Liz is a 30-year-old woman who told me before as she filled out the forms that she was fighting with CAS to have her two children returned.  She has been overweight since a child, morbidly obese throughout her adult life, with related ailments.  Her parental home was unsettled and unpleasant, she was geographically and socially isolated, left school very early, and had limited engagement with the working world.  When Internet entered her world at 18, she developed a social life with some ‘pretty crazy people’.  Since moving out on her own in Middletown at 21, her life has had a lot of ‘drama’ and brought her under CAS surveillance.  She was shocked when her children were apprehended but considers that it has made a positive difference in her life.  She describes in some detail how she experiences that intervention.  

FM:  Okay, so let’s start with you telling me a bit about where you were raised, who was in your family, what they did for a living, etc.

I was raised the city of Middletown from the time I was 8, and then we moved to [a small village 20 km distant].  We lived there until I was just about 10, then we moved back into the city till I was 11.  We moved to [the adjoining county].  Then I was 12 and we moved backed to the outskirts of Middletown.  I lived there from 12 to 21, and then I moved into Middletown. 

My dad was a trucker so he was only home on weekends.  And he lost his job when I was 15.  Then I have my mom, who pretty much raised me, and my three siblings.  I have an older brother, a younger brother and a younger sister. 

FM: Okay, then talk about how you made the decision to leave home.

There was a lot of arguing and stuff in my family.  My dad, when we were arguing would say, You can leave.  I thought about it, I was 21, I figured I’ll leave, go out on my own.  I ended up moving in with a friend.  We looked for and found a place together.  I’ve been on my own for a while now.  It’s a different kind of thing being in a family, and then by yourself.

FM: You’re 30 now:  what are your present circumstances? 

Currently I’m on ODSP and I have two boys.  I’m a single mom.  It’s a struggle. 

FM: How old are the boys?

I have an 8 year-old and a 9-month-year old. 

FM: Okay, let’s just back up a bit and talk about education – did you finish school before you left?

No, I actually only have grade 8 education.  I dropped out 8 days after I turned 15 the second semester of grade 9. 

FM: So you weren’t fond of school?

No.  Despised it. 

FM: Why was that?

I didn’t feel like I fit in with everybody.  Different kids in the city, they seemed to have more groups of people they hung out with, could go after school and do lots of things.  Not exactly a choice when you live out and don’t have a lot of transportation options. 

FM: So were you coming into school by bus? 

Yes. 

FM:  Before the move to the outskirts when you were 12, did you like school?

No.  Never really liked school. 

FM: Was that about school itself, the work, or the social situation, or some mix?

I think it was a mixture.  I really didn’t like a lot of the work, didn’t like a lot of the people. 

FM: So what did you do after you left school and before you left home?

I had some babysitting jobs.  I volunteered at [an animal shelter]. Yeah, and then I had some more babysitting jobs.  They were steady jobs, though, not just here, there.

FM: So more like a nanny?

Yeah.  One couple I babysat their two girls from 2 – 2:30 in the afternoon to between 11 and 12 at night, $20 a day.  But even if I was only there for an hour, I still made that $20. 

FM: And living at home, so that was decent money? 

Yeah, I basically put that into the house, though, because my parents were struggling some. 

FM: How old were you when your dad lost his job?

15. 

FM: So those two event, him losing his job and you quitting school were close to the same time?

Yes.

FM: Any sense that you were leaving school to help the family out financially?

Yes.  When my dad lost his job, it was January.  He drove his truck into [the lake].  I guess I was 14 then, it was all within the few months.  He ended up losing his license – he’s diabetic, his blood sugar went out of control, so they pulled his license.  The family was beginning to have some difficulty.  I was frustrated with school, so I decided that I would quit school, and I ended up getting a babysitting job then for a friend.  I was making about $2 / hr for three little kids. 

FM: Did you like babysitting?

Yes.  I love kids. 

FM: And did you mom work outside the home?

For the most part she’s had health issues.  She has a bad back and a bad knee and stuff.  And so she really didn’t work outside the house until I was about 18.  She became a security guard.  But that didn’t last long because she ended up falling and breaking her back. 

FM: And your older sibling, was he at home?  Contributing? 

No.  He was always in and out of the house, from the time he was a teenager.  He lived with us a couple of times, but not very long.  He was out on his own a couple of times, lived with our grandmother other times. 

FM: So he didn’t get along well with, what, your dad?

No, just whole family, kinda.  He was stubborn. 

FM: Okay, so babysitting from age 15 to 21, when you left?

Yeah. 

FM: So when you got to Middletown – talk about that in more detail.

I moved into an apartment with a friend.  I applied for social services.  Then I ended up going to do an education assessment through them.  I actually found out I really needed 3-4 months of upgrading and I could do college courses.  But in the meantime I ended up getting a job as a cashier at Zellers, so I put the whole school thing aside.  And I guess that was from end of July until February, I ended up getting pregnant with my oldest son. 

In that time period, I broke my foot, so I worked until April and I couldn’t stand standing on it any more, so I took a leave of absence, ended up never going back.

FM: Did you like being a cashier?

I actually did.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Had the odd cranky customer.  Took as many shifts as I was allowed, since I was only part-time.

FM: Would you have gone full-time, had that been on offer?

Probably, yeah. 

FM: Were you making enough to live on?

Sometimes.  I think there was one month, I think Christmas time, when I made too much to actually get a social services check.  Other than that, it was kinda split.

FM: Did anyone talk to you about making the move off welfare? 

No. 

FM: Would you have considered it?  Was it a goal of yours at all?

I didn’t want to be on assistance the whole time, but since I’ve ended up with so many health issues, I’ve moved on to disability.

FM: Talk about the health issues a bit. 

I break my feet a lot and I have since I was 15.  So that makes it difficult.  I have arthritis in both my feet and knees, and in my back as well.

FM: What’s the underlying cause of this vulnerability, breaking your feet? 

Well, I was always told it was my weight.  I actually just found out a couple of years ago that it’s a combination of my weight, and I have a strange curvature to my feet, and I tend to be flatfooted, so the combination of all those things causes me to get a lot of stress fractures.

FM: Have you always carried excess weight?

Yes.  I remember when I was 18, around my 18th birthday I was at the doctor’s and decided to weigh myself for the hell of it and found I was 318 pounds. 

FM: Was anybody on your case about this?  Was it seen as a problem to be focused on? 

Everybody had always been on and off on my case, the doctor not so much when I was younger.  But when I was older, he’s say I should lose weight, that would be the cause of a lot of things, he’d say Lose weight and your knees will be better.  That didn’t happen, though.

When I was 6, my brother would try and get me to take SlimFast and all that sort of stuff, or go yard saleing and buy me exercise stuff.  Not that much fun for a 6-year-old. 

FM: Is your whole family a bit round?

No.  They’re pretty mixed, actually.  My mom’s weight has always gone up and down but she’s never gotten as big as I have gotten.  My dad is up and down.  My brother is skinny as a rake.  My little sisters are really thin too.  My little brother was big until he was about 15 and then he lost weight so now he’s super thin. 

When I weighed myself and discovered I was that big, I took it upon myself to lose weight and I lost 93 pounds.  I was 7 pounds short of my 100-pound goal I set for myself. 

FM: How’d you do that?

I cut out a lot of junk.  I still allowed myself to have a treat once a week.  And I started walking more, exercising more, dancing more.  I cut out a lot of pop and stuff like that.  I still ate everything the family ate, I didn’t eat quite so much.  And I was taking an Apple Cider Vinegar pill.  I tried drinking the vinegar but it was really disgusting.

FM: So that was when you were 18–

And I was 20 by the time I lost the 93 pounds.

FM: Did that make a difference – not for your knees, you said – but otherwise in how you thought of yourself, or people treated you? 

People didn’t treat me different.  They were impressed that I’d lost the weight, which was really nice for my confidence.  But other than that, it didn’t really make that much of a difference. 

FM: Okay.  So was that the only health issues, or were there others? 

I get depressed once in a while.  That’s more since I had my older son.  When I was 15 I had high blood pressure.  I was on medication from the time I was 15 until I was 22. 

FM: So then talk a bit about getting into relationships – I’m thinking that when you were living at home, you didn’t have much of a social life.  Is that right?

Until I was 18 and we got the Internet.  That’s when I started meeting guys.

FM: On line?

Yeah.

FM: And how did that go?

Good.  I met a lot of people.  Lot of crazy people.  Some not-so-good people.  Some really good people. 

FM: Okay, and?

I had my first kiss when I was 18.  Door opener, I guess.  It turned out that guy, that I had my first kiss, he was one of the crazier ones.  He ripped my parents off for money, don’t remember the situation exactly but he owed them money for a few years.  He ended up coming back and paying them money so we became friends again.  Then he ended up ripping my parents off again.  He stole a couple of cars.  He had found them the cars, he ended up getting them in his name, he said the person that was selling the cars would only sell them to him, and then I guess he wanted the cars so he found out where the cars were and took them.  This was just before I moved out.  My dad made a cardboard cutout, put the guy’s name on it, ended up stabbing it with a pin, saying Die!  Die!  And it was kinda ironic that the guy died of a heart attack, at like 21.  My dad will never do that again!

FM: What did your dad want with the cars?

One of the cars was actually mine and I was aiming to get my license around that point but then I chickened out, so my mom drove that for a couple of months. 

FM: Okay, so for transportation.  I was wondering if he was repairing them and reselling them or something?

No. 

FM: So, social life deriving from the Internet, some kinda interesting guys that you know in the flesh, was that a factor in you deciding to leave home?

No. 

FM: Just that your dad was ragging on you?

Yeah, just the family arguing, and he said Leave. I said Enough is enough: I’ll leave. 

FM: And the friend that you moved in with, how did you know him or her?

Her.  I met her through the guy that died, actually, it was one of his girlfriends. 

FM: And did that work well for you?

Yeah. She and I ended up moving in together. 

FM: And it lasted for quite a while? 

It lasted about just over a year.  And then I got pregnant and she didn’t want to have anything to do with living with anybody who was pregnant.   So she moved out and I had another roommate. 

FM: Okay, talk a bit about how this pregnancy came about. 

There is a crazy story in between there.  There is a guy I had met off the Internet and we dated for three months.  We fought a lot.  I had to meet his parole officer for him to have permission to stay at my place.  Just before we broke up, he would call from work and he would know everything I had said to anybody, any computer conversations I had.  He told me was psychic – he knew I believed in that kind of stuff.  But it was weird because he knew word for word.  And I was at work one day, about a month and a half after we broke up, him and I got back [together], my roommate’s boyfriend pointed out that there was a weird file on the computer and he found a ghost key logger.  And I discovered – I knew the password because the guy I was dating said he used his jail ID for a password.  And I was complaining to my roommate that it was running slow so her boyfriend found this ghost key logger and I told him to use the guy’s jail number.  And it turns out he was having everything I typed forwarded to his e-mail every hour. 

FM: Yeah, that’s a crazy story. 

And then I found out all his background and found he was really messed right up. 

FM: Did that research ability stand you in good stead with screening subsequent Internet connections?

No, it didn’t really change anything because you can’t really tell who anyone is.

FM: Until you meet them in person?

And even then, you never really can tell who someone is. 

FM: So the father of your oldest child is not this guy?

No, I was actually told that the chances of me getting pregnant were actually very very slim, when I was dating the previous guy.  So I was rather shocked when I did end up getting pregnant. 

FM: Who told you your chances of getting pregnant were slim?

My doctor.

FM: Because of your weight?

Not really, that probably could have some bearing on it.  But just because my cycles were so messed up. 

FM: Okay, so not taking precautions because you didn’t think you had to–

Well, I was on the birth control pill for a couple of months [but I quit] because it gave me really bad side effects.  But the month after I quit taking it I got pregnant.  And they said it was probably because I’d straightened out my cycle just enough to cause me to ovulate.  But because of the fact that I’d just stopped taking it, there was no way to tell when I ovulated, so I didn’t know who my son’s father was, out of two guys, for awhile.  I saved up and when he was about five, I did a paternity test. 

FM: And is this father at all involved in your life?

No. 

FM: Support?

No.

FM: Is that okay with you?

Yeah.  I didn’t meet that guy on line and he’s just as crazy as the rest of them.

FM: Does he know he’s a father?

Yeah.

FM: And is he okay with no involvement?

Yeah.  He has at least five kids and doesn’t see any of them.  The two of them I met when we were hanging out with each other, but I guess he’s quit having contact even with them. 

FM: So this was truly a solo pregnancy from a social point of view.  And was that okay with you?

I was fine with that.  I always wanted to be a mom and I didn’t believe in abortion.  So, yeah, I chose to raise him.

FM: Okay, how old are you when he’s born?

I was 22 when I had him. 

FM: And how has life unfolded since then? 

It’s fine.  I was a single mom.  My parents took him on weekends.  And I stayed in the place I was living in for about three years after he was born, and then I moved in with another girl and her daughter.  It didn’t last very long.

FM: Why did you move in with another mother?  Money? 

We found a four-bedroom together.  At the time, she was living in the building, her fiancé was the superintendent.  But they ended up breaking up.  She moved into my apartment for almost a month – four of us living in a two-bedroom apartment.  Then we found a four-bedroom.  That didn’t last very long at all, not even three months.

FM: Was the thought, at the beginning, that there would be some benefit to living together – minding each other’s kids, that kind of thing?

Well, we got along, we were always together, we thought we’d get along. But it didn’t work out that way.

FM: Yeah, living together is different than being friends, for sure. 

Totally agree.

FM: So now you live by yourself?

Yes, in the process of getting my kids back from the CAS.

FM: So talk about how they got into the CAS, what went down there?

There’s – I didn’t know that my sister who has a lot of self-harming issues, anytime she cuts herself and needs stitches, she’d report things from her ‘environment’ and at the time we lived in the same building.  So a lot of the things did have to do with my apartment and people that hung around that we both knew.  Anything that happened, if she used that as a trigger, she’d report that to the crisis worker at the hospital.  For about the last year, I didn’t know.  End of May I was suffering from a mood disorder associated with post partum.  So I was arguing with my baby’s dad, and my sister said something I didn’t like.  She called me a name, I ended up slapping her in the face, caused her to get five stitches above her eye – it was not a proud moment – I have to live with that guilt.  So CAS got called by the hospital. 

FM: Do you think there was some basis in fact for them getting involved?  Was it a good environment – or a good-enough environment – for your kids at that time? 

Yeah.  They didn’t remove the kids from my care at that point.  My sister kept self-harming and would use anything that happened as a reason to cut.  The last report was that we got my son, who was seven at the time, that we got him high.  Which did not happen.  It was a joke and the next day she cut herself and used that as a reason for cutting. 

[Liz takes a phone call on her cell phone and I can hear the conversation; it’s a male asking how much longer she’ll be and does she have the $40 payment.]

FM: Okay… so I’m hearing a pretty disheveled life?

Yeah, it’s been pretty crazy.  A lot of that stuff is in the reports to CAS, just the drama, some craziness.  My kids being taken was a huge, huge thing for me, though.  Just ruined my life.  A big eye-opener to change a lot of things.

FM: So swoop back a bit to how your second child happened – what happened there?

This is the crazy thing.  The people who were living above me at the time, it’s the half-brother of the guy who is the father of my baby.  He used to hit on me from the time he was 16, 17.  I would have nothing to do with him for a couple of years.  Last year I ended up giving in to the guy.  I didn’t want anything to do with red-headed males, but…. So I ended up having a friends-with-benefits relationship with this guy.  I’d started having meetings for weight-loss surgery the beginning of June and found out June 29 I was pregnant.  So kinda put that on hold. 

FM: So is this baby-father involved in your life?

Yeah, to an extent.  We’re still good friends and hang out and everything.  But can’t hang out quite as much because of CAS.  A lot of the allegations were towards him.  Which I don’t think is fair.

FM: So I’m hearing you say that CAS is suggesting he needs to not be part of your life if you want your kids back.

Yeah, he was staying with me once the kids were taken and was basically my main support, emotionally.  From the beginning he offered to leave.  They said, no, he’s not the issue.  Next week, it was, he is the issue.  It’s been a lot of head games from the start with them.  So he left on his own the beginning of October, because he didn’t think I’d actually make him leave if it came down to a choice between him and the kids.  Which I would; I’d stated from the beginning, if CAS told me from the beginning he has to go, I would have told him to go.

FM: But I guess the issue is not you doing what they tell you to do, but making better choices for your kids, that’s the issue, I would think.  So it’s for them to say -

It’s just because it’s such a complicated case.  He’s not the only one there are allegations against. Because when they came after the complaint about getting my son high, my house was a disaster.  They called it a safety hazard.  My house is amazing now.

FM: So having your kids taken was a wake-up call, and you said earlier that you’ve ‘caved’ I think was the word you used, to their requirements -

I’ve done everything that they wanted.  They wanted me to get counseling.  I did that.  They wanted me to complete a parent-child Mother Goose program, which is singing nursery rhymes to my child, which actually didn’t do anything for my parenting because I sing to my child anyway.  The baby’s father left, so he wasn’t around. 

FM: Has your life settled down, become less ‘crazy’, as a consequence? 

As a consequence of the kids being taken, yes.  Didn’t really have as much to do with him, but I cut a lot of people out of my life.  Social circle is completely gone.  It’s been pretty quiet. 

FM: Does that feel good? 

In a way.  Like it’s nice without the drama.  But it does get boring and lonely, especially with the kids not there. 

FM: Is anyone helping you find another way to fill your social life? 

No, but I’ve started talking to my better friends that are a little less drama.  They’re just busy with kids of their own, so it’s kinda hard to hang out with them at times.

FM: But when the kids come back, that’s a more fitting social environment for them?  You can be mothers together?

Yeah.  Because the baby’s father is not around unsupervised because of the allegations.  Which I don’t get because from the beginning, before the drug allegations they said he wasn’t allowed around unsupervised, and when I asked why I was told his age and maturity level, because he was only 19.  It’s a big age difference.

FM: Do you think that’s a factor in their thinking?

I have no idea.  Age is no big thing for me – there’s 20 years difference between my parents. 

FM: So you were saying that you expect that your kids might be returned–

Before Christmas.  They’ve started the home visits.  I actually get the baby for the weekend. 

FM: Do you think the baby’s father will respect the consequences if he doesn’t steer clear?  Consequences for you and the kids?  Is he mature enough to see it from that point of view?

I think so.  This is a complicated area because I’m not even sure what stipulations are allowed right now.  At the meeting I had at the CAS with my lawyer and his lawyer, they said they’d be okay with his mom supervising him around the baby.  And they said that would take some of the stress off of me, supervising.  So that seems to me that it’s okay for me to supervise, but my lawyer says to wait until I get that in writing. 

FM: For sure complicated.  I’m reviewing in my mind my little list – we’ve talked about education, employment, housing at some length -

Housing is a scary thing sometimes, and I didn’t even know.  Until I lost $1600 in income and don’t even have enough to cover my rent.

FM: I don’t understand – fill me in.

When the kids were taken I lost child tax credit and them off my ODSP cheque as well.  So my cheque doesn’t cover my rent so my mom has been covering that.  Any groceries I get comes from my family. 

FM: Does anybody seem concerned with this Catch 22, that you lose your home because you lose your kids and can’t get the kids back – I’m guessing – unless you have a proper home.  It’s a Catch 22 – damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  Anybody empathizing with that situation? 

I’d say that would be basically my mom. Because she knows that if I didn’t have a place for the kids to come back to, that would basically be used against me, that I would have inadequate shelter for them.

FM: I know what I wanted to ask.  I hear a very adversarial relationship between you and CAS, and yet, in theory at least, you’re supposed to be on the same side, trying to find or create the best situation for your children.  Is there anything that makes you feel that you’re basically working together?

I’ve been straight up with my worker and told her I don’t like her.  I don’t like some of the things that she put in the affidavit that weren’t true.  I’ve never liked CAS but it’s more complicated now that they’ve taken my kids.  I’ve jumped through their hoops because I want my kids back, that’s basically what it comes down to.  My worker understands that, she doesn’t expect me to [like her] because she takes my kids.  But I’ve changed a lot from this.

FM: Does she acknowledge that?

Yeah, she’s said she’s seen a big change in me, actually, a different energy from me because I won’t put up with crap.  She thinks I’m pretty intelligent, so some programs she doesn’t think would benefit me.  Because she knows I’m the sort of person who would take what I’m told and come up with something that works for me, when it comes to my parenting.

FM: So you’ve managed to be fairly stable in your housing since you left home, through the ups and downs.  But it sounds like a kinda rowdy neighbourhood.

Yes.  There has been drama with different people who lived above me.  The most recent people that got evicted from up there was a heroin dealer and a prostitute who lived up there.  I’m very glad they’re not living there now.

FM: What role has alcohol and drugs played in your life directly – it sounds like it’s all around you, but what has been your relationship?

Well, weed I would smoke a little.  I’m not a chronic smoker or anything; it’s more of an occasional thing.  Drinking, mostly on weekends is how I would treat alcohol.  Friends bring over a case of beer, I’d have a couple of beer because I’m taking care of my kids, so I couldn’t drink to get out of control. 

FM: Would you say you’ve abused drugs and alcohol?

No.  Not that kind of person.

FM: And didn’t go through a teenage partying period, by the sounds of things?

No. 

FM: So came to it as an adult.  Do you think that made you more vulnerable in some ways?

Maybe.  Maybe because I didn’t do so much because I was a teenager, I didn’t think it was such a big deal.  Was a time when I was 21 when I’d go to the bar Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  And when I was pregnant with my older son, I’d go to the bar and not drink, obviously, just listen to the music, go for social purposes. 

FM: You mentioned a patch of post-partum depression after this last baby.  Talk a bit about that.

I had it with my first as well, but I didn’t get it until he was nine months old.  Nothing compared to this time.  My baby was only two months old when I was starting to have signs of it, and then end of May, totally manifest it.

FM: And he was born when?

He was born Feb 24th. 

FM: And what were the manifestations?

I found I was more emotional, was getting angrier at people.  I’d hit my sister a couple of times, and I’d hit the father, and I got into a fight with somebody that started it with me, out in front of my house. 

FM: So irritability, and maybe loss of self-control?

Yeah.  And when I hit my sister and it resulted in stitches, it was a big You need to go to the doctor thing. 

FM: Yeah.  Other than post-partum depression, how would you describe your mental health? 

I think it’s pretty good.  I don’t really like to leave my house a lot, which probably isn’t a good thing.  That’s more of a – I don’t really like a lot of people.  Society is kinda crazy.  And I feel like I’m being judged when I go out.

FM: Because of your weight?

Yeah.

FM: But I hear a theme of either shyness or social distancing of some sort from the time you were in school

I’ve always been pretty shy.  I guess it’s been my whole life, I just don’t like being around people.  I guess I feel anxious when I’m around people, I feel like I’m being judged a lot, and I’ve always been like that.

FM: So hard to separate it from people reacting to your size, because you’ve always been big.  It’s tough.  Does anyway talk about anxiety as a mental health issue?

I know that it’s a mental health issue for me because I’m prone to anxiety attacks.  I feel really anxious when I’m around too many people.

FM: Did you notice that when you were working at Zellers?

No.  Not as much.  I don’t know why.  Like I did, like people would be judging me.  But in some way I would be able to ignore it then.

FM: Maybe because there were other things on the go, it wasn’t just you, it was what you were doing and everybody else was doing, like focused on action rather than–

Thought?

FM: Yeah, or I was thinking, rather than just seeing a body, interacting with a person, which gives a context for what you think.

That’s how things should probably be.

FM: Yeah, because relationships are built on what you do with people, that’s how you find out who and what they are, and if you’re not working in some way – could be parenting – how do you show what kind of person you are?  To me that’s the real value of ‘employment’, whether paid or not.  Anything there? 

I don’t think there’s really anything there.

FM: Fair enough.  Okay, I think I’ve gone through my list – oh, no:  involvement with the legal system.  You’ve referenced that previous boyfriends have been in jail and such, but what about you?  Any history?

I’ve never been in trouble with the law, other than this year getting a noise complaint.  I’ve been a kinship [placement] for my brother’s girlfriend, I bailed her out of jail when she was 15.  So CAS was involved then, had to approve me of being a guardian. 

FM: Was CAS a part of your life before this recent time?

Somebody has called on me at least once a year since I’ve had my oldest son.  And they’re usually just open and shut cases.  Come, check it out and close the file. 

FM: But a bit of smoke and this time they found fire?

Basically. 

FM: And are they taking into account the impact of this post-partum reaction? 

I don’t really think so.

FM: Because, lemme do the arithmetic; you son is nine months old and he was apprehended when he was 5 ½ months which was what month – August -- and you said you were experiencing symptoms as early as May, right?

I think it was more the beginning of April and it completely manifested into my crazy outburst with my sister the end of May.  At which point I went and got on medication and straightened myself out.

FM: Anti-depressants?

Yeah.

FM: Still on them?

No, I took them for about a month.  I kept forgetting to take them because I was feeling a lot better. 

FM: But the big outburst was in August, which would be after you’d quit taking the meds? 

The kids were taken in August.

FM: When did you wallop your sister?

That was the end of May.

FM: So it took a while for this thing to wend its way through the system, starting with you hitting your sister, and then investigation for the next while following. 

Yeah, first they told me they wanted to think about having an on-going worker, and I wasn’t keen on that, and then they assigned me to the worker I have now, and I met with her the end of June.  And then I had another meeting with her in July.  We discussed the fact, because of my older son’s behaviour, his sexualized behaviour, school had commented on that, he’d ask other kids to show him their penis or whatever.  And the M&M commercial, he’d do the pelvic thrusts at school, so they’d call the CAS on that.  And because of that, they wanted me to get him into counseling.  But I was a bit apprehensive about that.  I thought a lot of it was just him acting out for attention.  Because it was a big year for him.  Because he was an only child for 7 years.  Went to having a little brother to having his brother’s dad around to why don’t I have a dad. 

FM: Yeah, a big year. 

So I thought maybe he was doing things at school that he knew would get him sent home.

FM: Is he seeing a counselor?

He was seeing the school counselor, but now he’s on the waiting list for [a children’s mental health agency].

FM: And you’re cool with that?

Yeah, I realize probably better to get it investigated and be sure he doesn’t have issues, and if he does, maybe get them treated before they get out of hand or something. 

FM: Okay, I have some finish-up questions; are we ready for that?  For the people who will read this story, to give it the focus and shape that you intend, would you say what you think is the Most Important Event in this story.  Could be something that happened, or something that didn’t happen, a hole or a vacancy or an emptiness or something.

I’ve learned with everything that’s happened lately.  You can never really know who you can count on.  It can be the least people you expect. 

FM: Who surprised you?

Actually the baby’s father’s mother, for being really supportive, especially after he left my house.  And growing up with my mom always telling me CAS is horrible, be careful what you tell them, and then when all these events unfolded and she was interviewed, she was pretty quick to give a lot of information that shouldn’t have been given.  And they were really involved because of things my sister said.  It really makes you think that you never know who you can trust; the ones you think you can count on the most can be the ones who throw you under the bus. 

FM: But perhaps their intent was good – it sounds like you were in some disarray, and maybe they wanted better for your kids?

But the things that they said to CAS were in no way helpful at all.  And I know my sister’s intent was not for that to happen, either; she had no idea that would happen.  Due to a lot of the things that she had said in confidence were reported.  It wasn’t really her intention.  She also won’t take responsibility for her actions, either.  I’ve admitted my faults and mistakes.  I believe everything happens for a reason.  Not really sure the reason exactly, but maybe it was to help me become a different person, I don’t know.  Because I have changed a lot.  Before, I’d basically be a doormat for people and I don’t allow that any more.  I speak my mind where I wouldn’t before. 

FM: So that’s some good come out of a tough time. 

Yeah, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve missed a lot of things, so I’ll never get them back.  So that’s one of your Catch 22 things, I guess. 

FM: Yeah.  Okay, next question is…  People who read this story will form an opinion about how it ends, good or not so good.  What do you say? 

Umm, well I think my worker kinda summed it up when she said my situation is bitter-sweet.  Because I’m getting my kids back, but I also can’t have as much contact with somebody that I care about a lot.  They’re kinda driving a wedge in there.  Because I raised my one child without a father.  This one kinda wants to be around.

FM: Do you think this episode has been a change factor for him, as it has for you?

I don’t think it’s affected him as bad as it has me, because obviously I’ve been a mother a lot longer.  And I believe a mother bonds with her children differently than fathers.  Because he was always free to come and go, whereas I was a mom 24-7. 

FM: Okay.  Now two advice questions.  What advice would you give to your younger self, whether or not that younger you would take the advice, what advice that might make this story unfold better or easier or whatever?

It’s hard to say.  Because I’d say stay in school because it’s not easy in society – they do base a lot on education – but I also, because of my beliefs, that everything happens for a reason, we all have a path to go down, so it’s hard to know if things would have been different.  Everything that’s happened, they’ve all been lessons. 

FM: The second advice question is: What advice you would give to people who would hope to be helpful to young people like yourself, what advice would you give to them?  You could include your CAS worker in this – your chance to give her some advice…

I’d just say like, listen to people.  Just things could have been done differently, like offering me help.  Like taking the kids, don’t just rip them away.  Things could have been done differently, because it will impact on them as well.  Like don’t judge them, be sympathetic because – just saw a thing on FaceBook, you haven’t walked in the person’s shoes so you don’t know what they’ve been though. 

FM: Do you think that you could have made the changes you’ve made without the Big Stick of having your kids taken? 

Absolutely. 

FM: What would have been the starting point?

If I was just kinda told things, this, this and this is inappropriate, you need to change these things, then I totally would have examined my life and made changes that I thought would be useful, if for one minute I would have believed I was going to lose my kids.  I would have cut a lot of people out before now.  I would have made those changes that they recommended rather than them just ripping my kids away.  Being done this way is not good. 

FM: Right.  Okay, that’s me done.  Anything more?

No.