7/29/2019 Part 77 Claire’s Story: Davy and Claire meet with Dr. Berman

By  A. Hosack, K. Hecht & P. Berman

I get to meet my mommy’s special friend. Will we have fun like when I play with my friend Marcus? 

Mr. Carson had dropped Davy and Claire off at Dr. Berman’s office for a family appointment. Davy was so excited he was running around the room. He didn’t know what to expect but his mommy had said they were going to talk about making sure he was safe so his nightmares would stop. Davy wasn’t sure how talking to his mommy’s friend would help but he hated having nightmares. 

His mommy stood up and called to him- holding out her hand. Davy knew this was the signal to stop running around and go walk some place with her. He saw this new lady standing by a door. This must be his mommy’s special friend. They walked into a room and he saw a low table with crayons on it. 

“Do I get to make pictures?” he asked. “Yes,” the lady said, we are all going to sit around the table and talk while we make pictures.” She then sat on the floor by the table and Davy looked questioningly at his mommy. Claire sat down on the floor and looked at him. He ran over and plopped down on the floor, pulling his paper as close as he could to his mommy’s. 

“Hello Davy, my name is Dr. Berman. I am the type of doctor that talks to families about anything that is bothering them. Your mommy told me that sometimes you get scared and have nightmares?” Davy just moved again so close to his mom that he was sitting partly in her lap. He hid his face in her chest. 

“We aren’t going to start by talking about scary things. (1-minute pause) We are going to start by talking about families. We are all going to draw pictures of our families having fun and then explain what helps makes our families have fun. (1-minute pause) We are going to share one box of crayons. Claire, would you hold the box and help us all take turns using the colors?” 

This is different than I expected. But, I can see how talking about families while drawing will help my Davy pay attention. I never thought about using play to help talk about things. 

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Claire was nervous about this appointment. What would Davy say about Larry? What should she say that he wasn’t too young to understand? When she saw the crayons, she smiled. Her Davy loved to draw. She had never imagined they would be drawing today. She had just expected they would all sit in chairs and talk, like she did in her appointments. Dr. Berman handed her the box of crayons.  

“Mommy, can I use the brown crayon first,” Davy asked, “I am going to make myself first.” Davy got busy drawing himself and Claire asked, “Should I draw my parents or the family I have now?” “Since we are talking later about scary things, (Davy looks up quickly and stares at Dr. Berman who smiles back and gestures at his picture) draw everyone you feel is in your family now.” Claire loved to draw but realized that the point of the pictures was not to make great art. She drew stick figures but put big smiles on everyone’s face.  

Davy was very careful drawing himself all brown and then drawing his mommy, just a little bigger. He made his picture of Mr. Carson the biggest of all. “Why is Mr. Carson so big,” Dr. Berman asked. “It’s because he is big. He always knows the answers to everything, and he is so strong he can even carry me around upside down; being upside down is so fun. “Those are good reasons to make him big.” 

“Claire, are you done with your picture?” Claire had just drawn a house in her picture with a tree next to it. “Mommy I love that you put in the house behind Mrs. Carson. I love our house! That’s our tree, the one you like to sit under and read me stories.”  

“These pictures are the start of what we are talking about.  We will put them in this safe place on the other side of the table. We will need them later. Now, it is time to draw a picture of something that represents “scary.” You can make anything that you want. Just make it see scary.” Dr. Berman gave Davy a new piece of paper. He picked out the black crayon and began to make a big swirl across the entire paper. “Your scary is big and black,” Dr. Berman said. “Yes, there is no light, it’s going to be all black.”  

Davy began to press as hard on the paper as he could, trying to make every swirl as dark as possible. “I hate you scary, I hate having you around,” he said. “I can see why scary might be black,” Dr. Berman said, “Would your scary look black Claire.” Claire was just staring down at her new sheet of white paper. “No, my scary is emptiness, being all alone and looking everywhere but not finding my Davy.” “Don’t worry mommy,” Davy said, looking up from his picture, “you will always be able to find me. When I hide, I go under my bed.”  

Claire smiled and stroked his hair. “Thank you for helping me not be scared of losing you Davy.” “I will always help you mommy.” His attention on his mom, he accidentally pushed so hard he broke the crayon. Would mommy’s friend be mad? 

Dr. Berman said, “Davy, you helped you mommy with her scary. Would you like your mom to help you finish your black scary now that we have two black crayons?” Davy smiled at her; she wasn’t scary at all. “Yes, mommy take this black crayon. My fingers are getting tired, but I want the entire page darkest black.” Claire and Davy busily made the picture dark black together. “When you are scared, being with someone, like your mommy, can help.” Davy looked up at her and said, “My mommy told me to always tell her if I had a nightmare.” “That’s a great idea Davy, scary things get smaller when you have someone you love helping you.” 

Davy looked at his mommy, busily making black swirls on his paper, just like the ones he had been making. “You are really helping me mom.” Claire looked up and smiled at him, “always tell me Davy when you are scared; I will always help you.”  

Davy is learning that not everyone experiences the same things as scary. He fears his father Larry. Claire fears being alone and not able to find Davy. He is also learning that there are things he can do to help his mother when she is scared, and that she wants to help him when he is scared. Davy is young so to truly learn these lessons, he will need a lot more practice. 

Have you ever tried to use play to teach your child something? Davy is at an age where he may want something immediately. The moment he realizes he is hungry- he wants the food to magically be ready. However, you could use play to teach him how to be patient. One fun play activity for learning to control impulses and be patient is baking.    

You get everything ready in advance to minimize “waiting time.” You need a bag of cookies, a scissors, and to have the oven set at about 300 degrees. Have plates and napkins in a pile. What could be a first step that involved Davy? He could go get the scissors from the counter, walk with it, pointy side down, and then use it to open the bag of cookies you are holding. He could then watch you take three cookies out and put them in a row; you could say things like, “I pick them up carefully, so they won’t break, I like to eat BIG cookies not broken pieces.” He could then put the rest of the cookies out. He could help hold the cookie sheet as you put it in the oven to warm up for two minutes. 

While it is in the oven, you can say things like, “we must stand back, so we won’t get burned by the oven. Do you see that pile of plates and napkins? Please put them on the table for when our cookies are hot and ready to eat.” If Davy is struggling to stay away from the stove, you can say things like, “I can’t wait for those cookies to be warm, they taste so good when they are warm. “it’s hard to wait, but can you begin to smell the cookies?”  

Davy is old enough that two minutes won’t be too hard for him to wait. But, if he was only three years old, you might need him to do jumping jacks or some other physical activity to keep busy until the two minutes are done. You could say things like, “sometimes it is easier to wait if you give yourself something to do.”  

While you are eating the warm cookies, you can ask Davy, “is waiting worth it when you get to eat warm cookies?” Once you have done this activity a few times, move on to slice and bake cookies which require more “wait time,” approximately 20-30 minutes. Finally, you can move on to baking cookies from scratch which may take up to an hour from beginning to end 

Each strategy works better if you “fill” the wait time with statements that you hope your child will internalize and say to him/herself when needing to wait. As each step gets harder, talk to your child about how the cookie tastes. Ask questions like, “is it worth the longer wait when you make cookies from scratch because then you can make any kind you want, add chocolate or peanut butter chips and so forth. Is it fun to know that when you are a grown up you know lots of ways to make cookies, so you are can make them whenever you want?” 

You can use play for older kids. For example, if you had a ten- year -old, you could take him/her to a place that required driving ten minutes, then twenty minutes, then thirty minutes. Again, you would talk about the place you were going, the things that you could do, and what made it worthwhile waiting to get there. 

Do you have a child who needs to be more patient? Do you need to learn to be more patient? Consider designing a “play” activity sequence to help you or your child learn to be more patient while having fun together and building the positive strength of your relationship. 

 

7/26/2019 Part 76 Claire’s Story: The Parole Hearing

By P. Berman, A. Hosack & K. Hecht 

I will do this for Davy and Claire. I will stay away from them and sell drugs for the gang.  

He had only had about two minutes, but he had been learning enough from Manuel to know what a good husband and father would do; he would stay away from Claire and Davy. Larry would keep pretending he was done with Claire. He would keep his burning desire to see her and Davy a deep secret so the gang would have no interest in them. Selling drugs would give him the money to live a fast life- something just a few years ago he might have found appealing. Now, these thoughts left him feeling cold and empty. 

It was strange, but the lies he had been told to tell the parole board by the lawyer, weren’t exactly lies. Larry had been reading about relationships and being a father. He had been going to church, to make Manuel happy. While he didn’t know how to be the responsive partner and father the books told him to be, he did understand that to bring Claire and Davy to Philadelphia, was to destroy any chance they had for a life free of crime. Going to church and reading had helped him learn to care for their welfare, even if helping them gave him pain. 

Larry walked in to the parole hearing feeling calmer than he had all week. He had come to a decision and he respected himself for what he had decided. He was not rubbish, unlike his father, he was putting his girl and his son ahead of himself. Larry sat down where he was told, across from the parole board.  The hearing examiner of the United States Parole Commission introduced himself and the other board members to Larry and explained the process.  

Detective interviewing suspect in dark interrogation room

The board members all looked serious and angry. The hearing started with the hearing examiner asking Larry to explain how he had ended up in prison. Larry let out a deep sigh and then spoke slowly, choosing each word he said carefully, and looking each member of the board in the eyes. “I had been dating this girl since high school, her name is Claire. I loved her and hadn’t seen her for a long time because her parents were abusive, and she had been sent to foster care. My parents treated me like a punching bag too, but I stuck it out at home until I graduated high school. Claire and I had always dreamed of graduating and then getting decent jobs and having a life together. 

I was going to find her and show her I had begun to make our dream come true.  It took me a long time to find Claire because her foster family lived at the other end of the county from where we grew up. She was looking great and was so happy to see me; I thought we were on our way together. I took her to a restaurant, I got frustrated with her because she kept talking about her kid Davy. I didn’t understand why she would want to talk about this kid, and not focus on us after all our months apart. Finally, I punched her to shut her up; I was being my dad- violent and untrustworthy.” 

“Why should this board think you have changed,” he was asked. “Being in prison was boring. I began going to the library, just to distract myself but then I met the librarian assistant, Manuel. He helped me find some interesting books to read about families. I began to see that the way Claire and I grew up, was deviant. I was so surprised to realize that most families weren’t violent at all. I began to talk to Manuel about the stuff I was reading; he was a lot older than me and had children himself. He convinced me to start going to church, he said the Priest could help me learn about being a good man who wasn’t violent. I started going, just to have something to do. I was surprised, the priest was really something – just like Manuel said. He treated me like I deserved respect despite everything I had done. This is what got my attention, for real. I began to listen to him and hear his talk about God wanting each of us to be our best selves. I asked him after service what he meant, and he stayed late at the prison talking to me. I realized that everything I thought I was supposed to do as a man was all messed up. The Priest, has become like a father to me- the right kind of father, who helps you learn how to live like a good person. 

“You might want to change, but that doesn’t mean it is safe for other people for you to get out early,” one man said. He hadn’t looked at Larry even once, just kept writing something on a pad of paper. 

“I don’t want to be like my dad. A violent thug who scares his own children to death. I am not going to be him. Whether I earn early parole or not, I am going to keep going to church and learn more about who I can be in life. If you will let me out, I believe I have a chance to make something of myself. My attorney works at a law firm that helps people like me. I have been offered a job. It isn’t anything important. I will be driving around dropping legal documents off at different court houses. This job will give me the chance to show you, and myself that I can work really hard, be responsible, learn on-the-job. I am going to learn how to earn an honest living and I am going to never hit a woman, or anyone else again.” Larry stopped talking. He again made sure he looked everyone in the face.   

Larry was excused from the hearing and sent back to his cell. He lay down on his bunk and closed his eyes. The hearing had been such a weird experience. In some ways, he had been totally lying but in others, he had been telling the whole truth. 

I really don’t want to be like my dad. I was acting like him at the restaurant. No wonder Claire testified against me.  

What will the parole board decide about Larry? Is the decision “fixed” by the gang? 

Parole boards usually make decisions based on the judgment of the Hearing Examiner. To see details about how hearings work and who can attend go to:  

https://www.justice.gov/uspc/parole-hearings 

Research suggests that algorithms that are automatically scored do better at predicted who is and who isn’t safe to let on our parole than the judgment of individuals and groups. These algorithms work by statistically combining data on past criminal history, gender, age race/ethnicity, reason for admittance to prison, length of stay in prison, educational level, past employment, substance abuse, associated with antisocial peers and behavior in prison. It costs more in the short-run to use algorithms but is cost effective in the long-run as it reduces the expense of keeping people in prison, prosecuting those who re-offend, and the costs sending them back to prison.  

Many people hold the myth that “being tough on crime” results in less crime.  

Consider doing a social advocacy step by telling a social group you belong to about the real facts about keeping society safer. 

7/24/2019 Part 75 Claire’s Story: Larry feels despair

By K. Hecht, P. Berman & A. Hosack 

The gang has invested too much money in me. They are never going to let me go. 

 Mr. Spargus had been wearing an even finer suit than he had brought for Larry. The attorney had also been wearing a gold watch, a big gold ring, and cufflinks; everything about him spoke money. He had fixed Larry’s past record and it sounded like he had fixed the parole hearing somehow.  Only lots of money could be making this man work to get someone like Larry out of jail.  

Larry has been alone for a while, waiting for his time with the parole board to be called; and reviewing his further. Until now, Larry was just a small cog in the life of the gang- he had hoped they wouldn’t care much if he disappeared from Philadelphia. Surely, they wouldn’t have much trouble finding a replacement for him.  Larry had been shocked the gang had arranged this early parole for him. It made sense they were helping Martin; he had been part of the gang for years. The gang leader in prison was the smartest man Larry had ever me; he must have big plans for Larry to have gone to this much trouble for a new entry like him.

Suspect or criminal man with handcuffs  in interrogation room

I am going to have to go to Philadelphia and do whatever the gang wants; they own me. 

Alone in the room, Larry could stop acting for a moment. His head just dropped to his chest. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine the last smile he had seen on Claire’s face; he could never see her again; it could be her death sentence if he did.  

He felt complete despair- as he had so many times in his youth when he knew there was no way he could escape his father. Tied with a weight too heavy to lift, Larry would just have to endure having his body made torn and bloody again and again by his dad. The gang wouldn’t be beating him, if he followed orders. Larry knew that he might be given a fancy suit and a car to drive but when he delivered those drugs, he could also be walking into a bullet in the head; would anyone even take the time to bury him? 

Larry got up and walked over to his prison clothes and pulled his picture of Davy out of the pant pocket; he had carried it in that pocket every day since Claire’s last letter had arrived. Davy was doing well in school and making friends; Martin’s kids were already getting into big trouble at schoolLarry couldn’t expose Davy to gang life. The only thing he could do to be a good father was stay far away and never see Davy again. 

My dad and that Mr. Carson might both think I am rubbish- but I am not. I am giving up the only woman who could love meand a chance to be with my son, to protect them both. 

Someone came in for him. It was time. He quickly put the suit jacket back on; doing bad at the parole hearing was not an option, the gang would never tolerate him wasting their cash.  

Larry would never have joined a gang if he hadn’t been sent to a prison. Larry had already been sexually assaulted in jail, even before being convicted. Larry had good reason to believe joining a prison gang was necessary to his survival. 

Is prison supposed to increase Larry’s risks for violence? 

Prisons were initially designed to be punitive so that fear of going back would prevent recidivism. However, this has not proven effective. Rehabilitation services offered in prison have been found to decrease likelihood of reoffending when they follow evidence-based practices. However, one of the most effective treatments for changing the thoughts and beliefs that are behind criminal behavior, Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment, has only been made available to 2% of prisoners.   

Consider writing your senators and representatives to encourage them to read this article by Steven Aos and Elizabeth Drake, “Prison, Police, and Programs: Evidence-Based Options That Reduce Crime and Save Money,” Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2013,  

Find your senators and congressmen at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr2640 

Your letter could state something like: 

Dear Senator X: 

Research summarized by Steven Amos and Elizabeth Drake in their article, “Prison, Police, and Programs: Evidence-Based Options that Reduce Crime and Save Money,” demonstrates that there are evidence-based programs that help change criminal thinking, reduce substance abuse, and end association with antisocial peers; thus, reducing recidivism rates for felons. While these programs do require space within prisons and adequate staffing, they have been found to reduce costs to society in the long run. Studies have been done that compare the cost of these types of rehabilitation services, to the costs to society by crimes committed after felons are released from prison and reoffend including the costs to victims, then costs of arraignment and the costs of repeated prison time. Their research concludes that for every 5,000 prisoners it would cost about $25 million to provide one effective rehabilitation service. However, this would reduce recidivism rate by 12% which represents a reduced cost of $100 million to society. While increasing the dose to $7,500, prisoners would receive three treatment services and recidivism would be reduced by 40$. To read more about this go to:  http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/ReportFile/1396/Wsipp_Prison-Police-and-Programs- 

Please support prison reform bills that would reduce the costs of our prison system as well as provide services that would help felons become reestablished as good citizens. 

 

Sincerely yours, 

 

 

7/22/2019 Part 74 Claire’s Story: The Gang Attorney Arrives

By   A. Hosack, K. Hecht & P. Berman  

What? It is happening too fast. I am not ready. Has Claire even had time to get my letter? 

Martin rushes up to Larry during lunch and tells him their attorney has arrived. They are now rushing down the hall to put on some suits the lawyer brought with him. They are going to get a few minutes of advice from the lawyer and then will each have fifteen minutes with the parole board to make a case for their early release. 

Larry’s head feels like it’s on fire. As much as he wants to get out of prison, he has only just begun to try and figure out how to get away from the gang once he gets out. Suddenly, they have stopped rushing down the hall and are now in a room where they will meet with the lawyer. There are two expensive suits lying across a table; he has never worn clothes like this before. Martin tells him to hurry up, they can’t keep this guy waiting. 

“Larry, don’t mess with this guy when he comes in. Don’t talk unless he asks you a question. If he gives you advice- you follow it word for word.” “How is this all happening so fast? How did he know what clothes size I wore?” Larry said, staring down at himself in the first suit he has ever worn. “Don’t get crazy on me Larry. The gang has this whole thing under control. There will be clothes, a place to live, everything ready for us when we get out. Just do what you are told.” Martin was called in first to talk to the attorney and left by another door to talk with the parole board.  

Now, it was Larry’s turn to talk to the attorney. This was not going to be like his last meeting with an attorney. This wasn’t a public defender who had no idea what was going on until the day before court. This was some attorney the gang had an arrangement with; this was someone who could make the parole board hear his case within one week of coming on the job. Larry walked into the room where the lawyer was, sat down, and put out his hand saying, “Thanks for doing so much work for me. I’m Larry.” 

Criminal man being interviewed in interrogation room after committed a crime

The attorney looked speculatively at him for a minute and then took his hand and shook it. He introduced himself as Carl Spargus“I am a criminal lawyer from Philadelphia and have had a lot of experience with cases like yours Larry. Your parole hearing should go smoothly because you have no prior adult record and I have had already your juvenile record expunged.” “Sir, what does expunge mean?” Larry asked. “We don’t have time for that, we need to get to what you will say to the parole board.” 

“The parole board will be ready for you in ten minutes. It is important you show them how you have reformed your way of thinking during this time in prison and have shown a commitment to taking the path of a law -abiding citizen who regrets his past violent behavior. Larry, you have been selected, by my law firm to become part of our pro bono program to help felons reintegrate into the community after being released from prison. You pattern of spending your free time reading in the library and going to church are all part of what made us select you for employment after your release from prison. You will be a runner; this means you will take legal documents from the law firm and deliver them either to other law offices or to be filed at courthouses in Philadelphia and the surrounding area.  

Could this be real? This would be so great. A real job…No, I am so stupid; I will be delivering drugs hidden in legal documents. 

Larry just kept nodding at everything the attorney said but, just for a moment, imagined he had a real job, working for a law firm. Claire and Davy could be proud of a guy who did that. But no way, this attorney was working with the gangWhether Larry would be delivering real documents or not, he didn’t know, but he was sure that he would also be delivering drugs.  

“The parole board is going to ask you about that assault you were convicted for. You are going to say you deeply regret the whole thing. I know you have been attending Catholic services at the prison. You are going to say the priest has helped you see what kind of life you were meant to live. You are going to be continuing to attend church and keep in contact with the priest who has become like a father to you. Got that?” 

“Yes, sir.  Is there anything else I should say?” Larry said trying to look the guy in the eye. “No, keep as quiet as possible. There won’t be any other questions,” the attorney stood up and began to walk out of the room. “Thank you for your help,” Larry said as the attorney disappeared around the corner. The attorney didn’t reply.  

Is it safe for the community to release Martin and Larry early from prison?  

A national study in 2005 found that within three years, 67.8% of the 404,638 state prisoners released from 30 states were arrested again.  

Is this surprising considering what Larry and Martin are experiencing in prison? Prisons were flooded with inmates by policies aimed to get “tough” on crime, however, while making prisons into holding tanks full of offenders, this procedure was not found to reduce crime rates according to Grant Duwe (November, 2017), Rethinking Prisons: A Strategy for Evidence-based Reform. Report of the American Enterprise Institute. This article can be found at: http://www.aei.org/publication/rethinking-prison-a-strategy-for-evidence-based-reform/ 

Do you think sending people to prison is giving us a safer society? 

 

7/19/2019 Part 73 Claire’s Story: What can we do about Larry?

By P. Berman & A. Hosack, & K. Hecht 

Is he really trying to protect Claire? Can we trust anything he says? Now, on top of everything else, he is involved with drug dealers. 

Mr. Carson was brooding, feeling helpless and angry. Claire had just finished reading out loud Larry’s letter urging her not to write him again. She had been gently crying throughout. Mr. Carson was trying to dissect everything Larry had said. Was he finally being honest with Claire about just how much trouble he was in? Did he really care about whether Claire and Davy were safe? Was he just involved in yet another major manipulation of Claire’s feelings so that she would welcome him back from prison?

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Mrs. Carson was the first to find her voice, “Claire, I don’t know what to think. Larry says don’t write, so the drug dealers won’t come after you, but, if he hadn’t talked to them about you to begin with, they wouldn’t know you and Davy existed.”  Claire sighed, “Yes, that’s true. But, he is trying to protect us now; he says he will explain everything when he gets out.” 

No. No. No. I don’t want him coming back here. Not for any reason. 

Mr. Carson wasn’t aware of it, but he was hitting his left palm with his right fist over and over. Mrs. Carson did notice She went over to him and took both his hands in hers. “Now, don’t get all worked up dear,” she said. “We knew Larry would be coming back here. Even if he wasn’t coming to see Claire and Davy, he grew up in this town. Whether he is really worried about Claire and Davy, we can’t know. But he won’t be getting out of a jail for two more years. We have time to figure this out,” Mrs. Carson kissed him softly on the cheek- he looked up at her and smiled. 

She is right. We can’t keep Larry out of town. Can we keep him away from Davy and Claire? 

Looking up at Claire, he said calmly, “do you want him coming back to you?” 

Do I tell the complete truth? Yes, I promised I would. They have been so loyal to me; they deserve the absolute truth. 

“I still love Larry, but I realize that most of what I feel about him is for the love and partner I hoped he would be, not who he actually is. My Davy has nightmares because I let him meet Larry. It didn’t cross my mind that Larry would hit Davy or hit me in front of Davy. He hit me may times before. I guess I was just being stupid.” 

“You were not stupid sweetheart. You were very young, and he was your only friend. You wanted love. Most kidhave had several different friends before they become teens and want to date. Most kids get parents who show them how to relate to other people without violence- yours just showed you violence. We all need to have a lot of help learning to tell the trustworthy people from the dangerous ones.” 

I know now that he is dangerous- but it is still hard for me to fully accept it in my heart. Larry still seems so much safer than my parents; they were violent every day, Larry only hit me once and a while; I would never dream of bringing Davy anywhere near my parents, or Larry’s.” 

“You are a very smart woman Claire, even without any help you know to keep Davy away from them. What do you think we need to do now, to figure out what to do? We can’t write Larry- so it has to be things we can do, independently of whatever he does,” Mrs. Carson said. 

They are asking me what I think. They care about what I want. These are the people I need to fight for, not Larry.  

Claire realized how deeply she had come to love the Carsons. How differently they thought of her. What would life have been like if they had been her parents? But then, she wouldn’t have her Davy. She wouldn’t give him up for anything- even to keep from having scars on her back. “Could we call Ms. Alexandra? I want to find out if there is a way to keep Larry away from Davy. She must know. It is her job to keep kids safe. She will want to keep Davy safe from Larry.”  

That’s a great idea Claire. Calling her never crossed my mind but she said we could still call her whenever we needed to,” Mr. Carson said. “You sound so confident Claire; it can’t be easy to recognize how dangerous Larry is, when you still love him; love is a very strong emotion. I am very proud of you that you are fighting for Davy’s right to have a safe life.” 

Fighting for Davy’s right to be safe. Did he have the right to be safe? Did that give her the right to keep Larry away from his own son? 

Larry was very smart, she had disappeared into foster care, her parents had no idea where she was, yet Larry had found, her.  If she moved away, would he still be able to find her? Was there a way to protect Davy from him if Larry made the decision to track him down? 

One of the most important lessons Claire halearned since she gave birth to Davy, alone in the hospital, was that she didn’t have to be aloneIt was human to need help.  She could turn to turn to other people, and some would be willing to help herShe still wasn’t sure in her heart if she and Davy had the right to be safe. 

Do we have the human right to be safe at home? In our communities as we walk down the street or go to school? The National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence believes we do (www.npeiv.org). 

It might help Claire decide if it was safe to have Larry in her life if she knew whether it was possible for him to leave the gang and stay out of it. 

Like many other poor men, Larry had joined a gang because it increased his feeling of safety and provided him with a source of income to buy things he wanted. While in prison, the gang was keeping him safer. But, outside of prison, it would do the reverse. Gang membership would increase his risk for criminal involvement, violence, and early death. The following link is to an article that discusses might work to leave a gang safely and stay out of it: 

https://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Content/Documents/Getting-Out-Staying-Out.pdf 

 

 

7/17/2019 Part 72 Claire’s Story: Are pancakes a cure for nightmares?

By    K. Hecht, P. Berman & A. Hosack 

It happened again. His screams were so painful to hear. I hate that such a small child feels such fear. 

Mrs. Carson is making a special pancake breakfast for Davy and Claire. She and her husband heard Davy’s screams last night. It was hard, but they had stayed out of the way and let Claire handle it herself. They heard Claire creep out of the room ten minutes later and go downstairs. Now, she was taking a shower and getting ready for work. They were so proud of their Claire. She had become such a caring mother. 

I smell pancakes! YEAH!! 

Davy wakes up to the smell of his favorite food. He gets dressed in two minutes and is bouncing down stairs so fast he almost tripped on the last step. He rushes into the kitchen and smiles his beautiful smile at Mrs. Carson before giving her a big hug. “You made my favorite breakfast! Thank you, thank you, I love pancakes!” “Davy, please set the table so we will be ready to eat the moment the pancakes are ready. You know how nice it is for the tummy to feel hot food coming down.”  

Davy knew where everything was in the kitchen. He always tried to help Mrs. Carson because she always helped him so much. As he was setting the table, he imagined putting a big glob of butter in the middle of his pancakes. Then, he would spread it slowly so that every part of his pancake got just the right amount. Then, Mr. Carson wouluse the syrup to paint a big smiley face on his pancake. It was so wonderful, just to imagine how good it would taste in his tummy. 

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Claire came down stairs, looked in the kitchen, and smiled. She loved pancakes too. She knew Mrs. Carson was trying to give everyone a great morning- after such a hard night. She had done a lot of thinking about Larry. After Davy had fallen back to sleep, Claire had taken his letter out of her jewelry box and gone downstairs to think. She had spent the rest of the night re-reading Larry’s letter and reflecting on how Larry had behaved before he was sent to prison.  

The part that fed her dreams of a future with Larry was, “the kid looks great in the picture. You must be feeding him good. It’s good he can count to 20. That sounds high for such a small kid. You’re a good mom.” Claire wanted so much for Larry to learn how to be a good dad. She had dreams of him going for help with someone like Dr. Berman and learning all about children and how to care for them. She knew these were her dreams. But Mr. Carson was right to worry about Larry. What was Larry dreaming about?  

Clairlooked down at Davy, sitting patiently at the table, and sat down next to him. He was such a wonderful little boy. Was Larry really beginning to care about him? Maybe she was just holding on to a dream rather than thinking about what was real. She looked around at the table set for four; her family would be all sitting here eating pancakes. Her family, without Larry in it; this was Davy’s safe and loving family. This was a real dream come true. 

What was also real was that that the thought of Larry gave Davy terrifying nightmares. When Larry got out of prison, would he stay away if Claire asked him to? Larry could voluntarily terminate his parental rights and then have no contact or responsibility for Davy. However, if he wanted to see Davy, he would have the right to do so unless his parental rights could be involuntarily terminated.  

Each state has its own criteria for involuntarily terminating a parent’s rights. Claire is living in Pennsylvania. Under PA law, Larry knew of Davy’s birth but provided no financial support for him and did not marry Claire. In addition, he made no attempt to have contact with Davy for several years.  Thus, it might be possible to legally terminate his rights. The rules for the State of Pennsylvania are below. However, Larry could fight this termination on the grounds that he only abused Davy on one occasion and is willing to learn parent skills. To learn more about the rules for terminating parental rights in PA go to: 

 https://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/23/00.025.011.000..HTM 

 

7/15/2019 Part 71 Claire’s Story: Davy is having a nightmare

By    A. Hosack & K. Hecht, & P. Berman  

No! STOP! You are hurting my mommy! STOP! 

Larry is punching Claire in the face and stomach. Davy is crouching behind the couch watching. He is screaming at the top of his lungs, but Larry doesn’t pay any attention. Davy is so scared his heart is pounding. He wants to disappear behind the couch. But he can’t tear his eyes away from his mommy and that bad man who is hitting her. 

My mommy needs help. I must protect my mommy! 

Davy is terrified but he rushes out from behind the couch and gets between his mommy and Larry. In an instant, Larry is picking Davy up and throwing him across the room. Davy hits the wall and then drops to the floor. He hurts all over. His groaning pulls Claire’s attention away from Larry’s face. She must help her Davy. She had been passively standing still against the wall as Larry punched her. Now, she bends over and runs at Larry, hitting him hard in the stomach with her head. He is startled and off balance.  

As Larry stumbles backward, he trips over a chair that has fallen over. He falls hard, hitting his head on the wall; in a daze, Larry isn’t moving.  Claire rushes over to Davy, picks him up and runs with him to the back door. They are outside in an instant. She runs with him into the dark woods at the back of the house.  She has no idea where to go but she is going to get there as fast as possible.  

Larry has staggered to his feet and is following them out the back door. He is screaming at her to come back or he will make her sorry. Claire is getting winded. She can’t keep running while carrying Davy. She searches the woods with her eyes and finally sees what she is looking for; a good hiding place. It is a big tree surrounded by low bushes.  

“My Davy, you need to crawl into these bushes and hide against that big tree. You will be safe there.  I am going to confuse the bad man, so he won’t have any idea where you are. Don’t worry. I am going to be sure he doesn’t touch you again. You stay here. Don’t come out till I come and call you.” Davy is terrified, he tries to hold on to his mommy. “Mommy hide here with me.”  “I can’t Davy, my clothes will show through the bushes. I will come back. Keep quiet. Stay down.” Claire gently pushes Davy securely into his hiding place and then takes off into the woods. 

The bad man is coming. Where is my mommy? She said to stay here. Where is my mommy? 

Davy is well hidden from view, but he can see through the bushes. Larry is stumbling towards him but not looking down where Davy is hiding. Davy puts his hands over his own mouth to keep himself from screaming.  

That bad man is looking for my mommy. Don’t let him find my mommy! 

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Larry stumbles and looks down as he catches himself. He sees Davy’s eyes staring at him from behind the bush. He pulls the bushes apart and grabs for Davy who begins to kick and scream at the top of his lungs. 

Claire hears Davy screaming. She rushes into his room and turns on the light. She strokes his hair and says, “my Davy, wake up. You are safe. You are having a bad dream.” Davy’s eyes pop open. He looks terrified. Claire gathers him up in a big hug, “you are safe.” “Mommy, it was the bad man. I won’t have him as my daddy, I won’t.” Claire doesn’t know what to say so she just strokes his hair and tells him over and over that he is safe. 

Davy buries his face in Claire’s chest. “I don’t want to see that bad man. Please don’t make me ever see that bad man.” Claire’s heart hurts. Her dreams of a happy family with Larry, are pushed even further into the land of the impossible. Even telling Davy about how Larry saved her, didn’t keep him from having another nightmare about him. She needed help with this. She didn’t want her Davy having dreams like this.  

“Davy, I am your mommy. It is my job to keep you safe. Mr. and Mrs. Carson are also here to keep you safe. Everyone in this house loves you.” After a few more minutes, Davy falls asleep in her arms. Claire gently tucked him back under his covers and then went downstairs to think. 

Davy’s experiences with Larry were traumatic. While he has been kept safe, the adults in his life assumed he would just “forget” all about what happened. Traumatic experiences aren’t just forgotten. Davy will need help understanding what happened that scary day with Larry and learn how to deal with the thoughts and feelings he gets about that day. 

Davy is having nightmares because he has experienced the trauma of seeing his mother abused and being abused himself. However, children don’t have to be traumatized to have nightmares. Strategies have been developed that can help children feel safe in the dark and process their nightmares, so they won’t be afraid to go to sleep at night. To read more about these go to:  

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/children-and-bedtime-fears-and-nightmares  

 

7/12/2019 Part 70 Claire’s story: Davy deserves to feel safe

By   P. Berman, A. Hosack & K. Hecht 

Davy is scared. I must be calm. No matter what Davy says, I need to stay calm so he can feel less scared.  

Claire was still feeling shocked by Davy’s reaction to Larry’s picture; she hadn’t known he was having nightmares about Larry. She had just hoped he didn’t remember those bad times. However, he did and that was that. She had to shake of her own feelings for now, she could get comfort from the Carsons for herself later. Her Davy needed her. She dried her cheeks and blew her nose using a tissue Mrs. Carson handed her. She got up from the floor and walked up the stairs. She knocked gently on the door to Davy’s bedroom and called out, “Davy, its mommy” and then walked in. Clairsaw an empty room but knew that her Davy was hiding somewhere. “Davy, my heart. I know you are scared.  I am here to take care of you. You are safe. I am not going to let your daddy hurt you.” Davy whispered from under the bed, “promise?”   

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Claire sat down on the floor by the bed and said, “I promise. Now come sit in mommy’s lap.” Davy crawled out from under the bed, sat in her lap and buried his face in her chest. Claire just stroked his head over and over. When he finally looked up at her, she took a tissue and wiped his face and nose. “I love you my Davy. Mommy’s job is to keep you safe and I will.” 

“Mommy, that bad man hurt me and you.” Claire took a deep breath. “Yes, your daddy did hurt us.” Davy buried his face again. Claire just stroked his hair again. After a few minutes Davy looked up and said, “why do I have a mean daddy?” Claire didn’t know what to say. A few months ago, she would have felt pressured to somehow say something. However, Dr. Berman had helped her realize that t it was okay not to know what to say; no one always knew what to say. It made sense to need time to think through difficult things. 

“Davy, you are right, your daddy did mean things to us. Your daddy has also done good things. It is hard to understand why he could be good sometimes and mean others. I am going to work on understanding this better. When I do, I will explain it to you.” Davy hugged Claire close.  “Mommy, can you tell me something good about my daddy?”  

“Yes, of course I can. It is getting late, and you need to get ready for bed. Then, I will tell you a bedtime story where your daddy did something good.” Davy rushed to his dresser drawers and took out his pajamas. He stripped, changed clothes, put his clothes in the hamper, and jumped into bed so fast that Claire could tell he was still anxious. He always got extra fidgety when he was worried about something. 

“Davy, I am going to tell you a really good story about your dad. But, if you have any nightmares about him again, I want you to tell me right away okay?”  “Yes mommy, I was so afraid of that man I couldn’t tell you about my dreams. It was too scary to tell.” “Davy, no matter how scary, you can always tell me. Remember, I will hug you while you tell me, so you know you are safe.”  Davy smiled and looked so happy. Claire hoped she could tell the story just right for him. 

“A long time ago before you were born, I went to a school that wasn’t nice like yours. The kids were mean, the teachers would walk by and not stop kids from being mean. Let’s just call it the mean school. I would hide in the bathroom a lot because it felt safer, just like you sometimes hide under the bed. But one day, two really mean boys who were bigger than me grabbed me as I was leaving the bathroom. I struggled and kicked but they wouldn’t let go. They were hurting me.” Claire noticed that Davy was looking scared, “don’t worry Davy, I am going to be okay. We are getting to the good part.” 

Oh please- oh please let me do this right. I don’t want Davy to have nightmares about his dad. 

“Your dad walked out of the boys’ bathroom door. He had never met me before. He saw those two boys hurting me. He came over right away, just like a hero in a movie. He made those boys let me go. He helped me stand up. He could see I was scared so he put his arm around me. I hadn’t been able to eat lunch and he took me to the school cafeteria, and we ate lunch together. I felt so safe. He kept his arm around me all afternoon and walked me to the bus. It was the first time I had ever felt safe in school and it was all because of your daddy.” 

“That was a good story mommy. My daddy saved you. That was good.” Claire kissed him on the cheek, tucked him in and softly left the room. 

Bullying, sexual harassment, date rape- can all happen in school. Research has shown that schools that have teachers and staff walking around all the halls and outside spaces around school can greatly reduce victimization in the schools. However, it costs money to have more adults supervising. 

Would it be worth it to you for tax dollars to be spent ensuring all schools were well supervised? Consider going to the following website and making up your own mind as to whether we have enough policies and regulations to keep schools safe or if we need new or better ones. 

https://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html 

 

 

7/8/2019 Part 69 Claire’s Story: Davy is curious

By  K. HechtA. Hysock, & P. Berman 

I must tell Davy the truth. Why did I say it was a surprise? Now he is expecting something like a birthday party. What was I thinking? 

It had been a regular day to start. Everything had gone smoothly getting Davy off to school. The day at work had been long but Claire hadn’t had any difficult people to work with. She came home tired, ready for dinner and then a bouncy excited Davy had hugged her, looked up and asked, “Do I have a daddy?” 

Claire had looked up to see Mrs. Carson staring at her- also speechless. Claire had looked down at Davy and said, “why are we talking about daddies?” Davy had said that today at school a dad, instead of a mom, had come in as a volunteer. He had been great fun on the playground. He had chased them all around and around. Claire agreed that it sounded like great fun. She had tried to change the subject by saying she could chase everyone around the next time it was her day to volunteer. 

“Do I have a daddy? Do I?” It was at that moment, when he was looking right into her eyes that she just went crazy and said, “it’s a surprise! I will tell you all about it after dinner.” Davy loved surprises. He had run around the kitchen saying to the Carsons, “mom is giving me a surprise after dinner. YEAH….” Mr. Carson had grabbed him, given him a bear hug and said, “yes, surprises are fun. Now, sit down at the table for dinner.” Mr. Carson had sent Claire a hug with his eyes. He knew Davy must have blown her away. 

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Mrs. Carson had made a wonderful meal but only Davy seemed hungry. The adults just kept looking down at their food and cutting it into smaller and smaller pieces. Mr. Carson chocked a few times as food went down the wrong way. Claire just kept thinking over and over what she might say to Davy. 

Okay, I am going to show him a picture of Larry. He won’t remember him. He won’t.  

After dinner, as Davy tried to help the Carsons cleanup, Claire went upstairs to find her picture of Larry. 

She was going to just show him the picture and say that his daddy lived far away but thought Davy was a wonderful boy. Davy was going to ask questions. He was such a curious kid. She had to think about good things she knew about Larry so she could make him feel good about who his daddy was. Did she know enough good things? Did she know good things that could be shared with a little kid?  

Claire came down stairs and tried to smile as she saw the Carsons sitting on the couch with a squirmy Davy sitting in between them. He was so excited.  

How I wish Davy had a daddy like Mr. Carson. Davy would have always known his dad and …. I must tell him the truth. Davy still gets Mr. Carson, even though Larry is his daddy. 

Claire sat down on the floor next to the Carsons and Davy slipped down off the couch and sat next to her with a huge smile on his face. She put Larry’s picture down on the coffee table and looked into Davy’s face. She said, “here sweetie, here is a picture of your daddy.”  

This is bad. This isn’t a surprise. No. No. No. No. I won’t have him as my daddy. 

Davy was staring at Larry’s face and seeing the mean man in his nightmares. This was his daddy? Davy looked right into Claire’s face and screamed, “NOOOO” at the top of his lungs and ran out of the room, up the stairs, and slammed his bedroom door. He dived under his bed and began to cry. 

Claire looked up at the Carsons. She was crying silently. Mrs. Carson patted her shoulder. “Davy remembers Larry. He remembers.  What do I do?” Mr. Carson said, “let’s ask for a family appointment with Dr. Berman.” Claire nodded. 

Davy is safe now. But he remembers the scary times that involved Larry. He doesn’t want a scary dad. He wants a fun daddy, the kind that chases kids around the room tickling them. Claire can’t change the past. She can’t change the fact that Larry is Davy’s father.  

Do you tell children the truth, when it is scary? 

There are no easy answers. However, children always need answers to be tailored to their ability to understand.  While sometimes adults choose to lie to children about aspects of their past, the truth often will come out and then the consequences came be a rupture of trust between the parent who lied and the child.  

Children slowly learn the difference between making a mistake, telling a clear lie and telling a “social lie” to not hurt someone’s feelings. If you are interested in reading an article that gives more details about this go to: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864928/ 

 

7/5/2019 Part 68 Claire’s Story: Is Claire making another friend?

By      P. Berman, & K. HechtA. Hysock  

I can’t believe it. Tommy’s mom invited us over for ice cream after library next week. I didn’t even try to make her like me! 

Wow, Claire didn’t even know what to think. She had just gotten off the phone with Mary, the mother of one of Davy’s friends at the library. Mary was one of those really organized moms who rushed her child in on time and rushed her child out after the story was over; she never seemed to be searching for one of Tommy’s shoes in the library, like Claire was often looking for something Davy had managed to lose.  

Mary had told her this amazing thing on the phone that involved Davy- a great thing. Tommy had been having nightmares about fires ever since their house was struck by lightning last month; he hadn’t told his mom because he could already see she had so much to worry about.  

Mary hadn’t thought anything about the 4th of July, she was still so busy trying to help her family live out of suitcases in a small apartment; it never occurred to her to connect the fireworks with a lightning storm. Mary was so relieved she finally understood why Tommy had been so grumpy and mean since they moved to the apartment; he wasn’t being selfish that he had to share a room with his brother, he was scared because his room at home had caught fire. 

Tommy had told his mom that he hadn’t realized that fireworks were actually “fire” until he saw the video at the library. Then, he got really scared; maybe his new apartment would catch on fire too. But Tommy wasn’t scared now because Davy had really helped him. Tommy told his mom all the stuff Davy had learned from Claire about fireworks the moment they got into the car to go home from the library.  

Tommy’s mom was almost overwhelmed by what she was hearing about Davy and Claire. Davy, that over active little boy had been so kind to her son and had given him such good advice, coming from…his mom ClaireMary had started the library program with her son Tommy, before Claire and Davy joined. When they did join, Mary wasn’t anxious for her son to play with Davy. She worried that Davy’s running around all the time would make her Tommy less obedient. When Davy had introduced himself to the group, he had said he lived with his foster grand-parents the Carsons. 

Mary had never met anyone in foster care beforeIt seemed odd to her that Claire and Davy were both in foster care? How old was Claire? Why wasn’t she living in her own place with Davy? When she tried to imagine what children needing foster care were like, she imagined some dirty, aggressive, badly behaved kid; someone whose own parents couldn’t be bothered to take care of.

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Davy being so kind to her Tommy, and Claire having such helpful advice, shocked her into thinking more clearly about what she knew about them.  Claire always brought Davy to the library early so that they were in the sitting circle on time. When it had been Claire’s turn to pick out a book and read it to everyone, her Tommy always loved them Claire even brought healthy snacks when it was her turn, and she had made them herself; Mary, would just buy cookies and bring them in, because it was so much easier. 

Claire wasn’t taking the easy road of being a mom; she had gone to school and worked full-time. Davy, the boy she had been worried about, had helped her Tommy talk to her about his nightmares, and his worries about fireworks. Mary realized she had prejudged Claire- in a mean way. Mary hoped Claire hadn’t noticed how standoffish she had been. Mary was going to try to fix that situation, right away. Everyone had a phone list; in case something went wrong and the book or snack schedule had to be changed fast.  

Mary called and invited Claire and Davy to join her family for a treat after the next library session. Claire sounded so happy to be invited over, she even asked if she could help by bringing over a snack or some of Davy’s toys. Mary felt so ashamed of herself- but the phone call helped. Mary loved her son. She could hear in Claire’s voice the love she had for Davy. Thank goodness she had realized how wrong she was before she hurt Claire or Davy’s feelings. 

It’s hard not to jump to conclusions about people and situations that are new to you. 

Unfortunately, it can lead you to believe negative things about other people. It may unintentionally lead you to hurt them actively- by being standoffish or mean, or inactively by not supporting programs like extended foster care for abused children that could transform the life of some child in need. 

To understand some common foster care myths that are out-in-the world creating trouble for people like Claire and Davy, consider reading: 

https://ehsd.org/2017/06/23/common-myths-about-foster-care/ 

Did you know that some very famous people have been foster children? To read about a few go to: 

https://ehsd.org/2017/11/20/famous-foster-children-who-have-been-through-foster-care/