Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27, 2010

The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4304
202-224-0776 (FAX)

Dear Senator Hutchison:

I am contacting you as my senator to ask for your assistance in requesting that Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both from the State of Washington please intervene on behalf of my daughter, Kendra Maston, with Child Protective Services in Spokane, Washington. The future of my only grandchildren is at stake and I am feeling totally helpless as I watch my daughter being victimized by an agency that over the last year and a half is using their power and authority to do the wrong thing, and my grandchildren are paying the price.

The entire episode is a very lengthy one, but I will try to hit the high points. I want to also make it clear that I understand my daughter has made some mistakes and she is not totally without blame. BUT, I also want it noted that during this year and a half she has consistently done more than what was required of her, but to no avail. The criteria for reunification consistently changes.

My daughter has two children, Danica and Tristan. About a year and a half ago, the little boy, Tristan, sustained a broken leg. He was just beginning to learn to stand up by himself. Kendra was out of the room at the time so didn't know what had really happened. But after a few hours of being unable to console him she decided it was time for a trip to the emergency room, where they sat for a few more hours. The x-rays showed a spiral fracture. Spiral fractures CAN be--but aren't always--an indicator of abuse.

Police were called, parents interviewed, kids removed pending an investigation. The investigation relied solely on a doctor's statement that he believed it to be abuse. Kids put into foster care and the official finding was medical neglect because of the 4 hours Kendra waited to take the baby to the emergency room.

This in itself has totally devastated my daughter because at no time did she consider herself to be doing anything except being prudent and careful. As an aside, it took Kendra's attorney over a year to gain access to Tristan's medical file and the photos. After 7 hours waiting for treatment there was still no bruising. Abuse would have clearly left bruises on his leg--there were none. But this information wasn't available until recently and the finding of neglect still stands. Kendra took a comprehensive first aid class from the Red Cross, and I provided her with a top-of-the-line first aid kit--all because she truly wanted to know what she could have done differently.

Kendra has been undergoing weekly urinalysis for over a year and a half and they have all been clean, although admittedly some were diluted--which counts as "dirty"--because it was summer and she was drinking large quantities of water since she has to rely on public transportation. That is considered to not be an excuse so she has tried not to drink very much water on the days she goes in for testing. Kendra does suffer from bi-poloar disorder, but is on medication to treat it and has been for years. I wish she didn't have it, but it's not illegal.

During this time Kendra has taken all her required parenting classes. She has glowing reports from the service providers. When her caseworker thinks something else would be of benefit, she has taken the class even though it means she's taken some of them 2 or 3 times with the only difference being in where the class was held. Kendra attends group counseling several days a week as required, has done everything CPS has wanted her to do. Despite all of her cooperation and the glowing reports from her service provider, her caseworker claims she doesn't participate adequately and that he doesn't believe she will ever regain custody of her children.

When her caseworker said Kendra needed to give up her apartment because it was more than she could afford and because it would enable her to qualify for subsidized housing I thought it was insane. She insisted that if going homeless was required, then she'd do it. I paid to put her stuff in storage. Being homeless and living in a shelter wasn't all that condusive to making her appointments on time, so she was consistently dinged on that by CPS.

In the meantime, the Salvation Army that was going to provide the housing voucher required CPS to sign that the children would be returning home within 2 weeks. Her caseworker who urged her to go homeless in the first place refused to sign it. So without kids she didn't qualify for housing, and without housing she didn't qualify to get the kids back. So back to the streets, and to the shelter when she could. How does this help my daughter to be a better parent? How does this help reunite families?
People at her church said she could rent a room from them while she looked for suitable housing, so she did. That worked for a few weeks until one of their friends got drunk, came into her bedroom while she was sleeping and raped her. A police report was filed, trip to the hospital for the rape kit, etc. The response from CPS? "If you can't keep yourself safe, how can keep your children safe?" Such a response is an outrage and should be illegal. And again, how does this help my daughter become a better parent? How does this help reunite families?

That's when I stepped in and contacted CPS to get temporary guardianship of them. CPS refused because I was out of state and the kids needed to be available for Kendra's parenting classes. Her caseworker stated that the only thing between Kendra getting her kids back was her inability to find suitable housing. Believe me, I made certain that was truly the case. "You mean, as soon as Kendra finds somewhere to live the kids will be returned?" Yes, was the response. So I co-signed a lease, sent a copy of it to the caseworker and asked when reunification would occur. Suddenly it wasn't "quite that simple."

In the meantime, what I didn't not want to happen has. The children have been moved from foster home to foster home. To make matters worse, the children aren't even in the SAME foster home! When does CPS start to work FOR families instead of against them? How is that in the best interest of the children? Who can give me a valid answer to that? At the moment no one can.

October 11, 2010 Child Protective Services will be going to court to terminate my daughter's parental rights. The plan is to allow the foster family to adopt the little boy, Tristan, and put the little girl, Danica up for adoption separately. This is insane. If this is allowed to happen, not only will I never get to see my grandchildren again and my daughter will never get to see her children again, but the children won't get to see each other again. Something must be done to stop this insanity.

And I guess that's what my real beef has been: everyone seems to be making it up as they go along. There is no plan, no set goals or objectives. No measureable criteria of what constitutes meeting the goals. Absolutely no standards whatsoever. Everytime Kendra meets criteria, the criteria changes. I have spoken to her caseworker and asked specifically about the reunification plan and what the criteria they are requiring and honestly I was appalled. As a former teacher I could NEVER have gotten away with that kind of thing. You don't get to change your mind about what you want after specifying the things that must be done and at what level of competency they're to be performed at.

I have asked how being in two different foster homes is in the best interests of the children and gotten no answer. I get bunny-trailed, and when I restate the question, no one can ever answer it. Without subpoenas all the state resource people who have worked with Kendra and are highly complimentary of her progress can't testify on her behalf. They will next month, but up to now it's been Kendra's word against her CPS caseworker. And guess who wins.

I have spoken to Kendra's attorney who assures me that she has no doubts about Kendra's parenting abilities, and stated that Kendra has done far more than any other client she's represented and she believes Kendra is being jerked around and should have had her kids back months ago.

During this entire time the caseworker has made it clear that he sees no way Kendra will regain custody of her children. It is my opinion that at this point in time, the mistakes and errors made by CPS are so grievous and blatant that they believe the best way out that covers up their mistakes is to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy--just terminate parental rights, put the kids up for adoption separately and close the case. It's convenient, it's easy, and who going to care?

Having no money it's unlikely Kendra will be able to sue them. Afterall, she's just a "welfare mother" so what's the big deal? Same goes for me, her mother--having no money I won't be able to afford to do so either. I know from experience that if you can't budget at least $50,000 you can just forget it. You truly do get all the justice you can buy. And if you can't--well then, you don't get it.

Please, Senator Hutchison, don't allow this to happen to my grandbabies. Please, please request on my behalf that Senators Cantwell and Murray intervene on behalf of my daughter Kendra Maston and her children Danica and Tristan Jackson. Please ask them to send my grandbabies home to their mother--immediately and together.

Linda McMurry
251 N. County Line Rd.
Elgin, TX 78621