What I Know (The Gertz Family)

I don’t know the Gertz’s.

We live maybe 12 miles apart in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, but we have never met.

Never at a doctor’s office.  Never at a psychiatric hospital on a visiting day.  Never at an in person or online support group meeting.

I have no idea if the Gertz’s ever joined a support group, or went to a mental illness awareness fundraiser, or walked in a NAMIWalk.

I don’t know who their doctors were or if their daughter was ever hospitalized in the only pediatric psychiatric hospital within 20 miles of either of us.

I don’t know if Ms. Gertz gave up her job to care for her child, or tried residential treatment, or applied for a ICG.

I do know that the Gertz’s daughter Ellie is adopted, as are two of my three children.

I do know that I have a son with a severe mental illness, and a daughter with both FAE and RAD, and that the Gertz’s have a daughter with all three.

I do know that we feared the harm our son might do to our other children, us, and himself.

I do know that we downsized, quit jobs, moved, sold cars and furniture, researched, explored, and talked to everyone we could find to get our kids the help they need and deserve.

I do know that the Gertz’s have turned their child over to what, at least in this article, appear to be permanent guardians, thousands of miles away.

I do know that I would sell everything we owned and live in a one bedroom trailer before I gave my child away.

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  • Adrienne September 22, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Wow. It would be less sad, somehow, if it wasn't so damn common. So many stories out there – seriously ill kids, no help to be found, and families on the brink of collapse in every way, including financially.

    Around here, families that need a placement get pushed toward treatment foster care first. Residential is reserved for the most violent kids, although I don't even know what that means because I've seen some kids get sent to TFC straight out of the hospital (in one case, from detention to the hospital and then to TFC – all in 19 days!) when they seemed plenty dangerous to self or others. But of course, TFC is cheaper.

    This, in the article, doesn't sound quite the same, though. For one thing, there's no notion that the child might become a permanent member of the TFC family at the end of the process. And the parents are still the parents; it's like residential in that the parents are involved int eh treatment, attend the child's IEP meetings, etc. But the child goes to school in the community and sees outpatient care providers.

    Oh, and the families are part of the group that chooses the appropriate TFC family, and both families are HERE.

    So I don't know. I hate that there are so few options, but I'm with you on this point: there is nothing that would induce me to relinquish custody of my child. We will find a way, no matter what. Keeping everyone safe is priority one; keeping our family intact is priority two. I have to believe that we'll always find a way to do both.

  • ShesAllWrite September 22, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    I love that they were wounded by Ellie's letter, in which she inquired only about the dogs. Way to make it all about you, Gertz family. She's a child, for Pete's sake. Sorry, I don't mean to judge, but that really rubbed me the wrong way. All of it does.

  • TwisterB September 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    The seven year old only inquiring about her dogs is probably what a bunch of 7 year olds would do when writing a letter to home, regardless of why they were away. The family being hurt by that is just them projecting their own guilt, and their own expectation that she should be mad at them onto what she wrote.

    Ever time I hear about a psychiatrist/social workers/anyone involved in the system repeatedly pressuring parents to give up their kids, or like Jani, telling her parents to put their kid in residential it makes me want to SCREAM. Parents who are committed enough to their children to raise them, are the best people to do it. Parents of any child even perfectly healthy ones, get things wrong sometimes but its the commitment to their kids that make them real parents. But maybe in the very fact that they DID give her up is just a symptom of the fact they are not capable of taking care of her as parents or in any other capacity.

  • Anonymous September 30, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    If you read her black, she didn't just inquire about the dogs; she also included specific comments about how much she hated her mother and siblings and how happy she was without them. I'm not saying I agree with what she did (or that I disagree), just that it's an inordinately complex situation and that it's easy to jump to conclusions about her being a bad mother. Her other kids are now suffering from PTSD because of the emotional and physical abuse that Ellie visited upon them, and despite incredible efforts she wasn't able to find a residential placement for Ellie even if she were to pay for it out of pocket.

  • Chrisa September 30, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I don't think she's a bad mom. I just don't think she got all the benefits that are available to her with a child like Ellie. My son as an ICG grant from the State of Illinois that pays for residential. I know of three residential programs in other states – and one in Illinois – that would take a child like Ellie.

    I know how incredible the efforts are. Believe me. And I'm not condemning their choice. I'm just saying, I'd have never, never, NEVER made it for my child.

  • Chrisa December 14, 2010 at 3:32 am

    Someone keeps commenting on my posts under the guise of "anonymous" about how I'm a hypocrite for putting my son in residential, after this post about the story of the Gertz's. I don't post them because they are jabs at me and won't help anyone and, let's face it, this is my blog, and I post the comments I want (I post more than 99% of them, good and bad, as you can see above).

    I've never said Mrs. Gertz was / is a bad mom. I understand how hard it is, how other kids – and probably she – are suffering from PTSD. I know the situation is complex. And I know that sometimes adoptions are disrupted because of issues as severe as this.

    I've posted here before, if you, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, want to look at the posts where we were advised to give up custody. Advised to disrupt the adoption, 11 or 12 years later.

    We refused.

    We kept fighting, kept looking, hell, we MOVED more than halfway across the country, to get services that we felt – still feel – Tim needs.

    I get about a dozen emails and phone calls a month from parents asking for help, and I offer all the help possible. I've attended IEP meetings for other people's kids. I've taken parents to SASS offices to apply for ICG grants. I firmly believe that help can be found that is appropriate for the child in question, and can keep that child as a part of the family, rather than relinquish custody.

    I'll never stop believing that.

  • Chrisa December 14, 2010 at 3:34 am

    I think I'm gonna make the comment above a blog post. Can't wait to see the comments on that. Hold on to your hats!