Please click on the image above to watch Amy’s interview. This is the second segment of her story series. Read/watch part one here. Stay tuned for the final segment next week.
It had not been the first time Amy called social services. She contacted them multiple times, in fact, pleading for help with her adopted daughter with reactive attachment disorder. The last time she called, however, was different. That time, Amy turned herself into social services.
Amy had documented all of the failed attempts by clinicians to help her daughter Michelle*. She asked those professionals to call social services about her family so they’d come in to help. Michelle’s violent outbursts in the home were growing more intense and frightening with time. Yet, no one came. No one listened—until she urged the county to file neglect charges against her if that’s what they needed to do to keep her family safe.
The call Amy made to social services was not one she took lightly. Nor did she have any intention of neglecting her daughter. She was giving all that she had left to take care of Michelle and the rest of her family—her clean legal record and rights as a parent. It was indeed a risk. However, she had done a lot of research, hired a lawyer, and planned strategically before she made that call. “It became a fight for my family, for my daughter, for our survival,” said Amy. “If I needed dependency and neglect charges to keep all of my children safe, that’s what I was willing to do.”
But there was a twist. Thanks to Amy’s lawyer, they found an alternative to dependency and neglect charges—one of which many counties, as well as lawyers, aren’t familiar. Amy’s lawyer pushed for the county to file a Petition to Review Need of Placement (PRNP) rather than Dependency and Neglect (D & N) charges. “It’s kind of the opposite of foster care,” said Amy. “When we were foster parents, we had guardianship of her but the county had legal custody…going the PRNP route, we would still have legal custody of her and the county would have guardianship.” Thankfully, the county agreed to file a PRNP. However, Amy, her husband, and their lawyer had been prepared to go to court for Dependency and Neglect charges from the beginning. They didn’t know how it would turn out. “It was very scary,” said Amy.
At last, however, Amy and her husband could breathe. The family was safe. The county placed Michelle in a residential treatment center. At the same time, Amy and her husband could focus on helping their daughter and no longer carried all of the financial costs for Michelle’s care. Relief.
Yet, Amy had just begun to advocate for her daughter. Amy and her husband felt that Michelle wasn’t thriving in the residential treatment center. That’s when they pushed for the next step. She made one more “last” call to social services. Please stay tuned for the final part of Amy’s story next week.
Unfortunately, Amy’s story is extremely common. Parents of children with reactive attachment disorder have to fight for support and resources to save their families. We get calls weekly from exasperated parents here at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development asking for advice. While we do not have all the answers, we ache for the parents and their children. We do not offer legal advice. What we can do, however, is share the stories of the courageous parents who have fought to find their own solutions in the midst of overwhelming odds.
*name changed to protect the child’s identity
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