THAT ONE TIME WE WERE INVESTIGATED
In April of this year, we were investigated by DHS for allegedly neglecting to protect one of our children -- Baby Brother.
It was a Sunday at the beginning of April. We had just got home from church. I helped get the kids changed into play clothes for the afternoon and then laid down for a nap (that's what Sundays are for, right?!).
At the time, we had just hatched the baby chicks we had been incubating for the last month. We had just moved the chicks out to the barn with a heat lamp and all that good stuff. We had been going out to the barn to visit the chicks every day for about a week, kids included.
Baby Brother had also just learned to walk (actually more like a run if I'm being honest lol). We were not yet practiced up on chasing him since he had become so much quicker than he was previously.
Well, like I said, I was napping and Braton had 4 of the kids out in the barn looking at the chicks. For whatever reason, Braton set Baby Brother down on the ground for a moment. Next thing he knows, Baby Brother had walked a few feet away to a cup full of mineral spirits (essentially paint thinner, if you don't know) that I had left out from a project I had been working on.
Baby Brother was lifting the cup up to his mouth as Braton was lunging to stop him. He wasn't quick enough and the mineral spirits were dumped all down Baby Brother's front and we were pretty sure some at least got in his mouth, if not swallowed.
Braton immediately rushed inside the house, woke me up, and told me what had happened. Baby Brother was crying something fierce and coughing and spluttering. I called 911 and they told us to head to the ER.
So Braton hopped into the car with Baby Brother and drove way too fast to the ER (normally about 20 minutes away). I followed behind him with the other kids, and made calls to caseworkers to inform them of the situation.
Thankfully, by the time he got there, Baby Brother was no longer coughing and seemed fine. The ER Doc called poison control and the children's hospital. Both agreed he should be fine, given there were no obvious signs of distress and his vitals were fine, but that he should be observed overnight to be safe.
So Baby Brother and I got to take an ambulance ride to Oklahoma City (about an hour and a half away) to spend the night in the children's hospital.
Spoiler alert: he was, in fact, quite alright and we were discharged the next morning with no complications. Praise God!
Before arriving at the children's hospital, every medical professional we had met was very understanding of the situation being a complete accident and nothing more. However, the minute the children's hospital physician read that I was "just" Baby Brother's foster mom, his whole demeanor towards me changed and I knew we were going to be reported.
Deep down, I get it. I know the suspicion comes from a good place and it's jumping through hoops like these that keeps Oklahoma's children safe. Deep down, I'm grateful for the physician's diligence as a mandatory reporter.
We had nothing to hide, because it WAS just an awful accident, but it still really sucked to be put under a microscope like that. They say it's not a matter of IF you'll be investigated, it's WHEN.
We were so close to finalizing our adoptions and closing our foster care doors (for awhile, at least), but the investigation delayed things.
We had to wait for someone to come interrogate us and our kids on the incident, as well as every other aspect of our family life. They didn't find anything concerning, of course. But then we had to wait for the investigator to go on vacation and get back, and then FINALLY start on the paperwork to close the investigation.
Our investigation was officially closed TWO DAYS before our girls' adoption date. Sooooooo grateful for that because, otherwise, we would have had to push their adoption date, even though the incident had nothing to do with them.
So, not only did we have to say goodbye to Biggest Sis in April, but we were also under investigation that whole month. Oh, and my dog died of bone cancer. It was honestly just a month straight from hell.
Prayer's of praise for Baby Brother's health, after a situation that could have turned out much worse. Praise our investigation is closed. Praise we got to keep our original adoption date for the girls. Praise we were finally able to move forward with Baby Brother's adoption again. Praise for the incredible friends and family God blessed us with to help us through hard times. Praise for God's goodness and faithfulness in it all.
I wanted to share with you all our experience being investigated though, because I know that is a big fear for so many families have when it comes to fostering. In all likelihood, if you are a foster family for any period of time, you WILL be investigated for something. But, in our experience at least, the investigator was very understanding that we are just humans doing our best. She did not expect perfection from us at all, and our children's caseworkers and our own worker backed us as well because of the relationships we had built with them over the last several years.
Also, contrary to popular belief, if anything HAD been substantiated in our investigation, our biological child would not automatically be removed from our home unless there was an active safety risk for him as well.
We have to remember, DHS needs as many foster families as they can hold onto. They won't close a home for petty things or freak accidents.
So don't let that fear hold you back any longer from making a difference in the life of children in foster care! We need you!!