Yesterday the Children’s Shelter of San Antonio terminated our home as an adoptive home and have placed in jeopardy the sibling group of 5 we were supposed to bring home this Friday November 10th to be part of our forever family.

Here’s their three sentence letter:

Laprise_Termination

What we did wrong was ask questions and we see a systemic abuse of families who ask questions. On more than one occasion we’ve been told the following by staff at the Children’s Shelter.

This conversation is over

Stop asking questions was implied repeatedly

You just need to comply

Don’t stir things up

Sometimes you just have to keep your mouth shut for the children’s sake.

Well, for the children’s sake, and not just these five, we want to open our mouth and speak on their behalf and all those families working to adopt and foster children who are abused by the Child Placing Agencies that are supposed to be helping them help the children.

When will they put the children’s needs first? Not until we all raise our voice in defense of the defenseless. The children have no money and no voice but ours. Will you speak up with us on their behalf?

Adoption isn’t new to us and we don’t “need” more children. We have four grown biological children and we adopted a sibling group of three kids eight years ago. It was hard but the hardest part was the lying and deception on the part of our then Child Placing Agency – Pathways. A year ago, with our three adopted children doing so well we decided to adopt more kids for no other reason than we love kids and are willing to help.

When we first went to the Children’s Shelter it was amazingly different than our previous experience. The staff was friendly and helpful, the training was excellent. When the director was fired around April 2017 everything changed BUT these agencies know that it’s hard to change agencies because you’ve already done a huge amount of paperwork to get licensed through the agency and so many of them once you’re “in” treat you extremely poorly.

Over the course of the summer while we were waiting to be matched up with a sibling group we opened our home to respite care every time the Children’s Shelter asked. I believe six kids over the summer came into our home. It was awesome for the kids we already have to experience new kids in their space and we were really glad we had that opportunity.

On Tuesday October 31st Michael and I went to a refresher course, you have to take courses regularly to keep your home license active. This refresher course is called SAMA. It is designed to teach you how to deescalate a situation with a child mainly through verbal conversation. One section teaches how to use physical force to protect yourself and the child in the event that the behavior escalates. One of the moves is called “Follow to the Ground.” During the class the instructor said if anyone didn’t feel comfortable or had issues with doing this move they didn’t have to do it. I wasn’t feeling really good, it was a refresher course that I’d already done, Michael was there to do it also and in our 30 years of parenting and working with kids I’ve never taken a kid out. We left the class that Tuesday thinking we were in complete compliance with our licensing.

On Thursday I received a phone message from Allie Hennis at the Children’s Shelter and because we were super busy getting ready for our first whole weekend with the 5 kiddos at our house I didn’t get around to calling her back. Her message didn’t indicate any urgency. If I can figure out how to post it here I will later.

On Friday morning we were so excited and after lunch my daughter Alexis (11) and son Jack (10) and I got in our giant marshmallow van and headed to HEB for some last minute items, our son Luke (18) and daughter Jessica (27) were at home getting things ready and making dinner. Michael was working from home so he could be there when we got home.

At 2:30 on Friday November  3rd, when we left HEB my daughter Alexis put up her hand to high five me and said, “We did it!” If you knew Alexis’s story of abuse before she was three and here fear of the shelter experience, you’d understand her passion for bringing these kids home to be safe. Almost immediately after that Allie Hennis called to tell us we couldn’t pick the kids up for the weekend because our home wasn’t compliant. Our lack of compliance was based solely on my not doing the one single follow to the ground move at the Tuesday class! Seriously!

When I tried to explain that the instructor didn’t say anything about not being compliant, was there a rule on how much of the class needed to be completed in order to be compliant, could I retake the course Saturday and still get the kids? She was totally uninterested in any pleas about what would be best for the children because she is in charge of compliancy and she’s read the chart and is just a box checker. No heart! Her final words were, “This conversation is over.”

I was in shock and shaking so bad when I hung up. I couldn’t get a hold of the children’s caseworker because it was late in the day and our caseworker from the Children’s Shelter, you know the place and people who were supposed to be assisting us in our adoption, had no help to offer. As I drove on toward our meeting with the children at the shelter they’re currently at, my mind was racing with, how do we get someone to hear our story at 3:30 on Friday afternoon? I called my congressman’s office and his aid got to work that day and is continuing to work on behalf of these kids. When we arrived at the shelter the staff there had all the kids stuff packed, everyone was so happy that the kids were going to come stay with us for the weekend. The kids were so happy to see us with hugs and squeals of delight.

Then I got to be the one to tell them that they couldn’t spend the weekend with us. I can’t even describe how horrible that moment was, breaking bad news but wanting so much to enjoy what time we did have with them.

We were allowed to take them for each day over the weekend but no overnights. So instead of 200 miles of driving that weekend we put in 600 miles. The kids were so awesome while we were playing at the house and the only time we had problems was when it was time to get in the van to go back to the ranch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great children’s ranch and the kids like the staff there, it’s just not home! It’s not that forever home that the people working in CPS keep telling kids they’ll get someday.

So, I’ve spent the last two days calling everyone I can think of who will help me. We still don’t have a commitment that the kids will be here forever on Friday as they’ve been promised. Yesterday Allie Hennis and Yvette Sanchez from the Children’s Shelter met with us. They offered no apology, admitted to no mistakes and in a very short meeting they simply handed us our termination letter. After speaking with DFPS I know that an agency can fire you for no reason given. So, there’s that nice thing.

I called our congressman’s office and the children’s caseworker and they were both shocked at the outcome of the meeting. The kid’s caseworker’s supervisor called the Children’s Shelter to ask if they had any concerns about the children being placed in our home or for the children’s safety in our home and they said no.

We got fired/terminated for asking to many questions and asking for clarification on their “compliance” rules. I’ve called a number of CPS workers over the last few days trying to find out what the rule is for passing the SAMA course which is required for all workers and have found only one who even knows what it is.

We’re asking for your help in raising a voice for the children in state care. We can’t bring these kids home this weekend unless the Children’s Shelter reinstates us until we can be licensed with a new agency. I wish I could convey the lack of trust these kids have in everyone around them or how much we want them to trust us, that we’ll keep our word.

Here’s what we believe will make an impact on how people are treated in the future.

Let’s keep it really simple and just state:

Please put the children first, reinstate the Laprise family!

You can call the Children’s shelter at this number 210-212-2500

Allie Hennis at 210-212-2579

Congressman Kuemple’s office 512-463-0602

Our congressman’s office has been awesome in helping us with this but we’d like them to see how many people care.

Email to the Children’s Shelter’s Public Relations Officer Anais Biera Miracle at abiera@chshel.org

Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheChildrensShelter/

If you have time for a meme with our simple phrase that would be awesome.

#For the Children – I’d do that but I don’t know how