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….

signature

Expectations

I recently talked to the pregnant respite teen‘s foster mom. She casually mentioned that the teen was pregnant (Duh!) and said “this isn’t what we bargained for“…. really? A 17 year old girl in foster care who has been in the system since infancy and disrupted from her adoptive home and placed in residential care? You couldn’t fathom that she would be pregnant at 17 years old by her abusive boyfriend? Really? Its almost predictable in my book.

That said, “An 11 year old boy, beaten brutally by his father on numerous occasions (requiring hospitalization), followed by 13 placements in 8 years with multiple disruptions?” And you thought you could handle that? Really? It should have been predictable.

The demons that we face as foster parents are unimaginable. There is no “perfect” foster child. Each comes with their own trauma history, their own set of negative behaviors and their own pain. They also come with their own hope and their own strengths. As foster parents, they need our guidance. They need our nurturing. They need our advocacy.

I am not sure that any amount of training could have prepared me for this journey. I came into this process filled with hope, and while I have learned an immeasurable amount and have faced countless challenges, I am no less hopeful today than I was on that very first day. Maybe it’s better that we didn’t know what was in store for us. If we had been scared away, we would be missing one of the greatest blessings of our lives!

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.

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!

Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing

Having a 4th grade daughter, brings me back to my own 4th grade year. Overall, I do not have fond memories of my youth. Sure, I do have some good memories and those are usually the ones I choose to focus on, but if you ask me to think back to a specific year in my life, my first recalled memories are usually negative.

Things I recall from the 4th grade:

  • Two of my friends and I liked the same boy whose name was “Joey”. My friends had a sleepover together one night and wrote Joey notes telling him my boobs were small and that he should not like me. I was crushed that my so-called friends who do that to me. (Side note: My breasts ended up being so large that later in life I had major breast reduction surgery!)
  • Later in the year I like a boy name Kevin. I decided to tell him on his Valentine card. Once I had written and sealed the tiny card, I changed my mind about confessing my undying love so I scribbled on the envelope hoping it also scribbled out the words on the card. It didnt and it was terribly embarrassing.
  • I did NOT like studying our state history. I refused to do a packet of work. I did not care what the result, I simply refused. The teacher gave me a detention- my very first ever! I was mortified and terrified of what would happen when my parents mother & stepfather found out. I stayed after school and the teacher worked by my side. She would read the question and then read the passage that contained the answer and I would guess wrong answers just to spite her. She stayed patient with me and eventually we got through enough of the packet that I earned a C (probably only my 2nd in my entire 4 year elementary school career). She ended up having to drive me home and spoke casually along the way as if nothing happened. I couldn’t understand how she was able to separate her feelings like that.
Now that Daffy is in our lives and I look back at my worst 4th grade memories, I am embarrassed. How could that possibly compare to the list of things Daffy will remember from her 4th grade year?
Things Daffy will probably recall from the 4th grade:
  • Living in a group home with people that stole her things
  • Meeting yet another “Forever Family” that she was sure would break her heart
  • Transitioning to a new school over an hour’s drive away from everything she knew
  • Being assaulted by her biological brother numerous times including being strangled by him
  • Her brother going to a psychiatric facility
  • Her brother going back to residential care
  • Her brother getting expelled from school and moving to another residential treatment center
Things I hope Daffy will recall from the 4th grade:
  • Meeting the family that will truly be her Forever Family
  • Meeting her new pets and falling in love
  • Making a new best friend
  • Starting with her new therapist and beginning the hard work to deal with her losses
  • Chats with me every night
  • Mickey & I advocating for contact with her former foster families and her biological mother
  • The many “firsts” she will experience in our family (Christmas, Valentines Day, St Patricks Day, Easter, Mothers Day…)
Only time will tell what Daffy will choose to remember of her 4th grade year, but I am hopeful that in the end she will reflect on this as being the beginning of her “happily ever after“!
Thanks for the writing prompt that inspired this post, Mama Kat’s Losin It!

Everyone wants these kids…

Our caseworker put us in touch with a former pre-adoptive family [further to be known as Woody, Jessie & Buzz] that Donald and Daffy were placed with 3 years ago. I called Jessie today and we ended up meeting for lunch. What a surreal experience. The more I learn about this case, the more I am convinced that the majority of the trauma and loss that these kids experienced is a direct result of the actions of the state. This turned out to be the SECOND  foster family that wanted to adopt. They never had any closure. The foster parents and children fully expected to continue visits and did not learn they wouldn’t until after they had seen each other for the last time. This was the STATE’S decision, but no one ever explained that to Donald or Daffy. They were left to believe that another family had abandoned them. This disturbs me deeply, but even more so to learn that this family has not moved on. They have maintained their foster care license over the past 3 years simply for the hope that Donald & Daffy would one day be returned them. It was not until yesterday that they learned the children had been placed with us and  they were finally able to begin their grieving process.

Jessie was understandably emotional as she shared her family’s story today. Their story is so similar to ours, they might as well be the same. They started the process in much the same way, went through a long transition, and then watched as Donald became increasingly dangerous to both Daffy and their son, Buzz. In less than a week, they had the police at their home twice as every member of their family was physically attacked. Donald was admitted to a psychiatric facility (the same he went to when he left our home) and then moved to residential care (the same he moved to when he left the hospital in February). The only stark difference is that we were able to keep Daffy in our care this time around.

Hearing their story reminded me how fragile our relationship with the children is. The state can pull the plug at anytime for any reason or no reason at all. As we continued talking, I silently prayed that our “happily ever after” will not follow their path, a path which clearly led to sadness and despair.

We decided to set up a visit for both of our families next week at their house. I am nervous. Daffy seemed cautiously happy that I scheduled this reunion. I am hopeful that rekindling a relationship that was so special to her will be beneficial and not something that triggers her sense of loss and rejection. I wish I had a crystal ball, some way of knowing if this is the right choice, but since I don’t, I am left to trust my heart. My heart tells me that if I were in Jessie’s shoes, I would want to continue a relationship with these beautiful children and that these children deserve all the love they can get after the raw deal they have been dealt.

In unrelated news, we received the results of Daffy’s special education testing today. I was quite pleased to see that she was average, above average or even superior in some areas! This means she will not qualify for an IEP, but if she gets an ADHD diagnosis from her doctor, she may qualify for 504 accommodations. The team did a great job discussing her learning style and some accommodations that would benefit her. I left feeling very please with the outcome. Next, I need to drop off copies to the the doctor’s office for review and then wait for an appointment.

One Crisis To The Next

We live one crisis to the next. Parenting 7 children (between the bios and the fosters), I guess this is to be expected, but it certainly is never any less alarming or intense.

Monday afternoon, Tink’s ex-boyfriend brought her home from school and shared that Tink had a plan to commit suicide by overdose that night. Tink confirmed the plan, so off to the ER we went. It was determined that she should be transferred to a psychiatric facility and she was moved the next day. A series of events has begun since Tuesday that overwhelms and consumes me. My heart is broken for Tinkerbelle and all she has to deal with, but I know that the hospital is the very best place for her to do that.

Despite that stressor, I have continued to be on top of managing the needs of the other children as well. Daffy was vomiting Saturday through Tuesday, but has finally been able to keep food down and return to school. Donald has been having a very tough week at the RTC with multiple agressions. We will be visiting him as a family on Saturday so my stress level is obviously increasing. Goofy and Pluto are truly my saving graces and I am doing my best to stay connected to them and be sure their needs are being met as well. They are just so “easy”, but I dont want that to change and find them seeking negative attention.

That said, my goal is to focus on all the positive things in our lives each day to keep me going. This morning I am thankful for:

  • Snuggles in bed with our puppy who has healed well from his injuries
  • A gorgeous foster daughter who asked me to straighten her hair (a rare occurrence)
  • An amazingly supportive network of friends and family (both in real life and on Twitter)
  • The ability to work from bed in my pajamas while drinking coffee
  • A social worker who always goes above and beyond the call of duty to support us

Despite our circumstances, I am blessed and grateful.