> No More Secrets And Lies: PART 4: A WHOLE NEW WORLD

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Josie, Mary, and Grace

Our lives had changed — both the girls' and mine — and for the first time ever we were separated from each other, living separate lives in separate homes as separate families. And now it looked like this was going to be permanent. It was as if we had never been a family and never shared a past.

I had lost touch with Mary completely. It had been months since I had seen her, and I was starting to look at groups of kids gathered on sidewalks and on street corners to see if one of them might by chance be her. I didn't know anything about her life anymore; I didn't know where she was living or what she was doing. I didn't know much about Grace's life either, but I'd heard rumors she and her mom were moving to a different town to live with her mom's boyfriend. But I had no way of knowing if any of these things were true or not. I only had rumors to go on. Rumors were the only information I had about the children who had always been the main focus of my life.

What concerned me the most, however, was that Mary had been moved again — torn away from the first stable home she had been in in years, one where she was finally getting her life back on track and recovering from the erratic and unstable group home experience she had been subjected to prior to coming home. She had just had the most successful year and a half of her life only to have it interrupted and ripped apart by people she had mistakenly trusted. And now she was being kept away from the only adult she had ever had any bond with, the only parent who was willing to parent her, and the only person who was able help her — me. It was as if she were still back in the group homes, only worse; at least then I got to see her.

I was no longer able to give her any of the help I had been giving her, and she and I were working on many things together — mostly skills to help her compensate for her learning disability and problems associated with being moved so often and separated so many times. These things were seldom addressed during her group home experience, and the attachment issues themselves, were largely the result of that experience. I was also helping learn to trust again and keep herself safe in the community so people wouldn't exploit her disability, like had also happened during her group home experience. I had no way of knowing, however, if  anyone was still helping her with these things or not. And I was the only one who knew what these were since no one else had ever bothered to get involved in her life. Mary had come a long way, and I didn't want her to go backwards.

I was even more concerned now that her social worker was back in her life. I was concerned she might be exploiting Mary, since she had a history of doing this, and seldom ever helped Mary unless it got her something in return, or, if it kept Mary separated from me. And despite the successful year and a half Mary had had living with me, it looked like the County was now back in her life and still trying to separate us.

And this was the ultimate irony: the only person who had ever cared for Mary and was able to help her, was now being banished from her life and replaced by people who had wanted anything but to help her. I had taken a huge personal risk standing up to both the County's and the State's threats, to not only get Mary out of the group homes, but to keep her out. I had even sacrificed my job for her, and now I was being cast out of her life and prevented from ever seeing her. I was being vilified as the cause of some nonexistent problem by people who had caused the problems I was trying to fix — people who had no qualms about using her as a proxy in their own war of hatred towards me. On one level it made no sense. On another level, I understood it completely.

.   .   .

My life had changed too. Drastically. Where just months earlier I was a father with a home, a job, and three young girls, I was now a homeless man who had lost everything and didn't know why this was. I had no car, barely any income, and no family. I had even lost my mother in a mysterious and brutal murder in a nursing home in Florida, and no one could tell me why this had happened either. In a few short months the girls and I had lost any semblance of the life we once had together. If someone had been trying to destroy us, they had succeeded.

On January 1st, I moved into a new apartment in a new neighborhood — the Lincoln park area of Mankato — and I lived there for the next two years trying to figure out what had happened and what I could do about it. Having no car, I walked all over this beautiful part of the city — from Grove Street to Second Street, from Lincoln to Van Brunt, to Byron to Pleasant, all the way to the top of Center Street where I would sit on the bench made famous a century ago by three other little girls: Betsy, Tacy and Tib — the three girls Maud Hart Lovelace wrote about who played on the same streets I now walked on — three little girls who were reminders of my own three girls, but were no longer part of my life. I'd sit on their bench and look out over the city where I had raised my girls and sometimes feel as if I were living amongst the girls from Maud's stories — characters in real life, and characters in her books. I'd wonder why I was in their story and they were in mine. It was a whole new world for all of us.

Betsy, Tacy, and Tib on their bench at the top of Center Street in Mankato.
From the
Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace


KIm Nicholson said...

My heart goes out to you and your children. Reading your journey through all this reduced me to tears. Honestly I am shocked that you have been subjected to this and does your system over there not consider what the child wants and needs? This seriously looks like the system is abusing not only your rights but those of your daughter. Your daughter has the right to a stable upbringing with family members not to be placed in some group home. That will not help with her personal development one bit. Anyway I wish you well on this journey and stay strong your children need you. Will check in to see how your doing and stay positive :)

John Brosnan said...

Thanks for reading this and for your comment. Sadly, this is an all-too-common experience for many families, I've come to find out, and what the child wants or needs isn't always taken into consideration. Nor does there seem to be any oversight. I thought a red flag would go off at some bureaucratic level after Mary's 10th to 15th move. But even after her 20th move, it's was still up to me to bring this to the attention of the Dept of Human Services, and I've never heard anything back from anyone at any level of government about it. The message I get from all of this is that the way she was treated must be normal for many kids.

The worst thing, however, is that our family has been destroyed and I no longer have a relationship with Mary (or Grace), and I'm convinced the county engineered this and did it out of spite or revenge or power some other childish motive. It's difficult to expect children to improve in a system which it is run by adults who are more immature than the kids they're trying to help.

I miss my girls terribly.

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