> No More Secrets And Lies: PART 2: MARY AND THE GROUP HOMES

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.

Her mom and I were very involved parents and we home-schooled our girls for a number of years (for philosophical reasons; not religious). I had worked with children most of my adult life and was a high school teacher and a social worker at one point. But even though I had had experience with children prior to having my own, and despite taking Mary to a variety of specialists, her behavior continued to be a concern for us. The one thing we were sure of was that her problems were more a result of nature than of nurture — there was something going on with Mary and no one could tell us what that was.

By the time she turned 16 she was getting into trouble and had accumulated a string of offenses ranging from starting fires in schools, to using drugs and alcohol, to threatening teachers. Before long she became a danger to herself, and was sexually assaulted one evening after sneaking out of the house and found wandering around downtown with a friend. We were faced with no alternative but to place her in a safe, structured environment primarily for her own safety — something I never thought I would have to do with any of my children. We approached a corrections officer with Blue Earth County Corrections to talk about placing Mary in a group home. Her corrections officer thought this was a good idea and suggested Mary also work with a mental health social worker with Blue Earth County Social Services.

We made sure her corrections officer and social worker knew the full extent of Mary's behavior before they agreed to work with her. We wanted to put an end to the already revolving door of schools, teachers and therapists Mary had been working with up to that point. They assured us they could handle Mary just fine and told us they knew of some great group homes that would be perfect for her. They also told us how social workers and parents worked together as a team, how everyone's input was valued, and how much they appreciated being able to work with parents who were involved with their children, like Mary's mother and I were. A spot opened up at the Crossroads Group Home near Owatonna, Minnesota, and we decided to place Mary there. She was 16-years old at the time.

I felt sad for Mary the morning her social worker came to take her to the group home. I had written her a letter to read on the road — something to boost her spirits and let her know this was all going to be for the best and would be soon be over with. She took the letter, ran back into the house, and read the whole thing before she would agree to get back in the car. It was then I realized how frightening the prospect of all of this was for her, and I tried to reassure her that we hadn't abandoned her and that she would feel at home at this new place she was going to and would be home before long.

Her mother and I visited her every chance we got while she was at this group home, but this placement only lasted two or three weeks before she was discharged for trying to run away. The fact that Mary had to be moved so soon concerned me, especially since we had placed her primarily so she would become stabilized. But her workers told us she would be just fine and told us they knew of an even better group home for her in Hutchinson, MN. I tried to convince myself to be patient — that this was just part of working out the bugs to make sure we got her into the right placement but I did wonder why this new group home wasn't their first choice.

Mary was then moved to the Franklin House in Hutchinson — another group home for girls. But soon things began to deteriorate there as well, and after a couple of months she was discharged again. I became even more concerned and so did her mother. This wasn't good. I wanted to make sure we got this placement-thing right for her, and I asked her workers what effect so much moving would have on her ability to succeed and what new issues she would now have to address. I wanted to know what the impact of so much moving, in such a short period of time, would have on her ability to connect with peers and staff in these group homes, and if this would leave her with any long-term trust issues. This might have seemed like over-concern on my part, but I was worried — not only were we not addressing the issues that had brought her to the group homes in the first place, but it was starting to look like the group home experience itself was doing her more harm than good. I never got answers to my questions, but I didn't think too much about it at the time.

But we hadn't seen anything yet, and thus began the merry-go-round of group homes, foster homes, and detention centers Mary would be pushed in and out of during the next two years. She would be moved more than twenty times in the two years she was in the hands of Blue Earth County.


Daughters said...

Oh yes, and living at your house was DEFINITELY a safe environment. It's not like you drank, smoked, overdosed on sleeping medications, or traded prescription drugs or anything. Psh, that NEVER happened. Oh, by the way Dad, in case you didn't know, I'm being sarcastic. I know you've been having some trouble lately interpreting my actions.

John Brosnan said...

Yes. Some of that is true Mary. But some of it is an exaggeration too or wrong. I'm just glad you're commenting.

John Brosnan said...

Also, I like your blog.

John Brosnan said...

Part of being a parent is showing up.

TSElliott said...

So - Mary is just creating all of this because she is bored. It is all coming together. John - you are the easiest target. It looks a lot like Borderline personality disorder. They always choose the person that they trust the most to hurt because no matter what - you will always be there. You should be able to see this. Mary is having so much fun with all of this. Obviously the girls mom loves what Mary is doing and giving her lots of positive feedback. The younger sister is stuck there watching them have a "we hate John" party everyday!!! She had no choice but to join in on all of the fun. The reason Mary and no one else can tell you what you did is because Mary has no proof. She is just having fun and she is obviously getting a ton of attention for the fact that you drink and smoke and go to the doctor to take lots of prescription meds. Why don't you do a heavy detox, start exercising and start taking care of yourself so that when your other 2 daughters want to spend time with you in a few years - you are healthy enough to enjoy their company.

John Brosnan said...

Because I don't drink or abuse prescription drugs. I drank a couple times when Mary was living with me.