Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Nebraska mother fights back

    Several recent posts to this Blog have dealt with Nebraska's "safe haven" law, which allows parents to surrender children of any age, and the astonishingly callous response from Todd Landry, who runs the state's child welfare agency, when desperate parents of teenagers started to use the law.

One of the mothers responded to Landry in a letter to the Omaha World-Herald, reprinted below.   I disagree with the mother in her assessment of coverage by the World-Herald. I think their coverage has been exemplary, and compassionate.  But given her anguish, it's easy to understand why she feels as she does.  The reference at the end of the letter to "Von Maur" is a reference to shootings at an Omaha mall this year by a young man who had been the beneficiary of all the "help" the State of Nebraska cared to offer. 

From the Omaha World-Herald, October 4, 2008:

A mother's frustration

Editor's note: Lavennia Coover, who left her 11-year-old son at Immanuel Medical Center under Nebraska's safe haven law, sent this letter to news media and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to express her frustration with how the safe haven cases have been portrayed. Todd Landry, the children and family services director for HHS, said Coover misinterpreted what an HHS employee told her about when she would be contacted. They have been in touch with her since the letter was sent. John Melingagio, a Boys Town spokesman, said confidentiality rules prohibit him from confirming or denying a child's stay at Boys Town. "We empathize with what families are going through right now," he said.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am saddened by the response of the media in light of the Safe Haven Law. The article in Sunday's Omaha World-Herald crucified each and every child who was admitted under the law. From what I gather from the article, four families and myself have tried to get help for their children. After this article lists the mental status and the medications these children are taking -- what more confidential information is going to be given to the public for their entertainment? I hope and pray all of these children receive the much needed help they need and deserve without being sensationalized in the public eye.

There have been many bold statements made by officials in Nebraska about the parents/guardians who have utilized the safe haven law. I personally was offended by the statements made by Todd Landry -- children and family services director for the State of Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. I have made contact with his office to speak with him, however was redirected and contacted by an administrator Todd Reckling, and I stated to him I did not leave my child under the safe haven law because I did not want to be a parent, nor did I not want the responsibility of being a parent. I was using the law because my son is a danger to himself and the family at home. I also stated I took him to the hospital I did because he needed more help than I am able to give him. While I was at the hospital I had to request to speak with the social worker on duty at the hospital. I also spoke to the police and the intake nurse for child and adolescents. During the time I was at the hospital trying to give all the information that I felt was needed to ensure my child got the help he desperately needed, the staff continually kept telling me that I could leave now! I gave my name and phone numbers and told the staff that if they needed anything else to please call me, because all I was trying to do was get the help my child needed and was unavailable to us in the area of Nebraska where we live. Todd Reckling also stated to me that I would be contacted within 48 hours of the whereabouts of my child and the next steps. It has been four days and I have not heard anything and when I try to find out I am unable to get any information.

Another statement that was made it that there is help out there for these families they are just not using them. This is not my first time dealing with these issues. I had another child who had many mental/behavioral difficulties and I contacted Boys Town for help. My child was admitted into their program and was there for 18 months with no improvement then asked to leave because she was too much for them to deal with. I then went to the Department of Health and Human Services for help. The help my family received from the state was as follows: the state took custody of my child, I was told I was a worthless parent and the judge didn't know if I deserved my other two children, the child whom they took custody of was in 14 different placements during a 3 1/2 to 4 year time. While in these placements the same behaviors continued, yet the judge still continued to blame me as a bad parent. My child is no longer under state custody, however her real issues of behavior and mental state were never truly addressed and dealt with.

Many of us who have children with behavior disorders are judged and criticized for whatever action we make concerning our children. The public has judged that we were wrong in using the law to get help for our children. There are many families in Nebraska dealing with similar issues and do not know where to begin to go and get help. These children are deemed troublemakers and the families are deemed dysfunctional, which in turn causes undue blame to be put on the parents/guardians and their parenting skills.

Do we really want another Von Maur incident to occur before there is a recognized need for help for these children?

Lavennia Coover