CHICAGO (CBS) — The two young daughters of deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich are certain to encounter difficulty as they experience life with their father in prison, an expert says.
When Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday by U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, he said his first mission would be to explain to his daughters – Amy, 15, and Annie, 8 – what would happen from here.
But Psychologist Dr. Daniela Schreier said on the CBS 2 Morning News that Blagojevich’s daughters have been in a “very difficult situation” ever since he was arrested while still governor three years ago.
“It is a very difficult situation. I think the drama started three years ago when the governor was first taken out of his home and arrested, so the children are actively involved,” Schreier said. “The oldest daughter is 15 years old, and she’s definitely very astute, and she knows what’s going on.”
In a move that many observers found to be in bad taste, Blagojevich even brought his two daughters to court during his first trial last year.
As for the sentence, Schreier points out that for girls ages 8 and 15, 14 years seems like a lifetime.
“So I think the best thing they can say is, ‘This is the outcome of the trial, and Dad is going to leave us for a long time. We’re going to have visiting rights, and we’re going to have to handle it as a family,’ ” she said.
But even with an understanding of what will happen to their father, the separation is certain to be difficult and damaging, Schreier said.
“Rod Blagojevich told us he’s a very good father, so the primary attachment has been formed with both of his daughters at 8 and 15,” she said. “So certainly now being taken away from home, there might be some poor academic performance initially going on, peer relationship difficulties, certainly disturbances within the family. But as long as they would have strong social support and Patti can be there for them, it’s a little easier.”
But even with their mother’s support, Schreier said, the huge publicity that surrounded the case might result in “a lot of hazing going on.”
“It might have started already,” she said. “I would not be surprised if they have already been teased in school, or actually really mistreated, because children are cruel sometimes.”
Blagojevich himself addressed this risk as he spoke in court before he was sentenced.
“I want to apologize to my wife. I love her. She has stood by me in the worst of times, not only the best of times. … Of course I want to apologize to my children and explain this is not how we saw this,” Blagojevich said Wednesday. “Because of my stupidity and the mistakes that I’ve talked about … I’ve ruined their innocence. … It’s not like their name is Smith, they can’t hide.”
Needless to say, the adjustment will also be difficult for Blagojevich himself, Schreier said.
“It’s not going to be country club living for him,” she said. “Blagojevich is an actor. He’s a director. He’s a leader. And now he will have to learn to be a follower.”