One thing that I have always found to be highly annoying and socially antagonistic for those of us who struggle to make the simplest of ends meet – is the fact that community-based programs for children with behavioral issues are so out of reach to the targeted population who need them most.
My daughter had been displaying severe and notably precocious behaviors for more than three years before I was finally able to push my way through the proverbial red tape and connect both of us with the government equivalent of “treatment” resources; and then, upon finally being given the necessary “referrals” to track down such elusive “treatment”, I was very disappointed to learn that it consisted of little actual treatment to speak of. The available resources were mostly programs and that I had already tried without success.
The “Treatment Plan” provided through the resources made available to me after YEARS of searching was nothing more than a hodge-podge of various interns who needed the hours spent on my family’s problems in order to receive a degree:
1. A non-English speaking psychiatrist who saw my child once a month for a half-hour session, strictly for the purpose of prescribing the ever-changing array of cutting-edge psychiatric medications to my then six-year-old child.
2. A weekly support group for each of us in which we could separately share our experiences with peers in “similar situations”, and receive feedback and support (This was the BEST part of any services I’ve received thus far).
3. The installment of a “Wrap-Around Team” as a family maintenance tool; this was a cocktail of several community programs that involved having one or two social-work apprentices coming into our home at least three days weekly, for approximately four to five hours each time.
NOTE: The “wrap-around” team provided during this time consisted of the following revolving appearances by five different people; two of whom we had been assigned to upon beginning services through Eastfield Ming Quong, Families First AKA EMQ and/or EMQFF – the same entity as the residential treatment facility in which Boo was later sexually assaulted by a staff person.
As I proceeded to envelope myself within the realm of mental health advocacy for my only child, who struggled quite obviously with self-control and impulsivity issues, I found the process for special education and the acceptance of an I.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan) to be exceptionally daunting and near impossible to navigate.
The task of getting an Individualized Education Plan accepted and assigned swallowed up an entire year of time during my girl’s fourth grade school year. I am an intelligent human being who is well-spoken, written, and read; with prime communication skills and am very capable – and I was shocked at the realization that it is likely that parents of average or less-than-average intelligence would be completely unable to make his or her way through such a diabolical and detail-born administrative routine – to the detriment of his or her struggling child.
After the two entire school-year calendars that it cost out of my child’s once promising educational career, she was finally deemed eligible for the services of an I.E.P. by the middle school administration when she was eleven years old. By that time, her behavior and basic traits had developed into a calculating, manipulative, and unreliable adolescent.
Her behaviors at school were continuing to escalate to dramatic levels on a steady basis. The constant shame and embarrassment began to take over my own life, as well; in response to the unnecessary and excessive lying she did to her teachers and counselors about me and our home lifestyle. The tall tales and dramatically exaggerated dialogue became a regular hobby for her – because of the instantly gratifying reactions that she unfailingly received from telling them. Often times, the school officials would summon me to the school for emergency meetings and conferences because she had said some off-the-wall things again that were simply just too bad for them to ignore – the way that I like to believe they would of done if her crazy stories had held any truth.
It’s very difficult to try and describe to another human being – the spiritual and psychological tolls that become taken on the parent of any child who is similar to mine. As the survivor of a near-fatal marriage, the only thing that comes close to the circumstantial chaos of a battered woman’s mind state, in my experience, would undoubtedly be that of a diabolical, unruly and explosive child. Take that factor and add to it the fact that I am a single, low-income, rehabilitated heroin addict-mother who works full-time to try and get myself and child by from day to day – and the outcome of our story seems undoubtedly clear, in hindsight.
Of course, life usually goes that way for me if I’m going to be honest with myself…and that is surely part of the reason that I have become so frustrated and impatient with the entire world around me – because I can’t help but to harbor awareness, no matter how distant and vague it may be, that when all is said and done and I am burying my only child, I’ll look back on this all and be able to see the creases and wrinkles of the unfolding tragedy.
I vividly recall the day that I received a call at the tax firm where I work from my daughter’s sixth grade core teacher; he asked me permission to be frank – which I promptly granted him with my heart in my throat – before he sympathetically spoke again over the line.
“Listen Ms. X, I don’t know what you do for a living…it’s none of mine or anybody else’s concern or business, really…” his words came nervously yet his voice remained calm and his tone quite matter-of-factly. “…but Boo seems to have the compelling need to share things with class – along with the parent-aids who may happen to be there on a given day – that you are a stripper –“ he cleared his throat quickly twice; “…an erotic dancer or what not…” Silence on the line. “…whether you are or you aren’t a dancer, Ms. X, I just feel like you should be made aware of the talk on the playground these days; forgive me if I am out of line or inappropriate for calling – believe me, it’s quite embarrassing from this end to discuss with you –“, his voice trailed off to almost a whisper, “…keeping the lines of communication open, as you requested, that’s all…”.
Now, when it comes to psychological warfare, my daughter’s arsenal has been stacked like a WWII bunker since the approximate time she was old enough to begin to grasp such profoundly baffling concepts. Her disturbingly keen ability to manipulate both her own relationships, and the relationships between others became apparent and undeniable when she entered school. Seeing her interact with her peers in a consistently conniving manner also alarmed me deeply; her overbearing bossiness and passive-aggressive behavior began to etch quite the chameleon into her fundamental traits – those that would be with her all of her life; those that make her who she is.
A blatantly dangerous impulsivity began to surge through her veins, all of the time – day and night; being the root cause of the evil that her choices started leave her holding in her lap. Her self-absorbed nature began to define the proverbial spoiled brat without consequence; the enabled, obnoxious and snot-nosed Shit from next door. Adults and children alike avoided interaction with her; they grew wary of her constant stream of shocking and destructive actions. Accountability or anything remotely similar to it is an issue that continues to stand, untouched and unacknowledged by her to this very day. My daughter seems to have always been unable to pay consequences for her own decisions and the effect that her choices might have on those around her.
The DFCS, as the legally bound entity charged with her “care”, has inarguably enabled this characteristic in my daughter’s perpetual self-denial; and has done so to a sickening degree.
The County Department of Family & Children’s Services entered the picture when Boo was almost out of sixth grade, upon her second release from John Muir Children’s Psychiatric Hospital within two weeks’ time. She had returned the second time for physically attacking my mother during one of her regular tantrums for not getting her way about something; only this time, she followed up by opting to kick her grandma in a healing surgical wound only several days post-op. I was at my wit’s second end by that point, and had exhausted any and all of the public resources available in the area of trying to find a working solution to the out-of-control behaviors of my child. My options ran out and I was forced, through the pits of desperation, to involve social services – as much for my own sake as for my daughter’s by that point in time.
I remember having days in which I would feel something very close to disdain for my only child because of her embarrassing, encompassing and incorrigible ways; I had many days spent thinking about how much better things may have been had I not given birth to this extremely defiant, highly unlikeable little creature and shit away so many thankless years in trying to correct her incredibly incorrect behaviors.
Life as a mother, for me – was pretty much a constant three-ring circus in Hell’s ghetto during the summertime: nowhere to cool off and wild, angry animals trying to bite your face off with every turn.
Once she had been court-ordered to residential “treatment” by the local juvenile court system, I actually felt like there was some substantial hope of a better future relationship between the two of us. Unfortunately, the way in which the courts are designed is severely flawed and perverse in its ability to safeguard parents such as myself: parents who were not the underlying purpose for the court’s involvement with the family.
This was where things first part of our case went awry, as a result of the incompetence associated with the shadiness of state and local child protection laws. I was unknowingly labeled incorrectly way back then, by those involved with the course of me and my child’s future, and never given a second thought after that point in regard such a mislabeling of my character and priorities.