundy Dodge Shadow car waiting on my shift to end. When my shift ended, I walked out to the driver’s side of the car as I was the one who was driving home. When I got into the car, I turned my head to the side and looked into the back seat where the children were fastened into their car seats to say hi to them. When I looked back, I noticed that my son’s forehead was swollen. My first reaction was, “what the hell happened to him and is he going to be alright?” I didn’t say anything, and my first impulse was to take him to the hospital as quick as I could but I also feared that if I had changed route that my boyfriend would hurt us. I was trying to keep me and the children safe so I drove us all home. I didn’t say anything and just kept quiet, thinking to myself about ways of getting out of the situation that I had found my son and me in. I stewed over it all night, trying to come up with ideas and I didn’t get much sleep that night. I had come to a decision by morning time and decided to put my plan in effect.
A few days later, I found myself sitting on a brown bench outside the courtroom in the hallway. My ex-boyfriend was standing in front of the judge with his attorney by his side. They were pressing criminal charges against him for child abuse. I was there at court to testify as to what had happened and how I wasn’t sure as to what all had taken place since I wasn’t at home at the time. I was also facing charges of child endangerment for not seeking medical attention for my son. I was appointed an attorney and the charges were later dropped.
I was staying at a battered women’s shelter during the court proceedings and stayed there until after the beginning of the new year. There were many women there who tried to help me and guide me to do what I needed to do to get my son back. I eventually found an apartment of my own and they helped with some furnishings. Things were finally starting to look up for me. I had made a few friends and got focused on doing what I needed to do to get my son back.
The battle for me to regain custody of my son went on for two years. I was appointed an attorney by the court and my son was appointed a guardian ad litem. I had to have a psychological assessment done along with an IQ test that was mandated by the court. The results from the psychologist who did the test said that I was of high intelligence and that I was more book smart than life smart but that my scores on the other tests showed that I was answering as to what they wanted to hear instead of being actual answers on my part.
During the two year court battle, I had visitation with my son who was staying in a foster home. The visitation was usually at the Social Services Agency under supervision by the case worker. Eventually, I got to have visitation with my son at my apartment. I had a room fixed up for him. I had a job and was buying him clothes, shoes and toys along with other furnishings he needed.
In August of 2002, after two years of going to court and trying to show that I was responsible enough to take care of my son and not let anything else happen to him, the battle was over with the state being the victor. During my battle, I had no family offer to come and testify for me, I had no friends and I was battling alone. The attorney that was appointed to me was an insurance attorney and wasn’t a family attorney. The foster family that had been taking care of my son was seeking adoption. No matter how hard I tried, nothing I did was ever good enough to get my son back.
Every year, these memories are recalled in my mind. Whenever I and my mother or my brother gets into an argument about something, they bring my son that I lost custody of. No matter how much I try not to hurt, there is always something that brings back the memories of my biggest failure and the one thing that has impacted my life the most.
© Joy Hall publishing