Parents take drastic measure to get care for son
By Robin Respaut
NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) - Within months of bringing him home, Sheila Trznadel knew that the boy she and her husband had adopted from Ukraine needed more help than her family could offer or afford.
The 7 year old was violent and never showed remorse. He switched on the gas oven in the Trznadels' Darien, Illinois home. He hid matches in his room, stashed scissors under his bed, and told his parents he wanted to kill the family. One doctor who treated him said the child exhibited traits of a psychopath.
His parents had sought help from their adoption agency, social workers, and lawmakers, but they quickly realized their options were few. If they continued to raise the boy, they believed they were risking the safety of their other children. They also couldn't afford the boy's treatment.
As a consequence, the Trznadels took a drastic step: They left their son in a hospital and told Illinois officials they would not take him back until he received the care he needed. The move is called a lockout, and it's not without risk. Most states consider it a crime - either child abandonment or neglect. The Trznadels hired a lawyer and offered authorities evidence to support their decision, including a psychiatric evaluation of the boy.
"I want people to understand how serious these situations are," says Sheila Trznadel, 37, whose son, now 10, is now a ward of the state. "It's not his fault. He is an innocent child," Trznadel says. "But the system is failing us, and it's failing him."
Over the last decade, 627 parents in Illinois have relinquished their children to obtain mental health services. In 2001, a report by the Government Accountability Office found about 3,700 children in 19 states entered the child welfare system within a single year.
Child welfare agencies say the system was not built to take children with severe mental health issues simply because the parents cannot afford to pay for such care. "We see this as a public policy issue," says Karen Hawkins, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. "It's the lack of resources for community mental health funding for children. That is the context to which we're all working."
When the Trznadels adopted their son in 2011, they knew little about his past. At the orphanage, the boy behaved strangely. He was hyperactive and sometimes defecated in his pants. Workers there said he was simply nervous. Continuación...