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.

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Family Therapy Cancelled

The new in-home social worker just called and said she had a family emergency and was on her way to the hospital so she needed to cancel our first official-every-one-in-attendance family meeting for today. As nervous as I had been all day, I’m kind of disappointed because I was hoping to see some real honesty happen at today’s meeting. It’s unlikely that we will be able to get everyone together again until next Tuesday. In any case, since I have an opening in my schedule today and really need to get some things off my chest…. well, you are stuck listening to my vent!

I never know where to begin. Too much time passes in between posts because every day is simply too draining to tell the stories. Many of the stories would probably seem like nothing by themselves anyway. It’s the constant ongoing drip-drop… like Chinese water torture… that has taken its toll. I’m at the end of my rope. I think the difference between earlier in the year when this breakdown began and now is the toll it’s taken on the rest of my family. It’s no longer just about me & Daffy. My bio kids BEG me to get things back to the way they used to be before Daffy came here. My marriage is hanging on by a single thread. I think OFTEN about just getting in my car and driving as far as my minimal money for gas will take me. My bio kids are what keep me hanging on. I know it wouldn’t be fair to them to leave them with the mess I (and Mickey) created by adopting Daffy. Tears are shed every single day. We just can’t take it.

So, to give this post some purpose, let me go back to Friday. Daffy came home from school and gave me her report card. I was heading out the door to take Goofy to work so I tucked it in my purse and left. Once I was in the parking lot, I opened it and was STUNNED to see she had 2 D’s on her report card as well as several negative comments from her teachers. Her progress report had been glowing and of course, she has been telling us she has completed all her homework, blah blah blah. I was FURIOUS that this was the first I was hearing about these obvious issues at school (at Daffy, at Daffy’s teachers and guidance counselor and at myself for not keeping a closer eye). I came home and got onto the online grade system and printed out her grades from those two D classes. I wasn’t surprised when I saw that she had not completed many of her homework assignments. I highlighted the missing assignments and attached it to the report card to leave it for Mickey. At this point in our relationship, I know better than to say ANYTHING to Daffy that she could construe as negative because she simply shuts down and makes our lives miserable. Giving it to Mickey means it isn’t likely to be discussed at all, but at least I can feel like I did my part to gather the information for him.

The next day I was out of town with a friend and when I returned, Daffy was whining about how she forgot her book at school. I asked “Why? were you planning to actually DO your homework this weekend”?  She looked down and made her typical “hmmph” noise. I went on to say “Yeah, I know about that. In fact, I printed out your quarter grades and gave them to your Dad so he can know all about your lies too!” (Admittedly not the best choice of words, but FAAAAAAR better than what I really wanted to say.) She was silent. Like she always is. She simply doesn’t answer any questions that she doesn’t like.

She went to bed early that night, without saying good night of course. The next day she lurked around and wouldn’t speak to anyone (mind you, Mickey was at work…. she won’t let him see how she truly is!). I can’t describe how incredibly creepy it is when she lurks around muttering to herself. (In fact, I can hear Tink saying this very same thing to her pregnancy social worker downstairs right now as I type this.) She left several times and wandered  around outside the house. She would stop and stare through the windows and glare at Tink. She wouldn’t even break eye contact when Tink looked back. Tink was really spooked by it. A friend of mine was over at the time for a training (we work in the same industry) and commented about how bizarre the behavior was and could tell that it was affecting Tink and me so she offered to take her for the night. God bless her soul. Everyone needs a friend like her. She can’t understand what we are living, but she also doesn’t judge. She simply supports anyone who needs it.

She returned Daffy home past bedtime last night. I was so grateful that I was doing laundry when Daffy arrived so Mickey put her to bed. I didn’t see her this morning. It’s now been almost 48 hours without a single word of communication. This is our normal. BUT THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

The bottom line is, we can’t stand each other. I don’t know how we got here. I can still remember loving her last year. I thought she was the most beautiful thing in the world. And now, I dread interacting with her. I dread the fights. I dread saying anything at all. Hell, I dread waking up in the morning. Why? What’s the purpose? My life is hell. My family is falling apart. My marriage is crumbling. My bio kids are begging to go back to the way things used to be. And no one seems to understand.

I could buy the theory that this was MY fault and MY perception, hell, even MY own adoption issues playing out…. if not for the fact that my bio kids witness all of this too. They tell their dad. They tell the workers. NO ONE LISTENS. Or no one cares. I just don’t get it. Are we beyond hope? Can we not be helped? And if so, why won’t anyone just admit that to us?

As things stand right now, Mickey is in charge of scheduling the nuero psych exam. I imagine that will likely take several months before we have any answers there. And who knows, maybe that won’t answer any questions anyway…. clearly Daffy has become quite the good manipulator since she left the group home. The therapists and workers at the group home were all very clear about her reactive attachment disorder diagnosis, but no one seems to want to hear that now. WHY? Could she have just suddenly been CURED of RAD???? I don’t think so. Her behavior says no.

We are continuing with 3-4 weekly meetings with the new in-home service. We are still at the beginning stages so I am trying to give it a chance, but it’s hard. Mickey is rarely there for the meetings. My bio kids are grumpy to give up any more time to the misery known as our family. And I am EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED that my entire life revolves around a child who hates me. It leaves no time for my marriage, no time for my bio kids and their needs and no time for my friends (ok, ok, I do still spend some time with them, its my ONLY sanity).

Oh, and have I mentioned Tink’s baby is due in 32 FREAKIN days??????  Mickey is currently installing doors on our former living room (the room Tink will share with her baby… now to be “blog named” Andy from Toy Story)! This is the first real safety item we have implemented. She did get one baby monitor at her baby shower, but we are on the hunt for a video monitor for an added level of security. At the suggestion of a couple of the workers, we bought Daffy her own baby doll so she could have practice before Andy comes. She doesn’t play with it. In fact, it would surprise me to find it in a  noose in her room. The more we follow suggestions, the more resistant Daffy becomes.

Things are still in a holding pattern with the birth mom. Birth Mom and Donald mailed letters to Daffy recently. Birth Mom was very forceful in requesting that Daffy just “say what she wants” and that “no one will be hurt”. It was the first time BMom referenced Mickey and I by our first names rather than Mom & Dad, which took me back a little bit. I decided that we should run the letters by Daffy’s therapist before passing them on (something we have not done since the first letter well over a year ago). Therapist said the letters should ABSOLUTELY NOT be given to her and that Birth Mom was out of line to put so much pressure on Daffy. First of all, it’s not Daffy’s decision to determine whether or not visits are appropriate and what the frequency should be. Second, I’m not convinced Daffy even has a real opinion. She mimics what she hears. She says what she thinks she should based on who she is speaking with. You could get ten different answers if she spoke to ten different people in the same day. As for what *I* think…. I still just don’t know. I like Daffy’s birth Mom for the most part. If it weren’t for Donald living with her, the decision would be easier (still hard, but def less complicated). Daffy saw her 5 times in 8 months. Things were bad. She has seen her zero times in 4 months. Things are still bad. So, what is the right answer? Should she see her birth mom? Is that in her best interest? Or is it harmful to her at this point because of Donald’s transition? Does it make things more complicated for OUR family? Does that matter? I ask myself these questions all the time and I just don;t have an honest answer. Sometimes I wish deep down that there was no birth mom option so I wouldn’t have to deal with that alongside all the other issues….. but there is also a part of me that wants the connection to remain because I simply can’t believe that we will survive another 2400+ days until she turns 18. I can see her “running away” in her teens and at least with a birth mom connection, it would be somewhere relatively safe. Ahhhh, who I am kidding? Birth Mom’s home will NEVER be safe for Daffy with Donald living there. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

I’ve been typing for 2 hours now. Goofy and Pluto just came home from school and we were discussing the cancelled appointment and Goofy said, and I quote “We have two options here. Either everybody is going to kill themselves or one of us has to kill her.” Yep, you read that right. THIS IS MY LIFE! I live in fear of Daffy, but I also live in fear FOR Daffy as well.While I know Goofy is just saying this out of frustration, the fear is still very real. If Daffy hurts Andy or anyone else, her life is in jeopardy. We are a family in CRISIS. How did it get this bad? Will it ever get better? WE STILL NEED HELP!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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!

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Celebrating Daffy

Daffy has celebrated her very first birthday with us…. she  has officially turned 10 years old!

Saturday morning a friend of mine took her out for a special birthday breakfast and to get a pedicure! Daffy was planning to get balloons painted on her toenails…. imagine her surprise when the woman doing the pedicure showed Daffy her own toes with Hello Kitty on them…. the exact theme of Daffy’s party! Aren’t they adorable??

Saturday afternoon we honored her special day with a party with many of our closest friends and family. Among the guests were her Fairy Godmother  (@abuggleslife), Jessie, Woody & Buzz (her former pre-adoptive family), Mickey’s parents and many of our closest friends and their children. Daffy had a fabulous time being the center of attention and received many beautiful things. We had bought her an iPod Touch which was definitely a HUGE hit. In fact, she told me the next day that when she blew out the candles on her cake, she had wished for an iPod!

On her actual birthday, I had set up a call with her birth Mom…. the first time they have spoken in more than 3 years! I was a little worried the call would be overly emotional for both of them, but I felt that of all days for them to connect, Daffy’s birthday was it! The call went fantastically! Neither of them cried and her birth Mom was totally appropriate in all she said. I was really happy for the both of them. A few hours after the call, a package arrived for Daffy from her birth mom. She had gotten Daffy the Nintendo 3DS game that she really wanted and sent a few other things that belonged to Daffy as well, including 2 of her jewelry boxes and some pictures from when she lived with a foster family in 2004. Daffy was thrilled to have these things back. I wish I could have read her mind as she looked through each item, I am sure remembering days gone by.

Overall, I think her birthday went as perfectly as possible and I am thrilled for her that she was able to share her special day with so many people who love her so intensely! She is blessed … & so are we!

Meeting Daffy & Donald’s Birth Mom

Ahhhhhh, well this post is now 5 days over due. I could kick myself for waiting so long to blog, but you all know there is never enough time in the life of a busy biological/foster/adoptive Mom!

Last week we met Daffy & Donald’s birth Mom. I had been really excited about meeting her, but the day we were to meet, she sent an email saying she didn’t “support” waiting until after Daffy’s adoption to see her. Ummmmm, well, okay then…. clearly we should go against everything that Daffy’s therapist is recommending to let you see her ahead of the adoption? On what grounds? Oh yeah….. the fact you had your rights terminated because you were abusive and neglectful to your children. Grrrrrrrrr… I know I shouldn’t be so bitchy, but her email really put me into a bad mood that day. Maybe it’s wrong to feel like I was the “good guy” for supporting her having a relationship with the kids, but I had been feeling like I was a saint for my going above and beyond my own limits to support this and her email made me feel used.

So, fast forward to the actual visit…. we arrived right on time and saw that the Birth Mom and the Adoption Specialist were already waiting outside the diner where we had agreed to meet.  My stomach was in knots. We parked and Mickey and I walked over and were introduced. Birth Mom stuck out her hand quickly so there was no weird indecisiveness about whether or not we should hug. (I have to admit, though, there was a little part of me that hoped that we would both be so overcome with emotion that we would embrace. I am such a dreamer….)

Shortly after we arrived, the clinician and the case worker both arrived. It was too difficult to get a table so the 6 of us decided to order take out and eat outside at a picnic table. In retrospect, I wish I had done more planning with the team about a list of topics to discuss. Things felt very strained as the birth mom and I tried to avoid eye contact yet both act jovial as I updated her as to how her own biological child has been doing for the past 6 months. I can’t express the level of weird that this reached.

Anyway, probably the biggest thing to come out of the visit was the birth mom stating that she needed to see Daffy before the adoption to find out if she “really wanted to be adopted.”  She said that she could not stop fighting for her until she knew that adoption is what Daffy wanted. She went on to say that she had met with a lawyer about fighting to stop the adoption and fighting to get Daffy back. We all sat in stunned silence as we listened to her talk. My thoughts were racing a mile a minute. I knew that if I was in her shoes, I would want to know the same thing. I wouldn’t want my kids to think that I ever gave up on them for even a minute. That said, I also felt it was a really “ballsy” move on her part to try to get us to agree to let her see Daffy before the adoption (which Daffy’s therapist has advised against on multiple occasions). I felt that it would be asking A LOT too much of Daffy to ask her to sit in front of both of her families and ask her to choose, especially when there is no “choice” to be made. Daffy is nine. She doesn’t get to decide what is in her best interest. The state makes those choices (at least until we adopt her in October.)

Somehow we managed to get through that part of the conversation without it coming to blows and finished our visit about an hour and a half after it started. As we were parting ways, I asked if it would be okay for me to get a picture taken with the birth mom. I have scrapbooking in my blood, and this was a HUGE moment, I couldn’t let it pass by without a photo. I later learned that the birth mom was “really touched” that I asked to have my picture taken with her. That was probably the moment I realized how little she knows me.

How would I feel if my children were taken from me? How would I feel when, 4 years after TPR, being asked to come back onto the team to help one child while the other was in the process of being adopted? Would I trust that the state who had mishandled the case so badly to have finally chosen a family that could love my daughter like I had? Could ANYONE love my child like I had? I have a ton of empathy for this woman, this woman who birthed my child, this woman who has never for a single moment stopped loving my child. I honestly can’t say that I would ever stop fighting either.

As we left the visit, I received a text message from the caseworker asking me to call her. That was weird in and of itself, because caseworkers here dont give out their cell phone numbers. Anyway, I called her back and she was mortified at what the birth mom had said about considering trying to stop the adoption and reassured me numerous times that this was not possible.  She shared that the plan is set and the plan is final… we WILL be adopting Daffy. I told her that we hadn’t been all that stressed about it, figuring the time line was too close for things to change anyway, but thanked her for her support. (I feel like this caseworker is the person that has almost single handedly saved Daffy from her fate of displaced adoptive homes and her brother’s ongoing abuse. Her text /call is just one of a million reasons I have to thank her….)

Fast forward to today. I received the first email from the birth mom since we met last week. I can’t put into words how intense these email communications are for me. She is so raw, so honest. She apologized for coming off hard and seeming threatening to the adoption. She shared that she had talked with friends, family and even another foster parent and that she had come to realize that asking Daffy to make a choice is something she should never have to do. She went on to say that all she wanted to know is that Daffy is “happy ,safe,  loved  and well taken care of” and that she knows she has those things with Mickey and me. What more could we possibly ask of this woman?

I am impressed time and time again with her. I don’t mean to minimize her role in having the kids taken away in the first place- she made some very bad choices- but in the past few months, she has gone above and beyond the expectations of what the team has had for her. She has made herself available for every requested meeting and visit (all while dealing with her own issues with a new husband and stepdaughter at home- something I will not be sharing on this blog). She has acted appropriately and said all the right things to both kids, despite her own feelings of loss and turmoil. And most of all, she has done this without being in therapy herself. I honestly feel like she is the super hero of birth moms! She has put the needs of the kids above herself and there is nothing I respect more.

I wrote her back today thanking her for her honesty and reassuring her of my plan for her to  have continued contact with Daffy. There was a little part of me that wondered if I should mention “if appropriate”, but I left that part out. If she has been this incredible this early on in the process, I believe I can only expect good things from her to come! 🙂

On a side note, she also wrote to Daffy again this morning. I forwarded her email to Daffy and then  required Daffy to check her email. Daffy logged in, read one of the 2 birth mom emails that was waiting, checked and replied to several other emails, read the second email from her birth mom and then signed out. I asked if she was planning to reply and she stated that she wasn’t in a “typing mood”….. UGH. I KNOW that her birth mom must be assuming that I am saying something negative about her (or at at the very least, not encouraging her to reply), but that is completely not true. I considered MAKING her reply, but a her therapist’s voice in the back of my head reminded me I need to let her do this at her own pace and in her own way, even though I might look like the bad guy stuck in the middle. *sigh*

Overwhelmed

It’s been 5 days since Daffy’s birth mom was told about her adoption. It’s been a whirlwind of letters from the birth Mom, emails among the team members and phone calls with the case worker. I am overwhelmed.

When we first considered this concept of open adoption at the beginning of May,  my intentions were to allow letters with twice yearly visits. In the nearly 3 months since this concept was first introduced, it has evolved into something much more. Daffy’s birth Mom has seen Donald twice with another visit scheduled for this week- and while no definitive schedule is set, its looking like weekly visits may become the norm for them. The team has been unable to secure any sort of counseling for the  birth Mom, so to date, she is dealing with this completely on her on. This is a recipe for disaster. This is a woman who has lost 4 kids to the state over the course of her life. This is a woman who has had multiple psych hospitalizations for her own mental illness stabilization. This is a woman who, when evaluated last fall, was classified as someone stuck in the exact moment she last visited her children in 2009, unable to move forward in any way. She has had ZERO help to deal with her own issues, still takes no responsibility for why her children were removed in the first place and yet is expected to rejoin this team as an outsider (with no rights) and be appropriate in all she says and does? Its an impossible task.

One of the things that she wrote to me this week was that while she is happy for this opportunity, she wonders how long it will last. I think that’s a very fair question. This team has severed ties with many connections in the past in very abrupt ways. This team is doing nothing to help or guide her in how to help the kids or how to process all of this herself. One wrong move on her part and they could easily pull the plug again. And that’s just with Donald. Daffy will be adopted in October and the state will no longer have any control over her. Birth Mom doesn’t know us from a hole in the wall and is expected to “trust” our intentions.

This, and the fact the team is considering inviting her to upcoming team meetings, is what prompted me to request a face to face visit with her. I told the team that I feel the birth Mom and I need to establish a relationship before Daffy’s adoption and that I certainly dont want to meet her for the first time at a team meeting. I requested that our case worker and the adoption specialist both attend the meeting to help alleviate the pressure we are both feeling about this first meeting and also be there in case uncomfortable questions come up. They agreed and immediately got to work scheduling the visit. It’s scheduled for August 1st- 4 days away! Aaaaaack!

I have 4 days to prepare to meet the woman who gave birth to Donald and Daffy. That doesn’t feel like much time. In many ways it reminds me of my feelings while preparing to meet Donald and Daffy that first time. What should I wear that will make me look motherly? I don’t want to look “old” but its not a time to be edgy. A little nagging voice is saying I shouldn’t have gotten that drastic hair cut in June. Will she think my short hair is too “hard”? That I couldn’t possibly be loving?  Should I hug her when we first meet? What if I cry? What will she think of me? Will she like me? Will she like Mickey? What if she says something that ticks me off? What if I like her? What if I am not good at being able to establish boundaries from the get go? Have I mentioned lately that I am feeling overwhelmed? lol

Despite my nervousness, I feel that meeting her is definitely in everyone’s best interest. I want to be able to have visits with her and Donald. I want Donald to see us (and the rest of the team) as unified in his best interest and not people that he needs to divide his loyalties between. I know that I need to form a relationship with her to be able to sustain communication between her & Daffy. My fear, though, is that she wants more than Daffy does and that she will be hurt as we go forward.

When she emailed a letter for Daffy (through the caseworker) on Tuesday, the case worker and I questioned a couple of the things she had said, but I made the choice to pass the letter on to Daffy without edits saying that if there were tough discussions to be had, we might as well have them with Daffy now. We have a very open relationship with her in that we talk about everything in a very honest way. I want to continue to foster that openness. Anyway, Daffy checked her email, read the letter and then proceeded to check the rest of her email. She wrote back to Jessie (former foster mom), a friend of mine that emailed her and sent several emails to me. I reminded her that her time on the computer was nearing an end and if she wanted to reply to any other emails to get it done. Nothing. She was not interested in any way in replying to her birth mom.

The next day on the way home from dance camp, she told Mickey “I need to check my email when we get home so I can reply to Mom“… Mickey asked for clarification saying “Mommy or Mom?” and she clarified that she meant ME- Mom. She never did check her email that day, but it was clear that her birth mom was not on her mind.

On Thursday, Daffy and I received another round of emails from her birth mom. I felt, well, overwhelmed by this. The birth mom shared in her email that she checks her email several times per day to see if we have replied. I tried to remind myself that this is all new to her, but I couldn’t help but think she has a different set of expectations about what her role will be than we do. Anyway, I sent her email on to Daffy and then encouraged Daffy to check her email. Daffy did check and replied to all other emails first, but this time decided to write her birth mom back. Her birth mom had mentioned hoping to see her so Daffy and I had a discussion about when she would like to have a visit. At first, she said December, but then she decided Thanksgiving would be better. Daffy, thinking aloud, commented that since we had Thanksgiving here last year (she wasn’t even HERE for it since off site visits hadn’t started yet) that it would be at Mickey’s cousin’s house this year. I confirmed this and she replied “Then I would like to see her the day before Thanksgiving!” She asked me to find the date and wrote in her email response the specific date that she wanted to see her. (I had to laugh because her decision about her adoption date was a similar mental process determining a VERY specific date. Thankfully that all worked out!)

I will be very eager to hear her birth Mom’s reply to this. I think she will be upset that Daffy is not wanting to see her for nearly another four months and I also think she will believe we are behind this very specific date (although clearly we are not). Her feelings are something that I struggle with. By nature, I feel responsible to console her, to say things to reassure her that Daffy thinks of her and loves her. While these things are true, our agency social worker reminded me yesterday, this is not my job. My job is to protect Daffy, to advocate for HER needs and wants. Daffy shows us often through her actions that she is simply not that interested in seeing her birth Mom right now. She is nine years old. She wants to be a kid. She wants to play. She wants to spend time enmeshing herself in her new family and establishing her role as the (adorable) youngest. She wants to test limits… and she wants to grow. She does not want to be saddled by her past on a daily basis. I believe she very much wants a relationship with her birth Mom, but they can not simply pick up where they left off. This needs to be a NEW relationship. This needs to be a SAFE relationship, one that is respectful and one where Daffy has power. She has spent her entire life being powerless and it’s time for HER to have control.

Above all, this is why I will continue to advocate for the team to find some resolution to the therapy issue with the birth mom. She needs support during this process and it simply can not be me. I am eager to meet her Wednesday and start the next part of this journey with her, but my loyalties are and will always remain with Daffy. That may be tough for her to accept but I hope its a decision she will respect in the end.