“I didn’t become very familiar with the mental health sector of our country’s healthcare system until about three weeks ago. I’ve heard the stories and the statistics of how our mental healthcare is lacking but I didn’t realize how much it was lacking for children, specifically in our state of Colorado. It’s been a struggle in a way I never even saw coming. I thought programs like these were endlessly abundant for kids. I honestly had no idea it was so bad.
My son, Easton, lost both of his parents in March of 2016 when he was just 2 years old. While he is biologically my brother, he is now my adopted son as of June 2017. He came into our family without missing a beat as that 2-year-old little boy. He just walked into our home and never looked back at his past.
Even now at 6, he barely ever asks about his biological parents. He has pictures of them hanging above his bed and we talk about them every night before he goes to sleep. But he has yet to show curiosity about it all. He has just sort of accepted his situation at this point and doesn’t yearn to know more.
People ask me all the time how he grieves his parents’ deaths. I don’t have an answer because he doesn’t show sadness or anger about it specifically. But maybe it’s coming through in his behaviors at home and at school? I honestly don’t know. But I want to know more. I want to know if the things we are struggling with right now, behavior wise, are because of his traumatic past, or if it’s just age-related. I feel like we’re in a place where we can start to uncover some of these things. I just feel this pull to start helping him NOW instead of LATER.
I set up an appointment with his pediatrician and left feeling like she didn’t really understand the necessity of what I was asking. She did give me a sheet of paper with fifty-five (yes, FIFTY-FIVE) therapists in the area to call myself. She just pawned it off on me instead of really trying to help me cross some off right away. It felt a lot like, ‘Okay, here you go and good luck!’ I had no idea if any of them were in network with our insurance. So instead of starting with that list, I started with our insurance’s website.
I started from the top and started calling number after number. Nobody answered. Almost all of them required you to leave a message in which they would return your phone call. I probably left close to forty messages that first day. I waited a week. None of them called me back.
‘Ohhhhkay, I guess I’ll start on this list from the pediatrician then!’ I began by crossing off the names I had already called. This left me with about twenty-five left to call myself. Again, I had to leave messages as nobody answered or only offered an answering machine that they checked every night. Of those twenty-five, ten called me back. None of them were accepting new patients at this time.
One of them suggested that I call the Children’s Hospital. Not knowing the Children’s Hospital offered an outpatient clinic, I dialed the number, really eager that this would be a happy ending. A woman answered and I stated what I was searching for. ‘My son lost both of his parents when he was 2. I know he is grieving in some way and I’m just not sure how to help him or how to really explain everything to him even though we talk about them daily. I just need some guidance really and would appreciate an evaluation for him.’ She asked, ‘Is he saying he’s going to hurt himself or others?’ I responded, ‘Oh no! Not at all. I feel like we’re just in the beginning stages of all of this.’
‘Okay ma’am, our waitlist is over a year out. Would you like me to place him on that?’
My jaw about hit the dang floor. One year?! How is that possible? Do they not have enough counselors or therapists? It’s a Children’s Hospital! I don’t know, honestly, why I was so shocked. I know there’s a lot of kids in Colorado but I was still not expecting one year.
‘Yes, please place him on the waiting list,’ I said with a voice that seriously felt defeated.
Did she ask me if he was hurting others or himself because if he was, they would take him sooner? I mean, if there are kids in that situation I would absolutely hope they’d take them sooner. I’m not in dire need, but I still would like to get this ball rolling.
Back to the drawing board.
I Googled grief centers in our area and came across another handful of facilities. I called all of them. None called me back even though all of their messages said that they would. I even called them two and three more times, leaving more messages. It’s honestly shocking to say that I still haven’t heard from them.
I started getting super frustrated. I know this isn’t a life or death type of thing, but I had no idea that this would be so hard to find help for my child. No clue at all. Our insurance is one of the best and yet, it’s not providing us with any services!
I decided we would try just paying out of pocket. But my jaw, once again, hit the floor when I was told a session would range anywhere between $200-$300. That’s not pocket change for a family like ours with six kids. Plus it’s the holiday season so we’re already hemorrhaging money left and right. But at the same time, it’s not really about the money. It’s about the principal. I was so frustrated that I might have to pay out of pocket for something that could be completely covered! I know therapists need to eat and raise their families, too. But can’t we just please use our own insurance?
‘What good is this insurance then if I can’t even find someone!!’ That’s where most of my frustration was – knowing we pay so much money every month into it and then not even being able to use it for this.
I had some good tips from friends about where to turn next. I decided to talk to his teacher. I knew she would at least be able to help in some way, if not at least an ear to vent to! She spoke with the school counselor and decided to get something going. They were going to involve Easton in group sessions during the school day. He’s been struggling really bad in school lately with behaviors so if nothing else, that would be a good place to start. The counselor then gave me another list and packet filled with other options.
With it having been the Thanksgiving break, I planned to start this search back up again at the beginning of December. We will probably just pay out of pocket since that seems to be the best option at this point…as frustrating as that is. But at least getting a professional’s eyes on him would ease my anxiety about it all. Then hopefully we can just coast until his name pops up on one of the many waitlists he’s on.
Even still, I have this inner voice that won’t quiet down. ‘Get help, Molly! It’s okay that you don’t know what to do or say. It’s okay that you have no idea how losing his parents has affected him emotionally. Sure, he’s been a champ about it so far but that doesn’t mean the pain doesn’t exist. The perfect person is waiting for you. Don’t give up!’
I had no clue advocating for him like this would be something I would tackle head on. I was and am so clueless to the lack of resources here. I honestly don’t even know what I’m doing wrong at this point. Am I not calling the right people? Am I totally missing an entire section of potential facilities? Are my messages too vague? Too revealing? Lacking urgency? Lacking understanding for how busy and overwhelmed they are?
But maybe that’s just it. Maybe they are so overwhelmed with cases and not enough hands on deck. Maybe they are literally drowning in calls that it’s impossible to call everyone back. Maybe our situation is so far at the bottom of the totem pole that it isn’t worth a call back. I don’t know. But I do know that I wish there was a better solution. It makes me sad and angry for everyone – the facilities, the therapists, the parents, and ultimately the patients. It seems like everyone is trying to do their best and yet the system is still flawed.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Molly Schultz of Tried and True Mama. You can follow her on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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