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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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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Donald’s Team Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

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Its finally starting to feel like Christmas around here! My friend, Abuggleslife on Twitter, came over with Kibee and Lilbug yesterday and we spent the afternoon crafting and baking for the holidays! Today, Mickey and my in-laws are making homemade perogies for Christmas Eve!

The past several weeks have been one stressor after another. Between Daffy’s explosive behavior, April’s selective mutism and Daisy’s defiance, I was at my wit’s end on more than one occasion. I have mixed feelings about Daisy and April having moved. There is a part of me that misses them, misses what could have been. On the other hand, though, I am very focused on Daffy’s well being and eager to see her get back to a place of confidence within our family. I’m sad that Daffy’s first adopted holiday turned out to be such a stressful time for her.

April’s last night here culminated with Daffy packing her bag and trying to run away. I chased her down the stairs and slammed the door shut just as she opened it (thank God her fingers weren’t in the door!) Definitely not a fun night. 😦

Not only has Daffy had the stress of the 2 foster girls, but also 2 visits with her birth mom (one alone and one with Donald for his birthday last week). She is clearly trying to process the visits and what role her birth mom will play in her life. I can tell that she feels very conflicted and it’s something I plan to mention to her therapist in hopes that she can help Daffy work through the grief and guilt. It breaks my heart that adoption is the happiest yet saddest thing a person can experience.

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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.

 

July Team Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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