"The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse." -- James Madison - (1751-1836)

"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force. " :
Ayn Rand in "The Nature of Government"

"Throughout history there have been tyrants and murderers. And for a while they seem invincible, but always they fall. Always."-Mahatma Gandhi

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings: Helen Keller

The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is , more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime ; he is a good citizen driven to despair.--H.L Mencken

"When even one American-who has done nothing wrong-is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth-then all Americans are in peril" Harry S. Truman

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."- Winston Churchill, Nov. 21, 1943

"When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors - when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed: Ayn Rand - (1905-1982) Author - Source: Atlas Shrugged, Francisco's "Money Speech"

"Loss of freedom seldom happens overnight. Oppression doesn't stand on the doorstep with toothbrush moustache and swastika armband -- it creeps up insidiously...step by step, and all of a sudden the unfortunate citizen realizes that it is gone." ~ Baron Lane

U.S. Constitution - R.I.P.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Texas Families Abused by System for Seeking Care for Mentally Ill Children

I am writing this today to publicize the issues surrounding our recent struggle to obtain mental health care services for my 16 year old son, which has created a host of legal complications for us that may endanger two younger children in the family. This is an outline of our situation and, as I've found out, the situation of several families in our area, South Brewster County. My in-depth research into resolving our own situation has revealed a much larger problem.

Millions of American families are put through incredible abuse by the tax-payer funded agencies they turn to as a last resort, typically after all family health insurance policies have been depleted or financial means are exhausted. Many parents are forced into the position of having to allow themselves to be judged neglectful to allow the state to take custody, which takes away their parental rights. The state will then provide the same mental health help that had been denied to the child while they were in the custody of the families who love and support them. And, the parents are allowed no input into the care and treatment of those children.

The fact is that the state could provide that mental health care without removing these children from parental custody and placing a black mark on the records of innocent parents. They simply will not make those resources, funded by the parent's tax dollars, available to these desperate parents. Social service agencies often claim that federal funds cannot be obtained for treatment unless the child is in state custody. This is false. In fact, 13 states have passed laws that prohibit the abusive practice of taking of custody from the parents in trade for treatment, as it can and should be provided while the child remains in parental custody.

We believe that there are strong grounds for a class action lawsuit on behalf of families injured by this system, and we also believe that we certainly have grounds to sue local, county, and state officials in our particular case. As you read my family's story, please keep in mind that I am a taxpayer, and have worked very hard to support my three children. I have never asked for taxpayer support in the form of welfare or food stamps. I am not in the habit of asking the government for assistance, and having done so on this occasion, I am surely not impressed with the return I received on nearly 30 years of taxes paid into this system.

Here is our version of this all too common problem, just a brief overview, as I could write a book and still not relay all the details of the insane run around we've been through:

My son is mentally ill. Due to this, he has episodes of irrational, defiant, and violent behavior. Last year, we had one of those incidents, during which my son made his best attempt to smash my head against a large rock after tackling me to the ground. My 9 year old daughter tried to pull him off of me, endangering herself. Thankfully, she was not hurt, but this incident made it clear to me that I could no longer handle his issues on my own.

So, we made a call to the local sheriff to file a police report on the incident. Our local deputies came to speak with us, and suggested that I call the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Department (MMHR) for help. They came out and did an emergency intake on Justin, who was, at the time, horrified at his own behavior and cooperative, admitting to the violent episodes, as well as issues with compulsive stealing and lying. He also confirmed that during and after the incident, he had made suicidal threats.

Their response was to set him up with a counselor, who was supposed to see him while we waited for a psychological evaluation to be done, which was scheduled nearly 3 months out. The counselor, with whom we were told to make an appointment, was rather difficult to get in touch with, failing to return our repeated calls. Thus, it was nearly two months before the scheduling of the first appointment was accomplished. Meanwhile, MMHR officials made a medical neglect report against me, stating that I had not brought my son in for care. I called the regional CPS supervisor, Ms. Leticia Garcia, and explained that I was the one to initiate mental health care services for my son with MMHR, and that I had left many messages in the great voice mail void attempting to get an appointment with the counselor. She checked the facts, found that there had been no medical neglect on my part, and closed the case administratively.

As all of this was happening, seeing how slowly the MMHR system was moving, worried about my son, and the effect his escalating behavior was having on my two young daughters, I sought private care options. I looked into several therapeutic camps that provide residential treatment for troubled youths. Unfortunately, these options were beyond my financial means. However, I did find two of these centers that were run by church groups, offering care for families who could not afford the typical $6,000 a month fees for such services. Sadly, it turned out that my son was a bit more troubled than they were prepared to deal with. He was denied admittance due to his history of violence and theft.

So, this left us at the mercy of the public agency – MMHR -- for any hope of getting him care. During the period of time we were waiting for the psychological evaluation to be done, my son stole a debit card from my purse and used it on the Internet, overdrawing my account. When confronted with this, he got violent and irrational, and ran away from home. The sheriffs’ department was called and he was brought home, seemingly calm. But, immediately after the deputy left, he did it all again, ranting, raving, threatening, and running away. So, the deputy picked him up again and brought him to the home of my sister for the night, as a cooling off period.

Well, he refused to come home for weeks and the sheriff refused to pick him up as a runaway, so he remained with my sister, wandering off regularly and coming home drunk and on drugs -- not my sister's fault, she had no way to keep him under control, despite numerous attempts to reason with him. On one occasion, the sheriffs’ department was notified that my son was attending a drinking party at the home of a career criminal, and was drunk, served alcohol by adults on the premises. The deputy on duty refused to pick him up, later stating that probation told him not to do so. In order to have him removed from this dangerous situation, I had to call the state police and explain that the sheriffs had refused, for six hours, to handle the matter. That certainly shook things up, and a deputy was finally dispatched to collect my son, who was found so intoxicated that he had vomited all over himself and passed out. About two weeks afterwards, two of the men my son was drinking with that night were arrested, charged with kidnapping, raping, and brutalizing a young boy just two years older than my son.

At this point, he had decided he was not going to comply with mental health care. When the day finally arrived for his psych eval, we picked him up from my sister to bring him in. He ranted, cursed, and threatened all the way to MMHR, an 80 mile trip. When we arrived at the MMHR building, our local deputy happened to be there, witnessing Justin's behavior. I asked him how I would go about getting a Child in Need of Supervision Petition filed so that Justin could be mandated to comply with mental health care and stay in the home, establishing legal consequences if he persisted in this unreasonable and threatening behavior. He referred us to Juvenile Probation to have this done, where we went immediately after leaving MMHR.

Probation Chief Jerry Castallano told me he would work on bringing Justin under court supervision. Castallano also extracted a promise from Justin to behave, warning him that if he got violent again, they would have to pick him up, and assured me that our safety was of paramount concern to him and action would be swift should Justin become agitated and violent again. Well, he did get violent. We didn't even get home before he broke his pledge, whipping open the car door at 70 miles an hour, with his two small sisters in the seat next to him, threatening to jump, because we refused to stop off so he could speak to a friend at the American Legion post--5 miles from home. Gary, my partner, with whom I and my children live, pulled over, and we tried to reason with him. His response was to assault Gary and run off.

We went home and called the sheriff, telling them that probation had said that he would be picked up if he did this again. They called probation, just to get the runaround. So, nothing was done that night. The following morning, we went and filed charges against him for assault, as they told us it was necessary if we wanted him under the supervision of the court and probation. These charges were never pursued. We filed them twice. In fact, my son has committed a long list of juvenile and criminal offenses, and the juvenile system has done nothing but make promises. The County Attorney, when we inquired as to why my son had not been adjudicated on any of these charges and brought under court supervision, stated that his office had been advised by probation that it was a mental health issue, and therefore would not get involved.

According to one of my son's counselors (a private one), this is typical. She states that the probation department has refused to do their duty with many of the children she works with, and hasn't taken a juvenile from our area into detention in nine years. Local law enforcement has told us much the same, that juvenile probation typically does nothing in regards to prosecuting delinquent youths. The probation department, according to these sources, just simply does not do its job. In my opinion, those who inhabit it must be politically connected in order to keep their positions under such circumstances, as this inaction in such cases is hardly a secret. I have made numerous complaints about them myself, to no avail. The only results have been a smear campaign against me, insinuating that abuse at home is the cause of my son's behavior, causing the many other agencies to whom I've appealed for help to view us with suspicion. I guess it doesn't pay, as a relative newcomer to a small, tight knit community, to get on the bad side of those with an established place in the social and political pecking order.

My son's MMHR case supervisor has just been pulled from the case, I strongly suspect due to advocating for my family with his superiors. I was told in confidence by an insider at one of the agencies involved that I had better watch my step, and was unlikely to get any help for my son because I had made the “political clique” angry with my outspoken -- but always polite demands that they do their jobs.

MMHR has done nothing as the child has become increasingly violent and irrational. Emergency commitment should have been done on several occasions, as he has certainly met the qualifications. Last time he was brought home, he threatened to “blow us away,” as well as threatening suicide while in the midst of another violent episode. MMHR, who took 12 hours to send their so-called Emergency Team to see him, then spent two minutes questioning him, released him, stating that they wouldn't commit because he was calm now. Probation refused to pursue juvenile charges, and instructed the sheriff's deputy to find a family member to take him. It was 2AM. My sister refused to be responsible for him on the grounds that she could not keep him safe and under control, so the deputy tracked my brother down at the local bar and placed my son in his custody, warning him not to come near our home due to the threats made against us.

So, since he's been with my brother, approximately two and a half months, he has been truant 20 days, for which I have been cited, has been breaking into neighbors' homes, and has been showing up at school filthy and stoned. The school counselor contacted me, and I explained that the situation was beyond my control, as probation had placed him with my brother. I urged them to report the situation to probation. Apparently she did, and got the typical run around and inaction. So, she reported to CPS. They contacted me, and I stated that the situation was created by the probation chief and MMHR, and any neglect charges should be placed squarely on their desks.

CPS investigated and contacted me again, stating that they would help me get Justin into residential care. I should have known better, especially with Mr. Anthony Ramos, the worker in charge of the case. He and I had trouble soon after I moved to Texas two years ago. A false report was made against my family, full of outrageous charges that it took ten seconds to discredit on their first visit. Rather than saying sorry to bother you, I'll be on my way now, he tried to trump up reasons to continue bothering my family, stating that I should not have dogs in my home, as he feels they are dirty creatures that carry germs, or campfires in my yard, among other trivial complaints that were not illegal, nor under his jurisdiction. I asked him if there were new laws passed on these issues that I was not aware of. He said, no, these are merely suggestions, you are within your rights to ignore them, but you do so at your own risk and that of your children, and stated he'd be back in ten days to see that his suggestions were being followed. I called every politician from here to Washington, filing complaints against his abuse of power until they dropped the case, clearing us of any wrong doing.

Anyway, after discussions with Mr. Ramos over six weeks or so, I was called to a meeting to discuss their plan of action. They decided, rather than the promised residential treatment, they would make Justin promise to behave and place the boy back in my home with a “safety plan.” No treatment, no consequences for his behavior. This boy has been more violent each time he comes home, bragging that he is bulletproof, he can do ANYTHING and there will be no consequences. And, that's accurate, there have been none. I stated that I would be happy to bring him home AFTER treatment, but doing so now would endanger my girls, ages 6 and 9, and that I felt this was not a responsible or well thought out plan. Well, when I had the nerve to disagree, the CPS mediator stated, “Ah, the one who wanted to stand on her 4th amendment rights last time wants us to help her now?” He then informed me that I would do it their way or be charged with neglect and refusing to accept parental responsibility.

So, since I refuse to endanger my girls, insisting instead that treatment is necessary for their safety and my son's, they are charging me, despite nearly a year of exhaustive efforts to get my son the treatment he needs. I asked Mr. Ramos how he could, in good conscience, levy a legal claim of neglect against me when he is fully aware of the efforts I have made on my son's behalf. His justification was that they had to take custody to get his treatment funded, which is false, and the same misinformation given to thousands of parents in my position. The state simply needs to apply for a waiver to provide these services while children remain in parental custody, which is commonly done in the 13 states that have already banned the practice of demanding that parents trade custody for mental health care.

However, despite assurances that this is JUST about getting my son care, from what I understand from a source that remained at this meeting after Gary and I departed, the end goal of this cabal is to take all of my children. Furthermore, despite the fact that Mr. Ramos and I had discussed at length the counseling my son had received years ago in NY, that information was left out of my son's file. So, the people assembled at that meeting had no idea that my son's behavioral problems have been an issue for years, nor that we had sought treatment for them in the past. With this information conveniently excluded from the file, some of those at the meeting assumed my son's behavior was quite likely a family or parenting problem, having no history to refer to on his ongoing mental health issues.

It is clear to all that know my family that these are well loved and cared for children. In fact, everyone who knows my girls raves about how well behaved, polite, and intelligent they are, and 30 people showed up at a previous meeting with CPS to speak on our behalf. Clearly, any attempt to take them from my care will be due to an agenda to put me in my place, since I had the nerve to stand up for my rights against their clear abuse of power the last time around, and have been advocating strongly -- but always politely -- for my son to get the mental health care he so desperately needs this time. Pursuing so many avenues in the attempt to get the care he needs has highlighted the failures and inadequacies of the local system, something that, to my regret, has been a source of personal animosity for some of those in charge of that system, instead of cooperation in finding a better way to solve the problem.

At this point CPS has obtained, through emergency removal procedures, temporary custody of my son. We will go to court on the 26th of this month, where they will attempt to do a more permanent removal by court order on grounds of neglect. My son has been placed in a foster home in El Paso, eight hours away from his family. He has already run away from this home after an altercation with the adults in charge of his supervision. CPS did not notify me that he was missing. In fact, it was I who notified them after my son called home for help. The El Paso police picked him up and returned him to the foster home as of yesterday.

I read a report the other day that states that, in some states, one in four, or 25%, of children with mental health issues are in state custody, with many parents forced by the state to give them up to get access to the mental health care they need. Added to the pain of custody relinquishment and the indignity of parents being accused of neglect in order to facilitate it, is the abuse and misinformation that parents contend with when seeking help from public servants whose salaries are obtained from their own tax dollars.

I haven't, as of yet, been able to find a lawyer willing to defend me against the CPS charges or represent me in a suit against the county and state for the incompetence, inaction, and outright dereliction of duty displayed in the handling of my son's case. None of those in our community seem interested in challenging the local political establishment. My hope is that by publicizing the situation, one may come forward to help us change this abusive practice, as has been done with lawsuits in 13 other states. Also, it certainly couldn't hurt to shine a light into the corrupt practices of the agencies involved in my family's situation.

If anyone reading this is an attorney or knows one who might be willing to represent my family through this situation, or anyone who would like more information or can offer advice, please feel free to contact me at MelindaS2002@aol.com.

Also, if your family has been through a similar experience, whether it is the inaction of local public servants or a demand by CPS to relinquish custody to get mental health care for your child, please contact me. Perhaps, with the right legal representation, we can work together to see that families in Texas are not abused this way in the future.

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The Militarization of Our Police