Help Mara Keep This Toddler Safe

J* is two years old. He’s a delightful, happy, loving, outgoing, energetic, inquisitive, whirlwind-of-a-toddler. He loves dinosaurs, choo-choo trains, the baby shark dance, banana choo-choos (I break a banana into 4 pieces so he can hold them easier, and he reassembles them into a choo-choo) and wearing his napkin on his head during dinner.

He loves learning his numbers, colors, and letters. He insists on holding hands with me until he falls asleep every night when I put him to bed. He now knows 150+ words, with so many new ones each day I can barely keep up the list. One of the first phrases he learned to say was “Thank you.”

His smile would melt your heart; it certainly melted mine. I still remember the first time he smiled at me, when I held him for the first time when he was barely a week old.

J is my blood family, and also my foster child.

This little guy was removed from his parents for on-going neglect and hazardous home conditions in August 2016 when he was 11 months old. His bio-mom is severely mentally ill and also has a substance abuse problem. She refuses to get help for either, though plenty has been offered through social services in their efforts to reunite her with her son. She never stays on her meds for more than a couple months (if even that) at a time. Ironically it’s during the brief times she’s on her meds that she realizes she’s incapable of caring for J.

She is a danger to him according to both a professional psychological evaluation and what the family has seen first hand. When she was pregnant with J she heard voices that told her to kill her unborn baby. She was brought to the ER because she was hitting her abdomen to make the voices stop. That was the first of many calls to CPS.

There are also pending legal charges against her in a homicide and assault that occurred in front of J, when she tried to abduct him from his paternal grandma. Another family member used his body to protect J and was killed by someone with the bio-mom.

J’s father is a loving and gentle parent, but he has some significant challenges in his life to overcome before he’d be in a position to care for his son.

J has lived with me since February 2017. I had always watched him for 1-3 nights a week, so for him to come live with me wasn’t a traumatic change for him. I became a licensed foster parent to care for him full-time. It hasn’t been easy, though we’ve developed a bond I never knew would be possible with a child I didn’t give birth to. In April, completely on his own, he started calling me “Mama.” He does know the difference; he refers to his biological mother as “Mommy.”

Single-handedly caring for a very active toddler has been a challenge, and dealing with CPS (even as a foster parent) has been a nightmare. But J has brought so much joy and love into my life and I don’t regret my decision for a moment. He will always have a place in my home for as long as he needs one. I am committed to providing him a loving, safe, nurturing, and stable home.

I am single, self-employed, and able to support our basic needs through my business income. Unfortunately, the time needed for meetings with social workers, interviews with CPS, and nearly bi-weekly court appearances is interfering with my ability to work full time. I can cover all the regular monthly expenses. What I need help with is the attorney’s fees associated with the Juvenile Dependency court proceedings.

Each of the parents have a court appointed attorney, but I have to provide and pay for my own attorney. I am ensuring that J has everything he needs through the court system.

Some of the details here are vague due to wanting to protect the privacy of this innocent child, an open CPS case, a juvenile dependency court case, and other ongoing  legal issues involving the biological mother.

I’ll just say that I wouldn’t have turned my life upside-down to protect this little guy if I didn’t believe he would be in grave danger if ever returned to his biological mother, or frankly even allowed to be alone with her for even a short amount of time.

Before he was removed by CPS he would inexplicably be hurt whenever he was alone with her for as short as 15 minutes while family took his dad to the store for diapers. And though the CPS Permanency Social Worker is recommending that J be placed with me permanently, a child’s life is too much to be left to chance.

I’m doing everything I can to protect J, and make sure he doesn’t end up a statistic on the evening news. Please help me make sure that he will always be safe and protected.

*Not his real name. No names have been used to protect J's right to privacy.
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Mara Alexander 
Carmichael, CA

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