The Phone Call No Mom Wants to Make, But I Did
I didn’t know what to do.
My six year old son was running around the front office, screeching his head off, throwing anything he could grab at anyone including his few week old baby brother, punching and kicking anyone that passed by. Attempts to sooth him failed; attempts to intimidate/scare him with fake calls to the “kid police” also failed. All any of us could do was make sure the office was kept on lock down so he couldn’t escape to the streets.
I didn’t know what to do. We had been going through this struggle now for years, with his age only adding to his abilities to bring havoc. He had already been suspended 5 times in his kindergarten year, and failed. It had been established with his primary physician when he was 4 that he had ADHD, and he had been diagnosed by a therapist with that along with anxiety disorder and oppositional defiant disorder; but because of his age no medication could be prescribed, and by the time he was 6 and old enough to be medicated we were having to start the whole evaluation process over again to get him re-diagnosed. None of this was moving fast enough to address his current needs. And his current needs had grown to include 24/7 supervision because his impulse control was practically non-existent. He would not hesitate to run out in front of traffic just because something across the road caught his attention. He wouldn’t even register that there were cars coming at him and that it was dangerous to cross the road without Mama.
It was then that it was suggested I try Baker Acting him (which in the state of Florida is a means of getting someone involuntarily hospitalized for up to 72 hours for observation and stabilization). I hated doing it, especially as someone that had been Baker Acted herself before, that knew what a traumatic and unpleasant experience it could be and did not want to subject her own son to such an experience. But at that time, I knew I had no other choice if I wanted to see him alive and well. I didn’t have the resources to keep him supervised and locked down, and the violent behavior was especially concerning with a newborn baby in our family and plenty of needed daily social interaction with other kids and adults.
It was suggested I call a CIT officer, which is supposed to be a police officer trained to Baker Act children. Instead the CIT officer that came turned out to be a jerk that suggested just a sound spanking was all he needed, and self diagnosed the violent behavior as behavioral and not mental health related (which really showed how poorly qualified he was to diagnose anything – behavioral issues ARE mental issues, idiot). He told me that if I wanted my son Baker Acted, I would have to find some way to transport him safely to the hospital on my own.
Since we ride the bus normally and he was too wild to be able to take on the bus safely (or in a cab even for that matter), I did the next best thing I could do and made him sleepy with Melantonin (the usual way I got him to sleep back then – if you’re the parent of an ADHD kid, you’re probably nodding along with me on this one, lol) before loading him up in to a cab and heading to the nearest hospital.
I lucked out there. A doctor there was kind enough to hear out my story about how he was spinning out of control and the mental health community just wasn’t quick enough with getting him the help he needed. I told him about CIT and why I was trying to get him Baker Acted. And that dear doctor, bless his soul, looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m not supposed to Baker Act him without seeing the behavior, but I know that’s not always possible, like now. You’re his mom. You know him better than anyone. If you tell me that he absolutely needs to go, I will send him.”
So my oldest son was Baker Acted that night. And it wasn’t the last time, either – unfortunately, it’s became a sad reality for us that whenever he hits a growth spurt and his psych can’t keep up with increasing his medication dosages, he has to be hospitalized for more intensive treatment.
That first call and trip were hell on me. I did not know how I could live with the guilt of what I had done to him. That all disappeared though when he came home after 2 weeks of voluntary status getting stabilized on medication. I barely recognized him. All the parenting I thought had completely went over his head like using his manners and showing empathy and consideration for others suddenly and unexpectedly was THERE. He was calm, well behaved, focused, and just so absolutely wonderful I kept wondering if this was really my kid they sent back. I knew immediately when I saw how he was behaving and how happy and content he was to be back home without the trouble and drama he had been stirring up before that I had made the right decision for him.
When we talked about where we went, I found out that it was actually a really positive and wonderful place for him to go, with staff that really showed they cared about him. With the last of my fears alleviated with that, my attitude towards it changed – slightly. I will always hate making that call… I don’t think any mother is really crazy about sending their kid anywhere overnight. Come on; we cry on the first day of school and that’s only 6 hours long! But at least I know when I make it that it isn’t in vain, and that he will get exactly the kind of care and assistance he needs in a manner that is positive and kind. And it doesn’t just stop with the hospitalization, but services afterwards to help support him on the level he needs at the time so he might be able to avoid being hospitalized again.
If any scared mother out there can take anything away from my story; it’s that there IS hope to be found in hospitalizing your child during a crisis. Don’t give up trying if you know that your child’s safety is at risk (don’t take “no” for an answer and seek a second, or third, or fourth opinion). If your child is in danger of hurting themselves or others, do not hesitate to fight to get them immediate psychiatric evaluation and treatment.