The Meeting With The Former Therapist

As I mentioned here, we had scheduled an appointment with one of Daffy’s former therapists, specifically the one who gave her the Reactive Attachment Disorder diagnosis a couple of months after she moved in to the group home. We had learned of his involvement with Daffy in a very brief exert in her Adoptive History where he had been quoted as saying “Daffy is more concerning because of her Reactive Attachment Disorder and her inability to care about relationships.

We were very eager to ask him questions about how he came to that diagnosis and whether or not he believed that Daffy could have been “cured” by coming into our care and seeing a new therapist, as suggested  by said new therapist.

When Mickey & I arrived, we learned he had double booked the session. I almost cried thinking we would have to wait any longer for answers. Thankfully he was able to reschedule with his other patient and took us in. One of the workers from our current team was also able to meet us for the meeting. I hadn’t thought I wanted any of them at the meeting, but was actually happy to have a witness as to what this man said. I am certain that if I had come back and reported about our meeting, the team would have thought my opinion was skewed. (By the way, the post-adoption worker from Donald’s case called at the last minute because of flooding in her home so I never did have to deal with that conflict of interest.)

So anyway, the former therapist had pulled up Daffy’s files. He had told me on the phone that he thought he had seen her only twenty times or so. It turned out when he reviewed the records before meeting with us that he had actually had Daffy as a patient for more than a year and a half (10/2009- 6/2011) and had seen her generally every 2 weeks during that time. He began first by sharing that Daffy was one of the girls who had made him reconsider providing therapy to the girls from the group home. He said there was a lot of “transference” that he witnessed from these girls onto the staff at the group home (for example, in their minds and because of their deep trauma, the kitchen worker could be the grandfather that abused them, or the housekeeper could be the mom who beat them). He ultimately decided that the girls from the group home were better off seeing a female provider who might seem less intimidating rather than a 50 year old man and he made the referral for Daffy to switch in the summer of 2011. As a side note, it appears Daffy never went to the recommended therapist as the state decided that Daffy and Donald should see a therapist together to work on sibling issues. (That lasted only a few sessions before we came into the picture and the state decided to end that counseling to pursue something closer to our home.)

The former therapist said that from the very first session, Daffy “had to be in control.” He said she seemed “pleasant” but that it was like she wasn’t really there. During that first session, Daffy talked about her birth mom extensively and even drew a picture. He indicated the conversation was  “one mile wide but only one inch deep”. He said that Daffy gave just enough to seem forthcoming but that, in fact, she would prove to be highly resistant to any emotional work over the next year and a half.

I asked if Daffy had come to him with the RAD diagnosis or if he had been the one to give her the diagnosis. He said that he had given her the diagnosis and he did not hesitate even a second when he said that she is CLASSIC RAD, no question about it. He said that every word she chose was guarded and that she tried to control the sessions by controlling him.

I asked if he thought that she had been sexually or physically abused and he emphatically said yes, given her behaviors, fear of adults and need to control every adult. He said that any adult who allows themselves to be controlled by her is doing her a disservice.

He said that at the end of his time with her, she flat out refused to go to counseling some days and he had also indicated in his notes “she is highly resistant”, “persistant refusal” and  “irritability”.  At that point in our meeting, I laughed and said “Yep, you know the Daffy I know!”

I asked him if he felt that Daffy could be dangerous and he said that although she had not done anything specific while in his care, he feels she has the potential because of how “through her defenses are and how unpsychologically sound she is.” Marvelous! He went on to say that he also feels that she is the type of child who could make false accusations of sexual abuse. Sigh. Not what I needed to hear with a husband and 2 teenaged boys at home.

I asked what he thought our family needed in terms of support. He said that it is very important for us to understand RAD. He said we have to be in it for the long haul. He suggested finding trainings and support groups and said we should definitely use respite. I asked if he thought there was any hope for Daffy and he seemed much more reserved, almost gloomy, in his reply. He said there could be hope if she works with a female therapist who gets her to do the emotion based work she has avoided all these years. He said Daffy MUST deal with her losses and get at the hurt to have any real hope. He talked about the walls Daffy has built up over the years and didn’t seem optimistic that she would ever take them down.

Oddly, I left on cloud nine! I didn’t even have to share my experience to have someone BELIEVE ME! I wanted to scream from the rooftops “I WAS RIGHT! I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG!!” Now ordinarily I’m not the type to be so “I told you so,” but without the proper diagnosis, Daffy will NEVER get the help she needs and this meeting is a start on the road to finding out the truth and coming up with a solid plan to save Daffy and our entire family. At least I hope that’s the road we are on… you never know in this case….

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More Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This Feels Wonderful

momentThere are countless posts that I should have written to catch things up to current… like a post about how we just had our 60 day team meeting and have only met with our lead social worker twice because of all the changes and internal issues at the agency… or a post about Daffy meeting with two of the post adopt workers to discuss what she thinks is appropriate for visits with her birth Mom and Donald.

But for right now, THIS is all that matters. Tink’s son Andy has arrived! He was born Sunday 12/15 after one of the most calm labor and deliveries I have ever seen. Tink blew me away with how she trusted her body to birth her son and she even did it med free! Later that evening Tink was talking about how wonderful it was to have her family all around. Goofy commented that Pluto was not there (we didn’t have time to pick him up after Tink’s water broke at home)… and Tink replied “And Daffy.” Whaaaaaaat? I was FLOORED… almost to the point of being speechless. Tink requested that Daffy come to the hospital the next day. I contacted one of our social workers and asked if we could move our Monday evening meeting from our home to the hospital room and she agreed.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous the next day. We had never discussed a hospital visit with Daffy, as Tink had said there was no way in hell she would allow her. We had never even asked Daffy if she WANTED to come. I mean, I’d assume she would want to, but with Daffy, you never can be sure. She has been unhappy about this pregnancy from the start. By the time this whole plan came about, I was almost AFRAID to ask, fearing that she might say no. I also didn’t want to make it a huge deal when this is what NORMAL families should look like.

So, anyway, Daffy and I talked a little bit Monday afternoon about what the birth had been like before we headed out to see Tink and Andy in the hospital. I was explaining how they placed the baby right on her chest the second he was born to promote attachment, etc. Daffy commented that it was like ducks… the first person they see is who they attach to as their mom. She also commented about how the cat was going to feel really displaced by the baby (yes, I could easily read through that to know she was talking about herself…. unless, of course, she was just looking for an excuse to be able to touch the cat.)

When we arrived at the hospital, the potential “baby daddy” and his mom were in the room which was quite uncomfortable (but not relevant to this particular story so I won’t go there). The social worker was already there as well (got to be the first time she has ever been on time, LOL). We encouraged Daffy to go have a look at the baby and she did so, somewhat reluctantly…. or maybe hesitantly is a better word, it was hard to tell.

Daffy sat back down and the social worker later commented that Daffy seemed to fill the space with stories of little value about her homework and other such things. (Daffy’s need to constantly chatter drives me crazy, but seeing it from the perspective of anxiety made it easier to understand.) I felt like Tink might be ready for more so I whispered to her that maybe Daffy was ready to hold the baby, espcially in such a controlled environment. She agreed. The moment Tink handed Daffy the baby, my heart swelled. It was history in the making for our family. A truly life changing moment.

I snapped a few pictures (and Snapchatted one to Mickey who was at work). Daffy’s arm quickly tired (or maybe she realized just how boring it is to hold a tiny human who does absolutely nothing?) and she gave the baby back to Tink.

I remained mesmerized long after. Heck, I’m still in awe of that moment. I don’t want to get my hopes up that we have turned a corner… I don’t believe that any of this negates what we experienced over the past year or the risk that Daffy poses to animals and potentially Andy… but for right now, I just want to enjoy this time with my family for what it is. Oxytocin from Tink’s birth? A Christmas miracle? Finally the beginning of positive change? No matter what the reason, the past 5 days have been amazing and it feels WONDERFUL!

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Where Things Stand

What a day! I have to admit, I am a “glass half empty” kind of girl (as much as I try not to be), but I really didnt expect things to go as poorly as they did this morning! I was totally caught off guard. I truly felt attacked to hear that the state didn’t believe that we are fully committed to Donald. We have constantly been commended for going above and beyond the call of duty to stay connected to him. We have advocated for the very best care for him at every opportunity. I simply can’t wrap my mind around how they came to that determination.

Anyway, our sw said that today was the day for honesty. I was terrified going into the team meeting. I knew that we would leave there finding out where everyone stands and that they might not see things the way that Mickey & I see them. Our sw started the meeting and announced we had no specific agenda. She said that there was obviously an elephant in the room that needed to be addressed and address it, we did. I felt very nervous to speak, fearing that one wrong word could pull the plug, but somehow I was able to find words to share how we are feeling. I told them that I am VERY MUCH willing to continue to do whatever they ask, but with that said, I did not feel that would guarantee any true change for Donald and that sadly no one can predict the future. I further shared that if we needed to make an absolute choice TODAY that we were unable to take Donald back. I reminded them that I told them from the very first day Donald left  we said we would support a relationship between him an his sister and that I think our actions have proven that.

From there our social worker shared that Daffy’s therapist is officially ready to go on the record recommending that Donald and Daffy NOT be placed together. (FYI: This is not the first therapist to make this recommendation, including Donald’s own therapists in the past.) The therapist compares their situation to one of domestic violence. She believes that Daffy should be allowed permanence, independent from her brother.

The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids worker then asked the state worker what the state’s position is. The cw had a difficult time giving an answer. She indicated that there are varying opinions within their department. Her view is that Daffy should NOT have to wait for her brother to be ready to be adopted and that she believes Donald has many YEARS of work ahead of him. She reminded the team that these kids have been legally free for adoption for 4 years without any permanence.

The cw asked the GAL to share his opinion. While I dont think he was ready to make an official decision, this meeting sort of forced his hand. He said that he believes we should adopt Daffy and that this time with Donald in the RTC is great for Daffy allowing her to discover who SHE is, outside of being “Donald’s brother”.

All at the meeting agreed that many great injustices have been done in this case and that its time to start the process of correcting them. As I read this, it sounds like a “dream meeting” but the bottom line is there are 1 or 2 people at a much higher level within the system who have said from day one that these kids will NOT be separated and that Daffy will NOT be adopted without Donald. This position has cost Daffy MULTIPLE opportunities to be adopted while Donald has made zero progress. It’s time for change and the team realizes that, it’s just going to be an uphill battle.

One of the most interesting people in attendance was an adoption specialist who works at the state offices. She (and a team of 2-3 others) at the state level took the initiative to run this case by a specialist within our  state. She got some very valuable information, including a strong stance that Daffy should be adopted as soon as she is ready. This specialist also gave some suggestions for Donald’s therapy. I need to do some research on this woman because she is clearly well respected by the state offices and this could be someone who may finally be able to effect the change we need to adopt Daffy. The full consultation with her should occur within the next 2 weeks. At that time, the cw is planning to take all the information from the varying sources back up the chain of command in hopes of a different answer. If history repeats itself, the answer will still be no and Daffy will be moved.

Hopefully we will have a new plan of attack if  we get to that point. We do have an amazing team of smart people advocating for both kids so if anyone can help us get to our happily ever after, they can.

So, for now, my glass is half full!

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.

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.

Our Chats

One of Daffy’s favorite things is to “chat” each night before bed. We got home later than usual last night because of her Girl Scout meeting and I told her we only had 15 minutes to chat. Somehow she always manages to weasel extra time out of me with her charming personality and heartwarming talks. I stayed in her room almost an hour last night. First I read a story and then we talked. I reminded her about her therapy appointment for today and our team meeting. She said “I wish I was being adopted tomorrow!” It KILLS me that she has ZERO concept of time because she JUST told the social worker last week that she wanted to be adopted in December! She has NO CLUE how far away December is. Honestly, I dont know that she gets time beyond yesterday, today and tomorrow. *sigh* Later in the conversation, she mentioned telling a previous  therapist that she didnt think she should live with Donald. She said that over time she would go back and forth and that the therapist told her she could take time to think. She said she has mentioned this to her current therapist as well. I didnt want to say too much or ask too many questions because I didnt want to plant any definitive ideas with so many unknowns and variables right now. At first I thought she might be feeling me out to determine if Donald is really coming back, but as the conversation went a little further, I realized that she was trying to determine if SHE would leave if she didnt want to live with her brother. Without saying too much about him, I assured her she is here to stay. I hope I am right.

-Minnie xo

[All names have (obviously) been changed to protect the privacy of our family.]