Unknown Caller                                                                    August 2009
In This Issue

Unknown Caller



Dear Friend,
On August 12th, Parents Helping Parents – indeed all families in Massachusetts – lost a dear friend, Ernie Singer, who died at the age of 88.  Among Ernie’s many civic activities, was serving on the board of Parents’ and Children’s Services.  PCS nurtured the first Parents Anonymous groups in Massachusetts in 1971 and this led naturally to the founding of the Parental Stress Line in 1979.  As board president Ernie was a champion of the Parental Stress Line.  When the future of the Stress Line was in doubt in 2005, Ernie was very pleased that PHP took over its operation so that parents could continue to get telephone support 24 hours a day.  Ernie’s wife, Betty, who had served on PHP’s board for many years, helped us recruit volunteers in those early months when we needed help the most.  It is quite likely that without the support of Ernie and Betty Singer, the Parental Stress Line would not exist today.
As a testimonial to Ernie and Betty, the first story in this newsletter is about a Parental Stress Line call which I took not long ago.  It illustrates the kind of work that our volunteers do every day.

Randall Block
Executive Director
Unknown Caller
During the summer months the number of volunteers who are available to take calls to the Parental Stress Line declines by quite a bit.  The BU students who volunteer with us have graduated and moved on to other challenges.  Many other volunteers are on vacation.  So the staff covers many shifts during the summer until our volunteer ranks swell again in the fall.
Not long ago, I took a call that is burned in my memory.  It was from a woman whose name I never learned.  She was sobbing so hard I could barely understand her.  I calmed her down as best as I could and she started to tell me her story:
She has a five year old with autism.  She can’t stand the head-banging any more.  He’s too embarrassing to take him out in public.   She has no one else to turn to. 
Her son repeatedly interrupts the call and she pleads with him to go to his room; that she needs to speak to an adult now.
I tell her that her that autism can be very hard to deal with but it sounds like she is doing a great job talking to her son.  I listen to her feelings of isolation, loneliness and helplessness.  I let her talk for as long as she needs to.  I compliment her on calling the Parental Stress Line and ask how else she is getting help.  She’s tried the Department of Mental Health and they’ve told her that she isn’t eligible for services.  She’s gone to the Department of Social Services and they’ve offered to place her child in a residential program but she loves her son and wants him to stay at home. 
The cell phone crackles and she apologizes for the poor connection.  I worry that we will get disconnected.  “Have you talked to people at the Federation for Children with Special Needs?” I ask.  No she hasn’t tried them.  You might also call “PAL”, the Parent Advocacy League.  “If you have something to write with I’ll give you their phone numbers.” 
As she is looking for paper and pencil I tell her that sometimes parents can help each other.  “What town do you live in?” I ask.  “Worcester” is the reply.  “We have a support group there.  Would you like the telephone of someone in the group?” 
I give her the facilitator’s contact number.  I begin to relax.  I’ve given her some concrete leads.  If she calls any of them she should get some help. 
“I’ll call these numbers tomorrow,” she tells me.  “I’m so exhausted I have to take a day off from work.”  I tell her that’s a great idea.  “Taking care of yourself is so important.  We talk about that all the time in group.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your son.”
I return to the delicate subject of DSS’ offer to provide residential care.  “You are doing an incredible job with your son but sometimes kids need residential placement for awhile just like they may need hospitalization for awhile.  It’s ok to do that.  These telephone numbers I’ve given you, they can help you figure out how to find a residential program that’s good for your son.”
“Thanks for your help,” she tells me. 
“Just one last question, I ask.  “How did you find out about us?” 
“I have your magnet on my refrigerator.  I got it at a health fair in Worcester last year.”
“You take care now,” I tell her.  And she’s gone.  Back to her autistic son.  Back to an isolated world.  But she has a little more information than before.  Perhaps she will act on it.  Perhaps she will call us again.

Our mailing address is:
Parents Helping Parents
108 Water Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Phone: 617-926-5008