In some cases the family won’t be able to stay together anymore because the guardian can’t contain the problem well enough to keep caring for their children. “The reality is there are cases when we see the same family over and over again. When that happens too many times, that’s when the case may go a different direction and go to a permanency track,” Robertson said.
Breaking up families affects each and every person involved and requires each person to develop their own way to cope with their experiences. “Let’s say a sibling group goes through the same family. They experience the same incident and the same trauma. It may affect one child for their whole life and the other child, it doesn’t even faze them,” Robertson said.
Finding a family member to care for children who can’t return to their original home caries complications. “First, we have to find them, [and] then we have to meet with them and see if it something they want to do. And the next piece, which is very challenging, is the home has to be licensed, and there is a whole set of laws on what it takes to get a family licensed,” Robertson said.
While Officer Johnson was at the house on Christmas, they ran into the issue of space. There were no temporary homes for the three children to spend the night, and no relative could be contacted. “We didn’t know where Grandma and Grandpa were, so we ended up having to call social services to do an emergency placement of the kids. The social services worker couldn’t find any overnight foster parents because it was Christmas day.. So she ended up taking them to her house,” Johnson said.
When Officer Johnson removed the children from the home, the kids couldn’t help but feel scared and concerned about their situation. “All her worst fears her mother had warned her about now were coming true. That part was hard for me. We had become friends, and now I felt like I had lied to her because I told her we weren’t here to hurt [her]. Obviously a seven-year-old doesn’t understand they have to be taken away,” Johnson said.
Once the officers were able to get the 7-year-old girl to calm down and explain the situation she was in, she told the officers this wasn’t the first time she was left unattended. “She said her mom was gone seeing friends. Then she told me this happens very frequently,” Johnson said.
The girl didn’t know what day it was or how many days her mom had been away. So to get an idea of the extent of time her mother was missing she counted ‘sleeps.’ “She said one sleep so I was thinking one whole day and one whole night, and now I was there so it was two days home alone. And this seven-year-old had been taking care of the kids,” Johnson said.