Guest column by Jeff Hacker, TotalChild parentTotalChild is a new, comprehensive approach that partners Four Oaks with other agencies to work with children and families to achieve long-term success. Four Oaks and its partners work together to stabilize, enrich and measure a child’s success at home until adulthood. I have experienced TotalChild firsthand because my 12-year-old son, Jeffrey, is enrolled in the program. Sue Marks is the Success Manager for Jeffery’s case. She coordinates the various resources that are available to our family and makes sure everyone involved is communicating with each other. She also seeks out additional resources in times of crisis. This new approach has made an enormous difference in my son’s life.
My involvement with TotalChild began when Sue Marks, who at the time was working with my girlfriend’s daughter, recognized that my son and I also had some issues that needed to be addressed. My son and I had just been reunited after three years. He had been in living in two separate residential treatment placements. Both Jeffery and I have suffered tremendous losses. My son lost an aunt, a brother and a dog, and our family split up. I lost a sister, a son, the same dog and a marriage. This all happened in a six-month time period. Needless to say, these tragic events are almost impossible for an adult to cope with in such a short amount of time, let alone an eight-year-old child. Jeffery acted out in rebellion and anger. I acted out in much the same way.
DHS (the Department of Human Services) got involved and put Jeffery in placement. The communication between all the agencies involved was non-existent. The lack of interaction between the different agencies caused Jeffery to be misdiagnosed. While the staff at the residential facility was focusing on his personal relationship with his family and curbing his defiant behavior, what he really needed was a way to cope with his grief and trauma. Though many people involved were aware of this need, no one got together to create a plan to address it. Because Jeffery’s behaviors were getting increasingly worse, the doctor increased the amount of medication he was receiving. Eventually, he was receiving a dose much higher than recommended for a child his age. The side effects of this drug caused Jeffery to hallucinate, bite and scratch himself until he bled and become very aggressive. When my ex-wife and I learned more about my son’s treatment we decided to remove him from that placement and place him in my care. When Jeffery first arrived at my home he was out of control.
I then began to seek outside help to deal with Jeffery’s behaviors. I had heard about Behavioral Health Intervention Services (BHIS) offered by Four Oaks. I made contact with this program and was set up with Chris Shanahan, a Four Oaks BHIS worker. I also was taking Jeffrey to the Abbe Center to see a psychiatrist for medication and a therapist to deal with grief issues. I contacted Grant Wood Area Education Agency and the Marion School District for Jeffery’s scholastic needs. I was now working with more agencies then I could keep track of and no one knew much about what the others were doing. Keeping everyone informed was next to impossible.
When Sue Marks explained to me how TotalChild worked and its purpose, I saw it as an opportunity to get everyone I was working with on the same page. With TotalChild in place Jeffery is now getting the right treatments from the right professionals at the right time. He is doing above average in school and is rarely defiant at home. He is a totally different child than the one that came to live with me last June, and I have only the Four Oaks TotalChild program to thank. Its coordinated efforts brought everyone involved with my son’s case together. I believe wholeheartedly it has been the determining factor in allowing Jeffrey to be successful.