Friday, January 20, 2012

The Frustrations with the System

We are still reeling from our recent conversation with a former county employee.  This conversation was not the first one we've had with people.  During our protracted legal fight, an insider flat-out told us the central issue was discrimination.  We've had three other professionals, who were also involved in the case, tell us the exact same thing.

No, I'm not making things up, or drumming up conspiracy theories because I'm a dissatisfied customer.  This is real.  It happened.  What makes the situation all the more disgusting is that our county has decided to throw a kid under the proverbial bus because they want to prove a narrow-minded, bigoted point.

What made this most recent conversation so shocking was that it didn't just confirm what we already knew.  It included details, names, what was done, and what was said.

Could we use this to take legal action? Probably.

The real question is, "Do we want to?"

It's very easy to say, "Go sue those bastards."

It's another thing to actually do it.

Civil rights lawsuits are rarely easy.  They take a lot of time and a lot of money.  When we were still in the middle of our custody fight, we used the interesting coincidence of the six degrees of separation, to speak with a lawyer who works with a well-known civil rights attorney.  We were told it wasn't a question of whether or not we had a case, as we clearly did.  It was really about whether or not we had the mettle to spend the next ten years tied up in court.

After spending time fighting over what was, in the global scheme of things, a small issue, I don't think that we are the ones to carry the banner for a civil rights lawsuit.  The time we spent fighting was emotionally, physically, and financially draining, and I can't imagine spending the next decade of my life tied up in court.

Does the issue matter?  Yes, it does.  Does our county exhibit a pattern of conduct that discriminates against GLBT families and single parents?  Yes, they do.  Are we the ones to challenge those policies and practices?  No, we aren't.

At some point we may very well name names and go public with what has happened to us.  But now is not that time.  Now is the time to try to get our kid the services and help that she needs.

Frankly, I am not sure that it will  happen, because there are several problems with the system.  After what we were told, it's clear that the people in the position to help are deliberately minimizing the problems our child is having and ignoring our requests for help.  They claim that all of this is because of money, but the reality is, budget or no, this adoption was a contract.  We agreed to take care of a child, and in consideration for that, the county was to provide certain things.  Whether or not you agree with the idea of adoption assistance programs, the fact is that our county agreed to provide it.

They are trying to renege on a contract, and that's not cool.  Their discriminatory reasons behind it, and their desire to see us fail, is unconscionable.

But it's not just the powers-that-be who are responsible.  There's a lot of buck-passing that goes on between agencies.  We call law enforcement, and they say it's a mental health issue.  We call mental health, and they say it's a law enforcement issue.  We are told to contact agency x, only to have them tell us to contact agency y, who in turn tell us that they can't help us and we should go back to agency x, as it's really their department.


At the end of all of this, we have a violent child who the police won't arrest, the mental health people won't help, the probation office won't supervise, and the doctor won't appropriately medicate.  This is a problem.  In the meantime, our property is damaged, and no one is safe.

In fairness, I also think that there is some ego getting in the way of things, too.  On the medical front, Danielle's pediatrician denied us access to a psychiatrist, saying that she would agree to provide medication.  After she made that decision, believing that she knew best for her patient, she refused to prescribe anything.  It wasn't until Danielle exploded while away at respite (and staying with a well-respected family) that the doctor finally whipped out her pad.  Danielle has been on a low dose of a popular (and inexpensive) anti-depressant for about five months now, and it hasn't solved the problem.

We've asked the pediatrician to reconsider Danielle's medication, and each time we've done so, her reply has been, "No change in medication is warranted at this time."

Really?  When a kid explodes and threatens her parents with weapons, a change in medication isn't warranted?

After Danielle's most recent explosion, we have sent a formal, written request to the pediatrician, people in mental health services and the school asking that our child be referred to a psychiatrist.

We'll see where this goes.

The real shame here is that our county, in denying the help this kid desperately needs, isn't really hurting us.  Sure, we are getting beat up and threatened by an out-of-control kid, and it is dangerous, but in a couple of years, she'll turn 18.  If she's still violent, we will put her out of the house.  As terrible as it sounds, we don't owe our daughter a living once she's an adult, especially if she is abusing us.  So it's not us who are really affected.  Sure our lives are miserable and frustrating now, but it's the kid who is really going to suffer.  She's the one who pays, because the county isn't stepping up to their obligations.  She's the one with mental illness who won't be qualified to receive supportive services as an adult, because she hasn't been qualified for county programs as a juvenile.

We adopted this kid with the understanding that we were to receive assistance.  Come on, county, keep your promises!

Although I have felt for a long time that Danielle's repeated physical violence makes this situation untenable, now that she has twice threatened us with weapons, this goes far beyond that.  We have an appointment with an attorney soon to discuss our immediate options, and we'll see where it goes from there.

Some of my Internet critics have said that Danielle's behavior is our fault, and blame her explosions on us.  Let's suppose for the moment that they are right, even though I absolutely disagree.  Let's just say for the sake of argument that we are the worst parents in the world.  Even if that were true, the child still needs help.  She is unwilling to control her anger, and responds to normal daily life frustrations with rages.  We aren't the ones forcing weapons into her hands.  In both cases where's she's made threats, we were in a different room when she chose to arm herself.  Both times she went into another part of the house, found something she felt would be an adequate weapon, and then sought out a confrontation.

(And yes, we've since locked up things like knives and scissors, but I don't believe it puts a definitive end to the threat.)

Yes, we absolutely signed up to parent a tough kid, but we didn't sign up to be physically abused by one.  Now that we've twice crossed the threshold into threats involving weapons, it's time for something to change.  Danielle's pattern of violence started years ago, first with threats of hitting, and then eventually following through.  I have no doubt in my mind, since she's threatening harm with weapons, that she will eventually use a weapon to hurt someone.

I didn't sign up to be murdered at the hands of my child.


  1. How could the county influence your doctor's willingness to prescribe meds and/or refer to a psychiatrist? Medicaid is a federal program that's administered by the state in my area. We can also self refer to psychiatrists.

    At this point, if I were you, I'd look into private healthcare options while there's still time to get her help, you can do nothing once she's 18 unless she cooperates.

  2. I can understand your unwillingness to be engaged in what certainly would be a long and painful legal process but I think there might be one factor you haven't considered. There are undoubtedly other families in your area who would be fine foster and adoptive parents for children in need of homes, who are not part of the system for fear of the kind of crap you have put up with. If nothing is done to change the system then the kids are the one who suffer. Is it possible that there is some sort of advocacy group that would assume the costs of a lawsuit? If nothing else, would some progress be made if you went public? I'd be happy to make a small contribution to a legal fund.


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