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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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is there help for two children who have such behavioral problems

Resolved Question:

is there help for two children who have such behavioral problems that they have been expelled from school, in and out of court, sent to group homes, returned home and it all starts again. The father is completely absent, the only time these children have seen their dad was in the hall as he passed in the courthouse. He has only contributed 2500 in child support in 15 years. The mother is on the brink every other day. She drinks sometimes from what I can tell, seems to be less now, but I wonder...she is open to help and just can't seem to find it within the system...everywhere she turns is promise that turns to dissappointment.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

It would appear that the only hope for these kids is long-term placement in a stable firm-but-kindly foster care setting or group home as a first step to rehabbing the situation, the mother, etc. Kids behave according to their immediate environment as do adults; take them out of bad situation and put them into a better situation; but then, return them, and they will always revert to the behavior that is reinforced or supported by whatever environment they are in. So if the kids revert back to old behavior when they go back home after a group home stay, it is clear that the mother is not skilled or competent enough to support and reinforce appropriate behavior---she is doing whatever she did before to support misbehavior.

The problem is that the 'system' is loath to take kids away from dysfunctional parents long term. These parents are obviously, unskilled, beset with so many problems of their own, that they are unwilling or unable to parent. So this would be my recommendation: Take the kids out of the home and insist that for mom to get them back, she get into a good alcohol counseling program, go to vocational rehabilitation services and find out what can be done to get her job skills improved; get the courts to sit on the dad's paycheck and encumber it so he pays his child support.

Frankly, no one is really doing anything to help ardently, consistently. Everything appears to be done in a piecemeal, reactive fashion. For example, I can tell you that the mental health services this woman has available to her (individual counseling several times) was probably not competent counseling because she obviously wasn't helped. A good therapist knows motivational interviewing skills sufficient to draw her in and then, work with her effectively. Mom would get the kids back on trial periods of a day or two at a time and be expected to SHOW she has acquired better parenting skills e.g., setting limits, chore charts, homework, reinforcing compliance with access to video games and TV or other preferred activities. Has anyone assessed whether mom has the skills to even be trying to do home schooling? Can she give a lesson and does she have enough skill of her own to tutor her kids? Basic questions like these need to be asked and assessed. She would be strenuously discouraged from 'dating' and diverting her attention away from her kids until the home showed behavioral stability---both on her part and the kids'. So here is a solid, practical question: If one looked at the therapy "notes" from all of her counseling visits, I would lay heavy bets that the counselor never once considered tacking mom's problems is a global, systemic way. The notes would show that session after session, mom's personal problems, her 'slice' of the big picture view of the situation was all that was ever discussed. No broad, family plan was in place, no parenting skills training, no plan to extract full child support was put into action, no family therapy sessions occurred with the kids, no behavioral contracting on behalf o the kids occurred, etc. Mom was never assessed in terms of her skills to home school, etc., etc.

I'm not sure about the best way to rework this situation e.g., perhaps find a school psychologist or counseling in the kids' school to meet with you and set up a strategy to get something broader, more systemic put together to help the family. One angle: See if there are any legal charges against the mom or dad and work the case through a family court program, if one exists in your locale. A more serious and concerted effort may not take place unless there is a significant legal event e.g., one of the kids burgles a home and gets arrested or the girl gets picked up for accepting money for sexual favors, shoplifting, etc. This would be the time to get the school counselor/psychologist, anyone else concerned etc., to sit down with the prosecuting attorney and lay out what the court might be able to demand and enforce. As is, little can be done in all likelihood to change things; the situation actually 'needs' a more serious crisis to occur. What do you think?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
You are right. Nothing is going to change with this situation until the mother gets help and she doesn't see that she needs it. She is very headstrong and resists because even she can see the incompetency in the counselors so she dismisses all that they say and not look for anything helpful in the sessions. O wont say all. She has talked to me about being consistent but then will not be when she is at a low point physically and emotionally. She does not have a life to speak of ...does not date or go out. Devotes her entire life to the children, work and the care of her home and manging her meager finances. Finances are complicated further by lack of support from father who does not work and will sit in jail until his mother bails him out, runs until found again. He has 3the other children, one recently removed to foster care. Its just so sad. Hard to watch children suffer. Thank you for confirming what I knew in my heart already. I am an optomist and continue to look for answers. I know that I am powerless in this situation...it just weighs on my conscience sometimes and I wish there was something that could be done to help these children before they slip through the cracks permanently. I don't envy your job...I don't think I could watch this sort of thing on a daily basis. I guess you just help the ones you can and leave the rest in God's care.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
You are right. Nothing is going to change with this situation until the mother gets help and she doesn't see that she needs it. She is very headstrong and resists because even she can see the incompetency in the counselors so she dismisses all that they say and not look for anything helpful in the sessions. I won't say all. She has talked to me about being consistent but then will not be when she is at a low point physically and emotionally. She does not have a life to speak of ...does not date or go out. Devotes her entire life to the children, work and the care of her home and managing her meager finances. Finances are complicated further by lack of support from father who does not work and will sit in jail until his mother bails him out, runs until found again. He has 3 other children, one recently removed to foster care. It's just so sad. Hard to watch children suffer. Thank you for confirming what I knew in my heart already. I am an optomist and continue to look for answers. I know that I am powerless in this situation...it just weighs on my conscience sometimes and I wish there was something that could be done to help these children before they slip through the cracks permanently. I don't envy your job...I don't think I could watch this sort of thing on a daily basis. I guess you just help the ones you can and leave the rest in God's care.
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 2 years ago.
You show a lot of wisdom and common sense in the way you view this situation. You may be able to do more once a crisis develops and something new and serious needs to be done. My best to you. Let me know if I can be of further assistance. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience: Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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