xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: The Dive Bar Welcomes: Sarah

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Dive Bar Welcomes: Sarah

Today we have Sarah! Before I posted this I made her fill out a form giving me her name, her son's name, her address and phone number, her son's date of birth, his social security number, their insurance information, and her son's diagnosis. Can I just say how fucking hilariously awesome it is the way she signed this thing? Yes I can, and I think I just did. Take it away, Sarah!

Dear Intake Service Coordinator:

You are probably wondering why I was so hostile to you this morning. Really, you shouldn't be so fucking surprised. But just in case you need a little help understanding things, let me elaborate for you:

I called your agency last Fall because our Early Intervention worker told us we might qualify for respite care. Since my husband and I have never, ever, ever left our children with anyone but immediate family [and only if there are two family members available at the same time, because nobody, not even my mom or my sisters, wants to be left alone with both of our children, and this kind of request burns so many goodwill points that we cannot ask again for months, and so we reserve it for occasions when childcare is not optional, such as when one of us needs to give birth or undergo inpatient surgery], respite care sounded very exciting. Maybe we could go out to dinner! Maybe we could go to a marriage counselor! Maybe we could go have an elective colonoscopy! Whatever! Any reason to get out of the house without the kids sounded great!

The brochure I got from the EI teacher had some bad clip art of a stick figure guy reaching for some metaphorical stars on the front. This was probably intended to represent the unlimited possibilities your agency offers to people with developmental disabilities. Inside were a couple of questions in bold type, including "What Is Mental Retardation" and "How Do I Apply For Services?" The answer to this last question is "An application for services may be obtained for* the Intake Specialist by calling 123-456-7890. Once basic information is obtained, an Intake Service Coordinator will schedule an appointment, at your convenience, to help with the application process." (*I think you meant "from," but whatever.)

When I called, last Fall, the Intake Specialist asked me some questions on the phone. Specifically, she asked for my name, my son's name, our address and phone number, my son's date of birth, his social security number, our insurance information, and my son's diagnosis. Then she paused and said, "Um, I know this is kind of awkward to talk about, but we have to ask…" In the context of the Interview By The Social Worker, this is usually the lead-in to a question about domestic violence or a lecture about home handgun safety. Instead, she asked "Have you ever noticed any… infestations? At your house? Like rodents or insects?" Apparently they are looking out for you, Intake Service Coordinator, making sure you don't catch bedbugs or have to look at any roaches while you're out roaming the ghetto to visit people like me.

Then the Intake Specialist mailed me a form to fill out. The form asked for my name, my son's name, our address and phone number, my son's date of birth, his social security number, our insurance information, and my son's diagnosis. I completed it and mailed it back.

A couple weeks later I called the Intake Specialist again. I was under the impression that the "basic information [had been] obtained," (twice, in fact) and wondered why nobody had called to schedule an appointment. I was told that somebody would get right on that, and what do you know, only five weeks after submitting the form, I got a call from you. You told me your first available appointment was in February.

Fast forward three months. Two days before the appointment, which had at this point been on the books for 90 days, I got a voicemail from you, along the lines of "We have an appointment scheduled for Wednesday, but that's really not a convenient day for me, so I'm wondering if we can reschedule for Friday. If you can't, I can still do Wednesday at 9, but just checking." I got the impression that you had some kind of personal thing going on, like maybe a rock concert the night before the appointment. Nothing important enough to actually cancel the appointment, but enough to let me know that you were keeping it only at great personal inconvenience.

I called you back to say "Sorry, but I work on Friday, Wednesday is my only day off, and in fact I have canceled two therapy appointments and rearranged child care to be available for this Very Important Intake Meeting which has been on my calendar since November. So could we please just do it Wednesday?"

My earlier impression was confirmed Wednesday morning at 9:05 am when you called me again, sounding a little hungover, to say "Um, yeah we had an appointment at 9 but I'm running a little late so I might not be there until 9:30, is that cool?"

Well, actually, no. It isn't cool. Because I have a three-year-old with autism, and when I tell him somebody is coming over at 9, and then at 9:05 you call and say you might not be there until 9:30, then I get to deal with a huge fucking explosive meltdown. But you probably wouldn't know anything about that. I mean, it's not like your entire job is to provide services to people with developmental disabilities or anything. So you probably have no idea what it's like to spend 47 minutes with an autistic three-year-old who has just been stood up.

When you finally showed up, at the crack of 9:47, you started in with the Very Important Paperwork. You asked me for my name, my son's name, our address and phone number, my son's date of birth, his social security number, our insurance information, and my son's diagnosis. I might have stared at you in disbelief at this point, since this was the third time I had provided this exact information to your agency, and most of it was in fact printed on the intake form you had fastened in the manila folder with my son's name on it, which I completed over four months ago.

I do not have my son's SSN memorized; it is in a filing cabinet upstairs. I couldn't go up to get it because that would require leaving my already-on-edge kids alone in the room with you. You made some kind of remark about how your agency recommends that people obtain child care during these Very Important Intake Appointments to avoid inconveniences such as these. I did not say that I had child care at 9:00, but it is now 10:00, and my mom has left town. I smiled politely and told you I would e-mail the SSN to you later.

You said that it would take about 3 months to determine whether my son is eligible for services. I asked why it takes so long. You explained that sometimes it takes a while to get all the paperwork [copies of my son's previous evaluations from the Developmental Pediatrician and the school district]. I told you that I have scanned copies of both evaluations that I could e-mail to you this very day. You repeated that it would take about 3 months.

"So what happens then?" I asked.

"Well, if we decide that your son is eligible, then we will assign him a Case Manager. The Case Manager will arrange a personal visit within 60 days to, um, evaluate his situation."
"So five months from now, somebody else will come to my house and ask me some more questions?" (Let me guess: name, social security number, date of birth, insurance information, and diagnosis.)

"Right. At that time, the case manager will discuss what kind of, uh, funding streams are available."

"What about respite care?"

"Well, we can't guarantee anything. There's limited funding. We only guarantee a case manager will be assigned. If we determine your son is eligible." At this point, you handed me a Xeroxed flyer with another stick figure reaching for the metaphorical stars at the top. It was titled "50 Ways Your Case Manager Can Help." The list includes "Provide support and advocacy in getting services," "Link to needed services," "Research options for services," "Provide options for community services," "Monitor services," and "Access emergency services." I got the feeling whoever made the list got tired around number 16 but was told by his supervisor that he had to come up with 50.

The list also includes "Maintain confidentiality," and "Maintain regular contact," which, no offense, seem like such low-ball goals that you might as well have included "Maintain bowel and bladder control." Not that I'm knocking bowel and bladder control, because God knows I'll be happy when my kids get some of that.

Then you left, with a stiff fake smile, before I got the chance to ask you why the fuck you bothered to lug your social-worker wheelie suitcase full of inspirational clip art over to my house, when we clearly could have had this conversation on the phone or via e-mail, and why I had waited three months for the honor of this home visit, which obviously required you to wake up much earlier than you had intended today. I also didn't get a chance to tell you that I hope you and everyone at your agency catch Ebola and a staph infection from my kitchen floor. Also: the hantavirus. And that I am eagerly awaiting the promised visit from our Case Manager, although I suspect that by the time of that visit, my children will be old enough to have armpit hair and their own Facebook pages, and respite care may be sort of moot by then. But thanks anyway.

Yours Truly,

The Bitch Whose Cat Pissed On Your Jacket But I Don't Think You Noticed And I Didn't Say Anything