Phase V, ACT VI: Child Protective Services, The child catchers

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The story went like this… Neighbors saw two toddlers out in the middle of the street without the supervision of their mother. A call was placed to Child Protective Services who promptly removed the children.

I began seeing the mother through a county program that provided mental health services for people who did not have medical insurance. In order to continue servicing her needs, my work was to be transitioned to the child welfare department as an independent contractor. I immediately found myself having difficulty understanding her rambling, disjointed thoughts and sheer anger with the department. I asked her about the work that she had been doing with another therapist and she was unable to clearly articulate any information that she had been able to retain. I knew that that she was suffering from a learning disability that would significantly interfere with her ability to process any information delivered in a linguistic format.

Through my own digging I was able to find out was that this young mother had gone to a local physician up river after feeling depressed. He had seen her over time for a multitude of issues and prescribed her more than 5 different medications. Because of her depressed state and strange speaking pattern, he diagnosed her with Bipolar Disorder and prescribed her another medication. It was then she began to act erratically. That led to the incident where the neighbors saw her two children out in the street and called CPS. I suggested that she see another physician who changed her medications and her behavior stabilized.

I was able to have her seen and evaluated by a clinical psychologist who formally dismissed the Bipolar Disorder and concurred with my diagnosis of a learning disorder. He suggested that she continue counseling with me and that there was no reason she would not be able to effectively parent.

CPS was convinced by an assessment conducted with the mother that she needed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. I was able to convince the department that the woman was in need of some accommodation due to a learning disorder. I decided to take the most emotionally salient issue, her CPS involvement, and use it as a teaching tool instilling the best of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy tenets. The approach was tailor made for this woman and enabled her to learn skills that would make her more successful in her interactions with CPS case workers.

Using this adapted modality, this young woman felt more in control of the often contradictory and demeaning treatment that she received by the department. My notes reflected her ability to master awareness in her CPS interactions through noting differences in the people that she was forced to deal with and alternating her approaches to each person, using their responses as a way to gage whether she was being effective. She slowly mastered the skills through witnessing her own ability to meet the incessant demands placed on her.

Despite my positive feedback to the department, it was clear that they wanted her to lose her parental rights. Because I supported my client, I began to be harassed and told that she had NOT done the training because I did not use a book. Since I was not going to continue to work with her, as they saw fit, they were proceeding with termination of her parental rights.

During this mounting pressure, a hearing was held “to transfer the children to a family member” so that she “will be more likely reunited with her own children.”

She turned to me frantically, “I know what they are up to… They want to move the children further away, out of state, so that I cannot visit the kids. Then they can make the argument that enough time has gone by and I haven’t been able to visit…They don’t want me raising my kids. It doesn’t matter what I do.”

Her public defender told her not to worry and so did I. She was complying with the court expectations. You know something? She was right.

At the termination hearing, which I was not allowed to attend, the mother of these two young children was asked specific questions about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Of course, she was incapable of responding. Her parental rights were terminated.

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Phase V: The Professional Nature of victimizing others

In effort to avoid the traumas that we have faced within our own lives, we turn off to the suffering of those in our care. We are taught that “turning off” ensures us that we “don’t burn-out”.  The fact of the matter is that the loss of our ability to empathize removes a critical safeguard in the treatment of human beings. We, the people of the world, actively choose  to emphasize the differences between us, intensifying the dissociation that allows crimes against humanity to take place. It is time to expose the cost of human neglect and ignorance in the care and treatment of our brethren.

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ACT I: Western Childbirth: the Butchering of Women

I was in the midst of my first Nursing rotation. The topic of our placement was: The Care of Healthy Clients. I was placed on the Maternity Unit of a local hospital where I was told to follow a woman who had begun labor some time earlier. The only way that I knew that she was having contractions was by watching the fetal monitor. She showed no connection with the experience that had taken hold of her body. Numbed from the epidural, the contractions took place without her participation or knowledge.

As she shifted her body, the fetal monitor lost the fetal heart beat… A nearby nurse sprang into action. After a quick call to the FEMALE obstetrician, they decided to rush the mother to the operating room for a caesarian section.

I accompanied her to the operating room where they pulled out the perfectly healthy baby boy who exhibited NO SIGN of FETAL DISTRESS!!!

I followed her to the recovery room and began monitoring her vital signs every 15 minutes. She shifted uncomfortably.

“My shoulder hurts,” she told me.

I took another couple of blood pressures and watched as her b/p began to drop. At the same time, her pulse was becoming faint and thready. I decided to go get some help…

“Can someone come in the recovery room? I think we have a problem!”

It took 3 attempts to get anyone to take me seriously. By that time she was unconscious. I continued what I had done when she was losing consciousness, stroking her hair and talking to her soothingly. When they finally determined that there was something wrong, several brusque men pushed me aside and transferred her to a gurney to go back to the operating room.

I gowned up and entered the operating room just in time to watch the obstetrician pull out an 8 inch hematoma from below her uterus. In the haste to perform an UNNECESSARY caesarian section, the obstetrician had nicked the artery under the broad ligament. If the hematoma had burst, she would have died.

A week later I went back to see her.

“You know,” she said looking at me with emotional and grateful eyes, “I didn’t know if the baby was there or my husband. All I knew was that you were there.”

MY RESPONSE: I had seen enough… Armed with the knowledge of what constitutes bad practice, I left to find myself in Vermont. I read as much as I could about being self-sufficient; spent time making my own bread, tofu, past and bought books on root cellaring and building earth homes. I saw myself living more simply, closer and in harmony with the earth and myself. After becoming pregnant I began researching natural childbirth by following the work of Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives. I gave birth to my son Tristan Joshua at home January 5, 1991. I had begun to take back my life!