Sunday, July 26, 2009

Her Missing Children

This will be a shorter post, albeit an important one.
Shorter, because it's painful to write about it.
Important, because it deals with a quandary licensed private investigators often face in their careers.

Someone calls out of the blue and says someone is lost or missing.
There are many reasons why people disappear. High on the list is murder -- inspired by rage, envy, desire, jealousy, insurance money. Or, by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This story, however, is about those missing by force, choice or design.
Plumb the depth of those statistics and you find layers upon layers of reasons woven into the fabric of those unexplained disappearances: runaways; abductions; wander-offs.
Or a group I named based on this case.

Misappropriated children are the ones stolen stolen from good families and placed in another home not for the right reasons. But the wrong ones. In some cases, children are taken from their homes by some angry, evil, jealous or psychotic neighbor, family member or friend -- who decided to call CPS -- Child Protective Services, with false allegations.

The case I am going to tell you about involves the latter and the quandary inherent in investigating it.

My decision to pursue this investigation has carried me through public records, to the state's capitol, I've invoked the Freedom Of Information Act. Twice. I'm getting closer to the girls, though still not there. I'm still cautious about how I approach the reunion. And whether the girls will want one.

Most of us know about false memories.
These are ideas seeded into our brains externally by other people. Or they are self-generated internally. False memories tell a story we believe is real and is not.

I believe the two little girls, and CPS, have had false memories planted into their heads. This falsehood is the story, the fabrication, the lie. It was the undoing of the ties that bind families forever.

When the girls were 2 and 4, my client -- her mother -- was a full time mom devoted to her husband and her children. The mother treated the youngest, who was two for diaper rash.
This required the slathering of a diaper rash medicine around the little girl's private parts. Because the rash was bad, mom looked closely and wiped gently, careful not to to hurt the child.

As the eldest girl looked on, Mommy explained what diaper rash is and how this helps.
The older girl said "Mommy, I have an itch there, could you look and see?"
Mommy said okay, put the baby in her crib. Then mommy and the the 4 year old daughter went into the bathroom. The little girl showed mommy her itchy area. Mommy inspected, said she saw nothing there.

Mommy said, "You don't wear diapers honey, so any itching you have could be just because you see your sisters rash. Let's wait and see how it feels tomorrow."

That was then.
This is also then.
Because my client, the mother, has not seen her children since a few days after that application of diaper appointment and the examination of other other daughter, at her daughter's request.

What happened is next is this.
One lie.
One lie woven into dark thread woven by a venomous spider. My client's next door neighbor.

My client meddled. She said she will be the first to admit it.
My client told the neighbor's husband that his wife, her neighbor, was cheating on him with a number of different guys while he worked. She figured someone ought to tell the guy what was happening, so she did. That's what set the ball in motion.
The first strike.

The woman cheating on her husband had a few screws loose to begin with. One more loosened when her husband left her because of for the multiple affairs reported by my client and his wife's alcoholism. He took his son with him and they moved back to the family farm in Iowa. just like that.

So the disgruntled, abandoned neighbor, sought revenge. She called CPS and reported my client for frequent and repeated sexual assault on the two girls.

Apparently my client's older daughter, who played with the neighbors daughter told the neighbor's daughter that her mommy put medicine on the baby's private parts and then checked her. This was what the whole thing boiled down to.

CPS workers came out. My client explained the affair thing, the diaper rash thing, the fact that her neighbor was an alcoholic and had been in treatment twice, the whole thing . CPS didn't believe my client and removed the two beautiful little girls from the home. The father, a trucker, was on the road at the time.

As of today, the children, who were taken from their mother at the age of 2 and 4 have not seen their mother since. Nor has she seen them. The trucker husband, on the road at the time, never came back to claim or find his kids. It turned out he had two warrants out for his arrest in Washington under an alias my client swore she did not know about. He divorced her, changed his name and remarried.

The girls are now 23 and 21 respectively. My client received a single phone call from the eldest daughter a year ago. No caller ID showed up.
It was very tentative call, that resulted in no information from the daughter except that she lived in Oregon, had children of her own and she was not going to say any more or reveal any information about herself. She hung up. That was it. Last contact.

Unfortunately, my client, the mother and her current boyfriend of 15 years, are broke and broker.
Not only don't they have two dimes to rub together, they don't even have one.
They work in construction as day laborers and nothing more needs to be said about the construction industry and lack of jobs in it.

So, when the mother hired me, she told me she couldn't pay me. She just needed help finding the daughters who were now 21 and 23. She hadn't seen then since they were 2 and 4. She told me the story about why they were taken.

Turned out they arrested her for sexual abuse. She plead because they said if she didn't, she'd go to jail for 10 years or more. She was deemed a sex offender who molested her own daughters she told me, outraged. She said she was completely innocent and ultimately, the State Supreme Court over ruled her conviction. I asked if there was evidence of the Supreme Court ruling. She said yes, she had it.

She said the neighbor was one of two key witnesses against her. The other witness against my client was her own mother, an alcoholic who chose to believe and side with the neighbor. They were friends and drinking buddies. Their master plan was to get custody of the girls and grandma would raise them with the mother's help and financial aid from the state.
The plan failed.

Instead, the state took the two sisters, changed their names, changed their social security numbers and moved them together from one foster home to another which ultimately adopted them.

Today the two girls live in Portland.
Their mother wants me to find them.
I have been looking.
So far I have been unsuccessful. Old adoption records are housed in a great big, highly secure, warehouse in our state's Capitol, Olympia. We have ordered them, been denied them, so we did another request.

I told my client if we find the girls, I will do the case for free, pro bono. I had some conditions she had to agree to, however and she did so willingly.

I said I will be the one to make the initial contact with them. To explain I am a licensed Private Investigator hired by their birth mother to find them.

I said I would not release their new names and addresses to her unless they said it is okay.

And I said I will deliver the girls a note from, her, the mother -- to them. It will be okay for her to leave her telephone number in the note for the girls in case they ever have a medical emergency for one of their own children where her blood, organs, medical background... something might be required.

She agreed and I began the case.

First thing I did was get Superior Court and Supreme Court records.
Criminal, Civil, District, Municipal, I got them all.
Yes... my client, the mother, was investigated, accused, interrogated, arrested, convicted, booked, sentenced and served.
Then I read the State Supreme Court Records.
After serving a 3 year sentence and being released, the Supreme Court concluded she did not abuse the girls and overturned the conviction.

Now, I get calls from my client, the mom with the missing girls, every few weeks... just to be sure I am still on it.

"If I didn't have this hope," she said on the last call, "I know I'd kill myself."

Now that worries me.
I think the person who lost the child... and the child removed from the parent... each have unique issues of grave proportions they bring to the table.

The implications and dangers inherent in re-uniting a healthy well-balanced child to a financially and emotionally desperate woman demand serious consideration.

Also the girls may have been told their mother did abuse them... and they may believe it. My phone call to them could terrify rather than please them.
A private investigator could be perceived by their adoptive parents, the girls, the legal system, as a threat and that is not a good thing.

Thus you see my quandary in this case.
Writing here in a vacuum, I am curious what you would do?
Facebook me, or comment here. Feedback is not only welcome, it is encouraged.

In September, the records arrive.
If they don't come as requested I have a Plan D, E, and F in place.
Some cases just take so, way tooo long. And when you're doing them pro bono, you can only do so much.

Meantime a mother waits for word of her two daughters who may or may never want to see her again.
I don't think this story will have a miserable ending, though I'm not sure it will have a happy one either.
Instead, I think it will end in the gray space between the two... when and if.... I find the girls.


  1. i think it is imperative to keep looking for the girls, and if you find them, at least deliver the note from their mother stating her side of the story. Whether they choose to reunite with her is one thing, but at least they will know that their real mother loved them and hearing the mother's story will help dilute toxic " memories " built up in their psyche. If in fact the mother's story is true, and it sounds like it is, the daughters need to know the facts.

  2. Twenty years ago there was a hysterical witch hunt atmosphere around child abuse. The big Wenatchee debacle is one example where dozens of people were convicted of crimes on bogus evidence. Today there are higher standards of evidence and better laws in place as to proving abuse and terminating parental rights.

    But the picture you paint of a family with a series of dysfunctions is typical of those who make it into the child welfare system. Despite the injustice done to the mother I wonder if the girls might be better off in the new home.

  3. both of you have valid points, and thus my quandry. the mother called me yesterday. i have to call her back and either step it up it back off. still awaiting freedom of info docs come sept, so we shall see.

  4. Perhaps the approach to these should be an agreement with the client to inform the lost relative of the interest and provide contact information to the client. But keep the information from the client. That protects the privacy of the relative and holds out the hand of reconciliation. This might be too far down the road for this case.