Today was a very scary day. One of the scariest I have experienced yet.
Today I recommended that a child stay with their mother.
Okay, let me back track because that probably didn't seem all that shocking to most of you...
A number of months ago, we returned nine year old David home to his mother. He had been in care for about a year and his mom had completed every service we'd requested of her. Since he'd returned home, the caseworker had been out to the home frequently and had no concerns. We had just scheduled a meeting to discuss closing the case completely.
And then we got a phone call.
A report that things were not good in the home.
A report that David could be hurt.
And so we spoke to everyone involved - some things were admitted, others were not. At the end of the investigation it was clear that more services were needed.
But I walked into court today and advocated that David should stay with his mother.
She has agreed to re-engage in services.
She's already complied with the tasks we requested of her in the last few weeks.
But a number of people at court wanted David to come back into foster care. They believe that his mother has been hiding these issues for a long time. They believe that she told him to lie. They believe that he could get seriously hurt.
I believe all those things too.
But I still believe he should stay with his mother.
I believe we should give them a chance to work through this together.
Today a judge agreed with me. Many, many safegaurds were put into place. David's mom was given a strong warning that one mistake could cost her custody of her son. She cried and promised to do whatever was asked of her.
But after I left the courthouse today, I couldn't stop thinking about all the risks we are taking. The risk that she won't be able to overcome her problems. The risk that David could get hurt. The risk that we would be wrong. The risk that we would be blamed for something terrible happening.
I thought about how much easier it would be (for us) if David came back into foster care. He'd be in a home that we approved. We would have more "control" over his living environment. We wouldn't worry as much about whether he was being hurt.
Those are all false assumptions of control of course. Children are hurt in foster care. We still wouldn't know if he was getting hurt unless he told us. But we certainly would feel a bit more secure knowing that wasn't in a home where those risks have already been admitted to be happening.
It would be better for us.
But I don't believe it would be better for David. It might be less physically risky. But it would be emotionally devestating. He might be physically safe. But he would still be scared. He might be with more capable parents. But he wouldn't have someone he knew to comfort him.
While I have a lot of confidence that David's mom will overcome these challenges, I could be wrong.
So, today I do not regret our decision.
But I am holding my breath.