Tennessee mother says she can’t find help for ‘defiant’ daughter

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — A single Tennessee mother said her youngest daughter is defiant, possibly suffering from mental health issues and she’s trying to get her help — but she says she’s being left on her own.

She wanted her story told. We’re hiding her identity to protect her teenage daughters.

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“… My child is having issues that I don’t understand, you know? It may be an underlying mental health condition. I don’t know,” she said.

What’s clear: She said her daughter started becoming defiant in the third grade.

“[She began] not wanting to comply with the teacher or school administrators when they would ask her. Outbursts. Get up, walk out of class,” the mother said.

While working a full-time job and being a single parent to four girls, she said these past few years have been tough. She’s worked with school counselors and tried home-schooling programs and other treatment services.

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But she said she thinks nothing works because her daughter knows they’re voluntary. Her daughter is now 15 years old.

“She started getting physically violent,” she said. “Destroying property, disturbing neighbors.”

She began documenting her daughter’s outbursts and even filed a police report when she told her daughter “to do chores” and she “became outraged.” She told officers her daughter “assaulted her” and “ran away.”

That’s when the mother reached out to Shelby County Juvenile Court to see if she could get court-ordered help.

“I was told I am not the only parent dealing with this. These situations. [They would tell me] ‘There are hundreds of other parents in the city, all over the city, that are experiencing things just like yours, and some are worse than yours,'” the mother said.

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She said there wasn’t anything juvenile court could do. She said she was also told to wait until her child turns 18, when she, potentially, would no longer “have to deal with” it.

“I will have to deal with that… Not only will I have to deal with it, but everybody outside of my door will have to deal with my child,” she said.

Juvenile Court Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Stephanie Hill couldn’t comment on this mother’s case. It was her first time hearing about it during our interview. What she could say is that they soon hope to make it easier for parents to find help.

“We do have someone that a parent can talk to to see if there’s someone that can provide some referral resources,” Hill said. “We are looking to — when we revise our website — be able to list our resources that families can tap into.”

Former Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael said there are not enough programs to handle children who disobey.

“If you put a child in detention for the disobedience, they will be adversely affected, because the hardcore delinquents will affect her more,” he said.

He also said there’s not enough being devoted to mental health. He said a lot of kids he saw had serious mental health issues that never got addressed, especially if they didn’t have the right health insurance and support.

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“If mom doesn’t have the support from her family and the community, it’s already the community’s problem. She’s right. If she doesn’t address it now, it may get worse,” Michael said.

The mother said her daughter is now battling peer pressure and social media.

She continues to see other teens wind up on the wrong path and wonders if their parents couldn’t find the right support either.

“I have to cry. Worry all the time. You are on pins and needles. You fear the worst,” she said with tears trickling down her face.

She said she wanted to do this interview to let the community know just how complex this problem has become. She hopes to get more parents like her together, so maybe they can all offer support and guidance to one another.

“It’s not bad parenting. It’s lack of support,” she said. “We are out here. We are tired of being ignored by our children and by the system. We are tired.”

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