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Fort Hood Reeling From Four Apparent Suicides In Past Weekend

If the four deaths were suicides, the number of 2010 suicides at Fort Hood will have risen to 18.

Four soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas died over the week. In all four cases, it appears the soldiers, all decorated veterans from the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, took their own lives, according to Christopher Haug, a Fort Hood spokesman.

If confirmed as suicides, it would be on top of 14 other suicides on the base this year. Base officials called a news conference for Wednesday afternoon to discuss the problem of suicides at the huge base in central Texas.

“Every one of these is tragic,” said Maj. Gen. William Grimsley, the post commander. “It’s personally and professionally frustrating as a leader.”

Grimsley did not announce any major action or response during the news conference. “I don’t think there is a simple answer,” he said.

The recent spate of incidents, began Friday Sept. 24 when the body of Pvt. Antonio E. Heath, 24, of Warren, New York, was found in Temple, Texas, the victim of a gunshot wound. Heath was deployed to Iraq for most of 2009 and earned a number of medals including the Army Commendation Medal.

The next day, Master Sgt. Baldemar Gonzales, 39, of Victoria, Texas was found dead in his residence on Fort Hood. During his service he had fought in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. During that time he earned a Bronze Star, a Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, an Army Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters as well as numerous other decorations.

That same day the body of Sgt. Timothy Ryan Rinella, 29, of Chester, Virginia, was found in his home in Copperas Cove, just outside of Fort Hood. He had an “apparent gunshot wound,” according to information released by Fort Hood.

Rinella served three tours of duty in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan.

And then on Sunday, Sgt. Michael F. Franklin and his wife, Jessie, were found dead of apparent gunshot wounds in their home on the post. The case is being investigated as a murder-suicide. They were the parents of a 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. Franklin served two tours of duty in Iraq in just the past four years, earning an Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters and several other decorations.

The entire U.S, military has been focused for years on trying to stop or reduce suicides among service members. At times some have speculated that troops wouldn’t seek help for emotional or mental problems because it would stigmatize them in the eyes of their comrades in arms and their commanders.

But that didn’t always appear to be the case at Fort Hood this past weekend.

“Early indications are, in at least two of the cases, and I can’t speak definitively about the others, a couple had been in counseling for certain things,” Grimsley said.

He said the pace of Army operations, caused in large part by fighting two wars simultaneously over many years, may be one “stresser” leading to more suicides.

“We are certainly a busier force as we’ve ever been in my career, you put those and the other stressors of life, with finances and relationships and everything else, it’s a tough life. It is a tough life,” he said.

It’s yet more violence for Fort Hood, which was the site of the worst shooting on an American military base in decades. On November 5 of last year, a gunman opened fire in a building on the post, killing 12 people and injuring dozens of others. Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist was shot and paralyzed by police who responded to the incident and is facing murder charges in the case.

Grimsley doesn’t see a link between the the suicides and the shooting last year. “I don’t draw a correlation, it’s clearly in our respective psyches and will be for life. But so are all of the other things that have gone on here.”

The first testimony in Hasan’s pre-trial hearing is set to start in two weeks.

Missing Student’s Parents Warn Of Perils Of Depression

Standing beside a freshly planted red maple at Virginia Commonwealth University honoring their son, the parents of missing VCU exchange student Jonathan S. Dorey yesterday celebrated the 22-year-old as a free spirit who likely perished in the throes of depression.

The combination of a pile of clothes, a half-empty bottle of gin, and a sighting of the young man swimming nearby in the frigid James River”leads us to believe that Jonny died of a suicide or a reckless act as the result of a mental breakdown,” Debbie Dorey said.

Their voices steady but anguished, Dorey and her husband, Alan, read from prepared statements about their son’s exuberant life. But they pleaded, too, with families everywhere to mind the moods and sometimes impenetrable silences of their children.

“Jonny was an intelligent, moody and complex young man. We love him dearly. We think Jonny was born with a sadness gene,” Debbie Dorey said. The family lives in Guernsey, an island in the English Channel.

The couple thanked the hundreds of people — especially VCU police and the FBI — who have searched tirelessly for Dorey’s body or supplied bits of evidence about his disappearance and possible whereabouts.

But the truth, they said, is that they do not expect Jonny’s remains ever will be found.

A witness saw a man roughly fitting Dorey’s description swimming in the James River the afternoon of March 2, the day he disappeared and a day when temperatures hovered in the mid-30s. Dorey’s belongings, including a backpack, were located weeks later near Rocketts Landing.

Speaking out for the first time, the couple sought to bring public attention to the plight of families dealing with depression. They also revealed details of Dorey’s life, breaking a silence and distance from public attention that they feared might impede the search for their son.

VCU police chief John Venuti said the investigation into Dorey’s disappearance continues and that he is hopeful more evidence will turn up about what may have happened.

The couple joined with Venuti, school friends of Jonny’s, and high-ranking VCU officials, including President Michael Rao and his wife, Monica, to plant the maple just before lunchtime yesterday in the heart of the VCU campus off Main Street.

“It’s appropriate because we have family in Canada,” said Alan Dorey, 54, a horticulturist who works with an international shipping firm specializing in flowering clematis.

Jonny planned to become a geographer and was known at VCU for long mountain bike rides and his outgoing personality.

He was the solid one, the organizer, the “life and soul of the group,” his mother said.

But he also was subject to periods of hardened silence, which friends and family never recognized as possibly fatal.

“So our message is particularly to young men — but to all people: Please talk about your feelings, share things, do not bottle it up. And, if possible, get professional and confidential help,” Debbie Dorey said.

Alan Dorey described a son who was complex and guided by his own unconventional path.

“He was either flat-out or flat out,” Alan Doreysaid. “Flat-out cycling or playing football or lying flat out in front of the TV or PlayStation.”

A younger brother, Simon, arranged a memorial service earlier this month in Guernsey overlooking a spot called Richmond Beach. The celebration ended with a song: “Johnny Make Believe” by Golden Earring.

“Farewell, cruel world, all you pretty girls; don’t send me flowers, hold me in your dreams.”

Ways Panic Attack Sufferers Use Avoidance To Prevent Attacks

Taken from which is located    HERE.

People who live with panic attack disorder know just how frustrating and scary they can be. While the rational part of our minds tell us that it will all be okay, the irrational side brought on by the symptoms makes us feel as if we are going to die. To say the attacks are unpleasant would be a gross understatement. It is little surprise that those who suffer from panic disorder begin using avoidance as a way to keep attacks at bay.

Panic attacks often have similar triggers that many people report. Driving over bridges, driving at night, next to a semi and alone are all mentioned. Grocery stores, dining out and other public places are a few more triggers that are often blamed. Although panic attacks can happen at any time without any particular reason they are generally traceable to one specific trigger. This is why so many develop avoidance issues.

The grocery store in general and supercenters in particular are high on the list of what brings on attacks. People who suffer from panic disorder may stop shopping in the larger stores and pay more at small ones which are more pricey but “safe”. There are those who stop shopping altogether and rely on a friend or family member to bring them the necessities.

Going out to eat can be especially uncomfortable for the sufferer as attacks usually make it feel as if your throat is closing up. That makes it hard or impossible to swallow food and drinks. Which defeats the purpose of dining out and could result in the person having to leave the establishment to make the attack stop. This may lead the person to avoid dining out due to the embarrassment they feel upon having to leave as well as a desire to not have an attack.

In some cases the panic attacks are so frequent and severe that the one suffering from them will stop driving anywhere, refuse to go in crowded public places and sometimes not even leave their home. The impact they have a on person’s life can be very damaging making memories of a “normal” life just that, memories. Faced with a choice of going places or doing things that they know might cause an attack or staying home and not having one many will choose the latter.

Panic attacks can happen only once in a person’s life, or they could have several each day. The ones who are suffering the more chronic kind will generally be the ones to start using avoidance behavior. Certain doctor prescribed medications and sometimes therapy can be helpful in getting panic disorder to a more manageable level, but not always. Thus, patients begin using avoidance in attempts to ward off future panic attacks.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Coming Home Not An Easy Transition

Taken from hcnonline  which is located    HERE.

For James Jones, a simple trip to the mall can be an experience.

“You are constantly eyeballing everything, looking at everything around you, and people don’t quite understand because they haven’t been in that situation,” Jones said.

Marine James Jones and wife, Elizabeth, relax in their backyard with pets.

For Jones, a U.S. Marine, “that situation” is a deployment the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, where he served in 2007 and 2009.

Now that he is back in civilian life, Jones, a firefighter with Missouri City Fire and Rescue Services who enlisted in the Marines right out of high school, finds himself constantly scanning the area around him as if he were still in the Middle East.

“Day to day over there, you never know what will happen at any moment, you are in survival mode and it is kind of tough to transition from being on active duty to just being a regular guy back in the civilian world,” Jones said.

“There is not a switch in the back of your head, that says ‘deployed,’ ‘not deployed.’ That switch does not exist,” Jones said.

Leaving a war zone under constant threat and returning to a laid-back lifestyle requires a period of adjustment, according to the 23-year-old Marine.

“For anyone who has been deployed and come back, just driving down the road can be a feat in the first couple of weeks, if not months,” Jones said.

For the Fort Bend County veterans who return to civilian life, changes are abound. From post-traumatic stress disorder to copying with a disablities, veterans are looking for ways to cope.


According to Dr. Drew Helmer, with the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, the VA has seen more than 9,000 returning Afghanistan and Iraq veterans since 2002.

According to Helmer, one in six veterans has “a diagnosable problem” with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“Short of a diagnosis, we see a lot of people who have challenges with reintegrating into civilian society and sometimes that is because they have symptoms like PTSD, but they are not quite severe enough to meet the diagnostic criteria,” Helmer said.

Returning veterans are encouraged to go through a half-day post-deployment clinic and receive extensive assessments.

“We sit down and talk to every person independently to see what is going on in their minds and with their emotions,” Helmer said.

According to Helmer, veterans most likely to develop PTSD have been shown to be people who have had previous traumatic experiences before being deployed, a history of mental health problems or poor social support systems, according to the VA clinician.

Dr. Laura Marsh, a professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston has treated vets suffering from a number of mental health issues, chief among them, problems with substance abuse, mood disorders and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“You can have post-traumatic feelings and it isn’t necessarily a disorder, and there are many people like that. What makes it a disorder is when symptoms become disabling or extremely distressing,” Marsh said.

Marsh advises veterans experiencing troubling symptoms to seek help.

“People think that they will be embarrassed, but it is not that uncommon to get help and it is better to feel better,” Marsh said.

The Challenges of Female Veterans

Iraq veteran Brooke Lewis relaxes with her infant daughter following return from deployment.

For Brooke Lewis, watching war movies has been the hardest adjustment after serving on a military intelligence team in Iraq for five years.

“Just the sounds can trigger a moment when there were bullets flying and we were pushing combatants in Falujjah and in moments like that you think, am I going to survive this,” Lewis said.

The 5-foot, 3-inch tall soldier, and only female in her military unit, looks back on her days in combat as a privilege to serve her country.

Despite being charged with the duty of confirming the identities of dead bodies of opposing Al Queda troops, Lewis said she has had few challenges.

She acknowledges the emotional baggage that many in the military carry and admits to having had a few flashbacks, but said she has been able to “compartmentalize” her feelings.

According to Pamela Swope, manager of Women Veterans Health, about 26 percent of female veterans at the Houston VA feel the need to seek help in reintegrating into society.

a ‘New Normal’

Life for Steven Schulz changed forever on April 19, 2005, when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a military bomb outside of Fallujah.

A former Marine corporal, Schulz is one of the thousands of returning veterans who sustained severe injuries during active combat.

According to the DeBakey Medical Center, between April 2007 and September 2010, the center has treated 711 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for mild to moderate traumatic brain injuries. Seventeen veterans had severe injuries.

Schulz’ injury impacted the frontal lobe of his brain, left him paralyzed on one side and robbed him of vision in one eye.

“His greatest challenge has been adapting to a ‘new normal,’” said his mother, Debbie Schulz.

Schulz, now 26, is readapting to regular life and has learned to walk again and adapt to his physical limitations.

Many disabled soldiers with similar injuries have not fared as well and suffered problems with depression.

Reaching Out for Help

Efraim Villagomez, commander for the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 223 in Rosenberg, said his organization has had difficulty encouraging younger Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans to seek help.

“Many feel that what happens over there, stays over there, and it is between them and God,” Villagomez said.

Maj. Adam Collett, executive officer of Rear Detachment for the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, called the “culture of self-sufficiency and wanting to always be strong,” a dynamic of the military that helps soldiers succeedl in a variety of missions around the world. But back home, if taken to the extreme, it can be unhealthy.

He encourages members of the military to seek help.

“Asking for help is an act of strength, it is not an act of weakness,” Collett said.

Unanswered?: Streams In The Desert, September 26th, 2010

“Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily” Luke 18:6-7

God’s seasons are not at your beck. If the first stroke of the flint doth not bring forth the fire, you must strike again. God will hear prayer, but He may not answer it at the time which we in our minds have appointed; He will reveal Himself to our seeking hearts, but not just when and where we have settled in our own expectations. Hence the need of perseverance and importunity in supplication.

In the days of flint and steel and brimstone matches we had to strike and strike again, dozens of times, before we could get a spark to live in the tinder; and we were thankful enough if we succeeded at last.

Shall we not be as persevering and hopeful as to heavenly things? We have more certainty of success in this business than we had with our flint and steel, for we have God’s promises at our back.

Never let us despair. God’s time for mercy will come; yea, it has come, if our time for believing has arrived. Ask in faith nothing wavering; but never cease from petitioning because the King delays to reply. Strike the steel again. Make the sparks fly and have your tinder ready; you will get a light before long. –C. H. Spurgeon

I do not believe that there is such a thing in the history of God’s kingdom as a right prayer offered in a right spirit that is forever left unanswered.  –Theodore L. Cuyler

Praise & Worship: September 25th, 2010

Song List

1.  I Will Lift My Eyes-  Bebo Norman

2.  Listen To Our Hearts- Steven Curtis Chapman & Geoff Moore

3.  Most Of All-  Glenn Kaiser

4.  A Testimony-  Rodnie Bryant And CCMC

5.  Once And For All-  Whiteheart

6.  No One Knows My Heart-  Susan Ashton

7.  Sanctus Real-  Forgiven

8.  Breathe On Me-  Darlene Zschech

9.  Help All The Hurting People-  Erick Nelson & Michelle Pillar

10.  Beautiful One-  Tim Hughes

11.  Oh The Deep, Deep, Love Of Jesus-  Joanne Hogg/Iona

Prayer Requests & Praise Reports, September 24th, 2010

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship
as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.


New Prayer Requests

Allan-  My friend’s brother will have a treatment for a tumor on his kidney in October.  Please pray it succeeds as his other kidney is non functional.

Allan-  Please pray for Rachel as she is battling bipolar disorder. Pray also for her parents who are fighting battles of their own.
Allan- Please pray for Natalie Tan as she has had a setback in her battle with her eating disorder.

Shaun Sells- Hi E – Thought I would give you a quick update. The group has slowly shrunk over the summer, last time we met there were only 5 of us. We are trying to regroup and refocus. Looking for good ideas and praying for someone else to lead it so the group can meet more than once a month.

Allan-  A woman e-mailed me tonight asking for prayer. She is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. She will be seeing someone tomorrow to apply for emergency Medicaid. She has been without insurance for two years. Please pray for her.

Past Prayer Requests

Set Free-  I appreciate that you still have our request for a building. Some opportunities have been presented to us but nothing yet. We did move out from our previous location but we are trusting and believing God for a place of our own hopefully before the year is out.

Mom-  Thank you for keeping my request on your prayer list. Our son is doing better and is now able to work and is hoping to return to school next semester.

He’s been through different combinations of medications and we are hopeful that the current combinations will work for him in the long term.

He is still discouraged and is beating himself up for disenrolling from school. We try to encourage him, but he doesn’t receive it.. We are praying that God would allow him to live a rewarding life and that he see God’s hand in all this the last 5 months. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Allan- My sister’s husband is improving although still in a coma after two months.  Please pray that he will soon be weaned from his respirator and that he will have a miraculous recovery. Pray also for my sister and three adult children.

Allan-  Dorci has had surgery to remove a cyst from her spine.  Please pray that God would allow her to heal quickly and completely.

Long Term Prayer Requests

Angela-  Keep Angela in prayer as she continues on her road of recovery from Anorexia.

Okie Preacher-  Battling unknown physical problems and depression.  “I have a physical problem that the doctors have not been able to identify. It has been characterized by severe muscle pain and weakness, joint pain, fatigue, shortage of breath, dizziness, difficulty swallowing, and coughing fits that almost cause me to pass out.”

White Horses- Prayer for anxious thoughts and worrying.

Shaun Sells-  Keep Shaun in prayer for wisdom as he seeks to continue his ministry to those with mental illness in his church.

Rachel-  Continued prayer as she struggles with bi-polar disorder.

Allan-  Our nephew’s wife has M.S.

PK Sweet-  please pray for a bipolar son with brain damage also…that he may know and love and follow Christ, be free of all addictions and self destructive behavior, get the help he needs and be @ peace…also that God help us all in the family to be filled with the Spirit and bear luscious fruit, and be filled with joy rather than despair

God’s Word: Psalm 139:17

Parent’s Heartbreaking Choice: Do They Give Up Their Adopted Seven Year Old Daughter?

Lori and Craig Gertz, of Long Grove, with their children Jonah, 11, and Talia, 5, in the bedroom of daughter Ellie, 7. Since June, Ellie has lived with a foster family nearly 2,000 miles away

Taken from the Chicago Tribune which is located   HERE.

It has been almost three months since Ellie left, but her mother can’t quite muster the energy to clear out her 7-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

“I can’t get rid of everything,” sighed Lori Gertz, surveying the perfect princess paradise, with its embroidered quilt, painted flowers and small dinette set. “I’m still grieving.”

Ellie is now living with another family in Washington — 1,700 miles away from her comfortable Long Grove home, where she lived with her parents, two siblings and four dogs.

Despite outward appearances, life was anything but idyllic. Even the slightest frustration — not getting to watch a video or the right color cereal bowl — could send Ellie into an uncontrollable rage, putting everyone’s safety at risk, especially 5-year-old Talia.

After Ellie endured dozens of clinicians and multiple hospitalizations, the Gertzes came to the sad realization that their daughter would never be able to function in the family constellation. They faced a wrenching dilemma: Do they give up their daughter to protect everyone else?

Lori Gertz told of the family’s struggle in a blog, and she and her husband, Craig, 45, shared their story with the Tribune in an effort to help other families by raising awareness and calling for more resources for children with mental illness.

Eight years ago, giving up their daughter would have been unfathomable. The Gertzes had one son — Jonah, then almost 4 — and longed to have more children, but, after seven miscarriages and Lori Gertz nearing 40, the window was closing. So they turned to adoption.

Eventually, a 34-year-old New Jersey woman chose them from an online site, just eight weeks before her due date. On Jan. 5, 2003, Lori Gertz accompanied the birth mother into the delivery room. She was the first one to hold and feed the 8-pound newborn.

“No one could have felt luckier and more joyful than us,” Lori Gertz said. “We have beautiful photos of that day … proof of a mother doing only what was in the best interest of her child. I wish she had that presence of mind when Ellie was in utero.”

An adoption that ends badly can draw headlines. A Tennessee woman made international news by putting a 7-year-old adopted son, alone, on a flight back to Russia earlier this year.

But little data exist about disrupted adoptions, especially private ones. About 7 percent of adoptions in Illinois’ child welfare system will disrupt before the child becomes an adult, according to the Department of Children and Family Services. Roughly half are because of the death of a parent, and the rest mostly due to problems with the child.

The fact is there’s little support available for emotionally damaged children — even for families like the Gertzes, with money and connections. Craig is a lawyer. Lori, a marketing specialist. They live in one of the most rarefied ZIP codes — with some of the best schools and health care — in the nation. They know people. They could fix this.

Almost from the beginning, Ellie could not be soothed, sometimes screaming for hours, nonstop. Nothing worked — not the carriage, the sling, the dark, the light, lying on her back or her belly. She could not tolerate the car seat, thrashing so violently that Lori Gertz had to hire a baby sitter just to take Jonah to school. During the next few years, they would go through eight nannies — one quitting on the first day.

“Any period of calm we ever had was always interrupted as soon as she heard the word ‘no,'” Lori Gertz said. “It could be no to something she had asked for and been refused a hundred times — like a horse — but it would send her over the edge.”

When she was just 9 months, the couple started seeking answers, enrolling in a “fussy baby” clinic. Over the next six years, their quest would wend through the offices of neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, pediatricians, occupational therapists and allergists.

Some dismissed the tantrums as a phase, while another suspected child abuse. Not one mentioned substance or alcohol abuse, Lori Gertz said.

In 2005, it took Ellie pushing Lori Gertz — now eight months pregnant with Talia — down a flight of stairs for others to recognize this wasn’t about the “terrible twos” or bad parenting. This was something that could not have been prevented by the Gertzes.

When they met Ellie’s birth mother, she revealed few habits beyond bingo and cigarettes, and nothing in her pristine medical records suggested otherwise.

Only after the woman’s brother started e-mailing the Gertzes did they discover other vices. She began drinking and smoking pot in her teens, graduating to PCP, then crack cocaine, a routine she continued during her first trimester. “I know she was clean for the remainder of her pregnancy because she was in jail,” wrote the brother.

It was Dr. Ira Chasnoff who diagnosed Ellie, now almost 3, with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD.

The prenatal exposure wreaks neurological havoc, resulting in poor judgment and impulsivity, explained the developmental pediatrician.

But Ellie’s meltdowns “were at the extreme end of what we see,” Chasnoff said.

Ellie’s IQ was above average, but timeouts or loss of privileges are useless against the physiology of the brain, often elevating frustration levels and making the situation worse, Chasnoff said.

“There are so many kids like this,” he explained. “The only difference is that the Gertzes are willing to be public.”

Less than two weeks later, Lori and Craig — who is also adopted — received more unsettling news: Ellie’s birth mother had committed suicide. They felt sad for their daughter, but also cheated that they would never get to fill in all the blanks.

“In time, I’d come to see her as an addict, but her legacy went well beyond the damage she did to Ellie,” Lori Gertz wrote on her blog. “It had now affected everyone in our family.”

For preschool, Ellie was placed in special education. But supports — such as social workers and full-time aides — didn’t seem to work. Neither did an arsenal of anti-psychotic drugs.

Eventually, she was sent to a therapeutic day school, but whether classroom, playground or restaurant, it was Lori Gertz who most often had to carry out a kicking, hitting, spitting child.

It wasn’t all bleak. There were Kodak moments — Ellie performing at a dance recital or beaming as she learned to ride a two-wheeler. But these were brief respites. Ellie turned her sister, Talia, into a frequent target, slamming her head against a wall or pummeling her like a punching bag, said medical records.

Since fall 2009, Ellie talked about suicide and was hospitalized psychiatrically four times. Bipolar disorder was now added to her burgeoning medical history, but her case continued to vex mental health professionals.

Victoria Lavigne, a Northfield-based psychologist, had followed Ellie since she was 4.

“The patient’s mental illness has shown a deteriorating course,” Lavigne wrote in December. “At this point, residential treatment is strongly recommended as the best course of action.”

Others concurred, including this ominous warning from a Chicago neuropsychologist. “She is at great risk of causing a tragic, irrevocable event (such as harming someone else or killing herself).”

By now, the Gertzes were spending about $40,000 a year for her care, but nothing prepared them for the cost of residential placement, which can top $100,000 annually.

Even if the Gertzes had won the lottery, they still faced a major hurdle. Where could Ellie go? Almost no one was willing to take a 7-year-old.

“I started to feel hopeless … like every door was closing in my face,” Lori Gertz said.

“It’s horrible that we live in a society where relinquishing custody is the only alternative for parents who want to keep everyone safe,” said Susan Resko, director of the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation.

In May, something happened that forced a resolution: Ellie reported to teachers that her mother was beating her. DCFS determined the allegations did not merit an investigation, said a spokesman. Still, for four days Lori Gertz was a wreck, fearing authorities might take her other children.

She reached out to a therapist in Washington who had suggested a foster family trained in caring for FASD kids. A year earlier, Lori Gertz had rejected the offer; now she was shakily dialing the number.

Officially, the arrangement is called a third-party guardianship, paid for by the Gertzes, giving the new couple full control over their daughter’s upbringing — including education and health care — for up to 365 days. At the end of the year, both families will decide if it’s in Ellie’s best interest for her new guardians to adopt her, Craig Gertz said.

The details have yet to be ironed out. “If she attached to them, we wouldn’t pull her away,” Lori Gertz said. “From the beginning, our mission was to give her a second chance at being part of a functional family.”

Therapists said taking Ellie to Washington could create abandonment issues, so on a sunny June day, Craig Gertz brought Ellie to O’Hare International Airport, where she met her foster parents.

“It was a quick handoff at the gate, with very little emotionality,” he said. “I was the only one who could pull that off.”

The reports back from Washington are generally positive. Ellie likes being the baby in a much larger clan. The foster family, through the Gertzes, declined to be interviewed.

The Gertzes are adjusting. They went on a camping trip, something that couldn’t have happened last summer. And, for the first time in years, 11-year-old Jonah invited friends over.

In the basement, “Talia and Ellie” is still scrawled across the blackboard, a vestige of a game. “She was my playmate,” said Talia. “But I also got hitted a lot.”

After seven years, though, old habits die hard. Sometimes, Lori Gertz said, “it’s too quiet.” She has yet to take her daughter’s photos off her Facebook page. And they all were wounded by one of Ellie’s recent letters.

She inquired only about the dogs.


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