My current advocacy situation is teaching me alot – I’m sorry to say this because a family is being destroyed by the system which is supposed to help us. But what I am learning is part of an education that we all could use so that we can be prepared for these very same things to happen to any one of us in advocating for safe and appropriate care for our children.
Mary, the mother of a 16 year old boy with autism is in crisis – all because she complained about inappropriate care which was causing health problems for her child, limiting her ability to visit with her child and her desire to have his placement changed from the group home to a residential habilitation center again. The community experience was not working out and in addition to the above concerns there are also issues of alleged sexual abuse.
Mary, after discovering another issue of false documentation in the group home log, she had her son taken to the hospital. She called an ambulance because she knew it was not safe for her to drive him. She followed. At the hospital, Mary was met by a CPS caseworker. Mary felt relieved, thinking that they were there to look into the issues of the home. Mary could not have been so wrong. CPS was there because the Seattle Police had been called for an emergency dependency issue. At this point we are unsure who made that first call but the records are being subpoenaed.
Mary’s son was taken into “protective custody” (sent back to the group home where the alleged abuse and neglect occurred) because Mary is unable to care for her son due to:
1. Lack of supervision
2. Mother’s inability to safely care for sons’ needs (mental health and basic care)
Now, these issues were never in question. This boy had been in an RHC and then was moved to a group home. It is clear from the history that the mother cannot safely care for her son and she has not disputed that. She is seeking safe, appropriate care. When she took her son to the ER, she made it clear that she wanted him safe and out of that home (she had been trying to have her son moved for about 1 year) and ALL involved knew this. She was not running away, she was not taking her son to an undisclosed place, she was not disappearing – she was taking him to a safe place.
This boy has a history of elopement (how many of our kids with autism exhibit this behavior as part of their “normal”?) Well, the boy ran out of the emergency room and no one could find him. Security finally did. The CPS caseworker wrote this up in a way to make it seem as if this boy ran away from his mom because she was not able to care for him or that she was hurting him. The CPS caseworker either does not understand what “typical” behaviors for kids with autism are or she was writing her report to implicate the mom for something that she did not do. Either way, this is frightening to know that our lives could be thrown into crisis by a CPS caseworker who either has an agenda or does not know what is typical for kids with certain diagnoses.
CPS has now filed an Emergency Dependency and by court order now Mary is only allowed supervised visits with her son. CPS can only afford to pay for a supervisor for 2 hours a week so even though the court order says she can have up to 5 visits per week, she only gets 2 hours of visit time. That is until the background checks for her other appointed supervisors come back and they are able to take the CPS class to learn what is required to be a “supervisor” of a visit.
This is tearing this family apart – as if they didn’t have enough already.
CPS is looking at this mother’s complete history to see if she is” mentally fit” to care for her son.
Now, guess what. The mom has had a history of depression which was later changed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What mom of a child with autism does not have some sort of anxiety/depression/PTSD or some health issue related to high levels of stress? Because the mom has a “mental health” history, she is now having to prove that she is not psychotic or mentally unstable.
The mom had a previous CPS case. The CPS caseworker wrote in the court petition “Mom refused to pick up child from hospital when he was discharged – Case unfounded” But, it doesn’t matter, since she has a history, this is looked at. In fact in this case, the mom called CPS because she didn’t want to get charged with abandonment. She had an eye injury and partially detached retina from being stabbed in the eye by her son. That was why he was in the hospital. She is a single mom and was still in the process of healing with that eye injury and could not safely take care of her son when he was ready to be discharged. For being a loving and caring mom and trying to do the right thing, she is being viewed as a criminal.
This scenario is horrific. This is going on right now. This scenario should NEVER have happened. But once CPS is involved in an emergency dependency, there seems to be no stopping or turning back. So in the meantime this family is destroyed, the boy is confused about why he can not have his regular and often visits with him mom and sister, why he can’t go to church, why he can’t to play basketball with his mom, why he can’t go to their weekly dinner at Applebees’ with his mom and sister.
It’s hard enough for families to work with one system (DDD) but with CPS now in charge of this case, DDD has taken a back burner until the dependency case goes to trial which could be 2 more months.
And still, the mom is very concerned and worried about her son’s health and safety.
I hope that no one else experiences these abuses of families by the systems which are set up to protect our kids. We are not criminals!