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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More Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All Kinds of Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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.

Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before We Started The Foster Adoption Process

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings
Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before We Started The Foster Adoption Process:

  1. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids are some of the toughest and hardest to place kids in the country.
    There is a reason they are chosen among all foster children to receive these additional resources/supports. The trauma and loss these kids have endured are immense and NOT for the faint of heart.
  2. Adoption profiles are deceitful.
    When Donald’s profile said “he has struggled with managing his emotions“, it really meant he would physically assault our family and pets. When the adoption listing said “energetic siblings“, it really meant they both have ADHD. I wish we better understood social work lingo and had viewed their profile with more realistic eyes.
  3. Adoptive Histories from the state are not complete.
    In fact, ours would purposely leave out many important pieces of information including sexual abuse allegations and a history of abuse to animals. I wish we had taken more time to research the case files from the past 10 years. I wish we had asked more questions. Most of all, I wish I had had enough courage to call the state out on their part in why the kids have been in the system so long instead of letting them glaze over that in the adoptive history.
  4. Reactive Attachment Disorder can not be “overcome” with love.
    RAD is not like depression or anxiety. RAD can not be cured. Research, research, research. Read books. Read blogs. Talk to other parents with children diagnosed with RAD. Ask questions. This is a life changing diagnosis, not just for the child, but for the entire family.
  5. Different workers will produce different resultsDo not be scared of change.
    History does not have to repeat itself if the right people are working the case. I wish I had spent less time worrying about the changes that were out of my control and more time working to make a quicker transition.
  6. Concurrent planning is extremely important.
    These plans are not a reflection on parents or their abilities. They do not mean that a placement will fail, but they provide a safety net that will save precious time in a child’s young life should things not go as planned. I wish I had pushed harder for a concurrent plan for Donald.
  7. Terminated Parental Rights do not mean that the kids will not have contact with their birth family.
    Things are always subject to change. Be open to this, always keeping in mind the best interest of the child.
  8. Documentation will be a valuable asset.
    Set up a system ahead of time that works to chart appointments and results, phone calls, daily notes, etc.
  9. Siblings do not always belong together.
    Enough said.
  10. Most of all, I wish I knew that this process would be the single most challenging of my life with the greatest reward at the end!
    Despite the challenges, I have to trust that we got to this very moment because this is where we are meant to be. Our family has been forever changed for the better withDaffy & Donald in our lives and for that, I will always be grateful.

This post is linked to Top Ten {Tuesday}.