What were the most rewarding pieces of your job as a caseworker? What were the most frustrating ones?
I think, initially for me, the most frustrating part was that you had an impossible job. You didn't really know how to do it, and nobody really told you how to do it, but you were expected to do it. You're expected to make these decisions and somehow ask all the right questions and, by the way, make it all legally sound. That was very overwhelming. I remember them saying, "It will take you two years to figure out this job," and they were not wrong. About a year into it, you start feeling like, "OK, I'm starting to understand."
One of the things that was most striking to me when I was at Children's Services was the removal of the children. Of the removals that I participated in -- dozens of children -- one child cried, which to me was very overwhelming. The parents didn't cry, typically.
They were very angry, but they weren't sad, demonstratively sad. I mean, the anger made sense, but I sort of felt like there ought to have been some sadness there. I would think, if anybody took my children, how in the world could you not cry? How in the world could you not lose it? How do you function?
They're taking your life, your being. How do these parents not feel that? My first supervisor used to tell me, "That's why they're clients, and we're not." So those were very dramatic for me.
It must have been extremely frustrating to see parents who were, at best, neglecting and, at worst, abusing their kids. What are some of the more frustrating situations that you remember, more upsetting ones in terms of parents' behavior?
It was very frustrating. Typically when children were removed, they were removed from families that were fairly dysfunctional. Typically lower class, typically uneducated families, although not always, certainly. I remember more than once having a birth mother tell me, "Go ahead and take that kid. That's all right. I'll have another one," and being astounded by that. I guess the audacity to make that comment that, somehow, this child was expendable or replaceable. That idea was just beyond my comprehension. At night, I would go home and look at my child and think, "I'm so lucky. I'm so lucky." I was so grateful that I had an intact family and that my child didn't have to go through what all of these other kids on the caseload were going through.
From your point of view as an experienced caseworker, where did Christy Marr fit into the picture? Was she a typical sort of birth parent who was having trouble with her kids? Tell us as much about her as you know.
I think that she probably was typical in that she was young. She had her children very early. She herself came from a non-traditional family. I think that, probably like a lot of birth parents whose kids end up in the system, she probably experienced abuse and neglect and no one protected her from that. Therefore it didn't become a value for her to protect her own children.
In terms of your own decision to become a foster parent -- why did you make the decision to go down that path?
When I had my second child, who is also a boy, my husband and I talked about whether or not we wanted to have more children. Both of my pregnancies had been very, very difficult pregnancies and the deliveries had been difficult. I think that we both were hesitant to repeat that experience, but we both knew that we really loved parenting. We loved being parents and having that responsibility, and we really felt like we had something to offer other kids.
So we decided to pursue adoption; actually, that's what we were pursuing, not foster care. When the girls were placed in our home, it was explained that the goal for them was adoption, and there would be a termination of parental rights freeing them for adoption. They needed to move the girls from their foster home and they needed to move them into a different foster home, but what they were looking for was a pre-adoptive home -- someone who could say, "Yes, we'll take them now, and when they're freed for adoption, we'll keep them." So we became foster parents to these girls, whom ultimately we were hoping to adopt.
Was the termination of parental rights a fait accompli at that point, or something that was going to happen?
It was a matter of time before it did happen. It had not been filed at that point when we got the girls, although that was the intention. Our understanding was that the plan was going to be to file a termination of parental rights filing, freeing the girls for adoption; that there was not going to be continued reunification efforts with the birth mother.
Describe the first time you heard about Logan and Bailey Marr.
We had met with our adoption caseworker just a few days before to talk about what we were looking for.
What were you looking for?
A girl. We weren't really specific about anything other than we would like a girl in between the ages of our two boys, given that our two boys have 14 years between them.
Did you have any doubts about your ability to parent the child coming from a difficult past?
No, not really. I knew, after being a caseworker, what the issues are, what the behaviors are that go with the issues. The only thing really that we didn't want was someone who was going to be a risk to the baby, someone whose behaviors were so significant that they would be a risk to the baby.
I really didn't want a child with like an attachment disorder or a really significant emotional disorder, because I was working part-time, and I really didn't feel like at that point in time I could commit to the intensity of parenting that that type of a child would require. [And we didn't want] a girl who had been horrifically sexually abused, just because of the makeup of the family. Three males with a girl who's been sexually abused is probably not a good makeup. So those were really the only two issues that we said, "We're just really not interested in that."
So then what?
So then a few days [after the meeting], we got a phone call from the adoption caseworker, saying, "I know you wanted one, but would you take two? I think their ages are two and four and I don't know anything about them, but we need to move them right away." I said, "Well, I need to know something about them."
So she had the their caseworker call me. The caseworker said, "They're beautiful little girls. They don't have any issues, no behaviors, no nothing. They're going to be freed for adoption. Their ages are almost two and four, and would you be willing to take them at least for the weekend until we can find them another place? Then if you decide over the weekend that you'd like to keep them, then that would be great." So I said, "Well, I'll talk to my husband. I'm not going to commit to a lifetime based on this two minutes of information you've given me. But we'll certainly commit to the weekend."
What was your first impression of them?
They were both absolutely beautiful girls. Very petite and tiny. My first impression of Bailey was, I don't think she's any bigger than our baby, and she was eight months older than our baby. But they were delightful.
Logan was a chatterbox. Very savvy. Far too information than a five-year-old should have about everything. Very excited about having a brother, two brothers. Very interested.
One of her first questions was, "Where's my brother." I said, "Well, which one?" She said, "Oh, my big brother." I said, "Well, he's not home from school yet. We'll have to wait a few minutes." So a few minutes later, the bus came and she saw him walking up the road and she said, "Hey, is that my brother?" I said, "Yes, that's your foster brother." She said, "I've always wanted a brother. That's my brother." So she ran out to the end of the driveway and said, "Hi, brother." It was really funny, because that whole weekend, she called him "brother." Except she couldn't say "brother." She'd say "brudder."
What did she call you?
She didn't call me anything for the first few minutes. But after we get the girls settled, they'd been here for a couple of hours, they were out back playing in the pool and I said to my husband, "Well, if you're OK keeping all these kids, I'll go run to the store and get them some clothes and a bed." So he said, "Yes, that's fine."
So I went to the store and got them some beds. Well, while I was gone, Logan all of a sudden stopped and looked around and she said, "Where did her go?" My husband said, "Well, who?" She said, "Mummy." He said, "You mean Sally, my wife? She went to the store. She went to get you some bathing suits and some clothes and things like that."
She said, "Oh." So she looked at Bailey and she said, "Well, Mummy's gone to the store. She'll be back later." My husband was telling this, and I was like, "OK, that raises some flags for me -- a little too quick to adopt us."
How did you explain that?
Kids who are that familiar that quickly, you really question their attachment to primary caregivers. That's usually an indicator that they've had a lot of different people take care of them, and whoever is the person for right now is Mom and Dad. There's not a specific mom and dad for them, just whoever is feeding them and clothing them.
It didn't make you feel good that she--
No. It was a huge concern. It was a flag for me.
Did you know right away you wanted to adopt these two little girls?
I guess that depends on your version of what "right away" is. The first day we met them, no. By the end of the weekend, the five days that we had them, yes, we knew that we weren't going to be able to let them go.
Because they were very special. They fit right in. They just fit in with the family.
Was this the family you always imagined?
I think it was. We loved it. It was chaotic and it was frantic and it was delightful. I mean, it was wonderful.
Would you say it was the happiest that you've ever been?
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. We loved it.
You were officially a caseworker at DHS, and there was a rule of some sort against caseworkers adopting kids. Is that correct? What happened?
There's a rule that caseworkers cannot adopt children off their own caseload or from their own district. Of course, Logan and Bailey were never on my caseload; I didn't know anything about them, and they were not from our district.
But the issue that came out of that was that, because we were not entering into an adoptive placement agreement with the girls, rather we were their foster parents. There was, I guess, a fairly ambiguous rule about whether or not caseworkers could be foster parents. Some people chose to interpret that as, you can't be foster parents to kids on your caseload or kids in your district. But you can, in fact, be foster parents to kids from other districts. Other people chose to interpret that as a very strict "Caseworkers can never be foster parents, period," end of sentence. So, at some point, I think probably within five or six weeks of the girls coming, I became aware that there had been an issue about that.
I didn't know about it until it was all resolved and over and done with. But there had been, I guess, a request to have the girls moved because I was a caseworker. The caseworker and the guardian ad litem for the children advocated for the girls to stay because the girls were doing so well in our home, and there wasn't a safety issue to move them.
You had to be evaluated and go through some sort of training in order to become adoptive parents -- is that correct?
What were you were you required to do, and how did you feel about it?
We were required to attend the eight-week adoptive parent training -- adoptive and foster parent training -- like every other person who wants to foster or adopt a child in the state of Maine. [In] the particular class that we went to the instructors were new; didn't really have a firm understanding of the department or the law, and gave a lot of misinformation, a lot of misrepresentation. I don't think it was intentional; I just don't think they knew any better.
But as a caseworker, I sat there thinking, "Oh, my God. This is wrong. This information they're giving these people is wrong." So it really was frustrating in that sense. I knew one of the instructors, and I had asked her at the beginning of the class, I said, "I don't want people to know that I'm a caseworker. I just want to be a parent while I'm here."
Her response was, "Well, we'll try to respect your wishes." Yet, almost every class, something would come up and she'd say, "Well, Sally, what do you think?" I would just kind of try to flip it back: "Well, I've actually read the law, and the law says this." I kept thinking maybe they'll just think I'm a paralegal or something.
What did they think?
I think probably the general consensus was that I was some sort of know-it-all, because I would say, "I think that maybe we ought to look at this piece" if something came up or whatever and the instructors clearly were looking to me for clarification or for answers. And although I didn't notice it, my husband was noticing that there were certain people in the class who were just like, "Oh, great, here she goes again."
The kids were coming from a birth home in which clearly there had been some serious issues. What do you know about what had happened to them?
I don't have a lot of information about what happened to them. Most of the information I know actually came from Logan. To me, probably one of the saddest things that happened to them was that they didn't have parents to take care of them, that they didn't have parents to trust and rely on. That Logan, little pumpkin that she was at four years of age, felt she had to be responsible for herself and for her baby sister. That was really sad.
One of the first things that we noticed was her need to care for Bailey. If Bailey started to cry, she immediately would find Bailey's pacifier and put it in her mouth. She would tell Bailey yes or no to things. She would try to take care of Bailey, try to do things for Bailey. Our mantra was, "We're the parents, we'll take care of it. That's not your job. That's not your job. We'll take care of it."
I actually spoke to or e-mailed her previous foster mother, and asked about that. Her response was, "Yes, I know. Isn't that cute?" I thought, "No, that's really sad." She just had such an awesome sense of responsibility for herself and for Bailey that it was just really sad that she couldn't be a kid. She couldn't allow parents to take care of her.
Did you get the sense when Logan was brought to you that she was a difficult little girl? Did anybody tell you she was a difficult little girl?
No. Actually, what we were told was that they didn't have any behavioral problems, and there were no known emotional problems.
Was that true?
I don't think it was true. When they first came, Bailey looked terrified all the time. Her little eyes were just huge and she had the pacifier in her mouth all the time, and she didn't say boo. She didn't talk and she didn't respond; she had a very flat affect. She was always watching and wondering and always on guard.
Logan was very charming. Wery wary, I think. Always watching, trying to figure out what the rules were, how the game was played, who the players were, how to work it. Definite survival skills. Didn't cross anybody, didn't cross any rules. Way too compliant, way too compliant, which really made me nervous.
But there was something not right about it. It wasn't like she was being compliant because she was trying to be good. It was like she was being compliant because she was trying to figure out how to survive in this new game. That was really scary for me, to think that she was four when she came to us, [and] at four, she felt like she had to be wary and she had to figure out the rules of the game. That was really scary.
How did she explain to herself and to you all these moves, these new homes, these changes in her life?
She didn't explain them. She just talked about them very matter-of-factly. I remember one day they'd been there about two weeks ... and Bailey was upset because she couldn't get down and play during supper. I said, "No, you have to sit there. It's suppertime, everyone's eating, and when we're done with supper, then you can get down and play. But you're not going to get down and play and distract everyone." So she was having a problem with that, and Logan was trying to comfort her, and said, "Well, don't worry, sister. Maybe our next home won't have that rule."
She said that very matter-of-factly. I said, "Well, sweetie, where do you think you're going? She goes, "Well, in our next home." I said, "Oh, you don't like it here?" "Oh, no, this is fine, but in our next home, maybe they won't have that rule." I said, "I don't think you need to worry about where you're going next. As long as you like it here, I think you can probably stay here as long as you need to. So we don't need to worry about where the next place is going to be." But that was really her m.o., that was her take on the world: "Yes, yes, this is fine, we're going to be here for a while and then we're not going to be here." That's really sad -- that that was her belief about what was going to happen to her at four.
What did Allison Peters [the girls' caseworker] tell you about the birth family of these girls?
Initially, she told us that the birth mother was not able to protect the girls, and had been in the system herself. Then about two weeks maybe into the placement, she told us that the birth mother had married her boyfriend, and gave us the impression that the boyfriend was part of the reason for the girls' entry into custody. Then later on, the girls had brought home pictures from the birth family, and because I think of my experience at the department and knowing that pictures can often trigger things in kids, I called her to say, "Are these pictures that they should have, or are these pictures of people they shouldn't have? I don't know anything about these people, but this is what's written on the back of the pictures."
So I went over the pictures with her and she said, "Oh, absolutely, they should not have those pictures. This family is unbelievable," and began to talk about the multi-generational dysfunction of the family -- the lack of protection of the children, the ongoing sexual abuse -- that kind of thing.
Did she tell you the girls had been sexually abused?
[No], she said, to her knowledge, the girls had not been sexually abused.
How did Logan talk about her birth mother?
She usually would refer to her as "my birth mom," or "my 'nother mutter." That's her famous phrase, "my 'nother mutter" She called several different people "Mom." So I would try, "OK, which mom?" "My birth mom." "OK, Mommy Christy, OK." I tried to help her kind of put in perspective who these people were, so that she would be able to make some sense of it, and to be able to communicate clearly to other people who was who.
So she had no special attachment to her birth mother, as opposed to the other people in and out of her life?
I don't know that. I mean, she certainly had an attachment to her birth mother. But I wouldn't know how to answer that in terms of the relationship to other people. There were times that she was glad she was going to visit [her birth mom.] There were times that she wasn't glad she was going to visit. There were times that she didn't want to go to visit.
Did you take her to the visits?
I transported her to and from the visits.
So you would drop her at another location where she would meet [her mother], and then pick her up there?
But you never saw the mother?
Not like directly; just kind of peripherally in the parking lot. I would see her getting out of her ride or whatever. But I was never introduced to her.
Was that deliberate?
Why was that?
The caseworker said that there were safety concerns, and she wanted to keep us separated as much as possible.
Did you want to meet her?
I guess there was a part of me, probably the adoption caseworker in me, that said, "Oh, yes, I want to meet her and find out everything I can, so that this can be passed on to the girls." There was another part of me that really didn't want to meet her. The protective parent in me said, "No, I don't really want to meet her. I don't really want her to know where the girls are." But yes, there definitely was part of me that wanted to know everything, so that the girls would have that knowledge of their heritage.
You said that when Logan returned from visits, she would act out?
Yes. When she would come home from the visits, she would start talking about something that her birth mom had said or say, "Oh, Mommy, I mean Sally, I mean Mommy." She was struggling. Clearly she wanted to call us Mommy and Daddy and yet she was clearly being given the message at some point that I was Sally, I was not Mommy. That was very confusing for her. Very confusing for her, and she didn't know what to do with that.
Did the girls talk about their mother?
Not a lot. They talked about some memories that they had. Logan talked a lot about memories she had about her grandmother, her Nana. Logan had a lot of positive memories about her Nana, but very matter-of-factly told me the day that she arrived that she wasn't allowed to see her Nana again, but she didn't know why.
That was always an issue that bothered me, because of all the things that the girls got from their mother and their grandmother, the grandmother's gifts were really appropriate. Really thoughtful, wonderful gifts. She made them these little alphabet flash cards out of plastic canvas. I think the time and love that went into that and the thought that went into that was tremendous. The girls loved them.
Did they come back with things from their mother?
What were those like?
Sometimes they were just little trinkets or whatever. Like at Christmastime, they came home with a lot of things, a lot of candy. I think they each had like a two-pound candy cane. I think a two-pound candy cane is a little excessive, personally, for a two-year-old or a five-year-old. But just a lot of candy, a ton of candy, a lot of little cheapie trinket kind of things.
I had actually written a couple of times to the birth mother, letters back and forth, and she had asked for a list of gift ideas. I had gone through a flyer with the girls, and had circled everything that they thought they might enjoy. I had written these little notes, sticky notes about ... what size of shoes and clothing they're wearing, and these are their favorite colors and they're really starting to get into puzzles and those kinds of things, so that she'd have all kinds of options to go with.
She brought home clothes for them [and] the clothes weren't even remotely the right size. I sort of felt like, "Did you not even read the information that I gave you?" There was probably only one thing on that whole list that she had actually gotten them that was actually on my list of suggestions. I had intentionally not gotten any of those other things, so that there wouldn't be duplicates. I sort of felt like she just didn't have the same thought that went into her selections as the grandmother.
Did their mother know who you were? Do you know who she was? It's such a weird relationship, in a way.
Yes, it is. The caseworker actually told me that she did not want the foster mom to know who we were. She didn't want the birth mom to know who we were, because of safety issues. So she intentionally kept us apart. We never met.
What were they concerned about?
Safety issues, that's all they told me. My guess would be some kind of retribution. Some kind of retaliation for some perceived thing.
Did [Christy] know who you were? Anything about you? She wrote you letters or not?
Yes, she knew my name was Sally, and she did write letters to me. She wrote me a couple of letters thanking me for taking such good care of her kids, thanking me for being there for them.
What was your emotional relationship with her? Do you know what I'm asking? In other words, these are girls who were yours, and yet still hers. What is that relationship, and how did you experience it?
Well, I think it was a real tug of war, because part of me was still an adoption caseworker who really wanted to get access to her, to ask her, "What was your pregnancy like? What were their infancies like? What was the first word, when did they walk, when did they crawl?"
Part of me really wanted to know all that information, and I really wanted to get it from her; part of me really felt like we can't blend those two; really, I don't want to meet her, because she's not protected these children.
Of course, it wasn't very long before we fell in love with those girls -- probably that first weekend; these were our children. We didn't treat them any differently than we did the boys. I mean, they were our children, and the thought of somebody hurting my children was really offensive to me. So part of me really didn't want to meet her, and part of me really did want to meet her. ...
Did she know that you were adopting the girls, that she was not going to get the girls back?
She knew that. Well, I mean, she knew before the girls came to our house that the department was going to attempt to terminate parental rights. She knew that before the girls even came to my house. But when she got married in September, the caseworker then sent her out the official letter of intent.
You said that Logan would rage. When did that start? What would happen?
It started about, I don't know, I guess a few weeks after the placement. I think it was related to her starting to feel some sense of attachment to us as parents and to our family in general. She would come home from visits and typically be moody. Not really want to get along with anybody. Didn't want to comply. Didn't want to take a shower, didn't want to wash her hair, didn't want to get in her pajamas. Didn't want to go to bed. Didn't want to be quiet so that Bailey could go to bed. They shared a room, and she would just start crying and screaming. As that escalated, that turned into the thrashing -- kicking the wall, hitting the wall.
She would literally tear the sheets off the bed. She would thrash around. We finally ended up using old garter belts to connect the sheets together so that she couldn't rip them off the bed, because she was ripping the sheets off the bed every time she had a fit.
We were never really sure what was going on with the rages. But at some point during the rages, she started identifying that she didn't need parents. She didn't need us. She could parent herself. She didn't need us. She'd been taking care of Bailey all of her life, and she didn't need any help now, and she didn't need us. She could do it all herself.
I remember one night just holding her in my arms while she raged and saying, "Honey, you're a baby. You're just a little girl. You're just five. It's not possible for you to take care of yourself. No one should have to take care of themselves when they're just five. That's what parents are for," and reiterating that to her over and over and over again [that] it wasn't her responsibility to take care of Bailey. It wasn't her responsibility to even take care of herself.
What would she say?
"No, I can. Don't need you. I could do it myself." She was very adamant. She would yell. I mean, she would literally yell that out, that she didn't need parents. She didn't need us. She could do it herself. She'd been doing it herself all her life. She didn't need anyone.
But I don't think it was asserting her independence or being in control. I think it was she just truly didn't get it, that there's a reason you're asking her to do this. I think part of that is because of her issues with Bailey and how parentified she was when she came to our home.
Parentified -- she thought she was a parent. She thought she had to take care of Bailey and herself. She thought that it was her responsibility to clean up her own messes. She was four. She would panic if the baby started crying. She had to go find out what was wrong, had to go be there, had to go make sure everything was OK.
Have you seen this before with kids?
Oh, yes, well, I had yes, because of my work. Kids who haven't been parented become the parents and they take care of themselves. They don't trust anybody else to take care of them, because nobody's ever taken care of them. So I immediately knew what we were dealing with.
Were there other things about Logan you had seen before that you recognized?
Yes. She was really familiar with strangers -- call it indiscriminate affection. She would meet someone for the first time and hug them. That always causes red flags for a social worker, because you're always worried about attachment. I think when typical, average, normal -- whatever [term] you want to use -- children have a good solid attachment to their parents, they're a little leery of strangers. They tend to cling to their parents. They tend to feed off their parents' cues about whether or not this is a trusted person.
Logan would decide for herself, and just indiscriminately hug strangers. [She was] very charming with males. Right away we noticed that she responded way more to my husband than to me, which was another flag about attachment issues. Then she started with the tantrums and the need to control her world, because she didn't have faith that anybody else would control it for her.
Describe to me how difficult she could get, behaviorally.
I would preface that by saying 80 percent to 85 percent of the time, she was fabulous. Just a terrific normal little girl. Then there was that small percentage of time that she really was almost tortured, I think. She really was in significant pain, and she was letting out that pain in the only way she knew how -- she would tantrum and she would rage. Sometimes that was in response to normal things like being told she couldn't do something, or being sent to her room, or being put to bed early. Sometimes they were in response to who-knows-what.
Kids' normal temper tantrums, we know they get mad and they scream and they cry and they stomp off to their room or whatever. Those are normal temper tantrums. She really had rages. She would scream at the top of her lungs that she didn't need parents, she didn't need us, she could take care of herself, she'd always done it. She didn't need parents for anything.
She would destroy her bed. She would kick the wall. She would beat on the wall with her arms. She would thrash around. She was out of control. She was, I don't know, she was responding to something, but not the situation at hand.
Did you ever feel you couldn't control her?
There were times that I felt helpless to help her when she was raging out of control. I felt like I wish I could do something to ease this pain; I wish I could do something to get through to her. I guess I don't know that I had a feeling or a desire to control her as much as I did have a desire to help her heal whatever hurt she was dealing with.
How would you handle her?
A couple of times when she was really raging and thrashing and kicking the walls and hitting the walls and that kind of stuff, I was really afraid she was going to hurt herself. So I just knelt down beside the bed and wrapped my arms around her. I think once or twice we actually threw the covers that were hanging down off the bed kind of over her legs, and I just wrapped my arms around her and held her and said, "You can't do this. You're not going to hurt yourself." I'd just talk to her, talk her through it.
You can't do anything but hold her and talk to her and be there and tell her, "It's going to be OK. I'm not going to let you hit people, I'm not going to let you hurt yourself. I'm not going to let you put your foot through the wall. I'm not going to let you do those things. I'm your mom, and I love and I'm protecting you. I know you're really angry with me and that's OK. You don't even have to like me, but I'm still your mother and I'm still going to be protecting you." Sometimes it would be 45 minutes to an hour that she would rage and thrash before she would finally calm down.
Then once she started to calm down, it was like there would be this point that she was Logan again. Her voice would change and her body would relax and she was Logan again. My body positioning at that point would change. I would just hold her in my lap and we would just rock and cradle and talk. Then it would be done, and she'd be fine. I always felt drained afterwards. I mean, relieved, but drained.
You've got two hats. You've got the hat of someone who's a social worker, who knows about this, and then you've got the hat of a human being and a mother in an extremely difficult situation. Where was the worst you felt? What was the hardest for you personally?
I think that the worst that I felt was the feelings of helplessness, of not knowing really what was causing this and not knowing really what to do to fix it. I think it was very painful to watch your child be in pain and not be able to do something about it. It was very frustrating to know that there was this system that was supposed to be fixing things and it was ignoring us, that my child was suffering because somebody else had made the decision that they weren't important enough. Those were really difficult emotions. There were a lot of feelings of frustration, helplessness, real sadness, genuine sadness.
Anger at the system, anger at what had happened to her. Who had done this to her? What had she gone through to cause those kind of reactions? As a parent, your first response is, "What is going on, what is this about?" Then almost as quick as that response hits, "I can't let her hurt herself. I've got to protect her from herself." Then almost the very next feeling is, "Who did this to my baby, what did they do? Why at five years of age is she in so much pain? What's happened to her? What demons is she dealing with?"
Can you go back in your head to before it was over, while it was going on? I mean, all parents have been pushed and pushed and pushed by children, and it is a very black place. It sounds like you were pushed beyond any place you had ever been before. How did you cope with the newness of this?
I don't know. I mean, you do what you need to do, because it needs to be done, I guess. I don't know.
Did what you needed to do?
No. I didn't know what I should do. I didn't know what would be the best thing to do. But as a parent, I was focused on the here and now of, "I'm not going to let her hurt herself, and I'm not going to let her hurt anybody else."
Did you ever feel scared?
Terrified. Oh, yes, terrified. I hope what I'm doing is OK. I hope I'm not further traumatizing her, but I don't know what else to do. I've got to protect her. I'm not willing to allow her to break a bone kicking and thrashing. I was really afraid she was going to hurt herself, the way that she would carry on. It was terrifying. It was the closest thing I can think of to demon possessed. I guess, as a parent, my thought was, "My child is in here somewhere, I've got to find her." It wasn't a matter of she's being a real pain in the butt and I don't like what she's doing. It was a matter of my child is in there somewhere, I need to help her, and I don't know how.
But you were trained. You had these years and years of dealing with difficult children. Where did that training go?
The thing about dealing with difficult children is that there's a world of difference between book knowledge and actual experience. There are all kinds of people who know all kinds of things about attachment disorder, and children with attachment issues, and all kinds of other special needs that children have. But until you've lived with those children, you have no idea what it's like.
Did it ever make you feel like a failure that--
Oh yes, yes, of course it does, because here you are supposed to be this wonderful parent and you have a child in that much pain and you can't do anything about it. Not only that; you don't know what to do. I was supposed to be trained. I was supposed to be educated. How come I couldn't help her? How come I didn't know what to do? How come I couldn't make it go away for her? It was difficult.
Did you ever feel you weren't in control of your own behavior?
Of my behavior, no. No. I guess because I wasn't operating on my emotions, about how I felt about things. I was operating as a parent.
Did you reach out for help? Did you feel you needed help handling her?
I felt like I wanted information and I wanted help. I wanted anybody's input. At that point I would try anything, but something needed to give. I mean, what we were doing wasn't working, but what might work? I tried talking with her first therapist about it. I had said to her, "We need to do something different, because she's starting to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming. I'm not willing to have the rest of the household be up at two o'clock in the morning because she wants to scream." So we needed to do something differently about how we're going to handle that. She said, "Well, maybe you should just let her scream." I thought, "Well, that's just not an option at two o'clock in the morning. OK, wrong answer." So I thought "Well, OK, obviously she just doesn't get it. I'm not talking about crying, I'm talking about screaming. Ear-piercing screams."
So I started talking like to friends, coworkers, and decided that one of the ways that we would do that is, however long I had to spend with her in the middle of the night was going to be paid back to me by quiet time in her room alone the next morning before she could get up. So if I was up for a half an hour with her at night, then when she woke up in the morning, she owed me a half an hour of quiet time in her room before she could start the day. She hated being in her room if everyone else was up. So that actually worked really well, and after a couple of weeks, we didn't get up in the middle of the night screaming very often at all.
That worked really well. So then we started using that for the difficulties going to bed at night -- the fits and the rages and the tantrums that she would have at night going to bed -- that she would owe me that quiet time the next morning. At first that was OK, and then she really started to buck the quiet time. Refused to have quiet time. She would be mad because she couldn't get up out of bed, and she would start screaming. Finally in January, we started with a new therapist, and I really felt hopeful that she would be able to help us.
Did you ever call DHS to ask for help, to tell them what was going on with Logan?
Oh yes. I e-mailed the caseworker and left her messages to let her know what was going on. I told her that we needed to make-- I really felt like we needed to be in a different direction in therapy. I never did get a response, so I made an executive decision to switch therapists, and I asked the caseworker to please do the funding request to start the therapy. It was probably, I don't know, a month or more, maybe six weeks later that the funding request finally went through and we could start therapy with the new therapist.
There was this infamous incident in which Logan alleged to her mother that you had done something to her and then supposedly [made] an allegation of abuse against you. Did you hear about this? Were you made aware of this? Was there an incident?
Actually, the first time that I became aware of that was after Logan's death, when it was on the news.
Was there any truth to the story?
I have no idea. If she ever made that disclosure, no one ever addressed it with me; no one ever mentioned it to me.
I know you haven't read the press. But certainly there's been criticism of a cozy relationship between you and the caseworker assigned to this case. What was your relationship? Were you friends? Was there a feeling of supportiveness? Were you on the same team, given that you had come from a very similar job to the one that she was doing? Were you on different teams or what? How would you characterize your relationship to her?
With Allison Peters? I had never met Allison prior to the day that she showed up on my doorstep with the girls. She came to my home that day, and she stayed for, I don't know, maybe an hour. The next time she came, I think the girls had been there. Actually she came again about a week later; I wasn't home. She came again [and] picked up the girls and took them to visit with their birth mom and then dropped them back off at the house. Then, I don't know, a couple of weeks later maybe, she showed up with the guardian ad litem. Other than that, those are the only three times that she'd been to my home.
We didn't connect on the phone a lot but I left a lot of messages for her, and I e-mailed her a lot. We didn't actually have like a lot of conversations on the phone, just because she was difficult to get, and I suppose I was somewhat difficult to get. But we did e-mail back and forth. I did write her lengthy e-mails -- updates -- and leave voluminous voice mails for her, telling her what was going on and what we were doing and requesting, like if the medical records could be transferred and that kind of stuff.
Did you feel she was on your side?
I guess. On my side -- how?
Supportive of you as a parent; supportive of what you were doing with the girls; supportive of your adoption of the girls.
I guess I would clarify that by saying that I felt she was supportive of the idea, but not necessarily of the process. I delineate that, because, for example, it took us seven weeks of constant phone calls and requests to get the medical records transferred, so that the girls could be seen.
There were things that I repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly had to ask for, and then ultimately would have to go to somebody else to get done. I would call and leave 10 or 12 messages in a row before I would get a call back.
To what do you attribute that?
I suppose it's the same thing that happens in other cases -- too many kids, too many crises.
What was it like to experience it from the other side?
It's a very different feeling to be on the other side of the coin.
There is this e-mail that's been referred to. I have to ask you about this, about "the old tricks that Christy's up to." What is that? ...
Alison Peters did e-mail me and make a comment about Christy being "up to her old tricks," da da da. I don't know what that means. She didn't clarify that for me. I know that a couple of weeks after the girls came to our home, their birth mother married this person who was alleged to be a risk to her children, and that the caseworker felt like that was pretty typical for her. It was a typical decision to not put her children first. But beyond that, I really don't have a lot of information from the caseworker about their previous history.
On the day that Logan died, what happened? How did the situation begin?
Logan got up that morning and was supposed to have some quiet time on the couch -- which she did. My husband got up with her that morning. She asked if they were going to have their visit that day, because it was snowing. I went to work, and I called the sitter before I came home from work. I found out there was no visit, so I called the sitter to let her know that, and to find out how things were. She said, "Logan's really been different today. She's really pushing and she spent most of the day in her room." I said, "Really?" She said, "Oh yes, it's been interesting. She's been having quite the little raging today." But when I got home, about a little before three, I guess, Logan was asleep. When she woke up about, I don't know, a half hour, 45 minutes later, she woke up raging.
I went in and asked her what was going on. She just wasn't even responsive to my questions. She just was raging, and then she would just stop and stare off into space. I remember her eyes -- she was staring off into space and I was just looking at her like, now what's this? Then all of a sudden, her eyes just kind of rolled back into her head and her eyelashes started to flutter. Then just as quickly as it came on, she would start raging again. My initial thought was, "Oh, this is a new behavior, well, that's attractive. What's all this about?"
She just continued to rage, and that same blank stare with the eyes rolling back happened probably five times in an hour and a half. Then she would just suddenly begin to rage again. She had no idea what she wanted. She didn't know why she was crying. She didn't know what she wanted. She didn't know if she could stop. She just wasn't herself.
Well, what did you do?
I asked her if she needed to scream, and she said, "Yes." I said, "OK, well, then let's put you some place where you can scream." So we [put her down in the basement]. I kept checking on her and checking on her and asking her if she was ready to be done. "Are you done yet?" "No." "OK."
She just seemed to, I don't know, kind of flow in and out of the rages. Very difficult to describe, but she could just kind of flow into them and then flow out of them briefly and flow right back into them, and that was different. The other thing that was really different was the eye thing, I'd never seen that before. I wasn't really sure what to make of that. In hindsight, I think she was probably having seizures.
What was going through your mind in terms of what you had to do? Did you feel you had to punish her? Were you trying to teach her a lesson?
No. It wasn't a punishment. It wasn't trying to control her behavior. It was more an act of, if this is what you need to do, fine, this is the place to do it. if this is what you need to do, that's OK, here's the place to do it without impacting everybody else.
Was she restrained?
You never restrained her?
No. What do you mean by restraint?
Did you put tape on her?
She was free to get out of that chair?
How long was she there?
Must have been over an hour. I kept going down to check on her, see if she was OK -- see if she needed to go to the bathroom, if she was done, did she need something?
Then at one point she said, "I want Daddy." I said, "Yes, I know you want Daddy, but Daddy's not here right now. Daddy's at work." She said, "Well, I want Daddy." I said, "OK, well, Daddy should be home in about 20, 30 minutes. Why don't you pull yourself together and you can come and help make supper?" because she liked to make supper, liked to help it. She said, "No, no, I want Daddy, I want Daddy." I said, "Well, here's the thing. I need to start supper, so are you going to be able to pull yourself together so that you can come and help, or are you not going to be able to pull yourself together? In which case, that's fine, I'll just go start supper." She said, "No, I can't." I said, "OK, that's fine. I'll go put supper in the oven and be right back."
So I went upstairs and put pork chops and baked potatoes in the oven; might have been up there three minutes. I came back and she was quiet. I said, "Are you done?" and she didn't answer.
[Ed. Note: At this point in the interview, Sally's lawyer, who was in the room, interrupted and advised Sally not to discuss the circumstances of Logan's death any further.]
When you realized Logan was dead, can you talk about what that was like for you, what your emotions were?
I think it took a minute to sink in. It was like I could hear him talking and I knew what he was saying, but it wasn't making any sense when the doctor came in and told us. It was like I couldn't breathe. It was stunning. It was just unbelievable. It was very confusing. How, why? This can't be happening. This can't, this can't be. Five-year-olds are not supposed to die. I just remember feeling like I was in a fog. Like this was a bad dream, and I just couldn't fight my way to the surface to wake up. It just couldn't be real. It was just stunning.
Were you afraid for yourself? At what point did that kick in?
I guess I don't know that that has ever kicked in. I think that-- I don't know why. I was just, I think, overwhelmed and incredibly sad and confused and just sure that it wasn't true. It couldn't be true.
Then the nurse came in and offered us a chance to see her, and we did. She just looked like she was sleeping. I just felt like if I could just wake her up, we could go home. It was very difficult to leave her there.
What did you do when you got home?
We didn't actually get home until hours later. But when we finally did get home, we just sat on the couch and cried. We just couldn't believe it.
Sally, after this happened, did you have any idea that you would be accused of being responsible for it?
When did you become aware of that?
Actually, later that night, it became very clear from the detective involved.
What did he say?
He looked at me and he said, "I know you did this. It's just a matter of time before I prove how."
Did you respond to him?
I couldn't respond. I was totally shocked. Stunned. I mean, I just didn't understand that.
What happened next?
Hours and hours and hours of interviews with the detectives. Always separate. Always kept apart. I felt like I was being held hostage by the state police. I wasn't allowed to grieve, I wasn't allowed to be with my family. I wasn't allowed to get support from them. I was always shut up in a room with a detective, being grilled over and over and over and over about every detail, ad nauseum. It was unbelievable.
When did they arrest you?
March 13, six weeks later.
Did you know it was going to happen?
No. They just showed up at my door and said they had some more questions for me. I said, "Well, then, I guess I need to call my attorney." He said, "Yes, it's probably a good idea, because we're here to arrest you." I was stunned.
Were your children still with you?
[Yes]. It was a snow day. They were both upstairs.
When were your children taken?
The department took my children the next day.
Did they warn you that it was going to happen?
They called me at 6:30 that night to say, "We're on our way with a petition. We're going to ... take your kids."
Did you know where they were going to go?
No. I told them that I would leave the house, that they didn't have to take my children. They said no. They said they had some allegations against my husband. I said, "Fine, then we will leave the house. We will take our children and leave them with family. We'll have family come in here and stay with the children. You don't need to remove the children." "No, we're going to remove the children." So I said, "There are enough family members on both sides of the family that these children did not need to go into foster care. I want them placed with family." They finally agreed that they would place them with family.
Where is your teenager now?
He's five hours north of here with my sister.
Have you seen him?
Yes, I've seen him a couple of times. When they removed the children, we weren't allowed to have any contact with the baby for 10 days. He had never gone more than 12 hours without seeing me. He had never even spent the night anywhere without us. They took him, and we weren't allowed to see him for 10 days. He was sick and he was tired and he cried and he cried and he kept calling for Mommy and Daddy, and we weren't allowed to see him.
Were the boys put together?
For two days.
No. On March 17, my older son went to northern Maine to live with my sister, an aunt. He and his brother have only seen each other like five or six times in seven months. They were very close, very bonded, and they were used to seeing each other on a daily basis.
Have you picked up any clues about what the department thinks is going to happen to them, based on your knowledge of the department?
Yes. They have already indicated that they plan to have my teenager live with his birth father, even though they didn't have a relationship for six years.
Is that what your son wants?
No. He doesn't even know that's the plan for him, because they've said to him that he will stay right there with his aunt.
What about the baby?
They don't plan for the baby to come home.
How do you know that?
Because they have already asked the court for a cease reunification with me, meaning they have no intentions of ever reunifying him with me.
Do you feel responsible for Logan's death?
In the sense that she died while she was in my care, yes. I think any parent would. As a parent, there's always that sense of, if only, or what if. There's that sense of awesome responsibility, that as a parent, you're ultimately responsible for this child. If anything happens, you feel responsible, regardless of whether or not you did anything to cause anything. You feel responsible because it's your job as a parent to keep that child safe. So, yes.
But you maintain that what happened was unavoidable?
It was certainly unforeseeable; not planned. There was absolutely no intention of anything. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that anything would happen to Logan.