Adoptive parents fail to realize the importance of family: Foster daughter's adoption ends in tragedy

Thursday, June 2, 2022
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Mental Health Mark and Tina Chase

As a teen, Tina Chase struggled with her mental health. She had several sessions with psychotherapists, twice underwent therapy involving horses, and spent two weeks at an intelligence wellness facility. At various points, she started crying, indicating that her depression had become so severe that she felt worthless and depressed. She also failed to graduate from college and lived with her mother. She has no close friends outside of her immediate family.

Becca Chase images, donated by her family Tina Chase, choked back with grief and anger, scaled the steps of the county courthouse. Her heart was broken. A promise to keep. Tina, her husband Mark and their daughter Becca had been waiting for the day when their foster child would become legally theirs. They might have imagined something similar to the ceremony on two floors above their heads: celebrations, balloons and boisterous laughter. Tina, Mark, and her quiet movements instead allowed her to pass through security, clear security, then turn left towards the golden bank. Tina thought about all the times Becca had been delayed in getting help as they rode up the elevator. It took Becca months to get her first mental health assessment. Years of advocating for mental health intensive services. Tina wondered what today would have looked like if Becca had received those items sooner. Tina held a pile of frames against her chest while the elevator took them up to the third level. Mark, Tina's best friend and Becca's Department of Child Services Family Case Manager, accompanied her to the courtroom. Becca was the only missing person.

"She was our Christmas present"

Tina and Mark met Tina, the girl that would be their daughter just a few days before Christmas 2016. A 9 year old girl arrived at their Fishers home with a bag full of everything she had. The pint-sized brunette, who was now only 25 years old, had already spent over half of her adult life in child welfare. Becca was not going to return home with her biological parents. The Indiana Department of Child Services wanted her to find a permanent place. Becca Chase pictures are displayed throughout Mark Chase's home. Tina and Mark were the agency's hope. Although they were not experienced in being foster parents, the Indiana couple vowed to adopt an older child. Tina said, "This is forever, Tina," as soon as she saw me with that tiny girl. Becca chattered enthusiastically about being there, bouncing along as she entered the home of the couple. She was soon referring to Tina, Mark and her Dad. Tina stated that she was Tina's Christmas present.

‘Ghosts, be gone’

Becca was a happy girl for six months at Chase Home. Becca joined the Girl Scout troop in her locality. As Tina and Mark watched space documentary with Mark, she cuddled up on the sofa watching them. They competed at the dinner table to make each other laugh harder. Tina told Becca that she had trouble falling asleep at night due to the fear of her bedroom being haunted. Becca lit a stick with sage and waved it around in the room. Others ghosts are more difficult to exorcise. Tina and Mark said that child welfare officers had informed them Becca was subject to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse prior to her moving in their home. As she became more comfortable, Becca shared more details. Tina stated that if there is any kind of abuse she has experienced before coming here. This is quite a bit to absorb and it explains much about her behaviour. Becca Chase speaks to Tina Chase regarding making homemade play dough. The Chase family provided this video Becca was not able to handle her emotions despite all of the joy that she brought Tina and Mark. Becca was quick to get frustrated. She was 9 years old and could read facial expressions, body language, and even manipulate others to her will. She screamed, hit, kicked and broke mirrors or toys when that failed. Time outs, time ins and grounding have all been tried. We also tried using various electronic devices as well as playtime with our friends. Tina shared her 2018 Facebook post. Tina said that she tried to write lines. It seems like nothing is working. Becca was sometimes threatening to flee. Perhaps they asked Becca to finish her homework. Perhaps they had asked her to do her homework. Becca ran for the door, no matter what it was that upset her. The same thing happened over and again. Tina blocked one of the doors, Mark blocked another, and then Becca fled to the garage. Mark stated that there were three exits, and then two more. Becca didn't venture far when she got out. Mark stated that the girl just ran down the street, looking back to see if Tina or Mark were following. The little girl would slow down until she caught up to one of them. They would then return together to their home. Tina said that she believes it was because people needed to tell her, "No, no. No, not here. We need you." 'We need you in our lives.'To ensure that Becca was a permanent part of their family, the couple hired an Adoption Attorney in the spring 2018.

The fight for mental health services

Tina and Mark also pushed for state officials to get Tina evaluated so that she would be able to receive the necessary mental health care. They didn't have to decide. Becca was still not adopted. Becca's adoption was not final. The child welfare agency was her legal guardian and could only decide what services she would receive. The first step was to get agency approval. The couple in Indiana faced a limited selection and lengthy waits to find providers that accept Medicaid. This was the same for other families across the U.S. before and after their adoptions. USA TODAY heard from multiple families that they had difficulty finding qualified mental health professionals who could work with children who have been abusing. American Academy of Pediatrics referred to mental and behavioral health as "mental and behavioral health". Foster care is the most unmet medical need for teens and children..” Dr. Lisa Zetley is a Wisconsin pediatrician who also serves as medical director of a foster care program. She said that children can be affected by the environment they live in, and it is important to have stable, nurturing and safe relationships. Children who don't experience these experiences, or suffer neglect and maltreatment, can have a negative impact on their future. Zetley, also chair of the Council on Foster Care, Adoption and Kinship Care of the American Academy of Pediatrics, stated that this has a significant effect on their present being and their long-term trajectory. Becca Chase's art is on display in the home of Mark Chase and Tina Chase. However, access to mental healthcare for children can sometimes be disrupted or disjointed due to changes in family circumstances and other factors. Tina stated that it took several months for Becca to receive her first 45-minute mental wellness evaluation. Becca received several other appointments and was eventually diagnosed with depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She also had disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. This condition is characterized by anger, extreme irritability and outbursts. The family provided letters. Becca's aggressive behavior continued to escalate in 2018, especially after learning that her biological mother was murdered. Becca was 10 years old when she began throwing books, glassware, and ran away. Her talk about suicide became a real attempt. Becca shared her thoughts during an inpatient visit at Community Hospital North Behavioral Health Pavilion. As you all know, you are my best friend at every moment. That will not stop. Becca was welcomed into the Chase family by Tina and Mark in 2016. Tina said, "I saw that baby girl as soon as I could," Becca saw three different therapists. Two were behavioral therapists and one was a psychiatrist. She also received therapy with horses. Becca spent two weeks in a mental hospital. It didn't seem to work. Tina and Mark called police several times due to Becca's threat of her safety. To ensure she wasn't in danger, they locked their knives in the kitchen and did weekly body checks. Tina stated that Amber Pierce, family case manager visited Tina outside of work hours to make cookies and color with Becca. Tina and Mark stated that they felt Becca needed a more permanent stay in residential care. She could receive 24-hour supervision, intensive mental health services, and be evaluated. Senior child welfare officials turned down the request because Becca was being seen by a therapist once per week, for 45 minutes. Tina and Mark felt powerless, even though they were aware she required more. Tina stated that we went all around the clinic with the medical services division. Tina stated that she was especially upset by one question: "If we place Becca in a residential care facility, are the family still going?

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"You can't lose sight of your family"

After a big tantrum, or an attempted suicide, Mark and Tina would check in to see if they wanted Becca. Each time the answer was "yes" Mark stated that if we gave up on her, it would have a devastating effect and there wouldn't be any recovery. We could say to her, "No, I'm sorry. But you, you can't stay with me." The adoption was canceled. It's enough to just be with someone else right now. I cannot even imagine the impact that this would have on a child. It would be impossible to love and live with oneself. It's not right to give your family away. Tina stated that you don't have to give up your family. Also, I didn't intend to give up on Tina. Tina and Mark Chase standing in front their Fishers home, Indiana. Becca was a frequent subject of their conversations with them about adopting her. Becca, in their eyes, was already a Chase. She would be given her last name at an adoption hearing. Tina stated that she would take you to court so that your last name will be with us forever. Shelley Haymaker was their attorney and had filed the petition for adoption in September 2018. Mark and Tina have had two ways to interact with the child welfare agency: Secure services for Becca and Negotiate an Adoption Subsidy so she can access necessary services after adopting. Initial state adoption subsidies: $10 per day Tina and Mark were paid $66.32 per day for Becca's care. Haymaker refused to accept the offer of the state and demanded $60 per day. Tina and Mark wrote letters to agency explaining why they thought $10 per day was not enough. Becca had specific medical and therapy needs. They noted that Medicaid would not be able to meet these needs. Private insurance would only cover a portion of the costs. Tina quit her job in order to be with Becca more often. Becca and the Chase Family celebrate Christmas. Mark explained to the child welfare agency that Becca required services beyond what we were able to offer. While this may seem like a small item, Tina writes that it is a part of a young girl’s daily life. Next offer from the state: $35 In 2019, Subsidy negotiations were slowed as Becca's mental illness worsened, and her suicide attempts became more severe. Becca was 11 years old at the time, and needed residential care. An emergency room was found at Gibault Children’s Services in Terre Haute. It is about 45 minutes from Terre Haute. Becca stayed there about one month. Tina and Mark kept Becca updated on her adoption status. Ashlie Delph was a former foster child who lived with the family during the time. She said that Becca believed the adoption would occur, and one of her greatest fears was not having a family. People had previously broken their promises to her. Damar Services, which opened an in-home residential program for children and families in Indianapolis in August 2019, secured Becca a room. Tina and Mark were delighted that Becca was closer to them. The facility offered one-on-one supervision as well as a thorough evaluation. They believed that Becca would receive the assistance she needed and be secure. Then Tina’s phone rang.

Gone too soon

Becca had been transferred to Damar a little more than a week ago. The Indiana Department of Child Services called shortly after with an update. Tina was told by a official that Becca tried to end her life. Becca was in Indianapolis on a ventilator. Tina explained that I was unable to believe Tina's words at first. Tina said, "What is this?" They can catch her, but she's not allowed to be seen. Tina was in South Bend visiting her mom, so Mark got there first. He was given a brief summary by the doctor of all that the hospital had done and warned him. it doesn’t look good. There were still more to be done. Mark remembered that there was some hope in the night. Part of me understood that oxygen was not available for 8 minutes and that the brain would be deprived of it. Next day, the test results were available. The doctor stated that Becca had severe brain damage. It's unlikely she will make it. Although her heart still beat, their little girl was no longer there. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Chat online or call 800-273-TALK (8255) for confidential assistance at any hour of the day or night suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Crisis Text Line People in crisis can also get confidential 24/7 support by text messaging HOME to 741741. Becca was not adopted by the USA before the adoption process had been completed. She became one of more than 4,600 children who died in foster care since 2008 according to USA TODAY's analysis of federal data. Tina and Mark were both asked if they would donate Becca’s organs. Although she would not be able to drive, or attend prom, a part of her will live on thanks to others. Becca was placed on life support, while doctors coordinated the donation. Nurses stopped by to offer comfort and check in on the grieving couple as they mourned their loss. Becca's Girl Scout troop, their principal, teachers, and other state workers made their way into the hospital. It was finally time to bid farewell. Tina leaned close to Becca and whispered Divergent's plot, written by Veronica Roth. They had been reading Divergent together before bedtime so Becca could know its ending. Tina then shared their love. She said, "Goodbye," and walked away. You'll be back. Mark began to cry and pressed his lips against Becca's forehead, whispering his simple goodbyes.

A promise kept

Shelley Haymaker (an adoption lawyer) reached out to Mark and Tina a couple of months later after Becca's passing. Haymaker stated that she was aware of the desire for Becca to be legally adopted by the couple. She had therefore asked both the county judge and child welfare system permission to proceed with the adoption. Both were happy to agree. Tina and Mark also said yes to the offer to fulfill their promises to Becca. They still felt anger and grief at the indian department of child services for not doing more. Nobody from the state could explain to Becca how she was left without supervision for long enough to end her life. The agency didn't include her death in its annual report about children who have died from neglect or abuse. It seemed as though nobody was being held responsible from the outside. USA TODAY declined an interview request from the Indiana Department of Child Services. USA TODAY has obtained records that show that the Damar worker was cited by the state agency for neglect in relation to Becca’s death. Records show that the worker left Becca for over 20 minutes, despite her mental history. This is twice the allowed time under the guidelines for Damar's Childrens Neuro-Psychiatric Crisis Center Unit. According to USA TODAY's analysis of federal data, Becca Chase was one of over 4,600 children who died in foster care since 2008. Jim Dalton is the President and CEO of Damar Services. He said that Becca's passing was one of the most tragic events in the history Damar's and the Damar family. After Becca's death, the company made immediate changes, such as removing lockers and doors from the rooms and adding additional supervision to employees. They also limited patients'time in the toilet and sleeping areas to just three minutes. Dalton stated that they understand our responsibility every day and the responsibility we took for Becca on that fateful day. It continues to make us sad. We have been forever changed by it. Tina and Mark couldn't help wondering if Becca would have been served better if Child Welfare officials had acted faster to offer comprehensive care. How would the world look today if shed had gotten the support she'd asked for two years ago from everyone? What if she had gotten the help she needed two years ago? Even eight months ago? Tina posted an emotion-filled Facebook status on December 18, 2019, the day before the hearing. Tina said that the system had failed Becca. Mark and she would not. Tina Chase and Mark Chase took photos of Becca before they adopted her after she died. All they had brought was to honor the little girl that couldn't be present at the adoption hearing. Tina was dressed in a grey sweatshirt and a photo of Totoro (Becca's favourite anime character), on it. Becca brought the photos she thought best represented her vibrant personality. These included Becca with sunglasses on, and Becca in a Batman mask. A photo of Mark and Tina together. Tina positioned the photo frames in the Hamilton County courtroom before the judge. Judge Pro-Tem Valorie HAHN, who oversaw Becca's adoption struggled to hold back her tears. She said that it was heartbreaking to hear her struggle and the sacrifices her family made for her. That just makes a lasting impression. Tina and Mark were asked by their attorney to tell Becca's tale and explain why they were there. The couple responded that they had made a promise and are keeping it. Samantha, Becca’s friend and best friend, wore a silvery-gray headband which had been Becca’s. She spoke to Becca about her relationship as well as about Becca’s desire to adopt. Hahn signed an adoption decree, and was photographed with Samantha, Tina Haymaker, Samantha, and Mark holding the frames. Becca became legally theirs. It was bittersweet. But she was gone. Tina explained that it's similar to taking a small piece of your heart and smashing it, and then trying to put it back in the rest. That's impossible.

‘A chance to grow’

Tina and Mark said that Becca had a lot of energy in her brief life. She was rarely content to sit still. Tina found out about a company that sells kits for planting a tree using the remains of a deceased loved one on Facebook. Becca enjoyed being outdoors. Trees are alive. They get older. They move in the wind. Tina stated that she would give her a chance at growth. Becca planted her tree on the grounds at Girl Scouts Camp Dellwood. Her family and friends drive past her from time to time or stop by to see. At Girl Scouts Camp Dellwood, Indianapolis, a tree was planted in Becca Chase’s honour. It is probably the most effective way to keep her memory alive, according to Alicia Burkholder (leader of Becca's Girl Scout troop, and mother of Samantha). This speaks volumes about her character. It didn't matter if you were biologically related. She was a member of your family. Becca's tree is now taller than Tina and Mark in the three years that have passed since her death. A recent spring day saw the sun shine off its green leaves. The branches reached toward the heavens. Contributing: USA TODAY senior data reporter Aleszu Bajak Marisa Kwiatkowski, USA TODAY's investigative reporter, is focused on social services and children. Contact her at [email protected], @byMarisaK or by phone, Signal or WhatsApp at (317) 207-2855.

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