There was a medical period of time with the children, Maggie’s glasses were not correcting her vision. They scheduled surgery for her. We contacted the social worker to inform her, also Hilary and the grandparents. Both Hilary and the grandparents were very concerned about Maggie needing surgery. However on the day of surgery, neither of them came to be with her. My husband and I stayed with Maggie. Keeping her calm before the surgery, taking her picture, reading her stories. After the surgery, Maggie was sick. Miserable. She fell asleep on my husband’s chest. We left her there for a couple of hours because it was best that she slept through what she could.
Maggie liked music and movies. We got her the Mary Poppins DVD and we watched it several times a day. She called the movie “POP”. The lively music always made Maggie light-hearted and cheerful. I think it was an escape for her. Soon enough we came to discover all that she needed to escape from.
The court ordered that Hunter, Maggie and their older sister should maintain sibling contacts. I arranged play dates for the older sister to visit our home with her grandparents twice a month. It was during this time that Maggie began to display some disturbing behaviors. A signal to us that she wasn’t alright.
We tried providing her comforts and nurturing as a way to balance whatever was happening inside of her. At two years old, it was difficult to determine what was wrong. I had many suspicions, but no way to determine anything substantial. Until the last visit with their older sister. She had coaxed both Maggie and Hunter into the children’s bedroom to play. When I heard the door close, I went to open it, and she had barricaded it. I pushed hard all the while talking to Maggie until the door jam gave way. This was the last visit that all three children had together.
However, seeing her sister had triggered things for Maggie, and its effects on her were far from over. More behaviors appeared and I contacted a child psychologist to begin working with Maggie. Even with my counseling background, with her lack of verbal skills, I was at a loss to help her cope with what ever had happened to her before she came to foster care. I talked with Hilary about her older daughter. I encouraged her to share information with the social workers. It would be the best way for her to help all three of her children.
Hilary and I began to find common ground in helping the children together. We began having regular conversations and she learned that someone did care… even about her. I repeatedly told her that ‘we’, meaning she and I, had to do what was best for the children. No matter what else happened. And there were lots of things that did happen. She and Steve were homeless for a time and living in their van. They stayed with various friends and moved around frequently. As a couple they had struggles too and Hilary ended up injured after being pushed out of the van while they were driving down the highway. At the next visit with the children, I asked her about her bruises. But I think she felt ashamed. Like somehow she would be blamed. Afterall she was living under a microscope. At another visitation, law enforcement waited until I had left with the children and then arrested Steve for an outstanding warrant from another county.
It only got worse from here. Hunter got sick. He ran a high fever for five days. Each day I visited the doctor and was finally referred to a specialist for an ear infection. They wanted to place ear tubes to relieve the infection. But he was too sick. On the fifth day of his fever, Hunter became lethargic. I rushed him to the local clinic without an appointment. The doctor finally agreed to admit him to the hospital. I called my husband and Hilary from my cell phone as I hurried to the hospital with Hunter in his car seat. I called the social worker too. She had to give the hospital permission to admit him. As foster parents you have no legal authority to sign anything on the children’s behalf. But when the admissions clerk refused to admit him without a signature.. I signed. (Please visit me in jail.)
Within minutes of arriving on the pediatric unit.. they began an IV in Hunter’s scalp. His lengthy fever had dehydrated him and his oxygen saturation levels were low. The nurse told me if he had gotten here six hours later, he would have died. They began respiratory therapy treatments on him. And then the social worker arrived.
I told her I realized that I had no authority to stay with Hunter, but that I very much wanted to stay here with him. Then Hilary arrived. The social worker told Hilary that I would be staying with Hunter and that she was welcome to as well. Hilary agreed to stay. The nurse brought in an extra cot. My husband called to check on Hunter and let me know that Maggie was doing alright. Once Hunter was sleeping, I took Hilary to the cafeteria to get some dinner. We returned to the room and ate. My daughter arrived to check on Hunter too and brought me some clothes and toiletries.
The respiratory treatments continued through the night. But at one point, his breathing became stressed and the oxygen levels dropped. I called the nurse and they arranged another breathing treatment. Hunter was becoming upset and held my night-gown tightly. I held him during the breathing treatment, talking softly to him. He was alarmed by the wisps of the medication. And of course the medication itself made him very grumpy. He didn’t like the high steel bars of the hospital crib. I moved a chair next to his crib and rubbed the side of his face until he fell asleep. I laid my head down next to him and listened to his breathing. The sun rose and the next shift of nurses came in to check on Hunter. Hilary woke up and heard me relay the night’s incidents to the nurses. She had slept through it all. I was so afraid that Hunter would stop breathing that I had watched the monitors all night long.