Saturday, December 13, 2008

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.

Monday:
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.

MORE INFORMATION:
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.

Respectfully,

Stephanie Johnston
503-658-6362
organicinternet@gmail.com

18 comments:

  1. My daughter Sarah Johnson (Zephyrgals) made me aware of your situation late last night. I must say, I could not sleep. My heart is breaking, not just for Tavvi and Connor, but for Wes too. This is simply the most horrible thing I have ever heard of. I posted a link on my blog, thementaltraveler.blogspot.com and asked all of my friends and readers to read about your precious family, and give peacable support. My heart, and my prayers are with you and your family at this most tender time of year. God bless you for what you are trying to accomplish. These children are beautiful, and you are amazing!

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  2. I am so sorry to hear about your situation and my hopes and prayers are with you! I will be thinking of any ideas and sharing this with my friends and family too. This is a horrible tradgedy and I pray it will be prevented. Thank you for being the kind of person who cares so much and is doing everything they can to protect the children and family they love!

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  3. I will brainstorm for ideas and ask my family and friends. I have family that live in Oregon, I'll pass the info on to them also. I'm so sorry for this happening to your family. I can tell that you love these kids with all of your heart, I hope everything turns out to yours and their advantage. Good Luck!!!

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  4. i wish you all the luck in the world. i live in missouri, but read your story through kimya's myspace bulletin. family is not something a court decides.

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  5. i am only a child myself (well 16 almost 17) but i can still say that this hurts me deeply and i cant believe that people who obviously arent looking for the benefit of the children are going to control their happiness. after all they have been through, Virgina needs to just leave them alone. if i was you, even though you dont want it to crazy or dramay (i dont think that is a word) but when you have your party on tuesday i would have a news cast there just so you the people from Virgina will be on their best behavior because they will want to look good if they are on tv. but i dont know i guess that would just be something i would do. its just an idea. and i know how important a support system is, i had to move out of my dads house because he was mentally abusive and i now live with my step-mom and my little brother. but since they're still married just separated she is still my legal guardian and we didnt have to go through any courts, yet (they are getting a divorce soon, that should be fun....) this is a very sad time for you and them but stay strong for the kids.(like you said you are) i know from experience that when you see your parents stay strong you as the child will stay strong as well. you and your family are in my thoughts and payers. i hope all goes well.
    -amberlynn
    p.s. you can email me at amberlynnheadley@yahoo.com to tell me if you liked my idea or not. XOXO

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  6. Hello, I just came across your blog. I'm telling everyone I can think of to try to raise awareness. I wrote to President-elect Obama, Ellen DeGeneres & Oprah to name a few! I'll keep your family in my prayers & hopefully we will see a quick, good ending very soon. Stay strong!

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  7. There is probably nothing I can do from as far away as the UK and with no knowledge of how social services work in the USA. But I have read the story and am appalled by it as any humane person would be. My attitude to blatant unfairness and insensitivity has always been to refuse refuse and refuse again no matter what step need to be taken short of real violence.

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  8. I'm stuck in Seattle because of the blizzard, but I'm there with you in spirit! I have no understanding or knowledge of Virginia or Oregon's legal systems, but it is plain wrong to take the kids away and take them to a place they don't want to go to. If you have heard of "The Secret" I suggest you read it or watch the movie, it's very inspiring. If your biological parents haven't done anything yet to sober up, there isn't much else they can do. I can not see your biological parents suddenly taking hold of their lives once the kids are in Virginia and take them into custody. When the children get into Virginia in seperate foster homes, they will probably be mistreated and alone and scared. I swear I will do anything and everything I can to make sure no one can seperate your happy family.

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  9. I praise you for your courage, for standing up for your family against what seems to be a heartless and ignorant authority. Bless you and your family, never give up; keep your backbone and keep using your voice as you do so well. I don't know what I can do to help yet, but there is another link I received from my friend that addresses that and I will see what it says! I'll do what I can for sure.

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