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Fleeing for Safety

I had watched movies and read books where characters were fleeing for safety from the abuse of the family member.  

But I never thought that would be me.

I'd watched movies and read books about mothers comforting their children, explaining the reality of their home away from home, so they could feel comfort in a strange place away from the abuser.

But again, I never thought that would be me.

Yet on October 23, 2020 I found myself in exactly that same position.

How in the world did I get here?

Fleeing for Safety

Fleeing for Safety


A month prior, the decision had been made that Sunshine needed to return to residential treatment.  Behaviors had not improved in the home setting like we had hoped.  

During the month of September, Sunshine aggressed towards family and property 24 times. (That doesn't count individual punches, hits, kicks, and bites, or how many bricks she threw at me.  This just counts episodes.)

The doctor and intensive in-home therapist made the decision Sunshine had to leave, after we had to call the police to our home yet again due to Sunshine's assaults.  

I remember the phone call with the doctor specifically.

"I'm so sorry.  This is Reactive Attachment Disorder."

We made the necessary calls thinking Sunshine would be in treatment in no time.

Boy, were we wrong.


It had been a month since the decision was made to readmit Sunshine, and still there was no movement in regards to where she was going and if funding was approved.

We thought we could wait it out.

We were told the process would take about two weeks.

But what no one accounted for was just how many residential treatment centers (RTCs) would turn Sunshine's case down because of it's severity.  

We had hoped Sunshine wouldn't continue to spiral downward.

My husband and I had followed safety protocols to perfection.  Our other three kids stayed safe.  

Sure we were sore and exhausted, but we thought we could handle things.

After all, it was only temporary.

If we just waited a little longer, Sunshine would be accepted to an RTC and all would be okay.

That was the case until Monday, October 19th, when Sunshine became homicidal with a plan to kill her oldest brother and me, her mother.

We had heard the threats on me before. 

They were normal these days. 

But we'd never heard her single out a sibling. Nor had she ever had a detailed plan.

In typical circumstances we would have taken Sunshine straight to the emergency room and had her admitted to a pediatric psychiatric ward.

But these weren't usual circumstances.

Sunshine had already been admitted to the psych ward twice in the past year.  From there she had been sent to an RTC.  

Pediatric psychiatric ward placements are very temporary. They last days, not weeks.  

We needed a plan that would work until she was admitted to another RTC. 

A pediatric psychiatric ward wasn't the answer.

Besides, this was during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Our doctor had said, whatever we did, don't take Sunshine to the ER and have her admitted to a pediatric psychiatric ward.  The process towards admission to an RTC would take weeks longer. 

My husband and I discussed our options with our intensive in-home therapist.  She knew Sunshine and she knew us.

When the therapist said Sunshine wasn't safe or okay to be around her siblings, we listened.

At this time the county was also involved.  We were in the process of obtaining funding for an RTC placement.  A case worker was being assigned to us to help with placement. 

If any of our children were harmed by Sunshine, the responsibility would fall on my husband and I.

So we did the only thing we could do.  

The three kids and I packed our bags and left.  

We were fleeing for safety from a nine year old with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

My son had to pick up and leave his life behind because his little sister wanted to kill him, had a plan to do so, and we couldn't get her the help she needed fast enough.

The mental health system is so broken.

No one should have to go through what we went through, but they do.

The Plan for Sunshine

When my husband and I discussed what to do before I left, he felt that because he wasn't Sunshine's target he could stay at home with her.  

He wanted to stay home rather than take her somewhere else. All safety protocols were already set up at home.  

We didn't want to deal with destruction of property at a hotel.

We definitely didn't want to deal with police scenarios at a hotel.

We needed to avoid ER visits and psych wards.  

None of that would help now. 

If there were issues with police, that's exactly where Sunshine would end up.

We did not need any of us catching COVID-19.

My husband felt most comfortable dealing with whatever Sunshine dealt out at home.

Our intensive in-home therapist was on hand if needed and agreed with the plan.

We alerted all of our neighbors.

My husband made sure to have his cell phone on him at all times.

Where To Go with the Other Kids

When I realized I had to take my other three kids and leave home, my first dilemma was where to take them.

We live in the middle of nowhere.  There is absolutely nothing to do. If my kids were being forced from their home and everything they love, we needed things to do.

My husband and I had no idea how long the four of us would be gone.  We were just starting to receive word that some RTCs had three month wait lists. 

There was no way we could sign a contract for an apartment.  We didn't have funds to pay for it, or to furnish it.

B&B options didn't seem to be in our price range either.

So we went with a place the kids knew and loved.

It was a place we could pay for daily if necessary, as I worked feverishly to earn the money we needed to make all of this happen.

I left home with three kids, my gas tank full, with only $375 in my bank account.

We decided to head to one of our favorite places.

Our family had been there multiple times, always staying in the same hotel.

It was a miracle that this hotel also happened to be the cheapest option we came up with.

The hotel was three hours away, but it truly was a home away from home, where the kids would feel safe.

There were things to do.

We could survive this, and perhaps even make a mini vacation out of it.

Little did we know that we'd be living there for five weeks.

For those who would like to continue to follow our family's story be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.

What Is Reactive Attachment Disorder Must Have Safety Resources When Parenting a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder To Be a Mother of a Young Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder Goodbye Sunshine Our Pediatric Mental Health Crisis A Safety Plan for Mental Health
Fleeing for Safety

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