How they fail us

Protest

A recent post by a mother with a challenging child has created quite a stir on both sides of the most recent gun control debate.  These events are horrifying, and after every one this debate reawakens and becomes an inferno.  Interestingly, I watched people firmly plant their feet on opposite sides.  Some saw her situation as an accurate commentary on the state of mental health in the US while others saw her as a tyrannical parent who clearly didn’t understand her child’s very understandable rage at being forced to do things he simply didn’t want to, like wear pants of a different color.

I read Ms. Long’s story with interest, and watched the ensuing debates, because I, too, have been in similar shoes.

C. was a very engaging, playful, endearing 9-year-old foster child when I first him. Over the next few months, we would have frequent visits as he prepared to move into my home. Like any other child he tested the boundaries regularly as he assessed things and adapted to his new surroundings.

After spending time with him, it was easy to get to know the warning signs of an impending explosion:  His hazel eyes would go from green to dark brown, his body language would become more rigid, his voice would get a bit of an edge to it. If you responded with a redirection right away, you could avert an “incident.”  It got to the point where I could feel the energy shift in the air and successfully interrupt a building process.

He was never a child that responded to “sweet talk.”  When working with him he needed minimal choices (no more than 2), you had to stick to those options no matter what, and you had to speak firmly.  You didn’t have to be mean, just firm.  If you responded to a situation from a personal standpoint, that worked nicely:  “I need you to . . . ,” “I feel bad when . . . ”

As much as you want to give a child free reign, it was just too much for C.  He needed firm, clear, and narrow boundaries or else it felt too overwhelming for him.  While he was never an “easy” child, as long as you knew how to work with him things weren’t too difficult.

Until he was 10.

Then, school became more of a challenge. The environment was a bit oppressive, however. I fought the school district hard.  After he was suspended for holding a sharp object to a fellow student’s face and threatening to stab her in the eye, because she had said hello to the teacher when he was talking to her, I brought in a special education advocate. Things got to the point where I issued them a letter detailing every part of the IDEA they had violated and informed them I was prepared to take this to court as well as the media.  Suddenly, I was invited to a private meeting with part of the upper echelon.

C was moved to a new school with a principal who understood children with behavior challenges.  They were absolutely phenomenal, and things began to calm down. I breathed a sigh of relief, but at the same time I was noticing changes. The time from an “energy shift” to action was becoming increasingly smaller.  Once his eyes changed color, it was over.  You no longer had a few-second warning.  He could go from laughing and having fun to throwing things in less than a second.

I felt like I was failing him. Obviously, I was doing something wrong as a parent. Somehow whatever I had been doing over the last year was no longer working. I consulted with experts. I went back into therapy for myself. A therapist came into the home to interact with us.

“It isn’t you, Talon,” she told me as she watched him move into a complete meltdown.  When his behavior moved to property destruction, she told me to call 911. When the police arrived, they chatted with him, and everyone agreed he would be placed on a psychiatric hold and taken to the emergency room for an evaluation.

In the ER, he calmed down and returned to being playful, witty, and charming. I was told there was no problem.  The therapist who had witnessed this all assured them they were quite wrong. She was ignored. I was to take him home and “just call 911 every time he does this.”

I was feeling myself get more and more taxed by his behaviors. I quit my job as a hospice chaplain so I could work from home. This allowed me time to decompress when he wasn’t home. I figured this would better equip me to do a better job at parenting.

His behaviors continued to deteriorate, though. Since the behavioral health organization, who controls the funding of his mental health care, refused to do anything else, I had a meeting with the Department of Children Services (since he had been a foster child when he was adopted) to tap into other resources. They had none. The only way I could get increased services through them was to give them temporary custody, which I was not willing to do. He may have been adopted, but he was my child.

Kitchen knives began disappearing from my home. After he started a small outdoor fire, I locked up anything that could start a fire.  I increased my pleas for help.  He broke into a neighbor’s home, stole their Airsoft BB gun, and shot a 5-year-old with it “accidentally.”  When he showed absolutely no remorse, which wasn’t uncommon for him, I urged the victims to press charges hoping this would help. They wouldn’t.

I took him to the police station and let an officer speak with him about what could’ve happened.  The officer explained that he was old enough to go to “child jail” and that he had committed a serious felony.  My blood chilled when I saw my son shrug and ask “Well, what’s it like?” The tone in his voice was clear.  This wasn’t an “Ohmigosh, how scary! What’s it like?” question. This was “I don’t give a shit.”

On the way home, I decided to ask him point blank:  “Do you think what you did was wrong? I need you to answer honestly. There will be no consequences for how you answer.”

“He annoyed me. He deserved it,” he responded frankly.

A team of therapists were brought in to try to help us, especially focusing on my response to his behaviors because, as we all know, it had to be my parenting that was making things worse.  They were stumped.  “Talon, this isn’t you,” I was told again.

A few days later I discovered him chasing some of the neighbor children with a large butcher knife threatening to stab and kill them “because they made me mad.”  I locked up all sharp objects.

I began spending almost 7 hours a day on the phone calling different resources, his mental health providers, the county, whatever agencies I could discover, etc.  I wept over the phone as I was told repeatedly there was nothing more they would do. After saying: “This child is going to hurt someone, and when he does, I’m going to the media and naming names,” I was requested to bring him in for an emergency assessment.

The psychologist interviewed him for a while. “He needs to be admitted, but he knows the right answers to the right questions, and there’s no way I’ll be able to get it approved [for insurance payment].” He was right. The people holding the pursestrings said no, just call 911. The home therapist said “Next time, don’t even speak to him. Don’t engage him at all. Just call 911.”

Just call 911.  Yeah, because that’s been so helpful.

It wouldn’t take much more time before the next call had to be made. After locking his little brother out on the balcony, he was given a timeout (something that usually was very effective for him). He exploded. His eyes changed color, his stance became extremely rigid, and the first object went flying.

As I had been instructed to do, I simply walked away. I went into my office and dialed 911. As I was talking to them, the door flew open and he attacked me, trying to swat the phone out of my hand. “My son is attacking me. I am going to place him into a gentle hold. I now have him prone on the floor and am applying my weight to his back to hold him down to protect myself. Please hurry!”

The 911 operator’s voice was tinged with emotion as she heard him screaming and swearing at me.

He said vile things to me, things he believed would hurt me. I understood that was his anger, and I ignored him. I followed instructions and did not engage him. Instead I called a friend, “I’m waiting for the police to get here. Please just talk to me. Yes, that’s C.”

“I just want to stab you in the back and chop you into little pieces!” C suddenly blurted. Luckily, my friend had heard it. I now had a witness. Now we would get help!

The police were extremely concerned and were shocked at his continued belligerence with them. Remembering how he calmed down last time in the ER once I arrived, I refused to be present.  By the time he was evaluated, they agreed he needed admission.

While in the hospital, the company paying the bills informed us he was ready to go home. The hospital staff said absolutely not.  They felt he could not go home unless they walked the line between sedation and chemical behavior management, neither of which are considered ethical except in the worst of circumstances. After the company’s denial, I won the appeal, and he was moved to a residential treatment facility.

I later would find the knives he had hidden around the house.

When he returned home, this time we had a full-time team of people. They were in my home for a minimum of 35 hours a week.

He didn’t last long before he was attacking people again. When he was in the hospital, he was caught sharpening a toothbrush into a shiv. He was returned to the residential treatment center. After he tried stabbing one of the staff with a pen, after pushing a peer down the stairs, and after assaulting another peer (and this time charges were filed), they announced he was ready to be discharged.

I responded with a loud “Hell no!”

Soon after I was informed that it was their opinion that there was nothing more they could do for him. I didn’t disagree with that but did disagree that meant we should happily endanger me, my other child, and the neighborhood.  As the company paying the bills refused to pay for his stay any longer, or transfer to a less restrictive environment, he was going to be discharged whether I liked it or not.  After he grabbed my throat while on a walk, I decided he could no longer come home.

For my sake, my other child’s sake, and, ultimately, for C’s sake, we couldn’t continue to live like this. In order to protect everyone, I connected with DCS and requested they step in.

For him to get additional services he obviously was in desperate need of, I had to give the county temporary custody. Except, it isn’t that simple. In that state, there is no voluntary situation. So I was charged with “dependency and neglect,” served papers by a sheriff’s deputy, and appeared before a magistrate to get my child the help he needed. I was “allowed” to request that it be changed to “beyond control of parent,” the only option that isn’t completely derogatory for the parent, and that was granted. “We are only here because there is no other option to get C services.”

Thereafter I was treated as the obvious villain. I had to obtain a court order to force his caseworker to return my emails and/or voicemails. After being given supervised visits, the assigned therapist asked “Why are we doing this?” because “Talon is the only one who can calm him down and work with him.”

The judge was so angry at the county that he reprimanded them from the bench. “We are not here because of Talon! The people who are responsible [his abusive biological parents] are not in this room.”

He was moved into a special community-integrated program. Soon they accepted it wasn’t me that was the problem (in spite of former attestations from licensed professionals, they never believed it couldn’t be my fault).

It didn’t take long before they decided there was nothing else they could do either. As he continued to display volatility, aggression, and regular escalations, I refused to allow him to come home.

“I caution you against that decision, Talon,” the caseworker said. “You know, we could push to terminate your rights. He is still adoptable.”

After having been repeatedly abused by the system that is supposed to be there to help people like my son, and the parents who are trying to bring healing into their lives, I had to make a tough decision.  Do I continue to live our lives as a hostage? It was clear that as long as I was fighting for him, as long as I was part of the picture, he would not get the help he needed.

I then made an incredibly painful decision. After 2 years of constant fighting, advocating for him and my family, begging and pleading for help, I relinquished my parental rights.  As the judge said, “This is the only way we can get this child the help he needs.”

What is wrong with a system that forces children to be arrested to get help, or that makes it so difficult to get a child services that the only way they can be adequately helped is for their parent to relinquish their rights?

I have held the future Adam Lanza in my arms while he cried. I have nurtured the future Jeffery Dahmer as I took my 12-year-old’s large body onto my lap, curled him lovingly into a big ball, and rocked him until he fell asleep. I have stood in a prison’s conference room and stared at evil incarnate as I urged officials, once again, to deny his biological father parole.  And I have wept bitterly as I heard the sharp rap of the judge’s gavel after pronouncing the words officially severing my rights to the possible future James Holmes.

So don’t tell me we don’t need better mental healthcare access in the US. Stop blaming ALL of the parents. Yeah, some really are horrid, but most of us parenting a child with mental illness are doing our damnedest to love, heal, and keep our families, and everyone else, safe. Had C’s biological parents received the help they needed as children, there’s a good chance those 6 children wouldn’t be in the situations they currently find themselves.

And, honestly, don’t tell me how these tragic situations prove we need better gun control. If we don’t move past the emotional first response and focus instead on the crumbling foundation beneath our society, we are doomed. With or without guns.

86 comments

  1. Kudos to you for sharing, Talon. I think it takes a lot of courage to be able to share a story like this. I had a student last year whose arrival into my classroom disrupted the balance we had finally found after the first few hectic months of class. I began writing scary threats in his notebooks to other students, stealing things from me and hitting the other teacher, who was pregnant at the time and wishing for her baby to die. When we went to the mother after the school’s resources couldn’t do much, she refused to believe that anything was wrong. Turning a blind eye is never the right answer, as any loving parent knows, but it seems that drastic measures have to be taken for a child who cannot be helped with mere tough love and consequences. Sadly, the debate about mental health is one with much different conseuqnces than simply relinquishing the 2nd ammendment. Perhaps these types of stories can draw more attention the the bigger issue at hand.
    Cat of Sunshine and Siestas recently posted..Seville Snapshot: Bodega Marqués de Riscal in Eltziego (País Vasco)My Profile

    • Admin says:

      I have dealt with those blind parents as well. They are incredibly frustrating, and their child, in the end, suffers along with everyone else.

      I hope it does just that because we need a bigger focus on mental health issues and supporting not only those dealing with the illness but those who are trying to help them.

  2. Jeff says:

    Wow Talon. I never knew any of this. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to go through that experience.
    Jeff recently posted..Taking A Career Break Isn’t EasyMy Profile

  3. G M S says:

    Thanks for sharing. I whole-heartedly agree that the system needs a re-do and interviewing people like you to help develop what might better work is a great place to start. However, you didn’t hold the future Lanza in your arms. You did what you had to do to get him help. It sounds like you are nothing like Nancy Lanza, who is said by neighbors to have taught her troubled son how to shoot, and who owned 6 guns and kept them in the house her troubled son was living. The magnitude of this crime wouldn’t have been so large if she hadn’t had these weapons at his fingertips. Perhaps she was mentally ill herself. We’ll never know. But, please don’t think that your story is like hers. You made different choices.

    • Admin says:

      Well, we don’t really know what he was like, or what she did and didn’t do, so I’m not going to judge her. If what we’ve heard so far is true, she was a complete idiot and holds partial blame for what he went on to do in my mind.

  4. My love and respect for you has grown 10 fold. Thank you for sharing this story, and thank you for being the amazing you that you are! So much love your way, my friend!
    Lainie Liberti recently posted..The Little Soul & the Sun- A Dedication to the Victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting [VIDEO]My Profile

  5. Becky says:

    Now I understand, Talon.

  6. Well said…and thanks for sharing the “rest” of the story. It sounds painful to so many degrees, and you and the judge were correct in saying the problem did not begin with anyone in the court room. It starts from the beginning…his biological parents…and whoever messed them up…and them up…etc. I am certainly not of the “gun control” camp…there is a much deeper underlying problem.
    Living Outside of the Box recently posted..Loi Krathong Festival in Chiang MaiMy Profile

    • Admin says:

      Most definitely a huge underlying issue of gargantuan proportions and multifaceted. And it definitely is often part of a sad chain.

  7. Andrew says:

    Wow. Impressive strength shown and applied.

  8. Bret @ GGT says:

    Incredible story, Talon. Have you considered writing a book on this subject? I think it could be HUGE.
    Bret @ GGT recently posted..CHILE: The Road To Torres del Paine National ParkMy Profile

    • Admin says:

      Thanks, Bret. I have tried a few times to write my autobiography, but it’s always kind of a painful, raw process, so I haven’t gotten very far. And the more I write of my life, the more I think people will think it’s the most unbelievable fantasy they’ve ever read. I’ve been through so much.

      I have considered writing a more general book about adoption, though, particularly with children deemed as special needs adoption. I think it could be helpful.

  9. Fran says:

    I knew it was very rough at the time, and in my wildest imagination didn’t quite grasp the depth of it all. Insights like these are the promise of change as we learn each day of another child in distress, a family crying out, a society in need.

    • Admin says:

      Thanks, Fran. This is only a sliver of what life was like for over 2 years. Some of the most paniful moments and choices of my entire life.

  10. Michelle says:

    I knew you had such a hard time, and I also know that it’s heartbreaking to deal with it. The emotional pain must have been excruciating, and I applaud you for sharing your story. Until society starts recognizing that children do indeed suffer mental illness and are in need of assistance and stop blaming parents and guardians for being “bad parents,” we’re going to see more of this. There HAS to be some way to get children the assistance they need without having to resort to such heartbreaking extremes. I am also deeply bothered about the conjecture regarding Adam Lanza’s possibly having Asperger syndrome. As the parent of a child with Asperger’s, my son already lives in a world that is frightening and confusing. Children with this disorder do not need yet another stigma placed upon them.
    Michelle recently posted..Homemade Gift Baskets – Simple GiftsMy Profile

    • Admin says:

      The media really need to learn to wait until it has all the answers and to be VERY careful before they go demonizing a whole group of people unwittingly.

      I am so sick of the amount of parental blame that gets thrown at especially adoptive parents. We’ve taken an already hurt and damaged child and are trying to heal their many deep wounds. We are the last ones you should be blaming and abusing.

  11. Kathleen McElhenie says:

    The depth of your strength and love are immeasurable. You are truly an amazing human being.

  12. Renee D. says:

    My God, Talon. Thank you for sharing the details of such a painful experience. Your story will stay with me always. I have so much respect for you and other families who are dealing with mental illness/behaviours caused by early abuse.

    • Admin says:

      Thanks, Renee. Not enough understanding is given to parents of children dealing with mental illness, especially people like me who are taking a shattered child and trying to help them put all the pieces back together.

  13. Dalene says:

    Tears.

    Massive kudos to you for sharing this. MORE of this needs to be shared, there are undoubtedly MORE stories like this out there, and maybe a country will listen if everyone stands up and shares.
    Dalene recently posted..Weird WisconsinMy Profile

    • Admin says:

      There are at least hundreds, if not thousands, of these stories. I hope more come to light so people start paying attention and start granting a little more understanding.

  14. Jessica says:

    I’ve been saying this all weekend-that our problem is in not addressing the mental issues of kids when they are 11,12,13. By the time they are 20, it’s too late! Thank you for having the courage to share this painful story and for giving a face to what is happening for parents and kids all over the country/world. Off to share this with everyone!
    Jessica recently posted..Christkindl Market in Arlington, TXMy Profile

    • Admin says:

      It is so true. Some things have to be developed by a much younger age, but empathy and other very important traits MUST be learned by early teens or they will most likely NEVER be developed, and that spells tragedy for all of us.

  15. Mary says:

    Wow Talon, I had no idea. You have yet again become a hero in my eyes. What a thing to go through.

    Thank you so much for sharing, these are the stories that people need to start hearing and emotionally bonding to. Because maybe then they will get that it isn;t the guns, it is the mental stability of the person that needs help!
    Mary recently posted..Yi Peng Lantern Festival – Chiang Mai, ThailandMy Profile

    • Admin says:

      I wish more would share their stories. I know there are tons of them out there. Maybe then Congress and others would wake up and do something helpful for a change.

  16. Crystal says:

    Talon, Thank you for sharing such a deeply painful time in your life. Mental illness is extremely hard and expensive to treat. I am saddened by the lack of treatment out there. The whole system is so broken on so many levels. When parents know there is an issue and can’t even get their child the help they need there is a bigger issue at hand.

  17. AlovingMother says:

    Talon, you are so incredibly brave for sharing your story. If I had no fear of a community backlash, I would share mine publicly too. Perhaps, one day I will. I often said to my closest friends, that I feared my son would become a serial killer one day. I know that look in the eyes, I feared it so much. It was like he became another person. When the episode was over, there he was, back to his beautiful self again. I knew something was off when he was 1 1/2, he has been in therapy since of some form or another since he was 3. I have been 120% present with everything he has needed. I am proud to say that he is now 12 and it is rare that he ever shows any act of violence. Although, I still have an underlying fear of him that I can’t seem to shake.
    He doesn’t really have many friends, maybe one. The kids in our community knew him when he was younger and they are pretty unforgiving of any of his off behaviors now. I have high hopes for him and will continue to support him in every way.
    As far as the system goes… If I would have listened to 90% of the “professionals”, he would be misdiagnosed, medicated, and given the completely wrong treatments. It was me educating myself, knowing when something was working and wasn’t working, sticking with the professionals who actually cared and were on the right track and love that have gotten us through this.
    For all of those that have their strong opinions about our children and our parenting… Until you’ve walked a mile in our shoes… shut the hell up.

    • Admin says:

      If you ever want to share you story anonymously, you may do so on this blog. This is one of the reasons I created it, so people had a forum when they didn’t feel safe to attach their name to something.

      I had your experience with the professionals as well. Constantly having to fight even them. It is so incredibly frustrating. I’m glad things are brighter looking for you and your child.

  18. Mark says:

    A very moving story, Talon. I didn’t know. My hat goes off to you, man.
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  19. Connie says:

    Talon, you have done a heart-wrenching job of passing your experiences along to the world. I consider it a privilege to call you my friend, and I’m so glad we had the chance to meet IRL. I just can’t imagine what you have been through and am amazed that you have come out of it in the best possible way.

  20. Jesus, Talon. What a story. I’m very happy you shared this. We’ve got a very sad, messed up system as you demonstrated here. I admire you all the more for your strength and learning and love.
    Jim O’Donnell recently posted..Snow on the Colombine-Hondo – My Shot of the Day – December 17, 2012My Profile

  21. E Tunison says:

    I agree with the judge that the biological parents were the ones that needed to be in the room and take responsibility for their child. However, it sounds like they were not only inept at parenting, but possibly had not had such good parental models themselves. When children are born into poverty or to parents that don’t really want them, the cards are stacked against us all. I don’t necessarily advocate for abortion, but once a child is on the way there are some hard decisions that need to be made. The soon to be parents must put their child’s best interests first be it adoption or living within their means and having a stay at home parent. Many kids do fine in daycare, but I bet most kids would do even better if they had one on one attention during their first 4-5 years of life and for those kids that are especially sensitive it is essential their bonding to/with another person to stave off this avalanche of mass murders. We are reaping what we have sown. I give you huge kudos for attempting the impossible…to heal a damaged soul.

  22. flipnomad says:

    speechless again but very timely post for the current situation… sharing this as well… I do hope that wherever your other son is now, he’s getting take cared of :-) thanks for sharing your story Talon.
    flipnomad recently posted..Three Cheap Things to Do in London in WinterMy Profile

    • Admin says:

      Unfortunately, it’s on him at this point. They won’t make the tough decisions to help ensure him a hopeful future, and he won’t make the choices necessary to help that either. It’s very sad.

      Salamat!

  23. Yvonne says:

    My dear friend, voices like yours are what we all need to hear to begin the changes. Hearts like yours are what is needed to make the changes. Stay strong. There are more children to save. <3
    Yvonne recently posted..GraffitiMy Profile

  24. Erin Bender says:

    Wow! That story is intense and heart breaking. Thank you for sharing and thank you for loving that boy. I hope in his darkest days he remembers that love. Do they allow you to keep track of him now?
    Erin Bender recently posted..Chewing Gum in Hair Leads to Hollywood Hop-On-Hop-Off to Santa Monica PierMy Profile

    • Admin says:

      Because of his detachment from people, I really don’t believe I mean anything to him. He just doesn’t connect with people on that level. He sees you as value based. If you provide high enough value, then he will work with you until you don’t. If you don’t provide value, then he has no need for you. But I hope somewhere deep down he knows that he was and is still loved by many people who have been in his life and truly cared about him.

      They would, but he won’t allow them to give me any information. Since he’s old enough to make that decision, they are forced to honor it. Through the grapevine I’ve learned he continues to have problems and has had some more arrests. Frankly, I’m just waiting for him to be headline news unfortunately.

  25. Amanda says:

    You have certainly moved me to tears, Talon, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing your story; I’m sure it was not an easy thing to do, but I appreciate your willingness to open up about such a sad issue.

    I wish I had better words, but there just aren’t any good enough for this situation. So instead of saying more, I’ll just share this as much as I can.
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    • Admin says:

      Thank you, Amanda. I hope the more people see it, the more will come to understand, and more who are living similar stories will share theirs. Hopefully, together we can all effect change.

  26. Kathleen Price says:

    Your story has me in tears, Talon. God bless you for everything that you did for that child. Thank you for sharing your very moving story. It will not be forgotten. xoxo

  27. Angela says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I lived through some of this with a stepchild who we decided just could not live with us – a mixed family of 2 children and 2 stepchildren THIS ISN’T ABOUT GUNS AND IT ISN’T ABOUT PARENTING! It IS about the tragic state of mental health care in our country. It IS about all of us not wanting to pay what is necessary to provide quality professional care for these broken members of our human family. Some of these scarred children can be saved with the right treatment and the necessary humane living conditions. Is the solution to allow them to kill themselves after they’ve killed others or to just use the ultimate solution???? It IS time for all of us to step up and DEMAND that we start paying more of our tax dollars on our citizens than what we spend on weapons! We have the money – we’re spending it wrongly. Talon, thank you for going as long as you went and fighting that terrible battle. I hope and pray that your heart is mending and that you never forget that there are those of us who do understand. Bless you Talon, and those of you who are struggling with your own battles.

    • Admin says:

      Thank you, Angela. My heart still aches for him, but I know that I did absolutely everything I possibly could’ve and went far and beyond what others would’ve, so I have peace with that at least. That is a gift.

  28. Wow. Just wow. You clearly went above and beyond with this child. America certainly is in a sad state of affairs when there is so much red tape involved in helping a mentally ill child.

    FWIW, you’re doing a great job with Tigger and I’m sure it was the right thing for him not to have a brother like this as an influence.
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    • Admin says:

      Thanks, Bethaney. Yes, Tigger went through a LOT. He was, unfortunately, quite often the target of a lot of C’s anger. I had to keep them under constant supervision whenever they were together because of it. After the ordeal, Tigger told someone (the adoptive parent of one of C’s siblings who had also handed custody over to her ex-husband after the child broke her nose) that it was “terrifying” living with him. :(

  29. Beth says:

    Talon, your words are so clear and true. As I was sharing at work today, we’ve been where you were – a child physically out of control that takes two adults to pin down (gently) at only 40+ pounds (can you say adrenaline?), intensive in-home intervention for violent behavior, ‘call 911′ recommendations. At one point we decided to videotape what was happening, because some day there would be a knock at the door with neighbors saying they hear screaming all day and night, and needed to have proof that we were on the receiving end of the violence, not our son.

    This continued up until we were able to get him into a VERY special school 2-1/2 years ago. Its like we have a completely different person living in our home. When our son was young everything I found said kids like him ended up in jail – it broke my heart. Yet here we are, with a future we would never have believed back when we were struggling daily, hourly, through the chaos.

    The right environment and support made this possible. If the school system would support this option, how many kids would have a better future? At one point the local school was paying tuition for kids that qualified, though there were not very many and you practically had to sue to make it happen. Then they decided they could do the same thing my son’s school could do on their own. Such ignorance. This is the same school system that told me my son didn’t need physical, speech, or occupational therapy – outrageous ignorance.

    I hate that this is how the dialogue is opening, but I am glad it is happening.

  30. Michelle Wolfson says:

    Very powerful and unfortunately a story I have heard before in slight variation from other families. You are a remarkable parent indeed, and a gifted writer as well.

    We need to make effective mental health care, effective and non-Draconian responses to mental health crises in children/teens, available NOW.

  31. Thank you Talon. I can’t even begin to imagine going through what you did. I can only hope that people will begin to see how difficult it is to get help for mentally ill kids.
    Nancy Sathre-Vogel recently posted..Travel disaster: Injured foot in VietnamMy Profile

  32. Barbara says:

    Your voice of experience leaves an eerie echo within me and helps my silent scream come alive so we can call attention to mental illness, our children, and our responsibilities. You, Talon Windwalker, are one of the most caring, courageous men I am honored to know.

  33. heather says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your history. I can only hope it helps you heal. I know intellectually, you have to know that none of this was your fault but I’m sure guilt can creep in and make you question your decisions. The support you have received in responses proves that you went to all extremes to try to help your son. Hopefully, he will continue to receive the help that he needs and this experience will provide you with the knowledge to help others.
    I also have a son who exhibits very challenging behavior: no impulse control, shouting out and repeating inappropriate words, lack of empathy, lying, etc. His private school refused to allow him to continue attending unless he was medicated. He was labeled as having ADHS, although he really didn’t fall into that category from parental and teacher assessments. His child psychiatrist meets with us for a 15 minute appointment that really only consists of weighing him and writing a new prescription. It is very frustrating not having any real support from the school, other than their desire to medicate.
    I don’t want to paint my child as a future Adam Lanza, but I really feel like it could be a possibility if he doesn’t receive a “real” diagnosis. While my son’s behavior is not as extreme as your son’s, it is very frustrating that no one seems to understand the stress, difficulty and frustration that his behavior creates in our home. I am worried that my daughter is already suffering from his bullying and feel like it’s not fair to her to have to live in this environment. I feel like the only way I can truly get anyone to understand our home life would be to videotape his outbursts.
    Again, I commend you for sharing and can’t even begin to understand how hard it would be to surrender parental rights, even though you know in your heart that you’re doing the right thing for your child.

    • Admin says:

      I had a friend who had a similar child, and she did finally videotape what was going on because no one would believe her. I really encourage you to do so. It may ultimately save you at some point, however sad that is to have to say.

      I have no guilt. One of the reasons I fought so long and hard was because I needed to know that I had done absolutely everything possible. I know that beyond doubt. Although the judge was kind enough to repeat it as well: “At some point, you may ask yourself did you do the right thing, and I’m going to tell you ‘Yes, yes you did.'”

  34. Jessie V says:

    bravo, talon, for sharing this. it can’t have been easy to write, and it certainly must have been one of the hardest things in your life, living through those years.
    Jessie V recently posted..Seven Must-read Travel ArticlesMy Profile

  35. Nasreen says:

    Talon- I’ve always enjoyed chatting with you and had no idea about all of this. I am so sorry to hear you went through this. My husband worked in the area of substance abuse for a few years and he spent those years frustrated about insurance companies turning down treatment, frustrated that facilities were being asked to expand without even currently being run properly, and with so many good people leaving the field some facilities are being run by folks who haven’t had the proper schooling or training. He saw people who had been failed by the system again and again who had turned to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.
    I am so sorry that you had to go through this. Something needs to be done before the system gets more and more fractured.
    Nasreen recently posted..Remembering to Say “I Love You”My Profile

  36. L says:

    Had no idea you went thru all that. I disagree with your conclusion though. The mental healthcare machinery is clearly broken and I am so sorry you and Tigger had to go through that experience. However, I am glad you knew better than to place a gun into the hands of C like apparently Mrs. Lazlo did with her son. We do need better mental healthcare. We also do need better gun regulation. Not a simple wait period but possibly insurance requirements that would promote much more responsibility on the part of gun owners.

    • Admin says:

      The issue is a multifaceted one, and I don’t believe there is one simple fix. We need to hold off on knee-jerk responses, though, and have some serious soul searching as a nation.

  37. AdaBee says:

    T, I’ve thought of you many times during this most recent debate. I think a lot of people just don’t get it and really, it’s hard to fathom if you haven’t seen it up close. We’ve experienced some similar things in my extended family and the options for help have been very limited. I think the worst part is that when a child reaches the age of majority, there are so few options for dangerously mentally ill, damaged people to receive care and for the rest of society to receive protection. I think these are the laws that need more focus, study, and change. A thousand blessings upon you and Tigger too.

  38. AdaBee says:

    PS Talon! With your talent as a writer and your experiences, would you consider writing a book?

    • Admin says:

      You are very right. The older they get, the harder it gets, and the more important it is. You have a limited time in which to help a child before their chances completely dissipate.

      I’m working on a book, but, as you can probably imagine, it’s pretty difficult to get through sometimes.

  39. decostop says:

    I am sure this type of situation is difficult and it’s sad these situations exist at all. However, I don’t understand the total external focus without any attention to self sufficiency. In your extended travelling I am sure you are learning it is important to be able to take care of a number of critical things yourself because you can’t just count on them being taken care of in various countries around the world. That ability to achieve a certain level of self sufficiency is important and should be applied in a general manner to life. I understand there is a balance to be struck between self sufficiency and poling of resources in creating a healthy society. However, more and more it seems to be the default of citizens that grew up in a 1st world environment is that everything should be taken care of for them by the group. Remember everything has a cost. If something doesn’t cost you that is only because you are shifting the burden / responsibility to others.

    A 10 year old child and you needed to repeatedly call 911 and involve police? It doesn’t sound like he was armed. I believe this is an example of shifting burden and cost to others unnecessarily.

    • Admin says:

      Anyone who can read what I wrote and lecture me on being self-sufficient didn’t clearly understand what it is I wrote.

  40. […] so I began my classes. Less than 4 months later, my first child moved into my home.  After a year, I felt like someone was missing from our family, and at the end of 2007 I began […]

  41. Heidi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. It takes courage, but it helps others. I love following you and your son. Keep up the great writing.
    Heidi recently posted..Help! – The Kid With Entrepreneurship on his MindMy Profile

    • Admin says:

      Thank you, Heidi. I wish more parents would speak up and let people know what it can be like. Until they do, nothing will change in a positive direction.

  42. Sasha says:

    Wow, Talon, thank you so much for sharing all of this! Your story shines a light on something that many people would rather avoid thinking about. When a situation is as difficult as this one, it’s easy to make quick and careless judgments (of the parents, of the children, of “the mentally ill”, etc)… it’s so much more challenging to actually engage with the situation in a deep and meaningful way, as you did.

    I agree with you that gun regulation is only the tip of the iceberg in discussing mass murder. I do personally believe in the importance of gun regulation, mainly because I believe that no person needs to own a weapon whose sole purpose is to kill hundreds of people in seconds. And in my opinion, any person who thinks they need a weapon like that should probably not own any weapons whatsoever. However, when we talk about “kids like this,” gun control is not a solution to the problems they face. A child with this level of hurt and behavior problems will present a crisis anywhere they go, whether they have weapons or not. It’s so important to recognize that just making it hard to own a machine gun will not solve the problems of these children and their families.

    I think also it’s important to bring up the fact that “mental illness” encompasses a HUGE range of experiences, from phobias, to major depression, and even including people who have psychotic disorders who also happen to be sweet, loving, and gentle people. The vast majority of the “mentally ill” pose no threat to anyone including themselves. Which is all the more reason why people who do struggle with extreme and violent behavior from their children should be able to access meaningful mental health services! When a house is on fire, the fire department doesn’t respond to that fire by calling endless meetings to try to figure out who is to blame for the fire. They come and put the fire out. Because it’s obvious that a fire is too much for one person to deal with on their own, and it affects everyone. You had a fire in your family and were expected to put it out by yourself with a glass of water. This situation should be unthinkable, especially in a country with as many financial resources as this one.

    Thank you again for your courage and grace in the way you shared your story. I’m humbled by your loving parenting, your thoughtful writing, and your incredible commitment to living your values. The world is a better place for your presence in it!

  43. Admin says:

    I love your firefighting analogy. That is so very accurate! And thank you for the incredible compliment as well.

  44. remi says:

    hi, i am a regular reader of one dad one kid crazy adventure, and have read both your story and soccer mon’s one, and have find those sitiuations both very sad.
    Also, reading the comments following the soccer mom and her son story, i felt i the need to share my own story, as someone who felt himself more like the son than the mom. But, after tries to write it, i always felt than my comments would be seen as rude or offensive for the mom and also for those who, in the comment, says than their’s childs were the same way. Not feeling been rude would advance anything, i chose to post here, were i feel i may be understud a little better.
    before telling my story, i would like to say that english is not my native language, so please excuse probable missuse of words and others mistakes. (i am french)

    you say that you “have been in similar shoe” than the soccermom. i disegrea, and you say, yourself, that C’s problem’s were largely due to the traumatic part of his childhood, were you were not. i think this makes your different from the mom’s on the soccer blog mom who share the story of their strugel, because, wile there is a cause for C’s probleme, everybody seems to think that all their’s childrens somehow just pop one day or at birth with a mental deases like people just get a cancer or a genetic deases.

    i have said that i felt more empathy for the sons than for the mothers, thought, i don’t feel the same than C. i dont think that my path have been half as traumatic as his, and this is why i post here and not on the soccer mom blog. beaucause i do not feel my comments concern you.
    like i said, i am french, and i thinks french psychiatry profetional, and the society as a whole, tend to want to label and medicate the childs less than americans do. when i was a child, i had some of the behaviors that the soccer mom describe. i have been violent, to myself and to others. I have made threats, the kind the son do. I quite recenty learned that my preschool teatcher qualified me as “gifted, autistic, and hyperhactive” labels who come very often on the comments posts. thought i come to psychologists during my childhood, i never have been tested for anithing. as i said, i thinks french psychologist don’t likes pils and labels. their are maybe more of an old freudian way. wich didn’t helped me much more. i just tried to lie my way out of the therapy, giving the awnsers who could get me out of the appointements as fast as possible, another beaviour report by the soccer mom comenters.
    i am pretty sure that, if i were born in the us, i would have recieve various labels and medications, and i do not thinks it would have work. because metal diseas rarely grew on their own, and pills do not heal a trauma, nor they can change an unkind environment. my family is a “normal” french family, mom, dad, older siter, and little brother (me, i am now in my mid twenty, and doing quite fine). my father is a deep alchoolic and i do not thinks i have memory of him sober in the past fifteen years. my sister have struggle all her childhood, teenagerhood and early adulthood with anxietty and low selfesteam she have been bulied for her weight probleme by my father and me; when i was a child immiting my father; calling here “la grosse”, the fat one. like i already said, i was prone to violent oubusrt, verbal and physical, all my childhood and part of my teenagerhood. my mother aknolweged than there was another probleme in the family than me only when my father alcoholisme deepend and his condition was no longer hidebal to the rest of the world, a little less than ten years ago. befor that, she would say, and i think that she believed, the exact same thing that the soccer moms commenters, she would complaine to people how hard it is to have a mentally unstabal children, and how she do all she can to help me, but that i was not willing to do anithing to help myself. and i think that if she had found a blog to complain with other mother of how hard it is to fear for the safety of her family because of her son, she would have. and this is why i say that i feel more of the child’s than of the mothers who post on the soccermom blog.

    i know that mental hillness can be all nature, but i thinks most of them are nurtured. symptomes looking as autisme, not aspenger, but deeper autisme, can be induce by family environment (the case of “dibs”, a patient of dr virginia m.axline is quite well know). everybody thinks that the childs just came with a mental illness and says that we should stop blaming the parents, but i can not thinks otherwise that most of the kids are victimes of their environment, like C, or to a way lesser degree, me.

    • Admin says:

      Thank you for sharing the other side of things.

      There are some forms of mental illness that do have a genetic component, many that are biochemical (which is not because of anything the parents did or didn’t do), but definitely some is brought on by a child’s experience growing up. There is no doubt about it.

      You are very right about America’s version of mental health care, too. We enjoy our labels and medications.

  45. Chris says:

    As a young man whom one day wants to be a foster/adoptive parent as well as a social worker, this story was very enlightening to me. It is quite sad to hear of what you went through and my deepest condolences go out to you. I whole-heartedly agree, there is a strong need for more help with mental-help in the US. I fully commend you for doing everything you could to help this young boy, it amazes me the patience it must have taken to do so.

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