A Human Canvas-in the darkness of childhood abuse and neglect-Volume 4-"Don't Throw the Baby out with the Bathwater".
A Social Worker's Journal
When our children are young, they are most often on a daily schedule and routine, based on a family's lifestyle. In this day and age where both parents work, or a single parent works, most likely the child is picked up from some type of daycare, before returning home at the end of the day. This is not the rule, just an example of many families in 2012. When home, the family settles in. Older children may do their homework, parents get dinner ready, maybe throw a load or two of laundry in, and things are prepared for the next day. Usually after dinner, comes bath and bedtime. Children usually love the water. Favorite bath tub toys, soap bubbles, and water games occupy them, while hair gets washed, and the announcement is made that it's time to get out, before fingers are wrinkled to the touch.
"Jammies" get put on, stories are read, and hugs and kisses are given out and received, before the children are tucked in for the night. Sounds like a script right out of a 1960s scenario, but I believe that most families strive to give their children that very experience. In our busy lives, maybe not all of what I have described is accomplished, but some is, and what's more important, is the parental attempt to try. I did say most families, right? Because sadly, there are others who don't even come close. Brad's story is just that....not even close.
When I first met Brad, I immediately knew that something wasn't right. He acted very immature for a seventeen year old boy, and he was "touchy" and "clingy" which made me feel uncomfortable. Speaking with him briefly, made me aware of his simplicity. I spoke with our Clinical Supervior after our first meeting to get her overview of his history. What I learned sickened me.
Brad had been a normal, healthy, little boy until the age of five. His birth mother had had a reported lifestyle of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as, sorted relationships with men. She herself had been a victim of domestic violence for most of her adult life, and somehow along the way, she had failed to get the help she so desparately needed, to protect her children from the same fate.
One evening when Brad had been sent to take his nightly bath and prepare for bed, his mother and her male companion, at the time, began to quarrel. The quarrel turned violent as it quickly escalated, and found its way into the bathroom where Brad was.
As Brad's mother and her companion continued their battle, Brad had started to cry and scream at the mother's boyfriend to leave her alone. Well, he finally did. He pushed her against the wall and went after the protective, five year old sitting in bathwater and floating toys. What happened next, sealed Brad's fate.
"Within minutes", Brad's mother's statement read, "he (the boyfriend) had his hands around Brad's neck and he was choking him while he held him under the water. He (Brad) must have lost consciousness because he seemed dead so I called the police."
Well, Brad didn't die. Actually, he did in a sense. The five year old that he had been would never be again. During the attack, Brad had lost oxygen to his brain for too long. When they revived him, he survived, but his brain function as it had been, did not. It had suffered a great loss along with Brad's quality of life.
The attacker was arrested for attempted murder, Brad's mother lost her parental rights, and Brad lost himself as he had been. He was placed in foster care and had spent thirteen years of his life that way. Troubled, bounced from foster home to foster home, until he finally became an adult a the age of eighteen. An adult only in the legal sense because Brad would remain child-like for the remainder of his life. Luckily, he didn't remember what had happened all those years ago.
He now lives in an assisted living group home and maintains a lesser quality of life than he could and should have. If only he hadn't tried to protect, rather than be protected. If only he could have been a child in childhood, and been able to move on to adulthood as an adult.
If only there could have been help in time. If only his mother had made better decisions for herself and her child-her protector. If only...if only...Brad, forgive us for failing you.
THE FARE OF LIFE aka LIFE'S UNFAIR
No one said that life is fair,
but, how unfair does it have to be?
He wants to know
and he's only three.
His memories hold nightmares tight.
His only thoughts are filled with fright.
Fear of water, fear of wrath.
Fear of mommy, fear of bath.
He only longed for hands to hold.
He never know of love so cold.
Until that fateful, morbid night,
when mommy couldn't bear their plight.
She took him with his rubber duck,
and placed him in his grave, all tucked.
He gasped for air, he saw her face.
He reached for her, but lost the race.
His luck ran out, that's how unfair,
a life can be, a fragile tear.
Kim Diaz 2012