Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stories come through the Veil

Samhain! October seems to be the month for Witches and Pagans.

Yes, there is Halloween, but Samhain is the Pagan High Festival! It is our New Year! It is our Time to see through the Veil; to have visits with Ancestors; to welcome experiencing "the other side."

I have been visited a lot this month by Stories from the Past. My Past.

I have been visited by Women and Children I worked with during my tenure as Social Worker.

Thirty-three years I was invited into the lives of Families who would rather that I not have been in their lives, but most of whom ended up realizing that it was not so bad after all.

These families left huge imprints on my heart and on my life. In fact, my kids were all too often the recipients of this impact as I came home from investigating a neglect call reporting filthy conditions and yelled at them to go right in and clean up their "nasty" rooms. Thank goodness my kids rooms were never nasty, but coming home to very messy rooms was just about as bad!

Well, I am remembering a call my partner and I went to investigate where we found 5 children, 6 and under, outside in the late fall with only their underwear or diapers on and very dirty. But they were all giggling and playing in the front yard that had no grass; only dirt. We knocked on the broken screen door, but no one came to the door. As it was standing wide open, we walked in.

Now in those days (the 80's) Social Workers did not have to have police with them to walk into people's houses. In fact, we didn't want them with us as it just caused too many issues as we were there to help and they were there to....well, we know why they were there.

Anyway, I won't go into detail as to the condition of the home, just let it be said that as I walked in first my partner said, "Ummm Deb, I can't see your feet!" Yep, there was that much trash all over the house. We could still hear the kids outside giggling and playing.

We finally found their Mom. She was sitting in the Kitchen amongst dirty dishes, moldy food, and a broken back door and window. She was there with bruises on her face and had a far away look in her eyes. Needless to say, we had many issues to deal with immediately.

Mom had been beaten; Mom was overwhelmed; Mom was done and done! And the kids were giggling outside playing in the dirt in the late fall right on the street in a dangerous neighborhood.

Now, I will make a long story short: Mom was not initially happy we were in her home, understood that we had the power to remove all 5 of her children; and on some level I knew she was hoping that is what would happen.

The first excuse for the condition of the home was "the kids messed it up. It was clean last night, I swear." She and I both knew this was not true. But I learned very early not to argue at this point. The point was none of them, do you see....NONE of them could live here. The problem was NONE of the local shelters would take a Mom and 5 kids. We had a problem; we had NEED!

Now, I could have taken all 5 kids and found foster homes for them; having to separate them due to the numbers. What then for Mom? A dream I had during my career: Foster Homes for Mom and Kids; not just Kids. But alas, that never happened.

So, finally Mom told us her story. Deadbeat Dad, abusive, and controlling. Wouldn't allow her to work and he spent all his money on prostitutes, gambling and drugs. She use to keep a good house, but then she kept getting pregnant as she couldn't afford birth control or keep this man from having sex with her whenever he wanted. She had no family to speak of and few friends, most in the same situation she found herself in.

These are the Stories coming back to me as the Veil thins. In 33 years, this was a very common scenario. It wasn't that people WANTED to abuse and neglect. No, they truly wanted to be good parents, to have a good job, to limit their number of children; but bottom line...the families I worked with were in desperate need of resources that the community could not or would not provide. Laws limited the choices women had; men were in control and the results were similar if not many times much worse.

Now back to this story. The children were happy. When Mom went outside, they all ran up to her, giving her hugs and kisses and she cried as she thought we would place them in foster care. Instead, I called one of our Case Aides (women who were employed at social services who would go into homes and help them with parenting, food preparation, cleaning ideas, etc.) to meet us. Meet Leva, a large buxom black woman with a smile that shone like the sun, but had a demeanor that said, "I mean business and I mean it now!"

The plan? Get the house cleaned up! Now I wasn't sure Mom even had the energy to do so, but all of a sudden when she realized we were there to help her she found that reserve that women have! That we all have. She even walked next door and asked if the woman there would watch the kids while she and Leva began on the house.

Now, it did not happen that day. No, in fact, it took about a week to get the house totally together and clean. And I left the kids there because I learned early on that removing kids is really the last resort and no kid died from playing in the dirt or sleeping on a mattress without sheets.

The rest of the story? A Prevention Social Worker was assigned to this family. After getting the house cleaned up, the door with a new lock fixed, and a restraining order against the man; we made sure Mom began receiving assistance which included food stamps and a monthly check so she could have medicaid and get the kids for regular check ups and her on birth control. Due to the age of her children, it was beyond reason to expect her to get a job until they were in school as she would not have been able to afford day care.

But what she did have offered to her were parenting classes, food preparation classes, and job skills training (she had dropped out of school when she was 13 when she had her first child). You see, this woman was only 18 years old.

Her time with Social Services finally came to an end and the last I heard she was doing fine and the kids were still giggling outside in the front yard with no grass. And the mattresses were still on the floor and sometimes I am sure there weren't sheets on them as she only had one set and when one was in the laundry she didn't have any to replace it with. But you know kid died from not having sheets on the bed. They had food, enough clothing, medical care and the oldest was in school (Dad wouldn't let her go to school either and I think he probably sexually abused her but we could never prove it).

And they had Love!

It was hard and I am not saying this story had a totally happy ending. Mom still chose dead beat guys, but she didn't get pregnant again, well as long as we were working with her. But what I know is that the woman suffered at the hands of a society that still sees women as breeders, weak, worthless and not deserving of a decent life.

I am very glad the Veil is thinning. I need to Re-Member these Stories so I stay humble; I stay connected; I stay Passionate about being that Voice for Women and Children.

You know what is sad tho'....I don't remember her name! But I sure can still hear those children giggling in the front yard playing in the dirt and the way they smiled and hugged their mom when she came outside. You see it's all about Love anyway! No one died playing in the Dirt, but plenty die from no Love!

Blessed be! 


1 comment:

  1. A tragic and powerful tale. It makes me mourn for all the womyn who are going through a similar situation right now.

    I'll never forget the day I went into one of my favourite book stores and saw one of the normally smiling womyn who worked there with a horrendous bruise engulfing her bloodshot eye, and a grim expression on her face. I didn't know her well enough to speak to her about it, but later read in the newspaper about the sentence given to her former (male) significant other.

    I was so impressed by her bravery to go to work and face the world with such a visible injury, forcing male society to have a good long look at what it does to womyn.