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It's Time to Have a Serious Talk about Residential Treatment Centers

It's time to have a serious talk about residential treatment centers.

Seven months have passed since Sunshine was admitted to her second residential treatment center (RTC) after homocidal thoughts and behaviors at home.

To experience the trauma of a residential placement a second time has been a horror worst than the first.

There are two songs that I shared with Sunshine when she was in residential the first time to help her remember I'm fighting for her and that I will not forget her. I play them often.

The first is Don't Give Up On Me by Andy Grammer. 

The second song is What About Us from Pink.

These songs helped me have the courage to write this post tonight.

Please be warned it may be very triggering for some.

It's Time to Have a Serious Talk about Residential Treatment Centers

It's Time to Have a Serious Talk about Residential Treatment Centers

Our First Residential Treatment Experience

During Sunshine's first time in an RTC, I fought HARD to make sure her needs were being met.  

And by HARD I mean HARD.

It was a constant uphill battle.

I was consulting a lawyer.

I was constantly in communication with the RTC caseworker and administration, as well as our community caseworker demanding Sunshine's needs be met.

There were many times I was in direct contact with the insurance company, working with them to ensure that the RTC was providing Sunshine all that she was entitled to.  

I spent many days studying contracts the insurance company had with the RTC.

This was all on top of being very involved with Sunshine's treatment on a daily basis with her therapist and others that worked with her.

Sunshine deserves the BEST treatment, just like every other child who is trapped in this broken system.

I was determined to make that happen for her until she could return home to us.

The Results of My Fight

The representative from the insurance company called me after Sunshine's case was closed (after the first RTC) to let me know that because of my work to help Sunshine, I had caused systemic change throughout the entire state of Virginia that was already helping other families.

Today when speaking with our community caseworker about the first RTC experience (she was by my side the entire way), she called me a Trail Blazer for systemic change in a broken system.

But the truth of the matter is, fighting HARD is HARD work. 

It's exhausting. 

It comes with a huge price.

So many sacrifices were made.  You may remember I didn't blog for about a year!

And so, this time, during Sunshine's second RTC placement, I decided not to be as fierce.  

The reputation that comes with creating systemic change is not one I enjoyed. 

I was so worried it was hurting Sunshine.

I couldn't keep fighting at the intensity I was before, and still provide for my family. 

Advocating for Sunshine took all that I had.

A Mother's Grief

When Sushine returned home after that first placement and things went downhill, there was a big part of me that felt like a failure because after all I'd done, nothing worked. 

Sunshine couldn't remain at home.

Perhaps if I had just let people do their jobs in the first RTC the way they wanted to, things would have turned out better?

Perhaps I don't know Sunshine's needs as much as I thought I did, and only caused more damage?

Perhaps I'm not a good parent, and this is all my fault?

I was broken when Sunshine entered her second RTC.

Unless you've experienced what I have, you can't begin to understand what something like this does to a mother. 

Doing Things Differently

For six months while Sunshine was at the second RTC, I played nice. 

I tried not to ruffle feathers.

I worked hard to go along with whatever the therapist and treatment team thought was right.

I trusted that they knew better than I did.

I gave everyone at the RTC the benefit of the doubt. 

After all, I knew how hard Sunshine is sometimes. 

I know what she's capable of. 

I know how dangerous she can become. 

(This is not her fault, it's just how her brain works right now, which is the whole reason she needs help!)

And you know what?

There has been no improvement.

Behaviors have worsened.

Sunshine isn't receiving the supports she needs.

Her IEP has not been followed.

Our local school district hasn't received a single progress report about Sunshine from the school at the RTC, nor have we, which is against the law.

Even the funding source of her treatment has not received the paperwork they've requested from the second RTC.

Heck! We don't even know if Sunshine has the proper medical insurance right now, or that her medical needs are being met, because no one will call us or our community case worker back.


It Gets Worse!

At Sunshine's six month treatment team meeting administration initiated the topic of how they felt Sunshine was close to receiving maximum benefits of treatment, and that the RTC she is in, may no longer be the best fit for her.

Basically it was a fancy way of saying they're sick of her and ready to kick her out.

And yes, residential treatment centers can do this. 

They do so all the time.

Administration has given us no time line as to when this is happening, but Sunshine's therapist told us that if it will take longer than thirty days to find Sunshine another placement, we need to start now.

So many RTCs will only permit a three to six months stay now, and so those who need a longer course of treatment are only getting worse bouncing from place to place.

Despite our community based team offering funding for more supports, the second RTC has declined providing any further individualized help and support for Sunshine.

This is an absolute nightmare.

Our community based team has stated that under no circumstance can Sunshine return home as she has not improved and is still a danger to family members. 

In the event that we would go against this advice and bring Sunshine home, (which we won't), we could be charged with endangering the welfare of our other children. 

So realistically speaking, it is against the law for us to bring Sunshine home right now.

To further complicate things, Sunshine is not ready for a step down to a group home, so she needs to be transferred to another RTC.

No RTC in the state of Virginia will accept her because of the severity of her case. 

We've exhausted so many options already. There have been so many RTCs that have said no throughout the entire U.S. because of the severity of her case.

There are two exceptions with wait lists, but the waitlists are months long.  

Sunshine has been on one waitlist for seven months already. 

The other wait is a minimum of two months.

So literally, there is no place for Sunshine to go. 

And even if she goes to one of these places, who's to say it's not worse than where she is now?!

We've tried arranging a meeting with the RTC two times in the last month and they've not even responded to our requests. 

Our community based team has tried to arrange a meeting about Sunshine with the RTC, and they are having no luck.

Sunshine's Suffering

Meanwhile Sunshine continues to suffer.

The one time I did step in and fight hard during this second RTC stay was when Sunshine continued to show up to therapy sessions and ZOOM visits with new bruises EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. 

And I'm not talking small bruises. 

There have been black eyes.

There have been black and blue finger prints on her arms. 

Her lower arms are constantly covered with large bruises.

There have been bruises on her head.

Administration never got back to me about findings over some of these big bruises early on in her stay, despite my constant requests for more information.

They did promise daily body checks with calls to report what's going on and followed through for a little while.

Many bruises were from peers. Some were from staff.

But then there was silence again.

Silence didn't equal less bruises though.

The only calls we receive now are when Sunshine has been restrained or injuries are severe.

It's been a nightmare speaking with nursing staff several times over the past week and a half as Sunshine has been put in holds by staff eight times in ten days. 

One incident came with a report that staff had left bruises on Sunshine.

Yesterday I broke down with the nurse on the phone. 

I've decided I can't stay silent any longer.

Since when is it okay for a child to be physically abused in any way? 

If the continued bruising we're seeing on Sunshine occurred while she was at home, you better bet you Child Protective Services would be involved immediately.

Why is it not okay for things like this to happen at home, but totally fine that these things happen to a child in a residential treatment center?

(We did launch an investigation during Sunshine's first RTC stay because of these issues as well.)

Nothing that's happening to Sunshine is even close to being okay!

Children Deserve Better!

ALL children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, having their individual needs being met in every setting.

ALL autistic children should be receiving supports they need to be successful each day, NOT just behavioral training to teach them not to be autistic.  

ALL children with Reactive Attachment Disorder deserve the very best treatment that promotes attachment to family, without further neglect and abuse.

Did I mention we're not even allowed to call Sunshine at this RTC? 

It's her responsibility when permitted (about two times a week), no matter what she's in the middle of, to stop everything and call us. 

For a child who's documented to have issues with transitions, this is a fail almost every time.

ALL children who suffer with severe mental health illness deserve early intervention and the best pediatric treatment to help them reach stability and success, no matter how severe their symptoms

If mental health issues of the brain were treated as a physical illness like cancer, denial of treatment is illegal.

Severe mental health issues in children are real and they deserve people's attention.

Just because Sunshine is in a residential setting does not mean she is any less of a person or child than anyone else.

Our system is so so so broken.

For children like Sunshine with autism, Reactive Attachment Disorder and a mood disorder, there is nothing. 

Watching Sunshine suffer like she is has been the most painful experience I've ever had to endure.

And Sunshine is not the only one this is happening to.

If you've read this far, please help us! 

Help spread the word that this is real and happening to children in the U.S. and everywhere else.

Change will not occur until enough people decide it's necessary.

In order for that to happen, people have to know that it is happening and want to do something about it.

And if this hasn't touched your heart, consider the path that Sunshine is on right now.

Where does it lead?

If no one is willing to help her...

If no one does help her...

Where does she end up?

I should not have to prepare myself to love a child who resides in juvenile detention or prison because no one will help her.

This isn't right!

This is part one of a serious of articles about residential. If you would like to continue reading about Sunshine's experience in this particular case, be sure to click the links below.

How Do You Work with a Broken Mental Health System

Part 2: How Do You Work with a Broken Mental Health System?

The System Failed Us Horribly

Part 3: The System Failed Us Horribly

She Needs a Forensics Exam

Part 4: She Needs a Forensics Exam

For those who would like to continue to follow Sunshine's journey in residential treatment, be sure to subscribe to our FREE newsletter by clicking the link below.

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

  Goodbye Sunshine Our Pediatric Mental Health Crisis What Is Reactive Attachment Disorder To Be a Mother of a Young Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder How to Discipline a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder Must Have Safety Resources When Parenting a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder From the Mother of a Bully It's Time to Have a Serious Talk About Autism 5 Ways to Connect with an Autistic Child When You're Apart 4 Steps to Managing Aggressive Behaviors Anger Management for Kids Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children
It's Time to Have a Serious Talk about Residential Treatment Centers

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