The Jamison Center

FullSizeRender (6)
“In 1981, the A. Miriam Jamison Children’s Center was established in response to the growing number of reported child abuse cases in Kern County.”
     “On February 3, 1986, Mercedes Glisan was interviewed at the Miriam Jamison Children’s Center. The minor stated she was frequently left unattended by her mother. When asked how many times she had been left alone during the month of January, the minor stated she had been left alone about three times. She added that her mother would leave at about nine or ten o’clock  in the evening and come back at two a.m. in the morning. She stated her mother was usually at the Matchmaker Club on these occasions. When asked if she was frightened during her mother’s absence, she said she was. “

On February 3, 1986, Valerie Glisan was interviewed at the Family and Children’s Services building. She was very emotional and agitated during this interview. She admitted leaving Mercedes alone on January 31, 1986 and on previous occasions as well. She acknowledged that Mercedes had been taken into custody in June 1985 and she had been cautioned at that time to provide proper supervision for her in the future.”

“The minor’s mother stated she was without housing or resources. She had been staying with various friends since the fire and would be unable to provide a residence for the minor. Beyond this, she indicated she would not be emotionally capable of providing for the minor. She was very confused and appeared to be incapable of planning for either herself or the minor. The appearance she presented was that of a person totally overwhelmed by her circumstances.”

“In view of the multiple parenting problems on the part of the minor’s mother and the minor being repeatedly left unattended, a petition was filed under Section 300A of the Welfare and Institutions Code on February 4, 1986.”

I know what you’re thinking. “Back in my day, we were told to go outside and not come back until the street lights came on” or “We were left alone all the time and were just fine.” I’m not sure what changed between the 1950’s and 1986, but the laws changed making it illegal to leave your children alone, unsupervised, for any length of time before a certain age. Perhaps it was because in the past it was a necessity to leave kids alone, hell, kids worked! Needless to say, it was and is illegal, as well it should be.

In the years leading up to 1986, when my mom, sister Daunya and I lived with my grandma, we were often left alone, or may as well have been. When my mom was gone, we were left in the care of my grandmother. But she was an alcoholic busy drinking her screwdrivers or martinis. Alcoholism runs rampant in my family. More on that later.

Anyhow, because I was left in charge of myself so often, I learned to be very independent at a young age. Cooked my own meals (hot dogs and mac n cheese were my specialty), dressed myself, bathed myself (I think), and got myself to school. Ok, that’s a lie. I NEVER went to school. Instead, when my mom got home from wherever she was and it was time for school, I would act like I was going to school. But really, I would wander the apartment complex until it was time to come home. Ingenious right?

Lets talk about the Jamison Center. It’s a wonderful place, helping children who need emergency shelter. If I could bring myself to do it, I would volunteer my time there. However, I can’t. Why? Because I am so fucking traumatized by my stay there that I would not wish staying there on anyone. Don’t get me wrong- they did nothing to me to traumatize me. But take the fire, add that to being ripped away from your home, not knowing what is going to happen, where you will end up, being surrounded by other kids who have faced just as much trauma as you have (leaving them really fucked up)- you will have one traumatized child on your hands.

Because my clothes burned up in the fire, I had nothing to wear. Lucky for me, they  had a closet full of random clothing for me to wear. We went to school there as well. Which meant I went to school wearing donated clothing and slippers. I felt like an idiot. I felt like everyone was looking at me. Thus the foundation for my extreme insecurity was laid.  I do not know how long I was at the Jamison Center, but it felt like well over month.

 

1986

Mercedes Rochelle Glisan, age eight years, was taken into protective custody on January 31, 1986 by Bakersfield Police Department Officer Don Martin. Early that evening, he had been dispatched to the scene of a fire accidentally set by the minor who had been left unsupervised by her mother.

Excerpts from court documents:

Mercedes Rochelle Glisan, age eight years, was taken into protective custody on January 31, 1986 by Bakersfield Police Department Officer Don Martin. Early that evening, he had been dispatched to the scene of a fire accidentally set by the minor who had been left unsupervised by her mother, Valerie Glisan.

According to Officer Martin’s report:

“On 01-31-86 at about 1920 hours, I was dispatched to 5101 Marsha, Apt 116, in regards to a fire which had occurred there. Upon arrival, I met with Captain Gocher (phonetic) for the Fire Prevention and Arson Investigation Division. He stated fire department personnel had just investigated and put out a fire in which Apt. 116 had been totally destroyed. Gocher stated through his investigation , he found that an eight year old female had been left alone at the residence. He stated in talking with the juvenile, she is constantly being left unsupervised by her mother and that the fire started as a result of the juvenile being left alone. I contacted the juvenile, Mercedes Glisan, and asked her what happened in regards to the fire. She told me that she had been left alone by her mother since about 3:30 pm. and she did not know where her mother was. Mercedes stated the power went off in the residence and it was dark, so she lit several candles inside the residence to provide light for herself. Mercedes stated she left the candles on, forgetting to blow them out and she went outside to play and then went out to a neighbor’s house. she said sometime later, she came back and saw smoke coming from the apartment, at which time a neighbor had notified the fire department who was responding to the fire. Mercedes told me that she is always left unattended by her mother as her mother leaves the apartment and goes to the Matchmaker Bar and several other places, and she does not know where her mother goes on these occasions.”

“I talked to Mercedes’ mother Valerie Glisan. She told me the reason she was not at her residence was because she had vehicle problems and her vehicle broke down on California and Stockdale. She stated she then had her vehicle fixed, at which time she responded back to the residence. She stated she does not leave her child alone but then talking with the child, she does state she is left alone numerous occasions. Valerie Glisan changed her story when I asked her again. She stated she has left Mercedes unattended several times but it is not her fault as she is always looking for work.”

Most of this is accurate. But what it fails to tell you is what really happened. My mom often left me alone. She left me alone so often that I rarely attended school and I ran amok through the neighborhood, which was nothing but apartment complexes. This particular night, as she left me, she gave me specific instructions to go directly to my friends house. Clearly, I did not. Instead, I messed around the apartment and discovered a plastic candle holder and mirror which was meant to be mounted on the wall with fake candles. I mounted them, attempting to fancy up the apartment for my mom and stuck REAL candles in them and lit them. THEN, the lights went out. I tried to check the breaker (because at 8 I was already an electrician). After I realized I couldn’t turn the lights back on, I went to my friends house, forgetting about the lit candles.

Some time later, I don’t remember how long, there was banging on her door. A man was yelling FIRE!!! and we all ran out of the apartment. I could see that my apartment was in flames and I panicked. I ran. I ran as fast as my little 8 year old legs could take me. I don’t know who grabbed me or where I was. I remember that someone told me they thought I was in the apartment and they tried knocking the door down to get me. In flashes I remember my mom came running up, it was like the movies, screaming, crying, hitting her knees in fear, anger, terror, all of the above.  I was in a police car being taken away. I was so terrified, I had bitten a hole in my bottom lip.