It was Tuesday evening before we were able to get the appropriate security clearance to visit Marcus at the Children’s Hospital. And we didn’t really know what to expect when we got there. It was less than 10 days before halloween and one of my good friends made and decorated adorable skeleton cookies that we brought with us to the hospital for Marcus along with a book he liked and his precious deck of cards.
When we got to there, we found out he was being held in the emergency department while waiting for a bed in the psychiatric unit. Because he was in foster care, a staff member had to “supervise” him at all times. She was sitting outside his room reading when we walked into the department and barely looked up to acknowledge us as we walked past her into Marcus’s room.
He looked so small in his hospital bed. But his big personality overtook the depressing image in moments. He was himself. As if nothing had happened.
“Did you go to the shelter first!?” He asked gleefully. He seemed disappointed to hear that we hadn’t driven all over the greater metropolitan area to find him. We played card games and ate cookies for nearly an hour. We ended the visit by playing his favorite song, Ayo & Teo – Rolex, and dancing around his hospital room. I’ve only heard this song a couple of times since that night. But it will always remind me of Marcus.
At exactly 7 p.m., an hour after we arrived, we told Marcus we had to go. He didn’t want us to leave and tried to convince us to stay. It broke my heart to tell him that we did, if fact, have to go.
We left him with his deck of cards and his book.
After leaving the hospital, we drove to a nearby restaurant where I shamelessly cried over wine and pizza.
The next day at noon, an emergency Child Family Team (“CFT”) meeting was scheduled at the hospital. All of Marcus’s team would meet to discuss Marcus (caseworkers, medical team, etc.). At 11 a.m. my phone rang. It was Marcus’s caseworker from the agency assigned to provide Marcus mental health services.
“You don’t need to come to the CFT.” She told me. I thought, perhaps, she was being considerate. It was noon on a Wednesday after all. But about an hour and a half later, I got a call from Victoria, the DCS congregate care liaison assigned to Marcus.
“He needs a higher level of care,” she told me. “We are moving him to ‘high-needs case management. Maybe he’ll be able to step down to an HCTC after they get him on the right medication.”
I knew what she was telling me but I couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge it so I just stayed silent.
Victoria waited a moment for me to respond and when I didn’t, she continued. “You did everything you could.” She chuckled, “My office-mate and I were laughing, actually. Like, this woman wants to visit this kid in the hospital!? After all that? Jesus. You’re a saint.”
I chuckled too. I understood why a person would want to just walk away. I sort of did too. But I had told myself I would be there for every kid that came in my home until they could go back to their family. And I was too idealistic to give that up.
But Victoria became more somber as she continued, “You’re a new foster family. He’s going to need a very high level of care and services. ”
She kept talking but I don’t remember what she said. I just know that when she stopped speaking, I told her the answer was “No.” We did not want to continue to serve as Marcus’s foster placement.
I asked if we could keep in touch with him – maybe still visit him in the hospital. She told me that she would not recommend that. It would be confusing and painful for him, she told us.
Victoria is good at her job. She confirmed that my husband and I were also open to adoption. I told her we were – and she promised she would help us find another child.
She had one, she told me, that had just come back across her desk. A six year old boy. She told me that the first time she met him, he had this light in his eyes. How he had been removed from his mother after his step-father had bashed his head in one night. Ultimately, he was placed with his father – who lived on a local reservation. His father had left him with a neighbor. The neighbor sexually abused him. He came back in to care. But he still had that light in his eyes, she said.
The story was so horrific I could barely wrap my mind around it. I was numb. I told her “no.”
When I got off the phone with Victoria, I called our placement worker and asked her to take us off the list for a couple of weeks. We needed a break.
Then I hung up the phone and cried.