Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Friday, September 05, 2014

There it was in the paper - the day after Labor Day - the first ad with the word Christmas in it. Have we really reached the point as a society where we have so little to occupy us that we need to start preparing for the holiday season three months ahead of time?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:27 AM •
Thursday, September 04, 2014

I was thinking about Labor Day and that got me to thinking about labor which segued off to a woman in labor which brings me to my current topic – women having babies to replace the babies taken away by the state or tribe because they are not capable of providing a child with basic safety, nourishment and support.

For those of you who have never been involved in the field of child protection, the laws that govern it can be pretty weird sometimes. Replacement babies are a classic example. Here’s the way it often goes. If a state social worker deems a child’s home life to be too dangerous to leave them there, the child is removed until the parents correct the situation. If the situation is not corrected within a certain amount of time, then further steps are taken to provide the child with a safe home. This usually involves terminating parental rights and putting the child up for adoption. Or, if the child is old enough to know their parents and not want to be adopted, placing the child in foster care until he or she ages out of the system.
Here’s the kicker in all this. If a mother has a child removed and is unable or unwilling to take the steps needed to make the home safe, she often will just replace the child taken with a new baby and start the process all over again.  What I find most disturbing in these situations is that the same mother who cannot have one child because her actions endanger that child, is allowed to walk out of the hospital with a newborn. The reasoning is that the mother has not yet harmed the new child or put it in a dangerous or unsafe situation. So until such time as she does, the mother lives in a world in which she is only allowed supervised visits with one child while being allowed total access to another, often more vulnerable, child.
Does that make sense to anyone?
I know of one family where multiple children were removed and either put into long term foster care or adopted. The mother showed up for the termination trial pregnant with another child. She walked out of the hospital with that child and the child was not removed until she endangered it with the same behavior that caused the first group to be removed.
I have often argued that laws requiring social workers to attempt to heal a family work only if there was a family to begin with. Unfortunately, what you all too often have are a drunken and abusive sperm donor, an egg carrier with similar problems and nothing whatsoever that anyone in any culture in this state would recognize as a family. You can’t put something back together that never existed in the first place. So going back to my original concern, if a mother is so unable to provide for her children’s safety that the state is keeping the children from her physical custody, why in the hell would you turn around and claim you can’t deny her the right to take her newborn home because you have no proof she’s hurt the new baby. Why does the law require that the mother prove all over again that she’s not fit to raise a child while, in the process, the new baby is damaged emotionally and often physically?
And please, before the e-mails start piling up accusing me of letting the dads off the hook, I’m not. The simple reality is that if a child’s been removed from the home, it’s because neither mom nor dad – if he’s even hung around – are able to provide for the baby’s safety. If there were a strong dad around, the other kids wouldn’t be in state custody.  Biology being what it is, mom delivers the new baby and mom usually takes it from the hospital.
Believe it or not, social workers didn’t become social workers to destroy families. They would like nothing more than to think they were able to help a family heal and get their children back. But these same social workers can only shake their heads in disbelief as a mom who has proven herself incapable of providing even the minimum of safety to her children is allowed to leave the hospital with a very vulnerable newborn. It just doesn’t make sense.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:22 AM •
Wednesday, September 03, 2014

C’mon, Begich. Surely you are better than this. Running commercials accusing Sullivan of freeing a sex pervert to rape and kill again. It was horrible when Bush Senior did it in the late eighties against Dukakis and it is beyond horrible now. It’s plain stupid. Whether anyone likes Sullivan or not, let him stand or fall on his real merits. This is beneath your campaign. And if it isn’t, then shame on your campaign.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Tuesday, September 02, 2014

How is it possible my dogs don’t hear me yelling for them to come downstairs to go out before we go to bed but can hear me four closed doors away unwrapping one of their treats? I need to get me some hearing like that.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:32 AM •
Monday, September 01, 2014
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from my family to yours. May today be as restful for you as BuddhaBubba’s are for her everyday.
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Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Elise Sereni Patkotak • 12:29 PM •
Saturday, August 30, 2014

Is there any animal in more misery than the dog getting his head petted who keeps nodding off and falling over only to then be out of reach of the hand that was petting him. So he jerks awake each time he starts to fall over only to have his eyes go to half mast within seconds of the head petting starting again. My poor Snowy. I thought he was going to have whiplash last night trying to keep his head within reach of my hand.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:31 AM •
Friday, August 29, 2014

Why is it whenever someone’s tv parent dies there is always some item of monumental significance that brings back memories of the loved one. Sure, I have my Aunt Ida’s soup ladle but on NCIS, Gibbs has a boat his dad made with his mom’s name and then he starts building one and then he remembers building the original with his dad while music swells into past visions in the distance. I look at my aunt’s soup ladle and think of the soup with the tiny meatballs that started every Christmas meal. I don’t remember what the people around me were talking about. She didn’t hold my hand and teach me to ladle soup from it. It’s just the ladle she used for the soup while my mom and her other sisters put out the rest of the food on the table.
I want a boat like Gibbs has.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Thursday, August 28, 2014

I was recently invited to a Pioneers in Health Care in Alaska event. I suppose it was inevitable that at some point someone would call me a pioneer. That didn’t stop me from feeling forty more gray hairs popping out of my head or my neck’s turkey waddle from shaking even harder. Then I stopped to think for a moment and the picture of the young woman who first came to Alaska and got involved in health care delivery in remote locations popped into my head. I realized she looked a whole lot younger than the person staring out at me from the mirror in the morning.

Being involved in health care in Alaska in the seventies and early eighties was absolutely heady. Alaska was starting to reap the financial benefits of the oil that was flowing down the pipeline. We had more money than we knew what to do with. Even our beloved political class couldn’t spend it fast enough. It just kept piling up. And for the first and last time ever, I saw our esteemed elected officials actually put their money where their political campaign promises were and fully fund health care programs.
We had alcohol programs in just about every hub village in the state. Ditto mental health programs. Ditto women’s shelters, youth programs and early education programs. Yep, we funded them all. There was a concerted attempt to meet just about every social health care need in the state. And that was great right up until the time the money starting flowing slower… and slower… and slower. Something had to go in order to ever pretend to a balanced budget.
You know the rest of this story already, don’t you? The alcohol and mental health programs were all but wiped out. Spending on programs in big cities, let alone smaller bush communities, dropped dramatically. Oh we all still moaned and groaned and rent our clothes in despair over the statistics of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, rape and domestic violence. And politicians continued to mouth piously about the need to do something to change those numbers. It is over forty years later and those statistics still horrify because there is no real action behind the words.
I’ll be the first to admit that we made a lot of mistakes back then. Not all the money put into those programs was used wisely. But we were just starting to learn what worked when the money got pulled. We were learning there is no one size fits all in alcohol treatment. We were learning that handling mental illness in a small community took more than a counselor and an office. We were discovering that you could make an impact on domestic violence if you had real options to offer a woman other than returning to the situation based on a six week domestic violence course the abuser took. We were learning all those things when the programs died. Now we face an epidemic we could have impacted if we’d just stayed the course. But programs not showing immediate positive results are a hard sell to politicians who see them as being too troublesome and hard to justify. There is not a lot of support for a population of alcoholics and abusers whose votes are rarely courted.
I find it rather sad to contemplate that we have just blown over $200 million on an aborted port project that we are walking away from with not much more than a shrug and little public outcry. If that money had gone into social services programs that failed so resoundingly, I wonder if the political class would let us walk away with no real consequences and the promise of more money to try again tomorrow.
I always thought being a pioneer meant looking back with some satisfaction over a lifetime of achievements. I know physical health care is much better in almost every bush region of this state thanks to dedicated workers at the Native non-profits now providing that care. I think that despite the lengths still to be covered, in the areas of medical, dental and eye care services, there is a whole population in bush Alaska with better care than a generation ago. 
I just wish that before I become a dearly departed pioneer, I could see some improvement in the social health statistics that break the hearts of all who hear them. Right now, that seems a pretty dim prospect.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Until such time as they give an Emmy to Leroy Jethro Gibbs, I will not wear my formal bathrobe and tiara while watching the show. It simply doesn’t deserve that much respect.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:27 AM •
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Do we ever get so old that our upper range hearing is so damaged that the sound of our teeth being scraped during a cleaning doesn’t make us want to leap out of the chair and run out of the room?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:25 AM •
Monday, August 25, 2014

I guess I’m getting more than a little tired of hearing people gripe about how many vacation days Obama takes. Let’s look at a comparison of him and Bush… Bush who was president while two wars were going on and the economy was tanking…

“On Aug. 8, 2014, Knoller tweeted that Obama had taken 19 vacations totaling 125 days so far while in office. Those numbers have risen a bit due to the Martha’s Vineyard vacation, but that’s still many fewer than George W. Bush’s 65 combined trips to his Texas ranch and his parents’ home in Kennebunkport, Maine, which totaled 407 days at the same point in his presidency.

Not included in this data are trips to the Camp David presidential retreat in western Maryland, which Knoller doesn’t count as “vacation.” Knoller told Yahoo! News that, through Aug. 12, 2014, Obama had made 33 visits to Camp David for all or part of 84 days, while Bush had been there 108 times for all or part of 341 days.”

Makes Obama look like a positive workaholic, doesn’t it?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:08 AM •
Sunday, August 24, 2014

It’s the end of August. It should be colder. I am done with bugs, summer and heat. So let’s get a move on it winter. I have missed you greatly.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:33 AM •
Saturday, August 23, 2014

I thought we’d have at least a few minutes break between the primaries and the general election but the sound never even dimmed on those god awful political ads. I pray god it reaches a point where it’s just white noise in my ears. Or maybe I should just read a book between now and then and never look at tv, listen to radio or peruse a newspaper.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:29 AM •
Friday, August 22, 2014

While you are in the laundry room getting ready to do a load of wash, your dog brings his plush toy in and lays it at your feet, then sits back and stares at you.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:39 AM •

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