> No More Secrets And Lies: October 2012

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.