Finding Jordan (with a little help from the New York Times!)
The parents of an abused child I know just sent their kid off to boot camp. Again.
If parents send their kid off to boot camp, is there a chance in hell of anyone else being able to get him back? Not really. But, having read the horror stories about boot camps and having been a "de facto" parent to this child, I still keep trying to get him back. And trying. And trying. And trying.
First I went to Child Protective Services. "PLEASE help me find this child! He is being held against his will." That was a bust.
"I'm sorry," they said. "There's nothing we can do. Parents have the right to do that. And you must have concrete proof that the child is being PHYSICALLY abused." Scars from the last boot camp he went to won't do? "I'm afraid not."
Next, I called Children's Legal Services. They were helpful. "We only represent children but you could file for a guardianship." A guardianship! Great idea.
Then I talked to a lawyer about it. "Obtaining guardianship over a child is one of the most difficult legal processes there is. We're talking months -- if not years -- in court and thousands of dollars here."
So I called the Legal Aid Society to see if I could get free help. "We are only taking new clients on the fourth Friday of each month. From 9 to 11 am." Those guys must be swamped!
Next I e-mailed a "lawyer online" advice chat room. I called various pro bono organizations. I went to court and got the forms so I could do a guardianship filing myself and at the Alameda County Bar Association, they gave me a website, www.ezlegalfile.com, where I could fill the forms out on line. but even with help from www.courtinfo.ca.gov, The forms looked hopelessly complex. I spent days exploring all the legal avenues -- but still no Habeus Corpus. That's Latin for "You have the body". No I didn't.
If I could get a hold of Jordan for even one minute, he could sign a request to become an Emancipated Minor. But I have NO idea where he is.
Next I asked my retired social worker friend Sonya for advice. How can I beat this system? "Well, first you have to understand that abused children are like abused wives," she said. "They keep returning to the husband or parent because they still believe that, despite everything that has happened, the husband or parent still loves them or will change." Jordan thought that way too and look where it got him. Incommunicado at boot camp. (You can always tell a bad boot camp when the child is allowed no outside contact.)
We have a voice mail message from Jordan, dated August 29. "My father convinced me to come home last night to show me that he wanted to work things out and wouldn't hurt me any more. But when I got there, he secretly called the police so I ran away and then came back after the police had left. My father told me that he had only called them to tell them that I had arrived home safely. I told him that I trusted him. But then I heard my mother in the bathroom, calling the police on me again. As I ran out the back door, I could hear her screaming, `He's right there! He's right there! Get him! Get him!' while my father yelled, `Damn it! F*uck! He got away again.'" Jordan turned himself in to the police again two days later. A day after that he was "transported" to boot camp.
Back to my quest to spring Jordan from boot camp. I still hadn't given up. Next on the list: I consulted with several "Boot camp survivor" groups. They were quite supportive and gave me good advice -- but nothing that panned out.
So. What else could I do? I couldn't think of ANYTHING. The legal system had me over a barrel. Then Jordan's mother called. "Where is he?" we asked. She wouldn't tell us that but she did say, "Jordan will be away for another month then we'll go visit him to see if he's got his priorities straight." Say what? And what exactly do they plan to DO to him so that his priorities will be straight? Pull out his toe nails?
There seemed to be no way to rescue Jordan from boot camp -- or even to find out where he was. My daughter and I went to sleep last night totally frustrated and blocked.
Ah, but this morning I woke up with a totally wicked idea!! I'm gonna run an ad in the New York Times! Personals column. "If anybody knows what boot camp the parents of Jordan Zimmerman sent their son to this time, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org ." And I'll run this ad in the high school PTA e-tree and Craig's List too.
Jane, that's just plain mean.
But, hey. After observing George Bush and Karl Rove use "Fear and Smear" for the last four years, I've finally learned how to administer spin, circumvent the law and get down and dirty too!
Note: Jordan Zimmerman is not this boy's real name. I didn't use it. Why? I don't want to get sent off to boot camp too!
Sources: From Project No-Spank: http://www.nospank.net/boot.htm#labi
International Survivors Action Committee http://www.isaccorp.org/index.html
"Loving them to Death: The Story of one Teenager's Wilderness Experience" http://outside.away.com/magazine/1095/10f_deth.html.