The Birth Family Letters

mailAs I think I’ve shared, Daffy has not seen her birth Mom since July and her birth brother, Donald, since December 2012. We have allowed letters to be exchanged during that time, but of course we open them and read them before giving them to Daffy to be sure nothing questionable is being said. We were instructed to do this by Daffy’s most recent therapist and we agreed it was a good idea. This also allows us a heads up that behaviors may occur as a result of being triggered. The most recent letter arrived last weekend. First, the envelope return address stated “XXXX Family” rather than the usual “Mommy XXXX” that is usually used as the name in the return address. When I read it, I immediately felt pangs for Daffy. I know she will view it as just one more reminder that Donald is back with their Birth Mom and she isn’t.

I opened the envelope to find 4 letters enclosed… one from Donald, one from Birth Mom, one from Birth Mom’s new husband and one from Birth Mom’s older biological daughter (who was taken by the state many years before Daffy was born). Apparently she is 18 now and is living back with her Birth Mom.

I don’t even know where to begin to describe the issues in these letters, so let’s just take them one by one:

1. Birth Mom: Birth Mom wrote once again reminding Daffy that she still has her Christmas gifts and will give them to her when she gets to see her. (It was previously discussed by the post adoption unit working with Birth Mom’s family that she would give the gifts to staff to pass on to Daffy, but apparently Birth Mom decided that she would rather have a carrot to dangle in front of Daffy. Sigh. ) She then told Daffy all the things she had received for Valentine’s Day. She went on to say that she bought Donald a 7″ Tablet and a goodie bag for Valentine’s Day and she got coloring books and a goodie bag for her step-daughter. She then pointed out that she got a goodie bag for Daffy and it was with her Christmas things. REALLY???? I do not expect- or even WANT- Birth Mom to buy a tablet for Daffy, but to describe each gift in such detail clearly indicating to Daffy she doesn’t mean as much to her is just plain wrong. At the end, she closed with a PS telling Daffy that her oldest daughter is now living with her and asks if its okay that she wrote a letter. Ummmm, hello? Clearly it’s too late to be asking since you included the letter. She did not provide any further details, but it’s sure looking like a bizarre family reunion over there, one that Daffy is not a part of.

2. Donald: As surprising as it is, Donald’s letter was actually the least offensive of the 4 letters this time. He told her he heard a Hannah Montana song that made him think of her. He called her “sis” a lot (same as last letter when he wrote “I’ve been a bad boy, sis.“) and he drew her a picture of a tree with her name on it.

3. Birth Mom’s New Husband: I’ve never thought of this guy as a bad guy. He has custody of his young elementary school-aged daughter. (Side note: Daffy’s Birth Mom HATES his little girl and has no problem sharing that with anyone who will listen. She resents the fact that she could be allowed to raise this stepchild but not her own biological children, 4 in total, because the court terminated her rights). Anyway, the new husband seems to be fond of Daffy, despite only have met her once or twice in 2008 before Birth Mom’s rights were terminated. So, he wrote a fairly generic letter and then requested Daffy draw him the China Doll they talked about. He them went on to remind Daffy to include the butcher knife in the pictures. WAIT, WHAT? I had to read that part a few times over. Why on God’s green earth would this man ask Daffy to draw a picture of a China Doll with a butcher knife???? I’ve tried to see what I can found out about the Chinas Doll in the Great & Powerful Oz movie but so far not too much luck especially as it relates to a butcher knife. Regardless, I dont think Daffy needs ANY encouragement to draw ANYTHING featuring ANY knives after the incident at school in 2012 and the photos she drew of death last year.

4. Birth Mom’s Older Biological Daughter: Ok, so let me start by saying, when we first learned back in 2011 that Donald and Daffy had 2 older biological sisters that had been removed and ultimately adopted into a neighboring state, we spoke to the kids about them. Neither child had any clue what we were talking about. The workers from the agency we were with were made aware and also spoke to Daffy about the and Daffy still denied having any sisters. On the first visit Daffy had with Birth Mom in 11/2012, Birth Mom brought a photo of these “sisters” and Daffy did not recognize them and said she did not know who they were. Fast forward to receiving these letters. I was shocked to see this letter included. The letter didn’t say a lot other than the fact this 18 year old has now moved back with Birth Mom and is hoping to finish high school. She gave Daffy her phone number and said to call anytime. She said she misses Daffy.

As if the birth family stuff wasn’t already wreaking  havoc in Daffy’s life with the Birth Mom she wants to see, Donald whom she doesn’t want to see, her Birth Mom’s new husband and his daughter of whom she hardly knows, she now has a Birth Sister that she doesn’t remember who wants to be a part of her life. WTF. I really wish Birth Mom would work with me for her to see Daffy without adding this barrage of other people into the mix. Daffy can not handle it right now. She is struggling with daily life. Things like this could easily put her over the edge.

So, my gut said maybe these were letters we should save in a special place until Daffy is older and can deal with everything. Mickey disagreed. He feels like Daffy needs to see the reality (and insanity!) of what is going on at Birth Mom’s house. I relented and he gave her the letters tonight, coincidentally the second night of his two days off.  I’m sure I’ll get to enjoy a spike in behaviors the next few days and into the weekend. Lucky me.

signature

Advertisements

More Changes

Last I wrote, we were awaiting Daffy’s TFCBT assessment and the treatment plan from Daffy’s therapist. As usual, a lot has happened.

We finally heard back from Daffy’s therapist via email. She decided to terminate her therapy with Daffy. She really didn’t give a reason other than to say now would be a good time since there are other supports in place. My jaw fell open… I asked for copies of the treatment plan and she decides to terminate??? Guess I got my answer. Anyway, she said she wanted 2-3 sessions to “terminate”. Mickey and I discussed it, then talked it over with Daffy and decided that Daffy’s next appointment would be her last. Daffy wrote the therapist a letter to say goodbye and brought it with her on Tuesday, but didn’t give it to her until she was leaving. She told Mickey & I later that it was because she was uncomfortable when the therapist cries. What? Does that woman have ANY therapeutic boundaries??? The therapist’s decision shocked me at the time, but with it behind us now, I am feeling pretty good about it being over. As I had posted previously, we weren’t planning to continue with her anyway, but I would have liked a bit more control on the way things ended. I guess she saw the situation for what it was… a very long two years with virtually no progress. The therapist offered to provide a reference and I declined. I think I’m all set on anyone she might recommend.

In other news, the sw did the TFCBT assessment and said that Daffy did not indicate any PTSD or trauma. What????? I was baffled and frustrated at first, but the sw went on to say that she could still do some of the components of TFCBT with Daffy, she would simply leave out the narrative. In discussing things further with her the following week, I got a bit more insight. For example, one of the questions asked if Daffy had ever seen anyone be physically abused in her family. Daffy had initially replied no, but when the sw pushed her a little more, Daffy clarified that she had never seen any violence in THIS family, but that she had in her birth family. The other really interesting piece that came out of the evaluation was Daffy’s response to the question about her greatest worry/fear/concern. Daffy said that she she feared she would do something really bad and be thrown out of the family. I know, I know…. I can hear you all sighing with content that this must mean she loves us. I have to admit, there was a part of me that got hope from that statement, too. BUT…. as the sw went further in describing their conversation about it, it became less about Daffy wanting to “stay” in our family and more about Daffy worrying that she will do something dangerous or awful at any time that will get her removed. I get that with an abuse history, she has come to believe that being thrown out of a family is a risk… hell, it’s happened to her because of her brother’s behaviors in the past! But in actuality, we all face a series of imminent consequences- including being taken from our families- if we do something horrible.  I mean, I know that if I were to kill someone right now, I would face prison time… the DIFFERENCE is, I don’t walk around every day wondering or worrying when (or even if) I might actually kill someone. I know I won’t. Do you see the difference? Daffy knows her own thoughts & feelings and she is the only one who truly knows what risk she poses to the people around her. It was kind of chilling as I processed through all of this.

The next day Daffy and I exchanged numerous letters in our notebook which confirmed all the more that she still needs help. She referenced:

  • A desire to strangle someone
  • Wanting to run away at some points
  • Feeling suicidal at some points (though did say she had no specific plan when I asked for details)
  • Using defiance so “she will die” (guessing this means she thinks someone will kill her if she is defiant enough?)
  • Living her “worst nightmare”
  • Her biggest fear (someone climbing in her window and killing her)
  • Her “hard life” (which she said was school when I asked for details)
  • Poor self image (complaining about her weird belly button, huge ugly feet and a freckle on her private parts…. and going on to say that the only things she liked about herself were face, skinny body, blonde hair and blue eyes)

I mean, COME ON people, STOP trying to tell me that the only issue my kid has is ADHD. All of this came out of one day’s worth of letters. The actual problem list is MUCH longer. It is not NORMAL for a kid to be suicidal at 11 years old, ya know?? I need someone to help her… to help us! I feel like the post adoption worker is constantly trying to deny Daffy’s issues because she knows full well that the state LIED throughout this whole process and admitting to issues now would prove that. The thing is, the issues exist and I already KNOW they lied, so just help us already! GEESH!

I scanned copies of our letters from that day and emailed them to the two social workers, leaving off the post adoption worker.  (She doesn’t care anyway, so what’s the point? If the workers think she needs the info, they can pass it on.) Both agreed that there is clearly more going on than what Daffy let on during the TFCBT assessment and even considered that the questions that were asked of Daffy may have brought stuff up for her. GOOD! The only way to deal with all this stuff is to get it out there.

I was also able to set up an appointment recently with the former therapist I mentioned in this post. That meeting will be happening next week and I’m eager to get more details on how he came to the Reactive Attachment Disorder diagnosis. I invited the post-adoption worker and current social workers to attend the meeting, as a curtesy. The post adoption worker wrote back saying that she couldn’t make it, but that the post adoption unit felt they “should be represented” so they were sending another worker…. the post-adoption worker is the one on DONALD’S CASE! Whaaaaaaatttttt? Are you SERIOUS???? Daffy hasn’t seen Donald in almost 14 months and her birth mom in 7 months. The meetings with this worker late last year (to decide the appropriateness of visits) were absolutely useless. In fact, she ticked me off with how disrespectful she was of our adoptive relationship (referencing birth mom as “mom” to Daffy without even asking what terminology we use in our home). And now you want her to attend our fact finding mission with a former therapist? Why? Because you want to be able to squash info that you don’t want me to know? Ugh. I haven’t decided how to handle their decision yet. I will probably allow her to go and not “rock the boat”, but I will definitely be terminating the permission for this worker to discuss anything related to this case with Daffy’s birth mom.

Speaking of the birth Mom, during all this, birth mom and Donald also happened to write letters to Daffy. I tweeted about this, but don’t think I ever blogged it, so here it is. Donald told Daffy that he almost went “back to placement” when the police were called on him. He wrote “I’ve been a very bad boy, sis.” It sent chills up my spine. Mickey and I were unsure at first whether or not to give the letter to Daffy, but decided that she had a right to know the truth. Protecting her from the reality of her birth family doesn’t do her any good in the long run. Daffy didn’t really seem phased by the letter, but she also did not write either of them back.

I also need to blog about Daffy’s recent visit to the doctor, but my brain is fried from the past two hours of typing this post, so that will have to be a story for another day.

signature

All Kinds of Updates

Our License: Our foster care license expired earlier this month. The family voted to renew it… all except me. Our resource worker sent me the paperwork and I immediately forwarded it to Mickey. If he wants our license open, HE can do the paperwork. It’s been almost 3 weeks and he hasnt even printed the forms. Pretty sure that means we are done, but no one wants to make that official or actually speak about it.

Jane and Michael: After several psychotic episodes, Jane was moved to a new placement. Thankfully, Michael was left in his current placement where he has been thriving, but there is no guarantee they will be able to move forward with adoption. Sad.

Ariel: We saw her for Mother’s Day as planned and visited her later that week to take pictures of her “prom” at her residential placement. She then assumed she could come stay with us every weekend for the rest of her life. Ummmm, no. I have been avoiding her calls (which border on stalking). I want to maintain a connection, but I am not able to support her at that level. Her infant son is still in foster care with another family and the state has done nothing to secure a home willing to take both mom and son. Pathetic.

Tod & Copper: After providing respite for them, we were called to take placement of Tod and Copper “for about a month.” We declined. Low and behold, they were returned to their mother’s care that very evening. I was infuriated when I learned that, not because they were returned, but rather because they were clearly READY to be returned and yet the state looked to keep them a month longer. THAT is not how foster care is supposed to work, either they are safe to be returned or they aren’t. It should not be determined based on availability of foster homes!

Jack Jack: Tink and I visited Jack Jack and his Mom in early May. He was hesitant with me at first, I think likely because he wondered if I would be taking him again. After a few minutes, though, he warmed right up and was the adorable baby we had fallen in love with! I still get some of his Mom’s mail here and have been texting her for an address to mail it to. I haven’t heard back from her at all. I saw a picture of Jack Jack on her sister’s Facebook page  this week and it looks like he may be living with her. I pray that Mom is able to get herself settled and raise that beautiful baby herself.

Simba and Nala: I have not received any updates on the twins since we declined the placement (family vote, not my decision). I think about them often and miss them like crazy. I have accepted that the placement was not right for us at that time, but I am angry at the state for not allowing us to keep an ongoing connection. There is NO REASON why children can’t have positive adults in their lives without being in a parental capacity. We watched these connections terminated in Donald and Daffy’s lives and we’ve seen it in almost every case. This disgusts me.

Donald: He remains at the residential treatment center, though is now up to 3 nights per week with his (and Daffy’s) birth mom. At my request, I no longer receive updates on him other than what I hear from the birth mom. This has worked out quite well and has definitely reduced my stress. According to his birth mom, he is making some progress in therapy and was recently able to share with her what happened while he was here that led to his hospitalization. That in itself is HUGE progress. In the 18 months since he left, he had always refused to speak about it. Daffy has not had a face to face visit with Donald since late December. She doesn’t want to see him. He recently expressed a desire to have more communication with Daffy so he is now calling from his birth Mom’s on the weekend.

Daffy: I know this is the update you really want, but I just don’t have it in me to go through everything that has been going on. Things are so complicated right now. Every single day is a struggle with her. Her food issues are at an all time high. She stills sees her therapist every other week, but that is all but useless because she shows a different side to her therapist than to us. Her therapist thinks she is happy and well adjusted. Uhhhhhh, no. Happy well adjusted children don’t talk about the deep desire to kill people (not just me, but she also recently told me she fantasizes about it at school). Just sayin. I recently spoke with Daffy’s birth mom for HOURS on the phone and we are planning to start some unsupervised visits and even start some sleepovers. I know most of you are groaning at what a terrible idea this is. There is a part of me that questions if this is the right thing, too, but it’s what Daffy says she wants. I know that I can NOT do this alone. I need a break. Daffy thinks she wants this, so let’s give it a try. Nothing to lose really and maybe it will help Daffy resolve whatever internal struggle is happening for her. If she is feeling torn, she wont have to. If she thinks life is better there, let her learn that it’s not. If she is jealous because Donald is moving there, now she can have her own time, too. I dunno know what else to do. There is no rule book or manual, and even if there was, I assure you Daffy would break the rules and burn the book. I’ve got to try something and this seems to be my only option at the moment.

signature

What a day!

At the moment, I am eating, sleeping and now BLOGGING foster care. It’s oozing out of every pore!

The day started out with a planned visit between Daffy & her birth mom. While planned, I hadn’t mentioned it to Daffy. The weeks leading up the last visit (and the delay of such visit) were stressful for Daffy, so I thought I would try something different this time. I’m really pleased with how that went. No stress before hand and a very nice visit today. In the future, I may give her some notice, but certainly not a lot. All it does is give Daffy time to worry.

Anyway, we met at the mall around ten. Birth Mom’s mother (Daffy’s biological grandmother) drove her. I know that birth mom and her own mother have had many conflicts over the years so I was a bit nervous, but that turned out to be for no reason. Daffy’s Grandmother was very reserved but very supportive of her daughter and Daffy’s visit and did a nice job also including me in the conversations as well. I was very impressed with her ability to see his situation for what it is, and honestly, grateful that she didn’t see me as the villain. I think that she and Daffy must not have had a close relationship as Daffy showed almost no reaction to seeing her and did not hug her upon seeing her again.

Overall, Daffy seemed very reserved and quiet herself during much of the visit. When she wanted to point something out, she would call “Mom!” and every time I responded by habit and every time she was talking to me. I KNOW that still stings for birth mom to hear. I couldn’t help but wonder if Daffy was doing it on purpose because of the frequency she said it during the visit while otherwise staying quiet. Maybe that was her way of reinforcing roles? Maybe it was just coincidence, I don’t really know.

We stopped at Cinnabon for a snack at the end of our visit. We chatted about all sorts of things. Birth Mom told us about her new house and showed Daffy a photo. That led to a conversation about Donald’s transition. Birth Mom shared that Donald will be seeing the house for the first time this week. (His clinician will be taking him.) Weekend day visits will begin after that with the first overnight being Easter weekend (don’t even get me started….) Daffy totally zoned out, far enough to the point that Birth Mom even noticed and asked her if she was okay. Daffy replied that she was fine and Birth Mom accepted it at face value. I should probably take some time send an email to birth mom and use this as a teaching tool for her to sense Daffy’s reactions to conversations about Donald. She seemed to miss all cues at the last two visits.

Anyway, goodbyes were easy, Daffy gave hugs and we happily went on our way. This is certainly a complex open adoption, but I have to say I have been very blessed that Daffy transitions from visits so easily. Its so clear that she knows her role within our family, she is one of us.

We came home to learn that Mickey had been hired for a new job (PRAISE THE LORD!), but that he needed to go for a 3 hours training/orientation…. TODAY! I still needed to log time for work myself and we have the 5 year old twins (Simba and Nala) here for repite too! Goofy and Daffy were very helpful with the twins while I got some work done.

I spoke with the twins case worker this afternoon and left the conversation feeling less than confident for the family (thats a blog post for another day, if we stay connected at all to this case). The cw did give us permission to go forward with visits this week with the twins birth mom.

Tonight, I received a call from the Respite Teen (I really should give her a blog name at some point, huh?). She had recently signed herself in for a voluntary hospitalization. Within 2 days of admitting herself, the foster family whom she had been living with changed their minds about caring for her baby while she was hospitalized and asked the state to come take the baby, effectively putting her baby in foster care. I’m unclear what “charges” the respite teen faces…. abandonment maybe? She said she has a court hearing tomorrow that she can’t miss… yet she is currently hospitalized. She has no license. No car. No boyfriend (recently got a retraining order against him at the state’s encouragement). No friends. No family. No foster family. No attorney. Nothing. All she has is the state who watches over her. The same state who is now fighting AGAINST her to take her baby. How can this be right???  She said she hasn’t heard from her own case worker. I offered to email the cw tonight (which I did) begging for the cw to update the respite teen. She deserves to know what is happening! I feel helpless. This teen has nothing.  In a perfect world, we would take her in and help her raise her child. This isn’t a perfect world. Daffy would never survive. The rest of my family would kill me. And hell, I am barely on stable ground myself. I KNOW I can’t handle that, but I can’t sit by and do nothing. I have an obligation to her. She is supposed to call me tomorrow morning to update me.

Tonight I spoke with Simba and Nala’s birth mom and set up a visit for tomorrow, including driving the mom several towns away to run an important errand of sorts (will share more if this case stays ongoing, as previously mentioned above).

It’s like the cosmic forces of foster care have all collided in my life today. So, yeah, I have had my FILL. On one hand, I feel overwhelmed with helplessness, but on the other hand I feel filled with a renewed sense of purpose. I chose this path. I knew it was messy, but I wanted to make a difference. This is my chance. Now is my time.

signature

End of the Road

This is the letter I sent to Donald’s team on Monday:

Dear Team,

With the team meeting coming up Wednesday, I wanted to get some of my thoughts out to you all ahead of time. I understand that my opinion carries very little weight but I can’t in good conscience say nothing. I care very much about what happens to Donald. I want permanency for him just like you all do but after reviewing Donald’s most recently monthly report and all the recent critical incident reports (which have clearly increased since the fall), I am extremely concerned with the current plan moving forward.

Last summer when the team discussed the idea of reintroducing BirthMom into the kid’s lives, there were several comments made that BirthMom would need counseling for months if not years before being ready for face to face visits (rather than just letters or phone calls). Its been less than year and no one has been able to secure counseling for BirthMom. You have asked an extraordinary amount of her with nothing but the HOPE that one day Donald will live with her. You have offered her NO training on how to deal with a foster child and the unique needs of a PSTD/RAD child. You have not assisted her to get the counseling she needs to accept responsibility for her actions leading to the kids coming into care to begin with. Yet you have watched as she moved her grandmother into a home that the division believed was unsafe. You have encouraged her to move away from the only support network she has. You have her jumping through all kinds of hoops yet are giving her NO tools to deal with the very real situation of Donald being transitioned into her life and that of her family.

During the team meeting in July, the team agreed that Donald should not live in a home with pets or any children. The team decided that Donald needed two parents in that home. These were not only for the safety of a potential family but also to avoid Donald being triggered. How has that changed? How will BirthMoms pets be safe? How will stepsister be safe? How will BirthMom be safe when new husband is away at training for 2 months this year?? If you look at Donald’s monthly reports, you will see a severe spike in the number of physical assaults over the past few months (up from 3 per week in July to 24 per week in January). What indicators do you have that his physical assaults will decrease after transition? History tells you that Donald will blow through the glass ceiling upon being placed in a family. His behaviors are confirming that right now. BirthMom does not have a padded room. BirthMom does not have a team of staff with which to “change face”. BirthMom has not been trained in safety holds. How could you possibly expect that she will be able to keep her family OR Donald safe without these tools?

Furthermore, can you be sure that Donald will not harm stepsister? That he will not project his feelings for Daffy onto stepsister? I beg you to read through the reports of the harm that Donald has done to Daffy over the years. I implore you to talk to all previous foster families about the level of rage he had towards his sister. From Daffy’s “accidental overdose of medication” in June 2006 where Donald gave her the medication to kill her, to the Oct 2006 ER visit with the foster family indicating Donald choked and punched his sister, to the day that he tried to drown her in the lake (as reported by Daffy) and the attacks he raged against Daffy while living with the former pre-adoptive family in 2009 and here in 2012. Not to mention the potential sexual abuse issues. Donald’s anger runs very deep and he is dangerous. Do you have measures in place to protect stepsister from this abuse?

I truly believe that BirthMom being a part of Donald’s life is an asset to him. Its obvious that she is willing to do whatever it takes to be a part of his (and Daffy’s) life. She clearly loves him. My concern is that she is being set up to fail and that someone will be seriously hurt as the end result. This is a process that can NOT be rushed simply because Donald reports that is what he wants to have happen. I’m obviously not a social worker so I can’t make any recommendations about how to balance Donald’s needs and the safety of BirthMom and her family, but these safety needs can not be ignored.

If I sound frustrated right now, I am. I have made several of the above points numerous times along the way (and have emails to document). The divisions involvement with this family began in 2002. Its been ELEVEN YEARS with almost no progress for Donald. This is unacceptable. Putting your heads in the sand about the seriousness of this situation will not make it go away.

At this point, I feel I have nothing left to offer the team. I have provided my history with Donald. I have expressed my grave concerns for BirthMom and her family. There is nothing more I can do. As for Daffy’s relationship with Donald, I am working under therapist’s guidance for what is best for Daffy, which happens to align with what was recommended during the conference call last summer. I am letting Daffy guide their relationship. (Donald is also making his own choices in the relationship as well.) I am not forcing Daffy to call or write, although I do suggest it weekly. I am no longer forcing her to have visits. Daffy has a right to work through the anger she has about the abuse she endured at the hand of her brother. I can not place his needs above hers any longer. He has you all to worry about his needs. My focus has to be on Daffy.

Minnie Mouse

Only one member of the team responded (and I swear she is on crack). I am considering whether or not to share that here . I feel comfortable sharing letters *I* have written, but a little more nervous to share something someone else has written due to the sensitive nature of the case and privacy issues.

The team meeting is today. I’m not going. It will mark the first meeting I have missed since we began this journey in October 2011. While I do have quite a bit of guilt about pulling back, there truly is nothing else I can do to advocate for Donald. I did what I could and its cost me a lot. It’s time for the professionals to do what they can for him. The blood will not be on my hands.

signature

A little of this and a little of that…

A friend of mine took Daffy for the weekend…. it was quite a nice and unexpected break! Overall, Daffy has been in relatively good spirits since Daisy and April left in December, but she is still struggling with things as they pertain to her to birth mom and Donald.

Last night I asked Daffy if she wanted to call Donald and she replied that she really didn’t want to, but that since it had been a few days since she talked to him, she would. He got on the phone and she asked if he was “on level” to which he replied no and she promptly rolled her eyes at me. She tried to get out of him what happened but as usual, he was tight lipped and dismissive, acting as if it were no big deal. She then said “Is there anything else you want to talk about?” He replied “Nope!”, so she said good night and hung up without even waiting for his response. She is really disgusted with him and his lack of improvements in the past year… and she doesn’t even know the half of it!

Daffy and I had chat time last night before bed and she asked when she would be seeing her birth mom again. I knew this question would eventually come. She hasn’t been talking about her birth mom since the “Christmas visit” earlier this month, but I knew it had to be weighing on her mind. Honesty is always my policy, so I told her that I really didn’t know as we don’t have a specific date set and that I thought it would probably be sometime this summer. I braced myself for an upset, but it didn’t happen. She seemed quite content with that answer, as if simply knowing when was enough.

I have yet to receive any communication with her birth mom since that visit, which seems odd. Not only has she not contacted me, but hasn’t reached out to Daffy via email either. I have replied back to a couple different team emails (she is now included on them), but still nothing. I guess it will be a wait and see game.

This morning I received an email from Donald’s clinician. She was reporting two critical incidents that occurred over the weekend following Donald’s visit with his birth mom. Both involved calling a supervisor in because of his level of agression and violence. My response to the team email is as follows:

CLINICIAN and all,
This sounds a lot like the DONALD that we lived with last year, except that
we didn’t have a supervisor to “change face” or a seclusion room for safety (for him or
for us). I still feel physically sick to my stomach when I think about it.

In my experience, I would caution to slow the transition for everyone’s
safety, as these are the signs that were ignored last year when he
transitioned here that ultimately placed him in the hospital, GROUP HOME
and eventually RTC. These are the same types of behaviors that he
also showed with the FORMER FOSTER family 3 years earlier.

If there is something I can do to help stop this cycle from repeating for
DONALD, please let me know.

Thanks,
MINNIE

I was the only one to respond and of course the team has remained silent. I know they don’t want to see the reality that he is not ready to live in a family (and especially that of his birth mom), but that is the truth. He is dangerous. He WILL hurt someone. I can’t be silent. He only started with the TF-CBT specialist in September. Why are they expecting miracles? Even the top trauma expert in the state said that things may never change for him. I know they don’t want to give up hope on this 12 year child (and neither do I!), but they need to be HONEST and accept his current limitations before someone gets seriously hurt.

His next team meeting is still more than a month away. It will be interesting to see what happens between now and then. I am also curious to know what they were able to determine about the message written on the back of his door. My guess? They swept it under the rug because it doesn’t align with the plan of reunifying him with his birth mom. *sigh*

In other foster related news in my world:

  • I am trying to set up a coffee date with the respite teen to check in on her and the baby. We text a few times a week and she reports that things are going well.
  • I have not heard from Alice’s family since a brief email in December saying things weren’t going well.
  • The new sw for April and Daisy picked up the last of their belongings last night. She reported that things are going very well in their new placement and that she is hopeful for their adoption. I was surprised at the ease in which she lied to my face, since I had spoken to April’s former respite care giver/current day care worker just 2 days before with a totally different update. The day care worker reported about a nasty scene a couple nights prior where April refused to leave with her new family and had to be carried out (reminded me LOTS of our super fun ER trip #sarcasm). She said that the foster mom was disgusted with April’s behavior. She also said that on Friday, April told her that she could no longer “act up” or the foster family would sever ties with the day care worker. I was APPALLED, as the team had stated several times how important this connection is to April.
  • Still not a peep from the resource worker to reschedule the meeting she cancelled a week ago today.

Honestly, there are days when the whole system just disgusts me. From the way kids are treated to the way foster families are treated, it’s really a broken system that often does more harm than good. I am SO relieved that we were able to adopt Daffy rom the clutch of this miserable system.

signature

This Open Adoption Thing

@houseofwillies commented the following on my last post:

So I’m fairly new to the blog and have been following your Twitter as well. So I am wondering how the relationship between you and birth parents came about? Is it normal for an adoption through foster care to have those relationships after the adoption happens? Obvioulsy Daffy knows who her Bmom is…but is this common for adoptions through foster care? I’m sorry if I am prying or asking things you cannot answer. Just trying to prepare myself for what may happen as we are hoping to adopt a 9 yr old girl currently in foster care. I have to admit after reading your blog I’m scared to death and excited at the same time!

Rather than just comment back directly, it makes more sense for me to answer here because I have had other similar questions as well.

When we decided to pursue adoption through foster care, we were definitely open to having a relationship with birth parents. Upon being matched with Donald and Daffy we did not believe that would be a possibility. At the time we met the kids, it had been more than 3 years since their parents rights were relinquished (birth dad) and terminated (birth mom). The children had not had any contact with either of their parents in more than 2 years (birth mom visits continued during the appeal process that she later lost).

Donald, in particular, had a real desire to stay connected to his birth mom, saying that he was going to go find her as soon as he turned 18. As an adoptee myself, I understood (and supported) this desire. Daffy was more concerned about what had happened to her mom since she had last seen her and got permission to write her birth mom a letter. (If you are looking for more details I have tried to list all posts that specifically pertain to the open adoption concept under the Open Adoption tag on my blog. The posts start with the newest at the top so it’s better to scroll to the bottom and start there.) At that time, Daffy also asked the team for a visit with her birth mom. One thing led to another and suddenly we were on a path to “open adoption”.

Daffy’s adoption is not “legally” open, in that we have no legal obligation to have any contact with her birth mom. We choose to allow it because we feel it’s what is best for Daffy. On that same vein, if her birth mom is not appropriate or it in any way harms Daffy to continue visits, we will stop them. We always have Daffy’s best interest in the forefront of every decision.

When we first looked at this open adoption concept, Mickey and I decided that 2 visits per year would be appropriate- one in the summer near Daffy’s birthday and one near the holidays. While I do think 2 visits per year are appropriate and fair, I would definitely NOT wait until after the holidays again. I feel this caused great stress for Daffy the entire holiday season. Next year, I will have the visit at the beginning of December if possible to “get it out of the way”.

The other complicating factor in this situation is Daffy’s birth brother, Donald. Initially, Daffy & Donald were each going to have their own separate and ongoing relationship with their birth mom (IDEAL!) but now that the team is looking at putting Donald back with his birth mom, the “poo” is hitting the fan. First of all, we always planned that Daffy would see Donald monthly in whatever placement he went to. If Donald returns to his birth mom, this now means monthly visits for Daffy with her birth mom because of Donald. Additionally, the simple fact that Donald may be returning to birth mom (and Daffy isn’t) is creating an enormous amount of stress for Daffy and has definitely put a wedge in the already strained relationship that Donald and Daffy have. Daffy knows in her head that her adoption was the best thing for her and she loves us very much, but there is a part of her wishes none of this had ever happened and that she, too, could be living with her birth mom. Things are never that simple, though. She knows it would be unsafe for her to live with Donald so this could never be a reality. These are all things she is working on with her therapist and with us.

From what I have seen, it is NOT common for foster children to continue a relationship after adoption if the parent’s rights were terminated BEFORE the match. I think its more common for there to be some level of contact if the adoptive family was a foster family for the child/children DURING the entire process. I have heard that sometimes parents will relinquish rights rather than have them terminated if an open adoption agreement can be hashed out.

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong to open adoption. There are very valid reasons for some adoptions to be closed and also great benefits for some to be open. It really needs to be handled on a case by case basis, but if the child’s best interest is always put first, the right conclusion WILL be found.

And finally, @houseofwillies, PLEASE do not let my experience scare you! I started this blog with the intent to document what I hoped would be a magical path to adoption. Granted we have had our ups and downs (and some of those downs were waaaaay down, lol), but we DID get our happily ever after and every bit of this journey was worth it to get where we are today! I am following you on Twitter and look forward to watching your journey unfold, too! 🙂

signature

Christmas Visit

christmas visitDaffy was supposed to have a visit with her birth mom to celebrate the holidays last week, but due to heavy snow, it was cancelled twice and Jan 2nd became the day. Daffy was disappointed that their Christmas visit was going to take place after New Year’s, but living 2.5 hours away from her birth mom and working around other commitments made planning difficult.

Daffy had an appointment with her therapist that same day which couldn’t have been better timed. We both attended the session and her therapist asked Daffy lots of questions about how she was feeling about her brother Donald and her birth mom. Daffy had been OBSESSING over her birth mom ever since she saw her with Donald at Donalds birthday party in Mid December. Daffy seemed very reserved at the appointment but did say she is very fearful that her brother is going to hurt her birth mom and her new husband. She said she wanted to talk to the state and I told her I would set up a meeting if she would like or she could write a letter. I asked what she would say and she said basically that the state is crazy for trying to put him back there and that he needs to be in a family with no pets and no kids… like we have discussed for almost a year!

So, anyway, Mickey, Goofy and I attended the holiday visit along with Daffy later in the day. We arrived right on time and Daffy sat nervously waiting, wondering if her birth mom would show up. Birth Mom & I had just emailed that morning so I couldn’t think of any reason she wouldn’t come, but the clock ticked on. Finally, a half hour later, her birth mom showed up, no excuse and no apology.

As planned, she arrived with her new husband and his young daughter. The first thing out of Daffy’s Birth Mom’s mouth was “So, I had to have another talk with Donald about SANTA!” I was stunned that she was saying this not only in front of Daffy but also in front of her own young step child. Its her belief that kids should know the truth… that there are good people in the world who will help out poor families but there is no Santa. WTF. I won’t even go off on my Santa rant right now.

Next, they got to exchanging gifts. Daffy seemed happy with the gifts her birth Mom got her, although awkward since we were in the middle of a food court and she was opening a whole box of gifts alone. Once the gifts were exchanged, I took a picture of them together and then made the mistake of sitting down. Daffy’s birth mom all but ignored her as she started to fill me in on all sorts of things going on with Donald and that transition and brought up NUMEROUS uncomfortable things. At one point, she said that the state never had any reason to take the kids and that they knew that and are currently making right by Donald but are “too late” for Daffy. I was BEYOND annoyed for several reasons. First of all, the state DID have reason to terminate her rights. When the birth mom appealed it, a higher court UPHELD it. Second, Daffy is safe, happy and loved. Her adoption isn’t and was never up for negotiation and any hint that it was sends the wrong message to Daffy. Daffy did not have a choice. The state made it very clear to Daffy’s birth mom when we met in August that there was NOTHING she could do to stop the adoption. At one point, I asked when Bmom met her new husband and she yelled over “Hey Daffy! When did the state take you away from me?? Was it 2006?” ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW???? Daffy was TWO YEARS OLD. You expect her to remember the dates and to remind YOU? OMG. I could have gotten up and walked away at that point, but sadly I stayed for more. She mentioned being admitted to a psych hospital a few months after her last visit with the kids. I was praying Daffy wasn’t internalizing that as her fault. I was stunned at the things she was saying right in front of her step daughter and Daffy, especially because she has always been so appropriate in the past. Its like this came out of nowhere.

We drove home in silence, but I couldn’t ignore what had happened. I asked Daffy if she believed that she had only been taken because another foster family had pushed for it and she said while that was true in her opnion, she knew it had happened because her mom couldn’t keep her safe. I know that was just one of many clarifying conversations we will have over the years.

I stewed the entire night about it and decided to email the team the next day. If these are the messages she is giving to Daffy, what the hell is she saying to Donald? Is she negating his entire history by telling him there was no reason that he was removed??? The CW seemed disturbed and said she would discuss it with Birth Mom at their next visit.

I haven’t learned any additional information about the “Mama hit me” incident, but hope they are doing what they can to get to the bottom of that!

signature

Our Christmas Visit With Donald

christmas visit

Smudged RTC initials in photos to protect Donald’s privacy

Donald told Daffy & I last night that he was “off level” for attacking two staff members. I emailed the clinician this morning to get more information about what happened and was told “staff has stated he has required seclusion for safety concerns such as attempting to attack staff, but to my knowledge he has not actually attacked anyone. In light of this heightened behavior, I would advise having an on-campus visit.” Honestly, I HATE having visits under these circumstances. Daffy has put up with enough abuse from her brother over the years that I hate to subject her to more. That said, it’s already 3 days after Christmas and more snow is on the way for our area, so I decided that it would be best just to get this visit out of the way. Mickey and Goofy came along, mostly for protection more than a true desire to see Donald.

The visit took place in Donald’s room at the RTC. As we looked around, I noticed some “artwork” hanging on the walls. One by the door was filled with stickers and Donald had written “XXX (name of RTC) is f*ckin b*tch and a$$e$”. Below that on his bookshelf he had written “I hate XXX (name of RTC)” I was surprised to see that the staff would allow such things to remain in his room. Goofy then asked for my cell phone to use my camera to take a picture of a message Donald had written on the back of his door. It read “Mama hit me”. I was stunned. I wanted to ask Donald about it, but didn’t want to incite his recent unsafe behaviors and also didn’t want to unset Daffy. I took a few more photos from a few different angles and promptly emailed them to the team (clinician, cw and GAL among others). Unfortunately the cw and clinician are both out of the office until 1/2/13 for the holiday so nothing will be done until that time. I don’t think Donald has any visits scheduled with his birth mom for this weekend, so I feel fairly certain he is safe.

I keep wondering where that came from. Is he remembering something old? Or did something happen on their Christmas visit? Will this be just one more thing the team excuses away along with his recent  “safety concerns”? How can they do anything BUT connect his behavior since Weds to his Christmas visit? Are they so desperate to get him off their caseload that they will put others, including him, at risk?

I guess time will tell….

signature

Donald’s Team Meeting

Recently I attended Donald’s team meeting… the first since Daffy was adopted. I have to admit, I did not look forward to attending…. not because I don’t want to be involved with his case, but because of all I have experienced in the case with the girls and the issues I have with the team’s pursuit of adoption by birth mom for Donald.

Anyway, I scheduled a visit with him prior to the meeting. (Hey, its an hour drive, might as well kill 2 birds with one stone, right?) The GAL was also interested in visting with Donald, so we agreed to meet with him together over lunch. Side note, as we pulled into the restaurant, a state trooper followed me as my husband’s truck is overdue for the inspection. I hadn’t realized he followed me until I went to get out of the car and the officer was standing in my face. I was quite frazzled and was not able to locate the registration or the proof that we had failed inspection, thus giving us time to get the vehicle fixed. The officer gave me a ticket (which I am fighting). Talk about embarrassment ..who else can say they have been pulled over with their former foster son and GAL? Ugh.

So, anyway, lunch went well. Donald was not very engaged as the pizza joint had video games and he was far more obsessed with begging for quarters and even watching strangers play. I was okay with that, though, as it gave me a chance to catch the GAL up  on the happenings of the recent months. He had been participating in team meetings via telephone (since the court had not approved additional funds for expenses) which doesn’t lend itself as well to keeping current. We discussed the residential treatment center’s overly positive reviews of Donald’s behaviors and he basically said that when they say he had a “great day”, what they really mean is that he didn’t kill anyone! He nailed exactly how Mickey and I have been feeling which surprised me. He also has a lot of reservations about Donald going back to live with his birth mom and expressed concern that with her limited capabilities simply getting her licensed to be a foster parent (required as the first step before she can adopt back her biological child) will not be giving her the tools needed to be successful.

The team meeting lasted about 2 hours and I was far more verbal than I had planned to be. The birth mom attended the team meeting (for the first time) since she is now part of the team. While she and I have a pretty good working relationship when it comes to Daffy, I wanted to be extra careful not to step on her toes during the meeting. I went into the meeting feeling like the team saw me of no value since I had not agreed to take Donald back, but instead I left the meeting feeling like they had actually listened to me and believe that I have valuable insight to share since I have transitioned with Donald just one year ago. It was definitely an interesting dynamic.

A few things that stand out to me from the meeting:

  • The team discussed increasing Donalds educations goals at the next team meeting in February. This is of great concern to me. First of all, I believe the only reason he scored so low during the initial intake was because he was coming off the hellishness (is that  a word?) of disrupting from our home, being hospitalized, moving to the group home and being expelled from school, thus landing him at the RTC. While I DO think he is capable of a lot more, I think adding additional challenges to his school work while he  is transitioning back into family life is a set up for failure. This topic was shelved until the next meeting where I will again raise these points.
  • The team discussed visitation plans for the holidays. First, let me say, transitioning during the holidays is a DISASTER in the making. I know that most foster and pre-adoptive families probably think that all kids want is to be “home” for the holidays. Not true. We learned after transitioning over the holidays last year that Donald had a very difficult time with the holidays. It wasn’t because he thought of his birth family, but because he missed the routine of the group home and he felt an overwhelming amount of pressure being in a new family, visiting with people he didn’t know well, etc. I cautioned the team to be VERY careful and watch for Donald’s cues of trouble in December. The plan was that a week later Donald would meet his birth mom’s step daughter (a child that lives in her home) for the first time. He would see her one additional time before Christmas. These visits were to be supervised by the RTC staff or adoption specialist. This would then lead up to Christmas Eve where they scheduled an over night visit at a local hotel. Not a good idea. If birth mom is hesitant about handling the stepdaughter and Donald together on a unsupervised visit (her words, not mine), how could she possibly handle them on Christmas Eve in the small confined space of a hotel room? Ugh. No, really, ugh. (As a side note, the reason they are looking at a hotel is because birth mom lives more than an hour from RTC and believes that she may need staff to physically assist her with issues with Donald. Does this sound like a kid who is ready to transition????)
  • Team has encouraged birth mom to move. First, because the city she lives in is where Donald was abused. Second, because they believe that her current support system is no good. Another set up for failure. Whether her support system is the “best” or not, its HER system and she will need people to rely on and lean on during the stressful times that are surely headed her way. It is completely unrealistic of the state to expect her to find a 4 bedroom rental for under $1000 that allows cats and dogs in the proximity of the RTC.

Obviously, I started this post several weeks ago. An update regarding the holidays will be coming soon. 🙂