Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our new site is officially up!!!


PLEASE come and check out the site, and help pass along the URL to everyone in the whole wide world... or at least everyone on your contact lists :)

The site is current with daily updates.

THANK YOU ALL so much for the support!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

They Stayed Home - Keep Them Home!


It is amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Monday, December 15th, was a frantic day. We wrote, we called, we questioned, and we feared. Monday night, close friends started to arrive.

Emily and her children Raven and Nigel showed up first, with snacks and sleeping bags in their arms. Then, Aunt Jenna and Uncle Tom came over with their children Naomi and Caleb. The children played, while the adults came together in support. We did not know what the next several hours would bring us, but for now, we were all together. Tavvi and Raven went into Tavvi's room and started to pack some bags....

Then Chris and his son's Sev and Alex came over. Sev and Alex are very close friends with Connor, Wes, and Michael. The boys bundled up and went sledding. Chris joined us in the living room, and our conversations ranged between how scary and unjust our situation is, what the next day may look like and what type of support the children will need the most, and tales of days past and things to come (as our minds and hearts had to wander or the heaviness of the situation would be just too much). Uncle Tom pulled Connor aside and had a "man to man" talk. Tavvi came and sat in my lap, and we had a talk about the power of love, and how no matter what happens the next day, things were going to be okay eventually.

We had no answers. We had no solutions. We were scared, but we were coming together, and there was support.

As the boys came back and made nachos and started watching movies, I pulled Connor and Tavvi aside to discuss the following morning. I told them that I did not know what the next day was going to look like, but that it was going to be uncomfortable and stressful no matter what. I explained that sometimes that most important times in life as stressful and uncomfortable, but that things can be important without being dramatic. I reminded them of how much they are loved and supported, and how many people were rooting for them and will be fighting for them, no matter what. I explained that it would be a good idea to start talking about plan b... and plan c and d while we were at it. Connor refused. He stated again, "I don't need to pack, I don't need to plan - I am NOT going anywhere. I am NOT leaving".

I hugged all of my kids. I hugged them tightly. I pet their hair, kissed their faces. Tavvi was playing with Raven, Zion was busy negotiating turns on the computer with Caleb, Naomi and Nigel were hugging and spinning in circles around doll houses, and the older boys were making super-mondo-nachos-of-doom. There was a warmth in the home and some hope in our hearts, based only on the love of those coming together. I held on to that moment; I memorized it. This may be the last time that we would all be together like this, and on the eve of unknown change, we were strong because we were together.

Morning came too fast. Mary and her family (Elina, one of Tavvi's best friends, "big" Connor, and baby Gage) arrived around 5am. Shortly afterwards, Amy and Chris (Sev and Alex's mom and dad) arrived, then Bruce (school councilor) and Scott (school executive) came through the door. There were many hugs.

Tavvi had Raven on one arm, and Elina on the other. Connor was surrounded by his friends and older brothers. A little bit after 5:30am, two people from the state of Virginia showed up.

I am so grateful that Jenna had a video camera. We have the whole rest of the morning on tape. Jenna is getting that copied to computer today and we will host and show the video for all to see and appreciate. It was a peaceful effort; all people were sitting or leaned back. Only non-violent communication was used. We were assertive and supportive. The children communicated for themselves and showed amazing calm and maturity. We all felt collected and supported. We were quite the loving and peaceful force to be reckoned with!

It was tense at times. But Scott and Bruce helped guide and support conversation. The children were scared, but also empowered. We were all in acceptance of the situation; they may take the kids, no matter what is said or what we do. But, we all knew that there was power in words, power in community, and power in peace.

It seemed, there at the end, that it was going to involve police force. Instead, the night ended with hugs and applause. The kids are staying.

We do not know what is next. We waited all day for calls or information, but there was nothing new to help answer questions. Will we have to go through this again in a week? Will this be taken to court in review for permanency? We do not know what really happened behind the scenes. We do not know what is to come. The insecurity of it all is enough to drive anyone mad! But we are not mad... we are in rejoice. We are TOGETHER. For today, we are TOGETHER.

Connor, Shorty, and Zion wanted to go to school yesterday. So did Caleb. As I drove them to school, Jenna sitting to my right, I had a heart on high. Here he is, Connor the Con-Man, in the flesh.... Just as angsty, silly, teen-ish, resentful, impulsive, and fun as any other day. I have never been filled with such gratitude. Zion was sitting right next to his Connor, as usual. They walked into school together, as usual. It was another day of family and life, as usual. I have never been so grateful.

I slept last night, Tavvi in one arm, Zion in the other. As I pet their faces and dozed off, I again felt overwhelmed with gratitude for our simply being together.

Now begins the fight to KEEP THEM HOME.

Monday, December 15, 2008

DHS Virginia are coming to our home tomorrow (TUESDAY) morning at 6am.
Virginia DHS will be here at 6am to take the kids away. We are so scared. 6am is the time..... I have no idea what to do. Every outlet tells me that there is nothing I CAN do and that I need to start packing and telling the kids to give up. My heart is killing me. This is the most scared I have ever been.

... emails... please. They are here in Oregon, and still plan to take the children. We are so scared.
We need media coverage - please, we need support. This is it; and it is miracle time. Please, help... this needs to be miracle time.

UPDATE: Article on KATU - PLEASE read and comment!

Support These Kids!

Below is a letter copied to me from our DHS case worker here in Oregon to the children's GAL in Virginia.

>> Kelly C INGLES 12/15/2008 12:05 PM >>>

Hi Pat-

As you probably already know, DHS-Virginia is on there way to Oregon to move Connor and Tavvi back to foster care in Virginia.

This is really concerning, since they have expected Stephanie to help with the transport of the children to the airport despite the emotional issues this will raise with the children. I explained that due to their short notice of their travel plans and my own court schedule, I would not be able to assist in transporting the children either.

The children are having an extremely hard time with this and Connor has asked for an emergency injunction to stop them leaving Oregon. After staffing this case, I realize that my hands are tied, and that there is no reasons with the powers that be in Virginia. The children are ones who are going to be hurt the most by this poorly planned move to foster care in Virginia.

Kelly Ingles
Social Service Specialist-Permanency
Beaverton-CW/SDA 16
Phone: (503) 277-6655

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A snapshot...

NOTE: Scroll to the bottom of the page, or click HERE, to read the full story - Connor and Tavvi do NOT want to be ripped away from their home, family, and life!

To know them is to love them, that is for sure. Michael (16), Wes (14), Connor (12), Tavvi (9) and Zion (5) are kids that no one ever forgets.

We are a unique family; we say that we are a "Photoshopped family" when people give us confused looks upon introduction. What we have is special - and it is at risk of being ripped away from us.

Here is a snapshot taken out of time:

Connor and his little brother, Zion (my biological son, age 5), colored their hair together earlier this year. It all washed out, but we have the pictures to remember it by!

One of Tavvi's best friends, Raven, came over this day. She brought her camera and took a few pictures that serve as a great snapshot into the special relationship between Connor, Tavvi, and Zion.

All 5 of the children in our family are very close - they all attend the same therapeutic school, and spend a lot of their time skating, going to the movie theater, going bowling, enjoying dinning out (that is a favorite for all of us!), and going over to Aunt Jenna's house to hang out with their cousins and their favorite dude, Uncle Tom.

But, there is a special and unique relationship between Connor, Tavvi, and Zion. These three "camp out" and slumber party in Connor's big bedroom or the living room - make snacks and watch cartoons... they share friends, play imagination games, and are hardly ever apart.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The We Love Connor and Tavvi Party

The We Love Connor and Tavvi Party

  • When: Tuesday morning at 5am and all day
  • Where: 14894 SE Hemmen Ave, Clackamas Oregon
  • CALL: 503-658-6362

Come, bring the family, bring food and games and musical instruments! We are going to come together in play, music, and support. Our home is very accommodating for children of all ages.

PLEASE pass this on. Word-of-mouth... friends of friends and distant acquaintances are still our COMMUNITY.

******I want to be very clear: This is a support effort. We are NOT standing in the way of a court order, we are supporting two children with love, comfort, strength, and presence.

From my understanding, Virginia may have every legal right under State and Federal law to make this order and enforce it, no matter how heartbreaking and absurd it is. I also understand the obligation to provide reunification services to biological parents. Even though the children have been here for so long, because the parents both live in Virginia and there was pre-existing cases that question custody, they are thus the home state for the case regardless of where the children are and apparently regardless of the children's wishes, time lived here, and documented recommendations. I plan to continue to beg, plead, bribe, yell for a relinquishment and seek permanency with me, here in Oregon. What I do not want to do is harm any of the kids in any possible way, or have the courts refuse us based on our efforts being seen as illegally violating an enforceable court order.

So, to the point - give us your good vibes! Lets outreach, support, and make a fuss and hope that enough energy in one direction will help make things MOVE... but please help me in doing this with the utmost respect to the situation and basic politeness and an understanding that this is not a hostil standdown but rather a supportive party for two children facing a force that is so disproportionate to themselves.

Two Amazing Kids

I will update with more pictures in the following days when I get my other hard drives spinning!

Here are a few pictures...

Tavvi is 9. She is the sweetest, funkiest, funnest gal in the whole wide world. She loves to swim, watch anime, sew, and spend time with her best friends. Tavvi has a great sense of humor and her own unique style. She is very artistic and playful. Tavvi is NOT a quiet gal - she like to play hard and loud!

Connor is 12. Connor loves to skateboard. Included here is a picture of him at the Burnside skatepark right after it was remodeled. Connor has many friends and loves his classes at school. Connor is very computer-savvy. He researches different operating systems, different hardware, and changes his opinion on the best technology often.

What Do I Do? How Do I Help?!


Katie Wargo - 971-678-8290
Katie is Tavvi's therapist and works directly with DHS in both states, speaks weekly to the biological parents, and has spoken and submitted recommendations to court. She would be the FIRST person to contact, in my opinion, as she can be a little more open with her communication and information than some others involved.

Jennifer is one of Tavvi's therapeutic mentors. 503-729-2431
Kinsey is one of Tavvi's therapeutic mentors. 715-499-1199
These women have been a DAILY part of our lives for a year now.

Kelly Ingles
Social Service Specialist-Permanency
Beaverton-CW/SDA 16
Phone: (503) 277-6655
She is our case worker in Oregon and has been for a long time. She is appalled at this situation and is working to shake anything loose that she can in the way of a stall, emergency hearing, injunction, or better advocacy for the children. Kelly is very professional and practices boundaries based on her job fist, feelings and opinions second, but for that very reason is trusted by our family and we hold her in very high regard.

Case # is HN18847 "Joanna Enderlin"

Judge name: E. Preston Grissom
Presiding Judge Chesapeake Circuit Court

The children's GAL, Pat Cannon, can be reached at 757-409-8189 cell, e-mail pc_sharkbite@yahoo.com. She is a legal advocate for the kids in the state of Virginia, and she opposed this decision to move the children.

The school which the children attend is Village Free School. http://villagefreeschool.com/
Their phone number is 503-788-3935. The staff here know our children very well and the community support is huge.

One of the best ways to help..? CALL AND EMAIL THE MEDIA!!!

Here is a link to Oregon media:
Oregon Media

Here are the media contracts that I have - I have replied but I have not received anything back:


Dear Stephanie,

I would like to interview you for the KBOO evening news about this.
What is a good time to contact you and what is your phone #?
Please keep me posted on the details and updates.

Anna Keith


We want to talk to you tomorrow…

Anne Yeager


A person in our community started a blog and active effort to support and help Connor and Tavvi. Please visit: http://shameonvirginia.blogspot.com

This blog is more of a "call to action"... Mary, the creator of http://shameonvirginia.blogspot.com has included many ideas and contacts for ways to help bring awareness to our family's situation. Please visit her blog.

Also, if you do not want to personally email or call state representatives and media (I am very sensitive to comfort levels of "drama" and involvement) but would still like to show support, please consider leaving a comment on our blog. Also, if you have your own blog, Myspace, or website, PLEASE consider adding this link: http://theystayhome.blogspot.com/

  • Please visit Sara's blog. What she wrote about our family is beautiful and true. Thank you, Sara.
  • A HUGE thank you to Pete and Fitz for their writeup on the Front Rock Review!

See our story on:

Front Rock Review
They Stay Home Facebook Group
Mothering Forum
Craigslist Local News Section
Sara's Blog
Jenna's Blog
Zyphyr Girls

A Child Welfare Emergency!

This is to all of the people that care about our family or the basic rights of a child;

It has been explained to me that Monday, there are people from Virginia coming here to Portland. Tuesday morning, some representatives from the state of Virginia and possibly law enforcement will be coming to our home to forcefully take Tavvi and Connor back to Virginia. This is after years of living with us here in Oregon. This is against Connor and Tavvi's direct wishes stated in court, and against the recommendation of several DHS workers here in Oregon, therapists, evaluators, and doctors. This is a horrible situation.

Their plan is to take Tavvi (age 9) and Connor (age 12) back to Virginia to be placed in two separate foster homes (with people they do not know) for an undetermined amount of time until one of their biological parents completes drug, alcohol, and abusive action rehabilitation and shows a stable home and income. Their biological parents have not yet done any of this work, and there is no projection on how long it could take. Their has not been contact between them and our children, and it is Connor and Tavvi's wish (communicated by them in court) to remain in no contact. None the less, and to the astonishment to all of the people involved (DHS locally, the children's legal representatives, etc) they are going to try to take Connor and Tavvi from their family, split them up from their siblings and each other, and move them across country away from their lives and support network.

I cannot begin to explain what we are going through right now. The fear, the panic, the anger, and the terror. Connor and Tavvi wish to refuse to leave with any and all effort that they can. What we are reaching out for is support.

Please, any families and individuals that care about our family and are available, I am reaching out. We want to surround ourselves in our home with our community and those we love, and hopefully gain strength. We are going to keep this mellow, low drama, and very simple; Tavvi and Connor are NOT leaving. This is going to be a 100% peaceful and collected situation, or at least that is the only way we think that we can succeed in the face of such injustice. The energy behind this will be there so Connor and Tavvi can advocate for themselves in the face of a scary situation and know that they are supported, loved, and taken seriously. The message that we will send is that there is a whole community that loves and values these two children and our family. I am really scared that we just cannot do this on our own.

What I am asking for is ideas.... and also action. We would love to be around people over the weekend and Monday while we clean and organize our home (putting grounding "we belong here" energy into our house) and collect and reflect. Then, we want to have a house party of such on Tuesday. Starting as early as 5am and lasting all day and evening, we want people here. We want to cook together, play together, make music and have conversation.

If you can think of any resources that will help in this situation, please let us know.

Also, letters... If anyone wishes to write letters, all voices of support are encouraged with high gratitude.

I will not be going into work Monday or Tuesday. Monday, we will go to school (Village Free School) during the day. I will be there all day. They kids want to go to school because they love their community so much and in this time of fear the most comforting idea is that of being with their friends and in that environment. If anyone would like to connect with us after school, we really want the connection and support right now. Monday is going to be a scary day for us...

The We Love Connor and Tavvi Party

  • When: Tuesday morning at 5am and all day
  • Where: 14894 SE Hemmen Ave, Clackamas Oregon
  • CALL: 503-658-6362

Come, bring the family, bring food and games and musical instruments! We are going to come together in play, music, and support. Our home is very accommodating for children of all ages.

PLEASE pass this on. Word-of-mouth... friends of friends and distant acquaintances are still our COMMUNITY.

Connor, Tavvi, and Wes are my biological siblings. I have been their primary care provider for a long time with interruption early on (I co-slept with Wes and Connor as babies, was their primary provider, but was also young and moved out when I was 14. I have been on my own since and my only guiding focus was keeping my life in a way where I could have the kids with me if it ever came to that).

We live very happily; our family includes Wes (age 14), Connor (age 12), Tavvi (age 9), my biological son Zion (age 5), and Michael, our other foster son (age 16). The children all have a remarkably strong siblingship and family continuum. Our support network is huge. The kids all go to a private therapeutic school in which they can thrive with support and personal focus. The kids have friends, participate in activities and in the community, and are very stabilized in their lives.

The children have been with me for years now uninterrupted. Initially it was under the agreement with their mother that we were going to be adopting them privately directly from their mother (also my mother, but the level of detachment is very large and from a very young age). She then vanished for a very long time.

There was no ICPC originally. There SHOULD have been. The children were released out of foster care in Virginia under the express understanding that they would come directly to me. There should have been an ICPC in place to protect the children, and to keep record. They were with us over a year before we got DHS back involved for their own protection (after a year of their biological parents not contacting them).

There were many court hearings in Virginia associated with drug selling, battery, and one count of attempted murder or something (not clear). The children, before being removed this last time (years ago) had experienced horrific abuse and neglect. They went into a foster home in Virginia for about a month and then we flew there and brought them back home to us.

I got DHS Oregon involved over a year ago. We are a registered foster home through the state and have always been in great standing. We have a wonderful relationship with our DHS worker here in Oregon. Jurisdiction has bounced back and forth a few times, because of the issue of custody coming up in divorce hearings in Virginia, where both biological parents live.

The legal system behind this turn of event is baffling. We have always participated to the full extent of the law in both states (for instance, homeschooling in Oregon while providing foster care is fine, but it is illegal in Virginia, so we got the kids into a private school - VFS - this year after this came up in court).

We have sought out services (Tavvi now has an intensive service array of therapists with Catholic Community Services that support by coming into the home and in the community as well), have gotten evaluations, I personally went though full evaluations, etc. DHS Virginia has flown out here (last year) to see our lives in person and have put their support with us, as have the children's legal representative (GAL) in Virginia.

The biological parents have not made any efforts towards their service plan for reunification. They are no closer now than they were a year ago. But, none the less, the judge has moved to take JUST Tavvi and Connor (not Wes, age 14) and bring them back to Virginia into separate foster homes and force them to do visitation (though both children have advocated clearly and beautifully that they want NO contact via phone, email, or in person from their biological parents and that they want to continue here in our family and home).

We have had no warning, just a notice that come Monday and/or Tuesday, they will be removed and forced to leave.

There are no allegations against me or our family. There is nothing that puts us in bad standing with anyone. This situation truly is how it is being presented. What we are reaching out for is support.

I know that no matter what we do, it may be seen as thumbing our nose at the system. But we are going to keep everything legal. We are not holding the kids here, we are simply loving, supporting, and taking them seriously as they advocate for themselves and refuse to leave - against a force that is very disproportionate to them. Any ideas or independent efforts in support of this from the greater community or the media would be appreciated. We are a remarkably strong family, but we may not be strong enough to do this alone.

We all know that, contrary to what others are suggesting, if we support or assist or allow the process of them being taken from us, we will likely never see them again in their childhood. They will likely be bounced between foster homes and exposed to trauma. Right now, the children are so stable. They have a support network, a school with friends which they love, a great home, etc.


Stephanie Johnston

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Letter from Tavvi and Connor's Teacher

Paul Silveria is Tavvi's home room teacher, and the teacher for a few classes that Connor has chosen to take this year. Paul writes, in his hope to support stability for Tavvi and Connor:

To whom it may concern,

My name is Paul Silveria, and I am a on the staff at the Village Free School in Portland OR, where Tavvi and Connor have been enrolled since September of this year. I want to share my experience of Tavvi and Connor and their community and support network. First, I'd like to say that I enjoy being around them both.

Tavvi is an enthusiastic presence at school - full of smiles and interacting with her many peers both older and younger. Upon enrolling the staff was informed of the behaviors we might expect from Tavvi as a result of her past experiences. In the four months of school so far I have not seen a single incident of any of those behaviors, instead I have seen a socially engaged girl who seems to be very comfortable in her surroundings.

Connor is contemplative, sensitive, and engaged. He is aware of the school's processes and his place in them. He has taken interest in our offered classes, taken part in our school's democratic assembly (All School Meeting), and made friends. He is bright and articulate, I particularly enjoy doing crosswords together.

My perception is that living with Stephanie is a positive and nurturing experience for them both. I see them very much at ease with her and with each other. I also know that they have, and are continuing to form, bonds with their peers at our school that are of great value. I know this both because I can see those bonds at work on a daily basis, and also because of the approach our school takes toward fostering the self awareness of our students and their ability to support and care for each other. (In addition we try to foster the same growth in our staff, volunteers, and families.)

Though I recognize that I am not aware of all of the details in this situation, I have very strong concerns that Tavvi and Connor may be removed from a support network that includes Stephanie, Wes, Michael, their social service providers, the staff and volunteers of the Village Free School, the peers they've bonded with, and even each other. From my experiences with all of these people, and my observations of Tavvi and Connor interacting with each of these people, I believe each one is making a positive contribution to the lives of both children.

I would be happy to answer any questions by phone or e-mail.

Paul Silveria
4417 NE Going
Portland OR 97218
Home Phone (503) 231.5753
Work Phone (503) 788.3935

Our Family's Support Network is Huge!

Skating with Uncle Tom:

Our whole family often goes to Aunt Jenna and Uncle Tom's house in Gresham. Their 7 year old son, Caleb, looks up to Wes and Connor as role models and is influenced by his relationship with them, daily - as Caleb also goes to the same school as our family!

Pictured here is Caleb, Uncle Tom, and a great picture of Wes skating on the ramp Tom built in his back yard, with direct influence from Connor and Wes.

Our Kids Love Their School!

Michael, Wes, Connor, Tavvi, and Zion all go to the same private school: Village Free School. Tom and Jenna's son Caleb also attends the school and is in the same Home Room as Zion.

The children thrive in their school and have made friendships and connections that are supportive and strong. Tavvi has several "best friends" and often writes long stories with each friend as a character. These friends love her, and the bond that they share is amazing. Tavvi has a birthday party to attend next week, and a Christmas party coming up - she does not want to miss these!

Connor is excited about the Doctor Who club that he is starting at school after Christmas break; a lot of people have signed up! Connor, Wes, and Michael are all signed up for some really great classes after the break, including a study into commercialism and botany. Click HERE to meet the amazing staff at the school. These are people that love Tavvi and Connor and have been important in their daily lives.

Friends In The Community:

Wes, Connor, and Michael have made friends over the years. I am always surprised and pleased at how well they choose their friends and the type of powerful relationships they have made. Many of these kids have become like extended family... they come with us on trips and outtings, attend activities, and even come over for holidays. Tavvi has developed close friendships with several girls - something that used to be a challange is now taken for granted.