This fall, 2008, I will have been in the Mental Health field for 40 years. In addition I have raised 9 children of my own with my wife, and now I have 10 grandchildren.
I feel over the hill in some ways working in my private practice, being an agency executive, and teaching undergraduate social workers. Recently though, for the first time in a long time, I agreed to accompany a 16 year old client and his mother to an IEP meeting at his high school. The meeting was called to discuss his returning from a special ed 12:1:1 classroom to normal programming. I was appalled at the arrogance of the Principal who lectured the mother and the student about his zero tolerance policy for misbehavior and seriously questioned whether the student was prepared to function in this "higher expectation" environment. The mother started crying and said to him, "It seems that you are expecting and waiting for my son to fail!" at which point he demurred saying that he was not making a judgment only issuing a warning of what was expected. I thought to myself, "What an asshole!"
After he left the meeting the chairperson of the meeting, the Director of Pupil Personnel Services, tried to minimize his behavior saying that they like to play "good cop", "bad cop."
My wife and I wound up homeschooling our kids and most of my grandchildren are now homeschooled by their parents thank god. I am reminded of Pink Floyd's song, "We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control! Teachers!!!!!! Leave those kids alone!!
Schools blame parents all the time in the U.S. as well as policy makers for their children's poor functioning and misbehavior. It's outrageous really. In the U.S. there is very little parental support of any kind unlike in U.K. and Europe. Parents are left to struggle and when they lack the resources to respond to their children's problems there is an intimation that they are bad parents.
Today, I came from a meeting with a psychiatrist and a family intervention team trying to keep a 16 year old young female out of placement. The Psychiatrist kept saying every time concerns were raised about her behavior, "You have to understand, she's very sick. Her brain is not working right." She was trying to refer the father to NAMI support groups so he could learn more about mental illness. Under my breath, I am whistling, "I can't believe this shit!"
It's been a long time since I was on the front lines in this way, and it is appalling at the lack of compassion and inability of the systems we have created to respond in my human, respectful, and dignified ways. Now days it seems to be all about the money and the regulations requiring compliance with certain standards. Service providers are no longer working with clients and families but for some invisible agenda setters whom the service recipients never see and probably are not even aware of who are calling the shots.
In case you're wondering about the High School Principal, he said was an interim principal whom the school board had brought in from retirement to "clean things up", and the Psychiatrist is the director of a clinical research program hired to run drug trials. So the hidden agendas are veiled, but lurking behind the scenes, and students, patients, and their families are mystified as to why they are reduced to tears and sent off to support groups to learn that "mental illness" is caused by bad chemicals which can be rectified with phamaceuticals from Big Pharma.