I didn’t have long to wait. The investigator from Child Protective Services (CPS) arrived the next morning. She refused to enter until I put the dog outside, then paused at the door while she took in my new decor.
The living and dining room now serve as a storage unit for everything that can no longer remain in my family room, breakfast nook, and kitchen due to “school” but won’t fit in the garage. Since most pieces were dragged in during a state of emergency, the rooms are cluttered and chaotic. Many things are visibly broken or damaged, including bar stools, lamps, the coffee table, and DVD player. The dining room table is piled high with decorative items. Bags bound for Goodwill, that had formerly been stacked neatly in the garage, are tossed along the wall, spilling out clothes and shoes. Numerous holes have been kicked in the entry hall as well as the wall going up the stairs.
Part of me was humiliated for a stranger to see my home in this condition, but part of me thought, welcome to my world, CPS.
The investigator asked if she could see the back of the house. “Sure,” I said. “But it’s going to be awkward. The woman who reported me is in there.”
“We can stay here.”
I was disappointed she wouldn’t see the remodeled kitchen that still looked reasonably good despite the chaos. We perched on broken bar stools in the center of the overflowing living room and tried to act as if this was normal. Then again, I had no idea what “normal” looked like to CPS. Still, I could tell the investigator was confused by what she saw.
“You are probably wondering why I’m here,” she said.
“No. I know about the report. They told me.”
A ripple of annoyance crossed the investigator’s placid face. “Why don’t you tell me what happened.”
I gave her my version, which included the broken glass, spilled water, thumb tacks, blood, and Caroline leaving the room. The investigator knew little about autism. I had to explain sensory overload and hand over hand.
“She left the room? During school hours?”
I nodded. Her expression told me she had a problem with that.
“Could she have done this, umm, hand over hand procedure?”
“I’m sure she could have. She worked as a behaviorist before this.”
The investigator’s head jerked up. “But she left the room during a behavioral incident?”
“And left you, a parent, in charge.”
“Had you ever done this hand procedure?”
“No, but I’d seen it done plenty of times.”
Caroline and Katie had been coloring at the kitchen table and were surprisingly quiet. I knew both were listening to our conversation. I sighed inwardly.
I explained how 6th grade had unfolded and told her this was now school.
“No,” she said. “This isn’t school. It’s your home.”
“For now it’s also school.”
“No,” she insisted. “It’s a house. Your daughter should be in a real school with other children.”
I said I wasn’t disagreeing with her but she needed to discuss that with my school district. They were the ones who had kicked Katie out.
She said, “They can’t do that.”
I said, “They can, and they did. Three times now. That’s why Katie has been in three different school districts.” She gave me a hard look. ”I know it’s illegal. But they did it anyway.”
She shook her head and pointed toward the kitchen table. “So that’s the teacher?”
“No, she’s an aide.”
“Where’s the teacher?”
“He’s at school. In Katie’s old classroom.”
“That’s where your child should be. She needs a teacher in order to learn. How can they call it school without a teacher?”
“Again, you need to discuss this with the school district.”
“This is totally unsuitable.”
“Sadly, Katie is learning more here than she was in school.”
“Even if that were true,” the investigator said, “this is your home. “It’s not a school.”
Once again I said I wasn’t disagreeing but she needed to discuss that with my school district. I began to suspect someone was going to get an earful when the investigator left.
To be continued…
Until next time,