I need some guidance.
I have two sons adopted through foster care (well, adoption of my 2yo isn't quite yet finalized). My 3yo has special needs and behavior issues, and I'm hoping to enroll him in a special needs preschool. Our county has three programs and our district is assigned to one of them. It's a few towns away, but that's how things go in my rural area. I toured the school this week.
On the way in, a mom happened to be checking in at the office to visit her child's classroom. She left, then came back and came up to me in the hallway. She looked like she was going to cry and introduced herself as the bio aunt of my son. My son was right there holding my hand and she recognized him (he is autistic so he didn't even look at or recognize her). She has a criminal record, but is probably generally safe. The next morning, she posted on Facebook (no privacy settings) that she saw him there. Now the whole family, from whom he was taken for what they did to him, knows he was there. It wouldn't take a lot of thought to infer that he is or will be a student there. These people could legitimately enter the school to see their other grandchildren/nieces/nephews and my son would be there.
To add a strange twist, I got into the classroom and found another surprise. There are only several students and I noticed that one of them looked like my 2yo son, who was not with me at the time. (My 2yo is too young for preschool, but might start in this special needs classroom in 6 months to a year.) I chalked it up to the fact that my son and this child both obviously have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome facial features and the same hair color. Then when I heard this child's name, I realized I was looking at the biological half-sibing of my son! No wonder they looked alike! They share the same mother. Although she does retain some legal rights to the child I saw, she is very unlikely to get involved in the school. (Lack of involvement is part of the reason for removal.) By the time my son is old enough to attend the program, the bio half-sibling will likely be aged out and into a different classroom — probably the one next door.
This was all pretty shocking to me. I was all ready to enroll my son in the program, but on the way home it hit me that this could be a serious safety issue. I called both my school contact and the director of special education to see if my son could attend the same program at another school, which is actually closer to our house. They said it's full (if my son were assigned to that building, they wouldn't be allowed to say it's full; they would have to accommodate him). I sort of feel like the school is not offering an appropriate educational option for my child, but they say they are since they have security measures in place to protect kids at the school he's assigned to attend. I feel like they may have dealt with some ugly custody issues in the past, but maybe not a child whose past abuse and neglect by a whole family was as serious as my son's. And probably not with people who aren't afraid of a school receptionist telling them they can't be there (they don't seem to be afraid of law enforcement!)
We have changed my son's entire identity so his bio family can't track him down. Social Security and Medicaid even issued him brand new numbers so it's not possible to track him down through those systems. The bio mother and a grandmother have put in writing that they intend to find him and get him back and they'll never stop trying. They have no legal standing to do so, but when people have psychological issues and addictions they can't always process that.
I feel like I'm left with no public school options for my son other than to enroll him at the school where the bio relatives are. I could use advice about what to do.
By way of background, I homeschool my other kids and am pretty adamant about it, but my son's special needs and behaviors are severe enough that managing my stress level means I need to get a break from him. It's awfully hard for me to say that, but it's the painful truth.
1 me + 1 hubby + 4 kids + 5 goats + 3 pigs + 3 dozen chickens + 6 ducks = 1 crazy place
I would keep fighting the school. All those measures that you have taken to protect your son's identity will be moot if he goes to that school. They will know his name, be able to talk to him, have access to him. I would not be comfortable with that at all. The school should understand all of that. Just because they have procedures in place doesn't mean that his bio family isn't going to find out information about him that they have no need to know. Especially since the gma and mom say they will do everything to get him back.
I would definitely not send my child there mama.
I agree, I wouldn't send him there for anything. I would contact the school again, and just keep moving up the chain until you get someone who understands the severity of the situation. One more kid in a "full" program is not going to break anything. He needs to be in a safe environment, and that school isn't safe for him.
Would the social workers from the foster care program help you talk to the school system? They are aware of his birth family's situation and why he was removed from them.Contact them and see what they are able to do.
Is the school contact the principal, or someone different?
I wonder if you could speak to the principal, both at the current assigned school and the one you want to go to. I know that there's huge differences from state to state and district to district, but in my district the building principal has a relative high level of power. They're the ones that sign waivers for people not in the 'neighborhood', ect.
I would do the other suggestions as well (taking it up with the superintendent, bringing in your social worker).
If your son has been traumatized by his birth family, then he has a right to not be constantly exposed to triggers that could cause him harm through contact. Perhaps educating them about early developmental trauma will help. It's not just about current safety, it's about perceived safety, from your son's perspective. I agree with the others. He needs to be protected especially while he is so young.
This may sound extreme but is moving an option? I can't imagine sending my child, alone, to a school where people - who have already said they will stop at nothing to get him back - may have access to him. Even the most diligent of a caregiver glances away for a second.
"I agree, I wouldn't send him there for anything. I would contact the school again, and just keep moving up the chain until you get someone who understands the severity of the situation. One more kid in a "full" program is not going to break anything. He needs to be in a safe environment, and that school isn't safe for him."
You need to go up the chain. If you keep trying, and keep making noise, you will be admitted to the other program. Even if it's full now, a space will inevitably open up in the next several months, and if you are at the top of the administrator's pain-in-my-keester list, then your child will be given that spot. Waiting a few months won't hurt your elder son.
If your son's (former?) worker is competent and involved, she might be very helpful with the school administrators.
No way I would send him either. Contact your state legislator and see if they can help. Your child is entitled to state provided education, since that is what you are choosing. Your child also is entitled to protection. Maybe your legislator can help.
Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.
As a SpEd teacher in a previous life, it cracks me up to hear schools refuse placements because they are 'full'. By the last day of school last year my caseload was 30. 30!!!!!! State cap is 22. FULL?!?! The difference: I had a principal with an amazing heart for kids with special needs. We were never full. (Well, around the 25th kid, I would have preffered to be considered full... hence I quit and am at home fostering now, but that is for a different thread).
Like a previous poster said, one more kid due to very extenuating circumstances is not that big a deal. (We had issues placing our own previous foster son... when looking for an AM kindergarten for a Hispanic, low income, sped. kid, suddenly everyone was 'full.' hmmm.... teacher-DH called the superintendent's office-in our district, teachers have variance privileges. It's something that used to annoy me, but...we were called back the next day with an opening.)
If you haven't already, I would look for an advocacy group to help as well. PEP (Parents Educating Parents) is a great one. There is a branch in every state. I have had multiple IEP meetings (from the teacher POV) with advocates from PEP and they have been very professional and direct. They are free. I know there are educational attorneys out there as well, but I have no experience with them.
I had a similar situation with my foster child in that my older child was in the exact class of a bio cousin upon placement of our younger child. The bio cousin stood up and announced to everyone some nasty stuff about the bio mom (his aunt) of which our daughter did not know. She had innocently brought in a picture of her new foster sibling. Later, the bio mom was released from corrections and also was determined to get back her child (Facebook survellience sure can yield a lot of info, no?!). I not only alerted the preschool using pictures (who appropriately upped their security), but I also called the police. That last piece was not mentioned in any of the previous responses.
The best I can do is keep the bio sibling apart from my older daughter, but I will say the school forgot about this sticky issue this eyar (nearly two years later). Now that we're one day away from adoption (!), I'm eager to prevent those two from being in the same class next year. Especially since our bio child will start kindergarten at the same school. We've become used to the idea we may bump into these people, and acutally have. Awkward stuff, but nothing too traumatizing. I think there's actually a normalization and decreased glamorization that goes with those run-ins. The bio mom has thankfully moved out of state for the time being and has never had a chance to run into us. The others have faded away.
This too shall pass, but do keep up your vigilance until you feel the earth is back under your feet.
Mama to Ru cutie (a. age 3, fall 2006) and foster to adopt wonder-child (arrived a. 3, 2010)
Thank you all for verifying what my instincts told me! You all encouraged me to fight to keep my son safe. Even my husband, who of course only wants what is best, was ready to give up and just send our little boy to the school with the bio relatives. But you encouraged me to keep going!
My son has finished his first full week at a DIFFERENT school in the district — the one they told me was full, when it actually wasn't. I kept making phone calls to various people within the school system who were in a position to help me. I was polite, but firm. I gathered information. I called some more. My husband called the attorney who represented our son while he was a ward of the state and he was ready to help us. The CPS worker who removed my son and who knows the risks associated with his bio family wrote a letter to the school advocating for him to be in this different building. I'm not sure what the magic key finally was, but suddenly there was room in the program before I had even done some other things I was planning to do and I was invited to take my son in for a tour and to enroll him. I think it was when the administrators realized I wasn't going to give up, they went ahead and made the change.
Yay for moms and thank you!
1 me + 1 hubby + 4 kids + 5 goats + 3 pigs + 3 dozen chickens + 6 ducks = 1 crazy place
Dayum woman! You are fierce! How blessed your son is to have two parents who will go to the mat for him and keep him safe. Hoping he enjoys his school experience and you and your wonderful husband have peace knowing he's safe.