> No More Secrets And Lies: A Revealing Meeting

Thursday, September 27, 2012

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 frustrated I 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.


But they told me they didn't want to discuss these things, and this alarmed me, for a number of reasons. First, we had placed Mary primarily because she had been sexually assaulted and we wanted to prevent this from happening again. Second, she was now acting out in a similar manner in the group homes, and to me this looked like a cry for help and a need for her to work through the trauma associated with the assault. Third, I was concerned she might be suffering from an attachment disorder of some kind as a result of having been moved so many times. We certainly didn't need to be adding to her already existing problems — she had enough to deal with — but it looked like we were doing just that. I couldn't understand how her workers could ignore her pleas for help or my concerns, and this alarmed me.

But I was even more alarmed with what they said next. Her social worker then said she didn't think Mary had been sexual assaulted anyway:

"I don't think she was really raped anyway. I think the sex she had with that man was consensual.

Her corrections officer agreed.


I was shocked. Ignoring this was one thing, but denying it had ever happened was something else altogether. The guy who had raped her had been charged with sexual assault, had pleaded guilty, and had been sentenced to jail. He had even fled the area and had to be brought back for his trial. It was in the papers. I especially remember how uneasy Mary was when she found out this guy was coming back to Mankato.

This was all very disturbing, especially considering the reason Mary had been placed in a group home in the first place was to prevent her from being sexually assaulted again. We had a long meeting where this was all discussed about a year earlier. I remember it well…

* * *


About a year earlier (circa early 2007), her mother and I met with a number of professionals from Corrections and Social Services to discuss the pros and cons of placing Mary in a group home. Not everyone at that meeting agreed that Mary's behavior alone warranted out-of-home placement. But when her mother and I mentioned that, if for no other reason, she should be placed to prevent her from being sexually assaulted again, everyone agreed. This was the decisive factor that changed everyone's minds — that, until she was able to keep herself safe in the community, she should be somewhere where she would be kept safe. There was no talk about consensual sex at that meeting, nor at the trial where her perpetrator was found guilty and sentenced. Everyone at that meeting agreed Mary wasn't safe in the community. Mary agreed too. Her behavior alone did not warrant placement, but her vulnerability to being abused again did. And despite both her lawyer's and my continual pleading that she get therapy for this, she never got it, and she kept getting abused.

* * *


Back at the meeting with the corrections officer and social worker, things got even stranger. Next, they told us about a group home they had found in Northern Minnesota called Little Sands. They gave us brochures and told us to look them over and feel free to call the group home with any questions we might have. I noticed that on the front of the brochure it mentioned that this group home would not accept children who had acted out aggressively. I mentioned this to her social worker and told her this placement wouldn't work because Mary had a history of acting out aggressively. She replied that this wouldn't be a problem:

"I can fudge this fact about Mary and the group home won't need to know. I'll be able to get her in. Don't worry about it."

She seemed proud of her ability place Mary wherever she wanted and not at all concerned that this might have been an inappropriate placement. She told us we didn't need to be concerned about it either.

But I was concerned, and I called Little Sands later that day and told them about Mary. They said they were glad I called because Mary shouldn't be placed in their group home, primarily for her own safety, not to mention that of the other kids she would be living with. They said they weren't equipped to handle kids with aggressive behavior and that this would jeopardize the safety of the other kids in the group home. The next day I emailed the team and told them about my conversation with Little Sands.

Mary never did go to Little Sands, and I got blamed for it. But I didn't care. What in the world were they thinking trying to place her in a facility that wasn't equipped to handle her? I couldn't believe this. Certainly the parents of the other children in that group home didn't want their child exposed to behaviors they hadn't anticipated when they had placed their child there.

I was stunned by what I was hearing from Mary's workers. Not only did they seem to lack the professionalism required to make decisions like these — decisions that would have enormous consequences on children's lives — but they talked about these things as if they were everyday occurrences. In fact, they were so proud, they had asked Mary's mother and me to come to this special meeting just so they could tell us about the great group home they had found for Mary.





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