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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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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Expect The Unexpected (The post about the letter)

Today was the big day… the day Daffy received the long awaited letter back from her biological Mom… their first contact in 3 years. Daffy responded so emotionally to receiving a photo of her birth mom from her Fairy Godmother that I was sure that today would overwhelm her. I was wrong.

This morning we met with our social worker before Daffy’s therapy appointment. Daffy was her usual fidgety self, but nothing out of the ordinary. We arrived at therapy and I went in first so I could sum up the week and review the letter with her therapist. I could not ask for a more appropriate letter. Her birth Mom answered all her questions and provided many subtle clues that it was okay for Daffy to move on, including that she was happy Daffy was safe & in a new family and that she wants to meet us. She even signed the letter with her first name.

Daffy came into the office to join us. As she slowly read the letter, she smiled a few times. She commented that her birth mom said she no longer had the family cat from years ago. And then she folded the letter, put it back in the envelope and was ready to know what was next. Next she was given  3 cards that we recently found in the files at the state office. Her therapist explained that someone in the past made a poor decision by not passing on the cards at the time they were received and that the current team was correcting that by giving them to her now. She further explained that clearly her birth mother had thought of her over the past 3 years. The cards included birthday and holiday cards with notes written inside. Daffy read each one, again with little response, other than to note that her mother must have remembered her birth date. Her therapist asked her how she felt about finally hearing from her birth mom and she replied with short answers like “happy.” Oddly, she barely even commented on the fact that her birth mom had included a picture with the letter!

I know that she must have been feeling a thousand feelings on the inside, but one of Daffy’s issues is that she does NOT like to show emotion, particularly sadness or crying. As emotional things have come up, Daffy often asks if I cried or will cry about them. She is almost to the point of obsessed. Unfortunately for Daffy, I am much like her in that way. I *hate* crying. I feel like its a sign of my weakness when I cry, so I avoid it all costs and feel very embarrassed if others see me cry for any reason. This is something I am definitely going to have to work on so that I can help Daffy deal with her strong emotions.

This afternoon our case worker came for her monthly visit. She asked Daffy about her experience receiving the letter this morning. Daffy was happy to get the letter and show it to her, but again, quickly moved on to other subjects.

Had this happened in January, I would easily have attributed this to her diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder. At this point, though, her therapist disputes that diagnosis and seeing her in our home (& with our family) and how she recently reacted to reconnecting with her former foster (pre-adoptive) family, I don’t think that is the case. I think she is fully capable of attaching and I am wondering if she is simply not attached to her biological mother.

I am definitely ending this day in a much different place than I expected. I guess thats the name of the game in foster care.

Expect the unexpected.