Invisible Girls’ Stories

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THE GIRLS’ CENTER NEWS AND PRESS

The following are stories of invisible girls who have been served by Letot Center, but who would have been better served by the long-term, gender-specific treatment which will be offered by the Letot Girls Residential Treatment Center.

“Tanya”
Presenting Problem:  Runaway, truancy, substance abuse.

History:  Tanya was abandoned by her parents and lived with her grandmother most of her life.  She was physically and emotionally abused by her biological parents and sexually abused by an uncle and a cousin while living in the home of her grandmother.

Tanya had her first referral to Letot Center at the age of 15.  During a routine traffic stop, police discovered that she had run away from home and they brought her to Letot Center, where she acknowledged having run away five previous times.  Tanya was very defiant and after a brief stay at the Letot Center, she was released to her grandmother.  Within days, she ran away again and the police found her on the street.  The Court released her to Letot Center where she remained for 73 days.

Tanya’s behavior improved vastly and toward the end of her stay staff established that she was very close to an older cousin.  However, because she had stayed at Letot Center beyond the normal 30 – 60 day time-frame, a non-residential plan was developed for counseling and she was returned back to her grandmother’s home.  After a month of being home, Tanya ran away again.  The police located her after she was on the run for four months and the court ordered her into the first of many placements outside Dallas County.  She continued to run away, each time she was returned home from placement and admitted to being involved in some prostitution while out in the streets.

Issues:  Physical and emotional abandonment/rejection, sexual abuse, prostitution.

Outcome:  Tanya was in several placements over the course of four years.  Her behavior improved and the placements forced her to follow rules and gave her reasonable consequences, consistency and routines.  Being far away from home did not allow her to develop a healthy relationship with her older cousin while in placement.  Tanya was pregnant and back in Letot Center awaiting her 18th birthday when staff established a positive family friend for her to live with.  Tanya’s desire to bond with her child was evident when she agreed to work with the Nurse Family Partnership.  She had a little girl and is currently pregnant with her second child.  She is attending ATI and working on her medical transcription certification.

  • A Letot Girls Residential Treatment Center located in Dallas would have enabled staff to engage a positive caregiver in Tanya’s treatment plan and build on that relationship during a long-term stay.  As a result, Tanya would have received the in-depth treatment she needed earlier. Her runaway and prostitution incidents would have been reduced and she and her family would have been better prepared for her to transition back into her environment.

 “Sonia”
Presenting Problem:  Theft, runaway, truancy, pregnancy, substance abuse.

Family History:  Sonia lived with her mother and younger sibling. She had an aunt, uncle, and cousin who lived in Dallas, but did not have information or know the whereabouts of her father. The family lived in a 2-bedroom apartment where she had her own room. Many of the arguments that occurred in the home focused on 14-year-old Sonia’s truancy and her involvement with a 22 year-old “boyfriend.”  When Sonia and her mother argued, Sonia would leave and go with her boyfriend. Sonia’s mother was a single parent with two children, unemployed, and HIV positive. Sonia had multiple runaways and an arrest for shoplifting with a friend. She was constantly truant to be with her boyfriend.

During her second referral to Letot Center, Sonia claimed to be 7 weeks pregnant by her 22-year-old boyfriend.  Mother and Letot Center staff made referrals to the Dallas Police High Risk Victims Unit due the sexual exploitation of Sonia. They arrested the father of the baby for sexual assault. Sonia and her mother were referred to the Nurse-Family Partnership for weekly visitations during her pregnancy.

Three months after Sonia had her baby, Child Protective Services removed him from her and her mother. A hospital made a referral for abuse when they saw the baby and he had a fractured wrist and leg and possible skull fracture. Sonia denied knowing how it had happened and CPS gave temporary custody of Sonia’s son to her aunt and uncle with the plan that he would return to his mother eventually.

During her third referral to Letot Center, Sonia disclosed that her uncle, who had custody of her son, had sexually molested her.  As a result, Letot Center staff made a referral to CPS. It was unclear whether Sonia’s mother and aunt believed the allegations or were fearful that CPS would remove the child from the family. Regardless, it affected the family’s ability to discuss and work through the issue. During the CPS investigation, Sonia recanted her story.  At a later time she told Letot Center staff that her aunt told her CPS would take the baby from them and place him with an unknown family such that Sonia would lose him.

After each referral to Letot Center, Sonia returned home.  However, she did not obey rules and she would run away, associate with older/negative peers and not take responsibility for her actions. Communication with mother remained poor and she had no control to set limits with Sonia.

Issues:  Physical and emotional abandonment, sexual abuse, dating violence, loss of a child.

Over a three and half year period, Sonia had four placements at Letot Center, participated in outpatient drug services, and was court-ordered to residential drug treatment.

Sonia showed excellent behavior during all of her stays at the Letot Center. She participated in school and improved her grades. Her success earned her Student of the Week award. She cooperated with staff and managed her behavior avoiding conflicts with staff and peers. Her peers recognized her as a leader and she mentored younger residents. It was evident that she functioned well in structured environments and responded positively to both staff and peers.

Sonia’s mother attended counseling sessions but was inconsistent. Initially Sonia’s mother did not want her back home but because of Sonia’s improved behavior at Letot Center, her mother said she would be supportive and praised her daughter for a positive attitude. They discussed the runaways, truancy issues, and the lack of trust between the two of them. After recanting her allegations against her uncle, neither Sonia nor her mother chose to address the sexual abuse. This was also true of the violent relationship that Sonia had with her baby’s father. Later Sonia was in a court ordered residential drug placement for seven months, where she again reported the allegations of sexual abuse against her uncle.

Resistance to addressing the sexual abuse and having her son living with the uncle was a critical issue between Sonia and her mother. Sonia’s anger and aggression against her mother resulted in her mother’s failure to protect Sonia and not support her when she disclosed the abuse. They did not discuss the father’s absence. Sonia and her mother have a distant but cordial relationship. Sonia struggled to manage her mood swings and cope with stressors in her life by escalating drug use and spending less time with her son.

Outcome:  Sonia was successfully discharged after seven months of treatment. Her pattern of behavior of being successful in placement and failing at home continued. Sonia ran away after being home for two months. Her probation ended three months later and she is still on runaway.   Sonia’s mother received no treatment.  Short treatment stays and returning home interrupted the treatment process for Sonia.  In addition, it intensified the anger and distrust in their relationship.

  • A Letot Girls Residential Treatment Center located in Dallas would have made treatment available to Sonia earlier and engaged her mother in counseling. In addition, Sonia would have obtained parenting skills needed to break the cycle of poverty.  Instead, Sonia spent seven months in placement away from the family she needed to engage during treatment and support her after treatment.

“Ally”
Presenting Problem:  Assault offense, ADHD, theft, truancy, runaway.

Family History:   Ally, age 13, began living with her great grandmother in May 2008 because she was not getting along with her mother. Before this move, she lived with her mother, brother, sister and half-sister since birth. Ally’s biological father lives in the area but does not have contact or accept responsibility for his children. Her father went to prison due to drug issues. Ally’s mother and her current husband separated six years ago. In addition, her mother had numerous arrests for theft although they did not result in jail time. Ally alleged that her mother frequently drank alcohol.

While living at home, Ally brought boys into her bedroom at night and locked her doors to keep he mother out. She began stealing with her friends and would not cooperate regardless of what her mother did.  Ally moved in with her great grandmother when she refused to follow her mother’s rules.

However, after an argument with her grandmother, Ally attempted suicide by taking pills.  Her mother admitted her to a psychiatric facility for a week and her psychiatrist placed her on psychotropic medication to help her with anger, impulse control and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Issues:  Sexual abuse, physical and emotional abandonment, substance abuse.

In September 2008, the police brought Ally to Letot Center for assaulting her mother. The Intake Officer referred the family to Letot Center Non-Residential services for Crisis Intervention.  A Case Manager and a therapist worked with Ally and her mother.  It was at this time, Ally disclosed her uncle sexually abused her when she was five. Letot Center staff made a referral to Child Protective Services and CPS assigned a caseworker to investigate the allegation.

Ally successfully completed the Crisis Intervention Program by attending the Juvenile Law Class, completing an Anger Management group, and receiving counseling at the Family Place to address her sexual abuse in January 2009.  Additional delinquent behavior resulted in Ally moving back and forth between her grandmother and mother.  However, when Ally’s mother was admitted to the hospital for Crohn’s disease, Ally moved back to grandmother’s house.

In September 2010 Ally ran away and the police brought her to Letot Center where her grandmother agreed to admit her.  Ally was truant from school and was acting out against authorities. She remained at Letot Center for 23 days during which time a Case Manager and a Clinical Counselor worked with her on addressing how the sexual abuse was affecting her attitudes and sexually promiscuous behavior with men.

Outcome:  Should Ally continue to run away and be sexually exploited, a plan is in place to recommend her case be sent to the Juvenile Court and placement be considered.  It would be more beneficial for Ally, if we could keep her safe in placement; while at the same time, continue to involve her mother and grandmother in therapy in hopes of improving the home environment.  This will allow the family unit to get stronger even before transitioning Ally back into the home.

  • A Letot Girls Residential Treatment Center located in Dallas would have allowed Ally to be in a safe and caring environment while her grandmother was educated and prepared with skills to raise a child with past trauma and abuse issues.