Five years ago my career as a counselor for children ended. And it was for a total of five years I lived in that world, living as a personified “safe place” for kids to come share their lives. Their fears. Their dreams.
Empathy has been in my blood since I was a child. I’ve always been motivated to help other kids, better everyone I encounter and save any and all creatures that come into my path: from shelter animals to spiders. I just have this sense we’re all plugged in to the same energy… have a deep respect for the lives and the pain of everything around me.
My aunt repeats this story about me: how, when I was little, I immediately offered up my little purse and allowance to pay for the vet and relieve her worry when Frisky, on his ninth-life, returned home broken, hit by a car. My whole eleven dollars.
And now that little girl has been given a really unique perspective on the world…
We’ve been hearing a lot on the news about the funding which has been significantly cut across the country for those who need and provide assistance to those in need. In fact, much of the last election reveled the arguments from those who “have and do not care to give”, defending their choice to keep their ample-funds by hiding behind the naive belief that their money would only pay for “the lazy”. Go to the “worthless”. That their vacations and nice cars and nicer bank accounts are well-deserved and gifts for them to enjoy however they please, because somehow they are “more deserving”, “worked harder” or are “worthier” than those who have been handed lesser situations.
Throughout my career, years ago, I saw the effects of those massive cuts in funding. Those effects became so gut-wrenchingly unpalatable that I couldn’t bring myself to stay in that world any longer.
I saw three little boys practically forgotten by the system: the older two witnesses to their mother’s murder at the hand of their father, a situation forcing them to be raised by their grandparents. With grandpa often unable to even get out of bed, the impoverished grandmother, who ended up surviving a heart-attack, did all she could to raise the boys right. She wasn’t lazy. They shouldn’t be forgotten. But they desperately needed help.
I saw a girl who’s mother had abandoned her when she was very young. She and her sister were shifted through over a dozen foster care homes, sexually abused and, through learned behavior, abusive to each other. I choose not to share the details of her story, simply because they are *that* disturbing. Yet the strength and commitment she had to making something of herself was awe-inspiring. Her ghosts were strong, as well. She was far from lazy or worthless. She needed help.
It is bad enough that these children exist in a constant struggle. It is a disgrace that, while so many of us live our privileged lives, these children are denied *enough* help. Pushed forward in school and in life before they’ve had a chance to learn and get comfortable with their lessons. Denied things, care, counseling… given a “bare minimum” to get by.
But it gets worse.
Four years into my career as a Child & Adolescent Counselor, the agency I worked for hired a new Child Psychiatrist to prescribe medication. He presented as a strange man from the get-go, but flew under the radar for a short while.
Then, very suddenly, he didn’t anymore.
A family came in complaining that he had physically pushed the mother into a wall. They were a dramatic family so, while I planned to follow-up, it was with an open mind and no decision against the doctor, whatsoever.
But the same week a school counselor called. One of those three brothers I saw was found wandering the halls of the school unaware of who he was, where he was and, seemingly, overmedicated. The counselor had been unable to reach the doctor, so asked that I give him a message asking him to reduce the dosage on this child’s meds.
I delivered the message and instantly became the messenger shot as, with one swoop of his arm, the doctor violently swept everything from his desk. “Are you questioning me!?” he yelled at me and proceeded into a fifteen minute tirade about how the grandparents of the children were incompetent, they didn’t deserve his time, etc.
It was… pathetic.
And after witnessing the scene he created, my receptionist went home and Googled Mr. Doctor, only to find the unfathomable.
Doc had *just* had his license reinstated after two years suspension…
For “asking adolescents to disrobe during their psychotherapy sessions”.
I was shocked and sickened. I immediately passed the news on to my manager, who was shocked and sickened. He passed it on to his manager, and the woman who hired this man. She said:
Due to cutbacks the agency had faced, this woman, along with the CEO, felt that they needed to take certain measures to stay in operation. Among these was hiring this doctor, who they could get super cheap, yet still bill for full-hourly premiums.
I lasted three months more at this agency. And I fought. I fought for my kids, ignoring threats against my job and referring my kids outside of the agency for medical care. There was no way I was sending my kids to sit alone in the room with this man.
I fought for myself. I’m not sure whether it was my removing my clients from his care, or just the fact that I knew about him, but the doctor started doing unspeakable things to me. While I was in my private office, handling a crisis call about a teen who had just cut themselves, the doctor opened my office door and rubbed his rear end against my cheek. Twice.
Of course I reported this, fervently insisting that this man be removed. Nothing was done.
Next he put pictures of adult male penises all over my computer desktop. And crusty Kleenex on my desk.
I was so often in tears. Yelling. Begging. Absolutely at a loss of… I felt I’d lost everything as I fought to remove this man from my life, the lives of the kids, from the organization.
The only action “upper management” would take was to strictly tell the doc not to go in my office any longer. Finally, after he left a note on my desk, they planned to formally write him up. ”Could you go work at the Taco Bell down the street today, and see your clients in their homes?” they asked. “We wouldn’t want (the doctor) to hurt you in any way, and he may become very upset.”
“Do you hear yourselves!?” I pleaded. Apparently, they didn’t. And it was the next day I turned in my resignation.
(For the continuing story, find the remainder of this entry at Lesson #87: On Tradegy (Part II- The Lessons)