Thursday, October 1, 2009
7 News Investigations: A Mother's Hope
Earlier this year a 7-year-old boy in state custody prescribed mind altering drugs threatened to kill himself, then he did. This summer another child on powerful drugs also threatened to kill himself, his mother called Help Me Howard, what happened after that? Tonight here is Patrick Fraser with a story we call a mothers hope.
WSVN -- When I first met Anthony he was not the child who had been described to me.
Hope Estrada, Anthony's Mother: "I've been told by some doctors in Key West that I'm raising the next Charles Manson, OK?"
One doctor said he was mentally retarded, another said he was bi-polar. He has been sent to psychiatric hospitals, slapped in straight jackets and given mind altering drugs. The affect of it all on an 8-year-old is not surprising.
Hope Estrada: "The other day when he was Baker Acted and they restrained him, he told me, 'Mom, I want to kill myself, I don't want to live like this, I can't control myself.'"
Hope says she was told a few weeks ago, by the State of Florida the best solution is to give up on Anthony.
Hope Estrada: "Basically I've been told, you know, move on with your life, and give Anthony to the state and let him become a ward of the state. I'm not going to do that, I refuse to give in."
And so, after contacting dozens of people from the president on down she called Help Me Howard and we knew this case required an expert.
Howard Finkelstein: "I knew that Anthony needed a lawyer that was an expert in both DCF how kids were treated medications, mental health issues and the only person that came to mind was the best person was Andrea Moore."
Andrea Moore, a noted child advocate, agreed to take Anthony's case for free. It took weeks of her time, but as she met with Hope and Anthony, interviewed specialists and dug through his medical records, many things bothered her.
Andrea Moore, Child Advocate: "They didn't know his IQ. This is the place he's been three times in three years, they didn't know his IQ, and he's very smart, yet some of the paperwork that I saw, said he was mentally retarded. The conflicting information in the records tells me that people didn't really carefully read the records."
The heavy doses of three mind altering drugs used on adults troubled Andrea, even more frightening she believes Anthony may not have even needed those drugs.
Andrea Moore: "I started to wonder if we were dealing with a head injury, as opposed to a psychiatric, purely psychiatric situation."
Turns out Andrea was right, Anthony did have a prior head injury. He fell and fractured his skull when he was eight months old, but he had never had a brain scan, instead private doctors hired by the state concluded he had psychiatric problems.
Patrick Fraser: "Why did it take you to notice this, when he is under the care of a psychiatrist, and has seen more doctors then you and I have probably seen in our lives combined? Why did it take you coming in from the outside to see that?"
Andrea Moore: "This is a terrible question Patrick."
Andrea is modest and polite, Howard is blunt.
Howard Finkelstein: "They had diagnosed him wrong, they treated him wrong, and as a result of the misdiagnosis and mistreatment, I believe they were making him worse."
With DCF's help, Andrea got Anthony off the powerful drugs and moved from the psychiatric hospital. To Jackson Memorial's highly touted brain injury center.
Patrick Fraser: "Good to see you my man."
Today Anthony is getting the evaluations Andrea thinks he needs, and our investigation is bringing changes. When he was put in one psychiatric hospital Hope was forced to sign this letter that says if Hope has complaints about treatment or abuse she would not report it to DCF.
Jacqui Colyer, DCF Regional Director: "That I think is what keeps DCF on its feet."
When DCF saw the document they moved quickly.
Jacqui Colyer: "We have spoken with all of our provider agencies just to let them know that they can not tell families when to call or not to call us, because that is a part of their rights."
DCF also applauded Hope for fighting so hard for her son, but they say she did misunderstand one thing, that the state would have only taken custody of Anthony temporarily, not permanently, but thing is indisputable without Hope, Anthony was doomed.
And of course Hope and Anthony could not have done it without Andrea Moore.
Howard Finkelstein: "Andrea gave us her time her energy and her expertise and she fought along with Hope to save Anthony, you and I, we were just along for the ride."
Got to see a little boy get a chance to just be a normal little boy.
Hope to Patrick: "Thank you. God bless you, because if it wasn't for you, or Andrea, or Howard, my son would not get the help he needs Patrick, you are my guardian angel. I swear to God you are Anthony's guardian angel and I owe you so much for this, I really really do."
Finally Hope is wrong, Anthony has hope because of his mother's hope
Patrick told me Anthony called him the other day and said he would really like to get a dog to make sure Patrick didn't forget Anthony. faxed a picture of the kind of dog he wants he is getting better all right.