Stephanie Sottile’s 31 Days of Christmas – Day 15 & 16: Home Alone 1 and 2

Stephanie Sottile’s 31 Days of Christmas – Day 15 & 16: Home Alone 1 and 2

Dear Board of Directors for the Illinois Association Of Social Workers,

First of all, I must state that it has been my absolute pleasure serving you and the people of Illinois for almost 15 years. I feel social work and working with troubled families is my calling and I get no greater joy from watching a broken family become fixed due to hard work and an open heart. However, I must mention that this McCallister case is the most difficult case I have ever faced and to be quite honest, is the sole cause of my very long hiatus that I’ve recently requested. I believe you received the notice I sent last week and hence why you need a further explanation as to why someone would need a 6 month hiatus.

This case was first brought to my attention in January of 1991 by an anonymous neighbor who just referred to himself as “Mitch M.” and said while he had very little contact with this family, it was not until December of 1990 that this family’s irresponsibility and gross negligence (which affected this neighbor’s well-being) caused him to call my office. Now after an innumerable amount of meetings and therapy sessions with each member of the McCallister family, I can confidently say that this family is simply beyond repair and has no use for our services. While each member, especially the mother and father, were very willing to share every detail of the incident and were cooperative, the lines of communication between the parents and the children and even among the siblings themselves are completely vacant. It used to be my own personal philosophy that there is no family that can’t be helped with a little understanding and compassion and I unfortunately need to report that not only did our services not help this family, but it has made me question my own involvement in this career choice.

The incident I’m referring to was during the Christmas season of 1990 in which the McCallisters, among some extended family, were planning to travel to Paris, France on vacation. When I first heard the details, I immediately became concerned that no one in the family, even the children, had any respect for a police officer in their home- he simply had to remain there asking everyone if there was adult around so he could speak to them about neighborhood safety before they left for their flight. It is clear that the idea of respecting authority was not instilled in these children and it very much concerns me that the adults don’t have much respect, either. I will also mention here that in addition to speaking with families, I ask for photos or home videos of them in their home so I can have a clearer picture of what their home life is like before they meet with me. And I must say I am deeply disturbed by the photos: the home is poorly decorated with clown-like bold colors, bright carpets, and clashing wallpaper; while this may seem trivial, it should be mentioned that a calm home brings a calm family and if these photos are any indication, this home cannot and will not bring about a calm and loving family. If one considers the parents’ earnings, it is surprising why these simple issues in their home cannot be addressed.

The main reason for the McCallisters being assigned to me was the fact that before they left for the airport, through some misunderstanding (though in my wildest imagination, I can’t imagine how), they left their youngest son who was only 8 years old, at home. When I was told this shocking story, the mother said she did not realize it until they were already flying and immediately try to call the local police station to see what could be done. What I find very upsetting is that the youngest child attempted several times the night before to ask if he could stay in one of his sibling’s rooms (my assumption is that his room was being used for one of their many guests as they had roughly 15 people in their home the night before the flight). Every sibling and the parents rejected his plea that this 8 year old could stay in their rooms and I can also venture to say that if this family had compassion for one another, then this incident wouldn’t have happened. I was also told during one of our many sessions that the oldest brother, a teenager, said to the child in question that he wouldn’t let him sleep in his room if he “was growing on [his] ass.” I had to mark in my notes that this sibling still does not understand that there was something wrong with what he said.

The most heartbreaking accounts of this family’s story is what did happen to their youngest child was they weren’t home and why I strongly suggest getting the court system involved. While the family was absent, two local burglars attempted several times to break into their home. Now, I think I need not mention how horrifying this must’ve been for an 8 year old boy, but he also tried to protect his own home with items from around the house. I won’t list every detail but it involved setting his car toys on the floor so the criminals would fall, laying out nails for them to step on, and firing a BB gun into of the burglars’ genitals! This is NOT something a child should go through and I am amazed that he is even able to function as well as is he. I suspect there will be a time in the near future in which the shock of this will finally catch up with the boy and the ramifications will be felt for many years.

It is very clear that these parents love their children. The mother did tell me she tried bribing people in airports, stayed up for days on end, and finally rode in the back of a truck with a polka band who drove her back home. I do understand that the dedication is there, but there is a clear disconnect when attempting to keep that dedication to your child’s safety on a daily basis and not just in a crisis. There is also a disconnect in setting a standard family routine which could help in terms of organization (which is desperately needed in a bigger family, as this family has five children). If they had a certain level of organization, the adults on this trip would’ve easily been able to know where all the children were at all times. And, as a side note, it worries me that there were many children on this trip without their parents and I would implore the board to send out some representatives to the extended families’ homes as well to make sure this is not a rampant problem.

In conclusion, I advise the board to assign this case to someone else. And as a last (very strong) recommendation, please advise the McCallisters to not make any travel plans for the next two years. There is a lot of work that needs to be done within that family and I suspect that the issues that presented themselves during this 1990 incident will surely arise again in the near future. If there is any notice that they are planning to leave the country or even the state, I would recommend you contact the authorities immediately and place the parents under arrest.

Thank you for your patience and understanding in this time. I will contact the board once I am ready to continue my services.


FINAL WORDS: Hey, guys, remember when our president was in the sequel? Good times…

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