> No More Secrets And Lies: First Signs of Trouble – October 2007

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.


This was one of the worst places Mary was placed. She spent her first Christmas away from home here. I visited her as often as I could at this place that reminded me of a prison. When I arrived I would have to leave all my belongings in a locker and walk though a metal detector before I was allowed to enter the secure area. A person would then radio the staff on her unit and someone would bring her down to where I was waiting. She would be handcuffed. They'd remove her handcuffs and we would visit for thirty minutes in a small room with other parents and their children.

Sometimes she taught me the card games she played because she didn't talk much about what was going through her mind or what was going on in that place. She didn't talk in generalities much anyway and it would be months before we would find out why this was. But one thing she did tell me was that when she got into trouble they put her in something like solitary confinement. She said she was locked up in solitary confinement for three days without a blanket, a pillow, or even a book — nothing. I couldn't believe this. She couldn't even have a book, and reading was how she survived inside these places! I was furious. No one had told me about this.

I was heartbroken thinking of little Mary locked up in a room miles from her home for three days without a pillow, a blanket, or even a book. How did she get through this? What did she think about during those long afternoons inside those four walls? What did she see out her window? Did she even have a window? Did she think she was ever going to get out? Did she think about her family or was that too painful? Or did she think she must be a really bad kid to deserve something like this?

I've never been able to get those images of her sitting in that place out of my mind. I couldn't believe what was happening to my daughter and I couldn't do anything about it except keep telling her workers that something more needed to be done. But the only thing that ever was done was to keep moving Mary.

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