- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki, I have been in the Army for 10 years and have lived in Germany, Italy and Hawaii. I think the worst mistake I’ve ever made was accepting an assignment so I could be near my family in Maryland. It’s been a disaster from the word “go.”

My family seems to never change. I see no reason why they are still living on welfare and receiving subsidized housing and food stamps. Many of them are working jobs where they are paid “under the table,” just to stay within the allowable income so the government money won’t get cut off. This is shameful.

The latest thing is they are getting their children diagnosed so they can get monthly disability payments for the children. All it took is for one family member to tell how much money her son gets for having attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and behavior problems. Now every child in the family is ADHD, possibly autistic, has behavior problems, etc. You name it, they have it.

Why won’t some families come out of the dark ages and progress? I won’t call my family trailer trash because that would be too disrespectful on my part, especially since I am from their blood. However, they are rural in their thinking and in my opinion it’s hurting future generations of family.

I am not married and I don’t have children. I must say that if that day comes, I wouldn’t want my children to even socialize with the majority of my family. What can I do to help my family succeed and become better people? Why does their behavior bother me so much?

- Family Matters

Dear Family,

I’m reminded of the safety briefing by the flight attendants regarding oxygen masks. They always say to put your mask on before you try to assist someone else. This is what you are doing. You are taking care of yourself by pursuing a career and also taking heed of character and ethics. Good for you!

Your family may never change. For this reason, you can’t become bogged down with their fraudulent and unethical behavior. This will soon catch up with them.

You should take consolation in knowing there likely are young family members watching you and your behavior. You are a light for them in many ways, but you can’t see it yet. Eventually, you will learn about all of the good seeds you planted in them because they will make better choices and decisions.

We are extensions of our family, but we don’t have to be like them. Continue doing the right thing and take care of yourself.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

There is so much going on on this military base that would shock you. Most people don’t believe all of the drama and chaos that military people have in their lives. Civilians think the people who serve their country are squeaky clean and run their lives by the book. This is not true.

My neighbors are always fighting and fussing and no one wants to do anything about it. It’s not the fact that they are fighting; I don’t care about them, they are adults. It’s their children I am worried about. I know my neighbors are being mean and abusive to their children. I’ve notice bruising on the boys and they have told my kids and me that “my daddy punched me” or “my mommy hit me.”

I’ve tried to stay out of it because I don’t want to see a kid taken away from their home and I don’t want to start trouble. I know they could have a lot of stress because of money and bills, but everyone is having a hard time making it. They’re not the only ones going through this.

If I give you their address, can you come and investigate? I know you are a social worker and would know what to do about this. Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.

- Shocked At My Neighbors’ Behavior

Dear Shocked,

I’m shocked at your behavior. Listen to what you are saying. You know there is domestic violence taking place in your neighbors’ home and children are being abused. You have noticed bruises on the kids and they have told you what their parents are doing to them. Yet you say you don’t want to get the parents in trouble and don’t want to see their children be taken away.

Instead you take the time to write me a letter and ask me to make a home visit. Get real, OK? Let me make this clear to everyone reading this letter. Everyone is a mandatory reporter of abuse. You don’t have to be a social worker, teacher, lawyer, doctor, etc. Everyone has a responsibility to protect children and others who are defenseless.

The number for the National Child Abuse Hotline is 800/4ACHILD. You also can contact your social-work service on base or the family advocacy department for more information on making a report.

Reader responses:

• I implore you to tell Concerned Mommy, whose letter about her 2-year-old son was printed Oct. 11, to trust her instincts. Many of us mothers of special-needs children have experienced great frustrations in getting our children properly diagnosed. An autistic child may (or may not) have trouble with eye contact, he may (or may not) have significant language delays and other symptoms. That’s why autism is now referred to as a spectrum.

In any case, early intervention can make a huge difference in the life of this child. Generally, it takes a persistent adult to guide a child through the labyrinth to the care he or she needs.

If this family has difficulty getting assistance through their family doctor, they should check out Child Find (www.childfindidea.org), part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that requires states to identify children who need early intervention or special education. Because of my experiences, I have been blogging about my son (https://learningyesican.blogspot.com). While my blog specifically focuses on home-schooling autistic children, it provides a growing body of information about “spectrum kids.”

• I read your column every once in a while and I appreciate your social background and the fact that you are married to one of our military heroes and are enduring this type of life. Forgive me if my comments sound offensive, they are not meant to be; I intend them to be more constructive in nature.

I find your comments to be very broad, giving no real advice. Most importantly, from my point of view, you give no reference or advice about seeing a priest or pastor for counseling or advice.

I am not sure if this is a restriction placed upon you, but if it were me and it was, I wouldn’t write the column. God Bless.

- Renny

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearmsvicki @yahoo.com.

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