> No More Secrets And Lies: 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Connecting the Dots

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Whenever a new history is written, the old histories all have to be thrown out. Robbing people of their actual history is the same as robbing them of part of themselves. It's crime!
                             — From 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami


Denial

The girls now had to accept this new way of life as the norm. They had to learn it was best (and safer) not to question what they were being told about their father. Lies could no longer be challenged and secrets had to remain hidden. They were now forced to forget what they had previously known about me and had to start living a life in denial.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

PART 4: A WHOLE NEW WORLD

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Josie, Mary, and Grace














Our lives had changed — both the girls' and mine — and for the first time ever we were separated from each other, living separate lives in separate homes as separate families. And now it looked like this was going to be permanent. It was as if we had never been a family or never shared a past.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I Lose My Job and I Lose Mary - August 2010

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     At first it was autumn; there were red and yellow leaves for Betsy and Tacy to scuffle underfoot. Then the leaves were brown, then they were blown away; that was in the gray time named November. Then came the exciting first snow, and this was followed by more snow and more. At last the drifts rising beside the sidewalk were higher than their heads.
— From Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace    

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mary's Unexplained Changes - July 2010

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During the winter of 2010, Mary's friend, Ann, moved in with us. Ann was a girl about Mary's age who had been sleeping in her car because her parents had kicked her out of their house. Mary asked me if she could stay with us, and I told her it was okay until she found a place of her own. We had a small apartment.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The State Threatens Me

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It was getting closer and closer to the day I was going to be fired from my job. I had been a security counselor at the Regional Treatment Center in St. Peter for over five years and I knew this was coming to an end. I was being targeted by my boss. I was being fired. And just in case I didn't know this, my co-workers made sure I did. They had seen this too many times at the State Hospital to not know what it looked like. And in my case, I don't even think my boss was trying to hide it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mary's One-Year Anniversary! - March 17, 2010

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Things were improving — six months, seven months, ten months at home with no major problems, Mary was now looking forward to making it to the one-year mark as well. For so long I thought this would never happen, and now it looked as though I may have saved this girl from what could have been a lifetime lost in institutions, or even worse, as a runaway.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mary Makes Money

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A few months later I got Social Security Income for Mary. The two of us went down to the Social Security office in Mankato and brought all the documents we thought we would need for Mary to qualify. The worker at the office looked through all of Mary's information, even her neuropsych evaluation, but the clincher was when she saw the list of group homes she had been through. That was all she needed; she didn't need to see anything else. And within two weeks, Mary qualified for Social Security Income. I was surprised by this because I had been told getting this would involve a long process and could take up to a year or more.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Six Months At Home! - Sept 17, 2009

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After making it to the two-month mark with no major problems, Mary now set her sites on six months. Her self-confidence was improving each day, and the longer she was away from the group home experience, the more she was regaining her ability to trust people again. She'd still call me at work with concerns about homework or to just chat, but she was calling me less and less as time went on. She was also growing more confident each day that no one was going to take her away, abandon her, or try to separate her from me. It was still a struggle to get her to do her chores and homework, however, but she wasn't getting into trouble, and that was huge.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mary and Her Cat

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Mary and Her Cat


















Things were going better for Mary than they had in years even though usual problems associated with school still existed. She was still having problems getting up on time for her classes and getting her school work done. And after too many absences and getting too far behind in her classes, she had to leave this school as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Grace's Changing Schedule

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My Journal — February 4, 2009

Tonight Grace and I went looking at glasses. She's going to be getting some soon. We looked here, there, four stores maybe, trying red and purple ones on in mirrors. Ladies helping that work there.

Then we tromped to the back of Sears in the mall to find the eyeglass store. Found patio furniture first. We relax and pretend we're in our mansion.. and would you like to join me for some tea she says.. and I act the part and say, well certainly....

Then up and sitting at a bar, she on one side, me on the other, I order a drink from her. She pretends to make it, but we don't know the names of many drinks… so she says a martini, and I say dry, yes…and she says how can a drink be dry.. and I say two olives please and act like it's been a long day.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Do You Still Love Me?

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I was working nights at the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center and my job was becoming more and more stressful each day. My job duties hadn't changed, and how I performed them hadn't changed. What had changed was the day-by-day difficulty I was having just keeping my job. I was being targeted — something that had started about two years earlier, about the time Mary was in Forest Ridgeand it was only getting worse. Every few months I would get one more crazy reprimand or unpaid suspension for either being a few minutes late to work, not bringing a doctors note back from the emergency room (where Mary had been taken), or for whatever reason my supervisor could think of.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Goodbye Social Services

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At the next meeting with Mary's social worker and her mom, I told them I was going to raise Mary by myself, and I told the social worker that Mary's mom was okay with this, and, in fact, wanted me to. Karen affirmed this to be the case, and the social worker then made a note of this in her file. I also told them that Mary and I had talked and had decided that she wouldn't be going to a foster home anymore, and would instead stay home with me. I asked them if they were okay with this and they both said they were. I told them I would raise Mary on my own, but would like it if her mother would help out from time to time because this was going to be big task for one person. I told them Karen could (and should) visit Mary often, and that I would keep her up-to-date on how Mary was doing, like we had done with all our girls. I wanted to make sure she still intended to include Mary in her life.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Goodbye Foster Homes

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Mary stayed only at my home, even though the understanding was that she would stay at both parents' homes and abide by the week-by-week schedule her mother and I had been on for years. But after that first week, when it was time for her to go over to her mom's house, she refused. And even though I emphasized that this would only work if she followed our parenting schedule, she said she couldn't live with her mom and didn't think her mom wanted her to live with her. I called her mom and told her I was having difficulty getting Mary to go over to her house, expecting to have a long discussion about this, but she said that was fine. She wanted Mary to stay with me. And for the first time, maybe ever, we didn't have our usual "discussion" about our parenting schedule, and I was surprised as to why this was.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Settling Back In – March 2009

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Mary and Dad working at the SMILES Annual Picnic






















In March of 2009 Mary came home with me. Corrections had dropped her case, which meant the County no longer had any say in her life, and her team had dissolved as well. We were out of their hands, and they were out of our lives. It was now just Mary, me, her mom, and for a while yet, Mary's social worker. And even though we had no reason to have to work with the County any longer, Mary's mother still wanted to work with the social worker, and so I would occasionally meet with the two of them to talk about Mary.

Monday, October 29, 2012

PART 3: MARY LIVES WITH DAD

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                                 Lincoln School from the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace

    They went down Hill Street to the vacant lot. It was knee deep with goldenrod and asters. It would have been fun to stop and play there, if they hadn't been going to school. But they cut through by a little path and came out on Pleasant Street.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mary Comes Home with Dad

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Mary came home with me that day and lived with me for the next year and a half. She did extremely well and was very proud of herself. It was the longest she had stayed in one place in over two years. She was finally home. Her behavior improved immensely, and she went to school like a normal teenager and she hung out with her friends like a normal teenager. And she wasn't getting into trouble anymore. I was extremely happy to have her home and away from the County.

Mary's Final Court Hearing – March 17, 2009

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A little over a week later we held court again. On March 17th at 11:00 am, the whole team met in the courtroom for one of Mary's review hearings. This would be one of the last hearings held in the beautiful old court house in the older part of Mankato. It would also be Mary's last hearing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The County Threatens Me

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On March 6th, 2009 at 10:00 am we held our last team meeting. We met at the Social Services office to discuss the prospect of placing Mary in the foster home in Fergus Falls. The whole team attended this meeting except for Mary's lawyer who had a schedule conflict.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Voice at the End of a Phone Line

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My Journal — February 20, 2009

Mary was in court today. When I sat with her alone in the little room we talked heart to heart. Not like the social workers do. And Mary came through and cried because she didn't know what the hell was going on in her life..

Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting the Neuropsych

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On December 29th Mary had her neuropsychological evaluation. Her social worker picked her up in Grand Rapids and drove her to Sauk Rapids to get evaluated by Dr. Tim Tinius. I had been reading about neuropsychological evaluations and had talked to a number of psychologists from the Mankato area about how these were conducted. Most of them told me these tests can take anywhere from three to four hours, are comprised of a number of individual tests, and are often spread out over a few days. Usually the parents meet separately with the psychologist to provide a history of their child in order to rule out things like birth defects and the like. None of the psychologists I talked with said they could perform a neuropsych examination in one hour, and certainly none of them mentioned anything about parental assessments being any part of a child's neuropsychological evaluation. Yet, Mary's exam lasted about an hour, the parents were never consulted (at least not me), and most of the test results were devoted to a parental assessment.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Visiting Mary at North Homes

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As Christmas 2008 neared, the County offered to reimburse Karen and me for our mileage to Grand Rapids to visit Mary — a 500 mile round trip. This was the first time they had offered us something like this, and although a nice gesture on their part, I thought it was odd that they felt they had to create a work-around to a problem that could have been avoided if they had placed Mary closer to her home in the first place, like she and I had asked them to do.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Monitored Phone Calls

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A week or so later Mary's corrections officer, social worker, and guardian ad litem all hopped in a car and drove all the way up to North Homes to visit Mary. They always traveled together, and it made me wonder how the GAL maintained any degree of objectivity regarding Mary's case, or regarding me, after spending so much time with people who had anything but objectivity about Mary's case, or about me. Of course, he didn't pretend to be objective so I guess that wasn't a problem. But maybe I was just a little envious, since he had spent only about 20 minutes, at best, talking to me, and was now on a ten-hour ride to North Homes with Mary's workers — people who automatically rejected every idea I had regarding what I thought was best for my daughter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mary's Missing Meds

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Once Mary was back at North Homes I called her almost every day. The staff got to know me well and we would talk while we waited for Mary to come to the phone. Sometimes Mary would call me. And one night after she had been at North Homes for about a week, she called to tell me she wasn't feeling well and wondered if it could be due to her medications. I asked her what she meant by this, and she told me she hadn't taken her meds since she'd arrived at North Homes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

There is Something about Mary

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Despite our efforts to convince Mary's workers to get her the neuropsych evaluation Forest Ridge had recommended, Mary's lawyer and I were running into a brick wall. Her corrections officer and social worker simply refused to do this for her even though we felt she needed this more than anything at this point in her journey to nowhere. In order to get this done for Mary, her lawyer had to hold another court hearing and convince the judge to order her workers to schedule a neuropsych appointment for her. The discussion amongst the team then turned to trying to decide where Mary should, not only get her evaluation, but where she should wait until she could get her evaluation.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mary is Abused at Elmore – October 5, 2008

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During one of my visits to Mary while she was at Elmore, she started telling me how the staff were treating her. She said they restrained her a number of times, and on one occasion, held her down for almost an hour. She said four or five big staff persons grabbed her, pushed her to the floor, and sat on her until she wet herself. It was so traumatic she wet herself! Think about that! She also said that one time they punished her by making her stand in the corner of a room facing the wall with her arms held straight out to her sides. She had to do this for long periods of time, and if she let her arms drop, they would make her start this punishment all over. I was furious when I found out about this. Why did Mary have to tell me this? Where were her social workers? Where was her corrections officer? Where were the people that put her in this place and who were supposedly watching out for her safety? Why weren't they checking on her while she was in a place they told us had a history of abusing kids? Why weren't they checking on a child who had a history of being abused, a child who was placed in a group home primarily so she wouldn't be abused? I was furious.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Elmore Kid-Jail – September 2008

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It wasn't long before Mary got kicked out of Forest Ridge too.

She was only there about two months, but like her other placements, her behavior was more than the staff could handle and required too many of their resources. Mary definitely was not getting better. Things were getting worse for her and it was tragic. This was the opposite of what we had expected for her when we had placed her over a year earlier, and it was the opposite of what we had been promised. This crazy merry-go-round of group homes she was on was not stopping, and I couldn't see that anything was being done to stop it or to help her. All that was being done, it seemed, was to stop any of my efforts to help her. And so Mary was now placed back in Elmore — the extremely punitive kid jail that had a history of abusing children — so she could wait, while the rest of us... well… we had another meeting.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I Call an Ombudsman

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Next I called an ombudsman and told her about Mary's case. She also seemed concerned and wanted to talk to Mary's mother before she would recommend anything. I gave her Karen's phone number (Mary's mother) and waited a couple of days for her to call me back. When I didn't hear back, I called her and asked her if she had contacted Karen and what she had decided to do about Mary's case. She said she had contacted her, but had now changed her mind and didn't think it was important to do anything at this point. She thought it would be best if she just left Mary's case alone. I asked her why she had changed her mind and she said something like, "I just don't think it's a good idea to get involved in your daughter's case at this time." She was vague about her reasons.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Round Robin Reprimands — September 17, 2008

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Besides being upset with me, Mary's workers were becoming more and more upset with her and blamed most of the problems she was having on her. They would often reprimand her when she came to the court house for her 60-day hearings. I hated this. Not that I didn't think Mary was partially responsible for the problems she was experiencing. She was. But then we all bore some responsibility for this placement gone terribly wrong, and I hated that no one would admit this. None of us were free from blame for what was happening to her, but her workers continued to blame her (or me) and took no responsibility themselves for the mess she was in. I hate it when we blame children for everything. Part of their behavior is due to our behavior — a lot of it actually — and we can't expect them to take responsibility for their actions if we don't model this by taking responsibility for ours.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Call My State Representative and DHS

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I contacted my state representative and told her about Mary's plight. She listened to everything I had to say and seemed very concerned. She told me she would mention my concerns to her colleagues at the State Capital and then get back to me. I called her a week later and she told me she had talked to her colleagues and their advice for me was to get a lawyer, or file a report with a state agency. This was frustrating because, not only did I think calling her was reporting to a state agency, but also because I thought she would do something herself, especially since it seemed like what Mary was going through constituted abuse, and I thought state representatives were mandated reporters.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Doctor Joel Oberstar

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A social worker at the State Hospital where I worked had been to the Minnesota State Social Workers conference and was telling me about the keynote speaker — Dr. Joel Oberstar. He said this guy has done amazing things with children at The University of Minnesota, and he told me I should consider contacting him to see if he could help Mary.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Discharge Plan – August 2008

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In late August of 2008 I received a copy of Mary's Forest Ridge discharge plan in the mail, and I was surprised to discover there had been some talk about discharging her. I didn't know anything about this. There hadn't been any discharge plans from the other group homes at this point — at least none that I was aware of. I was even more surprised when I found out that her discharge plan was for her to go to her mom's house and not to my house. This is what the plan said — that she was not to go to her father's house when she came home. I couldn't believe this and first wondered if it might be a mistake. I immediately called Forest Ridge and talked to the director, Chad, and asked him why this was in Mary's discharge plan and who had put it there. He told me Mary's corrections officer and social worker had told him this was their plan for Mary because they said Mary's problems were caused by the tension between her parents and that "Mary played her parents against each other." He said their solution was to have Mary live only with her mother.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Forest Ridge — July 2008

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Forest Ridge Youth Services, in Estherville, Iowa was one of best group homes Mary was placed in and I always wondered why she hadn't been placed there sooner. It was an attractive place where the kids lived in little cottages on a lake a few miles outside of the town. From there they would be bused each day to their school which was closer to town. And even though Mary was now in Iowa, she was much closer to home than when she was at North Homes in Grand Rapids, Minnesota; and because of this, I was able to visit her more often.

Friday, September 28, 2012

North Homes 35-Day Assessment

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After spending four days at the New Ulm Detention Center, Mary's corrections officer next placed her in a group home in Northern Minnesota — North Homes, in Grand Rapids, close to the Canadian border. The County seemed to like North Homes. They also seemed to like places that were far away. North Homes seemed like a pretty good place for Mary even though it was roughly five hours from her home. Mary liked the staff at this place and they liked her. She was at North Homes for about two months for her 35-day assessment.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Woodland Hills Four-Day Debacle

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Mary kept moving from one group home to the next, and after a year into her placement, with 13 moves already, she still hadn't had an assessment — at least one we could use to help place her. During one of her 60-day-review court hearings, her lawyer brought this up and told the judge Mary needed to be evaluated thoroughly so we could start making more informed decisions about her placements rather than random ones like it seemed we were doing. She pointed out how this could most likely prevent her from being moved so often.

A Revealing Meeting

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Mary's social worker and corrections officer asked Mary's mother and me to meet them at their office to talk about a new group home they were considering for Mary. But before we got to any discussion about a new group home, I wanted to talk about some obvious problems with Mary's placements. I mentioned how frustrating it was for her to have to move every couple of months and how frustrated I was that she still hadn't had any therapy — especially therapy to help her deal with her sexual assault. I was worried about Mary and I had good reason to be.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

First and Last Foster Home – March 2008

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By now I had become more vocal and more and more concerned that her workers weren't able to care for her. She had been moved ten times in the previous twelve months, and it was beginning to look like her placements were made with little or no effort to match the group home she was placed in with the behaviors she was exhibiting. These behaviors tended to largely be an inability on her part to adapt to the social policies of the places she was in — something that was difficult for us to understand at the time, but which would make more sense later on. I suggested we get her assessed and use the results of her assessment to place her in a home that was suited to her needs — something that hadn't been done yet, or so it seemed. Mary's previous placement at Prairie Lakes, while the longest of her placements, lasted only four months, and by March of 2008 she was moved again — this time to a foster home in Janesville.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First Signs of Trouble – October 2007

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Both her mom and I were concerned after her second move in less than three months. It wasn't clear if her workers were. By the end of her first year she had moved in and out of a detention center in New Ulm three different times, to a group home in Owatonna, to one in Hutchinson, to a girls ranch near Benson, to another detention center in Willmar, back to the detention center in New Ulm, and finally to a big kid-jail in Willmar — the Prairie Lakes Youth Program.

Monday, September 24, 2012

PART 2: MARY AND THE GROUP HOMES

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The Decision to Place Mary

 


My ex-wife and I have a daughter who has had severe behavior problems all her life. We now know that this was mostly due to her being born with white matter damage to the right hemisphere of her brain, but we didn't know this until she was sixteen years old. We never knew why Mary's life had been so difficult for her, but we were fairly certain that a five-year old who bites her dentist and demands to be "bossy" all day on her sixth birthday was going to be a handful during her teen years. And we were right.

Mary is a great girl and is very intelligent. She was always the top reader in her elementary school and has always performed above average in nearly all her school classes. But she's also had unmanageable behavioral problems. In addition to this, she's the middle child in a family with both a younger and an older sister who seemed to sail through life easily with few behavioral problems to speak of. Living in the shadows of her sisters didn't make life any easier for Mary and was most likely an on-going reminder that something was wrong with her.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Tornado in Our Lives

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Too much was going on — too much too fast. A tornado had swept through our lives not unlike a real Midwestern tornado taking with it our home, our car, my job, my children — even my mother. I had to wonder why all these things had happened at the same time, or if any of them were connected. It was hard to believe I had lost both my daughter and my job and harder yet to believe I had lost them both at the same time. I was pretty sure my girls were being manipulated or threatened, and I had a feeling my supervisor, my union, and even the girls' mother was as well.

I Lose Grace Too

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This might have been the last time Grace would allow herself to notice just how crazy and extreme things had become — maybe the last time she would see all this craziness for what it truly was. It was becoming more and more troubling for her to hold two opposing views of her father: the father she knew and loved, and the father that was now being created for her — a person she was supposed to despise. Trying to reconcile opposing images like these, especially of a parent, is too much for any child to have to deal with, and I believe it's what caused her to break down that day and cry — this, and the trouble she knew she would get in if she didn't go along with others' views of me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Josie and the Dogs

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Josie and Cocoa

My oldest daughter, Josie, was home from Eugene and was splitting her vacation time between her mom's house and mine, like she usually does when she's home. Unlike her sisters, she hadn't succumbed to her mom's attempts to brainwash her against me. She has never tolerated talk like this, and this hasn't been easy for her. Being stronger than her sisters in this way is possibly why she was able to resist this; or maybe resisting it all those years is what made her strong. Either way, she's always had a strong truth-sense about her, and this hallmark of her personality has gotten her through many trying times. She relates to the world authentically and expects others to do the same, and any absence of this in others raises a red flag for her. She doesn't follow others blindly nor expect others to do the same. (Her blog tells this better than I can.) This quality has not only gained her the trust of many people throughout her life, but has kept her safe as well, and it seemed to come in handy during this Christmas season.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Really Bad Bad-mouthing

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A few days later, on New Year's Eve, Josie and Grace came over to my apartment to tell me they were frightened by some things they heard their mom saying to Mary about me — bad-mouthing — but now seemingly worse than ever. They used the word "continuously." They were alarmed by what they had witnessed: their mother and their aunt talking openly about me and some money I would be getting, or something like this. They wondered why adults would be talking about these things openly, in front of them.

"Dad, they said you shouldn't be getting this money. Why would that matter to them? Why would they be talking about this?"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Social Services' Secrets

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When I arrived at the Social Services office, I told the receptionist who I was and that I wished to speak with my daughter's social worker, and that's about as far as I got.

Crazy Christmas

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By Christmas of that year, my daughter Grace seemed to be following Mary's example and was starting to withdraw from me as well. Like with Mary, I had always had a very close relationship with Grace. And also like with Mary, I was never told why my relationship with Grace was now ending. She had stopped coming over to my house altogether and was now staying at her mom's house exclusively. We still talked on the phone, occasionally, and she would talk to me if I walked over to her mom's house to see her. But she was returning fewer and fewer of my calls and making less and less time available to be with me. But even worse, she would no longer hug me or tell me she loved me and I didn't know why.


I Lose My Mother

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A few months later, on November 17th of that year, my mother died in a nursing home in Florida. According to her autopsy the cause of her death was "blunt head trauma." She was beaten numerous times in the chest and head while lying in her bed in the nursing home. The staff said she fell on the floor. I have never believed this.

She had been married to a man she met about eight years earlier, over the Internet, and throughout their strained marriage he had convinced her to turn against nearly everything she had formerly cherished: her children, her grandchildren, her sister, her religion, her political party, even her first husband — our dad. We could never understand why she suddenly wanted nothing to do with her family photo albums or why she returned her grandchildren's pictures, but we had an idea. As it turned out, her husband was a manipulative and abusive man who, I believe, poisoned her against her family.

I Lose Mary

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I didn't quit, and something did happen to my daughter. For the first time in years my daughter, Mary, had not been in a group home or in a foster home. From 2007 to 2009, while in out-of-home placement through our County, she had been moved over twenty times and had unspeakable things done to her. That is, until I got her out and brought her home.


I Lose My Job

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I was 56 years old at the time, and divorced with three daughters: Josie, who was 20 years-old was living in Oregon; Mary, at 17, was living with me; and Grace, who was 15, was living with me and her mother according to our parenting schedule. Most of my adult life I had worked with children in one capacity or another. I'd been a child protection social worker, a junior high and high school teacher, a counselor with at-risk kids, and a consultant for children and adults with disabilities. I had undergraduate degrees in English and psychology, and I had taught freshman writing classes as a graduate student prior to getting married. For the past five years I had worked as a behavioral analyst and security counselor at a state-run treatment center for the mentally ill.


PART 1: MADMAN DAYS

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I'm not going to tell you my…whole autobiography or anything. I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy. 
 
Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger


In early 2011 I found myself once again sitting in a therapist's office trying to explain all the crazy stuff that had happened to me and my family during the previous four months. From August of 2010 to Christmas of that year I had lost my job, my 17-year old daughter, and my mother, all for reasons I still don't fully understand. I was wrongfully fired from my job, my daughter suddenly started hating me, and my mother was beaten to death in a nursing home in Florida.