Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Valentines Day Recap 2015

Valentines Day fell on Saturday this year, and after a fun morning with
my children,
it was time for a super fun date night with friends 
to dinner in downtown Dallas.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mommy, where are they[now?] {Part 7}

{Click on title above to read about this terrible event.}

All spring, the Tutt family was forced to keep their children in public school while continuing to fight for the return of the sibling of the two children they had already adopted.  No one, to this day, can honestly articulate why this child still is waiting in foster care to be returned to the family that calls her their own and has every intention of completing the adoption process.

All summer long they waited to hear from the judge  as to whether or not they would be free from CPS jurisdiction and visits and would be allowed to return to homeschooling their children.  They finally got word at the very end of August.  
That portion of their case was essentially over.  Finally.
They were able to settle back into somewhat a normal routine again.
Except for those Friday afternoon weekly visits with their daughter.
With the child who calls them Mom and Dad, and who was only weeks away from officially being adopted when they were unnecessarily yanked from their home.
They can only see her once-a-week.

Everything was moving along slowly in their recovery from this horrific event until the very beginning of December.  Just weeks away from Christmas there was a terrible fire at their home.  It began in the unattached garage near the house.  The flames grew so enormous and so fierce that it destroyed everything in the backyard, the back part of the home, and part of their neighbor's home.
Thankfully, no one was hurt.
But the home was left unlivable.

There was extensive smoke and water damage including large holes punched in walls and ceilings by the first responder's fighting the blaze.
They immediately became displaced from their home.
And they have never returned.
For weeks, they lived in hotels.  With four children.
All the while continuing to "hotelschool" and weekly Friday visits.
Once again, their community of family and friends came together as much as we could to help provide food, clothing, and to help cover the enormous cost of living in a hotel.
There would be no Christmas in their own home.
It was a blessing to be a part of a city wide effort to raise some extra money for them and to collect some pretty awesome gifts for their family!!

By January of 2015, they found another home to rent in another town.
In the meantime, they found out that the adoption case for their child still in foster care had been
unexpectedly dismissed without their knowledge.
Another blow.
Another dragging out of things in the family court system.
You can read a more thorough explanation of that here.

Would you consider praying for this family with me??  
They have been through so much!
2014 was a horrific year for them, but the Lord taught me so very much as we tried to be friends and an encouragement to them.
It changes you when you know someone personally who seems to have struggle after struggle, one on top of the other.
It nearly pulls you out of your comfort zone.
You feel that you cannot sit idly by and hope everything works out ok for them.
Nothing is too small or insignificant.
Especially when you remember that our Heavenly Father is our source of all things and we are just a channel for Him to work through to minister and comfort those who find themselves hurting.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mommy, where are they? {Part 6}

When something traumatic happens in your life, there is usually a lot of buzz surrounding the event when it first happens.
Family and friends often rally around you, hugs and prayers are shared, meals are brought over, money is donated.
But over time, that all fades away.
Eventually, the memory of the traumatic event becomes a thing of the past and life moves on for those around you.
But not for the person who experienced the trauma.
It takes months, sometimes years, to recover and the wounds of that event to heal over.
The scars never go away.

Sometimes, there are more traumatic events that happen, completely unrelated, that only compound the fear and hurt they are trying to recover from.

Our friends (and neighbors) had there children unnecessarily taken from their home in November 2013.
For nearly two months.
They were treated like they were suspect and like they had done something terribly wrong.
This couple had to sit through several excruciating court hearings and step on eggshells with judges, and attorneys, and Guardian Ad Litems, and CPS just to get some of their children back home with them.
Once they were released from foster care, they still had to be under CPS oversight, and had to keep sending their children to public school.

For the rest of the school year.

And what a pain that was.
One of their adopted daughters was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
She had a tethered spinal cord.
She has seizures, and emotional outbursts almost daily as a result of exposure to illegal substances in utero.
She struggles in a traditional classroom setting.
It only took a few weeks of that in the public school before all the school officials agreed they couldn't handle her and that she needed to be classified......get this......

Read more about that here!!

For months they were continually subjected to unannounced CPS visits, family counseling, AND psychiatric evaluation (because who in their right mind would want to take care of so many children?!?!)

This understandably affected the children negatively.
Read about the therapy each of the children needed because of this frightening situation here.

The fight for the Tutt's freedom to homeschool and have their lives back drug out all. summer. long.
As I mentioned before, if I learned anything watching them go through this horrid process, it was that nothing happens quickly in the judicial system.
They were strung along all the way up until days before our local public school started up again in the fall of 2014 before the judge finally decided to let the Tutt's go back to homeschooling their children!!
More information about that ruling and the nonsense that surrounded it can be found here.

Even though it took months, the Tutt's were finally able to return to some sort of normalcy.
No more CPS visits and now they could stay home and do their schooling!!
But how much "normalcy" is it really when one of your biological children has gone to live with his biological father and rarely has visits, the sibling of two of your adopted children who you were in the processing of adopting is still in foster care, and another boy you planned on adopting was taken back to his biological parents {who had abandoned him} and you haven't seen or heard from him since he was snatched from your home nearly a year ago?
In the meantime, you still have only weekly visits for 2-hours with your child who is still held captive in foster care by CPS!!  And that process is being drug out in court as well!!
Really?  How "normal" can it be?

Is it all over yet?
Not on your life.
You won't believe what happened next!!!!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Mommy, where are they? {Part 5}

Our neighbor's children were home.
But not all of them.
CPS still had oversight of their education.
They were being forced to put them in public school.
Their lives had been turned upside down unnecessarily, and a sibling of two of their adopted children {who they had been in the process of adopting as well} was still left by herself in a foster home.

To read the details of this story, go here.

Those in our community had had enough!

At what point in our country's history did it become acceptable for outside agencies to raid homes without warning, take children hostage, put them in stranger's homes (which we've all heard the horror stories of children being molested and abused in those homes as well), take them to unfamiliar doctors for examinations, force them to take academic tests which the children know if they fail will be bad news for all (no pressure there!), and force them to go to public school where they know no one, nor do they even know how a day there works because they've only ever known homeschooling??
When did it become the norm of our society that parents are guilty until proven innocent and you won't ever be proven innocent because your lifestyle is much more conservative and radical than mainstream society?
When did "different" or "unique" start to equate with "wrong" or "unsafe?"
When did parents become in danger of losing all their rights and freedoms to raise their families as they choose or deem best for their situation regardless of whether or not it seemed different from what other people "normally" do?
I'm not talking about criminal behavior here.
I'm referring to loving people who have had a track record of openness and success in caring for and educating their own (and others) children.

Tim Lambert of the Texas Homeschool Coalition completely agreed with us.
He started making phone calls and writing letters.
He met with a group of us in a little restaurant in downtown Dallas within walking distance of the courthouse, and we formulated a plan for calling these agencies into accountability.
Would it restore the Tutt family to what it had been previously?
Would it reimburse the Tutt family for the huge financial burden this situation had become?
Would it remove the scars of the trauma the children will bear for the rest of their lives?
Absolutely not.

But we couldn't just sit around and do nothing.
That's how abuse is perpetuated.
By silence.
And darkness.

We wanted to throw open the windows and shed some light on this situation.
And speak up.
While we still have a voice in America.

It was all captured on film.

You can view that video here.

You can see my personal comments in the first video at the 6:00 minute mark and in the second video at the 7:26 mark.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mommy, where are they? {Part 4}

They're baaaaaaaaack!!!!!!
We were so very excited that our friends {and neighbors} children were finally released from foster care and allowed to return to their own home!!  We couldn't wait to see them!!

{If you're just joining this story you can read where these precious children had been taken to here.
For parts 1,2. and 3 click here, here, and here.}

But just because the children were allowed to return home, didn't mean that everything was back to normal.
On the contrary.
The judge had decided that the children never should have been removed in the first place, but now that Child Protective Services had their eyeballs on the situation, they needed to keep on eye on how the children were progressing in their schooling.
They had to stay in public school.
Until it was determined by all parties involved that the children were on track.

Say what?
So you mean to tell me that if you have a child wander away from your house, and the police call CPS because of concerns they have, you might have your children rounded up into police cars and taken from your home for nearly two months?
You might have to sit in a courtroom twice and have every area of your life picked apart and questioned and your parenting choices scorned.
But, eventually, when authorities determine it was all a big mistake ripping your lives apart in the first place, then return some of your children, they can still demand you school your children their way?  They keep control of your right, your freedom, to school your children the way you feel is best for them??
How can that be??

Here is what the Texas Homeschool Coalition had to say about that!

So, not only do our friends have to live through the trauma of being thrown into the middle of the mindnumbing court systems, their children ripped away from them and placed with strangers, but now that they are back home, they still can't truly have their parental rights back?
And we're not allowed to cry foul?
Not allowed to have anything to say about that?

No way.
Not on my watch.
I was not alone in my outrage.
A group of us, with the help of the Texas Homeschool Coalition decided that we had to do something.
We didn't know exactly what to do, but we had to figure something out to draw attention to this abuse of power and ignorance of state homeschooling law.

We decided to go public with this story.  To bring attention to it. To call those in such places of power to accountability.
Here is the beginning of what we did.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mommy, where are they? {Part 3}

Christmas of 2013 came and went and the neighbor children {my children's playmates} still were not home.
{If you're just joining the story, you can read what happened to them here and here.}

I had been praying (no, begging) that the Lord would allow these children to be back in their own home, with their own parents, in familiar surroundings, with people who knew what they would love to have under their tree, in their own cosy beds for Christmas.
At the December 16th hearing, the judge would not allow these children to be returned, and now we would have to wait for yet another hearing in three more weeks.
{To read the reasoning behind this decision, click here.}

The next hearing was set for January 7, 2014.
I went to that hearing as well.
At a grassroots level, this whole situation was an outrage to our fellow homeschoolers.
So we decided to publicly, but peacefully, protest what was happening to the Tutt family right outside the courthouse building.

There were a few small media outlets there, and a very small story was written up about them in our local hometown, newspaper.

This time, I was not on the witness list.
This time, I sat in the courtroom.
The entire 8-plus hours.
The Tutt's case had been handed over to a new judge and the only thing she wanted to hear about was the reason for the removal of the children.
We all were hopeful that because she didn't want to hear about the homeschooling that she would see that there was no reason to yank these children from the safety of their own home and continue holding them hostage in the foster care system.
We heard from the police officers from our town who originally took the call about the wandering autistic boy.
We heard from the CPS worker who came out to do an initial investigation upon receiving the officer's complaint.
We heard from the supervisor of the CPS worker who wrote up the document with the language in it that said these children were in "immediate danger" because the Tutt's did not feel it necessary to do yet another psychological exam.
We heard from Christina Tutt's mother, the children's grandmother, who just so happens to be a judge in another county in our state.  A judge.
Then we heard testimony from the biological father of one of the children {Christina's former husband} as well as the biological brother of this child.
But things started to change when the principal of the public school where the children had been placed was called to testify.
And the person that administered the educational testing prior to the children being placed in the public school.
And then the Guardian Ad Litem had her turn.

Wait a minute.  "I thought we weren't supposed to even take the time to hear the arguments about the homeschooling.  That's not why these children were removed.  Why are we talking about the parents educational choices?"

Well, that all went out the window.
And there was nothing any of us could do about it.

At the end of the evening, the Tutt's had won only a partial victory.
The judge ruled that based on the testimony she heard, that there was indeed concern that a young autistic boy had wandered away from his current home with a young brother, but that this and the other things mentioned were not cause for these 7 children to be forcibly removed from their home.

Though only 4 of the 7 children {those who were either biological or their adoption was final} were to be returned home, they would have to stay in the public schools until further notice.  No more homeschooling until everyone involved was satisfied with the educational progress of the children.

How is that even legal in our state?
It isn't.

You can read the full details of this hearing and the legal ramifications for all homeschooling parents in a report by the Texas Homeschool Coalition found here.

You can read the thoughts of others on this case here, here, and here. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mommy, where are they? {Part 2}

Ever since my dear friend's children were taken by CPS, I've learned something.
{To read the full facts of this story, click here.}

Nothing in the justice system ever happens quickly.
Their case was absolutely, terrifyingly, no exception.
They didn't get to see their children on the next day, or the next day, or even the next day!!
The children were taken on November 21, 2013, and they had to wait a full 2 weeks, until December 4, to even get a hearing with a judge to discuss what happened.
Two weeks.
Two weeks of having no idea where your children are, who your children are having to live with, what those people are like, and what is happening to your children!
13 full days and excruciating nights.
On that day, another full hearing was scheduled on December 16th and the judge basically ignored their pleas to have their case moved to another court where they had good rapport with the judge as he had presided over their adoption cases.
Another 12 days.

I went to that hearing.
I was on the witness list to testify on behalf of the Tutt's.
As a witness, I was not allowed in the court room, so I sat out in the hallway in a waiting area with other friends and family members.
As the hours ticked by, we got the distinct sense that things were not going well for them.
12 hours later, not having the chance to testify, I watched them emerge from the court room and Christina collapse to the floor in distress.
I then learned that what was supposed to be a sharing of the facts of what happened the day the autistic child wandered away from their home quickly spiraled down into an attack on every single detail of the way the Tutt's parent their children.
Everything was picked apart, questioned, and in some ways, mocked.
Ultimately, the determining factors on which the judge made her decision came down to their choice to homeschool their children.
During the 3 weeks between the time the children were taken, and the December 16th hearing the children were forced to undergo educational testing.
They were in state custody, so they were supposed to be in state school, but they didn't know what grade to put the children in.
When the results of the state testing came back, it revealed that several of the children were quite behind.
No matter these children were under duress, nor had they ever had tests like this before since they were homeschooled, nor had they been studying the state's curriculum to understand the material covered in the tests.
In basically one day's time, we went from questioning how well these children were supervised and cared for (which was quickly determined to not be a problem) to the children being held hostage by CPS because they were homeschooled and deemed not "up to par" with other children their age.
To make matters even more frustrating and frightening, this is not even a legal reason to remove children from their home in our state.
I will never forget driving home long after dark had fallen that night.
I wept for the children.
I wept for their mother and father.
I wept because in the face of injustice the truth was not enough in this case.
The Tutt's right to parent their children as they chose to was put on trial and they were loosing their freedom to do so.
The children were not released on December 16th as we were hoping and praying.
Instead, yet another hearing was scheduled for January 7, 2014.
They had missed Thanksgiving together as a family, and now they would be apart for both Christmas and New Year's.
I couldn't bear the thought of their Christmas tree with all the presents under it for the children that were staying in stranger's homes.

To read what the Texas Homeschool Coalition was doing to bring attention to the injustice of this family at this point in the story, click here.