In the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, during the final scene, Japanese Naval Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the primary planner of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, says, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” The “sleeping giant” is, of course, the United States which Japan has just attacked. The line has become part of American popular culture, probably an attempt to make us as Americans feel that our victory over Imperial Japan was always assured, even though the line did not appear until 1970, 25 years after the end of the war. Still, in 1970, the attack at Pearl Harbor was only 29 years in the past, meaning that most American adults alive then would have still remembered what they felt when news reached the mainland that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Even 29 years after the fact, Pearl Harbor remained our darkest memory. Every American over thirty could still remember the feelings of powerlessness in the face of the Japanese attack. Even a fictional recreation of an attack in a war that we knew we had won still made audiences feel so low that they needed to feel that vengeance was pre-destined.
A similar sentiment was said by President George W. Bush when he visited the site of the World Trade Center attacks on September 14th, 2001. Using a bull-horn, Bush thanked the firefighters and rescuers, some of whom shouted that they couldn’t hear him, the President replied, “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
It was a great, iconic line, especially considering that Bush said it off the cuff. Nine years later, it pales in comparison to Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech, but only because Bush lacked FDR’s powers of articulation. At the same, it was a rallying cry. None of us had any doubt that Bush meant what he said: he was going to find those that attacked us and exact revenge upon them. It was a reminder that although we might be down now, we will not be down forever. You have hit us hard and made us bleed, but you better start running while we are down because we are not dead and we will eventually get up. And when we get up, we are going to start chasing you. And when we chase you, we will chase you to the ends of the earth until we catch you. And when we catch you, we will make you pay. We will make you feel what we felt.
Revenge is a basic human emotion, but we Americans are very good at it. We believe we have certain inalienable rights, and when you strike at us, enjoy your sense of victory. For it is only temporary. No matter how long it takes or how hard the road, we will get our revenge.
This is why Yamamoto’s line about waking a sleeping giant is in the Tora! Tora! Tora!
There is, however, no historical evidence Yamamoto ever said such a line. Yamamoto had studied at Harvard and had spent time in Washington. He had great fondness for America and Americans. He did not support the idea of war with the United States. When Yamamoto was asked by Prime Minister Fuminaro Konoe six months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor what he felt the outcome would be of a war with the United States, he said “I shall run wild for six months or a year but I have utterly no confidence for the second or third year.” But that line doesn’t make us feel as good as the “sleeping giant” line. When hurt, we want to feel like those that hurt us haven’t yet seen all of us. We want to stand up like an iceberg emerging from the water, showing the other 90% of us they haven’t seen. It’s pure bravado, of course. We are down. We can’t get up right now. We can’t fight back. We cannot lash out at those who hurt us or those we love.
Becomes, sometimes, when you’ve been hurt, bravado is all you have.
Last Wednesday, we attended Jani’s most recent IEP. On Wednesday night, I wrote a blog about it, the blog entry prior to this one. On Thursday, we received all call from Jani’s therapist’s office at the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center that she was cancelling her regularly scheduled Friday session with Jani. No explanation was given. Typically, when Jani’s therapist cancels, she either calls me herself, or, if the receptionist calls on her behalf, a reason is given, even if the reason is just “______ had to deal with an emergency or a personal family matter.”
This told me all I needed to know about what was coming.
The crux of our conflict with the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center is this: ______________, the VP of Programs for the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center, where Jani receives therapy under AB 3632, informed us that he did not feel his agency’s services were benefitting Jani. In other words, she was not improving. His justification for this assessment was Jani’s continued hospitalizations at UCLA over the past year, despite the fact that the number and duration of Jani’s hospital stays has decreased dramatically. In 2009, she was hospitalized five times at UCLA. One of those hospitalizations was from February 21st to June 1st, a duration of more than three months. In 2010, she has been hospitalized four times, in January, March, April, and June. Only the June hospitalization lasted more than one week (the June hospitalization was four weeks).
________________ stated that it was the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center’s clinical determination that Jani was not getting any better. When I asked him who made this clinical determination, he said, “I did. And_________,” Jani’s therapist. This took us completely by surprise. Jani’s therapist had been nothing had had nothing but positive reports in her conversations with us. Even when Jani would have “incidents,” like spilling water on herself while changing the water in the Betta fish bowls in the therapist’s office and, frustrated by not being allowed to strip off her clothes in public, tearing up the live plants in the fishbowls instead, Jani’s therapist would tell us how Jani managed to calm herself down, how she “de-escalated” herself in psychological parlance. Even after the session where Jani tried to cut herself with a serrated piece of metal because she couldn’t wait for her therapy appointment, her therapist reported that she had been “fine” in the session.
When I pointed out that Jani’s therapist had never made any such comments to us that Jani was not improving, she attempted to deny this, claiming that she had indeed talked to me about Jani not improving.
To us, this appeared very much like a lie. Either Jani’s therapist had been telling us all along what we wanted to hear, downplaying what she really thought, or she was now changing her “assessment” to go along with her boss, sitting right next to her, the latter of which I accused her of.
All of this had been initiated because I apparently made the mistake of expressing to ___________, the VP of Programs, my concerns over the level of service provided to Jani by the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center. Rather than do what the Newhall School District has done and attempt to find innovative new solutions to educating Jani despite her schizophrenia, ____________ of the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center decided it would be easier to get rid of Jani than adapt his agency’s services to further aid her growing up with the most serious mental illness known to mankind. Hence, the sudden “clinical determination” that Jani was not improving and was “too severe” for the Child & Family Center to meet her needs.
Typically, social services agencies and school districts attempt to deny services on the claim that the child is not severe ENOUGH to warrant their services. Santa Clarita Child & Family didn’t have that option, not with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and eleven hospitalizations since January 2009, so they took the opposite route, claiming that Jani was too severe and her needs could only be met by residential care.
The fact that they feel Jani is too severe is not what bothers me. The fact that they either cannot or will not even attempt to meet her needs is not what really bothers me. What angered me, what hurt, was that Jani’s therapist did an about-face in the IEP without warning. What hurt is that I believed that this woman believed in Jani, cared about Jani, even liked Jani, when none of these things were true. I expected her to defend Jani. Instead, she wrote Jani off, leaving her to whatever fate might befall her.
Was it really that hard for her, I wonder, to work with Jani this past year?
Today, when Susan and Jani arrived for Jani’s therapy appointment, ____________, the VP of Programs was waiting for them. He observed Jani’s session with her therapist for the first time. Jani did extremely well, taking care of the Betta fish as she always does. At the end, Susan asked him for his assessment. He said that he still feels Jani is “too severe” for his agency. Susan asked the same question of another woman was also present. She replied, “I see a little girl playing with fish.” According to Susan, Jani’s therapist seemed the most discombobulated.
It is Susan’s assessment, and I agree, that this observation was an attempt to back up the claim that Jani is too severe for the Child & Family Center. They had hoped to see Jani act out, perhaps even become violent. They forget, however, than Jani is a smart cookie. She may have a schizophrenia but she also has a 146IQ. She knew what they were looking for.
When I got home from work, Jani told me that she enjoyed playing with _________, the VP of Programs. He had played with her, apparently, and she had enjoyed this.
Then he told Susan that the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center was terminating their relationship with Jani, ending her therapy. Jani’s therapist, he said, no longer felt comfortable working with Jani or us.
Then he told Jani this.
And asked her how she felt about this.
I am not a believer in evil, but that is pretty evil, to tell an eight year old mentally ill girl to her face that her therapist doesn’t want to see her anymore.
I don’t know what he was expecting. Perhaps he was expecting that Jani would throw a fit, perhaps then justifying the claim that he was trying to make.
But all Jani said was, “Can we have the fish?”
__________________ then proceeded to tell Susan that Jani’s therapist no longer felt comfortable working with a child whose parents might use her name in a blog or on an internet radio show. He said that all forty-nine other therapists with the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center felt the same way (although I doubt he had time to call all of them and ask).
So that’s what it was. They were punishing Jani because I had used their names in my blogs, which obviously they read.
In my original draft of my previous blog, I used Jani’s therapist’s name. However, I decided, prior to publishing the blog, to remove her name. I did this because I guessed (correctly, it turns out) that this would push her too far.
In my previous blogs, I have named names. Why do I do this? Why I do I threaten Jani’s care by publicly calling out her care providers when I perceive that they are failing her?
Very simply, because it shouldn’t matter.
I know that no one likes to be publicly criticized. When our story first became public, I got a lot of criticism. Most of my comments on my original blog (now called “Michael’s Old Blog”) were supportive, but some of them were at best critical of me and at worst outright hostile. Many of these critics, to put it kindly, took words from my blog, where I am always brutally honest about my own failings, and used them out of context. I’ve read horrible things about me. I’ve even received a few death threats from people who feel I am killing Jani by medicating her.
My old blog had no way to moderate comments, so I spent a sizable amount of my time deleting attacking emails against me. Sometimes I would answer their accusations, but it didn’t matter what I said. They had their own agenda. For a small minority, I would delete comments only to find them back up again within minutes. It got to the point where I had give my password to a friend so he could also delete hostile comments.
At the time, I took these attacks very personally. These people didn’t know me and they didn’t know Jani.
When janisjourney.org went up last September, I finally had the means to moderate comments. Perhaps some readers out there will think that I just delete any comment awaiting moderation that criticizes me. Actually, the hostile emails generally just stopped. I suppose that individuals just assumed their comments would never become public and just stopped.
If you look around the website, either under the blog entries, or “A Father’s Journey,” or any of the other pages, you will find the occasional hostile or critical comment. That is because I no longer censor my comments. You can spew whatever vitriol you like now and I will allow the comment to go up. First, because of the private online support group for parents of mentally ill/autistic children, I no longer have to worry about keeping this space as a place where parents of mentally ill children can share their own experiences. Second, though, I no longer care what people say about me. It’s become water off a duck’s back. I got used to it and developed a thicker skin. I stopped taking anything negative about me personally. I have even come to agree with my critics a few times. I can be arrogant. I do tend to generalize the experience of all schizophrenics based on my experiences with children with it. I do have a tendency to focus on the violence, the aspect of schizophrenia that society fears most, something that I have been trying to correct. I am a “neurotypical” who speaks for schizophrenics, and not all individuals with schizophrenia appreciate that. I have had to learn to let them speak for themselves. Please understand that whatever mistakes I have made I have made because I am trying to understand your struggle, because I need to understand your struggle, not just for Jani but also to advocate for mentally ill children like her. We may not always agree, but we want the same thing. I don’t want mentally ill children locked away from society. I want society to accept them for who they are and see the value in who they are. I want the world to understand that just because you are mentally ill doesn’t mean you don’t have value to our society. And like most advocates, I would not have become an advocate had I not been personally affected. I advocate for a segment of society that society generally fears and marginalizes and doesn’t treat with respect. I may not always understand you experience (I don’t think we neurotypicals can) but I will always defend you as human beings deserving of the same rights as everybody else.
When I name you in one of my blogs, when I put out who you are and what I feel you are doing to the world, I expect you to get angry. I would. I expect you to take it personally. I expect you to feel hurt, even betrayed, because in your mind you are probably doing the best you can do in a bad situation.
But then I expect you to realize that what I really doing is not personally attacking you. I am not calling you names. What I am doing is challenging you to do a better job. I am challenging you to remember that ultimately this is about a child, a child who needs you, and I am her parent, and I will say things in anger, pain, and desperation that you would say if you were in my position.
I am challenging you to go above and beyond what you think you can do, because that is my job. It is my job to push for the best life I can for my daughter.
Some have seen their name in my blogs and risen to that challenge. Dr. Fine, Director of Pupil Services for the Newhall School District, is a wonderful example of this. I have written things about him that have hurt him personally. I know this because he has told me. But he has also never turned his back on Jani, no matter how angry or frustrated he got with me and Susan. That, dear readers, is a great man. Dr. Fine is a man who as Abraham Lincoln once said, can “appeal to the better angels” of his nature.
If I make what I feel are your failures public, and you have the courage and fortitude to come back to the table, still willing to work for the benefit of a child, you earn my respect. This is not to say that Dr. Fine just takes it. He has let me know on more than one occasion when he hasn’t been happy with what I have said about him or the Newhall District in this blog. And I respect that. I don’t expect people to take my criticism. I expect them to answer it by doing a better job, even if that only means pointing out, “Hey, I actually am doing something so shut the hell up, Mr. Schofield.”
If you are doing the best you can do, I can accept that. If I don’t feel you are doing the best you can do, then I am going to write about it.
I also use real names in my blog because if you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to worry about. Now perhaps I am wrong about this. By default, I have gotten used to my business being in the public eye, but I realize not everyone is. However, I also believe in transparency. This blog serves as a check against any abuse by the mental health care system.
There have been others, too, who have risen to the challenge. Dr. Mark DeAntonio at UCLA, almost every UCLA nurse and staff member who has worked with Jani, Dr. Woodall, Jani’s outpatient psychiatrist. At one time or another, I have dragged them all into this little limelight of my blog. They never like it. I wouldn’t either. But they don’t run away. They challenge me, they argue with me, they even chastise me, but they never run away.
Jani’s therapist ran away. I did not use her name in my last blog, so the only person who would have known who I was talking about was her.
And she couldn’t take it. In the end, the well-being of a mentally ill child was less important to her than her reputation. And in the end, the well-being of a mentally ill child was less important to the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center than their reputation.
Which is kind of silly when you think about it. Because what do they think I am going to do: stop writing? It is kind of like answering “No comment” to a reporter; it only makes you look guilty. Cutting off Jani’s therapy just because I am using names in my blog and discussing how Jani is being treated is really just sticking one’s head in the sand. All that does is give my readers only my side of the story. All that does is allow me to further damage their reputations.
So I can only conclude then that the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center has something to hide. _____________ claims that a clinical determination has been made that Jani is not improving, that she is too severe for them. Where is this clinical determination? What was it based on? Just on the number of Jani’s hospitalizations? Any psychologist worth his or her salt will tell you that an assessment can not be made using only one factor. They will also tell you that an assessment must have some quantifiable data to support any clinical determination. Where is this data?
Is the assessment being hastily written now (now that we have made a formal written request for Jani’s files)? You can put any date on a document. How will I know that this assessment, if it even exists, was written BEFORE the IEP?
When I delivered the written request to the Child & Family Center main office today, I was told that there would be a 25 cent charge per page. This, in and of itself, is not unusual, but given the look of most of the Child & Family Center’s clientele, a quarter a page for a file possibly hundreds of pages long is a nice deterrent. I informed the receptionist that I believe that in order to charge for a copy of medical files, the agency must notify the client when they first begin services at that agency. She didn’t answer me directly, instead saying, “Well, not many people request their records.”
Interesting. I wonder why? I wonder how many children and teens the Child & Family Center has turned their back on in order to artificially inflate their success rate (which I can’t find anywhere, by the way). I wonder how many of those records hold the stories of children and families that have been failed by the Center.
By the way, because I know they are reading this, I know of at least three other families who gave up on the Center providing them any help. I also know of a social worker who refuses to refer any of her clients to Santa Clarita Child & Family Center because they are so ineffective.
I was also told that certain parts of Jani’s files might be “redacted,” or blacked out. Who the hell do they think they are? The CIA? Why in God’s name would you need to “redact” portions of a child’s outpatient files?
The answer is they would block out anything related to me or Susan. So whatever the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center thinks of us will remain classified.
Why am I doing this? Why am I expending so much energy on the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center? Why am I fighting what is essentially a proxy war with them at the expense of the main war against Jani’s schizophrenia?
Tonight, Jani and I cleaned out the Betta fish bowls. Afterwards, as she took her shower, she said, “Tomorrow, we need to write the fish report.”
The fish report.
That is what she used to do in her therapy sessions. Jani would write what the fish were doing.
She is trying to continue her therapy, even in the absence of her therapist.
You can look at that two ways: One, it shows that despite the claims of the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center, she is getting better, learning to do her own therapy. Or, two, she is desperately trying to hang on to an aspect of her life that is now gone.
Either way, my heart is broken.
Up until this point, I have used______________ in place of names, even though the VP of Programs for the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center is not hard to identify. I did this, not out of the hope that suddenly not using their names would restore Jani’s therapy.
No, it is too late for that. What you did was my attack on Pearl Harbor. And I will never forgive you for what you have done to my daughter.
But I wanted to explain why I use your names before I actually use your names.
Because the world needs to know what you did. How you choose to deal with it is entirely up to you. You can be as angry as you want, but it doesn’t compare to abandoning a child that needed you.
I am the sleeping giant. I know you aren’t afraid of me right now. The wealthiest and most influential people in Santa Clarita keep you afloat financially. Your donor list reads like a who’s who of the Santa Clarita Elite. I know that right now you can ignore me and those donors will keep giving.
But I also know you have survived by being the only game in town. On your website, in a message from your CEO Darrell Paulk, there is the following statement:
How does the Center manage the likelihood of competing programs and services – provided by nonprofit as well as private sector organizations – coming to the Santa Clarita Valley?
It is part of your strategic plan to block any competition against you in the Santa Clarita Valley. That is how you have survived so long without having to improve your services.
And this: With many of our key funders and major donors caught in the downturn in the economy, where do we get the financial resources needed to fund the Center’s operations?
Essentially, you are running out of money and have no plan to deal with competition. In biological terms, we would say you meet the criteria for extinction.
This didn’t start with Jani, and it won’t end with Jani. I want to work with you. I want to help you be the agency that you are capable of being. But I will not let you send children up the river. Just today, while I was there, the police were called. I overheard a therapist saying, “I just don’t know with him anymore!’ So she wanted the Sheriff’s Deputies to take him, whoever “he” is, away.
You help children as long as it is convenient for you.
I am fighting you, and will continue to fight you, because you can’t throw children away. I am not saying you can help everybody, but it is your responsibility as decent humans to try. These children are mentally ill. They need you to fight for them, for their civil rights.
Because that is what this has become. This is a civil rights battle, for the rights of mentally ill children to a life of hope and happiness.
Oh, I never did name names at the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center, did I?
You know who you are.
And you’re the ones who are going to have to look yourselves in the mirror tomorrow.