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!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Jail and Prison - Foster Care and Mental Illness Statistics.

Almost 80% of inmates incarcerated in our prisons have spent time in foster care.
 45% to 75% of inmates are mentally ill. 

Foster care Statistics - Unacceptable Facts and Stories 
40-50% of former foster youth become homeless within 18 months after leaving care.

60% of youth earn incomes below the poverty line.

65% of children in foster care experience seven or more school changes from elementary to high school.

Only 1-3% graduate from college.

25% of foster youth will be in prison within two years of emancipation.  

Four of five (80 percent) young women become pregnant too soon.

Kids who've been in foster care are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at six times the general population and double the rate of veterans returning from war.

Eight of ten (81 percent) males have been arrested compared to 17 percent of their peers who were not in foster care.

Serious Mental Illness Prevalence in Jails and Prisons

In state prisons, 73 percent of women and 55 of men have at least one mental health problemIn federal prisons, 61 percent of women and 44 percent of menIn local jails, 75 percent of women and 63 percent of men

Serious mental illness has become so prevalent that jails and prisons are now commonly called “the new asylums.” 

In point of fact, the Los Angeles County Jail, Chicago’s Cook County Jail, or New York’s Riker’s Island Jail each hold more mentally ill inmates than any remaining psychiatric hospital in the United States. Overall, 

Approximately 20% of inmates in jails and 15% of inmates in state prisons are now estimated to have a serious mental illness

Based on the total inmate population, this means approximately 383,000 individuals with severe psychiatric disease were behind bars in the United States in 2014 or nearly 10 times the number of patients remaining in the nation’s state hospitals. The number of severely mentally ill individuals behind bars is 10 times the number of patients in state hospitals. 

Mentally ill inmates remain in jail longer than other inmates. 
In Florida’s Orange County Jail, the average stay for all inmates is 26 days; for mentally ill inmates, it is 51 days. In New York’s Riker’s Island, the average stay for all inmates is 42 days; for mentally ill inmates, it is 215 days (over 5 times longer!)

The average stay for mentally ill prison inmates is 5 times longer than other inmates.

The main reason mentally ill inmates are incarcerated longer than other prisoners is that many find it difficult to understand and follow jail and prison rules. In one study, jail inmates were twice as likely (19% versus 9%) to be charged with facility rule violations. In another study, in Washington state prisons, mentally ill inmates accounted for 41% of infractions even though they constituted only 19% of the prison population. 

Mentally ill inmates are incarcerated longer because they find it difficult to understand and follow the rules.

Additionally, pretrial inmates with serious mental illness experience longer incarcerations than other inmates in many states if they require an evaluation or restoration of competency to stand trial. A survey of state hospital officials in 2015 found that 78% of the 40 responding states were wait-listing pretrial inmates for hospital services. The waits were “in the 30-day range” in most states, but three states reported forensic bed waits of six months to one year. Mentally ill inmates in some states are reported to spend more time waiting for competency restoration so they can be tried than they would spend behind bars convicted of the offense for which they have been charged.

Pretrial inmates with a serious mental illness might have to wait for one month up to one year for hospital services; many wait longer to be evaluated than they would spend behind bars convicted of the offense for which they have been charged.

Mentally ill inmates create behavioral management problems that result in their isolation. 
Because of their impaired thinking, many inmates with serious mental illnesses present behavioral management problems. This is a contributing factor to their heavy over-representation in the subset of prisoners in solitary confinement. In Wisconsin, for example, a 2010 audit of three state prisons reported that

 “between 55% and 76% of inmates in segregation [isolation] are mentally ill."
Solitary Confinement (Isolation)
Solitary Confinement: Torture, Pure and Simple
The practice of placing incarcerated individuals in solitary confinement dates back to the 1820s in America when it was thought that isolating individuals in prison would help with their rehabilitation. Yet, over the past two centuries, it has become clear that locking people away for 22 to 24 hours a day is anything but rehabilitative. 

Solitary confinement is so egregious a punishment that in 2011, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment condemned its use, except in exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible, and banned the practice completely for people with mental illnesses and for juveniles.

Despite its barbarity, the United States continues to place thousands of people, including individuals with mental illnesses and children, in solitary confinement, sometimes for decades

There are more than 80,000 men, women, and children in solitary confinement in prisons across the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Note that figure is a decade old and doesn’t include people in jails, juvenile facilities, and immigrant detention centers. Nearly every state uses some form of solitary confinement, but there’s no federal reporting system that tracks how many people are isolated at any given time.

Prisoners are often confined for months or even years, with some spending more than 25 years in segregated prison settings. As with the overall prison population, people of color are disproportionately represented in isolation units. [Solitary Confinement Facts]

Solitary confinement often exacerbates existing psychiatric conditions and not infrequently leads to suicide. 
In Texas, for example, suicides rates for those in solitary confinement are five times higher than that of the general prison community.

Mentally ill inmates are more likely to commit suicide. 
Suicide is the leading cause of death in correctional facilities, and multiple studies indicate as many as half of all inmate suicides are committed by the estimated 15 % to 20% of inmates with serious mental illness. A 2002 study in the state of Washington found that “the prevalence of mental illness among inmates who attempted suicide was 77%, compared with 15% [among inmates] in the general jail population.” In California in 2002, the Los Angeles Times headlined: “Jail Suicides Reach Record Pace in State,” and added: “Some experts blame the recent surge on forcing more of the mentally ill behind bars.”

By the Numbers: Mental Illness Behind Bars
“We’ve, frankly, criminalized the mentally ill, and used local jails as de facto mental health institutions,” said Alex Briscoe, the health director for Alameda County in northern California.

Mentally Ill Women in the System
The statistics paint a stark picture, with mental illness affecting a greater percentage of jailed women than men:

In state prisons, 73 percent of women and 55 of men have at least one mental health problemIn federal prisons, 61 percent of women and 44 percent of menIn local jails, 75 percent of women and 63 percent of men
Jailhouse Fights
 Inmates with mental illness are much more likely to be injured in prison fights. The Department of Justice reported that 20 percent of inmates with mental illness were injured in jailhouse fights compared to 10 percent of inmates without mental illness. In local jails, inmates with mental illness are three times as likely to be injured.
Jail and prison are particularly bad places to be mentally ill. Men and women with behavioral disorders and mental illness end up in stressful prison environments — many are put in seclusion for long stretches of time — that further exacerbate their conditions, researchers say. 

It is estimated that 20–25% of homeless people, compared with 6% of the non-homeless, have severe mental illness. Others estimate that up to one-third of the homeless suffer from mental illness. 

Studies have also found that there is a correlation between homelessness and incarceration. Those with mental illness or substance abuse problems were found to be incarcerated at a higher frequency than the general population. 

Fischer and Breakey have identified the chronically mentally ill as one of the four main subtypes of homeless persons; the others being the street people, chronic alcoholics, and the situationally distressed.

So Now What?

First, you have to decide, when does it stop? How many hours do you take away from everything else to devote to keeping this child out of jail, safe, and/or with a place to sleep? What if this isn't the first (or the 50th!) time you've had to find her a new place, paid for groceries, or he's asked you for bail money?

Only you can decide what you're willing to give (and it's ok to make changes to that in the future!)
Prioritizing Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order!


If your child is like mine, he/she needs a LOT of structure. {Structure and Caring Support} There are only so many places our kids can get that structure once that child legally becomes an adult. 

We looked at a couple of options but unfortunately, my son didn't qualify for either.:

1.  Military
People with current mood disorders or a history of serious mental illness cannot serve. Recruiters have allegedly lied to my son and said he was eligible (to meet their enrollment quotas?) but it is more likely that he lied to them about his diagnoses.

How do you know whether your child may have a disqualifying condition? The U.S. Department of Defense has a directive called the Criteria and Procedure Requirements for Physical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Armed Forces which provides a detailed list of what mental health conditions prevent a person from being in the armed services.

  • current diagnosis or a history of a mental disorder with psychotic features, such as schizophrenia or a delusional disorder
  • bipolar disorder or affective psychoses
  • depressive disorders (for example, major depressive disorder), disqualification from the service will occur if a person had outpatient care that lasted for more than 24 months or any inpatient care. A person with a depressive disorder must be "stable" without treatment for a continuous 36 months to be eligible.
  • anxiety disorders (for example, panic disorder), a person cannot enter the armed services if he or she needed any inpatient care or outpatient care for more than 12 months cumulatively. A person must not have needed any treatment for their anxiety disorder in the past 36 months.
  • history of obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • history of or current dissociative, conversion, or factitious disorder, depersonalization, hypochondriasis, somatoform disorders, or pain disorder related to psychological factors or a somatoform disorder
  • history of an adjustment disorder within the last three months or recurrent episodes of adjustment disorder
  • history of or current psychosexual condition like voyeurism or exhibitionism
  • history of or current alcohol or drug abuse or dependence
  • history of attempted suicide or suicidal behavior
  • disturbances of conduct, impulse control disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or other personality or behavior disorders characterized by frequent encounters with law enforcement agencies, and antisocial attitudes or behavior are other mental health problems that warrant disqualification from the service
  • personality, conduct, or behavior disorder that is believed to serve as a serious interference to adjusting to the military
  • other causes for disqualification include (but not limited to) a history of anorexia or bulimia, a history of encopresis (soiling your underwear) after the age of 13, or a history of an expressive or receptive language delay
    [Can Those With Mental Illness Serve In The US Military?}

2.  Job Corps

Job Corps is a program administered by the United States Department of Labor that offers free-of-charge education and vocational training to young men and women ages 16 to 24.

Unfortunately, Job Corps has a strict student conduct policy. Violence and drug and alcohol use are strictly prohibited. This may rule out many kids with trauma issues, mental illnesses, aggression, criminal history...

You may NOT be eligible for Job Corps if you:

  • Use drugs illegally under federal law
  • Exhibit behavioral problems that could prevent you or others from success in Job Corps
  • Have certain criminal convictions or require court supervision

Helping Your Child Support Him/Herself?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Many people with a serious mental illness live on Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which averages just 18% of the median income but can allow your child to live more independently. It includes Medicaid, which can get your child most, if not all of the health services and medications that he/she needs.  {Getting SSI For Your Adult Child}

Living Outside of the Home
You love your child but having him/ her live with you may not be an option.

So what do you do?
  • do you try to find a group home or assisted-living place that takes people with your child's disability?
  • do you pay out of pocket?
  • do you take your child to a shelter? 
  • do you give her a bus ticket to wherever she thinks her life will be better (and pray she doesn't get pregnant)? 
  • do you pay for an apartment for him? (not that that's financially an option for us). 
  • do you hand him a tent and a sleeping bag? 
  • do you pay for a hotel room just until...? 
  • do you help them find roommates and a place they can afford?
  • do you bring them groceries?
  • do you co-sign something?
Finding A Place to Live
Your child may run into housing issues after being discharged from an inpatient care unit or jail. Finding him/ her a place to live can be difficult.

Section 8 Housing 
This program provides vouchers for people with low incomes to obtain housing in the community.  In general, a Section 8 recipient has to pay approximately one-third of her monthly income towards her rent, and the voucher pays for the rest.  Many people with special needs who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits as their sole source of income will likely qualify for Section 8 as well. 

Section 8 vouchers can allow people with mild or moderate special needs and low incomes to live on their own in the community.  However, they're cutting this program back more and more and it usually takes 5 to 10 years to obtain a Section 8 voucher and, once acquired, there may not be any available Section 8 units for rent in the individual's community. Section 8 housing is also not appropriate for people with more complicated special needs who can't live on their own.

  • Section 811 Housing
    Through the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, HUD provides funding to develop and subsidize rental housing with the availability of supportive services for very low- and extremely low-income adults with disabilities.

Group Homes
This type of housing provides the most support for its residents. Trained staff members are present 24/7 to provide care and assistance with things like medication, daily living skills, meals, paying bills, transportation and treatment management. These group homes provide their residents with their own bed, dresser and closet space, and shared bathrooms and common areas. This is the best type of housing for people experiencing a serious mental illness which may affect their ability to perform their daily tasks.

Residents of group homes usually have a disability, such as autism, intellectual disability, chronic or long-term mental/psychiatric disorder, or physical or even multiple disabilities because those are the non-profit and state-regional organizations which began and operated the homes.

How much does it cost to live in a group home? On average, residential care homes are about half the cost of skilled nursing facilities and less expensive than many assisted living communities. The cost can range from $1500 to $4,500 a month. It will depend on the level of care needed, the quality of the home, the location, and if the room is single or shared.

Partially Supervised Group Housing
Some support is provided for the residents, but staff isn’t there 24 hours a day. The residents can be left alone for several hours and are able to call for help if needed. People who choose to stay in these group homes can perform their daily living tasks independently or semi-independently, help with cooking and cleaning and may even hold a part-time job or participate in a day program.

Supported Housing
Supportive housing provides very limited assistance. The residents of these homes live almost independently and are visited by staff members infrequently. However, they do have someone to call and resources available to them if a problem does arise.

Finding a place that takes Medicaid, Medicare, some sort of government program that doesn't require years on a waiting list... 

Your Child Has Been Incarcerated, Now What?

"Well, expect to be asked to bail her out. Don’t. {Our kids knew from day one that we would never bail them out.}
Expect to be asked for commissary money. Don’t. {We decided to give our child commissary money but it was a very minimal amount. You can find out what is already provided by the state (like toiletries). Bear lied because he wanted more than basic quality items and stuff to use for trading.}
Expect to be asked to pay for a lawyer. Don’t. {Warning: If you start down the path of paying for things like lawyers and mental health evaluations, your child can lose his status as indigent/ requiring a public defender and you will be on the hook for everything}.
Expect to be asked to be a character witness and write a letter to the judge. Don’t.
Oh, and don’t accept collect phone calls. I learned the hard way it was $2.99 a minute. {We did accept collect phone calls (and later started putting money on his phone account) but we set concrete limits on them. Ex. Wednesday nights at 9pm only. Otherwise, he would literally call us 9-10 times a day because he was bored.}
Do take care of you!
Go to court if you want. For me, it was the only way to find out how you will hear what is actually going on. {I know Bear will not/ cannot tell me the truth.} It’s never our kids' fault.
I liked it when my kids were in jail. They were safe, fed, and not homeless.
Their choices, their consequences! Take care of you!"
--A Fellow Trauma Mama.

Finding Out What's Going On- 

Try Googling/ Internet Searching:
"{Your state} offender search" - it should bring up your state's department of correction website rather than one of those "free" report things that will spam you forever.

On Demand Court Records (
This has a lot of information about why your child was arrested, charges filed, court dates, whether your child appeared in court, if there's a warrant out for your child's arrest, whether or not he/she is currently incarcerated, court costs, judge and attorney's name... I believe this site crosses state boundaries.

What Do You Tell The Court?
Obviously, this is up to you and your child. I will warn you that most public defenders/ pro bono attorneys don't want to spend a lot of time on each case. It was almost impossible for us to get info to my son's attorney.

Mental Health Court
As long as your child did not commit a violent crime, he/ she may be eligible for Mental Health Court. I don't know a lot about this because it wasn't something we were able to get our son into. 

At What Point Do You Let Go?
Many of my friends are struggling with children who are chronologically on the cusp of adulthood, but do not have the skills needed to be successful... in fact, most of their kids are determinedly on a rapid, self-destructive path.

It sometimes felt like I was in the middle of the ocean holding my son like a lifeguard.  We did everything we could to teach my son to "swim," and he just couldn't learn.  For as long as I held him up, he hated me, was actively fighting me, and was absolutely convinced he could do it all on his own. 

I knew his struggles could drown me and they almost did many times.

I knew that the minute I let go, he would flounder for a little while, but inevitably, he would sink to the bottom of the ocean.  

How do you let go, knowing your child will most likely drown?  At the same time, I knew I could not hold him forever.  At what point do I let go?

I got some excellent advice from a fellow trauma mama: 
The fact of the matter is this - Bear is going to drown no matter how much you do for him. The only difference is that you are going to drown right along with him if you continue doing the things you're doing. He is very clear that he doesn't want your help. He is even making things worse in his zeal to get you off his back. As long as you are giving help and advice, he is convincing himself that he knows better, is smarter and can handle it all himself - and hating you for it. What's wrong with letting him know that you are going to step back and let him handle things, but that if he needs your assistance with meds (or whatever you decide the boundaries to be) that you are willing to help in any way you know how - but only if he asks. Maybe after a few months, he will concede that things aren't going as smoothly as he thinks.
His perception of how he's taken care of himself all this time on his own is only a small indicator of his distorted thinking. The one thing I've learned (the hard way over and over) is that their reality doesn't really have to be based on the facts, and when it isn't, there is no reasoning with them. I know it is so painful to watch, but this is real life and unless you have guardianship (and lots of times even when you do), he is legally able to make his own decisions - which he's been doing. YOU are doing all the work on improving his life and he's fighting you every step of the way. Let your husband field the phone calls and advocate for him - I think he will find out quickly that helping Bear isn't as easy as it may seem.

Detachment Parenting
When I first heard of it, it sounded like heaven to my burned out, PTSD suffering, guilt-ridden self. I'd been trying to parent my attachment challenged children the way society told me I should, the same way I parented my neuro-typical, totally attached bio-kids - nurturing, child-focused, self-sacrificing... and it was killing me! {Giving Until There's Nothing Left - But My Child NEEDS Me!}

I see Detachment Parenting as a small step beyond all of that. A step I desperately needed. A way to validate not feeling guilty for not prioritizing my child's needs over everything else - even though I knew my child would most likely fail without my constant intervention (and remember that my child would most likely fall whether I was there or not). {You Have Not Failed} 

I had to prioritize my life differently in an effort to function again - to get a thicker skin about ignoring other's expectations and "shoulds", and stop being reactive or even proactive about my child. I needed to parent my attachment-challenged child calmly and with perspective about the needs of my family and myself.

I realized I needed to focus on myself (especially healing my PTSD and building my reserves up so I had enough to give again.), my husband, my family as a whole, focus on the other kids (not just the squeakiest wheels), and only then on the child that I couldn't heal. 

I know it sounds impossible, but SELF-CARE has to be your first priority!

But My Child NEEDS Me! 

When my kids first got here, I was empathetic, calm and patient with them- maybe TOO patient.  I stuffed things down, let it roll off my back, and GAVE and GAVE and GAVE... until there was nothing left. Nothing left for my child, for my family and most of all, for my self. I was so burned out and overwhelmed that we were all miserable.

You can't help anyone if you're so emotionally drained that there's nothing left. 

I once heard a house parent in a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed girls tell a teen that she was a "bottomless pit of need." At the time, I thought he was a horrible person. Now I get it. If we drain our emotional reserves trying to fill a child who can't be filled, then we're empty. You can't fill from an empty cup. Our kids need a different type of parenting and society's "shoulds" can suck it! {Finding The Joy

One thing that really helped me with setting boundaries with all of my teens (even my neurotypical biokids), was one of my favorite books, Stop Walking on Eggshells. I still reread it often. It helped me with setting boundaries for my children and for myself too. 

You Have Not Failed
Not only did I need to grieve that my children didn't have the life I'd hoped for them, but I had to acknowledge it was not my fault. I did everything I reasonably could. Often more than I should.

Yet one of my children did not heal.

Deep down, I felt guilty about this. Especially because I knew I had never really emotionally bonded to this child. In fact, I don't like to be around him. As a mother, especially as an adoptive parent, I was supposed to feel nurturing and loving toward this child, right? What kind of mother am I?

I had to acknowledge that not feeling nurturing and loving toward my abuser (and yes, that is what he was) is perfectly understandable. Yes, he was a child who did not always have control over his actions. That does not change the fact that it hurt and scared me when he lashed out at me and my family. 

If my spouse had treated me the way my son did, everyone would criticize me for not leaving my husband. Because my abuser was my child, everyone told me I could not leave and, in fact, I was shamed for not being more loving and nurturing. 

Here're some of the posts that helped me through this - 

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