The Donald Update

So, where is Donald at, you ask? Sadly, no where new. He is still at the RTC. We have continued to call him almost daily, write letters and visit him 2-3 times per month. He is definitely pulling away from us, telling us most days that he does not want to talk and not calling on Mondays (his call day). His clinician is, of course, turning this around on us, having told the former fosters that she “doesn’t know how long we will be  around.” I feel like that is a completely unfair statement as we have been 100% consistant both in actions and in message for the 9 months since he disrupted from our home.

The team has finally secured a TFCBT therapist for him and he has been going for about a month now. It has been noted that his behaviors are escalating, as expected under the circumstances.

He has continued to have 2 visits monthly with his birth mom. The clinician is HELL BENT on sending him back to her. She believes that they have the right to another chance to fail (or succeed) together. The team is quite divided on whether or not that is the best course of action. Honestly, I am not sure what I believe is best. On one hand, his birth mom had NUMEROUS chances to “get it right” since the kids were first pulled from her home in 2004. While there is no question that she LOVES him, there are certainly doubts about her ability to parent him. She is also remarried and has a young step-daughter living in the home as well as numerous pets. It has been determined that Donald should be the only child in the home and that he should not have access to animals. Sending him back to live with her/them is dangerous for them and a set up to fail for him. She still lives in the same home where he was abused. His birth father (the abuser) still lives in the same town. Both will be huge triggers for his PTSD.

On the other hand, Donald WILL go back to her, whether its legally when he is 18… or gets his license and can drive there… or runs away. They are drawn to each other. Knowing that is a certainty, maybe it IS best if the state works with the birth mom to get her to point of being able to understand him and learn to cope with and manage his many behaviors. Maybe its best of the state explores this with Donald so that he can understand the reality of what living with her will be like rather than the fairy tale he has built up in his mind.

The team is scheduling another consult with the top trauma specialist in the state to get her thoughts on a reunification (which would technically be an adoption since TPR occurred 4+ years ago) You can read about the first consult here… interesting that the state picked and chose what recommendations they wanted to listen to from the last consult, especially the part where she recommended that we should not be involved at this point since it’s too confusing for him to have so many “families” in his life. [Shaking my head]

Anyway, I spoke with Daffy’s therapist about the fact the team is considering sending him back to the birth mom. This would be devastating to Daffy. When I brought the idea up to Daffy at one point, she said there was NO WAY her birth mom would let Donald come back because she would never choose him over her. 😦 The therapist suggested that we not even try to process this with her at this time. She said even if Donald starts to transition back to his birth mom, there is a good chance he will disrupt so there is no need to get Daffy all wound up about something that is so unlikely to succeed.

It’s bizarre that while we have crossed the adoption threshold, this is still such an active case with so much more to deal with.

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The Story Before The Story

Mickey and I first talked about foster parenting in 1996. We actually attended an open house at the agency that we later decided to be come licensed with. At that time, we had been married less than a year and had 3 young children. The agency discouraged us from fostering, saying we would be better suited when our biological kids were a little older. We were disappointed but agreed to shelve the idea. During the throws of parenting 5 children, we had our hands full but the topic did come up sporadically.

A few years ago, a good friend of ours decided to pursue adoption. She initially looked at adopting internationally, but ended up adopting a foster child who was a student in her first grade class that year (I will call the child Flik to make the story telling easier.) The little girl’s story was sad. She was placed in a foster family with her younger sister (I’ll call her Dot.). The family had decided to adopt Dot but felt that they did not have an attachment to Flik. The foster parents happened to mention this to my friend at a parent-teacher conference and to make a long story short, my friend adopted Flik against all odds (being a single parent and a breast cancer survivor).

Fast forward to 2010. My friend had kept in touch with Flik’s former foster family… after all, they still had Dot. One day while the two of them were talking, the former foster parent told my friend that she had been wrong about having an attachment to Dot. She said that Dot had Reactive Attachment Disorder and asked if my friend would like to adopt Dot since she had already adopted Dot’s sister, Flik. When my friend relayed the story to me, I was stunned. My friend took this “offer” to heart- she did a lot of soul searching and consulted with others that could help her decide if this would be a good choice for her daughter, Flik. Ultimately, she decided that it was not in Flik’s best interest to have Dot live with them. Due to some medical issues, she was dealing with a lot and Flik’s therapist felt that it was important that Flik remain “special” in her mother’s eyes because of the previous disruption that resulted in her sister being adopted.

The former foster parent had some brief talks with her state and learned that if she were to “give Dot back” that the state would consider taking her biological child as well. The state told her that returning an adoptive child was no different than giving up a biological child and she would likely be charged with neglect. Whether or not this is true in her state, I don’t know. I thought so at the time, but now I wonder if that was just a scare tactic to get her to keep the child she adopted.

One day during the summer while my friend and I were talking about the situation, we dared to dream… we wondered aloud if this woman would consider US to be Dot’s family. This would allow Dot and Flik to continue to have a close relationship while still remaining separate and able to be the center of each of our worlds. My friend worked hard over the next few months to build a closer relationship with this former foster mom. At the beginning of the next year, she even took Dot for a weekend visit and stopped here on her way back from their getaway. I remember it like it was yesterday. (We still have pictures from the visit hanging in our home!) Our biological kids were not only on board with the idea, but excited when they finally got to meet this beautiful little girl they hoped would become their younger sister.

Shortly after this visit, the former foster mom stopped returning my friend’s calls and the dream began to slowly fade away. We began to discuss the possibility that maybe there was another child out there who needed us. In fact, maybe there was even a sibling group who would benefit by being able to remain together in our care! We had seen first hand what had happened with Flik and Dot and didn’t want that to happen to any other children. We knew we couldn’t “save the world”, but believed we could handle a sibling group of 2-3 children and make a difference in their lives.

Just 5 months after the only visit we had with Dot, I made the call to the agency we had visited so many years ago and scheduled Mickey and myself for the very next open house- the first step to begin the foster adoption process!

As a follow up, at he beginning of the next year, my friend finally connected with the former foster mom who had stopped returning phone calls shortly after that weekend getaway. The former foster mom said that Dot was too upset when she would see her biological sister, Flik, and that she would cry for days after about missing her, so she had made the decision to sever their relationship permanently. My hearts breaks for both of these little girls. I wish there was more I could do. Dot lives with adoptive parents who do not have any attachment to her and who don’t want to keep her and now, through no fault of her own, she no longer has a relationship with her sister, either. It’s sad.

Living what we have over the past nine months has taught me not to judge another’s situation. I am trying my best to believe that the former foster mom is working diligently with Dot to establish an attachment and not keeping her (and emotionally neglecting her ) simply to be able to keep her biological children. I pray that the former foster mom really did have Dot’s best interest at heart when she decided to terminate the sibling visits. My gut tells me I am wrong, though, and that Dot will be forever damaged at the hand of her adoptive mother.

The irony of the fact we purposely sought a sibling group that ultimately ended in disruption for one of the siblings is not lost on me. It’s something that I struggle with almost every day. I believe in my heart, though, that this is in both Donald & Daffy’s best interest. Daffy deserves a home where she can be protected from her brother’s brutal attacks and Donald deserves a home where he can focus on healing himself from a life filled with abuse and trauma and where he can learn to have a safe and appropriate relationship with his sister. In a perfect world, we would be adopting both of these beautiful children…. but, then again, in a perfect world, they wouldn’t have been abused and neglected in the first place.

Would I Do It Again?

We have often been asked if we would “do this again”… what a difficult question to answer and one that is weighing heavily on our minds as we approach adoption. Once the adoption is complete, we will need to choose whether to transfer our license to another agency (and if so, which one) or to close our license.

If I had this situation to do over, of course I would do it again. I can’t imagine our lives without Daffy. She is our daughter, plain and sample.I have zero regrets. But, will we continue as foster parents or consider adopting again? I simply dont have an answer to that question. Sometimes I feel like we might consider it and other times I still feel too raw from those first few days with Donald in our home. Mickey often jokes about being ready and the kids all say they are for continuing as a foster family, but I can’t help but wonder if they say that because it’s abstract at this point. There is no worker knocking on our door asking us to take kids.

The number one thing that keeps me from being certain is the fear of failure. In many ways I feel like we failed Donald. This rocks me to the core and makes me doubt everything I once thought I was capable of handling. My mission to help kids in foster care has not changed, but I wonder if my drive and desire to help would be better served in another way.

At this point, I am leaning heavily towards closing our license and training to become a CASA volunteer. I want to be involved in children’s lives and I want to make a difference, but I just don’t know if fostering is the best route for us to continue. I am sure we will have many conversations as a family over the next couple months and I also know better than to say “never” because life has a way of doing just what it wants despite the best laid plans…

The Day After

This morning a slew of emails began. The team members who left the meeting early (or at the end, depending on how you look at it) were wondering how things had gone and those of us who attended…. ok, ME….. needed to process what the hell just happened.

Its been more than 24 hours now and I still dont know if I can wrap my arms around yesterday’s events.  Donald’s clinician believes that he had a PTSD reaction and truly doesn’t remember the events of what happened after we told him Daffy would be adopted. Initially, I believe he understood and simply wanted to kill his sister, but after talking to him tonight, I am not  so sure.

Below is an email (edited for the purpose of making it less searchable) that I sent to the team after talking to Donald tonight:

I had a great chat with the clinician this afternoon [Dont even go there…. I am pretty sure I still disagree with her on most points, but I do feel that somewhere deep down she cares about Donald even though she isnt the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree] and she suggested that I follow through on our nightly phone call to Donald. I am really happy that I did and wanted to update you about some things he said on the call…. These are sort of in random order….

First I asked how he was doing and he said not so good. I don’t know that I have ever heard him sound so “down”…  The only other time that comes close was when he was heavily medicated at the PSYCH Hospital in February. He talked far slower than usual and his voice was, well, depressed. I asked if he was still upset about yesterday and he said yes.

He asked me if we were adopting Daffy, to which I replied “Yes” and he said he thought she was getting adopted by a different family. I am wracking my brain trying to think about what I said yesterday that might have given him the impression that it wasn’t US that was adopting his sister and I cant think of anything. It could just be his poor memory, disassociation, or confusion, I suppose.

He asked if his sister could come on Saturday’s visit and I told him “No”…  I said I thought things needed to cool off, but said that they would see each other [in the future]. I also reassured him that even after adoption, Daffy would still be his sister. Adoption doesn’t change that.

I reminded him that we told him yesterday we would help him work to be ready for adoption, too. I  further explained that he and his sister are 2 different kids with 2 different needs and that the team is making choices that are best for each of them. I told him that Daffy still hasn’t seen their birth mom because the time isnt right for her (which he seemed to love and said “I am“, very proudly), and then took the opportunity to say that she is ready for adoption and he isnt yet. I then hammered home the point that “different kids do different things” when the time is right. He seemed to accept that, at least for the moment.

I told him that at the meeting yesterday I advocated for him to be able to see his birth Mom on an ongoing basis and reminded him of a conversation we had when he lived here when I told him that I would help him locate her when the time was right for him. He seemed to remember and I reminded him “I kept my word”… Then I asked if he wanted to continue to see his birth mom and he said “Yes, like I see you” [ugh, heartbreaking] and I told him that’s why it was important for him to speak at the team meetings about what is important to him. I told him that I knew it was scary, and if he wanted, he could sit with me at the next meeting. I reminded him that its important for him to be honest about his feelings.

He asked again if Daffy could come Saturday and I reminded him that now was not the right time. I said “Are you still angry with her?” and he replied “Yes” and I said “We need to wait for things to cool off a bit and work through some of the big feelings” and again reminded him that he WILL see her, just not right now. He seemed okay with the fact that Mickey & I would come alone. I told him that I wanted him to be safe between now and then and he agreed to try. We chatted a bit about what the RTC’s weekend event might be like. He said if they had a bounce house (and it was okay for adults to go in) that he would go with me. I also told him how he was a great photographer and asked if I brought my camera if he would take some pictures for me and he agreed. He then paused to tell a peer about how when we met he took hundreds of pictures with my camera. I suggested that taking photos might be something he would like to do for a job when he grows up. (I don’t think he believes he has a future, sadly, so I took this chance to remind him.)

Overall, its probably one of the most intense conversations I have had with him (outside of maybe the time he disclosed sexual abuse when he lived here in January). I felt like he was genuine and at least somewhat open to talking about scary feelings more than most days we have talked with him.

In closing, I am sad. Like I said to the clinician today, when we began this journey we purposely sought a sibling group with the goal of keeping siblings together in a system that often does whatever is easiest. We believed this was our calling and our strength in foster parenting. It’s ironic that because ofthe siblings we were matched with, we ended up fighting for the very opposite. The clinician mentioned hoping we would be a resource family for Donald in the future and I could say without hesitation that we ARE in this for the long haul with him. He & Daffy may not be able to live together but they will ALWAYS be connected and ALWAYS be siblings and we will do everything in our power to preserve that relationship and help them to achieve a healthy relationship going forward. Although we may not be the best match for Donald and may not be able to best meet his needs, we ARE connected to him and that will not change.

Sadness overwhelms me tonight. I ADORE Daffy and cant imagine my life without her, but leaving her brother behind was never part of the plan.

July Team Meeting

Yesterday was the treatment team meeting  for both kids. The RTC hosts the  meetings on campus every 3 months and this just happened to be their turn to host. The agenda was not sent out by the clinician until just hours before the meeting. All items on the list pertained only to Donald. I wrote back with a couple of things for Daffy I wanted to included (as well as a few additional things for Donald they were overlooking) and was told by the clinician that she added them. Guess which parts she added…. yep, just the stuff pertaining to Donald! I totally understand that Daffy is not on her case load, just as Donald isnt officially on the case load for our agency, but we would NEVER overlook his needs. Pissed me off, but not worth the argument since I am going to get Daffy’s needs met one way or the other, anyway.

Mickey, Daffy, Goofy & I headed up to the meeting. Goofy (age 14, almost 15) has actually attended quite a few meetings and even attended the consult earlier this month. He really likes to know whats going on and I support him knowing since the decisions made at these meeting greatly effect his life as well.

Despite numerous reminders on my part to keep Donald and Daffy separate before and at the meeting, that didn’t work exactly as planned. Thankfully there was no great fall out as a result, but having them attend the meeting didn’t go as planned. The team didnt ask any questions of them and they were both clearly stressed at having so many pairs of eyes on them, but I will get into that a bit later into the narrative.

The meeting began with a report from Donald’s residential director. She said that he was doing pretty good, though easily influenced by peers (one in particular that he knew from a previous group home). She then described a situation where she had taken Donald shopping for new sneakers. Upon arriving at the store, he wet himself. The team seem surprised to hear this (I know I was, as he never had any accidents in the time we knew him) and asked about it. The residential director dismissed it as a matter of him waiting too long to go, and then added that he wet himself about 2 weeks ago and that currently all of his bedding and rug were in the wash for “unknown” reasons. Hmmmm, thats a pattern if you ask me and definitely an indicator of a problem for a child who has been potty trained for years without accidents and is now ELEVEN years old!

Next, we received an educational update. We were all told that Donald is doing fine and that he easily met all objectives for the first quarter. The adoption specialist asked for clarification to share with the birth mom and his teacher couldn’t gush enough about him. It was completely bizarre considering how far behind we were told he was when we first went in March. They had told us he was at a first or second grade level but are now saying he is at grade level for most subjects and only behind by one year in Math. One set of facts is clearly wrong…. either he didnt try during the initial testing or they are overstating his abilities now.

We received a “medical update” which included the fact that labs were taken with no results back yet (not very helpful). The RTC is looking to put him on a low dose of ADHD meds and the team began debating the need for such medication saying that historically he has been no better behavior wise ON meds than OFF. I have to say that I see no difference, but at the same time, if a low dose of ADHD meds would help HIM to be able to feel less anxious and function better within his own mind, why are people so resistant to trying it?

For the rest of the meeting the topics sort of muddled together as we discussed Donald’s concurrent plan, the nature of future visits with his birth mom, what type of therapy would best help him and how to tell him (and the birth Mom) about Daffy’s adoption.

The team decided that the clinician and I would be the ones to meet with Donald following the meeting to tell him about Daffy’s adoption. While I had wanted the news to come from the TEAM because it was a TEAM decision, I did understand that it might be overwhelming for Donald to sit in a room full of adults to hear that kind of news.

As we discussed the concurrent plan, it was decided that its much too premature to consider adding the birth mom to the plan. The adoption worker (who knows the birth mom best) has many reservations about her appropriateness. The team also decided that the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids worker will resume recruitment of a family for Donald… one that does NOT include pets… does NOT have any children…. and most definitely does NOT contain his sister. The team did not seem hopeful that it would be easy to find such a family looking to take in such a troubled child with such a dangerous history. It  was decided that any potential family also needed to be made aware of Donald’s disclosure of sexual abuse in January (although an investigation still has not happened). There was talk about how Donald’s biggest trigger is attachment and how to keep a family safe should he ever be placed with one. Its a really discouraging case. No one wants to “give up” on an eleven year old but continually placing him in families and putting them in danger and then disrupting is not helping ANYONE, Donald or otherwise.

After the meeting our case worker gave us some questions to get answered for the Adoption Home Study Update. I told her we would have them wrapped up by the end of the month and her goal is to get all paperwork to the state offices by the end of August to ensure everything gets over to the court on time. She is AMAZING at what she does and is very organized, so I can’t imagine any issue with making that happen.

So the meeting dispersed and we were left to meet with Donald. The clinician, caseworker, Mickey & I took Donald back into the conference room and sat him down. For what seemed like an eternity, no one spoke. I took that to mean that the conversation was mine to lead, although I really didn’t want to. The decision to proceed with adoption for Daffy was a TEAM decision and I felt that the TEAM should take responsibility for that. I started by saying “Donald, I have some news I want to share and it might not be news you are happy to hear, but I want to be honest with you. Daffy is going to be adopted.”…. from there I stumbled through trying to explain that Daffy is ready now and he still has work to do on his “big feelings” and that we would be there by his side to help him work towards adoption. He did not speak a single word the entire time we were in the conference room. We asked him if he enjoyed visiting with birth mom and he gave 2 thumbs up. We asked if he enjoyed visiting with his former foster mom and he made a so-so hand sign, then changed to thumbs up. We asked if he wanted visits to continue with us and he shook his head yes. We sat in silence with him a long time in the conference room after giving him the news and then coaxed him to join us in the foyer. To try to describe the looks he was giving his sister are beyond works. It gave me the chills and the cw was quick to step in between them, sensing the same thing we were. The clinician tried to get him to the leave the building by sharing that it would be closing soon but he would not budge. Eventually I sent Goofy and Daffy out to my car with an excuse to put something in the trunk. Still no luck in getting Donald to move. When the kids came back and knocked at the school door, we all moved towards the exit and were able to get him outside. We stood out front for just a few moments. Donald threw the books he was holding and bolted. The cw suggested we leave at that time for Daffy’s safety. The clinician followed Donald and the cw followed her. Donald was wailing at that time.

As we drove home, Daffy asked “Did you have to tell him today” to which I responded “Yes, we did” and clarified that it wouldn’t have mattered if it were yesterday or tomorrow or next month. He would always accept the news in the same way.

About 20 minutes into our drive home, the cw called. She told us that as Donald had continued to freak out, more staff had joined in following as and she fell back. Donald was stung by a bee. Its hard to believe that a bee sting could ever be a good thing, but this jolted him from his dissociative state and he began whaling further, but this time from pain. This allowed the staff to bring him into the building and provide him with more Benadryl (which I previously mentioned is used to calm him down).

I spent the night feeling intensely overwhelmed for him and wondering what might have happened next. I guess thats a story for another blog post.

The Clinician Strikes Again

Every week I receive at least one email from Donald’s clinician that pisses me off to the point of increased blood pressure and a serious amount of swearing. The emails usually come on Friday afternoons (although this one happened to come on Thursday).

He [Donald] did ask when he will be able to go on a home visit.  I tried to talk to him about his past behavior while at your home and how he may have scared you, but he shut down.  He stated he was here because of that, and he has been doing well with his anger.  I suggested he ask you about it, but I get the impression he won’t since he seems reluctant to discuss his role in why he is not in your home.

The big thing I got out of this meeting with Donald is that he has questions about his future and the not knowing is really stressing him out.  His mood throughout the meeting was all over the place, and that seems to be consistent across settings lately.  I know last night he required a Benadryl PRN due to escalation and not being able to control himself.  Today I assured him that the team is working on a plan, but I don’t think that will be enough.   I know we do not know what his future will be at the moment, but maybe Minnie and I could talk to him together about why he is not going on home visits that way he hears it from both of us?  Provided of course you are comfortable with this Minnie.  I just feel we need to give him something at this point.  He is starting the hard work about his past, but with nothing to work toward it can be difficult to maintain that motivation.

Honestly, where do I begin to address the many issues with this email? You told Donald that he “scared us”??? Are you kidding me?? I can’t begin to express why I am not okay with this. If, having known him for 3 months, you dont know about his need and enjoyment of controlling and instilling fear in others, you should probably head back to school or find another field to work in. Clearly, working with Reactive Attachment Disorder pre-teens in a residential setting is not for you.

Furthermore, are you sure scared is the right word? How about you try assaulted? Attacked? Kicked? Bit? Pinched? Scratched? Choked? Screamed at? Exposed yourself to? Terrified to the point of installing locks on all bedroom doors? Locking up all kitchen knives? How about digital RAPE and sodomization of the family dog? Does any of that come to mind?

Home visits? Really? We have taken him “off campus” only on 3 occasions in 3 months. Our weekly visits currently last 1 hour and sometimes he asks us to leave early. His mood is all over the place? He required a PRN due to escalation and not being able to control himself? But you think he is ready for home visits??? Really? You want me to drive him one hour each way to bring him back to the environment where he viciously attacked our family including choking his sister? No. Just no. And the fact you think this is even therapeutically warranted makes me question whether you should even be assigned to his case. You CLEARLY do not understand the risk he poses nor do you understand how this would be setting him up to fail. Again.

So you think you & I should sit down with Donald to discuss his future? Hmmm, let’s see… neither of us knows what his future holds. Neither of us single handedly make decisions about what his future holds either. The team has not made any decision beyond saying that the SOONEST he would come back would be April 2013. You dont want to tell him this yourself, so you have decided that WE should sit him down and tell him? Really? I remember you sitting across from me at the last team meeting. I know you heard me say that if I had to make a decision right now, we would not be taking him back. You also heard me say that his sisters therapist is going on record to recommend that these children should not be placed together. You heard the adoption specialist support this. You heard her recommend a consult to reinforce this. Yet, you maintain that you & I should “talk to him about his future”? Do you think he is ready to hear those things? Or are you suggesting that I lie to him and give him hope for a future that he would never be able to maintain? He has not received ANY real therapy since he left the psychiatric hospital in February, yet you believe you know what he is capable in the future? How things should go? Have you reviewed his records beyond the fluffed up adoption history that you were given? Have you seen the pattern of abuse he has subjected ALL former foster families to? Have you listened to his sister’s numerous requests for protection from him?

He has nothing to work towards without being led to believe he will return to us? I disagree. How about he needs to do this “hard work” so that he can survive in this world without ending up homeless, a high school drop out, jailed or worse. Or he should do this hard work so he has some hope of stable relationships in his lifetime? Do any of those things matter to you? Or is this just a race to the finish line so you can call yourself a success?

I am biting my tongue for now and letting the rest of the team deal with you. And I am very grateful that they have decided to transfer his TF-CBT to another agency to handle. Its his only hope because if his future lies in your hands, he is doomed.

Where Things Stand

What a day! I have to admit, I am a “glass half empty” kind of girl (as much as I try not to be), but I really didnt expect things to go as poorly as they did this morning! I was totally caught off guard. I truly felt attacked to hear that the state didn’t believe that we are fully committed to Donald. We have constantly been commended for going above and beyond the call of duty to stay connected to him. We have advocated for the very best care for him at every opportunity. I simply can’t wrap my mind around how they came to that determination.

Anyway, our sw said that today was the day for honesty. I was terrified going into the team meeting. I knew that we would leave there finding out where everyone stands and that they might not see things the way that Mickey & I see them. Our sw started the meeting and announced we had no specific agenda. She said that there was obviously an elephant in the room that needed to be addressed and address it, we did. I felt very nervous to speak, fearing that one wrong word could pull the plug, but somehow I was able to find words to share how we are feeling. I told them that I am VERY MUCH willing to continue to do whatever they ask, but with that said, I did not feel that would guarantee any true change for Donald and that sadly no one can predict the future. I further shared that if we needed to make an absolute choice TODAY that we were unable to take Donald back. I reminded them that I told them from the very first day Donald left  we said we would support a relationship between him an his sister and that I think our actions have proven that.

From there our social worker shared that Daffy’s therapist is officially ready to go on the record recommending that Donald and Daffy NOT be placed together. (FYI: This is not the first therapist to make this recommendation, including Donald’s own therapists in the past.) The therapist compares their situation to one of domestic violence. She believes that Daffy should be allowed permanence, independent from her brother.

The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids worker then asked the state worker what the state’s position is. The cw had a difficult time giving an answer. She indicated that there are varying opinions within their department. Her view is that Daffy should NOT have to wait for her brother to be ready to be adopted and that she believes Donald has many YEARS of work ahead of him. She reminded the team that these kids have been legally free for adoption for 4 years without any permanence.

The cw asked the GAL to share his opinion. While I dont think he was ready to make an official decision, this meeting sort of forced his hand. He said that he believes we should adopt Daffy and that this time with Donald in the RTC is great for Daffy allowing her to discover who SHE is, outside of being “Donald’s brother”.

All at the meeting agreed that many great injustices have been done in this case and that its time to start the process of correcting them. As I read this, it sounds like a “dream meeting” but the bottom line is there are 1 or 2 people at a much higher level within the system who have said from day one that these kids will NOT be separated and that Daffy will NOT be adopted without Donald. This position has cost Daffy MULTIPLE opportunities to be adopted while Donald has made zero progress. It’s time for change and the team realizes that, it’s just going to be an uphill battle.

One of the most interesting people in attendance was an adoption specialist who works at the state offices. She (and a team of 2-3 others) at the state level took the initiative to run this case by a specialist within our  state. She got some very valuable information, including a strong stance that Daffy should be adopted as soon as she is ready. This specialist also gave some suggestions for Donald’s therapy. I need to do some research on this woman because she is clearly well respected by the state offices and this could be someone who may finally be able to effect the change we need to adopt Daffy. The full consultation with her should occur within the next 2 weeks. At that time, the cw is planning to take all the information from the varying sources back up the chain of command in hopes of a different answer. If history repeats itself, the answer will still be no and Daffy will be moved.

Hopefully we will have a new plan of attack if  we get to that point. We do have an amazing team of smart people advocating for both kids so if anyone can help us get to our happily ever after, they can.

So, for now, my glass is half full!

Memories of Pain

There was a time when I worked out of the home and I looked forward to the weekends. That time has passed. At this point in my life, every day blends into the next. In fact, rather than have relaxing weekends, they are now filled with stress as this is usually the time that we visit Donald. I have zero poker face. From the time I wake up on visit days, I feel physically sick and am completely grouchy. I find myself being short with Mickey and the kids and snapping at them when I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t seem to control it. The feelings of fear are so deep rooted in me that they overwhelm me.

Yesterday, we headed to see Donald for an event at his RTC. I was filled with dread the entire way. The hour drive gave me plenty of time to think about the situation. In my mind, I compared this process to that of giving birth. During labor, the pain is no intense you swear will never do it again. As time goes on, the memory of the intense pain fades allowing you to once again become pregnant  knowing you will survive birth. The ends justifies the means. My mother told me before I gave birth to my first child that if she could do it for me, she would. This gave me so much peace because I knew that if she was willing to endure the pain for me  that it must be “survivable”.

I hope hoped that the “pain” of those 13 days with Donald in our care would fade. I hoped that I would begin to see him for the hurt child that he is and begin to feel ready to once again parent him. I hoped that we would see glimpses of improvement. That hasn’t happened. I feel just as raw and terrified today as the day he left more than 3 months ago. In many ways, I feel worse. I feel guilty for not loving him. I feel sad that we were not enough. I feel angry that the state believes that his sister should be doomed to live her life by his side  in her own hell and fear. I feel frustrated that no one has been able to help him. I feel alone in this place of  potential “disruption”… a place that no family ever wants to find themselves.

I am struggling right now. There is a part of me that wants to give it more time, to let the treatment center do their job to prepare him to live in a family..to let nature take its course and see where things go. But there is another part of me (the more sensible one?) that says he has been in foster care for nearly 8 years, he has been in therapy that entire time, he has done 2 long terms stays at a psychiatric facility, he has been in residential care 3 of those 8 years and he is no closer to being ready to live safely in a family than he was in the past 13 placements… the past 13 families that found themselves living in fear… the past 13 families that weren’t enough. Do I throw in the towel? Do I encourage the team to look at the concurrent  plan for him and consider other families knowing that this may end in disruption? Am I doing him a diservice by continuing to “try” when things look so dismal? And if so, what will this mean for Daffy? Is she destined to be chained to him? Is it in her best interest to continue to move from placement to placement never really attaching to anyone?

I am living this in “real time”, I have no crystal ball, I have no “right” answers… I am doing the best that I can… for Daffy, for  Donald and for my biological children. I have no idea what the future holds. The only thing I am certain is that it will contain more pain no matter how things finally end.

More transitions

Donald was moved to the new facility yesterday. We met for lunch with his current and new caseworkers and then headed over. We were able to see his room, school and some of the facility. Its set on a hill and its cooooold up there so we didnt ask for the full tour! Donald seemed really nervous, barely speaking two words. Because we arrived mid day, no one was on staff at the dorms, so he was required to go directly to his classroom. There seemed to be 5 students and 3 teachers- not a bad ratio.

The decision to remove Donald from ALL homepathic remedies was made by the state and those meds did NOT transfer with him. He stopped cold turkey. I dont know if I believe they even assisted with anything, but if they did, well this new facility is in for a real surprise! He is currently not medicated in any way. Its just a matter of time until he assaults someone there.

We raced off to our local school for Daffy’s Special Ed referral meeting. The “team” was resistant to testing her, saying that they dont diagnose ADHD (which we knew) and that they feel her school issues are solely from the transition in January. I was surprised at the resistance since our school is NOT the one who will pay, but rather the “sending” district, the district they lived in when they were taken. That district whole heartedly agreed with full testing. The testing is supported by the caseworker, therapist and social workers for the agency we work with. What more does the school want?? Ultimately our local school did agree to test, but in the mean time we need to get her reading glasses (the lowest prescription on the planet was prescribed last week and not recommended to be filled by the dr) so they can confirm that sight is not part of her issue while she tests. Honestly, its a waste of money, but we will do it to humor them. Testing will not begin until the appropriate paperwork is signed by the state. Lets hope they feel like hurrying about something.

Our social worker will be back next Monday and while I love the family support specialist we work with, I really need our social worker to be running the show. She is so organized. I feel like I am trying to juggle all the balls right now and something will slip through the cracks. April is going to be a busy month of meetings and a time of more transitions as we are hoping that treatment teem meetings will now be held separately. Should be interesting to see how this plays out!

-Minnie xo

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

I found out “Whats next”….

I might as well have asked “Whats next?” because I found out anyway. I got a call from the group home at 3:30pm yesterday. The long story short, Donald attacked 2 staff members at his school, then ran away from the school. The group home was called, then the police. The police didnt end up getting involved because Donald agreed to leave with the group home staff. However, Donald can not return to school until further notice. The group home staff mentioned that it will take 3 weeks or so to get a tutor set up and the caseworker (who later called) mentioned potentially moving him to school for those with mental illness and behavioral issues.

I have to say, I felt a little euphoric when I got the call. FINALLY, they are seeing what we saw when he lived here. One of the 2 staff members attacked visited Donald in the hospital and frowned at the fact we couldnt manage his behaviors, looked down on us for giving up. I feel so validated that she now “gets it” and they have learned that even in a school setting where they have an abudance of staff and deal with him only a small portion of the day, he can not be kept safe nor can those around him.

We already had a school meeting set for Monday so we will attend that and help determine what happens next for Donald. I want for him to be mentally well but this is one more reminder that we did make the right choice in not letting him return. He is simply NOT safe.

I received the list of homoepathic supplements Donald is now taking. The total cost per month is in excess of $200!! I still need to do some research on their effectiveness and risks/side effects, but I can say with certainty that transitioning him here while still on these unapproved and unorthodox supplements for mental illness can not happen. As I mentioned before, we do not have benefactors to cover that monthly expense. And I havent failed to notice that they dont seem to be effective, either.

Mickey and I attended a foster parent support group last night on Loss & Grief. Its interesting to think that just a few months ago we were the “newbies”…  but I couldnt get over some of the questions foster parents were asking… “How are foster children different from biological children?” … “Why do children need to be aware of their history?”… I was dumbfounded that these foster parents are considered “prepared” to have foster children in their homes! Maybe their children arent as complex as Donald & Daffy? I just dont know.

Anyway, we left Daffy at home with Pluto and Goofy during the meeting and I am thrilled to report that they had a GREAT night! NO issues! I made a point to lather her with praise! 🙂

-Minnie xo

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