Every parent hopes that his or her child will grow up to become a caring, productive, successful member of society. As parents, we are prepared that our parenting adventure isn't going to be easy. There will probably be many peaks and valleys, but ultimately we hope life will treat our children tenderly and justly. We hope they will grow up unscathed.
After thirty years of working in human services, it continues to amaze me how certain governmental entities continue to abuse and set people, especially teenagers up for failure. Equally as troubling is the fact that even though these entities are supported by our tax dollars, some have no accountability. They stand alone and do what they please no matter who the casualties might be.
MJ is barely seventeen. She has had difficulties since the age of twelve. Like many of her contemporaries, MJ mastered the art of manipulation and deception at a very early age. She is a bright, articulate, uneducated young woman who has been getting over on people and the system since she was fourteen.
In middle school, while most students were going to class and playing sports, MJ was getting high and cutting school. At the time, her Mom was a single parent who took parenting her children very seriously. On more than one occasion, she almost lost her job because of her daughter's antics. However, for this Mom, her daughter's well being was always her first priority.
By the time MJ reached high school, besides getting high and cutting class, she was staying out all night. Her Mom was finally able to get the system to intervene. MJ was placed in a long-term drug and alcohol treatment program. She stayed the entire year, although she was almost discharged for some poor social choices.
MJ was only home a few weeks when she picked up again. At this point, she was aging out of the system. The system was slow to respond to this Mom's concern that her daughter was once again out of control.
MJ's Mom met with one roadblock after another, even though her daughter had a long drug and alcohol history and even longer psychiatric history. The Family Court system, her Mom's school district and her biological Dad's city school district all failed MJ. Technically she was on probation, but she beat the system when she moved from Suffolk County to Brooklyn.
After basically living between Brooklyn and Suffolk County, MJ finally got tired of running and living as a vagabond. Her Mom never stopped reaching out, but was always clear that home was only an option on her terms. MJ's Mom's terms were simple: no drugs and alcohol, attend school and all your classes every day.
MJ agreed. She started school and unfortunately did not last very long. She formally signed out. She was allowed to remain at home if she got a full time job and abstained from illegal drugs and alcohol. Again, MJ agreed. She quickly went through a series of jobs. Staying employed was a challenge. She did not totally abstain from her illegal drug and alcohol use, but her Mom tried to peacefully coexist with her, since things were better than they had ever been.
MJ and her Mom were managing a very rocky relationship when an unexpected death occurred in the family. Mom indicated that MJ needed to come with the family to the funeral upstate or stay at the home of a friend. MJ was instructed that she could not stay at home. She protested, but agreed to stay with a friend.
The family left for upstate, but her Mom was very uneasy. She suspected that MJ might try to break into the house. A half hour later, MJ's Mom returned to find that her daughter had broken into the house. MJ had also stolen a number of things. Her Mom confronted her in the act. MJ became violent and assaulted her mother.
The police were called and MJ was arrested for assault. The case was handled as domestic violence and was assigned to the domestic violence court. MJ was mandated to participate in their treatment program.
MJ's Mom never wanted her daughter arrested, but felt she had no other choice if she hoped to get real help for her daughter. Then the nightmare began.
MJ has a drug and alcohol trail a mile long, as well as a rather intense, documented mental health file. However, no one in the system that now held her was interested.
A seventeen year old stood charged with assaulting her mother and the system was looking at this teenager and her violence in a vacuum. The Mom who was the victim made continuous attempts to provide the system with the volumes of reports and evaluations she had regarding her daughter. No one with any authority was willing to listen and/or act on behalf of this out of control young lady.
After much frustration and time off from work, MJ's mother sought the consultation of a private agency that deals with troubled adolescents. She was encouraged to compile all her data and go to court when her daughter's case was being heard. The hope was that she would be permitted to address the court or at least be able to leave all of her data so that the system might seize the opportunity to help this troubled adolescent.
MJ's court date quickly approached. Her Mom took another day off from work. She sat in court and patiently waited for her daughter's case to be called. As she attempted to approach the bench, she was rudely and disrespectfully stopped and told to take her seat. She tried again to be heard and was rudely told to shut up. When she tried to get the names of the two court officials that treated her so poorly, they refused and walked away.
MJ's mother was broken. She was made to feel like she was the criminal instead of the victim. She was told there was no one she could complain to.
There is so much wrong with this picture. And we wonder why our children are out of control. It is troubling that our criminal justice system is allowed limitless power without any accountability. It almost seems like they can write their own rules. Even if their protocol is unfair and/or unjust, it seems that you have to put up and shut up.
It is unconscionable that public servants, paid with our tax dollars, whether they be judges, lawyers and/or court officials, are allowed to speak to anyone with disrespect and rudeness. Manners cost nothing. Every public official should be held accountable when it comes to the way in which John Q. public is spoken to. No one has the right to abuse power and demean another, especially in public.
This mother is trying to protect her daughter from destroying herself. Will the criminal justice system take responsibility for this seventeen year old if she overdoses or kills herself or someone else because they were deaf and blind to a mother who could have helped?