2019: Steph Timeline (Redacted)


Age: 15

Major Events (Redacted):

  • Ran away from a private placement, several times
  • Moved facilities 7 times in 2019

Clarity Discovered:

2019 was a rocky year. After I finished writing this timeline post, I sent it to my writing buddy to look over to help me decide if it is something to share…I was concerned that it is too raw and gritty for readers. I also sent it to Andy, my husband, to help me figure out if we want to be public about the events.

My writing buddy told me that anyone who is reading my blog posts can handle the raw stories of Stephanie. She affirmed that Andy and I had the more difficult lens to determine what we are comfortable sharing right now. She suggested a “redacted” post. I liked that idea because so much of the information we received about Stephanie was redacted when we adopted her.

Andy read the post, but he didn’t give his typical response to my writing — “Wow, that’s good.” Instead he said, “Wow, that was a lot. It was a heavy year. I know what you mean about not knowing what to share publicly. Maybe we should sit on it for a little bit.”

“I’m glad I wrote it,” I said.

“Me too,” he said. “It helps give perspective. That was a lot and reading it in the way you’ve chronicled it makes me realize it was hard. Sometimes you don’t know that things are hard because you just do what needs done.”

“I thought a lot of those events took place in 2018,” I said.

“Yeah, I thought 2018 was the hardest year,” Andy agreed, “but I guess most of the hard stuff happened last year.”

I shook my head. “No, I think the hardest stuff happened in 2018. I’m a little nervous about writing that timeline post.”

He thought about it. “I’m not sure if it’s harder; I think 2018 set a lot of things in motion that we had to deal with in 2019.”

“I guess we’ll find out,” I said. “I still don’t know what to do about my timeline post. I need to post something and keep moving forward.”

Andy said, “You’ll figure it out. I’m glad you’re writing this.”

That is enough fuel for me to keep going.

Redacted Timeline Post:

Stephanie did not want to stay in the private placement. She began looking for ways to get out. She ran away. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. She quietly bullied and scared the other residents. She made up stories, masterfully woven so even trained therapists and social workers believed her lies. She was disengaged from reality. The facility felt Stephanie wasn’t safe for their staff or other residents, but they were unwilling to call the police when she became violent. They wanted us to pick her up.

If we didn’t pick her up from the facility, we would be charged with neglect and child abuse. I would lose my teaching license. If we did pick her up, we were putting our family in danger. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

We became very good at putting them off to pick up Stephanie. We hired a lawyer. We called the DCS abuse hotline and made a report. It turns out that according to DCS, a child is never considered abusive towards other children in the house. DCS could not help us.

We called other residential centers. Most would not take a private placement. Those that did would not take Stephanie. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

It seemed we would have to pick up Stephanie and bring her back to our house, then wait for her to hurt someone in order to get the help we needed. We bought video cameras in order to protect ourselves. It was unreal the way adults would believe Stephanie’s lies. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Eventually we were told we needed to pick Stephanie up at 8:00 am on a Monday morning or they would report neglect and child abandonment to DCS. Andy set up video cameras and made a plan for his buddy to come and stay in the house with him and Stephanie. I made plans for the kids and me to stay somewhere else. We packed our suitcases. Andy put screeching alarms on our bedroom doors. The kids packed their valuables in totes to stow in our neighbor’s garage. They knew Stephanie would destroy anything special. She was angry and blamed me for anything bad she could fantasize. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

We prepared and we prayed.

At 11:45 pm on Sunday night we were ready to go to bed when the phone rang. It was a police officer informing us that they had arrested Stephanie. Answered prayers sometimes come in unexpected forms. We were so relieved and so grateful. Because she was now in the Department of Corrections system, she would have access to the help she needed.

She wanted to navigate things herself, and Andy and I were notified at the last minute for court dates and meetings. It would have been infuriating if we weren’t so grateful. As ironic as it seems, we knew she would have more options for treatment.

XXXXXXX Many paragraphs redacted. XXXXXXXX

In the fall, she moved to a massive residential center with many different programs. Stephanie went into the program with the highest security. She was with teens with hefty criminal backgrounds. Andy and I were cut out of the chain of communication. Probation and the residential facility made all decisions and then informed us of the plans.

Stephanie continued to manipulate. She attempted to emancipate. She attempted to “unadopt” herself.  Therapy was intermittent. She worked through the program and they moved her to another unit. We didn’t find out until Stephanie told us. Communication became more difficult.

Stephanie would run away and be in physical altercations. Then she would “move up” a level in the program. Therapists quit and it took time for new ones to begin. Stephanie worked on her ability to manipulate adults and get them to believe her skewed versions of reality.

In December she was in a fight that sent another resident to the ER.  Stephanie “leveled up” four days later, and they began talking about the way she is a role model for others. They began planning with Stephanie for her to finish the program in a few weeks. When we questioned the way Stephanie was rewarded after being physically aggressive, we were told we needed to be more supportive of Stephanie and learn effective ways to communicate with her.

Stephanie continued to hone her skills of manipulation and lying in order to get adults to believe her twisted views of reality.

At Christmas, we glimpsed the Stephanie we missed the most (photo above). It was almost harder than everything that happened throughout the year, because we remembered the good things about her. It was only a few moments, but it was enough to rekindle hope.

See all Stephanie Timeline posts here.

With this post, I’m joining a community of writers at SOS: Sharing Our Stories. You are invited too, just click here. You won’t want to miss the collection of stories and the community that’s emerging.

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  1. First I sit quietly, prayerfully next to you after reading with these words, just acknowledging them. Next I whisper “I am so sorry.”
    I am glad you wrote it, too.

  2. I remember some of what you wrote, wishing it weren’t so, knowing that you cared so much and that it must have sucked all the energy from you and Andy and the others. And I hope that writing will help you cement the truth of what happened rather than some ‘truth’ Stephanie will try to tell you some day, sad to write. Big hugs for you in doing this hard thing, Ruth.

    • I’m grateful for your insights. Yes, so much energy was drained. For the first four months of 2019, I spent a long time sitting, just being still. I slept a lot, too. I was so bone-weary.

  3. Stories do matter. Stephanie’s stories matters. And the stories make up who we are, deep inside, whether we want to believe it or not. Sometimes I believe quiet equates to “all is good.” But that’s not always the case, now is it after reading about 2019 (redacted)? I will pray for Stephanie’s new home placement. And for your family and home too. As challenging as this writing is … I encourage you to continue on with the magic of your words. Happy writing, Ruth. Happy writing.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. So much of what Andy & I consider is “how will Steph feel when she one day comes upon these words? How will our other kids feel if they read it?” Story carries much power, especially the stories parents tell of their children. I hope my writing will always carry a bit of magic. 🤍

  4. Stories do matter. Stephanie’s stories matters. And the stories make up who we are, deep inside, whether we want to believe it or not. Sometimes I believe quiet equates to “all is good.” But that’s not always the case, now is it after reading about 2019 (redacted)? I will pray for Stephanie’s new home placement. And for your family and home too. As challenging as this writing is … I encourage you to continue on with the magic of your words. Happy writing, Ruth. Happy writing.

  5. Oh, my heart hurts for you, for your family, for Stephanie and this mighty struggle with mental illness. Praying for God’s love and blessings on you and yours.

  6. Ruth. . . your writing always brings a connection or tear or prayer for you to continue. I have had similar situations with students at school. We cry for help and no ones listen. The authorities tell us they will look into it or the situation is not bad enough. I worry about children that are in homes during the pandemic shut down that are unsafe. Please keep writing as much and as often as you want to share. I promise you are touching lives. Prayers for all the children that need help.

  7. So open and tough. Hard to read, harder to live. But this is what we always strive for- honesty even when it’s easier to move away, soften the blow, turn in the direction of fiction.
    Thanks for sharing this and drawing me back into the community of writers and readers…

  8. I am always in awe of your courage to write about the hard. It has taught me to see beyond the obvious, to think-look into what I cannot see with my students. Thankful you are able to culminate thoughts of the daily hard. Hugs my friend!

  9. I am always in awe of your ability to write through the hard—and I’m sorry I haven’t been present when you have. We all know everyone’s stories matter, I am so happy you will be able to share with us. Love to you all and lots of virtual hugs.

  10. This is so meaningful, especially to foster/adoptive parents who have walked in any similar footsteps on their journey. My prayers join yours for rekindled hope. I am drawn to the closing lines by the photo of Stephanie… if the victory doesn’t happen this side of heaven… and it brings to mind a favorite song…Home Free. In the chorus it says “at the ultimate healing we will be home free.”