Last night, I was at the kitchen table, eating a small container of leftover pasta with pesto that I had made for dinner at 3:00pm and left on a warming tray for my helpers to serve for dinner while I worked from 4:00 - 7:30 teaching karate. Let me explain. I teach four nights a week. In order to do so, I have a team of kind, smart, funny, beautiful, caring, logical, intuitive helpers that I am able to hire with a budget through DDS here in Connecticut. They are well paid, well fed (ha ha) and part of the fabric our our lives. Without them, I would never leave the house. No joke. I trust them with my daughters' psyches, well being, health and their very lives.
At 8:41pm, my 26 year old with severe autism walked over and stood in front of me. She usually brushes her teeth and tucks herself into bed when she feels tired. Last night was different. She took my hand. Which told me she needed something. I walked with her to the bedroom she shares with her sister. I waited. She took my hand and looked at me. Not a word. She speaks with prompting. Short 2 or 3 word sentences. I looked at what she was wearing and knew right away what she needed. She got a pair of black sweatpants with a drawstring waist for Christmas. She needed me to tie a bow in the dangling strings. I tied them. She got into bed. Content. Now, I know well enough never to buy pants with a drawstring. She wears yoga pants that do NOT need to be tied. She can not tie and frankly, I don't give two poops that she can not tie. I saw that goal on her IEP for 17 years. It's enough. But the person who bought her the sweatpants did not take into account that Mia does not tie, and that the untied strings would bother her. And that someone would need to help her. Me. Her Mom. It was a simple moment that brought the crushing weight of the responsibility I bear and that so many of our readers bear. I had just read the story below. What of those children without Mom to know what they need. Or worse, monsters wearing the mask of staff, caretakers. But monsters down to their souls:
The story will sicken you. Scare you. More that any of us is already sick and scared. And we are. Sick of being ignored. Scared of dying and leaving our children behind. Because there will always be strings to tie. And monsters in masks. Always.
Twenty Chester County Devereux staffers allegedly harmed children — or kept quiet about the abuse — since 2018. The company says it's continuing its reforms.
When a 16-year-old with severe autism ran naked into the living room of his residential facility at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s campus in West Chester one early evening in September, a staffer turned off the lights and advanced on the boy.
Four times the man punched the teenager — in his head, his ribs, his groin. The boy, who is nonverbal, put up his hands to try to block the blows.
After the teen broke free and fled, the staffer, Olasoji Satimehin, turned the lights back on, looked up at a surveillance camera, then calmly sat down, according to a criminal complaint. Police say he did not know the camera was equipped with night vision.
Satimehin’s October arrest was the most recent in a string of criminal cases at Devereux.
Since July 2018, prosecutors have charged 20 staffers in connection with alleged physical abuse of 18 different children at Devereux’s three residential campuses in Chester County: Leo Kanner in West Chester, Brandywine in Glenmoore, and Mapleton in Malvern, according to an Inquirer review of court records.