“Hi Ms. Garrett, I am Melissa Gardner with Virginia Beach Social Services. I assume that these are the two children that you called us about?” I shake my head to affirm her question. I am starting to feel guilty about bringing the children down here. I am really having a hard time reading this woman and trying to understand what type of woman that she is. I don’t know if she is nice or not. She hasn’t given me a sign one way or the other. Denise on the other hand is looking nervous and anxious. She is shaking her foot and holding the kids as close to her as she can. “Now Ms. Garrett, I will have to ask you a series of questions that will help me understand how you came to find these children abandoned.” This kind of throws me off guard. I want to tell the truth, but I also don’t want her to take this kids away from us. Nor do I want to make it harder for Joseph and his mother to be able to get them back.
“Before we start with the questions, I would like to make a statement. I think that telling you this information will answer a lot of your questions and move things along. It is getting quite late and I would like to put the children to bed. God knows, they need their rest. I am an elementary school teacher. I am the “aunt” of these children’s mother. Their father is away at sea for work. We have a housekeeper that helps our family. She was the one that found the kids at home alone. The housekeeper alerted me that she came to the house for work and found the kids there by themselves. I quickly came over to get the children and I have been trying to locate their mother since. I am not sure where she would be and this is very unlike her to leave her children alone. I just wanted to go on record that we have the children and that they are in the care of family until we are able to get into contact with their parents. This is my daughter Denise. She is a college student who just happens to be home on break. As you can see the kids are very familiar with us. We would like to keep them in our custody until the parents are located.” Melissa is writing several things in a manila folder. I am not sure if what she is writing is good, bad, or favorable. I am hoping that she is ok with the statement that I have just made. No, it is not all true, but majority of the facts have been stated. I also wanted Denise to understand the plan. I didn’t even know what I was going to say or do once I got here. It is as if God put the words in my mouth to say to this social worker. I am doing the best I can to think on my feet at the moment.
“Ms. Garrett, I am sure that you are an upstanding citizen. And yes, I can tell that the kids are familiar with you and your daughter. However, there is a standard process that must take place in order to file this report. The kids will have to be seen by a medical physician to ensure that they are physically ok. Once this is completed, we will determine whether or not the kids will be placed in foster care or released to a family member. I will need the contact information for the father and the mother of these children. In addition, we will have to do a home safety check. There will be a pediatric child psychologist that will also determine the mental status of the children.” Mental status? How can these two have a mental status at this age? I am listening intensely to this woman and again, I can’t read her personality. It is truly bothering me that I can’t.
“Ms. Gardner, I just wanted to make the report that we had the kids in our possession. I can take them to a pediatrician in the morning to have them checked out. In the meantime, we will continue trying to locate their parents.” Melissa finally breaks her facial expression and starts to speak again. This time, she appears empathetic, but you can tell that she is sticking by the book. I guess with kids, this is something that you have to do. “Ms. Garrett, these kids will have to be processed immediately. As soon as we are done with our questions here, I will be taking them to the local emergency room to have them examined. From there the steps that I have mentioned previously will take place. I hate to tell you this, but as of right now, these kids are wards of the state. It is my job to ensure their safety.” Denise starts with an outpour of tears. This wakes up Jordan who has fallen asleep in her arms and Jacinta is starting to cry as well. What the hell was I thinking. I should have known not to bring the kids here. I thought this was a good idea and now I am having my regrets.
“Ms. Melissa, these kids are very special to us. Please let us keep them. At least they will be with their own family”, Denise pleads. Melissa makes a sigh and then she looks through her desk for some paperwork. “Ok, here is what I will do. I will allow you two to accompany me to the hospital. From there if, the doctor releases them with a clean bill of health, I will consider suggesting that you get temporary guardianship over the children. I can not make any promises, but I will tell you that I will speak to the magistrate on your behalf. You did the right thing Ms. Garrett. Don’t think that this system has been designed to tear families a part. It truly is designed to help those families that are going through a rough time. More than often, we don’t have relatives that are willing to step up to the plate to help with taking care of a child let alone more than one. I promise to do the best I can to help these kids in any way that I can.” I guess she has a heart after all.
We go through the questions that she has to note. It seems as if they are never ending. I am trying not to give away too much information and at the same time, I need for her to trust me. I don’t want to get caught in a lie. This is something that I am definitely not built for. Not to mention, I feel as though I am leaving a negative impression that lying is ok to my daughter Denise. Due to the current circumstances, I will have to explain things to her when it is just the two of us. She is not a little girl anymore. Welcome to the real world.
My flight has finally landed in Rome. I am exhausted. Unfortunately for me, I am unable to sleep while flying. The man sitting next to me on the plane had the same issue. In addition, he seemed overly anxious and his smoking was giving me a headache. He was almost lighting the next cigarette with the one he was currently smoking. I go to a small cart that is selling food. I buy a couple of sandwiches and a piece of fruit. I devour the meal as if I hadn’t eaten in weeks. Once I finish there, I look for the phone banks. I have to call to see what is going on at home. I dial the number to my house. An international operator comes on the line and I tell her that I am calling collect. She puts me through. Hopefully, Julianna is home by now and all is under control. The phone rings and even though it is late at night back in Virginia, someone picks up the phone on the third ring. “You have an international collect call from, caller please state your name.” I quickly say my name and for the first time in what seemed like a long time, I hear the voice that is music to my ears. “I will accept the charges. Joseph, Momma is here baby, but the kids and Julianna are not. How soon will it be before you are able to get here?” My heart sinks. “Momma, I will be there as fast as I can. I just got to Rome. I have several flights to catch before I will be back in the states. I am hoping that I can be home by tomorrow night. Just know that I am on my way.” She reassures me that she has everything under control and that she has my back. “Baby, I am going to find those kids. Don’t you worry about a thing! Julianna will have to fend for herself!” I wonder why she is somewhat moody when she says Julianna’s name. At this point, the important part is that my number one ace is in the house and I know she will have things under control. This I know to be true.