Below is a compilation of letters that I received from the mom of a teen with Fetal Alcohol Effects. Joan gave me permission to publish her letters. This experience is unfortunately not uncommon. Joan and I hope that other parents can learn from her son's experience and possibly avoid the heartbreak and hardship this family is enduring. --Teresa
February 18, 2002
Our son, Jesse, age 18, has Fetal Alcohol Effects, has borderline IQ, looks rather “normal,” but functions socially at the level of a 6 year old. . We do our best to keep him involved in positive groups such as the Boy Scouts, bowling league, and church youth group, and he does very well as long as there are strong leaders and close supervision.
He is on probation for 2nd degree assault with intent to commit sex abuse & burglary. The assault charge involved touching, not rape or violence, and burglary means he was in a room where he did not have permission to be, no theft involved. There was a “no contact” order as part of his probation. The order was to stay away from all children under 14 and away from those under 18 unless in school or in therapy group, adult supervision required. He was not allowed any extra-curricular school activities, supervised or not.
He was arrested for violating his no-contact order and is now in jail. All we have been told is he hugged a child on his special ed bus. The bus aide was present, right behind the boy who had just gotten on the bus, but it happened anyway. This is what's really scary and why I'm thinking we shouldn't bring him home right now, as much as we hate having him in jail. If we do get him home I'm convinced he needs to be home-schooled and not be allowed to go anywhere w/o our direct parental supervision, but at 18 and already chafing from our supervision, I don't know how long we could sustain that. We keep hoping he can "have a life" someday. (Us, too.)
No one wants him in prison, but his counseling & therapy group don't seem to be helping much, either (do they ever?). The threat of consequences is so meaningless when a person lacks the ability to stop and think before he acts.
He believes: (1) it is grossly unfair that he got into trouble and the people who previously molested him did not; (2) those individuals should be locked up forever for what they did; (3) he does not need therapy because he will never offend again because he spent one night in jail, was assaulted, and doesn't ever want to go through that again. Unfortunately, that traumatic experience did not keep him from following a child into the restroom and "peeping" at her, proving that he does need help. Since this was different from his other offense, I suppose it's a matter of not generalizing (behavior A got him into trouble, but behavior B is not the same thing, so it did not trigger his fear of going back to jail).
He faces revocation of his probation and a 12 yr. sentence, required to serve 85% (more than 10 yrs.) of it before becoming eligible for parole. He is in jail because we could not come up with his bail ($26,000) on a Saturday afternoon, and we didn't have $2,600 for a bail bondsman, either. We can't talk to him about what happened because we could be forced to testify against him. His hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27. On top of that, his attorney is out of the office with his dying father. Please pray for his protection and some way out of this prison term, he has already been pressured for sex in the jail and doesn't understand the trouble he is in. He's worried about missing a field trip at school if he isn't back by Thursday.
March 7, 2002: He's out on bond, but under house arrest, literally, by court order. He is only allowed to leave for medical appointments and to see his probation officer, otherwise "he shall remain at his home at all times under the direct supervision of his parents." I told him before long he'd wish he were still in jail so he'd have someone to talk to besides me. He will have an intake evaluation in two weeks. I re-read "Ann Michael's" story about her "Christmas child," chapter 19 in Fantastic Antone Grows Up, which sounded very similar to Jesse's case. I thought their experience would show Jesse's prosecutor that community supports can work, as long as he gets appropriate meds and continuing supervision. It sure is depressing to think that we can't even go to church as a family, can't take a walk together, etc. -- I think I'll go stir-crazy before Jesse does!
March 8, 2002: The offense with which Jesse was charged is called a "strict liability offense," which means they don't care about competency. He could be mentally ill, mentally retarded, lacking the ability to form criminal intent, it doesn't matter because the law only cares that the victim was under age 12. Rather a nasty law from our point of view. The law also carries a mandatory minimum of 85% of the sentence must be served before the person even becomes eligible for parole consideration, and then after the sentence is completed, there is another law which allows the offender to be locked up indefinitely until he is deemed not likely to reoffend ("cured.") In other words, even without the commission of another crime, they can continue to hold the prisoner for "treatment," and the sad thing is, those being held under this law are treated even worse than they were in prison -- they seem to have absolutely no rights. Now I can understand this attitude for violent offenders, repeated forcible rapes, etc., but the law is not written to only apply to them. If a predator is judged incapable of controlling his behavior, he will not be released. This is why we are so desperate to keep Jesse out of prison -- once in, he may never be released no matter how well he behaves. Time off for good behavior is another concept that does not apply here. "Never" is another concept that Jesse cannot even begin to understand.
March 20, 2002: It's so hard to trust anyone else to provide the supervision he needs, but it's also so tiring. Whoever said self-determination for these kids means self-termination was so right! And still the professionals don't get it. I am so glad Jesse is not into drugs or alcohol, but I don't think we can ever be sure it won't be a problem sometime. In fact, that's where so much of the stress comes from, being blindsided by some behavior or problem that's never been a problem before!