Would I Do It Again?

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

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

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

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

Winds of Change

I feel the winds of change coming through. This week Daffy’s therapist told her that she had been doing a good job sharing how she feels about her brother, Donald. I feel like this must be what she needed to hear to really open up, because the past few days we have seen a glimpse of whats inside Pandora’s Box.

A few things Daffy has shared since her appointment this week:

  • Daffy told Mickey  and her foster brothers that it was really scary when she first came to live with us because of all her brothers “tantrums” and that its “much better with him gone.”
  • Last night at dinner, Daffy shared with all of us that she doesn’t think we should allow Donald to do karate because she believes that he will not use it only for self defense and that he would use it to hurt someone.
  • When asked if she wanted to talk to her brother last night, she grumbled and then said “Tell him I am busy but I am thinking about him.”
I feel like Daffy’s therapist has made it safe for Daffy to express her fears about her brother and his abusive behaviors. I feel like this is the first step in Daffy having a voice at all. It gives me hope for her future.

Memories of Pain

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

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

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

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

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

Just a quick update!

I am happy I was last able to report that Donald had those 2 good days because every day since has been riddled with issues. Definitely a short honeymoon. He is right back to where he was throwing furniture, screaming, swearing, assaulting peers and staff and it doesn’t look like those behaviors will be going anywhere soon. I am pleased with the level of information I have been receiving from this residential treatment center including actual reports of the incidents each day. His case manager seems very thorough and honest- two things I will value as we go forward.

In the past week, I have dreamt twice about Donald trying to kill us. In the dream last night, he and a “cousin” had numerous weapons and there was blood everywhere. Goofy & I were locking ourselves in a bathroom to hide from the assault as Mickey went to try to stop the attack. I mentioned this to Daffy’s therapist in passing this morning saying maybe *I* need some therapy to work on my fear issues and she said it speaks far more to the level of his behaviors. She is suggesting that Daffy & Donald not have physical contact until he is stabilized. I hope this is something the team will support when we meet on Monday. I do not support the idea of using family as a “prize”, but at the same time, I can not watch her continue to be victimized by him in the name of biology. There are other ways for them to stay connected without putting her at risk.

I am happy to report that Daffy is doing REALLY well. Her therapist even suggested that by the summer she may move her back to every-other-week visits! I was surprised to hear that, but very warmed as well. I feel like this speaks volumes about how well Daffy is doing with us. When I dropped her off at school after her appointment, her classroom teacher happened to be in the office and commented about how the past couple weeks have been considerably better for Daffy, too. I am torn, wondering if we are settling into our “happily ever after” or if this is still a honeymoon and we are in the “calm before the storm”. I guess only time will tell.

Can you feel my fear?

Discharge day has come & gone in a whirlwind. Let me try to get caught up on the last week…..

Friday we took the kids to see their new school. Both were SILENT. They were clearly terrified, with Donald even HIDING behind Mickey. I wasn’t thrilled with the lack of planning on the school’s part. Both kids came into their classrooms during activities and were not made to feel very welcome at all. As we left the school it was Daffy’s turn to use a particular Nintendo game and Donald was not happy about it, refusing to give it up. This went on for a few miles and I finally demanded that he do it. He promptly threw the game at his sister and slammed the system into my hand and began using his classic profane language. When we pulled into the driveway, he refused to get out of the car (one we are borrowing because Mickey’s transmission went a few weeks back). Mickey leaned in to unbuckle him and he promptly started kicking him all the while screaming like a girl. He then began kicking the dogs who came out to greet us as they do every time we get home.  What a freakin’ fiasco! Mickey had to practically drag him into the house where he continued the nonsense of swearing and throwing things at us. Needless to say, that set the tone for the long holiday week.

Saturday and Sunday were filled with varying degrees of agression on Donald’s part including him slamming coffee mugs, throwing things at people (including guests in our home) and punching a window. Good times.

We returned the kids on Monday night for our last evening without them. Needless to say, that reality kicked up some major anxiety for me. Tuesday I actually broke down and took a prescription med that I havent taken in months because I felt like I would have a heart attack. Mickey, Tink, Goofy and I made the final one hour treck to pick up the kids that afternoon. What should have been one of the most amazing days of my life was instead filled with dread, self-doubt and fear. Tinkerbell clearly felt the same way; she even cried as we were leaving because she was so sad for the future of our family.

I fully expected a complete meltdown on that first night, but we actually managed to survive with just the usual incessant arguing between Donald & Daffy. That is until 2am when Donald decided he had enough sleep for the night. What the f&@k?? Seriously. This is stressful enough without HIM being awake all night long. Obviously we sent him back to bed and there I lay, wondering if he was getting a knife to stab me or if he found a cat to strangle.

Fast forward to the next morning… the first day at the new school! Again, I fully expected a meltdown that didnt come. I weaseled my way out of taking them to school because I was so angry, I really didnt even want to LOOK at them. Mickey took them and said they seemed okay. My phone rang during the school day and of course, I expected the worst. Amazingly, an aide was calling to tell me what a “great day” he was having. Ha! Have fun on the honeymoon, sweetheart! I ASSURE you it wont last long!

I survived yesterday afternoon and evening with them and they were actually much better about staying in bed last night. My biggest issue right now is finding a way to let go of my anger at their “behaviors” to start each day new. Its extremely hard to do when the constant level of anxiety about what he will do next is always at a max. He is argumentative, defiant and assualtive on an almost constant basis. And while I know it seems that I am hyper focused on “him”, trust me SHE is no peach… her single goal in life is to send him into a rage all with an innocent look & a smile on her face. Gotta love Reactive Attachment Disorder! This is 1000% more challenging than I ever could have imagined and I can completely understand why so many other families have thrown in the towel, which are words I never believed I would say.

So, at this point, what I need most is someone (anyone? everyone?) to tell me that this is NOT what my life will be like every single minute for the rest of my life, because if it is, I will NOT survive. My biological kids won’t survive. My husband won’t survive. My family won’t survive.