Thursday, March 16, 2006

DHS and the 12th Circle Of Hell

Reprinted from my post on DM Juice:

My wife and I are only one class shy of completing our foster care training. Everyone has their causes they support, mine is children in harm’s way. Through no fault of their own, kids are thrown into situations with unsafe environments and a bleak outlook for the rest of their lives. My experience in life has taught me I can’t change the world. I am neither smart enough nor creative enough to tackle the planet’s biggest problems with effective solutions. However, I can make a difference in a child’s life. My hard work has afforded me the opportunity to have a clean, safe home with a loving, strong family with hearts for giving.

The training process to become a foster parent goes through the Department of Human Services, which in turn means it goes through hell. I know this will be a shock, to you the reader, but government agencies and me don’t necessarily mix. Our encounter with DHS before we enrolled in our classes was strained, to put it mildly.

Last summer, my wife and I took an infant boy into our home while his mother entered rehab for Meth. We met her through an outreach program at our church. Long story short, she fell out of treatment and we felt inclined to call DHS to prevent the young boy from reentering a life of drugs, homelessness and prostitution.

When we first contacted DHS we where hailed as heroes for our desire of wanting to remain the child’s foster parents. Their only requirement for our family was to submit to the usual application process. We agreed and started to setup our classes, background checks and drug screening. The class registration and background checks were flawless, but drug testing was a different story.

Let me take you through the process of dropping a urine analysis for the state. First, it is imperative that you go with a full bladder, because the waiting room at the lab will make you feel like you haven’t drank any fluids in a week. You will be sitting next to people that aren’t there because they are looking to do foster care, but rather are court mandated to be there. After a short wait, the time to perform is upon you. After being ushered into a sparse bathroom with mirrors surrounding the toilet you will be asked to pee while the attendant watches over your shoulder. Now I have used hundreds of public restrooms and stood next to many men urinating in my time, but having someone actually watch you go is a different experience. However, I rose up to the occasion and performed flawlessly. Not one of my better performances, but it would do.

What happened next will stay with me for the rest of my life, the attendant thanked me as I handed him the glass of urine. Thanked me? For what, the pee cocktail or the show I just gave him? Without thinking, I said, “you’re welcome.” We stood there a moment longer, each of us starting to realize that there are some services in life that don’t require a thank you.

Unfortunately, the drug test showed trance amounts of amphetamines in wife’s UA due to the prescription drugs she takes for high blood pressure and her Crohn’s disease. Understandably, DHS choose to remove the young boy from our care, until the follow up tests could concluded my wife was not, in fact, a Meth head.

Long story short (too late, I know) DHS never regained its’ faith in us as a foster family and choose not to put the boy back in our care. Sure, the drug tests eventually showed us both to be clean, but then DHS started to question my wife’s health due to fact she has Crohn’s disease. We were then told we don’t have the proper background to handle the boy who had been in our care because he had special needs. Of course, the bureaucracy that is DHS didn’t take the time to research the fact my wife works for the Waukee Schools with special needs children. I can tell after attending 10 weeks of classes with other couples looking to help needy kids, my wife and I may well be over qualified. In some small way, completing the classes gives me the feeling that we proved to DHS just how wrong they were about our family. And yes I know DHS couldn’t care less about my family’s reputation, but for me it helps.

The story I just told you is, of course, the abridge version of a very long and painful process that has finally reached its’ conclusion. Undeterred by grossly inept government workers, our home will finally be a potential safe haven for children in need of assistance. Put simply, it will be worth the trials.

No comments: