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.


Our Christmas Visit With Donald

christmas visit

Smudged RTC initials in photos to protect Donald’s privacy

Donald told Daffy & I last night that he was “off level” for attacking two staff members. I emailed the clinician this morning to get more information about what happened and was told “staff has stated he has required seclusion for safety concerns such as attempting to attack staff, but to my knowledge he has not actually attacked anyone. In light of this heightened behavior, I would advise having an on-campus visit.” Honestly, I HATE having visits under these circumstances. Daffy has put up with enough abuse from her brother over the years that I hate to subject her to more. That said, it’s already 3 days after Christmas and more snow is on the way for our area, so I decided that it would be best just to get this visit out of the way. Mickey and Goofy came along, mostly for protection more than a true desire to see Donald.

The visit took place in Donald’s room at the RTC. As we looked around, I noticed some “artwork” hanging on the walls. One by the door was filled with stickers and Donald had written “XXX (name of RTC) is f*ckin b*tch and a$$e$”. Below that on his bookshelf he had written “I hate XXX (name of RTC)” I was surprised to see that the staff would allow such things to remain in his room. Goofy then asked for my cell phone to use my camera to take a picture of a message Donald had written on the back of his door. It read “Mama hit me”. I was stunned. I wanted to ask Donald about it, but didn’t want to incite his recent unsafe behaviors and also didn’t want to unset Daffy. I took a few more photos from a few different angles and promptly emailed them to the team (clinician, cw and GAL among others). Unfortunately the cw and clinician are both out of the office until 1/2/13 for the holiday so nothing will be done until that time. I don’t think Donald has any visits scheduled with his birth mom for this weekend, so I feel fairly certain he is safe.

I keep wondering where that came from. Is he remembering something old? Or did something happen on their Christmas visit? Will this be just one more thing the team excuses away along with his recent  “safety concerns”? How can they do anything BUT connect his behavior since Weds to his Christmas visit? Are they so desperate to get him off their caseload that they will put others, including him, at risk?

I guess time will tell….


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. 🙂

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.

Donald’s Bad Weekend

Wow! What a weekend! When Mickey called Donald on Sunday, he said that he had run away and got poison ivy all over his body. Before Mickey could ask for details, Donald said he didn’t “feel like talking so long” and hung up. I promptly emailed the clinician and asked for details.

The next morning we received an email about Donald’s weekend. Apparently Saturday started with an altercation with a peer and some [quote] “awkward” behavior following. Next, he pulled an apple peeler on staff with the intent to do hard. Finally, he and another peer decided to run away. They were apparently brought back by the police an hour later.

A few of my feelings on the above events:

  1. If we are considered his family to the point that the clinician has been pushing for home visits, why would staff NOT have called us to let us know that Donald was missing??? And furthermore, why would they not have mentioned it before putting him on the phone Sunday night? Its completely inappropriate for us to learn of this type of information from Donald himself.
  2. It’s Tuesday night and we have yet to see the Critical Incident Reports from Saturday’s events. The clinician told us yesterday she was still trying to get ahold of the staff that was on duty during Saturday’s incidents. Ummmm, communication break down, much? Tomorrow will be 4 days since the events that took place and his clinician doesn’t even officially know what happened?  How can she have already taken him off the safety watch without all the details? I swear, as long as I live, I will never understand her.
  3. He pulled an apple peeler on staff and you think he is ready for home visits??? Fat chance. I have said from the start that we were not willing to take him back here until he was safe. We do NOT expect perfection, but we DO expect to be safe. That is NOT too much to ask. Clearly the  2 weeks that he has been “on level” do not indicate safety. Pretty sure I said that at the last team meeting, but the clinician just ignored it and continued to push her own agenda. God, I hate her
There are lots of discussions to be had as a result of this weekend’s incidents. In addition to the consult we have scheduled on Monday, we have added a “pre-meeting” to discuss the questions for the trauma specialist and a post-meeting to discuss the call as well as have another team meeting before our quarterly court check in later in July. There are so many things changing and happening right now. Literally within each day there enough ups and downs to make me feel dizzy!
Praying that one day soon this ride will stop and we can all get off and live happily ever after.

The Clinician Strikes Again

Every week I receive at least one email from Donald’s clinician that pisses me off to the point of increased blood pressure and a serious amount of swearing. The emails usually come on Friday afternoons (although this one happened to come on Thursday).

He [Donald] did ask when he will be able to go on a home visit.  I tried to talk to him about his past behavior while at your home and how he may have scared you, but he shut down.  He stated he was here because of that, and he has been doing well with his anger.  I suggested he ask you about it, but I get the impression he won’t since he seems reluctant to discuss his role in why he is not in your home.

The big thing I got out of this meeting with Donald is that he has questions about his future and the not knowing is really stressing him out.  His mood throughout the meeting was all over the place, and that seems to be consistent across settings lately.  I know last night he required a Benadryl PRN due to escalation and not being able to control himself.  Today I assured him that the team is working on a plan, but I don’t think that will be enough.   I know we do not know what his future will be at the moment, but maybe Minnie and I could talk to him together about why he is not going on home visits that way he hears it from both of us?  Provided of course you are comfortable with this Minnie.  I just feel we need to give him something at this point.  He is starting the hard work about his past, but with nothing to work toward it can be difficult to maintain that motivation.

Honestly, where do I begin to address the many issues with this email? You told Donald that he “scared us”??? Are you kidding me?? I can’t begin to express why I am not okay with this. If, having known him for 3 months, you dont know about his need and enjoyment of controlling and instilling fear in others, you should probably head back to school or find another field to work in. Clearly, working with Reactive Attachment Disorder pre-teens in a residential setting is not for you.

Furthermore, are you sure scared is the right word? How about you try assaulted? Attacked? Kicked? Bit? Pinched? Scratched? Choked? Screamed at? Exposed yourself to? Terrified to the point of installing locks on all bedroom doors? Locking up all kitchen knives? How about digital RAPE and sodomization of the family dog? Does any of that come to mind?

Home visits? Really? We have taken him “off campus” only on 3 occasions in 3 months. Our weekly visits currently last 1 hour and sometimes he asks us to leave early. His mood is all over the place? He required a PRN due to escalation and not being able to control himself? But you think he is ready for home visits??? Really? You want me to drive him one hour each way to bring him back to the environment where he viciously attacked our family including choking his sister? No. Just no. And the fact you think this is even therapeutically warranted makes me question whether you should even be assigned to his case. You CLEARLY do not understand the risk he poses nor do you understand how this would be setting him up to fail. Again.

So you think you & I should sit down with Donald to discuss his future? Hmmm, let’s see… neither of us knows what his future holds. Neither of us single handedly make decisions about what his future holds either. The team has not made any decision beyond saying that the SOONEST he would come back would be April 2013. You dont want to tell him this yourself, so you have decided that WE should sit him down and tell him? Really? I remember you sitting across from me at the last team meeting. I know you heard me say that if I had to make a decision right now, we would not be taking him back. You also heard me say that his sisters therapist is going on record to recommend that these children should not be placed together. You heard the adoption specialist support this. You heard her recommend a consult to reinforce this. Yet, you maintain that you & I should “talk to him about his future”? Do you think he is ready to hear those things? Or are you suggesting that I lie to him and give him hope for a future that he would never be able to maintain? He has not received ANY real therapy since he left the psychiatric hospital in February, yet you believe you know what he is capable in the future? How things should go? Have you reviewed his records beyond the fluffed up adoption history that you were given? Have you seen the pattern of abuse he has subjected ALL former foster families to? Have you listened to his sister’s numerous requests for protection from him?

He has nothing to work towards without being led to believe he will return to us? I disagree. How about he needs to do this “hard work” so that he can survive in this world without ending up homeless, a high school drop out, jailed or worse. Or he should do this hard work so he has some hope of stable relationships in his lifetime? Do any of those things matter to you? Or is this just a race to the finish line so you can call yourself a success?

I am biting my tongue for now and letting the rest of the team deal with you. And I am very grateful that they have decided to transfer his TF-CBT to another agency to handle. Its his only hope because if his future lies in your hands, he is doomed.

Why I Hate Donald’s Clinician

I love our team, I really do. Everyone except for the Clinician/Case Manager at Donald’s Residential Treatment Center. Every time I receive an email from her, I am hopeful for a glimpse of reality, and every time I read said email, I find that my skin crawls and I bristle at how little she understands this situation.

How can someone working at a Residential Treatment Center not understand Reactive Attachment Disorder? I simply don’t understand.  Donald is not that crafty. He is not that manipulative. And yet, somehow, she believes that he is bonded and attached to us. After living with us for 13 days! Daffy’s therapist talks about how she is “attaching nicely” but would NEVER go so far as to say she is attached and she has been IN OUR HOME for more than 4 months! How can this woman believe that a child who couldn’t care less whether we live or die is actually “attached”???

She takes every opportunity to mention this to us, as if hearing it enough will make us believe it. We don’t. Nor so the social workers on our case. She is totally blind to Donald’s needs.

Below is an email, in part, that I sent to our caseworker regarding this clinician:

I just wanted to address some of CLINICIAN’s comments directly with you. I am confused by her comment about the TF-CBT work. At the last team meeting CLINICIAN stated that she did not know who at RTC did such work but said she would research that. She is now stating that she will be doing that work. Furthermore, she indicates that she does not know if he will get that work while at RTC. I was under the impression that is EXACTLY the work that needed to be done before DONALD would be ready to live safely in a family.

I am also shocked to read that DONALD said he is “not the same” as when he lived  with the former pre-adoptive family. After speaking with JESSIE, I felt like I was in a time warp and that he is EXACTLY the same as when he was with them, that he has literally made zero progress in 3 years. She indicates that DAFFY “used to” be afraid of him. I feel it needs to be clarified that she is CURRENTLY afraid of him. This has been indicated by DONALD’s own conversations with XXX during his most recent stay at GRPOUP HOME, by DAFFY’s therapist, and by DAFFY herself in the things she has written to the team and things she has indicated to our family.

While I am happy to hear CLINICIAN’s reports of DONALD remaining on level, I do not feel that his ability to function at RTC in ANY way indicates an ability to function within a family setting because of his Reactive Attachment Disorder and the trauma bond with his sister. I feel emails like the one below indicate a push to move him back into our family rather than take the time that DONALD needs to truly deal with his trauma and manage his mental illness. CLINICIAN’s statements give me the impression that RTC does not truly understand the dangerous situation we were in with DONALD in our home, that they are not aware of DONALD’s extensive history and that they do not understand the serious work that needs to be done with with him.

Clearly, our next treatment team meeting will be quite interesting.

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.