A Family Collector

One night this week, I was flipping through a magazine and commented that a particular child was cute  and that I wanted her. Pluto goofed back with me asking why I wanted her and I told him that I wanted to “collect” her because I “collect” kids! Daffy didnt miss a beat and replied “I collect families!” I chuckled trying to dimiss the comment but she needed to make sure I understood so she asked “You know… because I have had so many families?” Yes, Daffy, I know, and this breaks my heart. I cry for you & Donald that you have had to endure such pain and uncertainty in your lives and I pray for the strength daily to be what both of you need. A FOREVER family.

If I have my way, my heart will be the last in your collection, Daffy.

No meds? Are you nuts?

I spoke to Donald’s group home today and they shared that they (along with a nurse practitioner) are removing him from his lithium over the next 8 days. I don’t support this on any level.

1. During his hospitalization his liver enzymes were high (to the point of being a raging alcoholic with liver failure) from having taken the previous concoction of meds.

2. They chose lithium as a course of treatment because it is filtered through the kidneys rather than the liver. They also added Abilify.

3. The Abilify caused his liver enzymes to sky rocket again so they removed it on discharge day leaving him with lithium as his ONLY medication.

4. The lithium stabilized him to the point he could be released (going from being physically assaultive twice per day to every other day).

5. He is mentally ill. In addition to previous diagnoses of ADHD, PTSD & RAD, they determined he likely has childhood biploar disorder.

Does this sound like a kid that should come off ALL MEDICATION for 2 weeks???? I am truly terrified for the other children in the residential home and the children in his classroom.

The discharge and a few other things…

Donald was discharged yesterday. Before we attended his discharge, I commented to Mickey that I felt they were “rushing” his discharge just as much as they rushed his transition to our home. Little did I know there was more to come. Apparently they decided to do last minute blood work and learned that his liver enzymes have once again spiked. They had transitioned him onto Abilify and Lithium during his stay. Because of the test results, they decided to STOP the Abilify yesterday. And STILL discharged him. They have NO IDEA if he will remain stable (and I still dispute that a stable person is violently assaulting people every other day) once he comes off the Abilify. And furthermore, the group home he is returning to does not support the use of Lithium in children so they have scheduled an appointment with his usual med provider for TODAY. According to the doctor, Lithium is one of very few drugs processed by the kidneys rather than the liver so there are not a lot of options. The group home staff is also disputing any hint of bipolar. They indicated that the doctor does not know him as well as they do to know how he is triggered. While this could be true, I am resentful that they feel they are the only ones who can understand or manage him but are willing to send him on to an unsuspecting family.

The group home also decided that it would be appropriate for us to speak to him daily- depending on his behaviors. I have been given a number to call each night. If he answers, we will talk. If he doesn’t, then he has lost the privilege to talk. I do understand the need for “carrots” with behavior but I feel its completely out of line to use a family and his attachment (or lack of) as a tool. Shouldnt the love of a family be there no matter what? And what happens when/if he returns here? We wont have the same carrot to dangle thus are set up to fail again.

Apparently he had a good enough day yesterday that we were able to talk to him last night. I wish I could find the right words to describe his tone…. not depressed, but whatever is the opposite of “manic”…. his voice was calm and he spoke more slowly than I have ever heard him speak. If I didnt know better, I would assume he was severely drugged. Maybe he is at baseline because he is at a place he knows and is safe? Maybe he was just drained from the transition of the day? Maybe he is having some sorrow that he has “ruined” another family for himself? I just don’t know. I will be eager to get an update from the group home about how these first few days go.

In news related to Daffy, respite has once again been cancelled for her. The state let our social worker know that they do not approve of respite while we should be working on attachment. I find that quite interesting considering THEY are the ones who pulled her off the adoption track. They felt that we used respite too soon with Donald when we were supposed to be attaching. Should I remind them that our goal was never attachment while he was here? Our only goal was SAFETY. Anyway, I dont mind Daffy being here at all. We only agreed to send her because we wanted her to have an additional support and we had explained to Donald that this was a “normal” part of foster care so we wanted to show that both kids would ultilizing the same services to not single him out.

Remarkably, Daffy’s behavior turned around 100% yesterday. After the “cat incident”, she got herself ready for school in record time and got on the bus. When she came home, she was far easier to deal with than she has been in weeks. She did not finish her homework, but it did not become the usual battle either. She went to bed without an argument even though we had company (including kids) at the time. This morning she stayed in her bed to wait for Mickey to get her up, took a shower and got dressed without argument and even brought me toast and a slice banana in bed before going out to the bus! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let this beautiful little child stay for a few more days before sending back the child who tests us and defies us constantly.

The Overdue Update

So many things are running through my mind right now, I hardly know where to start with an update. Definitely expect this to be a scattered post without rhyme or reason.

Donald is being discharged to the group home today. It was discussed that his transition to our home didnt work well because things were not planned well and I feel like the same thing is happening to him all over again. As angry as I am at his behaviors while he was here, I am sad for him that he has not been given any notice about what this transition will be like and what things will look like going forward. He called me last night at almost 9pm because he didnt even know what TIME to plan on leaving. Thats just not right! There is no therapy appointment set up. There is no med check set up. He doesnt know what his communication with us will be like going forward.  Hell, most of the “team” did not even show up for his discharge meeting yesterday.

As for the discharge meeting, a few interesting things of note came from that.

  • The doctor said he is reluctant to diagnose a child with bipolar, but clearly, Donald is bipolar. The caseworker who attended (the boss of Donalds usual caseworker) seemed surprised but said he very much trusts the judgement of the hospital doctor. I have some limited knowledge of bipolar as Tink was diagnosed “Mood Disorder NOS” so I have done some research, but I do not know what this will mean for Donald and how this might change his course of treatment.
  • The hospital doctor and social worker both noted that Donald is quite “attached” to us and that its very important for him to get back to his “family.” Our agency social worker said that there has not been adequate time for him to attach and thats its simply not possible. I dont know what to believe. Our focus with Donald when he lived here was safety. We never got into any attachment work and honestly, I am not even sure I completely understand attachment. I mean, I get the concept of how a baby attaches, but Donald isnt a baby. I have asked numerous times how we would know if the kids were attaching to us and never got any answer that made me feel like I could definitively  tell.
  • The doctor indicated that when Donald first arrived, he was disregulated and having physical altercations twice daily. At this point, he is down to having physical altercations every other day. This makes his safe enough to be discharged??? I understand that he can not stay at a psych hospital for the rest of his life, but if he is still physically assaulting people regularly, how can he be released?

Daffy is definitely letting it all hang out at this point. Every day is a battle with her. Every. Single. Day. It’s just as draining as our social worker told us to expect and then some. My gut tells me that a lot of it is attention seeking. Mickey and I discussed it last night and I had a great plan in place to shower her with positive attention today. I planned to give her so much positive attention that she wouldnt have a chance to do anything negative at all. She didn’t even give me that chance.

At the Daffy’s request, we set up a baby monitor in her room so she can communicate to us if she needs to at night. Its a video monitor which I felt sort of funny about just because of privacy (especially for poor Tink who shares her room), but Daffy loves it. In fact, when she has been angry she accuses us of not watching enough. So this morning, I was watching her play in her bed before we went to get her up. She had a small stuffed animal and she was aggressively hitting another stuffed animal with it. I wondered if she was working through some stuff, until about 3 minutes into it when she ripped her hand back because she got scratched. It was OUR CAT that she had been hitting, but I hadn’t realized that while watching through the monitor. (Mickey had removed the cat from the room before he left take Goofy to school, so she purposely had gotten out of bed to bring him in prior to my waking up and watching the monitor.) I marched over to her room and the second I opened the door, the cat sprinted out. I angrily told her that it was unacceptable for her to harm the cat. She tried to tell me that she hadn’t. I explained I had seen her, so she promptly covered her ears. I walked out and she threw something at the door. I opened the door and said “throw all you want, but you will NOT touch my pets.” Suffice to say, I wasnt at my best but I simply could not bring myself to speak kindly or lovingly after watching her hit my cat. Thankfully Mickey and I complement eachother well so he was able to help her get ready for school while I continued to stew and mutter under my breath.

To be continued…

CPR/First Aid Training & a Donald Update

Mickey and I are now proudly CPR and First Aid certified. Mickey already knew most of the information and honestly, I panic under pressure (especially where blood is involved) so I will likely never use it, but at least its one more thing crossed off the list of things to accomplish as a newly licensed foster parent (and a not-quite-licensed foster parent, since Mickey still has 2 classes left to take to be added to the license)! <– Can’t wait for that to be done!

I called Donald tonight at the hospital and could hardly understand him. He sounded drunk and was muttering about “3 snacks.” I asked if he was okay and said he sounded funny and he told me it was just the phone. Daffy got on the phone with him and within seconds covered the mouth piece to ask if me if he was crying. Then, they got disconnected. I called back and the worker that answered explained that he had been given “something for him to sleep.” Weird. I have talked to Donald at the same time 9 of the past 11 days, sometimes even later and he was always wide awake and nowhere near bedtime. Its a Friday night and they have him sedated for sleep at 6:30pm?? Something sounds fishy to me. He has mentioned the time out room twice this week. I have a feeling they are seeing his rages and medicating him to an extreme level. It could be the only way to control his rage so I am not judging at all, I am just glad they are getting to see a glimpse of what we saw and wish they could give us more information. I hope they are reporting this to his case worker. If they are, she sure isnt updating me. At this point, I am not even sure if I am his legal foster parent. And since the very day he was admitted, no one has contacted me from the hospital with any information, or even to ask questions. I hate being so out of the loop. If we are supposed to be his FAMILY and working towards reunification (albeit a long time away), don’t they think it would be helpful for us to know what’s happening during his hospitalization? Grrrr. I hate political crap.

Overall, a very good day with Daffy. The morning was tough as she was convinced that she was NOT going to go to school, but once we put our foot down about that one, her mood shifted and she actually had a great day. I noticed her calling Mickey & I “Mom” and “Dad” quite a bit this afternoon. So cute. It’s music to my ears! 🙂 I am going to go cuddle her before bedtime! Have a great night!

-Minnie xo

[All names have (obviously) been changed to protect the privacy of our family.]

A few Daffy-isms to lighten the mood…

I feel like this blog has slipped from the positive and energetic note that I started on to a great abyss of fear and venting. In an effort to lighten the mood a bit, I want to share a few recent conversations with Daffy that are the very fiber of what keeps us going and makes this whole journey worthwhile.

In no particular order:

  • Saturday at the science museum, her friends asked her where Donald was. She calmly explained that he is at the hospital but added “Don’t worry, they are keeping me!”
  • At school last week, a friend saw her legal name and asked her about it. She explained to them that she has 2 Moms and 2 Dads and that she recently found out we are her “real” parents so now she has to wait for her name to be changed! What a really cute way to avoid admitting she is in foster care!
  • She was out with a friend for Chinese food Saturday night and she was playing fortune teller. When she was asked what her future held, she said “to become Mickey and Minnie’s daughter forever & ever.” Love that kid, seriously love her.
  • Daffy came home from school yesterday shouting out a certificate she received from Girl Scouts. I asked her to see it and she produced the registration form. LOL
  • Found a calendar from the transition in her room. On one side, she drew a picture of Santa Claus and on the other she added “forever and ever” to every day after her homecoming on January 17th. Totally made me smile and I took it when she wasnt looking.

In other positive news, my blog will be getting a makeover in the next several weeks so keep your eye out for a much more pleasing look! I am really excited about “tidying” up this little place I call home on the internet! This is currently my only blog, but I have been blogging and running various websites for the past decade. I havent blogged in nearly a year and am really enjoying having a place to release and process my thoughts. I am so grateful to those of you that subscribe, read, comment and support me. I dont know that I could have survived if not for the fact of so many incredible faceless people on the internet sharing their experiences, advice and general love. When we decided to adopt through foster care, many people commented that it takes a special person to do what we do. I always brushed it off saying that anyone could do this. I know different now that I have “met” so many of you. It truly does take a special person and I am very honored to be among so many special people who are leading the way for me on this crazy journey. Thank you.

What’s next for Donald?

We attended an emergency treatment team meeting last week with our state case worker and others in her office. Her second tier boss led the meeting and said that we needed to look at this case in an unorthodox way and that she was open to all input. What I think she REALLY meant is that she had a plan that she wants us to try and she would manipulate us to do it. The ironic thing is that her goals arent so far off from what we offered to begin with. I hate that she is ultimately “playing games” when it comes to real lives!

So, the plan as it stands now, is that upon discharge from the hospital, Donald will return to the residential treatment facility he was previously placed in when we met him. The goal is reunification with our family, but they suggested that the transition must be MUCH slower this time, taking as long as a year. Daffy will stay with us, but has been removed from the adoption track we were on. Ultimately, if we were able to adopt her this summer, we could legally just walk away. That is not the goal of the state. So, again looking ONLY at Donald’s best interest, they are taking  adoption off the table for Daffy to protect him. I get it. I get the ultimate reason even though they wont directly admit it, but it frustrates me that they will ignore what is best for Daffy when they can’t even be certain themselves if he will EVER be safe enough to live in a family by their own admission.

Our social worker was not thrilled to have him back at that group home. He has already been there 2.5 years and it’s an hour drive from our home. She tried to advocate for another facility closer to us, but was shot down. We were able to win the battle to keep his new therapist who is supposedly one of the best in the state. I guess that’s one point in his favor.

He was not discharged from the hospital last week as blood work showed his liver functions are up, likely from medications. (Is this something that should have been monitored BEFORE a hospitalization? Hmm…) They decided to remove him from all meds to clean the slate and then start over. We werent given a time line other than they expected his discharge would be today (Monday). We saw him on Saturday and it was quite obvious that he was off his meds. He was literally shaking in his skin.

Daffy is definitely starting to show some of her tougher behaviors. I think she is testing to see if we will “give her back, too.” *sigh* If only there were words to make her know how much we love her, but alas, all we have is time, I suppose. And without being dangerous, we are definitely NOT giving her back.

Got a couple of cute “Daffy-isms” I want to share, but I am exhausted so I will save them for another day… g’night!

-Minnie xo

[All names have (obviously) been changed to protect the privacy of our family.]

Where to begin?

So much has happened in the last few days, I hardly know where to begin. I guess it makes sense to start where I left off and answer the question “Will respite be enough?” The short answer is no. Donald’s issues go far beyond a 2 day respite.

We picked him up on Sunday and he seemed to be in a relatively good mood. We came home, had a quick dinner and then Mickey left to take Pluto to a friend’s house. Within minutes of Mickey being gone, Donald was raising a fist to Daffy and threatening her. He began chasing her and she ran in terror. She lives her life in fear of him. Every minute. Anyway, we got him to bed without further incident. The next morning he had a med check appointment. I made a list of some of the “low lights” of the first 13 days of placement to give to the doctor so I wouldnt have to shame him by discussing what had happened. She read it and looked at me with fear in her eyes. She ultimately increased the anti-psychotic med that he takes, adding another .5 in the afternoon. She told us if he continued his behaviors that we should go to the ER for evaluation. Mickey drove Donald to school without incident other than him complaining of a stomach ache. That afternoon, he took the “little bus” home for the first time. Mickey was home when he arrived and Donald was on edge right from the start. When Daffy arrived home, he immediately started in on her. He pinned her against the wall on the stairs and started threatening her. He took her backpack and locked it in her room (because he is mad the kids have locks to protect themselves from his unsafe choices). I arrived home from picking up Tink at an appointment approximately 1/2 hour after Donald got home and he was ready to blow. Within seconds of walking in the door, he was screaming and throwing things at me. Mickey got him into the living room and I rushed all the kids and pets upstairs behind closed doors. His rage continued and I made the choice to call the police. Living in a small town stinks… I was literally on the phone with 911 for 21 minutes before the police arrived. He was starting to come down slightly when they arrived and the officer stated “I don’t know what you want me to do about this. There is nothing I can do.” Gee, thanks. We can be assaulted in our home daily and there is NOTHING you can do to protect us???? We told him that we had been advised that he could call an ambulance to take Donald to the ER to be evaluated. He said he had never heard of such a thing. (Whaaaat?) He called the ER and found out this is, in fact, something that happens and ultimately Donald went by ambulance to be evaluated. The officer told the EMTs that Donald had been “:wildly out of control” when he arrived. Are you kidding me? He should have been there for the previous 20 minutes when bikes were being thrown. Ultimately, the mental health worker determined that Donald is unsafe to those around him and decided to admit him and have him transferred to a psychiatric facility.

The next morning it was determined that Donald could be released that day as “stable”. Well, DUH…. of course he is stable. He LOVES the hospital. He loves residential care. Its a FAMILY he can’t live in and its his SISTER he can’t be around without being aggressive. The state asked if we would take him back and we said no, not unless he can be safe. Our actual caseworker for the state does not believe he should be placed with his sister. Both of the children’s therapists advise against it. Our entire agency believes they should not be placed together. And yet, some big wig exec thinks they should be placed together at all costs. We were advised that we could lose Daffy as early as that afternoon. Thankfully Donald was not released so we were able to keep Daffy.

Tuesday night I wrote the following letter to our caseworker at the state:

I am writing this letter with the hopes that you can share this with the team to give greater insight and a more personal story to the current case known as “DONALD & DAFFY LAST NAME”. I am disappointed that the meeting for Wednesday was cancelled and hope that we will be able to reschedule as I feel the insight my family can offer will give a more accurate picture of the current situation than any Report, Safety Plan or note.

When our family began the journey to become a pre-adoptive family in early 2011, we knew from the beginning that we were only interested in sibling groups. We understand and celebrate the connection that our own biological children share and wanted to honor that for a sibling group in foster care while expanding our own family. We did not consider any single child. I first saw the children on the website AdoptUSKids.org on October 4th. I took a screen shot and sent it to my husband and said “THOSE are our kids.” I contacted our agency right away, but initially did not hear back. On October 13th, we attended a welcome dinner for new families where XSOCIALWORKERX was sharing her Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. I again saw their beautiful faces and KNEW that they were meant to be a part of our family. I quickly followed up with XSOCIALWORKERX the next day and had a meeting with the team literally the very next week. We received their adoptive histories and there was nothing to indicate that we wouldn’t be able to manage the care they needed. Over the next 2 months, we spent countless hours driving from OUR TOWN to OTHER TOWN to visit with the kids. We saw them as much as we possibly could and began to fall in love with them. As placement got closer, we did see some acting out and signs of aggression, but we were assured this was a normal part of the transition process. By the time transition day arrived, we were all quite nervous about some of the assaultive behaviors that DONALD had already presented. Other families may have chosen to stop the process, but we continued on because in our hearts and minds these were already our children and children are not returnable.

Over the course of the 2 weeks since the children were placed, we have experienced numerous assaultive and dangerous behaviors from DONALD. He has physically attacked me (twice), MICKEY (three times), TINK (twice) and his biological sister countless times. He is extremely aggressive with our pets from things like pulling tails and crushing them to anally penetrating our Yellow Lab twice (once with his finger and once with a stick). We also learned that he killed a pet gerbil in a previous placement by crushing it with a rock. In an effort to keep everyone safe from DONALD and his aggressive rages, we installed door locks on all the bedroom doors so they are safe at night and have a safe place to go during any rage incidents during the day. We installed a door alarm on his door so that a doorbell rings as soon as the door is opened so that we can get up to monitor what he is doing during the night. We implemented a plan to keep the animals locked away at night. MICKEY & I constantly monitor his every move during the day. Despite all of these measures, he has continued to verbally and physically assault those in our family, especially his biological sister DAFFY. He often raises his fist to threaten her. He grunts and growls like an animal and chases her around. He hits her on an almost daily basis. He has pinned her against the wall. He has stated that he wishes she were dead.

We have felt that he has been dis-regulated during his entire stay with us. A hospitalization seemed imminent. During his rage on Monday afternoon, he seemed to be more aggressive (throwing chairs, punching, kicking, clearing tables) and did not seem to be calming down. We called the police and he was taken via ambulance to LOCAL Hospital in LOCAL TOWN. He was assessed and it was deemed appropriate that he be transferred to PSYCH Hospital.

At this point, we have evaluated the entire situation taking into consideration each member of our family and their needs. The #1 need of every member of our family is to be safe. With DONALD living in our home, no one is safe, including himself. He stated during the hospital intake that he is “safe at home but no one is safe when he is home.” Keeping this in mind, we don’t feel allowing him to live with us would be safe for any member of our family, including DAFFY. He needs more than anyone is able to offer in a family setting. That said, I do still consider him my son. Before I make any decision regarding DONALD & DAFFY, I always ask myself what I would do if they were “PLUTO OR TINK” (2 of our bio kids). The bottom line is, I would not let ANY child of mine live in our home at the detriment/risk of all other members. I believe in my heart that DONALD should not live in a family, and especially not with his sister, DAFFY. I believe his needs can be best met in a residential setting where he can receive constant supervision and direction. I would be honored to be able to continue in a “family” role with DONALD while he lives at such a setting. I would certainly nurture his relationship with his biological sister but also with his preadoptive siblings as well. I will always consider him a part of our family. I know this is not the typical or ideal situation for any child and that permanency in an adoptive home is always the goal, but I don’t believe that DONALD has the skills needed to live safely within any family in a home setting.

Furthermore, I feel it is very important that the state view DAFFY & DONALD as the two separate children that they are. They have separate issues and separate needs. The way the current system is set up, they are viewed as one entity and given only one option for placement. This would be like one member of a sibling group having cancer and all members receiving chemotherapy! This simply does not make sense.  DONALD’s needs have always been placed above DAFFY’s. In 2009 when DAFFY was placed with with ANOTHER PRE ADOPTIVE FAMILY during DONALDS’s lengthy stay at PSYCH HOSPITAL, her therapist  and the children’s Guardian ad Litem both petitioned for DAFFY to stay with the PRE ADOPTIVE FAMILY. The court ruled against their recommendations because of DONALD’s best interest. It’s time that DAFFY’s best interest be considered and that she have a fair shot at a loving family where she can thrive and grow while continuing a relationship with her biological brother in a safe and new way. She has expressed sadness that DONALD’s behaviors will again cause her to lose another “forever family”. As a child with attachment issues who is at a critical age, she should be afforded the opportunity to learn to attach and live happily in a stable family. Her current therapist also supports this notion.

The irony of the fact we purposely sought a sibling group and are now arguing against them being in the same placement is not lost on me. It’s something that I have struggled with. However, I do believe that I am looking out for the best interest of BOTH children individually and can still support and nurture the integral biological relationship between them which was my original goal.

I beg of you to take a close look at this unique case. I beg you to protect DAFFY and finally remove her from the domestic abuse she continues to endure by being placed with her biological brother. This abuse is not different than the abuse she witnessed in her original biological family. She is re-victimized every day. It’s time for the cycle to end and her to have a fair shot at a happy normal life. Keeping her safe and allowing her to flourish does not need to mean the end of a relationship with her biological brother. In fact, being placed separately would allow them to each grow and begin a new truly healthy relationship for the first time in their lives.

My family would love the opportunity to meet with your office to further to discuss how both children’s needs can be met. We consider DONALD & DAFFY our children and love them both dearly. We do not want to lose them both simply because DONALD’s behaviors do not allow him to function in a normal healthy family.

Wednesday morning we were told that a decision was made that we could keep her and move forward with adoption. It was recommended that we continue a relationship with Donald. Praise the Lord! This was always our intention so it seemed we had received the best possible news. Our social worker was scheduled to come when Daffy got out of school to let her know she could stop worrying. By the time, the social worker arrived, the plan had changed. She let us know that we were not on an adoptive track unless we agreed to attempt to integrate Donald back into our home. While we would be open to that (IF HE CAN BE SAFE), I resented the fact that they use his sister and put her at risk simply for HIS best interests. Our social worker shared that she does not believe Donald will EVER be safe. I knew it in my heart already, but having it confirmed makes it all the scarier to have to “play games” in order to keep Daffy safe.

We phone conferenced with the state case worker and she said another meeting was scheduled for Thursday (today). Initially we were not invited to attend but I just got a call while typing this that they would like us and our agency to be there. My impression is that we need to discuss exactly what “safety” means to us. I fear that if they dont like our concept of safety that they will pull Daffy and move her & Donald to residential care together as they have done in the past after Donald’s hospitalizations.

I am beyond frustrated at the speed in which things are changing. In some ways, I wish I was never updated along the way. The up and down is killing me. I feel like no matter WHAT news we get today or what plan we develop, it’s meaningless because they can change their minds at any point. We were led to believe that we were going into this without risk since the parental rights have already been terminated. I know better now.

-Minnie xo

[All names have (obviously) been changed to protect the privacy of our family.]