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