When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

July 17, 2010

July 17, 2010


Underwater Pete (July 2010)

July 17, 2010.  My head spins with the sickening realization that I’m a fool, an incredibly naïve fool.  By requesting Peter’s educational records, I learn yesterday that I’ve been the target of criticism, suspicion, malice, and entrapment since Peter began first grade in our picturesque, adopted town of Red Hook, New York.  It’s not just been the school psychologist who has maligned my character, questioned my motives, and actively sought to turn our confused, insecurely attached son against me.  While I was striving for an open, honest relationship with Peter’s educational team, voicing frustrations, concerns, and victories as they arose, many in this group of teachers, aides, and other service providers were interviewing Peter and cataloguing my every word and action.  Instead of working on the goals in Peter’s IEP (individual education plan), his “team”, with the school psychologist leading the way, spent a good part of the last three years peppering Peter for information about what goes on in our home.  How we discipline him, whether he wants to go home (yes, his teacher asked him this in May), and whether he’s afraid of us (me).  Where do these intrusive questions fit within the state mandated curriculum? I’ve been trying for the last three years to explain and educate Peter’s team about the complexity of his disabilities, particularly the double whammy of FAS and the effects of institutionalization, but I now realize my message, at times my grief and pain, was not received with compassion.  And shame on me for thinking that it would be.  Shame on me for thinking these people, with a few exceptions, would want to understand the difficulty and complexity of our journey, that they had the capacity for critical thinking and the good will to reach across the aisle and lend a helping hand.  We have fought tooth and nail to win Peter’s trust and affection, what’s known in adoption circles as a healthy attachment, and the school psychologist and others have been actively sabotaging our efforts every step of the way.  Had they the intellect or curiosity to read anything about attachment disorder or FAS, they would know that poorly attached children almost always target the mother; moreover, that these kids are adept at triangulating, lying, and manipulating their way toward temporary favor.  Peter loves me, I know he does, but he would sell my soul in a second if he thought it would please any grown-up to whom he was speaking.  Even Peter’s medical issues, which at times terrify us, have been the source of gossip, mistrust and circumvention.  This past year, the school nurse, in cahoots with the school psychologist and Peter’s teacher, asked to see copies of his EEGs, test results from his urologist, and sought to gain direct access to his cardiologist.  She even discussed at least one plot with the principal, informing him of her plan to tell me that she was not a cardiology nurse and therefore needed permission to speak to the doctor to better understand Peter’s needs.  In the email to the principal, she states “it would be interesting to see if she [meaning me, Mom] balks at this request.”   Are we neglecting Peter medically?  Are we over-attentive?  What exactly is the concern?  I’m becoming nauseated as I write.  There clearly was never any possibility that Peter would receive an appropriate education in this school.  I’ve been banging my head for years against a steel wall forged from malice and distrust.  As Pat and I spend sleepless nights worrying over Peter’s cognitive regression and ever-spiraling confusion, the people legally charged with his educational care for 6 hours a day are preoccupied with catching me in the act of a fictionalized misdeed.  Dr. Federici and Dr. Aronson warned us long ago that the present situation in which we find ourselves is a dangerously risky scenario experienced by scores of adoptive parents of children like Peter.  Certain schools, like Red Hook, seem to possess the audacity as well as the arrogance to act as judge, jury, and unfortunately for Peter and his precarious brain, executioner.  We just didn’t think it’d happen to us, or more accurately, I didn’t think so.  I’m the one that opened my heart, my feelings, my fears, and my hopes to virtual strangers with the idea they would one day become partners, allies, maybe even friends.  Our family can’t weather my making these same mistakes again.  I have to get smarter, stronger, and a whole lot wiser.  We may have adopted Red Hook as our hometown, but its school, the fulcrum of this family-centered community, has not adopted us.

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14 Comments »

  1. This is like a stab in the heart. But I could have told you so.

    While raising my five children I worked with the schools, for the schools, against the schools, and in the schools. From every angle I could see that “educators” think they are “saving” children from the damage wreaked by parents. While in college I did some research on it, and found that textbooks and professional articles all push that idea on teachers in training. In graduate school, I had a psychology professor who, in 1982, was still teaching that schizophrenia is caused by “cold mothers.” I once worked for a school psychologist who denigrated a mother for being a working parent, then turned around and became one herself as if she were doing the most wonderful thing in the world! With experience on both sides of the desk, I have seen these so-called professionals play power games with parents when, in fact, most of them do not have the education, competence, or critical thinking skills of a high school graduate.

    What you have experienced here is dreadful and heartbreaking. I hope you made copies of everything in the file.

    Comment by Kathleen — July 17, 2010 @ 7:33 pm | Reply

  2. we ran into this school colluding with child scenario too. we nipped it in bud tho teacher of spec ed had already been “forming a special club” with him where he could tell HER anything about anyone anytime; actually coaxing him to call our county to bitch abt me. we came straight at them claiming alienation of affection and mis-use of power by persons in authority [principal and lead spec ed lady]. luckily our family psychologist was onto them from the beginning. they did spend all 5 years in the 7th-12th grade hi sch bldg trying to dilute, ignore, minimize or drive underground his iep goals. naturally everything i fought for was seen as over indulgence and excess. NOT. they were legally bound and they were horses’ patooties abt it all. it was a small, rural setting and basically no one asks for much for their kids out in cow country of se MN. his graduating class had like 25 in it. he was well recieved and well liked by peers, and i managed to have him graduate in 2006 at the age of 20 rather than 18 so thanks heavens4small favors. for peter’s sweet sake, i would repeat this grade in a new school or home school in a quite deliberately social way, combining with other home schools, visiting businesses, your basic UNSCHOOLING TIL HE STABILIZES FROM THE TRAUMA of their educational neglect and their manipulations, alienation of affection and mis use of power when in a position of authority- not to mention simply being more judgey than god……what stumble bums they are. you are PERFECT MOM. do not give yourself grief over them, just go to superintendent and school board separately and make public written complaint naming names. keep real good records because heads should roll…… in my never to be humble opinion.

    Comment by lindalee soderstrom — July 17, 2010 @ 8:55 pm | Reply

  3. I am so sorry for you Mary and , most of all , Peter. Unfortunately, it sounds as if you NEVER had a chance with your school. When people that are ill-informed and uneducated to your child’s specific needs, are charged with the care and education of your child, we are all in danger of being sabotaged by their incompetencey.
    I had the experience several years back of working with a family that adopted 2 Russian orphans, it was an amazing experience to witness the growth and transition of these children. Galina was there 8 year old daughter , bright , energetic and a complete joy. Their son on the other hand exibited many of the same problems that Peter has shown. Eventually , for the safety of the family the boy was returned to Russia. It was a heartbeaking situation and one thatI will never forget . These parents agonized over this child until it became a matter of safety .
    Peter is a very lucky child, you have been and will continue to be his advocate in an educational arena that has shown to be totally inept at providing the support and willingness to do the right thing.
    I commend you and will pray for you and your family.

    Comment by Debbie Sinden McMenamy — July 17, 2010 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

  4. I am so very sorry to hear this. Sadly, I’m not all that surprised to hear this. So very few people understand the complexities of attachment disorder. I too have tried to create a team with those working with Noah. I’m just beginning to understand that there are going to be many members of the “team” that refuse to understand that Noah really is different from the other “special” kids they have worked with.

    I want to say I hope you make these people “pay,” but the work involved in that could be overwhelming and more than you need to take on right now.

    I hope you don’t ever doubt that everything you have been doing is the *right* thing for Peter.

    Is there anything I can do? Is there something the blogging community can do to help you, as writers? Can the press help raise a stir about this?

    Comment by kristine — July 17, 2010 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

  5. Like the others I am sorry to hear this but I am also not surprised. Unfortunately many professionals are hardwired to find someone to blame for problems and unfortunately sometimes it is the parents.

    I have been following your blog for a while (while waiting for our little one – we are adopting from Thailand) and have enjoyed your honesty.

    One little request though – can you use more paragraphs in your posts? I often find myself getting lost while trying to read them as quickly as possible (because I am keen to get all the info as quickly as possible) and spacing between thoughts would help me a lot.

    Thanks and all the best.

    Comment by Kerrie Andrews — July 17, 2010 @ 10:35 pm | Reply

  6. Mary, I’m so sorry to hear this. I have soured on public education and if I had younger kids, none of them would go to public school. Although my kids did not have special needs, I encountered some of the same attitudes whenever I had a concern. It’s almost like these people spend more time fighting with parents than doing their jobs. I cleaned out a closet yesterday and found some papers I had from when my oldest (17) was in elementary school. I was deeply concerned that there was no instruction going on to speak of in his school (which had all the bells and whistles and test scores to back up how great they were). The thing was, the parents were educating their kids – not the school. When I look back at this, I kick myself for wasting so much time on these people. I spent a great deal of energy and time communicating with them and expecting them to do the right thing. If you can, move on. I firmly believe the public school system is broken in this country – for all the kids. Wishing you all the best, Janet

    Comment by Janet Torrey — July 17, 2010 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

  7. What a shock this must be for you. I find this to be one of the most incomprehensible situations that I’ve ever come across, how is this even possible? This is insane and reads like some Kafkha novel. How DO these people, in place to serve and educate your son, justify their behaviour to themselves? How has this environment of almost vigilante-ism against you and your family been allowed to take hold by the leadership? Honestly, I think they all need to be evaluated for paranoid delusisons as their actions are beyond what a typical adelusional person would engage in.

    Alienation of affection indeed. My heart breaks for your little Peter. Home of the free and the brave, yeah right.

    Comment by Beth B — July 18, 2010 @ 5:11 am | Reply

  8. Dear Mary,

    How sad, frustrating, upsetting, I can hardly imagine.

    On one level I hope you have a good lawyer. (again Andrew Cuddy’s name comes to my mind.)

    On another level – how difficult and impossible for Peter.

    On a third level, I hope you have the financial resources to weather this.

    Having been there just a little with our older daughter Katie, I am more than willing to listen if you want to talk (and rant)

    Chris

    Comment by Christopher Duncan — July 18, 2010 @ 7:19 am | Reply

  9. I was horrified to read how the school treated you and Peter. I teach fourth grade in Texas, and I have been in enough ARDs to know that that kind of behavior would be worthy of firing here. I suppose if you felt like moving to Texas, I know a great district! I’m so sorry that you are going through this, and that Peter was treated like that at all. It’s ridiculous.

    Comment by Julie — July 18, 2010 @ 1:06 pm | Reply

  10. What I’ve learned since living in Dallas (and I’m originally from the Land of Oz), small towns/religious nuts/deviants will do anything and everything to malign the do-gooders of the world (their perspective). You are not naive. You are not a fool.

    The small town folks you live near – they need to go back under the rocks they crawled out from under. I’ve been in the same situation for seven years. My ex and the school district essentially abusing my child. Due to the domicile restriction for all divorcing couples with a child in Collin County, TX – the parent that leaves the state first – loses the kid – no fault of their own. Mind you, I’m the infertile, and my grandmother was from Russia. Evil people do not care. The reason given to me as to why Texas has stolen my child – they do this for most transferees to the Dallas area – high earners. The average wage earner in the Dallas area – fundamentalist cult Southern Baptist member – is only at the level of a high school education. Yes, this is the United States. Yes, I have written and will be published about my daughter’s story. She left Russia for a better life. In Dallas, as I was advised by a Warrent Officer who asked me to sit in on a task force to ‘clean up’ the deviant crimes in Dallas, this area of the country is only second to New York in horrific crimes to women and children. Yes, the teachings of the Dallas Southern Baptist cult.

    So Mary – because you CAN – move. Now. It is in the best interest of both of your children and you and your husband. Trust me, I would move in a heartbeat, with my child, if women hadn’t been dragged back to Texas, from overseas and other areas of the U.S., and thrown in jail for taking the child out of a domicile restriction. One woman’s ex was even in jail himself. Wonderful…

    These people are not worth your time. Life is too short. No they won’t be playing fair. No, even if you take them all the way through the court system – they will continue to abuse your children subversively. I’ve been there. The school system has abused my child since Pre-K – at one point threatening her with a fraternity paddle to God knows what part of her – just to force her into compliance. All she did was throw a wet paper towel back to another little girl in the restroom. Nuts.

    I wish you well. I hope those critters who have crawled out from under their rocks are reading this page of your blog. If not, send it to the local yocal paper, or national media even better.

    Take care all.

    Comment by Lori — July 18, 2010 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

  11. I am speechless and ANGRY after reading this post! HOW DARE THEY!!!! Seriously, I am seeking revenge and this is not my life! The colossal NERVE of these people ~ when they are supposed to be part of a solution, a team, EDUCATORS!?!?!?
    I so appreciate you sharing your journey with us, but it makes me feel so helpless in terms of helping. I will certainly continue to spread your word in hopes of educating others ~ but my heart aches for you and Pat (and the kids). Please, PLEASE let us know if there is anything else we can do to support you.
    Warmest always, Meg

    Comment by Meg Coldwells — July 18, 2010 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

  12. My heart goes out to you! I’ve commented before and told you we have a Russian born daughter who has been diagnosed with FASD. I think you’ve done everything right. Perhaps I am naïve but I cannot understand this school at all! These people are supposed to care about children! Why don’t they listen to parents? I am praying for and thinking of you and your family during this difficult time. I hope we do not go through this when Anna starts school. She just turned 4 last month. Also, there is an excellent yahoo support group called 4AdoptFASD. Adoptive Moms of children with FASD- we understand and support one another. Some of the Moms in the group have dealt with some crazy school systems! For what it’s worth, I support you and your family!

    Comment by Amanda — July 19, 2010 @ 6:30 am | Reply

  13. Mary, I’m so sorry that you’ve had to learn such a hard lesson. I’m not surprised (I’m saddened but not surprised) by what you have written. But then in entirely different circumstances I reached out to people that I thought were equally interested in the same things I was interested in…only to have my hand chopped off…even as I was paying the bills. My trust level is pretty low these days.

    The irony of educators and others charged with the welfare of children is that they will put someone like you under the magnifying glass and completely miss an obvious cry for help from another child. They’ll make your life miserable while some other child is left to die.

    It’s hard to swallow this fact but it seems to happen all too often. I suspect this is one reason home schooling is on the rise.

    Comment by Kendra Bonnett — July 24, 2010 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

  14. Mary can you send me your email address @ meg@megcoldwells.com I have an interesting radio show that would benefit from your perspective.
    Meg

    Comment by Meg Coldwells — July 30, 2010 @ 8:34 pm | Reply


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