That's all going to change today. Today is the day that I tell Ronald McDonald House Charities how they failed my child and I in our time of need. How they portray themselves to be there for all children, but they are in fact not.
Here's what I found at the Ronald McDonald House Charities' What We Do website page:
Helping a sick child fight their illness takes a big emotional toll on a family. Adding a financial strain can make it all almost too much to bear, RHMC can help address those problems, whether they involve housing that's near a hospitalized child, the expense of staying together in another city or even getting basic medical and dental care in a vulnerable city...."
This motto certainly not true in our case even though we fit the criteria for their assistance.
In order to tell this story the way it was meant to be told, I need to go back almost two and a half years ago. During that time, my daughter was set to be discharged from a behavioral hospital over 100 miles from our house because even though we live in a metropolitan area there were no beds available to her. In our whole county, there are only thirteen beds for children in my daughter's age group with mental health issues who need hospitalization. We were told there were even fewer spots for outpatient treatment, something we considered crucial to helping my daughter achieve stability. The wait list to get into an outpatient facility 25 miles from our house was 2-3 months long. My husband and I knew our daughter needed immediate help. The facility that she had been staying at offered to keep her in their outpatient program, but we'd need to find a place to stay at night since the program only ran from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. on weekdays. Before I gave my final answer and agreed to this program, I asked if the hospital had a place they could recommend for us to go. The hospital suggested that I contact the local Ronald McDonald House since a children's hospital was not too far away. When I contacted the Ronald McDonald House's social worker, she informed me that it wasn't for children like mine. It was a place for children and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. I told her that this was a life threatening illness. She informed me that the Ronald McDonald House was a quiet place. She worried that my child might wake or disturb the other children who were sicker than my child. After this final no, I asked if she had any alternatives for us. She sadly had no direction for me to go.
At the time, I was angry that an organization like this could turn away my child and I in our hour of need, but I did not contact McDonald's headquarters then because I was solely focused on getting my daughter stable.
This story has a happy ending though. We went to the local Ramada Inn where we were taken very good care of. The receptionist made sure we had the same downstairs room our entire stay there. This was intentional on her part since we gave up our "home away from home" on weekends while we went back to our regular home to practice the skills my daughter was learning. This receptionist made us feel at home in other ways as well. She genuinely had the gift of hospitality. Additionally, members of our church learned of this added expense and generously donated towards it and our gas money for weekend trips home.
Ending the stigma of mental illness begins with people like me telling our story so that others might have a better experience than we have had. I hope in the near future that organizations like McDonald's will do a better job of servicing children like my own. I really don't fault the social worker who told me no just like I didn't find fault with the cashier. Both of these individuals were just doing as they had been instructed to. Those in charge need to be educated more. That is precisely what I have done today.
Read about my follow up with the director of RMHC in San Diego here.