Tuesday, April 18, 2017

An Ideal Family

I am being very vulnerable now. Earlier, I posted a picture of a blended family. It is a picture of the family I wanted for my stepdaughter. I wanted for us to be there at her soccer games. I wanted for her siblings from our family and her siblings from her mom’s family to get to know each other and maybe be friends. I wanted peace in her life. The truth is my stepdaughter never got to do sports or any extracurricular activities, and if she did, they were short-lived because her mom is a substance abuser. Meth was/is her drug of choice. We played the game and when she was taken away, we fought and fought to gain custody of her. However, we lost and she was returned back to a home marred by drugs, neglect, emotional abuse and sexual abuse. This past summer, she came to us saying she was ready to leave her mom and come live with us. In fact, she begged us. This time, we thought we could convince her mom to let her come live with us by not involving the courts and by paying her off—yes, as horrible as that sounds we were going to bribe her mother for custody. When push came to shove, we realized we had been duped again. This time it wasn’t by her mother, her mother’s family, nor the court system. This time it was by my stepdaughter. She used us to make her mother jealous and when she got the attention she wanted, she told us she didn’t want to have to choose between us. We severed all ties between her and us. We had to shield our family which consists of two young kids from the emotional abuse she inflicted upon us. It’s been over seven months since we last spoke to her, but not a day goes by that we don’t think about her, pray for her and hope that she’ll be okay. While we know her behavior is indicative of the abuse she’s experienced, it still doesn’t hurt any less to have your child—stepchild or not, she’s still my child too—hurt you.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Final Post

We just wanted to let everyone know that we were unsuccessful in our attempt to get custody of CC yesterday. In fact, we learned that we never really had a chance. This summer, we completed an ICPC in which a caseworker came out and assessed our home, us, our marriage, our abilities as parents, etc. We passed and it was sent on to Kansas to help insure that CC would come live with us while not in Her mom's custody. Well, Kansas took a long time to approve it. In fact, if it weren't for a good friend of mine, it would've sat in a stack of papers. Toward the end of September it was approved, and CC was set to come live with us, but Her mom's attorney objected to it.

Yesterday, the judge addressed the ICPC briefly. In fact, it's unlikely that he read it because he asked my husband, “where do you live now?" and he also stated that the ICPC doesn't prove that it's worth splitting up CC and her sister. The CASA worker noted that CC said she does not want to come live with us and be separated from her sister and that her sister is terrified of CC leaving. So, the judge ruled that the girls would stay with CC's grandfather until January when the next hearing is regarding the girls' care and Her mom's progress. At that time, Murad and Her mom went into mediation to work out a parenting plan. We had come up with a fair parenting plan which Her mom approved of prior to the hearing. However, during mediation she changed her wants and she even brought CC’s sister’s father in and was consulting him on the choices. Our attorney should have fought to have CC’s sister’s father removed from the mediation, but didn't and things got so heated that Murad almost hit CC’s sister’s father. In fact, he was egging Murad on trying to get him to hit him. Luckily, Murad realized that and walked away, but because of this the judge is ordering that Murad take anger management classes before resuming visitation with CC.

After this, we realized we have reached our breaking point emotionally, physically, and financially. We know that CC will never want to come live with us because she's too afraid of what will happen to her mother if she does. She's gotten so used to caring for her mom throughout her addiction that she just can't imagine life without her. While it's easy for us to see that, it's not easy for us to accept. Murad and I have built a life together and we have a beautiful family with a baby girl on the way. We haven't fully allowed ourselves to get excited about our daughter because we've been in such limbo about CC. As painful as it is to say it, reaching this point has given us some relief after months and years of heartache. We now know that we tried everything in our power to parent CC, and the broken system just would not let us. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Genetic Testing

Here's some information regarding Genetic Testing done by the state of Kansas. Takes 4-6 weeks for results.

Federal regulations require that the Child Support Services (CSS) program has access to a laboratory which can perform legally and medically acceptable genetic tests. The genetic sample can be collected by a LabCorp representative or trained CSS onsite staff. Once collected, the samples are sent to LabCorp for processing. These tests will identify the father or exclude the alleged father.
Genetic Tests can be requested by either the custodial parent (CP) or the noncustodial parent (NCP). The testing uses cells swabbed from inside the mouth, so the process is painless and safe. Tests can be scheduled at many locations, to ensure convenience for all parties. Results are usually received within four to six weeks. 
Genetic Testing is offered at no cost to the CP or NCP.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Parental Alienation: Happy Father's Day?

While I always request a spa/shopping day or a day shut in my room reading or watching movies away from my child on Mother's Day, my husband always wants to spend Father's Day with Joely. I usually attribute this to the fact that I do all the work around here (and let's be honest, that's 50% true), but I'm starting to realize it has to do with appreciating being a father to his son. I realize I have what I term, "mother privilege." No one will ever question my maternity. No one can deny me my son. No one can put someone else's name on his birth certificate or give him a last name different from mine. These are all things I take for granted. Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there fighting for their kids and/or experiencing parental alienation. Keep fighting. We had no idea the impact we had on our daughter's life. We assumed that since we were basically shut out of her life, we weren't important to her. We couldn't be further from the truth. Keep on fighting, warriors!

Parental Alienation: A Stepmother's Point of View

I think most people must think how easy I must have it as a stepmother. I rarely have to see the kid and my husband's focus is on our child together. We don't pay child support either. However, easy could not be further from the truth. Even though I'm not C.C.'s mother and never can replace her, we share a bond like no other. Aside from seeing my husband down on Father's Day and my son miss his big sister, I, too, hurt. I met C.C. just after her fifth birthday at a Pizza Hut in small town, Kansas. I wasn't supposed to meet her that day, but her mother had been gracious enough to let her spend the day with us as we passed through town to pick up a few of Murad's things from C.C.'s grandparents' home (he lived with them when he found out C.C. was his daughter). We brought presents with us to drop off wither her grandparents for her birthday and Christmas. Instead of waiting to open them, she opened them right away. I brought her "Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type," She remarked that she loved to read and was was excited to read it. I also had some photos printed of C.C. and Murad at his dad's wedding that previous June. Murad and I had started dating around that time (May) and I remembered him talking about how excited he was for his daughter to come to New Jersey for his father's wedding. Murad got her some clothes. I remember her remarking about the "bling-bling" on the shirt. From then on, we instantly became fast friends. We played at the park and when we arrived back at her grandparents' home, she only wanted to sit on my lap. She cuddled up under me quite a bit and even blessed me with a fart! When we tried to visit again that following March, her mother wouldn't let us see her because we had taken her to the park unsupervised. From then on, we embarked on an almost year long hiatus from C.C.'s life. It wasn't until the next Christmas that we got to spend time with her. As I recall that moment, I can't help but think that I've failed her many times since then. There were many times when I felt as though we should give up. The back and forth of not seeing C.C. made it difficult. She always had to adjust to our house and our rules, and simple things like showering regularly and eating meals as a family. Even when we had a chance to have her come live with us, she acted as if she was scared of us and then that scared turned to anger, and then to hatred. Once again, we were alienated from her life, but this time it was from C.C. We quickly moved on, and started a family of our own, and when C.C. would let us in her life we would enter, but we were cautious. We didn't allow ourselves to get too close. I think that caused us to miss many signs of her mother's drug use. I remember one Christmas C.C. spent with us at my parents'. JT must've been a year and a half or so. She kept saying that she liked me so much because her mom was really "out there." I blew it off thinking that maybe she was kissing up because she felt sorry for how she treated us before. I asked her what she meant by being "out there," and she was very vague. She just kept saying she was out there and weird. Looking back, I realize she was trying to tell me something, but I was just too angry to hear it. I know a lot of these things are not our fault and are the result of being in a horrible situation, but as a stepmother and now a mother, I can't help but feel as though I failed her. Hopefully, we'll have the chance to make it up to her and to help her share her own story. If you feel like giving up, don't. Even though we felt as though we didn't impact her life, we're learning quite differently.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Hearing: the good, the bad, the ugly

Murad went to court today and was rewarded with: another paternity test! When he arrived, he, C.C.’s mom, & C.C.’s mom’s boyfriend (C.C.’s sister's alleged father) took drug tests. They all three passed (not that we were worried about Murad). C.C.’s mom & C.C.’s mom’s boyfriend celebrated passing the test. The judge looked over all of Murad's documents and told both attorneys that he'd have enough evidence to declare Murad the father. When C.C.’s mom's attorney told her, she immediately said he wasn't the father and her attorney said they'd reject any claims as such. The judge then said a paternity test would have to be done which C.C.’s mom tried to block saying her estranged husband hadn't responded to the paternity summons, and that C.C.’s mom’s boyfriend should be C.C.’s father because she saved her life once when she drowned. However, the county attorney said her estranged husband was given sufficient amount of time to respond and the judge agreed. When C.C.’s mom learned that C.C.’s mom’s boyfriend wasn't going to be able to see C.C.’s sister until a paternity test was done, she quickly changed her tune and said that Murad was C.C.’s father. She said let C.C. see Murad, but judge said it was too late and that the fairest thing to do would be to do the paternity test. The judge handed everything over to Family Services which means now I (Ashlea) have to get approved by them to talk to C.C. and so do all family members. Murad's attorney spent some time explaining how to get a paternity test ordered to the Family Services caseworker. Our attorney told Murad she'd call every day until it's done. The judge put in an expedited order for paternity, so we're hoping it'll be less time than we expected before. So, it feels like we're at a stand-still. Once the paternity tests are done, the child in need of care hearing will occur, at which C.C. may or may not come home with us. If she doesn't, we'll file for custody. We're not absolutely sure how long this all will take, but we're trying not to give up hope for C.C.’s sake. However, it's hard not to do. We know C.C. is having a hard time. She's told everyone that if she doesn't see Murad soon she'll explode. The Family caseworker said that C.C. asks to Skype with me all the time. And of course she misses her ornery little brother. We feel like we've failed her, but we're hoping this period apart is short and worth the wait. Keep praying!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

One Week!

We are one week away from our court date!Please keep Murad in your thoughts and prayers during this week and next as he prepares for court. We are confident, yet cautious. It's hard not to get our hopes up and we know at this point we've done everything we can. We're relying on our attorney to fight the battle and we're remaining optimistic. Since we started this journey a little over two months ago (and for Murad, it really has been more like 10 years), we've realized how many other fathers out there are like him. Even celebrities like Jason Patric have had to endure paternity questioning and parental alienation. Our goal for WHEN CC comes home is to make sure that we keep her safe while still trying to foster a relationship with her mother. We realize we have a long road ahead of us no matter what the outcome is, but we're prepared. In the mean time, if you have any encouraging words for Murad, I'm sure he'd love to hear them. If you'd still like to send CC (and/or her sister) I'm sure she'd appreciate it as well! You can still donate to our cause. You can also share our wonderful image (thanks, Amber Goodvin) on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account to show your support, especially on Tuesday. Until Tuesday,