In looking forward, it’s also important to see where you’ve been. The most often asked question that we get these days is an important one:
“How is your son doing now?”
Different people ask that question for different reasons. Those who know us personally care about him and us and they genuinely want to know how we all are now. Trauma Mamas who are not as far down the road want to know if any hope at all lay in store for their own children. And others want to rejoice in his and our success.
But back to the original question: “Where have we been?”
2008 We lost custody of our son. We were charged with and indicated for neglect. We fought in juvenile court to get the neglect finding amended to “dependency-no fault” and we fought in administrative law court to get our names removed from the child abuser list.
2010 We sued two state agencies for provision of his treatment under Medicaid as he is entitled to under federal law.
2011 There was a settlement. The state put us under gag order. We petitioned the juvenile court to regain custody of our son and were successful.
2012 “Second Time Foster Child” was published and the nation learned “the whole story.”
2013 Governor Quinn appointed me to the Community & Residential Services Authority.
2014 HB 5598 was introduced in the IL House of Representatives by State. Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, an adoptee. It is a bill which seeks to end the barbaric practice of involuntary custody relinquishment.
We have many people to thank along the way-Randie Bruno, our juvenile court attorney, Aaron Rapier, our federal court attorney, the honorable Judges Nancy Waites, Judge Valerie Ceckowski, Judge John Darrah, “Ronald” our therapist, NAMI Barrington, and others who kept our hope fires burning.
And for the second question: “How is our son doing now?”
Truthfully, better than he’s been in a very long time. He spent time in 3 different residential centers over 5 years where he learned a lot. He is now in a transitional living program. He stepped down from a group home to supportive housing. As most kids and young people with RAD, he still doesn’t trust us fully, but his capacity for empathy is much stronger than it’s ever been. He regularly asks how my husband and I are and he worries about us occasionally, which is a nice change. He adores our dog and that is a nice change too. He struggles with a lot of the same issues that most 19 years old’s face. And we try to remember to place more focus on how far he’s come, than on temporary setbacks. Despite any setbacks, he’s finally made a personal commitment to his own treatment.
Perhaps a third questions is in order: “How does he feel about having a mother who is a leading child mental health advocate. He’d tell you, “My mom is a rockstar!”
He does feel like he lost the majority of his childhood and because of spending so much time in facilities, we lost a lot of spending his childhood with him too. As the youngest child, while he was away, his siblings grew up. One served in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine. But he wanted us to share in all the good times he had while he was away, to share in the experiences that he had away from us, so he made this video for my husband and me. From him to us, it was his “thank you” for sticking by him through thick and thin and molding him into the young man he became. And it’s also, goodbye to the “old Daniel” and the “new Daniel” giving life a hug. It’s the new “He’s My Son.”
Watch and be inspired…these kids CAN be healed!