This blog is dedicated to "The Children Left Behind." We will not rest until the safety of our children and those that are entrusted with their mental health care are held accountable for abusing the children's God given rights, those rights upheld by our constitution, and those that have been complicit in obfuscating the truth!

Monday, September 26, 2011


There have been many inquiries made regarding our visit to Governor Deal’s Office and our meeting. Much thought was given whether to publish this as there was no gracious way to write it. Apparently, politically, Children's Rights and their safety does not matter, unless it is useful, or politically worthy of a coming election in a less than transparent bureaucracy.  For transparency, a synopsis of that day and meeting.

The Capitol Visit: Parents in advocacy.

Yesterday, I was blessed in advocacy with two parents of children that attended the former Ridge Creek School facility. For me, it was just over six years coming as my child attended the facility when it was Hidden Lake Academy; for them, it was two to six arduous, at times painful months.

I took a small rock to the meeting at the Capitol. It is small, black with shimmering flecks; it was a gift from my child, which was to be the last time that I would set foot on the grounds of the Hidden Lake facility and just before we pulled our child. It was all our child had to give; it connected us. The rock is carried everywhere; from time to time, it is taken out, and returned to its nesting place. Multi-faceted as we humans are, it was a symbol of strength, a bond of love, and an unwavering promise to seek the truth, to not only protect “the children left behind ,” but those children to come. I took that rock out and showed my friends in advocacy just before the meeting began. After the meeting, I decided the rock was worthy of the trip and my friends, but the “Capitol Gang” was not worthy of the rock.

It was a long trip to the Capitol, coming from out-of state. Reports were created, documents were collated, several distributed to the party/parties we were to meet with ahead of time. The volume of data sent was obviously limited as the complexity and volume of supporting documents were in thousands of pages; therefore, key issues were offered. We had thirty minutes, so it was imperative to send the documents ahead of time for review on the State’s end giving credence to our position and knowledge of why we were there; we were prepared.

Essentially, it was a promise, a labor of commitment in seeking help, justice, accountability by the State, and State agency reform so there would never be another Hidden Lake Academy, Ridge Creek School facility, or its affiliate entities running amok and doing what the facility pleased with children’s lives. Documents attest to the fact that this is a systemic problem within the Department of Human Services (DHS), to include the Office of Residential Child Care (ORCC), the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), and separately, the Department of Juvenile Justice ( DJJ), along with other state agencies that had no clue; thus, reforms are justified.

Prior to the Meeting:

A wise man asked me, “Is it better to be right or be happy?” “Happy” is far better I thought, but it will not make me happy if the truth is continuously obfuscated. Being placated was expected; anything above that curve would be a gift after dealing with every agency in Georgia whose representatives either appeared incompetent, circumvented the truth, or protected their turf. One must have faith, as it is about the safety of the children in Georgia’s care; who could turn that down? Therefore, I chose “happy.”

With our cell phones turned off (professional courtesy), the rock placed in safekeeping, we took a breath.

Governor Deal’s Chief of Staff greeted us. We entered a conference room and took our seats. Our briefcases were full of more documents including our laptops; professionally attired in suits, we were appropriately, yet apparently, overdressed.

The Meeting:

I thought it odd that the Chief of Staff had no documents to refer to or paper to write on. His face placid, already etched in boredom, we were asked who would like to begin and my colleague to the right began. Then the Chief of Staff interjected that he had never heard of the Ridge Creek School facility and that the first order of business after the meeting would be to check the licensing of the facility (which was previously provided in the State documents). “Happy” went out the window in front of me. A few minutes in, he rose, and left to summon a colleague, who was legal counsel. This was also odd because one usually ascertains the support group they will require before the meeting commences.

Less than thirty minutes and ticking:

They both returned and the legal counsel had a pad with which to take notes. I was relieved as the legal counsel exhibited human warmth and emotion. Early on, it was apparent that little, if any preparation was made on the part of the Chief of Staff. All the work that went into assuring he would be properly briefed for this meeting appeared to no avail. The conversation turned to the Office of the Child Advocate. In a curt, condescending manner, he stated he never heard of the Honorable Judge “Tom Rawlings” who was the previous Child Advocate from 2007 to 2009 in the State of Georgia (based out of Macon) before Ms. Melissa Carter (who resigned in 2010), then Ms.Tonya Boga was appointed by Governor Deal as Director. The Chief of Staff stated The Office of the Child Advocate was “new;” well, “new,” only in that the “Office” moved to Atlanta from Macon.

Re-iterating the truth conveyed to the Chief of Staff pertaining to our case:

At no time in either Administration did the Education Specialist in the Governor’s Office , or anyone else for that matter, refer parents or advocates to the Office of the Child Advocate ( the referral this year was on February 24, 2011 to Georgia’s Department of Education(DOE), which does not handle Child Caring Institutions, CCI’s). Next, it was suggested to contact a private attorney on March 29, 2011. Later, another parent was transferred to the Office of Consumer Affairs. From there, the parent was referred to the Post-Secondary Education Committee, which was ridiculous as the Ridge Creek facility is not a “school” in the State of Georgia, therefore no jurisdiction. The Chief of Staff’s rare response was not only to rebuff what was stated, but his demeanor conveyed boredom, arrogance, annoyance, nepotism, and flippant remarks. CNN on Capitol Hill would have had a field day with his glib reference to Italian-Americans (“Mafia”), and disparaging remarks toward the former Director of the ORS, now ORCC. Granted the former Director of the ORS was no cup of tea, probably deserving of scorn, but it was inappropriate. “Our apologies” would have sufficed.

The Meeting continued:

Key issues and facts were stated in the reports sent ahead of time; if the Chief of Staff bothered to read/prepare for the meeting, we would not have gone over the allotted time. We would not have had to address why we were sitting across from him. It would have been a 15-minute slam-dunk, five minutes each, their summation/recommendations, and brief rebuttal.

Meetings are streamlined because one prepares for them. You address the people sitting there in a gracious, dignified manner, so that the person you are addressing does not forget your name, because they are still in shock that you were not prepared properly or that clearly they are not respected. Perhaps a course at Disney University or one in humility would help one understand, “Mr. or Ms. Blank, we appreciate the preparation and concerns you have, I have reviewed the documents, and would like to address these concerns, ask some questions, then perhaps each of you could interject your thoughts and we work together for a solution. Obviously, your concerns relate to the system in place that you feel is broken and needs to be repaired, so let us work towards finding a solution.” It was an embarrassment to Governor Deal’s office and a shocking disappointment. Again, placation was expected, the lack of respect, and unpreparedness was inexcusable.

The meeting went over a few minutes with little response. The crème de la crème occurred in the latter part of the meeting, when the Chief of Staff’s phone continued to beep, then rang – a timer, the Governor? He excused himself again, stating that he had to take the call and left. Most likely, we have all been places where cell phones were not silenced, including our own. Embarrassment follows, akin to getting ones hand caught in the cookie jar, an apology, a few chuckles; even one of the Rector’s of our church has blushed on the pulpit by the ringing of his phone. That scenario would have been acceptable, even welcome as it is human, and affords for a little welcome levity.

The Chief of Staff returned and was brought up to speed on what he had missed; obviously much to his dismay as his facial expression remained deadpan and flushed. The meeting quickly ended, lucky for him, as his time was so valuable. Courtesy was extended offering that we appreciated his time, as it was “politically” appropriate.

Common decency and courtesy is not a difficult task. The only novices relating to this case sat before us. As for the rock, hidden away, its pores took in more fresh air than we did that afternoon.

Lessons in everything:

On the drive home, a truck hit debris, and a rock flew into my windshield. Thankfully, it did not totally breach the glass, but chipped it. I was reminded of the meeting. Anyone can attempt to chip away at another’s dignity and honor, but it only strengthens ones tenacity.

“Happy over being right,” in a Utopic world this might be an absolute. Although not practical and politically difficult, righting the wrongs in this case appears far more honorable.

        And that’s my take.

“For the Children Left Behind”
        I am, Jill Ryan.


  1. Well, that didn't go too well, sorry to hear that.

    With a governor named "Deal" what could be expected?

    Keep up the good fight regardless, and thanks.

  2. Yet again, Georgia and its so-called "Leaders" have demonstrated their complete disregard for the children entrusted in their care. They are a complete disgrace and they should be ashamed of themselves for such a lack of professionalism & blatant apathy towards such a serious matter.

    So much for that Southern hospitality, y'all.