Day 125: salisbury steak and other sad little moments (and bag giveaway peeps!)

The plastic on the salisbury steak
got sucked in due to the heat…

A close up!

Today’s menu: salisbury steak, collard greens, fruit cup, bread

I woke up with a raging sore throat! That put a damper on my day. For lunch I ate the salisbury steak, some of the collard greens, a few chunks of pear, and a few sips of the pear juice. I couldn’t eat the bread. I got a “stale brain” feeling later, which often is a precursor to getting a headache. Thankfully it did not pan out.

A lot went into the trash today…
After lunch I left my room. When I came back with the kids, Iopened the door and entered the room and I was confronted with the overwhelming smell of processed meat. Whoa… I raced over to the windows and opened one. I had a parent coming after school and I had to air the room out. It was a little chilly when I walked by the windows, but I didn’t care. It was a necessity.
(Warning: depressing stuff, feel free to skip down)
I am a mandated reporter. That means that if a child presents as abused or neglected or tells me specifically about an incident in their lives, I have to make a call to DCFS and report it. I can choose to be anonymous. DCFS makes the decision to do an investigation based upon the nature of the abuse or neglect. I went through a short training about it when I first started working, but nothing prepared me for a real child telling me about abuse.
I have had two different kids tell me something years apart. I feel honored that a vulnerable child feels like I am trustworthy. But it’s incredibly painful for me to hear these things and then recite them to DCFS.
Both of the kids who have told me details about abuse told me within the first two days they met me. I didn’t know the kids very well and I didn’t know the families because I had basically just met the students. The kids must have felt comfortable with me right away.
The first time it happened, I asked a veteran teacher about it. She said, “You didn’t call DCFS, did you? It’s only going to make it harder for that student: s/he going to get beaten up even more.” I explained to her that we are mandated reporters. She shrugged.
DCFS uses some kind of matrix to determine whether or not to intervene on behalf of the child. It’s is based on age of the child and severity of the abuse. Don’t quote me on this, but age seven seems to jump out at me (it’s worse to beat up a child under 7?!) and where the abuse is to the body (face is worse). It’s terrible that they have to make those kind of decisions on some sort of arbitrary matrix. In both of the cases that I reported, investigations were opened and DCFS investigators went to each family’s home, usually the same day of reporting of the incident and sometimes at night.
In both of the cases I reported, the allegations (what the kid said happened) were determined to be unfounded…. I don’t know about you, but I believe the children more than I believe the parents. And I don’t know if their lives got better or worse after DCFS investigations. All I know is that I did my duty as a mandated reporter and I have to believe that made a positive difference.
The reason I’m bringing this up is that there have been some high profile child abuse stories in the news. If in your line of work you encounter a child that appears neglected or abused or if a child tells you about something, you should call DCFS. It’s the right thing to do and it just might save a life.

On a much different and more positive note, the winners of last week’s cool cloth-like shopping bags go to:

Commenter #38 – Monica
Commenter #30 – Sweet Virginia
Commenter #6 – The Whitesel Family
Please email me fedupwithlunchATgmailDOTcom with your mailing address and I’ll send them straight to you! More giveaways to come next week!
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24 thoughts on “Day 125: salisbury steak and other sad little moments (and bag giveaway peeps!)

  1. What horrid teachers! How can you not report it? Growing up, my babysitter was sexually abused. My mom called the police the night she showed up in a torn and bloody nightgown. He got away with it. She ended up pregnant. The mom and dad adopted the baby, a girl. Everyone knew what was going on, but, for whatever reason, only a hand few spoke up and that wasn't enough. The ** got away with it and then had another victim to raise. I only remember whispers and her shaking and bloody on my living room couch the night she looked for help. The police took her home that night. I was seven, she was 15. The last time I saw her was a couple of years later, after the adoption had gone through and the day before her parents kicked her out of the house. I don't know what happedened to her after that or where she is now, some 25 years later, but, as vivid as that memory of her is now, I would never let anyone do that to a child I know. I have the good memories of her: Laughing as she picked me up, singing to some great old country song, dancing together in my living room. But the bad haunts the good. He abused her in a horrific and terrifying way and, on some level, he abused me too. I had to see my friend terrified and hurt in the middle of the night. I had to watch her grow depressed and not really understand what was happening. Her memory will never be pure, always stained with the other seen through a child's eyes. The next time anyone thinks of not reporting abuse, remind them of how many people this abuse affects. Not just the one child, but everyone the child comes into contact with for the rest of their lives.

    Here in Texas, it is CPS. Children's Protective Services. Yes, they get a bad rap, but I like the name better than Department of Children and Family services. CPS suggests that they are there to protect the children, not keep families together. The bottom line should always be what is best for the child in the long run, not what is best for the family, or best right now, or easiest for me (thier teacher) this year.

    Thank you, Mrs. Q, for doing the right thing and reporting what the children said to you.

  2. i've learned that texas CPS is no bag of chips either. they've been involved with my family and i found their response to be desultory, even in a situation where … action needed taking.

    even so, i'll wind up in mrs q's position eventually, as i'm training to be a teacher myself, apparently to graduate in may 2013.

  3. Some cases are like that unfortunately. I had a friend who talked to a teacher and had CPS called, even though the parents really were abusive, they thought it was "unfounded" too. It's such a shame. Some parents just put on a good show. Unfortunately for him, it seemed like everything just got worse. I wish they did more to follow up on those types of things.

  4. I always read your blog, but rarely comment. Due to the nature of the content today I thought I should throw in my family's experience.

    We adopted a boy(4) and girl(2) who had a really rough start to life when I was a teenager. The little girl was shy and sad to leave their long term foster family, but in the end would up really loving our family and having a decent life. (She passed away very unexpectedly at age 17 when she was kicked by a horse.) She dealt with many issues and was a challenge at times, but she was my sister and my baby girl carries her name and we all miss her greatly.

    The little boy seemed to take right to us. He was charming and sweet from the first meeting. He seemed to be fine with the transition and appeared to love us immediately. Turns out that is a huge red flag. Due to his first two years of neglect and abuse he never learned to love and bond. He was basically dead emotionally inside, but could put on a good show. The problem was that once you figured out how he was manipulating things he would turn against you. We tried so hard as a family to make it work and get him the services he needed, but when he turned violent (at about age 7-8) my family made the tough decision to reverse the adoption.

    The reason I bring this up is that he tried reporting my parents multiple times for abuse. He hated the discipline and expectations that were placed on him and he would do everything he could to get my parents in trouble. He was interviewed by some wonderful meaning people who thought this charming, sweet boy would never make things up. They encouraged him (probably without realizing it) to spin stories in order to 'win' them over to his side. It was horrible for my parents to have to constantly worry about what new charge they would have to fight, as well as protecting his little sister (and big sisters) from him. He even tried to say I was abusing him on a day that I was 500 miles away at college…thankfully by then that particular social worker was on to him and we did not have to go before a judge. Whenever there was a new person involved the stories would start again earning him their pity and attention and we would be the villains all over again.

    Sometimes kids do make things up. I would never have believed how vicious a child could be if I had never lived through it. Of course, I know many, many kids are abused (as he had been as a baby) and would err on the side of making sure it wasn't true. But sometimes the family is doing all they can and they are innocent.


  5. hope you are getting better… sore throat is not a lot of fun its just uncomfortable and difficult to swallow.

    usually, i would take the Nim Jiom Cough Syrup ( ) which has a thick consistency formulation. it coats the throat and includes herbs that are particularly good for that application.

    i hope it works on you as well.

  6. You've mentioned this before, but the plastic worries me – there have been so many stories lately about plastic being poison.

    Do the kids really eat the collard greens? Even as an adult it wouldn't be my first choice as a veggie side dish.

  7. My sister reported abuse (visible bruises/marks) on one of the special ed students she works with. Her principal and a couple veteran teachers scolded her, but she knows that what she did was the right thing. Good for you for reporting it, like you're supposed to. Sometimes the kids don't have anyone else to turn to, and to ignore their pleas for help is unconscionable.

  8. CPS is hard to deal with. I have been on the receiving end a few times and all times have been unfounded. When a child comes to you for help, they can't be making it up. I called CPS on my son's father when my son came home from a visit once saying his father kissed him, I asked where and he pointed to his private area. I had to do something about it and CPS got involved. I'm not sure what the outcome was, can't remember, but he had to have supervised visits after that.
    On another note.. I can't get over the prepackaged lunches.. Ick.. reminds me of the "airline" lunches we got as a kid for a period of time at school. Most of the time we brought lunch but I always felt envious of the kids who got to buy. My Mom always packed us a good lunch tho. My kids get free lunch so I don't worry about packing. Our school district prepares everything on site.

  9. A specific amount of dark green vegetables are part of the recent IOM recommendations – including broccoli, greens (collards, mustard, kale, turnip), spinach, romaine, escarole, dark green leaf lettuce & endive. I would guess that’s why these are showing up on menus.

    A previous comment mentioned that even adults might not choose these as a side dish. No doubt the dark green veggies are good, but an example where we are going to need to do more than just putting them on the menu/tray. Best possible preparation methods for a start. Beyond that – Education? Promoting it…somehow?

  10. It's always so hard when students choose to confide in you and you just know that the system isn't going to work for them. I've reported numerous times in my years as a teacher, but one stands out most vividly. While teaching middle school, one of my students came to me in tears and said that when they were changing for PE, she saw a huge belt buckle mark on her friend's back. She knew that her friend's dad hit her and she just wanted someone to help her friend. The girl came in and showed me the mark and I burst into tears. You could see the perfect indention of a belt buckle on her. I called DHS and the girls waited with me in my classroom until well past 6 in the evening. She finally went home with her friend.
    DHS, in their infinite wisdom, interviewed the girl in her living room WITH HER FATHER SITTING NEXT TO HER! DHS did nothing but record the mark and left the girl with her dad. Needless to say, the next day the girl was moved from my class and I was instructed by the principal that the father wanted her nowhere near me. I was not to talk to her, or interact with her in any way.

    Back to food: Our school district has a contract with Sodexo to provide food. In the past I have been appalled at the quality of the food (as well as being depressed about our food being outsourced to the lowest bidder). We've always had a salad bar, so at least the kids were getting fresh fruit and vegetables daily. However, I have seen a huge change this year! I'm so excited to report that we have real chicken! Yep, real chicken you can shred! My class earned Fine Dining Friday this week (they had the best behavior in the cafeteria that week and got to eat on the stage with real tablecloths, flowers, etc), so I decided to eat with them. Imagine my surprise when I was able to choose a real grilled chicken breast sandwich on a whole wheat roll! The other offerings that day were: turkey and cream cheese in a spinach tortilla, whole wheat baked mac and cheese, and chicken tenders (which were breaded, but were clearly real chicken and not the chicken nugget mush they used to serve). From the salad bar I also got mixed lettuce greens including spinach, unsweetened apple sauce, fresh zucchini and squash, and baby carrots. All in all, a healthy meal!
    What you're doing is making a difference! People are listening!

  11. While CPS can be hard to deal with, I can't stress enough if you are a mandated reporter, report, report, report. I am a social worker, and have worked in schools for the last two years. If you do make a report, make sure you also do what you can to help the child. If your school has a social worker or counselor, inform them and have them talk to the child. That's what they are there for. I worked as the social worker at an elementary school last year, and I spent at least a few hours a week working with children who we suspected were abused at home.

  12. I've dealt with both sides of this…

    as a day care worker, I had to call and report bruises on a toddler. When the mother was interviewed, she blamed us and said we were doing it! A week or so later, she came in with fresh brand new bruises and the social worker happened to be in our room when she arrived and we checked her. They got the paperwork to take her that day, and I carried her out to the social worker's van myself, it was really hard to do, but I was glad.

    On the other side of it, social services was called on my family because my stepdaughter went to school and told them we weren't feeding her. Truth – she sits at the table for hours and doesn't eat her food. Her older sister told me they asked her about it at school, and she told them what really happens. Still, my stepdaughter doesn't get it that it's not okay to lie. sigh.

  13. I'm the honorary aunt of two little boys who were removed from their home because of abuse. Parental rights were terminated, and my good friend was able to adopt them. These little guys have lasting damage and from the stories, they tell, I wonder how much longer they would have been alive if a mandated reporter hadn't clued in. It's always better to err on the side of caution. Bless you Ms Q.

  14. I've followed your blog for some time, but never comment, however, felt like I should regarding the comment about being a mandated reporter. I just wanted to let you know that just because you receive the letter telling you that the allegations are unfounded, that doesn't meant that CPS did nothing. It often means that whatever happened to the child, did not meet the definition of the abuse or neglect. In Texas, we follow the Texas Family Code, and in that are specific definitions of abuse or neglect. If whatever happened does not fall in those definitions, we can not justify the abuse. However, there are many times the abuse may not be founded, however the family is referred for services before a case can be closed. Another thing is that CPS interviews the children, and not all children trust their caseworker, or whoever interviews them, enough to tell them about the abuse or neglect, no matter how the questions are asked. So, if a child doesn't make an outcry of abuse or neglect, and other collaterals (family, friends, professionals involved with the family) report no concerns regarding the child, then there is nothing that CPS can do.

  15. I'm another one of those who have been following quite a while but never commented. But this topic hits kinda close to home (or at least closer than the school food issues – I agree completely that they need to change what they're feeding kids at school!)

    My parents had two kids, my brother and I, and for numerous years participated in foster care. We worked with two kids (One 14 yrs with an aggression problem, the other 6 yrs with ADD and behavioral issues) very successfully. Both of those boys were able to return to their birth families, and have successful and fruitful lives. My parents just instilled a sense of discipline and love into their lives.

    My parents never *ever* abused any of the children they came in contact with. However, the third boy my family accepted into our home for foster care was different. He was only about 8-9 years old, but had been in and out of more than a dozen homes within the past 2 years. In fact, he stayed with us longer than anyone, before or since.

    But, he was a pathological liar. It was on all his paperwork and records. He went to school and consistently complained about my parents abusing him (which was not true at all). The teacher refused to believe that he was lying, even though my parents had a very successful record in foster care, and this boy had a record for lying. My parents were forced to give the boy up after a year, because it was getting to a point where it was possible that they would lose my brother and I.

    Obviously, my parents were hurt very badly by this – they never went back to foster care. And that boy, instead of staying with a family who did love and care for him, was shuffled back into the system.

    I'm not saying that all children lie. Definitely not. People who abuse children should be horsewhipped, and then hung, drawn, and quartered!

    But sometimes it's not nearly as simple as a child saying that they're getting abused. Just because you're young, doesn't mean you can't lie.

    – JDaniels

  16. Thank you for your very thoughtful comments on this terrible topic. I thoroughly appreciate your input.

    And yes kids lie. I would say in both of the cases that I reported on, these particular kids did not lie based upon more information that I learned after working with them in school for a longer period of time.

  17. I used to work at my daughters elementary school and reported a couple children I believed to be abused. One was I witnessed the parent beating her daughter in the hallway. I ran to the office to have them call (I wasn't the only one…) Another will haunt me… I was the recess lady, I saw a child being hit by more than one other child and she just laid there, she didn't finch or move…… So I had a talk with her teacher…. together we where going to keep a eye on her……. Then the mother brought her to school in her jammies without shoes or a coat one winter day……… she just slammed her down in her chair calling her a stupid b*tch and left. CSB came and took the child away…….

  18. Like Heather and JDaniels, I too had parents who wanted to help those children who for some reason or the other ended up in the system. My parents adopted a daughter who went to school and lied about being abused. Not only did this break my parent's hearts, it caused me to be pulled out of class and questioned by teachers who never treated me the same after. While it can be hard to believe that a child could lie about some thing so horrible, it does happen.

    On the food; I worry about the plastic too.

  19. When I was 17 my father called dcfs (in IL) and reported that my mother was neglecting my brother and I, I was interviewed by dcfs and they made a "surprise home visit" although after being interviewed at school we knew they were coming. My father had lied, and the investigation showed that. It was an embarrassing and humiliating experience, and even for all that–I'm glad you called. You should always call, because I also know the flip side. My grandmother was a foster mom for a young lady she hoped to adopt. This poor girl had been raised in such absolute filth that I bet if you had to call DCFS in that downstate county they could still tell you about it as one of the most horrible houses they had been in. She ended up back with her family after YEARS of counseling.

  20. "I have to believe that made a positive difference."

    Yes, you did. It doesn't matter what DCFS did or didn't do after that. You believed the kids, and that goes a *long* way toward shoring up sanity in a bad situation.

    I grew up in an abusive home, and no one seemed to believe me, or at least not be inclined to do anything about it. No teachers ever called the authorities on my behalf, certainly, even when I told them, and all the police did when they neighbors called in a complaint about the noise was tell my parents to keep it down. I spent a lot of time wondering if *I* was the crazy one, if I was making things up, or maybe this was normal and I was wrong to think there was anything wrong with what my parents did.

    So, thank you.

  21. Wow, that's tough. My husband and I lead a teen recovery program, and though we're not legally mandated reporters, we consider ourselves to be and always let the kids know that in advance. I've had to call DSHS (what we have in WA) a few times and it's a difficult painful process. But as a victim of child abuse (from neighbors) who was too afraid to ever tell anyone and didn't think an adult would believe me, I know it's the right thing to do. We always walk through the process with the student, and never go behind their back. It's our least favorite part of what we do, but we'll always choose to report.

  22. At least that child knows that someone cared and that the abuse is not normal. I couldn't even tell anyone that I was abused because it was just life. I didn't realize it was abuse until later. When I did try to get help myself CPS, schools, and clergy were all useless. The feeling of utter abandonment and the knowledge that your abusers can fool the authorities is soul crushing. Thinking about the difference it would have made for 1 teachers to take me seriously, even if the investigation came to nothing, is overwhelming. I'm sure your call did make a difference.

  23. I am not a mandated reporter. But in the last month, I finally accepted that I would need to call DCFS on my own sibling and his/her wife.

    It was the worst feeling in the world. My relationship with my sibling is damaged in ways that are still being revealed to me.

    But the kids needed help. They can't ask for help themselves. DCFS gets a bad rap, and I'm sure they are far from perfect. My experience with them though, has shown them to be concerned and sensitive, and really pretty dedicated to helping.

    Their brochure says "Care enough to call". It took me too long to get the nerve to do it..but I did. I cared enough to call, and so did you.

    God bless you for that!

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