The FactsI am a small businessman living in Seattle. In the Summer of 1995 I decided I wanted to be involved in some sort of volunteer program to help the city that I had grown up in. I chose the Big Brothers program. At the age of 16, I found my father dead on the floor. I knew what it was like to be male and not have a male role model.
The intake process for Big Brothers was quite extensive. My intake coordinator spent many hours just interviewing me. In addition, there were background checks on every major and minor aspect of my life. After close to six months of intensive investigation, I was informed that I was officially a Big Brother.
In March, 1996, a "match" with a Little Brother was made. Previously the Little Brother had been matched with another Big Brother, but that first match had not gone smoothly. In fact, the first match for the Little Brother went so poorly that the Big Brothers' organization closed it.
My Little Brother and I hit it off quite well from the start. It was easy for me to relate. He was just like me when I was a kid. His interests in mechanical things reminded me of my youth. It was a pleasant match, and soon we became good friends.
In August, 1996, I had a trip planned with a niece and two nephews. We were going to Las Vegas to enjoy the thrill rides that have sprung up in and around the Las Vegas area. I had taken these same 3 children in the summer of 1995. We all had such a good time that we decided to go again in 1996.
I was not sure if I could take my Little Brother on this trip. I did not mention it to him. Instead, I called my "case manager" at Big Brothers. A case manager is the contact person inside the Big Brothers organization. It is the case manager's job to monitor and manage the Little Brother, the mother and the Big Brother, and to make sure the overall well-being of the Little Brother is met. I told my case manager about my scheduled trip to Las Vegas, and asked if I could take my Little Brother on this vacation (with his mother's approval, of course). My case manager checked with his supervisor, and they approved the trip.
Then, I asked my Little Brother's mother if it would be okay to take my Little Brother on the vacation. She was in favor of the trip, but she did not have the money. I had paid for all of the other children on last year's outing, I explained, and I was going to pay for all of them again this year. Frankly, I expected to pay for my Little Brother. This final issue of my paying for the trip was also approved by Big Brothers.
The final step was to tell my Little Brother. He could not have been happier.
The summer of 1996 past quickly. My little Brother and I continued to meet each week. We did all the summer things, street fairs, sailing, boating, bicycling, frisbee, kite flying and more. The summer's highlight was the trip to Las Vegas.
My relationship with my case manager at Big Brothers was good. He called regularly. We talked about the match. He always asked if there were any problems or if there was anything that he could do. I told him that as far as I was concerned everything was just fine. I asked him about the feedback that he was getting from the mother and Little Brother. There were no problems. The mother and the Little Brother were happy. I even asked the case manager how my match compared to other matches. He said that our match was "as good as they get."
Sometime around October, 1996, my case manager called me and said that he was leaving the Big Brothers program. He was getting married and getting a new job. He told me that I would be getting a new case manager. The new case manager would call within a few days to introduce himself.
A few days later, a new case manager (case manager #2) did call. He introduced himself, we had a nice conversation and he asked all kinds of questions about the match. I told him the match was quite good, and I asked him to keep me informed if there was anything I could do to improve it. I also asked him about the mother and her feelings for the match. He said that she and the Little Brother were quite happy.
Over the next few months I heard from case manager #2 about once a month. Each conversation was just like all the others. No problems. No complaints. I was happy. The mother reported she was happy. The Little Brother was quite happy with the match, too. And finally case manager #2 also related that our match was as good as they get.
The slander beginsAround the middle of March, 1997, something strange happened. Without mention from case manager #2, I received a call from a woman. She identified herself as Ms. Rachel Zimmer, and claimed to be my new case manager (#3) at Big Brothers. My new case manager #3 was quite different on the phone. She seemed cold, and did not want to talk about the match in the same fashion that the two previous case managers had. She was not interested in what we had been doing. She was interested in one thing: SEX.
She asked if I had ever been convicted of any sex abuse crimes, or if anyone had ever made any allegations of sexual abuse against me. I said, "no." She asked the same questions again, this time changing the wording slightly. "No," I said again. A third time, she asked the same thing, this time altering the wording even more, digging harder at the issue of "allegations of sexual abuse." This time, I felt the question was like an accusation. Again, I said no, and she quickly ended the call.
Approximately two weeks later I received another call from case manager #3. This time she avoided all talk about the match. She had just one question. She wanted me to tell her about these false charges of sexual abuse that had been made against me. I told her she had something mixed up. I also told her I had written a number of articles on this exact issue and if she wanted to read my articles, they were in my file. She ended the call immediately.
On May 3, 1997, I had my scheduled Big Brother outing with my Little Brother. When I picked him up, his mother told me that someone at Big Brothers had made a big deal about "all the money that I was spending" on my Little Brother.
The following Monday, May 5th (my Little Brother's 10th birthday), I called case manager #3. She was not in, so I left a message requesting that she give me a call. She did not call. But on Tuesday May 6, 1997, I received a call from case manager #3's supervisor, a Ms. Dana Mrozek.
The hatchet jobThis was the first, and only time, I have ever spoken to Ms. Mrozek. In a conversation lasting less than 5 minutes, Ms Mrozek told me that I had broken a number of rules, and that she had no choice but to close the match. I was shocked. How could this be? I asked her to tell me what the reasons were. She said that I had spent too much money on my Little Brother, and that the relationship had grown beyond the parameters of the agency.
I asked her to be more specific.
She said that I had given him the trip to Las Vegas and a wetsuit. I pointed out that the trip had been approved in advance, including the fact that I was paying for it. I also told her that I had not given my Little Brother a wetsuit. I explained that I lived on a lake and have four wetsuits. My Little Brother uses a wetsuit if we go sailing, just like any other guest. But, I had never given him a wetsuit. She seemed to become flustered and at a loss for words, then she began to criticize my Little Brother's mother.
Ms. Mrozek said that the mother had become too dependent on me. Specifically, Ms. Mrozek charged that the mother was relying on me to give sex education to the Little Brother. Ms. Mrozek further complained that I was going to parent-teacher conferences. I told her that neither of the two things had ever happened. Ms. Mrozek did not appear to care about the facts. Nothing I could say made any difference. She no longer wanted to talk to me. The call was terminated.
On May 6, 1997, I received a letter from Big Brothers. My Little Brother's mother received a similar letter.
The coverup and stonewalling beginOn May 13, 1997 I had a meeting with Keith Padgett, the director of the Big Brothers of King County program. I told him the story and requested that he do an investigation into these issues. Specifically, I asked him to verify my side of this with the Little Brother's mother and case managers #1 and #2. Then, I asked why the procedures in the Big Brothers handbook were not followed.
During my meeting with Mr. Padgett it became quite clear that he and Ms. Mrozek had previously talked. He did not seem too concerned about any of this, and I felt he was doing his best to belittle the entire issue. At one point, grasping for an explanation, he accused me of child abuse and hating women. This did not make sense.
On Friday, May 16, 1997, Keith Padgett called and left a message on my answering machine. He said that he had done an investigation, but that he had not called the Little Brother's mother. He said there would not be any change of the match closure.
The embarassing questions Big Brothers refuses to answerWhat was the real reason this match was closed? The stated reasons simply do not add up.
It is silly to think that nine months after the Las Vegas trip someone could say, you can't do that. Especially after they had approved it in advance. Is the Big Brothers program insinuating that both the mother and I are lying about this issue? Why haven't they asked case manager #1? Moreover, in the May 1997 issue of their newsletter, The Big News, Big Brothers encourages vacations like this.
The wetsuit issue is simply false. The wetsuit my Little Brother uses has never left my house. Numerous other young visitors use it.
The suggestion that the Little Brother's mother had become dependent on me is an insult. This woman adopted her son as a single mom. She is quite capable of taking care of the details in her own life. Her understanding of the value of a positive male role model for her son is indicative of her commitment to her son.
If it had been truly necessary to close the match, why weren't Big Brothers' written policies followed?
The Big Brothers manual that I was given is quite specific on this issue. It says "the loss of a Big Brother is a significant loss." It goes on to say every effort should be "made to resolve a concern and every possibility explored to avoid ending the match." The manual continues, "It is important that all concerned parties be involved in the match closure." The manual says a closure should take about "four weeks." The manual specifically says "Don't rush it. Don't attempt to initiate and conclude the closure process in one visit." The final written policy on this issue ends, "A final match closure meeting is customarily held to make sure all bases have been covered and that the match is closed on as successful a note as possible."
None of these policies were followed.
It should be remembered here that the Little Brother previously had another match. That match had not worked out. At the time of the first match closure, all of these policies were followed. Why not follow procedures for a match that all participants were happy with?
What about "the loss of a Big Brother is a significant loss"? Why would Big Brothers subject my Little Brother to this? Isn't this personal connection the sole reason for Big Brothers?
What about "every possibility explored to avoid ending the match"? No possibilities were explored.
What about "all concerned parties be involved in the match closure"? The mother, my Little Brother and I were never involved. Who did the Big Brothers organization involve?
What about "four weeks" and "A final match closure meeting"? All I received, was a five minute phone call. All the Little Brother's mother got was a letter saying the match was closed.
Finally what about the match being "closed on as successful a note as possible"? By any reasonable standard it looks as if the "match" was closed purposefully to cause grief.
Considering Big Brothers' written policies and the fact that the mother, the Little Brother and I all considered the match a success, the actions of the Big Brothers organization seem puzzling.
How could Keith Padgett do a competent investigation without talking to the mother or case managers #1 & #2?
In Mr. Padgett's message to me on May 16, he clearly stated that he did not contact the mother. In addition, I have personally spoken with both case managers #1 & #2, and they both told me that Keith Padgett did not call them.
Why is the Big Brothers organization being so rude toward my Little Brother's mother?
My Little Brother's mother called Ms. Mrozek a week or so after receiving the closure letter. She wanted to know what was next for the Little Brother with the organization. At that time, Ms. Mrozek was unpleasant toward her, and went out of her way to make My Little Brother's mother feel at fault. Basically, Ms. Mrozek told her to go away.
The final questionWhat is the real reason this match was closed? The stated reasons are flagrantly false and an obvious attempt to cover up the real reason. Why did someone inside Big Brothers risk harming a child by closing this match in such an unprofessional manner?
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