My 3-year old granddaughter, was taken from her mother, and put into foster care by Children Youth and Family Services of Larimer County, Colorado (the Department) on February 14, 2003. I found out that weekend and called their office on Monday, February 16th expressing my interest in having her placed with me. I was told by the caseworker, Karla Schippers, that they wanted to keep her in Fort Collins so her mother could have visits with her. At the time this made sense. BELLA AND GRANDMOTHER
Approximately six weeks later, in May, I received a call from the caseworker asking if I was still interested in obtaining custody. I told her at that time I definitely was. Apparently my daughter had not been able to pass a drug test and had only visited with my granddaughter a couple of times in the beginning.
I have since gotten copies of some of the caseworker's file notes (in her own handwriting) and on April 16th she and the foster mother, Judy Gaughan, had discussed the foster mother adopting my granddaughter, which was even before they contacted me about getting her. I didn't realize it at the time, but it seems they were just going through the motions even though they had already made up their minds they didn't want me to have her.
I was asked to mail a phone card to the Department so that the foster mother could call me frequently so my granddaughter could get used to my voice. Before this time I had only seen my granddaughter for five days during Christmas in 2002. My daughter and I had been estranged due to her drug usage. In either the first or second phone call from the foster mother, she told me that she thought my granddaughter would be better off living with her permanently. I told her that I appreciated all she was doing, but I was her family, I loved her, and she belonged with me.
The next several months consisted of paperwork being sent to Nevada, my being assigned a caseworker in Nevada, and going through all the red tape to become a foster mom for my granddaughter. The Colorado caseworker, Karla Schippers, had told me that I could possibly have custody near the end of June 2003, as soon as a favorable ICPC report was received from my caseworker in Nevada.
I had a home visit/inspection on September 4th by my caseworker in Nevada. On October 8th my caseworker in Nevada told me she was recommending that I get custody of my granddaughter and that the report was finished and waiting for approval. I called the caseworker in Colorado to talk with her and it was then that I got the shock of my life when all of a sudden she informed me that the Department had decided that they didn't want me to have custody of my granddaughter at all. And in fact were going to fight me to have the foster mother adopt her permanently. Up until this point the Colorado caseworker had acted excited that I was going to get my granddaughter, and that I finally had a caseworker, etc. At no time did she ever indicate that she didn't want me to have my granddaughter. The report from my caseworker in Nevada hadn't been received yet by Colorado, but the caseworker said that regardless of the outcome of the report they still didn't want me to have custody.
At this point I retained a lawyer to represent me. I was confused as to why anyone would rather a stranger raise a child than a loving grandparent. I have a great job and work for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in their Dispatch Center. I have lots of love, a nice house, good job and there is absolutely no reason I shouldn't have custody of my granddaughter.
A favorable report recommending that I have custody of my granddaughter arrived in Colorado on November 13th.
The main reason the Department is using is that my granddaughter has bonded with the foster mother. They have allowed my granddaughter to call the foster mother Mom after several months. In the past year months I have made six trips to Fort Collins to visit and establish a bond with my granddaughter. Every time I see my granddaughter, she gets very excited, and runs to me with open arms, hugs and kisses me. One time she cried when I left. There has been no problem of her bonding with me also.
I have passed all their tests, have a good ICPC report from my caseworker in Nevada, and want nothing more than to have my granddaughter with family again. So far I've spent in excess of $15,000 to get custody of my granddaughter. It's not the money I'm concerned about though, I would spend any amount it takes to get her placed with me. It just doesn't make sense why I should have to go to such lengths to get custody when I'm a caring family member. Why would anyone deliberately be making it so hard? I would also hate to see anyone else to have to go through heartbreak and disappointment I have. I have another daughter in Utah who is married and has three daughters. My granddaughter's aunt, uncle and cousins all want to be a part of her life also.
I have decorated an entire room and bought bedroom furniture. I also had to have a child guard fence put around my swimming pool for her, since the entire time I was led to believe I would be getting custody as soon as the report was completed. My caseworker in Nevada wouldn't even inspect my house until the fence was put up around my pool.
When I went to court for temporary custody in January 2004, the Judge, Jolene Blair, wouldn't even let my ICPC report into evidence. They said it was hearsay. The state hired a psychologist, Dr. Frank Kunstal, who writes for "Foster Parent Magazine" and is extremely biased to do a study. He got on the stand and went on and on about how "bonded" my granddaughter was and how it would mess her up the rest of her life if they placed her with me. I also got copies of some of the handwritten notes from the caseworker, Karla Schippers where she wrote, "focus on Judy not gramma" to the psychologist they hired.
I have finally eight months later been able to get the Judge to let me have my own psychologist do a study, which is now in the process. But now my granddaughter has been in the foster home for 1 1/2 years and the longer they drag it out, the more excuse they will have that she is "bonded" and won't want to move her.
The law in Colorado states family members are supposed to have preference. The foster mother wants to adopt my granddaughter and the State is backing her on this. My daughter's parental rights were taken away in March 2004. The attorney I have retained even says that Larimer County is different than other counties in Colorado and that 99% of the time the State takes a child from their family, they never return them. They always want the foster parent to keep the child in the system. It's obvious they care more about the $10,000 bonus they get from the government for keeping the child in their system than they do by doing the right thing and placing them with family members.
I feel they are not only kidnapping my granddaughter, but trying to exhaust all my money in the process by dragging this entire legal nightmare out as long as they possibly can. That entire Department needs to be restaffed. The biased Judge needs to be taken off this case. I have complained to every supervisor all the way to the top and they all just back each other. I've written to the Governor, Governor's Advocate, Mayor, Member of Congress, President Bush, every tv station and newspaper in Colorado and Las Vegas, every talk show, 20/20, Primetime, Nightline, and 60 Minutes.
Las Vegas, Nevada
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