THE BLOG
07/01/2010 04:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Kane County Program for Troubled Teens "Magical"

The Kane County Diagnostic Center has a new program for troubled teens. Sold to the county board as a way to save taxpayer money, the sign-up sheet is being compiled by Dr. Tim Brown, director of the Kane County Diagnostic Center, who proposed the program months ago and finally got board approval in April. The multi-systemic therapy (MST) reportedly is an alternative to out-of-home placement.

I was summoned to a meeting with Kirsten McPeek, placement and aftercare coordinator with the Kane County Juvenile Court Service, to discuss my son's progress after placement by the court three months ago in a residential setting. She was somewhat vague on what we'd be talking about, but did mention that two of her supervisors would be in attendance. She didn't mention there would be one more person at the meeting.

I was introduced to Emily Saylor, McPeek's new supervisor, and James Ogle, a supervisor from One Hope United. Then Dr. Brown appeared and blandly announced he wanted to take my son out of his placement and put him in a new program here in the county.

My mouth dropped open as my blood pressure rose. "You're kidding, right?" Dr. Brown said, "No, I'm not," but offered no explanation as to how he came to this astounding conclusion. Then he asked, "What's going to happen when he gets out?"

"He just got there," I answered. "You don't think this change would be harmful to my son?"

Again, Dr. Brown replied in a monotone, "No, I don't."

We arrived at this place with my son after years of problems, doctors, medication. Once he was pushed into the special education hellhole and got an Individual Education Plan (IEP), his education stopped and his behavior problems got worse. Rehab programs, endless counseling, and trouble with the law finally pushed this to either jail or residential placement. The latter was recommended in writing by a professional facility as well as a counselor who works with Kane's juvenile courts. McPeek arranged for several interviews with hand-picked residential settings to specifically address my son's needs. A recent progress report from this facility estimated the length of his stay to be 12 to 18 months.

My hunch was Dr. Brown got this new program approved by the county board and now needs to justify its existence. If my theory is right, it's all about money - the cost saving is significant with the new program.

I asked Dr. Brown if he even knew what my son looked like and he sheepishly responded, "Well, no, I don't." I said you don't even know what he looks like, but you're going to make this life-changing decision? Again, an insipid, "Well, yes." I wonder if Dr. Brown even bothered to look at my son's file; that could be the reason he was unable to give any explanation as to why he came to this conclusion in spite of numerous professional opinions otherwise.

The program approved at the April 13, 2010 board meeting is with One Hope United, previously named Kids Hope United, for a cost not to exceed $321,982 each year for two years. In a Kane County Chronicle article published February 13, 2010, Brown calls the MST therapy "a world changing kind of thing not just fitting a square kid into a round hole so the kid fits better."

The appeal is $60 a day versus up to $300 a day for the 20 kids now in residential placements.

The MST "model" was developed by the Medical University of South Carolina and is provided by MST Services. It's not much different than any other counseling or therapy. Psychological reports always contain many multi-syllabic words, and make lofty and sometimes astonishing claims of success supported by numerous statistics and research data.

The only real differences indicated are 24-hour service availability and that the services are, according to the web site, "time-limited (one to five months)."

That last part seems out of sync with the whole field of psychiatry and mental health. Psychological services can't be neatly packaged in a time frame. The people who are served are unique and the depth of problems varied. This isn't like getting an oil change that'll be done in 20 minutes. We're talking about people. Human beings. Kids.

The web site also talks about "treatment termination."

The average duration of MST treatment is 4 months. MST typically ends in one of two ways. Either the goals are met...or the goals are unmet.

Wow. I mean wow. I don't have a doctorate in psychology like Dr. Brown or these people who developed this new therapy, so I am really struggling with my diminutive comprehension trying to fathom what exactly any other outcomes there could possibly be besides "it's either gonna work or it ain't."

Caregiver competence is highlighted, and mechanisms for maintaining progress are identified. If there is a need for further services, appropriate referrals are made. However, it should not be assumed that families need ongoing services.

Wow. The idea that in a mere matter of months the "serious anti-social behavior in juvenile offenders" would disappear seems almost, well, magical.

Local governments are desperately trying to cut costs and the Diagnostic Center has been struggling to stay out of the red like most county departments. That hasn't stopped the county board chairman from handing out 50 percent raises to her "pets" on the payroll as reported by Jeff Ward of The Beacon News.

I had never met Dr. Brown before this meeting, nor had he ever been a part of my son's situation. Until now. Until a new cost-saving program was approved.

I understand all too well the need to keep costs down and look for ways to save taxpayer dollars. But hasty decisions just to fill up a program can have dire consequences for children in need.