> No More Secrets And Lies: September 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

North Homes 35-Day Assessment


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


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


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 frustrating it 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

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


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




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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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.



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.