Archive for January, 2019

Addressing Rhetoric System-Speak – Velvet Martin

January 15, 2019

Addressing Rhetoric System-Speak – VM, 01-2019

Rant: Admittedly, hackles are up when I hear rhetoric System-speak, phrases such as: ”That is to be expected”, “That’s unfortunate”, “Well-monitored” make my blood boil. 

As I age, I may be getting crankier because my tolerance towards indifference and misinformation is at a low. Particularly, in a world where evidence is abundant even within mainstream media which most persons have access to; certainly professionals in humanities do. There is simply no excuse for defending a broken system that habitually devastates lives.

I was once passive, gentle-spirited, non-confrontational towards Authoritative figures and minions. After-all, professionals “must” be correct. Never-mind niggling internal warnings to the contrary. That was then – before they KILLED my own child – this is now.

“She was medically-fragile”. Those seven broken limbs, which include 3 femur (thigh bone) breaks, “must” be because of her rare Syndrome. “Believe me, if we had any concerns, we’d act.” “You’re only one voice.” “She’s routinely seen by numerous medical professionals.” “Placements are well-screened and monitored”. “We shouldn’t question the System.” Except, each and every statement was proved to be a bogus ascertainment.

Bone density tests were “normal”. Medical billing records demonstrate lack of services for 3 consecutive years. No social-worker made face-to-face visits for lapses of up to 14 months. Three schools in differing cities each provided similar incident reports documenting provision of spoiled food, direction to “fill” the child up “with water” although she weighed but 49 pounds at 13 years of age; bruises, contusions, inappropriate apparel… The list goes on and on.

Do NOT continue to spread these meaningless assurances. Just don’t. I will not tolerate lies. I will call you and any other being out with evidence to the contrary.

My child is not the exception. Rather, she is but one individual amongst hundreds of victims the previous Government chose to hide and whom current one continues to evade. Six-hundred and eighty-five hidden child fatalities within one Province alone!

As a journalist remarked, “The System is a serial-killer”. Were anyone else other than Government responsible for the deaths of hundreds of victims, there would be Public outrage; demands for Police investigation and prosecution.

Not only have I been a recipient of support services, I have actively worked in rehabilitation with youth and adults, spent years as hospital liaison to administration and provided care to to children while family gained strength for reunification. I have walked the talk intimately and followed the plight of Elders who offer decades of generational wisdom.

I have grieved and supported others whose children were failed to death. I have attended so many Court sessions involving child fatalities that I’ve sadly lost count of the victim toll. Never once have I seen the Office of the Child Advocate present. Rather, it is always familiar faces, caring grass-roots individuals and organizations without the benefit of compensation for time and efforts.

It is genocide, flat out Eugenics. Families wrongly targeted due to race, extraordinary medical conditions, martial status, education, poverty, false accusation, faulty screening.

Meanwhile, others who repeatedly wrong children continue to do so unscathed. Some connected with more than single fatalities still permitted access to vulnerable lives!

I was there along with others pushing for legal release from Publication Bans to promote accountability, change and respect for those innocent lives diminished by unfavourable, laws. Legislation which shielded wrongdoers and System workers – under guise of protecting victims and surviving loved ones – from inspection.

I cannot ethically remain silent, allowing misinformation to spread. I will not tolerate ignorance nor falsehoods. Minimization of injury to our most vulnerable persons – children, individuals with diverse ability and our elders – is frankly, disgusting.

I will say the same directly to anyone’s face who claims otherwise. As long as I am breathing, I will not allow bullies to perpetuate harm without a challenge. Neither amongst those directly wielding a hand, nor others who protect the System through their silence or assertion that all is well when it clearly is not.

“the medical kids in care I have met had needs that were too complex for cognitively challenged parents, or parents with active addictions affecting ability to parent.”

I take issue with this statement. It is prejudiced, callous and incorrect to assume individuals with challenges cannot be taught skills to successfully parent. I have known parents with cognitive impairment and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder who are loving and capable. At times, extra supports may be required, but who hasn’t needed a helping hand in life during low points!

It is both beneficial to families and cost-effective for the System to provide supports directly. Cognitively-challenged persons do not love their children less than those more academically-inclined. Disability need not equate poor parenting. 

Prejudice continues pervasively in Society towards numerous groups of persons based upon race, culture, ability, education, marital status. Individuals who grew up under the System’s care are also penalized for lacking extended family support!

Alberta legally permitted the sterilization of persons some considered “mentally defective”. Hell, those scholars who inflicted suffering on vulnerable lives continue to be celebrated with roads and parks named for them even today! Those ugly fkers robbed individuals of the right to parent and benefit of care in elder years by extended kin. This is not history of centuries ago; rather, I have known and call some of the survivors friends who are living here and now with the aftermath of such attitudes towards fellow neighbours. 

A female with strabismus (crossed eyes) due to premature birth was institutionalized at Alberta Mischener Centre. She has been in a stable, loving marriage for decades. When she and her spouse decided to begin a family, found they could not conceive. They were devastated to discover her fallopian tubes had been severed; sliced repetitively during surgery in childhood to ensure she could not procreate. The woman is my good friend. She is an amazing person, a kind-hearted soul, advocate and speaker who would have been a wonderful, caring mother. 

A man I’ve come to know is Indigenous; his first language Cree. He was wrongly labeled cognitively-challenged because he could not communicate in English. He was also Institutionalized and victimized of reproductive rights. 

It is not strictly cognitive delays which are targeted either. Physical disability is preyed upon too. Examples:

A couple – both with Cerebral Palsy who utilize wheelchairs for mobility – became immediate targets upon birth of their child. Forced to prove themselves worthy of parenting to strangers. The assigned caseworker knew so little about CP that she actually asked the couple whether she ought to “wear a mask” to prevent “catching” their condition. She also inquired whether or not the baby would develop Cerebral Palsy. Ffs, these ignorant persons hold Authority to make life-altering decisions!

“Marie” (a pseudonym) a single mother parenting 2 young girls, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As the disease progressed, daily tasks became physically challenging so mom responsibly approached Human Services for support. Instead, she was offered literature on adoption for her children. Mom wisely sought Media attention.  Immediately, the Government responded to Public outcry claiming, “misunderstanding” and promised in-home assistance. That arrangement lasted a few months, long enough for publicity to die down. The Ministry then told Mom that it would no longer provide funding for services so she fled the Province rather than risk her precious children be taken by the System. 

This is the reality for far too many families who have done nothing to warrant invasive tactics. There are covert threats transpiring all the time. It matters little whether families are loving and simply tasked with extraordinary circumstances. Innocent of any wrong-doing, families can and do become targets handled callously by Authorities as if they have actually intentionally caused harm to a child. 

Other examples include parents who are vocal for their children’s rights to inclusive education. Advocacy is falsely labeled , “Difficult to work with”. Frequently basic human rights are trampled as the families are bullied into silence. No one is immune: This scenario happened to a well-spoken, mild-mannered teacher. When they attempted to advocate for greater supports needed for their own child with special needs in the education system, threat of Guardianship occurred. 

Not a single one of us is infallible to change in health – physical or mental – through sudden accident, disease or natural aging processes. 

Certainly there are “incredible” foster placements and in unique circumstances, the sole option. However, nothing can take the place of kin. Individuals search lifetimes to reconnect to missing roots, culture, loved ones. 

Unless abuse or severe neglect exists, there is no logical nor ethical grounds not to support natural families – be that teaching skills or providing funding for extraordinary services – directly as opposed to displacing lives.

These issues are well-expressed by colleagues of Family-Centred Care Practice that participated in an Alberta Primetime Segment: 


Velvet Martin


Parents relinquish custody to get son medical treatment

January 6, 2019

Parents Give Up Custody of Their Son So He Can Receive Costly Medical Treatment

It’s happening all across the country.

By Amanda Tarlton

Jan 03 2019, 11:44 AM


When Jim and Toni Hoy’s adopted son Daniel began showing signs of severe mental illness, they were willing to do anything to get him help. And in their case, that meant relinquishing custody of the then-12-year-old so he could receive the necessary medical treatment that was too expensive for the Hoys to afford, even with insurance.

“To this day, it’s the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do in my life,” dad Jim says of the day he told Daniel that they were turning him over to the state. “I was crying terribly. But it was the only way we figured we could keep the family safe.”

After Daniel started experiencing violent outbursts (he even threw one of his brothers down the stairs), doctors determined that he needed residential services to protect himself and the rest of the Hoy family. There was one problem: both the Hoy’s private health insurance and Medicaid wouldn’t cover the steep cost.

So the couple chose the only option they had, which is a process known as custody relinquishment. By giving up their son, the state of Illinois would be required to pay for any medical treatment he needed, including specialized care. According to a study by the Government Accountability Office, over 12,000 families in 19 states have done the same thing.

“So you get residential services, but then you’ve given up custody of your child,” the Hoy’s attorney, Robert Farley, Jr., explains. “Which is, you know, barbaric. You have to give up your child to get something necessary.”

Fortunately, the Hoys were able to sue the state and regain custody of Daniel when he was 15. They were also awarded the funds to pay for his continuing mental health services.

Now 24, Daniel has been out of treatment for six years and lives near his parents with his girlfriend and their daughter. And while both Jim and Toni are grateful that he was able to receive the help he needed, they still believe family is just as important.

“Kids do need services. But they also need the support of their families,” stresses Toni. It’s a sentiment that her son echoes, saying, “Sometimes it’s so hard to do it for yourself. It almost helps to know that I’m doing it for myself, but I’m also doing it for my family and for our relationship.”


Mom of Autistic Boy Threatened with Children’s Services

January 4, 2019

‘STOP THAT KID YELLING’ Mum of autistic boy, 7, finds furious note from neighbour threatening to report her to social services
The note read: “We all getting sick of the yelling and also ring your landlord.”
By Gerard du Cann
2nd January 2019, 11:31 pm
Updated: 2nd January 2019, 11:44 pm

THE mother of an autistic boy woke up in the New Year to find a furious note from her neighbour threatening to report her to social services if her son didn’t stop yelling.

Solo mum-of-three Ana Gray, 28, found the note in the letter box of her home in Napier, New Zealand.

Ana Gray with Wiremu, 7, who has been diagnosed with autism and yells as a safe outlet

The note read: “If you don’t stop that kid yelling I will ring child support and report you. We all getting sick of the yelling and also ring your landlord.”

The New Zealand Herald reported that the child, seven-year-old Wiremu, was diagnosed with autism and Global Development Delay (GDD) five years before.

Yelling and screaming is one of the ways Wiremu is able to deal with his disorder, and is a safe means of outlet his emotions.

Gray told the Herald that she knows the yelling gets on people’s nerves, but said the note had caused extra stress.

The note was not signedANA GRAY
The note was not signed
She said: “I would have preferred being spoken to face to face so I can explain our situation.

“It is very hard for me doing this on my own.”

This complaint was the first she has received in the eight months since she moved into the flat.

Because the note wasn’t signed, she has no way of knowing who sent it.

On a Facebook post, Gray apologised to her neighbours for her “disruptive” son.

She wrote: “We’re only trying to live life as each day goes by in the hopes that things will only get better for us.”

Help may be on the way, with Wiremu waiting to see a paediatrician.

Currently Gray resorts to distracting the child with her phone, which has his favourite game – Minecraft – on it.

She said: “I love my son to pieces. He may not be perfect to others but he is perfect to me.”

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Desperate parents relinquish custody to access mental health help for their child

January 4, 2019

To Get Mental Health Help For A Child, Desperate Parents Relinquish Custody

LISTEN· 6:28

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January 2, 20192:31 PM ET




Toni Hoy, at her home in Rantoul, Ill., holds a childhood photo of her son, Daniel, who is now 24. In a last-ditch effort to get Daniel treatment for his severe mental illness in 2007, the Hoys surrendered parental custody to the state. “When I think of him, that’s the picture I see in my mind. Just this adorable, blue-eyed, blond little sweetie,” Hoy says.

Christine Herman/Illinois Public Media

When Toni and Jim Hoy adopted their son Daniel through the foster care system, he was an affectionate toddler. They did not plan to give him back to the state of Illinois, ever.

“Danny was this cute, lovable little blond-haired, blue-eyed baby,” Jim says.

Toni recalls times Daniel would reach over, put his hands on her face and squish her cheeks. “And he would go, ‘You pretty, Mom,’ ” Toni says. “Oh my gosh, he just melted my heart when he would say these very loving, endearing things to me.”

But as Daniel grew older, he changed. He began to show signs of serious mental illness that eventually manifested in violent outbursts and nearly a dozen psychiatric hospitalizations, starting at age 10. Doctors said he needed intensive, specialized care away from home — institutional services that cost at least $100,000 a year.

How Talking Openly Against Stigma Helped A Mother And Son Cope With Bipolar Disorder


How Talking Openly Against Stigma Helped A Mother And Son Cope With Bipolar Disorder

The family had private insurance through Jim’s job, and Daniel also had Medicaid coverage because he was adopted. But neither insurance would pay for that treatment. Exhausted and desperate, the Hoys decided to relinquish custody to the state. If they sent Daniel back into the foster care system, the child welfare agency would be obligated to pay for the services he needed.

“To this day, it’s the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Jim says. He went to the hospital and told Daniel, then 12, that they were legally abandoning him, so child welfare could take over. “I was crying terribly. But it was the only way we figured we could keep the family safe.”

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Two-thirds of states don’t keep track of how many families give up custody to help the child get mental health services. But a study by the Government Accountability Office found that back in 2001, more than 12,000 families in 19 states did exactly that.

Today in Illinois, state records show that dozens of children enter state custody this way each year, despite a 2015 state law aimed at preventing it. And new data collected by the University of Maryland for the federal government finds Illinois is not alone at failing to address this issue.

Mental health advocates say the problem is one of “too little, too late.” Even when states try to help children get access to treatment without a custody transfer, the efforts come too late in the progression of the child’s illness.

The advocates blame decades of inadequate funding for in-home and community-based services across the country — a lack of funding that has chipped away at the mental health system. Without that early intervention, children deteriorate to the point of being needlessly hospitalized and requiring costly residential care.

Until that underlying problem is addressed, child advocates say, the problem of families trading custody for treatment will never truly be solved.

Out of options

Daniel grew up with the Hoys, the youngest of their four children, in Ingleside, just north of Chicago. As a baby, he had been severely neglected in his birth family — starved and left for dead. The early trauma Daniel experienced very likely affected his brain development, doctors say.

Toni home-schooled her children until she had to return to work full-time in 2005. She says Daniel, who was 10 at the time, just fell apart.

“After six weeks of being in a public school classroom — something kids do every day — he couldn’t emotionally handle it and had his first hospitalization,” Toni says.

Daniel’s post-traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety manifested in violent outbursts.

“He held knives to people’s throats,” Toni says. “He tried putting his fingers and his tongue in the light sockets. He broke almost every door in the house.”

In the car, there were times when he’d reach over and grab the wheel while Toni was driving, to try to force the car into oncoming traffic. Other times, he would lash out at his siblings.

“At the same time, he’s a little boy,” she says. “He didn’t want to be that way. He didn’t like being that way.”

Despite Toni and Jim’s efforts to help their son with therapy and medication, the violence escalated, and Daniel was repeatedly hospitalized.

Although his doctors and therapists said he needed residential treatment, which would be at least $100,000, both the family’s private health insurance, and Daniel’s secondary Medicaid coverage, denied coverage.

So the Hoys applied for a state grant meant for children with severe emotional disorders. They also asked for help from Daniel’s school district, which is supposed to cover a portion of the costs when students need long-term, off-site care. They were denied both.

“We were told we had to pay out of pocket for it,” Toni says.

Then one night, Daniel picked up his brother Chip, threw him down the stairs and punched him over and over before their dad pulled the boys apart.

Daniel went back to the hospital for the 11th time in two years. That’s when the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services gave the Hoys an ultimatum.

“[They] basically said, ‘If you bring him home, we’re going to charge you with child endangerment for failure to protect your other kids,’ ” Toni remembers. ” ‘And if you leave him at the hospital, we’ll charge you with neglect.’ ”

“If any of our other kids got hurt, once we brought him home, they would take the other kids,” Jim says. “They put our backs against the wall, and they didn’t give us any options.” So the couple left Daniel at the hospital.

Once the state’s child welfare agency steps in to take custody, the agency will place the child in residential treatment and pay for it, says attorney Robert Farley Jr., who is based in Naperville, Ill.

“So you get residential services, but then you’ve given up custody of your child,” Farley says. “Which is, you know, barbaric. You have to give up your child to get something necessary.”

Taking it to the courts

The Hoys were investigated by DCFS and charged with neglect. They appealed in court and the charge was later amended to a “no-fault dependency,” meaning the child entered state custody at no fault of the parents.

They didn’t know where Daniel was for several weeks, until he picked up the phone from the group home where he had been placed and called to tell them he was OK.

Losing custody meant Toni and Jim could visit Daniel and maintain contact with him, but they could not make decisions regarding his care.

Over the next three years, Daniel lived at three different residential treatment centers. One was five hours away by car. His parents visited as often as they could.

Toni spent months reading up on federal Medicaid law, and she learned the state-federal health insurance program is supposed to cover all medically necessary treatments for eligible children.

The Hoys hired a lawyer and, two years after giving Daniel up, they sued the state in 2010.

Six months later, they settled out of court and regained custody of Daniel, who was 15 by then. They also got the money to pay for Daniel’s care on their own.

Around the same time, Farley, the attorney, decided to take on the issue on behalf of all Medicaid-eligible children in the state. He filed a class-action lawsuit, claiming Illinois illegally withheld services from children with severe mental health disorders.

“There [are] great federal laws,” he says. “But someone’s not out there enforcing them.”

In his lawsuit, Farley cited the state’s own data, showing that 18,000 children in Illinois have a severe emotional or behavioral disorder, yet only about 200 of them receive intensive mental health treatment.

As part of a settlement, a federal judge ordered Illinois Medicaid officials to completely overhaul the state system, so that kids get home- and community-based treatment in the early stages of their illness.

The deadline for the state to roll out those changes is January.

A law that didn’t fix the problem

While these legal battles were taking place, Illinois lawmakers began their own work to ensure that parents no longer have to relinquish custody to get their kids the help they need.

The Custody Relinquishment Prevention Act, which became law in 2015, orders six state agencies that interact with children and families to intervene when a family is considering giving up custody to get access to services.

“I think the question is: Shouldn’t government be stepping in and doing their job? And they’re not,” says Democratic State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz. “We just want them to do their job.”

B.J. Walker, head of Illinois’ child welfare agency, says the reasons for custody relinquishments are complex.

“If law could fix problems, we’d have a different world,” she says.

In some places, waitlists for residential treatment beds for kids in crisis can be months long.

But even when beds are available, Walker says, some facilities are simply unwilling or unable to take a child who has a severe mental health condition or a co-occurring medical condition.

Out of desperation, some parents will give up custody in the hope of getting their child to the top of the waiting list. But that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem.

As ProPublica Illinois reports, many foster children languish for months in psychiatric wards that are ill-equipped to provide long-term care because the state is unable to secure a placement for them in an appropriate therapeutic setting. Walker’s agency is being sued for allegedly forcing children to “remain in locked psychiatric wards, causing immense harm,” for weeks or months after they’ve been cleared for discharge.

The underlying problem

Neil Skene, spokesman for Illinois’ child welfare agency, says there are more options for families like the Hoys today than there were a decade ago. That includes a crisis-stabilization program launched in 2017 that aims to help families get access to services.

When the child welfare agency is blamed for this problem, Skene says, it’s like when a pitcher comes in at the end of a losing game to save the day and gets tagged with the loss.

Some mental health advocates agree it’s not fair to fault the state’s child welfare agency for a problem that stems from a chronically underfunded mental health system.

Heather O’Donnell, a mental health advocate who works for Thresholds, a behavioral health treatment provider in Chicago, blames years of inadequate funding in Illinois and across the U.S.

Early-intervention services are either not available or not accessible because insurance companies deny coverage.

“If these kids had leukemia or diabetes, they would’ve gotten help long, long before,” O’Donnell says. “It’s because they have a mental health condition that causes their behavior to be challenging and erratic. And as a society, we sweep these conditions under the rug until there’s a crisis. We just wait for tragedy.”

“What Illinois needs to put into place is a system that helps these families early on, so that these kids never get hospitalized,” O’Donnell says.

Beth Stroul, who has been studying the problem of custody relinquishment for decades, agrees. She is the lead researcher on a new study — commissioned by the federal government and carried out by the University of Maryland — that explores why the problem persists to this day.

Stroul says other states, including Georgia and New Jersey, have passed laws and stepped up efforts to help children get treatment while in parental custody.

“But those strategies, in and of themselves, are not sufficient unless there are home- and community-based services available that provide the supports and treatment needed to keep children and families safe in the community,” Stroul says.

The difference treatment and family can make

Daniel Hoy is now 24 and has been out of residential treatment — and stable — for six years.

He says treatment was tough, and he would not have gotten better without his parents’ love and support. “It was never a question in my mind that my parents would always be there for me,” he says. “Sometimes it’s so hard to do it for yourself. It almost helps to know that I’m doing it for myself, but I’m also doing it for my family and for our relationship.”

Daniel now works nights for a shipping company and lives with his girlfriend and their toddler daughter in central Illinois, not far from his parents.

Daniel Hoy spends time with his daughter, Sofie, near their home in central Illinois. He has been stable and out of residential treatment for mental health issues for six years. The treatment was tough, he says, and he would not have gotten better without his parents’ love and support.

Vinnie Manganello/WFYI

“I just love having a relationship with him,” Jim says. “I feel so privileged that [when] he’s having a bad day, he comes over and talks to us about it.”

Toni says, looking back, that it’s shameful that families get torn apart by a system that’s supposed to be supportive.

She is grateful they made it through intact. Other families that have gone through this same thing, she says, have lost touch with their child forever. “Kids do need services,” Toni says. “But they also need the support of their families.”

When they have both, she says, a lot of kids can be a lot more successful.

This story is part of NPR’s reporting partnership with Side Effects Public Media and Kaiser Health News. A longer version of this story appears in The Workaround podcast. Christine Herman is a recipient of a Rosalynn Carter fellowship for mental health journalism. Follow her on Twitter: @CTHerman