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Chapter 21

Mary knew there were still hurdles ahead, but Robby’s placement in a psychiatric facility began to look likely.

The director of the Central University Behavioral Health Center had listened carefully to Robby’s story. His facility was one of the best in the statewide network of inpatient psychiatric hospitals for children and adolescents.

He seemed willing to admit a young boy charged with a violent crime into a unit of vulnerable younger children. Robby’s lack of a juvenile record and previous behavior reports convinced him. The treatment team wanted to address Robby’s traumatic experiences with his parents, feelings of abandonment, self-esteem, self-soothing and social skills. Mary couldn’t be happier. It was exactly what she had hoped for. The more cooperative the facility, the more likely the other parties would accept the plan, including the victim, Officer Bowman, and Judge Kristin Dahlen.

The case brought national levels of attention and an unusual disposition would put Kristin on everybody’s radar screen. But Mary knew this would be Robby’s best chance for rehabilitation. The intense emphasis on his trauma and relationships at home was paramount. The bullying issue was just the tip of that iceberg.

Mary knew her meeting today with Robby would be tough. She couldn’t give him a definite answer. Psychiatric facility, juvenile jail or prison? They would have to talk it out and be prepared for whatever happened.

All those thoughts whirled through her head as she walked through the flowered portal framing the entrance to the stark, concrete detention center. The walkway reminded her of a similar one at her grandparents’ seaside home in Sicily. Still, she imagined that parents walking under the flowering vines derived some hope–that all was not over, dead, or rotten in their child’s life.

The duty officer buzzed Mary through the secure door and into master control. She was Mary’s favorite, a tall, middle-aged black woman who grew up on the streets of south St. Petersburg. She knew the lives of many of the kids in detention firsthand, their cousins and their grandparents.

“Good morning, Dr. Visconti. Who are you here to see today?”

“I’m back to see Robby.”

“He’s a nice boy, real polite. Not a bit of trouble. Wish all the kids were like that.”

Mary noticed the soft white cast on Officer Hann’s arm. “I’m sorry about your arm. Is it healing well?”

“Takes time, Doc, takes time. My arm will be healed long before those poor kids are, I think. Thanks for asking. Are you seeing Robby on the unit or in the interview room?”

“The interview room. We have some tough issues to discuss.”

Robby smiled broadly when he saw Mary seated, waiting for him. She was touched by his smile. She knew he considered her a life raft in tumbling seas.

“Hi. Is everything okay?” he asked.

He’s always ready for the worst, she thought. Always trying to manage the next disaster. Of course he was worried about what could happen to him. Would he be spending the rest of his life in an adult prison?

“Hi, yourself. I want to review what some of the treatment options are at this point. You were at the big meeting. Did you understand what we were talking about?”

“I heard you talk about a psychiatric hospital. Do you think I’m crazy?”

“I don’t think that you are crazy like you hear voices or can’t tell what’s real or not real. I think that you’ve been through a lot in your life and the minor bullying was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The hospital will help you put things back together, so you don’t have to worry about losing control like that again and the court will be sure that you aren’t a risk to the community.”

“It’s hard to believe that I’m a risk to the community. I have more community service badges than anyone in my troop,” he replied as tears filled his eyes.

“I know, but something very bad happened at your middle school. You are going to have to take ownership of your behavior. The hospital will help you get to the real issues. The juvenile program doesn’t have the ability to do that type of intense family work. We’ll have to see what the attorneys can work out and bring it back before the judge. It looks like a bed will be available soon. I’m not sure we’ll have an answer then, but I sure hope so.”

Robby leaned back in his chair, then put his head down on the table. The room was small, the lighting poor and most of the furniture knocked up and stained. The back wall was all windows so the officers in master control could observe.

“I’m scared,” he mumbled into the crook of his arm.

“I’ll bet you are. Most people have feelings of fear and anxiety in this type of situation. You’re handling it well. Tell me what’s the scariest part for you.”

“I’m afraid of being locked up with crazy people. I’m afraid that Grandma will give up on me. I’m afraid that I’ll be like my mother. I would be afraid that I would turn out like my dad, but I don’t know who he is.” He began to sob.

Mary stared at him, wishing she could comfort him. He was clearly depressed, anxious and frightened. Most kids, most people, would be in this situation. Providing a pathway out was going to help him.

“The kids will be a lot like you, Robby. Your grandmother is not going to give up on you. She’s told you that over and over. She’s convinced you’re going to get through this situation and be stronger in the end. She loves you, she believes in you and she wants you home with her when you are all better.”

She paused to let him absorb the information. The tears subsided a bit.

“You are yourself. No one else. Genes are not your destiny. Think of everything that you’ve accomplished so far with the scouts,”

Robby looked up. “It could be worse, I know. At least, I want to go home again someday. I mean, I love my home. I’ve never run away.”

Mary was a bit lost. “What does that mean?”

“Do you know a girl named Mikayla?” Robby asked quietly.

“Yes, I do,” Mary answered slowly.

“Well, listen to what I heard yesterday.” Robby carefully repeated what he’d heard in the cafeteria.

Mary was careful to keep the terror from showing on her face. “Thanks for letting me know about Mikayla, Robby. That was the right thing to do.”

As she made her way out of the center, all Mary could think of was that tomorrow was Mikayla’s due-out date.

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