Monday Aug 29

Josephine's Problem

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Written by Josephine Tittsworth, LMSW Monday, 12 November 2012 17:10

Studies show GLBT parents raise equally well-adjusted children, but prejudice persists. 


In a compelling personal account, TX-based social worker Josephine P. Tittsworth, LMSW shares her story of struggle within the foster care system. Despite of research showing that GLBT parents produce equally well-adjusted children, stories like Josephine’s are all too common. demodirt.com is grateful to Josephine for sharing this personal and painful story of strength in the face of great adversity.

Summer of 2011, Montgomery County Texas CPS removed my three grandsons from my youngest daughter due to inappropriate parenting, no in-home abuse issues. My grandsons are Landon (now 9 years), Kevin (now 8 years), and Blake (now 4 years). Landon and Kevin were sexually abused at day care by another child claiming it was a game. Kevin did not want anything to do with what happened but Landon started acting out this behavior on his brother. CPS removed the children and placed Landon with me for 10 days while they investigated my daughter, Ashley. After that investigation all the children were placed back with Ashley with the stipulation that Landon was to not share a room with Kevin. Ashley did not enforce that condition and Landon acted out again on Kevin. CPS found out about this through Kevin complaining at school and again removed all the children but this time they placed the children with their biological grandmother but allowed for separation of Landon from the others.


Eventually, a family conference was going to be held at the CPS office. I was invited to this meeting. Right away I inquired who were the social workers involved in this case. I was informed that there were no social workers involved and that they did not like hiring social workers. Immediately I became very concerned that untrained people were handling this case.


Flashback: In 2007, I applied for licensing as a foster parent and successfully completed the training, home study, and all other requirements but was covertly denied because I am transsexual.


During this meeting I made it known that Landon needed to be placed again because his biological grandmother was moving and there would be another child in the home. They decided to place Landon in foster care. I immediately reminded everyone about Kinship Care. I was the only family member who could offer to take care of Landon since I lived alone with no other children in my home. I was denied and told I had to undergo a home study first. I informed them that since I have already passed a home study that there should be no problems.


Under court orders Landon was placed in foster care regardless of me being a licensed master social worker, clinically trained and experienced, clean criminal record, and no records of impropriety of any kind. I immediately suspected discrimination.


Kevin and Blake were also placed in foster care.


Kevin and Blake’s uncle and aunt offered to take Kevin and Blake into their home. After a very brief home study, they were placed with them at the next court hearing (December 2011). However, Landon was placed in a foster home with strict disciplinary rules. I was required to undergo therapy sessions jointly with Landon and also a session privately with a CPS appointed professional.


I was surprised that I was not considered since I was more than qualified to help my grandson stay with family, Kinship Care. I had to hire an attorney to defend my grandson against a court appointed ad litem attorney and a CASA rep who ferociously resisted any concept of placing Landon with me.


My ex-brother-in-law informed me that the CASA rep had interviewed him and asked him how he felt about “Josephine’s problem.” This confirmed my suspicions about discrimination. The CASA rep on two occasions inspected my home. Each and every time he would demand I do things that would cost a great deal of money. Unknown to him I had a community of transgenders supporting me and each time I got help from the transgender community to overcome the financial barriers that were repeatedly placed in my path. The law firm representing me was fully aware of all the advocacy efforts I made over the years and decided to represent me at half price.


At every court hearing I was repeatedly denied placement. I was given permission for visitations over one day at a time with Landon since the foster parent agreed to only me meeting them. I used each and every visitation to take Landon to my home and also to his other relatives. Every opportunity was utilized to ensure Landon knew his family still loved him in spite of the barriers.


During one of the inspections by CPS at my home one of the inspectors stated to me why was I trying to get Landon placed with me? I told her that I have no choice, she responded, “Yes you do, you could quit trying.” I responded, “No I cannot, Landon is family and family does not turn its back on family.” Landon needed to be with family, not strangers.


During the temporary placement hearing (March 2012), one of the issues covertly present in all the proceedings was that the opposition was referring to the placement with a transsexual as bad for Landon. Again, the transgender community came to my aid. I had a friend bring her family to the court. The friend was a post-op transsexual, cisgender daughter was a graduate from Texas A&M University and a student in a masters program at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and her cisgender son was an avionics technician for a commercial airline in Houston. They were there to demonstrate that no adverse reactions were prevalent due to a parent who was a transsexual.


Their presence had a significant impact on the opposition.


I even had a medical doctor from the famous Houston medical center who was a crossdresser. The intent was to demonstrate the fallacies in stereotyping transsexuals. Finally, we were getting near the end of the placement process. The CASA rep was stating on the witness stand that research does not take into account a specific issue of a child with sexually inappropriate behaviors being placed with a transsexual. During the questioning phase, I informed my attorney of the question the CASA rep asked my ex-brother-in-law. My attorney asked the CASA rep on the stand what he meant by the phrase “Josephine’s problem.” The CASA rep was immediately surprised and unable to respond. This resulted in bringing forth the issue of discrimination.


The judge refused to allow any more witnesses to come forward, including my testimony, the children of a transsexual, or a doctor who is a crossdresser. I was immediately furious and my attorney was upset as well. The judge ordered final statements. When it came turn for my lawyer she stated that had I not been transgender Landon would have been placed with me long ago. She accused the court of discrimination and blamed the judge for allowing it in this process. My attorney felt that all was lost so there was nothing to lose.

Finally the judge stated that this process is not about me being transgender but it was about Landon. She then looked me directly in the eyes and told me to never bring this up again. My thought at that time was for her to tell the ad litem attorney and the CASA rep, not me. She then ruled that Landon was to be placed with me. I was told by the judge that if there is any regression on Landon’s part that he would be placed again in foster care. Of course I did not worry about that but her lecture was based in stereotyping. We won that battle but there was still the final placement hearing.


Before the final placement hearing the judge was fired by Montgomery County and a temporary judge took her place. The final hearing (June 2012) was a smooth process. Landon was permanently placed with me in a joint conservatorship with his mother. We share conservatorship but I have the decision of domicile.


Yes, our legal system within CPS, CASA, and courts in Texas are in dire need of sensitivity towards transgenders as foster parents, adoptive parents, and kinship care. A lot of work is ahead of us as social workers.



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