This past month I received a blow – I found out that the residential facility my son had spent nearly 2 years at was closing its doors due to a string of negligence. The reports of negligence toward the children living there began while my son lived there, but since his departure (which was thankfully just before COVID lockdown), not only had 4 children broken into the med cabinet and nearly died from overdose (they all needed dialysis), but one child had been hit by a car while “on run” and died as a result. No doubt we knew at least one of these kids, and no doubt had my son still lived there he would have been caught up in all of it.
After reading the article describing the circumstances of closure for this facility, I wept. Wept for these children, for their families, for my family. Wept because a system that was supposed to help children actually hurt them. Wept because no therapist, no social worker, no underpaid and overworked employee at your child’s facility loves your child like you do. No one is going to go to the ends of the earth to make sure your child is safe like you will. And even then, you cannot guarantee your child’s safety.
And here is the reality of residential living that people need to know: It can be chaos. It can be traumatic. Your child will possibly be exposed to more inappropriate and damaging behavior than before entering residential.
In our case we did not have a choice about placement. The court system had all authority over our son’s life. And the court believed that this residential facility, yes the one that was just closed down, was the BEST choice in our state of Colorado. I wonder what they will now choose as their preferred placement center? And if our facility had so much neglect happening behind closed doors, what is going on in other facilities? And more than that, how will this system change and be the support that parents desperately need?
Residential placement is a last resort for families, but often it is the lifeline that they need in order to survive. To bring change to their child and their home. To keep their child and family safe. To heal wounds and create new pathways for a healthy future.
My heart hurts for families who have to go through the agony of admitting their child to a residential placement. And I constantly wonder and pray as to how I can bring comfort to these families. How can my experience help another? How can my family’s story bring hope? And how am I called to make change? By bringing awareness to the mental health crisis in the least, and to help make policy change at the most.
Our mental health support system is broken, overwhelmed and bursting at the seams. From health care coverage, to county funding, to qualified staffing, to early intervention access, and so much more – it is a complex web of support that is needed so that families can survive.
I am not sure where this burden on my heart will lead me. But in the meantime I will keep writing, keep sharing, keep listening and keep praying. And at the end of the day trust that God is good, and has my family in the palm of his hand.