Adventures in the System

A little background for new readers since I haven’t written about this in a while: Our five-year-old son is disabled; he has cerebral palsy. We deal with “the system” a lot to get him all the services he qualifies for. Also, as part of our adoption agreement, he has been allowed to stay on Medicaid regardless of our income. That brings another layer of red-tape challenges. I’m not thrilled with the system, but also recognize the many hurdles its employees must deal with. I try to be understanding; sometimes it is hard.

So, now on to today’s gripe session.

Last Thursday, we got a notice in our mail box informing us of a certified letter from our local DHS waiting at the post office. Due to work schedules, the holiday, and a flu-like sickness invading the household, we weren’t able to retrieve the special letter until Tuesday.

It turns out the letter was sent to notify us that DHS, unable to reach us by phone, would be declaring our account inactive if we did not respond by 8/8/14. Yes, 8/8/14; they couldn’t even take the time to update the form letter. Having not received a call from DHS is many months [typical], we were fairly perplexed and got in touch asap.

The assistant we spoke to assured us that the caseworker likely just had some incorrect contact information and we could easily get it straightened out. I would totally believe this. Except – we have not moved since adopting the little man, they have three separate phone numbers for us (home and two mobile, maybe work too), and they clearly knew our address. Would it have killed them to send a letter prior to threatening to deactivate our case? Seriously. Take one extra minute to try and help the people you are supposed to be helping.

Here are a few things I think are far more likely – 1) they never called at all; 2) they only called once, but didn’t leave a message; 3) the caseworker called an incorrect phone number, but never bothered to check our paperwork to see if it was correct or other ways to reach us.

Number 3 really stands out as the winner considering everything I have learned during our five years in the system. We have Vonage, so phone calls to our home actually show up on my husband’s cell. We haven’t seen anything recently from DHS, but I suppose it is possible they don’t show up in caller id as a government agency. Or they show up as something strange, like Hewlett Packard.*

This all reminds me very much of the time we had a home study scheduled and the lady coming to do it didn’t realize we were in another county until 15 minutes prior. Like, she didn’t even pay attention to the address until she had to get directions. Even if we had lived in her same town, she would have been late to the meeting. Instead, we were on our way home early for something that wasn’t even going to happen. Then we had to start all over because our paperwork had been in the wrong county the entire time.

Look, I’ve seen the inside of the system. I know that so many of our government workers are underpaid and overworked. I know that many of them started out as hopeful people only to become jaded over the years at a system they can’t change and families they can’t help. Or even worse, families that don’t want to be helped. I know they have watched children suffer because of government inaction while other suffer because of government overreach. I get it. But it is hard to remain understanding when parents on my end have to struggle so much just to get anything done.

*Somewhere along the line our state DHS acquired a ton of old Hewlett Packard envelopes. More power to them; I’m happy to see a state agency trying to save money. They don’t even bother to put a sticker over the HP information though. Every so often, I get a letter that appears to be from HP reminding me of the well child visits my son is eligible for. Now, the stuff that comes in these envelopes isn’t usually important – more informational stuff trying to remind parents who might not otherwise be inclined to take advantage of their services – but once it was something important that I needed to follow-up on. Who knows how many I tossed before realizing it wasn’t HP junk mail.


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