Dora Mattucci thought it was meant to be.
She had extra rooms in her house, and love in her heart. As a single mother who grew up in the foster system herself, she decided to take in two boys to give them the childhood she never had.
“We have a four bedroom home and you know, I had a job,” Mattucci said. “I was willing to give that up, my freedom, to save them.”
But those extra bedrooms now sit empty, strapped with alarms. The sound is just a reminder of what the Mattucci family used to be.
“I went through all the service,” she said. “And still did not have the services to sustain the security of my home, the wellbeing of me my husband, my daughter, me, the community.”
Mattucci began fostering Craig and Frank in 2006 when they were just 1 and 4 years old. At the time she says she had no idea they had such extreme emotional and cognitive issues.
Fast forward 10 years later, “It escalated to our youngest hitting one of our dogs with a baseball bat that she died 8 weeks later, feeding her rocks and breaking her teeth out, fires at the back deck, sexual behaviors on camera,” she said.
And then came the moment she knew the 10 years of different mental health services, programs and therapies were not enough.
“He says, I think it would be cool to blow up the school and I said oh my gosh you realize that there’s children there and it could harm (them) – and he said I still think it would be cool.
She already had cameras covering her Macomb County home, coded locks on all of the door and after watching the family dog killed, she realized she could no longer protect the boys from each other or themselves.
"They said go pick up your kids, I said, 'I can’t pick them up without services it’s so bad that I can’t do it,'” she said.
“So they said 'we’re going to have to file abandonment and neglect charges on you.'”
Psychiatrist Gerald Shiener says it’s something he sees far too often.
“You can’t fix a broken child by yourself and just put a child in a loving home and expect everything to get better,” he said. “You need the support of the community and professionals and sadly that’s unavailable and there are waiting lists and there’s funding cuts every year.”
Mattucci says Frank and Craig are now in group homes and she worries they’re still not getting the mental health services they so desperately need.
“These are not just individuals who have their own problem,” Dr. Shiener said. “These are problems that affect our neighborhood, our schools because these are kids who do destructive things or hurtful things.”
Dr. Shiener says this is a growing problem due to our lack of mental healthcare resources statewide.
“We made a devil’s deal where we closed psychiatric hospitals, maybe psychiatric hospitals that have outlived their usefulness and we said we would treat patients in the community- but we didn’t fund the community treatment programs adequately and there isn’t enough community treatment,” he says.
Dr. Shiener says there are treatments available to help these boys.
“We need long term hospitalizations that operate on the basis of a therapeutic community,” he said. “This can be done, this can be done with public resources and there’s no way to shortcut it without shortchanging the community.”
Mattucci has lost her job due to the abandonment and neglect charges and must go through a series of drug testing and classes before she could regain custody of the boys.
“My hope is that there is a chance that they can make it in the world the best that they can,” she said. “I want my children back, I’m sorry I ever did this, I ever asked for help.”
For the time being, she has supervised visitation with both of her sons, she hopes to regain custody in order to put them into a privately funded mental health facility.