This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Adult abuse

Assuming (big assumption) they continue to live with us and stay on track, both Kitty and Bear will be well over the age of 18 before they graduate high school (Kitty will actually turn 19 two months before. Bear will turn 19 the following month.).
In Texas 18 is the legal age of adulthood, but really once they turn 17 they have the ability to leave home without being considered a runaway and apparently cannot be brought home against their will. In other words, parents are legally responsible for their actions, but have little to no ability to control them.
In Nebraska the legal age is 19 so luckily Kitty and Bear will continue to have Medicaid to pay for things like medications (this is huge because they are so expensive) and therapy and the adoption subsidy will continue as well (this is also important because it will cover things Texas Medicaid won't, like their psychiatrist who doesn't accept Medicaid - especially Nebraska Medicaid).

Therefore Kitty and Bear will most likely qualify as "vulnerable adults" or "adults with disabilities" while they live with us (again assuming they stay - Bear is of course planning to leave the minute he turns 17). Recently I have been paying a lot of attention to my friends who have adult children living with them, and I have to admit it scares me. Even if we do not decide to petition for legal guardianship of an adult (a consideration mostly to help them with legal issues), we still are opening ourselves up to some scary stuff.

Abuse is defined as
"willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, or cruel
punishment" and includes: scratches, cuts, bruises, and burns; welts, scalp
injury, and gag marks; sprains, punctures, broken bones, and bedsores;
confinement; rape and other forms of sexual abuse; and verbal and psychological

Neglect is defined as "the failure to provide for one's self the goods
or services which are necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or
mental illness, or the failure of a caretaker to provide such goods or services"
and includes: malnourishment and dehydration; over- or under- medication; lack
of heat, running water, or electricity; unsanitary living conditions; lack of
medical care; and lack of personal hygiene or clothes.
Exploitation is defined as "the illegal or improper act or process of using the resources of an elderly or disabled person for monetary or personal benefit" and includes: taking Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks; abusing joint checking accounts; and taking property and other resources.

Well that sounds reasonable. I/you/ we would NEVER do that to anyone, right?!
Wrong! Apparently I DO abuse, exploit and neglect my children every day (in some way), and when they are adults it will become illegal. (Guess they've been right all along)
I can't/won't reveal the details of the horror stories I read from other parents of mentally ill "adults" out there, but the following are possible examples of some of the things these parents have run up against and in some cases prosecuted for - prosecution means criminal charges and investigations! Abuse investigations are some scary stuff.
I'm lucky that my kids no longer seem to be making false allegations, but most parents aren't so lucky, and the state really goes after people who abuse, exploit, or neglect vulnerable adults (elderly or disabled). So here's some of the things you could be investigated for:

"confinement/ false imprisonment"
Did you know that time outs and being sent to their room can be prosecuted as false imprisonment!
Don't even think about physical holds or restraints, even if you are being physically attacked. Although if they start it, at least here in TX, you have the right to do anything you want, in "self defense" - at least according to the police officers that visited our home back when Bear was doing this often.
Locking doors to prevent a mentally ill adult from running out in the streets to do who knows what with who knows who? Besides being a fire hazard is a BIG No No!
"cruel punishment"
I don't even want to think what this constitutes, but Kitty accuses me of it all the time. Well, actually she says I'm cruel and unusual.
"unsanitary living conditions"
This means you can be prosecuted for allowing your child to live in that pig sty they call a room. However, you can't go in their room and haul out the garbage because that is "taking property and other resources." Apparently you are even expected to store it for them (used Kotex - need I say more?). The only way you could do this is if it is a fire/ health hazard, but that is most likely not something you get to determine. If you decide to do it anyway? Protect yourself by taking lots of before pictures!
"lack of personal hygiene or clothes"
That's right, as adults you can't make them take a shower, brush teeth/hair, put in retainers, wear hearing aids, clean up messes they made... but if they don't you can be accused of neglect.
By the way, an adult group home has LOTS more rights than you as their parents do. They can make them do things you can't, including chores. They can enforce doctor's orders, but you can't.

"over- or under- medication" "lack of medical care"
Teenagers already have the right to refuse services and medications. When we took our 13 year old daughter to a psychiatric hospital last year she had the right to refuse to take her meds and to leave - and they made sure she knew it. Luckily her patient rights were so lengthy she wasn't paying much attention by then. Wouldn't that have been fun though?! Still if I don't (can't) make her go to the doctor, or take her medication as prescribed I could be prosecuted for "failure of a caretaker to provide such goods or services which are necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness." Lovely Catch 22 right?
"I gots rights ya know!"
(But parents don't)
So I can't tell my son who I've just nursed through his 3rd reconstructive surgery, not to go against Doctor's orders and jump curbs on his skateboard (This is just an example by the way - Bear has never actually had reconstructive surgery).
I can't tell my daughter not to jump off a bridge, because that is her right.
But if they do it and get hurt or killed I am responsible and can be charged with neglect. Yes, really! They are allowed to do anything they want, even if it is illegal, stupid or unsafe.
If a friend or neighbor passes out and you pick him up, nurse him back to help, feed him properly... this is against his rights. You are supposed to wait until he regains consciousness and then only help if he wants you to. Guess the Good Samaritan should be locked up?
Cameras / locks
Obviously locking them in their room at night is confinement which we've already established is abuse. Cameras would be an invasion of privacy. Anything along these lines which you might use to protect yourself, your property or other children, would pretty much be illegal. Of course if your mentally ill adult child sexually abuses a sibling, YOU would be prosecuted for failing to protect the minor child.

Common Areas
Locking the pantry, not allowing a child to eat dinner with the family, forbidding a child to go in the playroom or in the kitchen where the sibling they've been torturing is doing homework or trying to calm down... is keeping them out of common areas, which of course is a big No No.
I can't lock the pantry, or lock up certain foods, even something special I bought for me to take to lunch tomorrow, or food I planned to serve for tomorrow's dinner, because I don't have the right to limit what he or she eats. (Although I can buy a small fridge or something and keep food in my own room legally).
If, horror of horrors, you make your kid pay rent... you must establish policies like house rules in writing and they have to be "reasonable" (that's according to a legal definition which we've already established is wack!). You can forbid smoking and pets, but not enforce a curfew. You cannot limit who comes over, but if they stay for more than a few days or get packages at your home you can consider them roommates (which you can forbid).
Even so, you cannot enforce the rules, merely use them as a reason to evict your child (and you will usually have to give him/her advance written notice to evict- depending on your state you can then take him or her to court and have your child legally evicted. You can't just kick them out. In New York if you kick someone out by changing the locks and putting their stuff on the curb you are legally liable for triple their costs - so if someone steals their stuff or something is damaged you have to pay triple the cost to replace it, they stay in a motel... you get the idea.)
Tenant rules
A landlord generally cannot limit visitors as long as they do not disturb
other residents or violate some other provision of the lease.
A broad curfew on adults has been considered unreasonable by some lower
Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with
Privacy rights must be set up in advance or you could end up without
permission to enter or being prosecuted for trespass.
If you have no lease agreement and your state's landlord-tenant law says
nothing about landlord entries, then the usual rule is that your landlord can
only enter the leased premises when it is fair and reasonable to do so. Some
Emergencies such as broken pipes, flooding or fire
When you have already given permission to the landlord
Inspect the premises and make repairs or alterations
Acting on the reasonable belief that you have moved out of the apartment
Show the apartment to prospective tenants or buyers

Except for emergency situations, the landlord should give you advance
notice of a need to enter the land or obtain your permission to do so. If the
landlord fails to do either, you may be able to file a trespass action against
your landlord. You may also be able to obtain a restraining order against your
landlord for the following reasons:

Your landlord enters the premises without advance notice and without your
Your landlord demands to enter the premises for lawful reasons
but at unreasonable hours of the day, such as night time
Your landlord continually harasses you or behaves unreasonably towards you, your family and guests
Your landlord make continuous demands to enter the property
Your landlord tries to retaliate against you for invoking your rights
Is it any wonder why parents frequently kick out children when they turn 18?


Marty Walden said...

It also makes you wonder why anyone ever adopts wounded kids. Personal's life changing and frightening. If I had known then.....I would have been a lot smarter at the beginning with a lot more education and wisdom.

shastastevens said...

I'm in Texas too, and find your list terrifying. We did adopt from the foster system, so we were aware of no "restraint", which, as you know, includes blocking the doorway with your body. So what DO you do with a raging, biting, urinating child who is throwing everything within reach?

God gave kids parents to take care of them for him.

Why does the state get to take that away?

Anonymous said...

You said "I can't tell my daughter not to jump off a bridge, because that is her right. But if they do it and get hurt or killed I am responsible and can be charged with neglect."
But of course you can TELL her. You just can't stop her.
You said: "Tenant rules
A landlord generally cannot limit visitors as long as they do not disturb other residents or violate some other provision of the lease." So write a lease. My dad rented rooms and his lease was at least 7 pages long. Among other things he forbid fingernail polish as the fumes are dangerous to others. Seems to me that used kotex and food-in-rooms is a health hazard (attracts bugs and rodents) that affects all household members.
You said: "Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with
disabilities" Accessible is not the same as open-at-all-times-to. Accessible is about being able to gain entrance to when entrance is permitted.
You said: "If you have no lease agreement and your state's landlord-tenant law says
nothing about landlord entries..."
So have a darned lease agreement.

If nothing else, it tells Bear "You do not own this house, you cannot walk all over us."

(I'm rather glad I didn't know all this, and that my daughter will never know this ...)