What would you do if you adopted a child, only to be told you would have to relinquish custody to get him the health care he needs? How would you feel if the state told you that they would not cover a necessary health service for your child, and then removed him from your custody when you had no other means to obtain that care for him? Many parents might feel like giving up, but not Cindy Furman.
Cindy and her husband Richard adopted their son Jacob at the age of five, along with his two younger siblings. Each of the three children has exceptional health care needs. Jacob, who suffered severe abuse and neglect in his birth home, has been diagnosed with a variety of mental and behavioral health disorders, along with global developmental delays. He has needed both outpatient treatment and intermittent inpatient treatment, and Cindy has fought relentlessly to defend Jacob’s right to get the care he needs.
Jacob was admitted to a mental health residential treatment facility (RTF) in early 2010, after his conditions caused him to behave dangerously toward his younger brother. Later that year, Cindy and Richard learned that TennCare would no longer pay for Jacob’s residential treatment. Jacob’s doctors recommended that he enter therapeutic foster care upon discharge, because they were concerned he might present a danger to himself and his siblings were he to return home. TennCare denied the request for therapeutic foster care.
This left Jacob with no apparent options; he would be leaving residential treatment, but was not yet ready to return home without being a threat to himself and his family. Though Cindy’s love and commitment to Jacob and her family was unflinching, she knew she could not bring Jacob home if it meant creating a dangerous environment for him or the other children.
Cindy refused to accept defeat. She filed an appeal requesting TennCare cover the care his doctors said he needed, but TennCare said that therapeutic foster care was not a service they would cover. The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) told Cindy and Richard that DCS could arrange for Jacob to receive therapeutic foster care without taking him into custody. In spite of this promise, DCS later told them that they would have to give up custody of Jacob in order for him to receive services. In late 2010, DCS took Jacob into state custody against his parents’ wishes. To this day, over a year later, DCS has still not found a therapeutic foster care placement for Jacob. He remained in residential treatment for another 8 months, before he was moved to a group home in Memphis, several hours from the Furman’s home.
Cindy was discouraged, but not defeated. She loves Jacob and she fought to build her family; she will continue to fight to get Jacob the care he needs and to keep her family intact. Cindy’s love and commitment to Jacob is powerful. She drives hundreds of miles to visit him, and continues to fight for him and his health care needs so that he can reach his potential . Cindy says, “I am the only person this boy trusts and talks to and if you take me away, you have shattered any hope of this child connecting or attaching to anyone.” Cindy and TJC believe no child should ever have to enter state custody in order to get health care services. Cindy has shown tireless dedication to her son Jacob and a steadfast willingness to speak out on behalf of children across Tennessee to ensure that all children get the health care that they need.
Photo Credit: Mark Mosrie