Not too long ago, I sent out a desperate plea for help. My family was (is) faced with one of the most difficult situations we'd ever encountered, and we did not have the means to handle it alone. (Many of you might be familiar with the situation; but for those who are not, this link will be active for a few days and explains it.) It has been devastating to all of us emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially. I cannot measure the amount of tears that have been shed nor the number of prayers that have been uttered since all of this became our unfortunate and unwanted reality. It has been very, very hard.
But out of this awful situation I have seen so much beauty, and that beauty is all of you. Throughout this nightmare, our family has been showered by so much love, so much support, so much help. And though I typically express myself fairly well in writing, I continuously find myself failing to be able to find adequate words to describe how all of this makes me feel and what it has meant to me and to my entire family. I can't find the proper way to describe it because - well, I guess because I've never experienced something like this before. But I will do my best.
I have had people I know and people that I don't know go well out of their way to help us. I have had people sharing words of encouragement. Praying for us. Sending positive thoughts and well-wishes. People have provided extensive, free legal advice. People have called in favors with organizations and individuals who could possibly offer help. People have shared resources that we could look into for assistance. People have tweeted about our situation, have shared it on Facebook, Tumblr, and other places. People have written blog posts about what we are experiencing. They've shared our fundraising page far and wide. People gave up birthday and Christmas gifts, asking for those funds to be donated instead to us. People have offered to help babysit, run errands, contact public officials and/or media. People have talked with their family, friends, co-workers, and others about us. People have put us on prayer request lists. People have lifted me up with affirming remarks when things have been dismal.
In less than a month's time, I have truly seen miracles happen. You all have been my miracle. My children were supposed to be removed from my home for good and forcibly placed into a group home on December 26, 2014; today is January 4, 2015 and they are STILL AT HOME. The persistent efforts of wonderful friends advocating on our behalf has bought us some time. And that time has not been squandered; during this time frame because of all of YOU our fundraiser has surpassed its goal. We have every single dime needed to pay the legal team we have retained, who were kind enough to begin their work with only a partial payment while we attempted to acquire the rest of the money needed for their services. The full balance is due on or before January 10, 2015; we will be rendering payment in full to them tomorrow, ahead of schedule! This is all due to you. Whether you donated $5, $500, or did not donate financially but helped in other ways, you helped make this happen. I cannot thank you all enough for what you have done for my family. That is a LOT of money; even typing it is daunting. It was scary to think of how we would come up with such a huge amount of money. But together, we did it. Without you all, this would not have been possible. This success is a victory for all of us, not just for my family. Thank you.
The next few days are very significant as there are some important actions underway; our legal team is hard at work and we are waiting anxiously to learn what will happen next. Though there are no guarantees, we have hope. Our children belong at home with family; #NoGroupHome is needed for them. There is no reason for any person, child or adult, to be deprived of their autonomy and of their right to reside in the community of their choosing. Having a disability is not a crime. Being a refugee is not a crime. It is not acceptable for them to be taken away, and we will not give up the fight and will not rest until this is over and they are finally safe. They are worth it, and they deserve it. There is no outcome that I can envision or accept other than for our children to remain at home and for their future to be legally secured.
Please know that we have read every message you all have sent (many times) and we stand on the strength and support of so many wonderful communities who have rallied together for us: the autistic community, the HIV community, the adoptive community, the cross-disability community, my church, various aspects of faith, skeptic, PoC, and advocacy communities, and my cherished friends and family in person and online. Thank you, from all of us. Thank you.
I want you all to know that I have decided that when this is all over and I can exhale, I am going to try my best to find a meaningful, effective way to help other disabled families who are going through this type of horror. I don't know how I will do it exactly - if it means becoming a CASA, becoming some sort of court liaison/appointed family advocate, considering the possibility of going to law school to fight on the good side, raising money for others' legal fees, finding more widespread ways to raise awareness about this and seek solutions, a combination of these, or something I haven't yet considered. But I'm not going to just go off into the night once this is done. Whether I'm successful in my battle or whether I lose my precious children, the fight in me is ignited. I will do what I can to spare another family from this horrific, unnecessary pain.
Too many times powerful entities choose to exploit the "little people" of this world for their own gain, and I want to try to do my part to help counter that. If not for the generosity of all of you, we would not have the ability to be able to afford the legal support needed to effectively fight against this injustice. I want to do my part to help people who need, but cannot afford, legal help - just as I was helped.
Too many people end up having their rights unfairly stripped from them and they feel powerless. There are too many Neli Latsons in this world; there are too many "faceless" and "voiceless" people denied justice for the "crime" of being a refugee, or an immigrant, or disabled, or HIV+, or a person of color, or trans, or whatever. I am an advocate (a "born advocate" is what my mother says); that will not change. This will just be another way that I can try to offer my help to others as I have been graciously helped.
Does the world need another volunteer, or CASA, or advocate crying for adoption and foster care reform? Does the world need another position statement about how disabled parents and disabled children, particularly those of color, have the rights denied regularly by ableist, bigoted, unjust systems and policies? Does the world need another prospective pro-bono human rights/disability rights/family law attorney or advocate right now? I hope it does, because I am going to use my research skills, my tenacity, and the knowledge that I gain to pay it forward. I don't ever want another person to feel the way I have felt these last few months; I pray I can save as many people as I can from the fate that has been planned for my children (or a worse fate). And God willing, I will.
As January 10th was the deadline for our fundraiser, I don't know if I will be able to send any more mass emails through the fundraiser page with updates on our situation. (Prayerfully you will only hear from me about this one last time; the date that I can say that we have won!) I will attempt to edit the fundraiser page's date to allow me to still be able to contact everyone with a final update though no more donations for our legal fees are needed. (No one needs to feel compelled to give anything at all at this point as we have what we need for this purpose; but if you feel led you are welcome. As we have met our goal, any money we happen to receive over our total is going in a bank account for the kids.)
I will definitely share an update here on my blog too.
Thank you once again; please know how much you have blessed my family. We will never forget what has been done for us; never.