An Open Letter to Karen Velie

Courtesy of The Rock

Authored by Paul Embry

I ask you to remember the story of Solomon and the two women who claimed to be the mother of one baby. Solomon suggested that they cut the baby in half, so that the women could split the benefit the baby brought. Only one of the women was satisfied with this arrangement and she, of course, was plainly not the actual mother because she thought of her own well-being before that of the child.

You must look to the children here, and only to the children.

It is they who are being harmed by the separation from their family, whether the removal was justified or not. The usurpation of the situation for leverage in your County /CAPSLO mud-feud is just another slimy stone on the sickening road you and your enemies have built. You are all responsible for the condition of the children at the moment, and instead of thinking of them you and your selfish, self-absorbed group have elected to take your troubles to the streets. Those of us who are not committed to either side ache only for these kids. Those of us who are familiar with CWS are astounded with your hubris, and wonder why, when the CWS nosed into OUR lives – justly or otherwise – it wasn’t news. No amount of bully pulpit invective, whether published on a blog masquerading as a newspaper or broadcast countywide on the local Winchell’s AM Radio segment, is going to help the kids. Claims of conspiracy or collusion will keep your name on people’s lips even as depression and lactose ruin the kids. Smearing your enemies (without substantiation) amid this personal debacle serves only your historic agenda, and tells the world that you have priority issues while these three children go dirty and disheveled to school and reap derision and bullying from their classmates.

Bringing this mess before the general public creates sympathy for you and the kids, yes, but the least amount of forethought from the viewpoint of the children would’ve made you consider that you’ve just given motivation and ammunition to those schoolmates who are teasing and bullying them. Your self-serving nature has outed you and you should be ashamed.

For the sake of your grandchildren I will offer you some advice, but first I will tell you why I think I’m qualified to do so.

The existence of my daughter was announced to me by a CWS social worker, who also informed me that they had taken the child from her mother at birth. For the better part of a year I lived the action plans, classes, unwarranted drug testing, surprise inspections of my home, and all manner of inconvenience and indignity – all because I had committed, in the legalese of the machine, a “failure to protect” the child from the abuses of the mother. Never mind that Roe v. Wade says that what someone does with the baby inside them is nobody’s business; never mind that I had no documented drug or alcohol problem; never mind the lies lawyers and social workers told me. Never mind anything.

They had my child and they had all the power in the world.

I had no news outlet from which to raise the hue and cry; Dave Congalton did not postpone his gallstone surgery to lend me an hour and a half of his soapbox time. Additionally, I worked nights in a bar and lived in a rented room. My life was not adapted to the addition of a baby, and it was all common knowledge to the people at Social Services.

Eight months later, I was given a knowing nod from the judge who had just ordered my child into my custody and CWS out of my life. That nod said to me that she respected my handling of a terrible, terrible situation. I made sure that everyone in the courtroom heard me tell my one-year-old daughter that I don’t intend to buy her another “courtroom dress” until after she has passed the bar. I’m also certain that I’m a better father because of the things I learned complying with my action plan than I would’ve been without having done so.

I’m not saying this to aggrandize myself. I’m telling you why you should listen to me. Further, I have no love of CWS, CAPSLO, lawyers in general, or politicians in totality. If I have a bias in this whatsoever, it is the disdain I have for the blank spot where your blog’s ethics should be, and the fact that I think you must have been sick the day they taught journalism at journalism school.

To begin: I am personally acquainted with a grandmother who just last year was deemed unfit for placement on the grounds of a DUI conviction that had been adjudicated over a decade ago. So it is something that is done. It may or may not be a matter of policy, but it is certainly a matter which enjoys precedent, and thereby cannot be something “cooked-up” to be used solely against you. To claim otherwise is to convolute the process and harm the children.

You may truly believe that they are holding your job against you, but I suggest it is the way in which you do your job that rankles. Perhaps not the crusade itself, precisely, but possibly the fact that you’ve gone crazy, shining the light of the free press on all of the few detractors and left in darkness any who honestly praise and thank CAPSLO. It makes you look self-serving and – if not dishonest – ignorant of the tenets of your profession.

You may truly believe that the mention of the word “attorney” to your grandchild is the reason that your personal contact with them has been suspended, but I suggest it is the introduction of complex concepts and mature matters to young minds that are already distressed.

Confusion is not going to calm anyone, nor is confrontationalism. You should have been explaining to the kids that everything was going to be okay; that they should make the best of a bad situation in the knowledge that the situation won’t last forever. I’m betting that keeping your children up to speed on the hiring or firing of legal staff is not a policy invented just for you. Perhaps it promotes an adversarial feeling between the children and the temporary caregivers. Fool.

When you take to the airwaves and say “I just want to know how they can do this,” you’re not serving anyone’s needs. The switchboard will light up, and the craziness begins. Anyone at social services who might have been moved by sympathy for your kids will be too busy manning the siege engines to do anything else. A real reporter who had a similar question might check the Welfare and Institutions laws that regulate such bodies, as well as the civil, criminal and family codes which pertain to the removal of children and the processes thereafter. Such research, done in time, would’ve enabled your daughter to get her story before the judge in counterpoint to the claims against her; clued you all in to the subtleties of language used by social workers and lawyers and entitled you to any advantage such understanding may provide; removed the mystery surrounding the machinations and protocols of the CWS/Court experience; and provided insight into the rules and guidelines which apply to CWS caseworkers and foster-parents.

This way you could’ve fought wisely. Crowing willy-nilly about perfectly legal “injustices” you’ve suffered doesn’t help you reunite with the children; it merely illustrates that you neglected to fact check before speaking publicly.

You must realize that the Social Worker assigned to your case has great leeway in what she may permit or deny, and that it is his or her recommendations that carry the most weight with the judge. That is because the caseworker is employed to see beyond lie and performance in order to require (by way of the action plan) those things that are genuinely needed by the family – not only for reunification, but also for permanent resolution. It is their job to detect and ignore nonsense; they are the judge’s eyes and ears in your world. Everything they permit or deny must be justifiable and defensible, and if they have a reason to dislike you it’s because you gave them one.

Remember that this agency exists to deal primarily with the worst kind of people, people who will go to great lengths to conceal truths about themselves and their living situations. The caseworker who is not skeptical of everything is either new or not a very good one. If you’re going to allow your cronies to spill her name to the public and make all kinds of specious and scurrilous accusations against her, don’t be surprised when she tells the judge that you seem to be more willing to fight the process than to take the necessary steps for reunification. Don’t be surprised when the judge believes her, especially if she heard it with her own ears along with the rest of us.

You may also believe that your daughter failed her action plan because she couldn’t leave work for a doctor’s appointment, and that could indeed bear some part in it. It’s entirely more likely that some conversation surrounding the missed appointment reflected a continuing oppositional attitude toward the process. Nobody at CWS is going to tell the judge that the circumstances, which led the children into state custody, are changing (or are likely to change) when the principals are participating only grudgingly and seem still inclined to resistance.

These people have already determined that change is necessary in the home. The best thing you can do is maintain an earnest demeanor and ardently comply with their requirements. The caseworker is required to help in any number of ways once you turn the corner and embrace the reunification plan, but most people never figure that out. They, like you, would rather fight the system, inflate themselves, and leave the kids twisting in the wind.

Get a clue, lady, and help your daughter get her kids back. Foster care that is good is very good, and foster care that is bad is often incurable. I encourage you to forget all the craziness you’ve filled your life with and dedicate your time and intentions to your daughter and her re-unification plan. If you’ve a shred of humanity, you should already loathe yourself for the ways you’ve both marginalized and exacerbated the plight of your grandkids and hijacked sympathies intended for them to feed your own demons. Atone.

And the guy on the radio who offered the gift cards who you blew off? He was trying to eliminate any excuse a foster may have for forcing cow’s milk on the child. If the alternative to milk were free, what objection could be raised? He could drop those gift cards off at any social services office with the name of the child and a bit of written explanation and the issue of lactose intolerance would be solved. That this escaped you is representative of the situation as a whole.

Selfish, selfish woman.

Get off your high-horse and urge your daughter to comply. Gleefully. While she’s at it, she could try to get something out of the classes and counseling and therapy. It wouldn’t be such a crime to bring the kids back into a better home than the one they left, would it?