> No More Secrets And Lies: Woodland Hills Four-Day Debacle

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.

Mary's mother and I were told we would be able to speak at this hearing, and so I wrote some things down that I wanted to say and brought these to court with me. After Mary's lawyer and her workers were done speaking, it was my turn. I tried to explain to the judge what it was like for Mary to have to move to a new group home every two months. I said that every time she is moved, her life starts over from scratch and she has to, once again, become familiar with new staff, new teachers, new friends, new programming, a new school, and a new community. And usually by the time she does become familiar with these things, she has to move again and start all over. I told the judge that doing this every 30 days to a child who has problems to begin with is devastating and is probably the reason she is acting like she is. I said we need to find out what's going on with her so we can place her correctly, so she can get the kind of treatment she needs, and so she can, hopefully, quit moving so often. I said she's become a victim of the system, and she's caught in a vicious cycle that is harming her. My little speech must have convinced the judge, because he said he would go along with my recommendations, and he ordered Mary's probation officer to make an appointment for Mary so she could be assessed.

What happened during the next week or two is still somewhat of a mystery to me and her workers were strangely quiet about it all. On April 18th, her corrections officer emailed the team to tell us that Mary was back in the New Ulm Detention Center because another placement hadn't worked out. We had another team meeting and I asked her corrections officer where Mary had been placed and what had happened. She brushed me off saying it was "no big deal" and told me I shouldn't worry about it. But I heard the words "Woodland Hills," and I had a sense they were hiding something. After that meeting I found a phone number for Woodland Hills and called them.

I had an interesting conversation with the intake worker at Woodland Hills. I told her who I was and asked her if my daughter had been placed there recently. She told me she had been placed there and then she told me some things about her conversation with Mary's corrections officer. She said she had given her completely false information about Mary over the phone, driven her all the way up to the group home, dropped her off, and then left. By the time the Woodland Hills staff realized Mary was completely unsuited to their program, her corrections officer was long gone. The staff at the group home then did a brief assessment of Mary and discovered she was nothing like they had been told from the description her corrections officer had given them. The intake worker I was talking to told me she's never seen a worker do anything like this, and because of this, Mary had to be driven a few hundred miles back to the New Ulm Detention Center to wait again until her corrections officer could find another placement for her.

Mary was at Woodland Hills for four days and it was the fifth time she was taken to the New Ulm Detention Center. Within a thirty-day period she had been moved six times and abused at least two times, that I was aware of.


John Brosnan said...

QUESTION: Look, I get that placing kids is hard work. I really do get that. And her workers tried hard and had a difficult job, and I didn't say anything for a long time. But there's a point where a parent just has to speak up, and of course, things continued to get worse.

Am I being too harsh here?

TSElliott said...

Why are you blaming yourself, the social workers and the foster homes or detention centers. This is all Mary's choice. She doesn't want to follow rules anywhere. You have to hold her accountable. You are letting her get away with murder and then blaming yourself for it. Wake up - don't hold the workers accountable. Mary is not a little girl anymore.

John Brosnan said...

Yes, a lot of it was Mary's choice and she often didn't follow rules. But then we all failed to help her too, or listen to her. As this continued and her workers refused to try anything different, I realized her problems were more than just her behavior.

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