A mother’s nightmare
It’s a mother’s worst nightmare – to have a child that she loves dearly, and, at the same time, to live in fear of that child.
That, however, is the heart-wrenching dilemma in which Carroll County resident Tena “Summer” Holloman has found herself.
Holloman’s 11-year-old adopted son, Dylan, has suffered from severe psychological and emotional problems since she adopted him at age three.
And those problems have manifested in some violent and disturbing behaviors over the years – so much so that Holloman fears for her own safety, the safety of family members, and for her son’s wellbeing and future.
Over the years, Dylan has undergone a great deal of counseling and psychiatric treatment, has been put on all kinds of medications, and has spent much of his young life away from home in group living/treatment facilities.
But, according to Holloman, she has encountered a lot of obstruction from state agencies while trying to get her son the kind of care and treatment he needs, and she says they are even ignoring a court order mandating that Dylan be provided with a particular level of treatment.
Holloman fears that these governmental agencies (or at least some of the people working for these agencies) are trying to railroad her into giving up legal custody of her son to the state.
As Holloman detailed, Dylan is the biological son of a close friend of hers who committed suicide not long after Dylan was born.
At first, before Holloman gained legal custody of Dylan, he was put in the custody of a female relative, who Holloman says was involved in prostitution and narcotics, and Holloman believes that Dylan was subjected to severe abuse and emotional trauma during those early formative years.
“His life before me was really bad,” said Holloman. “He experienced early childhood trauma, and he never learned to bond. I knew he had problems within two hours of picking him up.”
Holloman said that while she was driving back from Texas with Dylan, he kept trying to get out of his car seat, scratching himself, and cursing in a way that was shocking coming from a child that young.
“It just got progressively worse,” said Holloman. “He would bite himself and pull his own hair. Then he started breaking things and kicking and scratching me and other adults.”
Shortly after adopting Dylan, Holloman took him to a pediatric doctor, who diagnosed him with Early Onset Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD).
By the time Dylan turned five, Holloman said his behavior had gotten even worse.
“He started urinating and defecating on everything as a way of getting back at me for disciplining him,” she said.
Holloman became truly alarmed when Dylan started hurting animals and other children.
“I went to DCS and other agencies begging for help, but no-one would help,” she said.
Then at age six, Dylan attacked Holloman violently, fracturing her hand, and he was sent to Lakeside in Memphis for three days.
“They just put him on meds and sent him home,” she said.
Six months later, Dylan killed an entire litter of kittens.
“He said he did it to get back at me,” said Holloman.
The next couple of years were marked by counseling and therapy sessions, various medications, and periodic stays at group treatment facilities, mainly Youth Villages in Memphis.
From Bad to Worse
An incident when Dylan was eight marked the deadly serious nature of the situation.
“I had broken my arm, and Dylan was staying with my daughter and her family,” said Holloman. “That night he urinated on her and her husband while they were in bed.”
Holloman said that Dylan went crazy that next day when she came to pick him up, and she had to call a counselor from Youth Villages to come and help calm him down.
It was after Dylan had calmed down, said Holloman, that he told the counselor that he was so angry because he had been planning to stab Holloman’s daughter’s young children (his first cousins by adoption) to death with a sharpened pencil that night, and Holloman had ruined his plan when she came over to get him.
Dylan spent the next couple of years pretty much living at Youth Villages in Memphis, though Holloman said it was a constant struggle with the people at that agency and with TennCare just trying to make sure her son was receiving basic care and that insurance would continue to pay for it.
According to Holloman, Dylan was noticeably undernourished and often seemed to be over-medicated when she would go to visit him weekly at Youth Villages.
“Then they decided he was ‘fixed’ and ready to go home,” said Holloman. “There was no way he was ready to go home.”
The Court Order
Holloman said she then filed an appeal with the state, and her case ended up coming before Judge Stephen R. Darnell, an administrative law judge in Nashville.
It was during court proceedings that the state brought in Dr. Jack Greener, a forensic psychiatrist and neurologist from Florida, to give his professional opinion regarding Dylan based on his case history.
Dr. Green testified that Dylan needed a higher level of care than could be provided on an at-home, out-patient basis and that he needed to be placed in an “inpatient treatment facility providing neuropsychological evaluation and treatment” – a level of care beyond what Youth Villages provides.
Judge Darnell put Dr. Greener’s recommendation into the form of a court order, requiring that Dylan be provided with this higher level of care as soon as possible and that TennCare pay for it.
That ruling, however, was given over two years ago, and, according to Holloman, TennCare has not yet complied.
Instead, she said, TennCare has found every imaginable excuse not to do or delay doing what the court ordered, making her jump through multiple hoops, and then once she does what they ask, they just present more hoops for her to jump through.
“How can an agency continue to circumvent a court order?” asked Holloman. “Several times they’ve tried to force me to put him in foster care so he can get the higher level of treatment he needs. But there’s no reason in hell I should have to give up custody of my son just so he can get the care he needs.”
Holloman recently had her lawyer contact DCS, and with the help of that agency, she was able to get Dylan placed in transitional therapeutic foster care for 90 days with TennCare agreeing to pay for it. This situation allowed Holloman to retain custody of her son.
But during visits with Dylan, Holloman learned that the foster parents were allowing her son to watch violent movies and play violent video games.
When she filed a request asking that the foster parents either follow certain guidelines or that her son be moved to a different foster home, the foster care agency withdrew their contract with TennCare, and TennCare refused to sign a new agency.
“I was given 24 hours to pick him up and bring him home,” said Holloman. “That was August 5.”
Prison at Home
Since that time, Holloman has had Dylan at home without services or assistance of any kind, while her son’s behavior has only gotten more violent.
As Holloman detailed, she has had to take Dylan to the emergency room on multiple occasions for injuring himself, he has tried to kill the family cat, and he frequently tells her that he is going to kill her someday.
Dylan is currently under house arrest due to an August 22 incident in which he was caught by local police attempting to run away from home and was observed by officers exhibiting violent behavior and threatening to harm himself and others.
In order to prevent Dylan from running off or getting his hands on something he can use as a weapon, Holloman said she has had to install security locks and alarms on most of the doors and put locks on all the cabinets.
“We live in a prison, and I still do not feel safe,” she said.
This reporter contacted TennCare via email, questioning that agency about its handling of this situation, and TennCare rep. Sarah Tanksley responded back by email.
Regarding the court order, Tanksley wrote: “TennCare has fully satisfied the requirements of the March 20, 2017 administrative order, and TennCare’s compliance has been confirmed by Dylan Holloman’s attorneys.”
While Tanksley admits that the order required that TennCare refer Dylan to an “inpatient treatment facility providing neuropsychological evaluation and treatment,” she states that they “were not able to locate an inpatient facility that could provide the ordered services for Dylan” and that Holloman agreed through Dylan’s attorney that TennCare “would satisfy the requirements of the order by referring Dylan for outpatient evaluation through the Centers of Excellence (COE) while maintaining him in residential treatment (RTC) at Youth Villages.”
According to Holloman, however, there are facilities in Tennessee that provide the level of care required by the court.
In fact, in an April 21, 2017 email from TennCare rep. Chad Blair to Judge Darnell regarding Dylan’s case, Blair states that there are in-patient, psychiatric facilities in Tennessee where Dylan could be placed “should that level of service be ordered.”
But, as Holloman pointed out, Judge Darnell had already given the order for “that level of service” to be provided a month before Blair sent that email.
As an explanation to Judge Darnell, Blair states in the email: “Neither the bureau nor the health plan has any desire to ‘circumvent’ the order. However, my understanding from the experts in this area is that unless a patient presents an emergent situation that law enforcement has to be called upon to diffuse, a patient cannot receive this testing in an in-patient (i.e., acute, hospital-type) setting.”
What Holloman takes that to mean is that TennCare isn’t going to do what the judge ordered unless Dylan commits a violent crime and gets arrested for it.
Holloman added that she never agreed that TennCare was satisfying the order by providing for care that falls below the requirements set forth by the court. She said she has audio recordings of her attorney advising her that TennCare is only giving her three options: take Dylan home with no services, leave him at Youth Villages and be charged with felony abandonment, or turn her son over to DCS and be charged with felony neglect.
“That is not an agreement; that is being forced to comply,” said Holloman, who believes that rather than providing Dylan with a level of care that might actually help him, TennCare is trying to leave her no choice but to surrender custody of Dylan to the state.
Tanksley denied this, but she did write that “one option discussed was for Ms. Holloman to surrender custody of Dylan so that he could remain in the therapeutic foster home where he reportedly had been thriving.”
At this point, Holloman says she is desperate, and she is begging anyone in a position of authority to help her get her son placed in a facility that provides neuropsychiatric testing and treatment – as was mandated in the court order and has been recommended by multiple psychiatric professionals.
“It’s his best single chance of ever having an accurate diagnosis and treatment,” she said. “I just want my son to have a chance at a normal life.”
Dylan’s name, as well as personal and medical information regarding Dylan, have been published with the full, knowing, and willing consent of his adoptive mother and sole legal guardian, Tena Holloman.