I think I needed her, and she needed me for different reasons, whether it was financial or somebody to talk to. Somebody who knew me. just different reasons, I guess. Wanting somebody there to talk to.
Did you tell yourself it would be different the next time?
Oh, every time. It's going to be different this time. She'll listen. She'll understand. And she made promises after promises. "Oh, I won't do that again to you." Of course, it was always the same thing every time. I thought I'd learn, but--
You want to blame her for the fact that the state got so involved in your life for such a long time?
Yes. Yes, I do. You can forgive, but you can't forget. But you can only forgive her so many times. I'll never forget what she did to me.
DHS laid out a whole lot of rules for you. I'm going to read you some of what they call the service agreement between you and them. I just want to hear sort of what your reaction is or was to it when it was first decided on. It says, "Christie will submit names of people or person with whom she is or plans to be intimately involved with, and shall not allow any contact between that person until assessed and approved by DHS. If there is a person with whom Christie wants to be involved with, then Christie agrees that if that person does not wish to engage in services, then that person will not be part of Logan's life." They said [you] "must sever all contact with your mother."
I mean, there were a lot of rules here. Was it hard? I mean, do you resent it? Did you feel like they were too involved in your life?
I did resent it. But as far as submitting names and everything, that wasn't a problem. I didn't have nothing to hide from them. They asked me frequently, "Are you involved with anybody?" So I wouldn't lie to them; I told them, and more than nine times out of 10, I wasn't. But not talking to my mom, for the most part, I didn't, because I wasn't supposed to. But I kept in contact through friends of hers and mine, mutual friends, to let her know what was going on [with me].
I guess I'm more asking you, not so much whether you kept the rules, but whether it made you angry that you had so much--
Yes. Oh, yes. Angry? Somebody else was running my life. I was just a person following rules. Wasn't my direction; wasn't my thoughts, my opinions -- it was theirs. It made it really hard to have your own life. But I managed, somehow. Angry -- that goes without saying. I think it was more hatred.
So more and more you grew to resent them?
Every passing day.
[Ed. Note: While Logan was in DHS custody, Christy had another baby, a girl named Bailey. Still forbidden from contacting her mother, she got an apartment for herself and Bailey. After seven months, satisfied that Christy had changed, DHS returned Logan to her and closed her case.
Christy then decided to move with the girls to Florida, to stay with her estranged father. He had become alienated from the family after a bitter divorce during which Christy accused him of molesting her. He denied the accusation, and Christy later recanted.]
When you decided to go to Florida, you were going back to somebody whom you had accused of molesting you as a child. Despite the fact that the department didn't want you to go, you determined that you were going to go. What did you tell yourself? How did you explain that to yourself? How do you explain that now?
How do I explain it? I always had this demon. I always looked at him as a demon. I was always scared to stand up for myself and say, "No more." Well, I figured I was a big person now, and I wanted to do this for myself. I think it was more for my self-esteem than anything.
Do you understand why somebody would say you were putting your own need before your kids -- [that] you were exposing your kids to somebody who could hurt them?
I do. That's the sad part. Sometimes you have to take care of your own needs before you can take care of your children's. But that was a hard choice to make. It wasn't an easy one to go down there. I originally didn't want to even take my kids with me. I wanted to leave them back here in Maine so I could do it, but I couldn't be more than five minutes away from my kids. I just can't. It bothers me too much. I worry too much. So I figured if I took them with me, they could be safe because I wouldn't let anything happen. This time I was the adult; I could take care of them.
It was a poor decision and a bad risk, and I know that. I understand why there's conflict [with DHS] with that one situation. But I think I needed to do it to get on with my life. Unfortunately, the department can't see it that way.
[Ed. Note: Christy returned with her children from Florida after nine weeks, and moved in with her mother, Kathy. She began a relationship with a new boyfriend, Paul, who was a convicted burglar. Concerned about both her living arrangements and her new relationship, DHS reopened her case. When her new caseworker received an anonymous tip, never confirmed, that Paul had hit Christy in front of Logan, she moved quickly to remove both girls from Christy's custody. ]
Can you tell about the second time they were out to your house to take your children? Tell me the story.
That morning Logan was sick. She was sleeping on the couch; Bailey had just gotten up from her morning nap. My ex-husband had gone in to go get the baby to bring her out, and there was a knock at the door. It was 11:30 in the morning, and I remember them walking in. I didn't have my hand on the door yet, and they just walked right in.
There was two caseworkers and two cops. There was one in uniform, one out of uniform. I said, "Yes, can I help you?" I knew who it was, knew the caseworker right by her face. She goes, "Yes, we're here to take your kids." I'm like, "Excuse me -- why?" "It's in the affidavit -- read it. Get their things together." I'm like, "You can't do this." She goes, "Oh, yes, I can and I'm going to." And she did.
I got Logan up and I woke her up. She looked at the caseworker and she knew who she was; she knew why she was there. Logan started screaming, "No, Mommy, don't let them take me. Mommy, please don't let them take me." I told her it was going to be OK. She's like, "No, Mommy, don't make me go." You're talking about a 4-year-old who's sick with the flu. You know?
There weren't even seat belts or car seats or anything when they took off. They wanted to get out of there as quick as possible. I barely had time to pack a small bag for each of them, and they were gone.
I carried them all the way out to the van. I was surrounded by two cops and two caseworkers. One, the caseworker herself, jumped into the van in the driver's seat, and the other one was in the back seat with the kids, trying to get them buckled in. They slammed the door and she took off. I remember I fell to my knees and I cried, "Dear God, no."
When did you first see the girls after they were taken?
Almost four days later. They weren't eating or drinking. They were barely using the bathroom. They wanted Mom. First time I saw those girls, they didn't want to let go. We just sat, and I remember I rocked them. We sat down. I remember Logan asking me if they could go home. I told her no. She asked me, "How you promise to get me back?" I said, "I can't promise you; I'm trying." So many things have happened since that day; many promises that got broken because of DHS.
At that point, did you think you would get them back?
Yes. I thought back to Logan's first case. Well, if I abide by their rules, probably seven months, if not less, they'll be home, if I can prove that I haven't been doing anything wrong.
Wasn't the case. When they took those girls, they had an agenda, and they knew it the day they walked in my door. They're adoption-age. They're girls. They're young. They're healthy. They had planned on adopting my children out.
[When the kids were taken away], there were a lot of classes you had to take, and supervised visits. Can you give us a picture of what your life was like then? What was the most difficult part?
I'd say the most difficult time was around the holidays, around Thanksgiving and Christmastime for me. I was working three different jobs -- a farm, a convenience store, and a department store clothing department. It was more the travel time than anything that took the longest. But when you have to, you get very little sleep. I probably back then averaged maybe four hours of sleep every two days. But I tried to keep a positive attitude. They always say it gets worse before it gets better. Well, I think that was my worst part. And it was just hard to keep up with things sometimes. It felt like I was dragging all the time.
But I still made it and I paid attention. I had to. I wanted to make sure I could support myself and prove that I could and still do all their groups. [You go to these groups and] you listen to stories and you have to talk about yourself. I'm not one that likes to do that too often, especially when it's too painful, like [about losing] the kids. But you have to. So I did. I did what I had to do. It wasn't easy. It wasn't fun.
There was many nights when I was working for [the department store] during third shift I would cry standing in the [corner] because I didn't know how much more I could take. I mean, there's days even now that it's like that. But back then it was even hard, because I didn't know when it was going to end, or where is the end to this? You do everything. You do everything, [and it] doesn't seem like there's an end.
How did you get from place to place?
There was transportation; Department of Human Services used to set up transportation. They would pick me up, depending on what time I have to be picked up, and transport me back down there to Lewiston area and then back home [for DHS appointments]. For individual counseling, at the time, I walked. I had my two feet and I walked. I walked to work, sometimes walked home. During the wintertime, I walked a lot and it was cold.
There were times during these years that you were involved with DHS where you missed a lot of counseling appointments. You knew you might lose your kids. How could you not go to every single thing that they wanted you to do?
I was tired. Very tired. I was losing faith and hope. Why bother? What's going to come out of this anyway? You know they're going to try to take my kids and they're not going to give them back; why, why, why are they doing this? Why am I fighting so hard? No matter how hard I'm fighting, what would be the point? I'm going to lose in the end anyway. That's my feeling back then. Is it worth it? My children were always worth it. But you're going to lose the fight, why do you fight? You don't. You give up and you walk away. It was just frustrating.
Was there a time when you accepted the possibility that you might really lose your kids?
Yes. I sure did. It's probably right after Christmastime. I knew I was going to lose. I knew I would have lost. But I still kept going, because I didn't want them to think that their mom gave up on them and that she was a quitter. But I was ready to face that possibility. I wrote my children a letter the day Logan died, because that's right around the time when I started accepting that I was going to lose them; I knew it.
Could you read that letter for us?
Well, I wrote it at 11:04 a.m. the morning Logan died. It says, "Dear Logan and Bailey, my sweet little ladies: I think of you so much, and often it seems hard to believe you girls have been gone so long now. It tears me up inside to think of the pain and tears and heartaches I have caused the two of you. I made decisions at the time I thought was right.
"The past almost-11 months, I've had so much time to think, learn, understand and most of all, grow up. I'm not seeing you girls today due to the weather. I think of you all the time. I think of all the time I've wasted, thinking what I've missed so much in your lives. I can't even begin to imagine how or why things happen the way they do. I can't change what has happened, but I can hope and pray that your future and mine will get better. All I can say is I'm sorry I hurt the both of you.
"In a month or so from now, I stand the chance to lose the both of you forever, and it's been no picnic. But this is not your fault. It's mine, and mine alone. I want the both of you to know, no matter what happens, I love you and miss you and will never stop fighting for you.
"From what I understand, you girls have things I couldn't or didn't know how to give to you. But I'm trying to learn, and I hope some day you will forgive me for messing up your lives. All I ever wanted was for you two to be safe, healthy, happy, and give you everything you ever needed or wanted.
"Logan, you're turning into a wonderful big sister, helper, friend and just so much more. You're doing great in school. You're learning and growing every day. You're a smart little girl. If there ever comes a time when we can't be together, please, I beg you to watch out for your little sister. I love you, Logie-Bear.
"Bailey, you're still small and still learning right from wrong. You're talking more every day. Like I asked your sister, Logan, please listen to her. I love you, Bay-Bay. There's so much more I want to say, but there will never be enough words to say it in.
"So, in closing, I want you both to know I love you with all my heart and soul. Please don't forget me. When the day comes you need me or want me, you'll find me. I love you girls forever and always. Love always, Mom. Logan and Bailey, my two little angels sent from heaven, big hugs and kisses."
What comes out in that letter is that you blamed yourself.
Because apparently I was doing something wrong. If I wasn't doing something wrong, I wouldn't have lost my rights. I had to have been doing something wrong. What, I don't know.
You didn't think you were a good enough parent for them?
Yes. Maybe that's what it was. I don't know. Whether I was a good enough parent or I wasn't doing things the way I was supposed to be doing, or I had just maybe took one too many risks. I don't know what happened. I wanted to be able to say goodbye in my own way without somebody saying, "Well, you won't be seeing your mommy any more." And I wanted this to be read to them when they were older.
You had given up?
I had given up. I couldn't do it any more. I was hurting too much. I was too tired. No matter how much everybody says, "Don't give up, don't give up, you've got to keep fighting," they weren't walking in my shoes. They didn't know what I went through day in and day out. Maybe if they did, they'd know, getting pressures from different ends of the world. Just too tired. Too frustrated.
Do you regret giving up?
When I read this letter, yes. I do. But some day I will get over that regret. If I had lost the girls, if it had come down to that, they may have had a better life; who knows? But it hasn't come to that. I don't think I could live with myself [if] I had lost those girls. I really don't.
In the letter, you say that things that they have now that you weren't able to give them. What were you talking about?
More of a stable home -- what I've been accused of. They weren't moving around. But in the end, they were, because they ripped my girls out of the home they knew, put them with a bunch of strangers -- they had no clue. Couple of months later, put them in another foster home with a bunch of strangers again, and then Bailey being moved again. They're worse than I was ever accused of being.
I didn't put my kids with strangers. But they did. They helped kill one of my children, and we give them awards for that or a pat on the back -- great parenting job? They've done more damage to those little girls than I was ever accused of doing. But that's OK.
Why is that OK?
Because they're God. They make the rules and they break the rules. I just don't know what gives them the right to play God with another human's life . It doesn't make sense.
They said you were demonstrating "recidivism under scrutiny." That means when taught and told what mistakes you had made, you continued to make them. Did they have any case?
No. Because I wasn't. I had changed my ways, as far as what they said I was doing; as far as not protecting my kids. The one risk that I did take [going to Florida], I could have jeopardized them, yes. But I didn't. Sure, I probably shouldn't have gone, but I don't think I was completely wrong for going.
But moving around, I never moved 17 times as they claimed. You can't do that. That's impossible; you'd have to move every other week. I didn't move no 17 times. I had homes, yes. I did, but not 17 of them in less than a year's time. No way. It's impossible.
Sounds like one of your biggest crimes was that you were so angry at them.
Yes. I'm bitter. I'm very bitter. I don't like them. They control people's lives, and they have too much power and they abuse it. Who else could make those kinds of decisions about your life? Nobody. But they can.
There's a very interesting piece of time. In August 2000, which is about five or six months after they took the girls, you got a letter from your lawyer, which said basically that Allison, your caseworker, was pleased with your progress and that things were looking really, really good.
A month later, it looked like things changed drastically. Do you have any idea what happened? Did you make choices [that affected DHS's decisions about the girls]? For example, you married Paul. This is a man you had told them you don't want to have anything to do with; he was bad news. Then you went ahead and married him. Do you think that had anything to do with their decision to take your kids?
[Ed. Note: In the fall of 2000, without notifying DHS, Christy remarried Paul, the man who had been accused of hitting her in front of Logan -- the incident which first triggered the girls' removal.]
I remarried him. I probably did it too quickly. I'll take responsibility for that, sure. But at the time, I thought it was right, so I remarried him, because I thought I owed him that much for a second chance.
Did you know that you could lose your children over that?
No, because the way the law states, they didn't have any evidence at that point that he had ever harmed a child. What he did in his previous relationships, yes, they could have made him go to counseling, which at the time he was willing to do. And he was willing at the time to go to the known-offenders group with me.
But over and over again, they had told you, "Stay away from abusive people. Stay away from people who are a risk to your children." Over and over again, they had penalized you for not doing that. And yet, when you were in grave risk of losing your children, you went back to somebody who you knew had an abusive past. Why?
It's like the old shoe. It fits.
Did you love this man?
I don't think I knew what love was. I think that I needed somebody there, you know, just to dump on; I think it was more or less that. I don't think I ever loved him, no. Did I care about him? Yes, I did in a different way, more of a friend. But as for a husband and wife relationship, no. He was just there.
You were taking a big risk.
Why didn't you tell anybody that you were going to marry him again?
Because I knew they would have stopped me somehow, and I didn't want people to stop me and tell me how to run my life. They had been doing that for so long. When can I make my own decisions, whether they're poor or good? When? So that's why I didn't tell anybody.
Did you think they wouldn't find out?
I knew they'd find out. I think I didn't want to tell them, because I wanted to do it out of spite, because that's how much I hated them. I guess I was looking out for me and not the girls at that time. But at the time, I didn't think it was going to hurt them; they weren't with me. But little did I know -- just because they're not with me doesn't mean it's not going to hurt them.
Was that the reason that they started wanting to terminate your parental rights so quickly?
I think so. It gave them the reason they were looking for. They were always looking for a reason or some kind of screw up, so that way they could do it legally.
Once Logan was in foster care the second time around, there is increasingly a sense that she would have these fits, these rages.
Is that something you were familiar with? Did this happen to her after she entered foster care?
Well, if she didn't get her way, she'd throw a normal temper tantrum. Four-year-olds do that. And hers was yelling. It wasn't crying. I mean, she'd just yell. I always just sent her to her room so I didn't have to listen to the yelling. She would march all the way to her room and scream all the way down there. "Go ahead, scream. Make sure you can scream a little bit louder, because I don't think the neighbors can hear you," -- that type of scream.
So when they said that she was raging and she was throwing things, that wasn't Logan. That was not Logan, and it didn't make sense to me. I'm like, "All right, I can understand temper tantrums." I mean, yes, she's got them when she don't get her way. But it wasn't often.
And these people are saying she had one every time she saw me. Well, what could be the reason she was doing it after she saw me? Maybe because she wanted to come home. She wouldn't do it before. It was always afterwards. When she asked if she can come home with me, I'd have to tell her no. And she'd be all upset.
Did she ask that a lot?
Every time I saw her. "Is it time to go home yet, Mom?" I said, "What do you mean -- back to your foster mom's house? "No, home with you." "No." She'd ask that constantly.
So these were not tantrums you were familiar with?
No. No, they weren't. That was not Logan.
She was changing.
She was getting older. She knew what she wanted. I don't think people knew how to deal with that, because Logan was a lot like me; I'm boisterous. She stated her opinion. If she was mad, you knew she was mad, and you knew why she was mad. I taught her to be that way for a reason -- so if she had a problem, she wouldn't be afraid to speak her mind. So, that way, something could get done.
I'm sometimes wondering if I should have done that or if I regret that, because it makes me wonder what she said to Sally the day she died. You know? Whether she said, "I'm going to tell my mommy." You know, and just little things.
Sally wrote you some letters. I'm just going to read you some sections, and then I want to just get your feedback, what you thought about them. "Dear Christy, I'm sorry if I offended you by referring to you as 'Mommy Christy.' I was just trying to sort out for Logan who was who. She tends to refer to you, Mary Beth, and her previous foster mother as 'my 'nother mommy.' In an attempt to help her sort out who's who, I refer to everyone as Mommy. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings." Did she?
Yes, she did, because I knew better. Logan never called everybody Mommy. Her first foster mother ever was always by her first name. Mary Beth was Mary Beth. That was it. I felt she was trying to get Logan to call her Mommy, because she knew she was going to wind up adopting the girls, and that was what was in the plan.
You didn't think maybe Logan was getting confused, the longer she was away?
No. Logan knew who Mom was. She knew that. I mean, that'd be like saying that about Bailey. Bailey knows who Mom is. She's younger, and she's been gone a little bit longer now, even without her sister, and still knows who Mom is. My girls know, and I can honestly say that.
OK. Here's another part that I wanted to read to you. "Please let us know what you decide to get the girls for Christmas, so we don't get the same things. We already have their big gifts, but still need to get some smaller ones. Our families have already been asking for lists of gift ideas for the girls. So I'm sure they'll get everything they need, and then some." Did that bother you at all?
How did you interpret it?
Like I was being just another person donating presents to the tree. Locked out. Very locked out.
Did you feel -- and this is November -- did you feel that she was shutting you out?
Trying to disconnect me and the children. Trying to separate us, somehow. She knew that I was working and didn't have a lot of money, because I was on my own at that point. So she knew. And she comes from a family that has money.
Here's another one. "Logan loves puzzles, 63 to 100 pieces. Books and dress-up stuff. She really likes costume jewelry and almost anything sparkly. She loves art stuff. Bailey really enjoyed anything that makes music. She also [likes] puzzles, 10 to 40 pieces, and anything cuddly." What was your reaction to that?
I already knew this. They're my girls. Of course, I already knew this. I already knew what they liked. I knew what they had. They always used to tell me, so I already knew what they had. I mean, I spent enough time with my children to know what kind of things they liked and what they didn't like. I think it was more the clothes. You know, knowing their sizes, because it'd been a while. I mean, that was helpful, but I already knew [about] the toys. I know what my children like and what they don't like.
OK. You wrote Sally a letter, which I want you to read, too.
"Dear Sally, I wanted to thank you for taking good care of Logan and Bailey. The photos you have sent are very thoughtful of you. I hope the boots I got for Logan and the sneakers for Bailey will be OK for now. If the girls ever need anything, please let me know.
"The girls are everything to me. The girls are everything to me. I love them very much. I miss them every day, more than anyone will ever know. I'm trying to send what I can and I hope it's enough.
"When Logan's report card or school notes come in, can you please let me know how she's doing? Logan has told me a lot about her activities and swimming, for her and Bailey, dance class. I hope and pray they're both doing well in all their activities.
"Logan mentioned that she wants to bring Strawberry, her doll. I was hoping you would let her bring it. It used to be mine as a child, and I gave it to her. Mary Beth helped her fix and patch the doll to Logan's satisfaction, and Logan wants to show the doll to me.
"As I have noticed, Bailey's speech is coming a long way. It's very cute, the things the two girls do and share. They both are doing well from what I can see. I want to say thank you again. Please give them a big hug and kiss for me. Sincerely, Christy."
What made you write that letter?
At the time, it seemed that the girls were doing OK. I mean, Logan wasn't happy. You could see that. I mean, they looked healthy. And that was a big plus at the time. But I had also wrote her another letter prior to this one asking her not to hurt my children in any way, shape or form.
How did you feel when you saw that they were going to swimming and to dancing? I mean, these are things that you had not provided for them.
Me and Logan had actually talked about dance class when we were in Florida. I had told her after she had started kindergarten, I would enroll her, but she had to make sure that's what she wanted to do. And she said OK. But it was something that I didn't get a chance to do with her that I wanted to, and that me and Logan had talked about. The swimming classes, that kind of bothered me. I wanted to be there watching them learn how to swim, because I didn't even know how to swim.
Did you feel inadequate that you weren't able to provide that kind of stuff for them?
Yes. I guess sometimes that's what that other letter comes from, me saying, you know, that I couldn't and didn't know how to give them everything. Guilt plays a big role in it, I guess.
So have you ever thought you would have been treated differently if you had had more money?
No. If I would have had a marriage before DHS ever got involved, that would have made the difference, because DHS doesn't seem to harp too much on a two-parent family. Sure, money might have played a part, but I think the two-parent family who was working, sure. But I'm a single mom with two little girls. What do I know?
It seems like you've started a kind of a new chapter in your life.
Yes. For a while after Logan died, I didn't want to do too much. I guess I didn't want to get on with life. I didn't think life could get back to even some kind of normal. But now it's kind of getting back there. I'm back in school again.There's not a day I don't think about Logan, especially with the first holidays coming up. But I have a better way to look at things right now, new hopes for Bailey and new plans for the summers to come. It's going to be different, because when she comes home, she's never walking back out of that door again. Not with a DHS worker. It'll never happen again.
I will get my degree in journalism, and I will provide her with a good life. I won't feel guilty of things I can't give her. I want to be able to give her. But she'll have what she needs, that's for sure. And she won't lack love; that's one thing she can count on. We have a long road ahead of her, [ahead of] us. But it's going to be a good one; tough, but good.
How do you think you've changed in the six years the department has been involved in your life?
I can honestly say, since the department has gotten involved six years ago, I can definitely say I've changed a lot. I mean, I started out as a new parent, to now I've seen a lot of stuff -- it's almost six years -- about different parenting issues.
As a person, yes, I think I'm more strong. And I've got a better sense of where I want to be 10 years from now than I did six years ago. I mean, I've changed a lot; I've grown up. I guess when I first started out, I was immature still, and you know, I'm trying to make something of my life. I didn't know where I wanted to go and how I wanted to do it. But now, I know where I want to be in my life, and I know what I want to see happen. It's just a matter of making it happen. Just takes time.
Do you give DHS any credit for that?
I think I deserve the credit. I'm the one that's done the work. At times, I definitely, deliberately go against DHS, because I don't agree with them, and I'll do it my way, how I think it needs to be done. Well, if it's not the right way, I'm sure I'll find out about it. But for the most part, usually they don't say too much. It's just more of missing appointments and getting there on time and leaving on time -- that type of thing. But I don't know. For a long time, I haven't heard anything bad about my parenting skills. But they can always find something else.
I think the reason why I feel that I'm more independent now than I was before is because I've seen a lot in a short period of time. So I know where I want to go from here. I don't have to rely on somebody else to do my work that needs to be done; I can do it myself. I don't need a mom figure to do it for me. I can do it myself and I can make my own decisions.