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Florida, United States
Southern born, Southern reared. It's a quirky place and we are unique folk... These are my people and these are my stories.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday's Southern-Style Faith (Our Story Continues)

So what do you do when you've spent the entire night keeping vigil because your precious child, the one you'd give your life for, has become so psychotic, you fear that rather than die for her, you'll die by her? What do you do the following morning--so tired your muscles ache and your brain refuses to work--once the sun has risen again and you know life goes on?

As it turned out, J had an appointment late that morning with her therapist. I called ahead, told her what had happened. Neither of us were fully surprised. Four months previous, we'd hospitalized J for what we thought was a reaction to her ADHD meds. Just before that, she and I had gone away for a week, which would have been and should have been a lovely time together--but had turned into a disaster when she informed those around us that my husband and I had installed cameras in her bedroom and bathroom so we could watch her undress and shower. Of course none of that was true. After the week away--with the first four days being such fun and the last three being something akin to hell on earth--my husband and I took her to a therapy session where she explained, oh so casually, why she thought there were cameras and we, of course, explained otherwise. Everyone left happy. Then, two days later she stood in the middle of the street screaming she is going to kill herself. Totally broken down. My husband and I were helpless as officers handcuffed her and drove her away. Helpless watching her thrashing about in the back of the squad car. Just helpless.

The ADHD meds, they said. We'll ween her off. Make her better. And, after a week, she returned to us, pretty much her old self. So maybe they were right.

But there had been those previous problems in school. The year before, we'd gone from elementary to middle school--that cesspool of hormones and mean girl issues. J got in trouble one day for defending another girl from the attacks of a third. Then, she was thrown against the bathroom wall (warning: if you are in middle school, just learn to hold it) by a girl who was suspended for three days. There were other fights. She also struggled with her school work, but socially, she seemed to be doing well.

Then came the notices. Skipping class. Failing in class. Disrupting class. Fighting at lunch. I was getting emails from teachers nearly every day and phone calls from the school counselor just as often. I amped up my mothering role. I started having email sessions with the teachers on a weekly basis, letting J know that a good week would result in an award. A bad week ... well, there go your privileges.

By March, with a child failing and having been suspended too many times, I removed her from school (at her request) to homeschool her. In homeschooling, she did so well. She blossomed.

But, like I said ... then came August. And then...then came October when CPS (child protective services) showed up at my door. They had a report that we kept J. imprisoned in her room. That we had cameras in the bedroom and bath.

Here we go again.

I showed them our weekly calendar. She had a social event every Monday. Tuesday was ballet. Wednesday was Youth Group at church. Thursday was jazz. Nearly every Friday she was heading out to the farm where her best friends lived. She spent most weekends (I met her at church on Sunday) with them. After Sunday service, we'd go shopping. Or maybe to a matinee.

The officer talked to me at length. Talked to J. Smiled and said, "She's a normal kid."

But something smelled like a rat. And the rat had a name. S, I have called her. Her friend's mother. So I called S and confronted her. She swore she hadn't called ...but she was concerned because I wouldn't let J see her bio-dad. What? She had total freedom to see her bio-dad! She insisted she didn't want to.

Oh ... that's not what she told me. Maybe I misunderstood.

Maybe you should get your nose out of my business and rear your own kids.

Okay. I digress.

And so I went to the therapist and said, "I think we've got issues."

To which she said, "Yes, we do. J is beginning to create stories in her head that could easily land you in prison. I think it's time for a psychological. With the onset of hormones, we may be seeing the same illnesses her bio-parents suffer from."

All along I kept the GAL (Guardian ad Litem) supervisor undated. She's been so good to us in the 2.5 years of court hearings and I knew how much she loved J. How much J. loved her. She also knew how much we loved J and how much she loved us.

But love wasn't going to get us through this. Nor was prayer. You cannot pray hard enough or love deep enough and think that mental health issues and illnesses will just go away. Sometimes there is a purpose.

And right now ... it seemed that the purpose was to destroy our family.

Where mental illness left off ... DCF and CBC of Central Florida picked up. Departments designed to save families and children, but destroyers of them nonetheless. Departments without hearts, who only care for the power they hold, to use it for evil and not for good. Departments without ears ... and none are so deaf as those who refuse to listen.

Because then came January 11 ... and a final trip to the therapist after that long, long night. The last day I would see my little girl ... because of the idiocy of DCF and CBC of Central Florida. Because the state of Florida gives children--even those diagnosed with mental health issues--all the rights.


  1. I continue to pray for Jo -- that godly intervention will get her the help she needs and bring her back to you. I also pray for grace and strength for you and those who truly love her -- and that the airing of the truth will bring about substantive changes in the system.

  2. Eva, my heart goes out to you. I appreciate your frankness in telling about the idiocracy of the system. My 3 yr-old grandson is being withheld from his father and his grandparents (us) by his mother who knows the system well enough to use it for her own purposes. What's good for the child does not seem to matter to DCF - only what the mother wants is what they listen to. Despite the fact that she's moved six times in one year, taking her other two children out of school, shacking up with new boyfriends, etc., yet we have no rights or power over what she does. I feel so badly for the children involved, not to mention my son. And of course we miss our grandson terribly.

    1. My heart breaks for you, too. As a grandmother, I cannot imagine if we could not see our precious ones.

  3. Grateful for your candor and honesty. Very saddened by your pain. Life is such a journey of surrender and trust with lots of opportunity for both. Glad you're telling it straight.

    Praying today.

  4. These DCF and CBC actions make no sense. None. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a list of degrees to see how far off-base they are. I've watched this unfold over the years and even as one who is normally a rule-follower, I have seen that these rules and guidelines and plans make no sense. And apparently the people at DCF and CBC aren't astute enough to see it.

    To believe a mentally-ill child and let her make all the decisions while in the grips of her mental illness? Good grief.

    Continuing to pray for J. God have mercy...

  5. I'm so sorry you have to go through this. Praying for your entire family.

  6. In RI, I work for a "wrap-around" program which tries to keep children with serious emotional disorders or children at risk of abuse/neglect in their homes and surround their families with the supports they need to remain together, safe, and healthy. It's often agonizing to sort through the stories vs the facts and make the best decision for the child. I don't know if they have wraparound in Florida but it's been useful in RI because facilitators spend hours with a family seeing the situation first-hand and are often able to discern the truth (sometimes, the child is the healthy one and the parents suffer from the untreated mental illness.) I'm so sorry you've had to endure this painful experience with such one-sided decisions.

  7. Lori, what a shame we don't live in RI ... :(

    Florida is known for losing kids. Now I know why.

  8. Continuing to remember you all in prayer.

  9. You know my feelings on the FL system. We cannot even be foster parents. Blahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. So sorry they feel the need to tear your family apart rather than offer support.

  10. "You cannot pray hard enough or love deep enough and think that mental health issues and illnesses will just go away."
    Best. Line. Yet.

    Thanks for your willingness to speak out, Eva. Once again, you're my hero, and I'm praying.

    1. Agree. Best. Line. Yet.

      Love Eva's passion. Admire her honesty. Praying.

  11. Our stories are different in ways and yet much the same in others. Fractured families are among us and please, each one reading this post, pray, pray, pray, I beg you.
    Eva, you know you captured my heart long ago and I pray daily for you and your daughters.

  12. I would like to offer my professional opinion about this situation. I have worked with high-risk children for many years as a foster care social worker (SWIII) and in-home family therapist working with DSS, mental health centers, and the Methodist Home for Children in North Carolina for over 20 years before becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. I've watched this landslide of bureacratic mismanagement from afar and could so clearly see what was happening, and honestly, I am not surprised.

    I have worked with many teens like J. through the years. Deeply emotionally wounded early in life, they are taken and placed in loving homes, only to viciously turn on the very same people who have attempted to love them and give them a home. Children like this have personality disorders, usually borderline personality disorder cocurrent with physiological imbalances like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Their view of the world and their place in it is warped. One classic symptom of emerging Borderline PD is the sudden (and sometimes violent) turning on people that they claim to love. The truth is, these children don't know how to love. They only know how to pretend to love to get their very basic needs for safety met, a skill learned early in life to cope with their chaotic and painful childhoods. Some become so severe as to form Reactive Attachment Disorder, the inability to truly attach to anyone at all, even their own child. Paradoxically, it is when they get into a safe place that they begin to act out their very deep and frightening anger at the world. They misdirect that anger at the very people that made them safe in the first place!

    I know first hand how easy it is to be manipulated by these children, who are often very bright and convincing. And, I'm not saying that they all are lying. Sadly, on rare occasions their stories are true.But when there is a clear diagnosis of mental illness, no evidence to substantiate wild accusations, threats of violence and sick behaviors and their cases are being managed by social workers who clearly are young and inexperienced and may have lost their objectivity, there is a recipe for disaster. Not only are good people devastated emotionally, financially, and socially, but the child is learning that manipulations, lies, and acting bizarre 1. gets a lot of attention 2. feeds their desperate need for power and control over others 3. and feeds the need for vengeance for wrongs done to them early in life. In other words, J. gets to do to the Everson's what was done to her, and if someone doesn't confront her with that, then she may one day do it to her own children as well.

    I am deeply sad for this child and this family. They all have been deeply wronged. Although I believe it is safer for both J. and the Everson's to have J. removed from their home, to have them be denied parental rights and to treat them as the enemy here has been a miscarriage of justice and a prime example of social work at its worst.

    I understand. Careers are at stake, jobs can be lost, and after all, social workers are all overworked, underpaid, and not trained to deal with sick children--at least not to the extent they should be. I deeply respect the unsung heroes of social work. The job is brutal at best. But it wasn't until I became a therapist that I really learned how much I didn't know when I was a social worker and how much the system has deterioriated in the last ten years. Its scary to think how often this is happening and how many lives are being destroyed in the process.I hope someone has the courage to stand up and do the right thing.

    Deborah B. Dunn,LMFT

    1. Deborah,

      How do we change this? It appears so BIG, but I believe change can happen.

  13. A number of years ago, I've forgotten just which one,I watched Eva and her precious J together at a conference for writers/speakers. The love between them was obvious and J was a happy girl, full of delight and hope in her future with Eva. I'm so sorry this mental illness descended upon that beautiful girl. I stand with you and your family before the throne of God seeking His answers, His healing, His intervention. Never has a girl received more love and more prayer. I pray your well directed and earnest steps to help her will yet bear fruit. Standing with you for J's future, Mary Tatem