Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Walking in Circles

In just a bit more than 18 months, Danielle will become a legal adult.

In a year and a half, she is going to need to have a job, money saved up, and be ready to move into her own place.

She isn't going to be ready.  We know that.  I think, perhaps, on some level she even knows that, though she doesn't want to face that reality.  In her mind, she's going to turn 18, and suddenly, magically, have a great job, all the money and skills that she needs, and she'll be able to move out and live a successful, middle-class lifestyle.

It ain't gonna happen.

Danielle isn't going to be ready to live life on her own, but it has become abundantly clear to all of us that she isn't going to be able to stay here, either. 

We don't want to simply drive her to the local homeless shelter on her 18th birthday and drop her off.  Sure, it is an option, but it's certainly not a desirable one.  It's not the outcome we would choose for our kid if some other workable solution exists.  There has to be some kind of social service safety net for mentally ill youth to fall back on.

I have been told by several people, both online and in real life, that there are supposed to be transitional services for mentally ill youth.  Over the past few weeks, I've been making phone calls, but I feel like I am a hamster running on a wheel.  I call Agency A, who tells me to call Agency B.  I speak to a nice someone at Agency B, who tells me to go talk to the people at Agency A.  When I explain that I've already done that, then I'm told to go back and talk to the nice people at the county, because Adoptions Assistance surely ought to pay for something.

We've already talked to them, too.  When we spoke to them, we were given the basic message,  you adopted her, now she's your problem.

I feel like I am walking in circles, and going absolutely nowhere.

Today I spoke to a helpful person at an agency who said, "you just need to know what your rights are."  He suggested that if I just spoke to the right person, the gates would be unlocked and our kid would receive a ton of help.

It's all very well and good to say this, but he couldn't give me the name of the person I should talk to.

"Just go talk to someone in Adoptions Assistance," he advised.

He didn't seem to understand that there isn't "someone in Adoptions Assistance" to call.  This person doesn't exist, and in the past when we've called our former adoptions worker, she's been no help.

"I'm sorry, I can't help you," we were told.  She had no suggestions of where to go next with our troubles, either.

I found several agencies who, at least according to their Web sites, are supposed to help provide services to mentally ill youth.  Yet I have found, when I call them, that they don't return calls promptly, and even when they do they have no help for me, other than instructions to call the next agency.


Another Helpful Person told me something discouraging.  "Even if you get all these services set up for your daughter," she explained, "being that she will be a legal adult she'll have the choice of opting out."

So does that mean I should stop trying to find my kid help?  I know that if she gets into a transitional program, she'll no doubt have a hard time following the rules.  Will she even be willing to try?

I don't know.

I just keep making phone calls, knowing that my child will turn 18 long before she'll be ready to receive her high school diploma.  I keep calling people, hoping that we'll find the right gatekeeper to get our kid into some sort of vocational and independent living skills program so she might have a chance at a job and a self-sufficient lifestyle.

I keep calling, but I keep getting nowhere.


  1. I work in social services and I am always dumbfounded by the ridiculous labyrinth that people have to walk through to access help. These processes are generally so confusing and frustrating that the people who need to access them the most (like Danielle) could never even begin without someone else doing all the heavy lifting ( at the very least she should qualify for a case manager - or a wait list for a case manager so you don't end up doing it all). I'm not sure how your states systems are set up but I do know in our state that transitional housing does exist and people appear to be actually living there so there has to be a way to actually access it - albeit convoluted and complicated. I also have a sibling with a head injury who had to access housing and supportive services. He did turn down most of what was offered to him in the beginning, right after high-school, when he still thought everything would somehow fall into place, it didn't. He wasn't adopted (not that that is the issue here) - but also was very hostile toward my parents and could not stay home - kind of like a really delayed adolescence in an adult body. He is now in his thirties and didn't really engage in what we were trying to lead him to until his late twenties. It was painful and scary to watch him out there on his own. Having adult children with major cognitive and mental health issues is really profoundly heart wrenching but in the end the ironclad boundaries we had with him are what allowed him to get into the stable & supported program he is in now. He was completely unwilling to take any direction from us as his family but was able to follow that same direction from a case manager. Good Luck I hope you find a knowledgeable and kind social service worker soon that can help.

  2. I know it is really painful, but it is awesome that you are making all these calls for Danielle. KEEP IT UP!!! Eventually something will come through. I am VERY thankful that you can see the importantce of finding some resources now instead of later. She really should be part of a transitional release - so it is awesome that you are doing everything you can to make sure that this happens.

    As a worker I do want to offer this advice: I am human. If someone is trying to bully me or is confrontational or has an attitude they sometimes become less of a priority for me. If someone is genuinely asking for help, and is 'easier to work with' I will totally go to bat for that person. If someone is pleasant I will go above and beyond to see that they get not only the resource they asked about, but also any other resources they could possible qualify for.

    (I am not saying that I did not do my job for the difficult person, I absolutely still did the job for them. I just would not usually go above and beyond, or work on my own time, or network looking for additional resources...)

  3. Have you considered applying for Social Security disability for mental issues that Danielle has? Parents can apply for disability for children. Both of my nephews are autistic and their parents have received disability for both of them since before either ever even started school. It would give Danielle a means of income if she truly is not able to hold down a job. Another suggestion would be contacting a group that helps one-on-one with job coaches for those who need supervision while still learning how to work out in the public arena. There is another autistic woman who attends my church who has a job coach who helps her during her work shifts at Taco bell and cleaning some motel rooms. It's not just for autism; job coaches are for anyone who has something that prevents them from being able to work without constant supervision. there probably is a job coach place in your area somewhere.

    I have been on disability for rheumatoid arthritis and Complex-PTSD for years and while I'm not able to work a full-time or even part-time job (due mostly to crippling deformities and a suppressed immune system thanks to the RA), I do perform volunteer work on a weekly basis at a local school. I'll never live a middle-class life but I am able to afford to live on my own thanks to income-based government housing and assistance. No it's not the way I'd prefer to live but it greatly beats living at home with my parents until they die. Disability does not even come close to being able to pay full rent on any decent apartment (decent as in not in the slums with drug lords and trash everywhere) but thanks to income-based housing and food stamps, I am able to have my own place, at an affordable price for me, in a good neighborhood, and not go hungry. Granted, Danielle will not be able to apply for income-based housing until her 18th birthday, and here there's a 12 month waiting period on the process, but you can get her started on applying for disability right now. You could put that money in a savings for her and use it to help her in getting a place for the first year after she turns 18 while she's waiting for her name to come up on the list for income-based housing. With what you have described of Danielle's mental issues, I'm pretty sure she would qualify for disability on those grounds.

    Also, if you believe she'd never be able to live alone anywhere, there are assisted living places for the disabled where they have some privacy and feel of independence by having a small one-bedroom apartment but with help close by and round the clock. Just some suggestions you might want to try to do some research on. I have no memory of ever hearing you trying to apply for disability for her or checking into income-based programs or assisted living so I was assuming these ideas may or may not of ever crossed your minds and I'm just trying to help because with only 18 months left to go, NOW would be the prime time to start the process of just what is available and starting the application process for her disability income. Please also consider checking into any job coaching organizations. Job coaches go with the person to their jobs and supervise them working every minute of their shift.

  4. My kids may have similar issues to Danielle (RAD, bipolar, cerebral dysrhythmia - brain injury, Complex-PTSD, ADHD, borderline personality disorder traits...). We got job assistance from DARS (Dept. of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services - different name in different states I'm sure.). They have job coaches and will assist teens and young adults who qualify in whatever they need to become productive - could be hearing aides, transportation, driver's ed with a special program that gives individualized 40 hours of training, or job hunting, even job assistance. They got my son a Summer part-time job with Goodwill which provided on the job training and training in how to job hunt, interview and behave at a job... didn't work great, but was still a good opportunity.) After he graduated from the program, they took him around and helped him fill out job applications and practice interviewing.

    We've also looked at Gary Job Corp (different name in different areas). Kids can finish high school and/or learn a trade, it's a closed campus and the kids (age 17-24yr) get a small allowance (with the rest of the wages they earn while doing internship like jobs going into savings I think). The only downside I could see was that a lot of the kids were court mandated to be there so it can be a rough place to live.

    My kids are also eligible for SSI after they reach the age of majority. (You can't get SSDI until you have a work history. Our kids need SSI not SSDI.) They recommend you start the process about 6 months before they turn 18. I recommend you get a specialist to help you because most people get turned down the first time (usually because they don't provide proper proof). This gets our kids Medicaid and provides a small amount a month.

    Other than that I have no suggestions. My 18yo son is trying to finish high school, while working a part-time job and floating from friend's house to friend's house because he wasn't willing to follow our rules.

    He stopped taking all his meds and I fully expect him to self-destruct sometime in the next 6 months when they are completely out of his system. He will not be allowed to live here again unless he goes back on his meds. I hope he graduates before he goes to jail or worse. We helped him a lot, but as you know, there is only so much you can do.

    I don't know what diagnosis you got for Danielle that everyone acknowledges she's never going to do well, but I wish I could get it for my kids. They're constantly being told they can do anything, so when they fail... they believe it's because they're worthless, or it's our (parents) fault.


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