With December right around the corner, I’m preparing to participate in Kat McNally’s Reverb13 and craft my January Cultivate 2014 series. Given that this has always been a place for cultivation, mindfulness, and introspection, I have decided to branch off my advocacy rantings to its own little corner of the web: Save Our Family. At this new location, I will be telling the story of my family’s tragic 2013, enlisting help and support, and speaking out against those who have harmed my family needlessly this year. I haven’t been granted enough room to cultivate my life worth loving and nurture that which matters most — my family. I have simply had to survive each day and exercise damage control for my family. It is incredibly hard to nurture your children when you’re too busy trying to apply the tourniquet to this gushing wound inflicted on us by an inconsiderate social worker. I will honor Dylan Thomas’ words by not going gently into that good night. I’m going to fight. I’m going to carry on. And in the process, I’m going to wrestle back my life. I’m going to get back to where I was when I began 2013 — when I ended 2012. In a year from now, I’m going to be nestled quietly in my home with my family of 5. The atrocities of this year will be a painful memory, but we will heal our wounds and survive. We will thrive. We will find our happiness once more and resume our endeavors to cultivate a life worth loving. We will come out on the other side as a strong family unit, and we will leave this pain firmly in the dust where it belongs.
I am making it my mission to bring my family back together by Christmas. Actually, I’m really looking to get them all back in time for Christmas Eve. Every year, we traditionally put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, sharing crackers, cheese, sliced pepperoni, popcorn, cookies, and hot chocolate while trimming the tree and listening to Christmas music. I make my “Thanksgiving Soup” with the leftover turkey carcass, and we either have that or leftovers for dinner. These last few years have been a little different due to my job in retail, but we’ve made due by planning around my schedule so we can all enjoy that family togetherness.
At the risk of my sweet little 11-year-old stumbling upon this post, I’m going to share what Santa’s got in store for Christmas this year. All three children have expressed an interest in tablets, so I’ve got 3 seven inch tablets stashed in layaway with covers to match each child’s personality — granted, I do need to change out a few because we have since gotten better options in stock. Santa’s also replacing those scooters from last year because the other three scooters from last year got tampered with by some naughty bullies. Santa’s also giving the family a Wii with Mario Kart to spend some quality time together, giggling and racing. As of right now, I have only paid the mandatory 10% down payment to open said layaway. Hopefully, the bonus will be good enough that I can pay off most of it — even if I have to squelch on a bill or two.
It’s odd, really. Me, talking about squelching on bills. I hate that sensation of irresponsibility that comes along with paying late, especially when it’s more than a month late. However, I’ve been making space in my life to take each day in its smaller, more manageable parts. That’s the only way I can continue to cultivate my life such that I don’t feel like I’m dying everyday. Of course, hearing my babies cry for their daddy and big brother to come home drives the knife deeper into my bleeding heart. Whenever I set foot inside the courtroom, I feel the lawyers and social workers twisting that knife a bit more. I wish these people could understand this pain I’m going through — this pain that my babies have endured for what feels like an eternity.
I will not stop fighting. I will not stop screaming. I will not stop campaigning. All I want for Christmas is my family back together, and I will die trying to put them back together if it is necessary.
This year I’ve come to a very sick realization that our system truly is broken. Apparently, it is okay to continue arguing against a family, even after favorable evidence surfaces. It’s okay to diminish said favorable evidence. It’s okay to fabricate lies and SMILE while testifying to said lies. Last Wednesday, I saw a “professional” take the stand, disregard ethics, and SMILE while claiming a family was broken beyond repair. How appalled I was.
Why do we as a society stand for such injustice? Why do we allow the children who need intervention to slip through the cracks, only surfacing in the news when their grizzly deaths demand our attention? Why do we allow an agency absolute power — and the ability to abuse said power? Child Protective Services is no longer serving our babies. It is now serving the highest bidder. It is now serving the agenda of people who cherry pick children and families to prey upon. One of my children has been held captive in foster care for nearly 11 months now. He is currently in his third foster home, fearing the day he gets “mad” there and gets kicked out once again — instead of being returned home to the family that loves him. My other two children have been crying for their daddy and big brother to come home. We have been fighting valiantly, adhering to whatever guidelines and requirements these people set before us. We have made it known throughout our community that we love our children and will continue to fight. Instead of recognizing that we are caring parents, the Walker County Department of Family and Children Services continues to argue against reunifying our family every time we set foot inside the courthouse. On paper, it appears to the Georgia Department of Human Resources that this county wants to reunify our family — well, I refuse to allow this injustice to continue without speaking out.
I have contacted several media outlets, receiving no responses to my pleas for help. I am downright frustrated. I know what’s best for my family — for my babies. Right now, I have been rendered nearly incapable of protecting them from the harm that Walker County DFCS continues to inflict upon them. They have caused much more harm to all three of my children, as evidenced by the psychological evaluation performed on my oldest. Not only did the psychologist validate my son’s psychiatrist’s diagnosis of Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, but he also validated our efforts — right down to pursuing extra-curricular activities to help develop our son’s social skills. Yes, our son played baseball last year. He was a star player on the team, attracting a fan-base that showed up cheering for our little number 95. Our son has been denied that privilege this year. He has been denied his wish to return home.
I will not stop fighting. I will not allow a rogue agency to continue hurting my babies. If I have to sacrifice my career as an English consultant just to save my family, I will gladly be the sacrificial lamb. I fought hard for my family in the past. I once paid $225 for permission to birth our youngest son naturally — since his two older siblings were c-section babies. I once calmly told a doctor that I understood the risks and benefits of a VBAC and that I would be leaving his hospital against his advice because I had no intention of allowing him to slice me open and expose myself and my daughter to a subpar institution. I have spoken out for my oldest to receive extra accommodations to succeed in the classroom. I have helped advocate for other women to choose the birth experiences they desired. Seriously, I am a woman who started advocating for animal rights when I was merely eleven years old, creating a silly little “patrol group” with a childhood best friend! I do not suffer fools lightly, nor do I suffer injustice. I will fight, and I will win. Take heed, Walker County, Georgia: my name is Meredith Shadwill, and I’m not going to give up. Ever. I will not lose.