Hundreds of Miles from Mom: DC’s Mental Health Crisis

Imagine your child needs extensive mental health and education services. Now imagine being told she can only get these services in Kentucky, Georgia, Florida or Alabama—hundreds of miles from your DC home.

That’s exactly what happened to April and her daughter, TT*.

Children’s Law Center lawyers first met the family because April had, as she put it, run out of options. Her daughter wasn’t learning in a traditional school setting because her mental health needs weren’t being addressed. While April had advocated fiercely for her daughter’s education, TT’s school wouldn’t focus on the young student’s needs.

“For my daughter, I was giving her all the support and encouragement I possibly could—the kind of support I didn’t have growing up in the foster care system,” April shared. “I knew I needed more help though. That’s why I called CLC. Within less than a week, CLC was here.”

TT’s school was putting her into seclusion, expecting her to complete work she didn’t know how to do—alone. April knew that TT wasn’t a child who just needed a quiet place to work or to be separated from others. She simply didn’t have the knowledge to complete the tasks her teachers were asking her to do, and she wasn’t getting the supports she needed to learn.

During the several months that TT’s education and mental health needs went unaddressed, she became more and more frustrated and disruptive. She even started harming herself and was admitted to Children’s National. That’s why April reached out to CLC.

“April is a rockstar client and a hard-working mother of three,” her CLC attorney Gabby Mulnick Majewski said. “She is amazing at balancing it all in spite of some really challenging circumstances.”

CLC and April worked together to transfer TT to a school that was better equipped to meet the young girl’s complex needs. Unfortunately, after a few months passed, it became clear that only a therapeutic residential school would be able to stabilize and support TT.

There, TT’s needs would be met by trained professionals who could truly help her thrive and, in time, successfully transition back to DC with the right supports. However, the family was told TT would be sent far away to receive these services—much too far for April to visit her young daughter.

Majewski knew that being separated from her mom by hundreds of miles would interfere with TT's ability to stabilize and would cause additional trauma, so she fought for TT to be placed closer to home.

“Ms. Gabby had a fire in her eye. Everything I wanted or needed, that TT needed, we talked about. We looked at each individual aspect of what would be best for TT together,” April remembers.

The two succeeded in getting TT into one of the most highly ranked therapeutic residential treatment centers in the country. Even better, at just two hours away, the center is close enough for April to visit her daughter. TT is now in classes with two teachers and a therapist in the classroom.

“This was by far the best outcome for TT and April and exactly what TT needs right now,” Majewski said. “We’ll work with the family to help transition TT back to DC once she’s ready by ensuring her alignment with an appropriate school and the best therapeutic services right here in DC. TT has infinite potential, and with the right supports in place and the loving support of her family, she is destined to shine.”  

As for the move, TT is already thriving.

“Now, it’s not just me encouraging her daily,” April happily recounts. “She’s doing absolutely well.”

*Children’s Law Center works hard to protect our clients’ confidentiality. The family members’ names have been modified based on the client’s request. All other details are true.