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It's been awhile, but let me bring you up to date


Richard Norway

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I think I’ve been turning into a recluse. But, I haven’t lost my optimism…yet.

A lot has been happening, but where to begin? I guess from the beginning. This will be long.

When the economy started to go down in 2008, my business (I'm a structural engineer to help keep their buildings from crashing down) started to slow. My clients were architects and builders. Their businesses went down and consequently, so did mine. I eventually pulled out of the business and went on Social Security, because I could make more than my business was bringing in. We muddled on for a while, and then two of our foster kids were pulled from us because the agency had found adoptive families for them. Now David had to go to work. Because of the turn down in the income, I missed a rent payment in June of 2013. I was able to make the next few rent payments, but couldn’t pay the June rent. Well, in October of that year, we were evicted. I was pretty much in financial ruin.

As my father was quite ill in the hospital, my brother offered to use his truck flatbed trailer and move us to Minnesota. We would be staying in my father’s house with no rent. So on October 30th we arrived in Thief River Falls, Minnesota and moved into my dad’s house. That gave me the opportunity see him in the hospital. The house is about 125 years old with riverfront property, large for this area, and not very well kept up. It needed a lot of mostly minor repairs that had been neglected over the last couple of years. We had given away all of our furniture as move space was limited, but kept linens, clothes and kitchen stuff.

My dad passed away from cancer a month later in November of 2013. He left the house to my brother, also a David (my partner), and I. My brother has a home in town, so I remain living in the house that my dad left us, and he remained in his.

David got a job with Digikey in February of 2014. It’s one of the largest electronic parts distributers in the country and employs a little over 1/3 of the city’s population of 8,500. I tried to get a job, but when they read my resume, I’m too qualified for anything that they could offer, so I stayed retired and continued to raise our remaining foster boy, Rio Northern.

That didn’t go well. New Mexico put in a request that we be able to transport him to Minnesota. The approval came just 2 hours before we were to leave. Starting off on the right foot, huh? Rio was still under guardianship of the state of New Mexico. New Mexico has different policies than Pennington County. (The state runs the foster system in New Mexico while in Minnesota the counties run their social services.) New Mexico has a requirement that they must have a home visit by their case worker once a month, while Pennington County does not. New Mexico had requested that Pennington County Social Services provide that. That’s where the fireworks started. Pennington County did not have guardianship over Rio and did not want him here as they had no control over him. He was a burden to them.

David and I had started the adoption process for Rio in the spring of 2013, but it was not complete when we left. New Mexico requested that Pennington County perform the final home study, which they did and approved the adoption in early March of 2015.

Now, Rio does not have the best ability to make good choices and got into trouble with the law. He got a BB gun that first Christmas here. I figured that since he was going to be living in an area where everyone hunts and has a lot of guns and would be with my relative’s kids, he should get some firearm training from me. A new friend and Rio took the BB gun and went out the day after Christmas. The other kid took the gun and was shooting out car headlights and windows in a church. The police were able to follow their footprints in the snow and showed up at our house that afternoon. Since Rio was with him and considered an accomplice, he had to go to juvenile court. Rio had not fired the BB gun.

This is a small town, and some of the police here are bullies. As Rio had been involved with the police, he now had a reputation with them as being quite the delinquent. And it got worse. Rio had been taking a med to help with his ADHD and PTSD. Shortly after that Christmas (February 2014, I think), the doctor changed his med to vivance. Shortly after the med change, Rio came home from a friends. He seemed to be depressed, and we questioned him but could find nothing that had made him depressed. I guess that he just didn’t want to talk about it. Fifteen minutes later I found his prescription bottle in the bathroom sink – empty! I immediately called 911 and an ambulance was dispatched along with the police. Rio had tried to commit suicide. He was put on a suicide watch at the hospital and given the standard blood tests. They found amphetamines in his system. Now Rio was not just a delinquent in the eyes of the police and the courts, but a meth-head as well. It’s really unfortunate how people don’t follow through and jump to conclusions. You see, vinance IS an amphetamine. He took his own prescribed medication not something from off the street. The police never understood or realized that.

When we went to court in March 2015, Rio’s public defender and I were shocked when the county prosecuting attorney dropped all charges. Of course, we were elated, but couldn’t figure out why. We found out the next morning why. Pennington County had recanted their adoption approval. Two things were in play here. The first Is that our foster license had expired, but since we were in the adoption process, we were approved with an adoptive license to have a foster boy in our home. But now we didn’t have either a foster or adoptive license. Second is that there Is a federal agency that governs rules between states for foster kids that live out of the state that has their guardianship. Pennington County Social Services contacted them, telling them of the unlicensed home that Rio was in. New Mexico contacted us and said that they had three days to pick up Rio and return him to New Mexico. Needless to say, we were quite upset that Rio was being jerked from our home. I drove Rio back to Las Cruces that weekend. It was quite obvious to me, David and Rio’s attorney that we were set up! Pennington County Social Services couldn’t get Rio out if he were awaiting judgement from the judicial system. They obviously contacted the County Prosecutor’s office, and they worked it out.

When Rio was back in New Mexico, he was scheduled to have his annual court hearing in a couple of weeks. The judge just wants to make sure that the agency is following through with their plans for getting these kids adopted at that hearing. I couldn’t afford staying in a motel for an extra two weeks, so I drove back to Minnesota to wait. Two weeks later, I drove back to New Mexico and contacted Rio’s attorney (New Mexico provides an attorney to protect the rights of kids under care by Social Services). She submitted a motion before Rio’s hearing that requested David and I be given permanent guardianship over Rio. New Mexico Social Services had to approve that motion before it could be so ordered. They could not approve the motion because of an agency policy to never let a minor out from under their control unless he or she was adopted, or aged out. I heard from the agency’s attorney that she thought that our home was the best place for Rio, but her hands were tied.

Rio’s attorney and I had many breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings along with a few in her office to figure out what to do. She had an idea. She provided two motions to the court. The first one was to have Rio removed from control by the agency and placed under control of the court. This removed Rio from being under the policies of the agency. The second was to have Rio removed from control by the court and placed under permanent legal guardianship of David and I. The judge signed both orders the next morning, and Rio was now ours! I drove back to Minnesota the following day with my son!

Pennington County was not pleased that we went around them. And, Rio was now under the scrutiny of the county sheriff’s and city police departments. In a way, we feel that even David and I are being watched. Police cars seem to be cruising our street a lot. The neighborhood has gone south since I remember it back in the day (I was born here). There was a drug bust in a house across the street a few months after we arrived.

On a brighter note, David and I were married last year shortly after Rio and I returned to Minnesota. Minnesota already had already legalized gay marriage.

It seems that living in Minnesota has been one crisis after another. I don’t like this town. It has totally changed since I was here years ago. Digikey has to hire a lot of people, and there are a lot of new arrivals with their delinquent kids because of that. We have to keep the house continually locked because of a lot of robberies that happen in this neighborhood.

Rio turned 18 on September 13th last year. Oddly enough, his birthday is the day before mine, so we celebrate together. He was now out of our guardianship and technically on his own. He wants what all kids want, and that is to be on his own. So, Rio moved to Morehead, Minnesota last month. Fargo is just across the Red River of the North from Morehead. He had an opportunity to room with a friend of ours. She’s about 30 years old and could give him the guidance that he needed. The apartment building is just across the street from the State University of Minnesota Morehead. He enrolled in GED classes and now fully intends to attend the university to get a degree in graphic and video arts. He never had any ambition to go to college before this. I can’t tell you how much I’m impressed and pleased that he wants to finally make something of himself. The friends that he’s meeting there are nothing like the delinquents that he’s met here. They have goals. His roommate goes to the college. His roommate’s mother is a teacher. Perfect for developing motivation in him.

Well, it didn’t go so well. David and I didn’t realize the mental aberrations that Rio’s roommate was living under. She started accusing Rio of things that he was not a part of, and she eventually moved out. Unfortunately, they were under lease, and Rio could not afford all of the expenses himself. Thankfully, the landlord is on Rio’s side and is trying to find a roommate for him. Unfortunately, David and I must pick up his new found expenses. We don’t want him to move back to Thief River Falls for two reasons. First is the proliferation of delinquent friends that seem to come around here and the attitude that he needs to be watched by the police. Second is that we want him in the school environment that’s afforded him where he is. He wants to stay because of the school and his future. We’re off to find him furniture tomorrow. We’re working on trying to keep him there, trying to help him find a roommate. The landlord offered to move him to a single bedroom apartment, but Rio can’t afford the rent all by himself. We’re still working on it. I'll be visiting Clay County (where Morehead is located) tomorrow.

As for David and I, we want out of this place. I’ve mostly lived in larger cities and so has David. Maybe it has a lot to do with the anonymity of self and culture that large cities offer compared to small towns. My brother and I have worked out an arrangement. We had originally thought of buying a large 5th wheel trailer and truck to tour the country. We wanted to find a place to relocate to and wanted to find out where we might want to live first. That would work for us. This house has a sales value (given the repairs and upgrades that need to be made) of around $ 85,000. That means that what I own is around $ 42,500. He offered to buy me out (which I want) by giving me his 5th wheel trailer and truck and some cash as my portion. So hopefully, David and I will be out of here on Nov 1st this year on our way to investigate and enjoy the country.

I've started writing again with the time I have now that Rio is in his own apartment. We still have to go get him in Morehead for his court appearances. It's a novel and will take some time to finish, but I think you'll like it.

I've never lost my optimism. :)

Richard

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Wow, Richard... You and David are saints... the adversity you've suffered and the love you've showed on behalf of your son, Rio... is commendable.

Here's a prayer that all will work out well for all three of you!

And glad to hear you are writing again! We'll look forward to posting your next story as soon as it's ready.

Mike

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