Down the Rabbit Hole

Foster care and adoption are awesome right? Everyone deserves a loving family right? It is what I was meant to do.

So, maybe just one more…..

It is incredibly easy to get caught up in the fairy-tales and to buy into the pretense that every story ends happily ever after. It is second nature for us as caregivers to pretend this to be true. To do otherwise would mean failure. It would mean that love really isn’t enough and that I, as a parent, am really not enough.  Well that just sucks. It means going against scripture in the Bible and teachings of unconditional love. It means going against everything that I thought I believed or wanted to believe or maybe I just didn’t want to not believe. It means taking a stand against all the sugar coated crap that is shoved down our throats in the foster and adopt community. And that is scary. That is really really really scary.

The Abyss
When one enters the foster and adopt community, that person gives up so many friends and family members in the traditional world. You know the ones that say they will support you but can’t be found when your kids are out of control as they deal with trauma. Oh yeah – those ones. To speak up, or as it is often referred to either in words or insinuations “to give up”, could mean being ostracized from the only remaining community that you are part of. Think of it as a cult or a commune. You are living a life style out of the norm and all of a sudden you peer thru the looking glass and see reality. You can’t go home but you can’t live there anymore. Yep. That is exactly the experience I had as I watched my next and final “placement” (still hating that word all these years later) fall apart. This would not be our family’s last loss but it would definitely change us forever.

The story that I will tell next is one of hope and guilt. It is one of experience and joy. It is one of loss and devastation. It does not end well and yet I would not change one ounce of it. It is the story of why I truly believe the road to hell is in fact paved with good intentions. It is how I became a Grandmother and I how I did not. Also, it is the reason that I want to thank Facebook’s “Memories” feed and “Time Hop” application that haunts me with living ghosts. Nothing like a slap in the face to start one’s day.
So hold on tight, as I share with you; the roller coaster of Miss A.

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Resurrection: Catch up & Carry on

escape
Baby T not a baby anymore

 

Warning this will be long and boring as I catch us up…The new exciting dirt comes in the next post which will be either tonight or tomorrow.

The last time I tried to resurrect this blog, I failed. I was still licensed and privacy rules were getting in the way of my honesty. I would rather not write than be shushed. So I stopped. Since then, we have closed our license. It kills me to think of never fostering again. No I am not talking about the wonderful rainbows and unicorns of “saving the world”. I am talking about the adrenaline rush. Plain and simple, it’s a drug. The Anticipation. The Wait. The Call. Other foster parents will get it. It is why so many of us have so many kids. We don’t want more kids. We don’t need more kids. We rationalize. We say “it’s a calling”. Maybe it is. Pftt. It’s an addiction and just like smoking, I am no longer taking that drag. The first hit is always the best and well the rest is just a cigarette. Wow, I just read that. Pretty cynical. Pretty disturbing. Well let’s just say I am not the person who started this blog.

What about Baby T?


Baby T is now Baby A. We were able to adopt what will be my last baby. We changed his name. This is a very controversial subject in the world of foster and adoption. My other children kept their birth names and even combined their previous surname into their new name. New being the addition of our last names. With Baby A (who is now a terrible two entering into the throws of three-age as we speak), his identity was more us than them. Them is birth family. We had always wanted a little boy with his name. So the only linking factor that we kept to his history was the T. He has a second middle name that was once his first. I would love to say that we did this to honor his birth mom’s choice. The truth is we didn’t. We did it to honor his history. His fight to survive and those that prayed and fought alongside him and I as we made that possible. People prayed for T. T remains a part of him.
So he is okay. His autoimmune disease is stable but chronic. He depends on chemotherapy treatment every 4 months and IVIG blood infusions every month. He has one tomorrow. These hurt and involve blood work, needles being inserted into a port in his chest, tubes and long days of ouchy boo’s. He is now waking up often and asking “is it tube day mamma”? Kills me.  Again, he is okay but he is not in remission. Remission would me no longer needing to use these harsh drugs with heavy side affects and no longer suffering the symptoms. His doctor and nurse teams here are amazing. Here is Michigan. However, they can’t do much more for him. So, we will need to see a specialist in L.A. This means moving across the country in the next year and a half. Yippie! I love the idea of getting close to my sister, who lives in Arizona, which is where we will land. Boo! I hate the idea of moving my kids who struggle to ridiculous levels with transitions of any type. This will be traumatic no matter how much preparation we put into it. Due to the fact, they self-sabotage and have anxiety issues, we will not tell them yet. So if you know my kids, shut it. In the meantime, we try and make life as normal as possible.

Because I am delusional and an idiot.


So last year, I still believed in the awesomeness of adoption and wore my rose covered glasses. I was still high (remember fostering is an addiction) and thought I can do anything. (Again I am an idiot and no I can’t do it all). So after some information was passed on to me, I thought hey lets adopt a pregnant teen who resided in a residential facility and help her raise her baby. WTF was I thinking? Right! Oh the support came in. The response was overwhelming. I mean didn’t I adopt 4 kids (3 at the time, Baby A wasn’t finalized), didn’t I move mountains to keep Baby A alive? We had this.
Wrong.
My next post will be about my fall. It will about the devastation of things not going well. It will be my walk of shame.

Stay Tuned

Back to School: A Trauma Mamma’s Take

Back to School! HELL YA! I’m sorry if you are one of those parents who cry and get all emotional. If you are than we are not on the same page. If you home-school, bless you, but again we are not on the same page. Back to School is the second best time of the year; Halloween being number one. What? You thought I would say Christmas? Then you don’t know me very well.

Anyways, I hate the planning and preparations regarding school stuff as I wrote about previously. CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT IT I hate the drama, the shopping, the trauma meltdowns, the anxiety attacks and the attitude. Oh the attitude.

However, the back to school, out of my house, on with your life stuff is pretty worth it. I have been criticized in the past for not homeschooling my children with attachment issues. Yes, I know, it could be a better way to bond. Whatever. At the end of the night, I am a better parent if I am sane. I know this because by the end of August, I find myself questioning my mental health every freaking year. In addition, the amount of money that I spend on wine seems to correlate directly with the amount of time my kids sit on the couch muttering things like “give me a snack” and “I’m bored”. Until I grow my own grapes and start juicing, I need to put a ceiling on the bill.

It is about this time that my husband and I have the conversation that we have every year. This is “The how much do we tell the teachers” conversation. This sucks because it means having to balance privacy of our children with real life drama that will occur if we carry on without explanation. Sometimes it doesn’t matter because the staff doesn’t listen, they forget, or simply don’t understand and our work to educate and pass on awareness goes out the flipping window.

My kids from hard places have suffered and still struggle with certain things. These certain things tend be magnified in the classroom. It makes sense; lots of people, little one on one attention, and relationship issues that include problems with authority. The amount of transitions and PTSD anxiety is over the top. Let’s be real. My kids don’t automatically trust adults. That trust needs to be earned and won’t happen on day one. Or day two. Or day three. They have no reason to trust adults. It is not the teacher or staff member’s fault. It is not the child’s fault. It is simply a reality that must be acknowledged. Therefore, they will try and protect themselves. How do they do this? Well it can go one of two ways. They can either hate the teacher at first or love the teacher at first. Let’s hope they hate first because that is actually easier.

You see the defiance and attitude will fade as the child becomes less fearful and more comfortable. Once, respect is earned, the rest is cream cheese. My oldest daughter is the poster child for this situation. She will close up, barely speak and argue about homework and its necessity. Once, she builds the relationship with the teacher, things change (usually after the first semester) and she is a great student. Every year, I hear from her teachers “what I change I see in E, she has really opened up and is working so hard”.

Now let’s look at the other scenario. My middle son plays this role to a tee. He is so very charming and engaging at the beginning of the year. Many teachers may even question why he has certain IEP services. I will hear “what a delight C is and I would never have guessed the past he is working to overcome.” Then, after a bit, once teachers and students settle in and the workload increases and expectations expand, things suddenly change. All of a sudden, this child is no longer easy going and assignments are not being completed. Lies are told and excuses and attitude become the daily norm. The child begins failing all his classes and not taking responsibility. The teachers begin looking to the parents for help only to realize that the parents (me and my husband) are trying hard to create a strong attachment and homework wars will prevent this from happening. The staff soon learns that they are on their own. Sorry. It is just how it is. My relationship with my son will always beat out their homework.

Next on the list of sharing and awareness is the dreaded conversation about certain assignments and their inappropriateness. I am talking about the Family Tree. Please God, don’t give this or any off shoot twisted rendition of this assignment to my child’s class (yes, the whole damn class). My kid doesn’t know or want to share it. If everyone else is doing it and she or he gets an alternative assignment that sucks too! It is like holding a giant sign that screams “hey, I’m different, go ahead and ask me why”. JUST. DON’T. DO. IT. Consider it a peanut in an allergy free zone.

Last year even after giving lots of notice about the issues that this could cause, my daughter still got an assignment asking her to bring in 3 items from her childhood. Yes, that week sucked.

So, the letter will go out. The materials regarding Reactive Attachment Disorder will be included. I will highlight parts of the book “Help for Billy” by Heather Forbes (excellent source if you are a trauma mamma with school age kids). I will expect maybe one staff member to read it. So why bother? Call me bitchy but it’s nice to be able to sit in the conference later in the year or respond to the 16th phone call from the school social worker with the words, “Well if you refer to the paperwork that I provided you at the beginning of the school year, this would not be a surprise. How are you going to fix the situation?” Yeah, I know, but us trauma mammas, we need something…

Now off to review the changes that I want imposed on their IEPs. That is a whole other post. **sigh**

Emotional Neglect – Building Awareness

Neglect.
That word doesn’t get the recognition that it should. How much does the general public really know?
Abuse. There is one that we know. We all know a story about a little girl that gets beat so bad that she ends up in the hospital with a fractured skull. We know of the boy who wet his bed and had his head bashed against the wall. We have read about the cigarette burns and the broken ribs. We have looked at pictures of black eyes and bruises. We have learned about the predators and we have responded. We have treated the abused. We expect trauma to have its effect and we educate on how to prevent it.
But what about neglect?
The word usually brings about images of poor hygiene and unhealthy living conditions. It conjures images of malnutrition. We see pictures in our mind of dirty tattered clothing and imagine children left alone in rundown buildings. This is not wrong. We react with the same emotions and reactions to that of abuse. But what if we are missing something? What if we are missing something so big that many children simply slip thru the cracks? What if we learned a bit more about neglect? Could we save children from further trauma? Could you recognize it? Could you stop it?
Do you know what emotional neglect is?
I am not sure that I really understood it until I met my kids from hard places. I had opinions and presumptions about it. I assumed it meant that kids were being ignored and not cared about or shown acts of love. What I didn’t understand was the effect that this had on my kids and many others. I didn’t realize that emotional neglect caused brain damage. I didn’t know that simply loving my kids would not heal them and that it would take much, much more.
Here is a picture of two brain scans. The one on the left is that of a three year old that is considered typical. The one on the right is a three year old that was severally neglected. The brain structure is changed completely. It is damaged.

brain-scan

Emotional neglect can be brought on by various things. The common culprits include drug use by parent or caregiver causing them to exist physically but not able to tune into the child. Another is parent not being interested or knowing how to raise and care for a child. Sometimes medical and mental illness can cause a parent to be absent or the relationship to be strained. No matter what the reasons are, the results can be devastating.
What can we do?
Be aware. Take action.
How can I be sure? You can never be sure BUT, I believe better safe than sorry. Here are some helpful indicators:

Indicators of Emotional Maltreatment and Emotional Neglect of Children

Behavioral Indicators:
• Wary of Adult Contacts
• Apprehensive when other children cry
• Behavioral extremes (aggressiveness or withdrawal)
• Frightened of parents
• Afraid to go home

Physical indicators:
• Habit disorders (sucking, biting, rocking)
• Conduct disorders (antisocial, destructible)
• Neurotic traits (sleep disorders, speech disorders)
• Inhibition or inability to play
• Psycho-neurotic reactions (hysteria, obsession, compulsion, phobias, hypochondria)

Still not sure that you know what emotional neglect is?
Here is helpful video. Take a few minutes and view the whole thing – if you can. It was hard for me to watch and yet I am glad that I did.

Please share and help me build awareness. My trauma survivors thank you.

Damaged Goods

Kids are expensive. All kids. I have learned, however, that kids from hard places can be very expensive. There are several reasons. Sometimes, it can be simple. They may have never have had anything and don’t know how to take care of things. Other times, it’s more complicated. Impulse issues get in the way. Anger issues get in the way. Passive aggressive misdirected coping strategies get in the way. Sometimes, it gets even messier and mixed up. Sometimes, trauma survivors have guilt complexes. Low self-esteem can cause self-sabotaging behavior. The fear of failure and rejection results in destruction of things in their environment. It can be easier to deal with a broken item than to have another thing lost, taken or destroyed by someone else. Sometimes, a desire for chaos exists. This may be a desire to recreate the environment that is familiar or the environment that is residing inside one’s own mind. No matter the reason, it blows.

Destroyed by “Not me”:

12 Pairs of glasses
6 Dresser drawers
2 Cabinet doors
2 Counter tops
3 Bikes
1 Scooter
2 Toilets
1 Towel rack (3 times)
1 Air pump
2 Pairs of goggles
2 Laptop computers
2 Phone chargers
3 Sets of earphones
1 Water bottle
1 Nintendo DS
1 Weed whacker
1 Piece of siding
1 TV
1 Window
1 Hole in wall

Acquired by “The Sartors”

Sibling bonds
Refrigerator Art for everyone in the neighborhood
Roots where none existed
New experiences
Dreams
Goals
A much bigger vehicle
Empathy
Memories
First experiences
A larger dining room table
Sporting events, sporting events and more sporting events
Automatic gratuity added to the bill
Laundry piles
Laughter
Patience
Organization
Chaos
Heaven
More wine. Lots more wine.

Siding

 

We cannot split the baby!

solomon

 

I just finished the book “The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman. I truly believe that life does imitate art and in this case it was written art. The novel holds a theme of attachment and acceptance of infants and children. This is a theme precious to the foster and adoptive community; the innocent of an infant to attach and reattach to caregivers and loving families.

Warning spoiler ahead!

In the end the child is returned to her biological mother and while she was well cared for by her “foster” family, she was able to reconnect. The process was devastating and heart breaking for all involved. Sometimes, we cannot foresee the outcome of decisions until the time has passed. Sometimes there is no right choice just acceptance and assimilation. Little did I now that in less than a week, this book and its messages would be so important.

This is exactly why we took a hiatus from foster care, never mind having 5 kids already, but because of the roller coaster of events and emotions. We knew this risks we had taking Baby T. We knew to protect our hearts. We supported reunification, or at least we did at first. That was until Baby T’s dad never appeared. It is real hard to support a ghost.  A face that was unseen. His voice is all I know. While at court at the beginning he joined us by phone exclaiming his desire to get clean and parent his son. I was good with that. I waited for him to complete rehab and show up for visits. It never happened. Not once.  We tried to resist but it happened. Baby T became part of our family and will always, no matter what, be my son. The problem is I don’t have the right. I was reminded of that yesterday. Bam, there is nothing like the beginning of December to bring the chilling truth to me.

He is not mine.

We and many others have been praying and hoping for a solution to the problems regarding the legal issues and Baby T’s medical needs. The absent birth father who is the sole remaining individual with parental rights was what stood in the way of signatures that are needed to get Baby T his surgery along with multiple tests and possible treatments. It has been a legal nightmare. So we prayed. We asked others to pray. Well, it has been said “be careful what you ask for”. Yesterday, I received a message. I guess my prayers were answered. I guess I should be overjoyed. I guess I should thank God and rejoice. I guess.

Baby T’s caseworker emailed me. His birth-father has been located! He is willing to sign the paperwork this week to allow for the medical treatments. We will not have to wait for any further court orders or trials. Yay!

But….

This means his birth-father has been located. He is back. He has decided again to try and parent. There may be a visit this Thursday. Reunification is back on the table. I am expected to support the ghost. I am now praying for the grace and faith to do this. I am guilty with the selfishness of believing we would be blessed with our little man forever. I broke the foster parent code of ethics because I am struggling with my duty to resemble the biological family. I am failing at my role and title of foster mom.

I am revisiting my religious roots this morning. (I am not a Jesus Freak and don’t preach because I am not that good at it). I am remembering the story of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16-28. We cannot split the baby and I need to back it up. He needs the surgery and the medical treatment and my heart cannot be the sword. It sucks. What also sucks is that I have 2 days between now and Thursday, to obsess and stress about the upcoming possible if he shows visit. BLAAAAHHHHHHH! There is not enough wine…

 

Dear Baby T,

Acceptance

 

Dear Baby T,
Tomorrow will begin the start of testing. The amount of tests, evaluations and doctors that you will begin seeing over the next few weeks, months perhaps years, will most likely be overwhelming. I will fight as I always have for you. I do not know what the future holds. You may develop “normally “as society holds to standards or you may not. You may be blind or may see. You may be autistic or you may be developmentally on track. There may be therapy. There may be lots of it with several doctors and specialists or there may be none. What I do know is that I love you as you are. I will not try to fix you. I will try to help you. Your smile is golden and your laugh is a song. That will not change. If ever it does change, than we will stop. Period. I would love to promise you forever here, but know that I can only promise you forever in my heart. So when all the tomorrows of our future are complete and all the labels are attached, just know that only one that I shall think of is “momma’s perfect boy”.
I love you Baby T forever,
“Momma Julie”

*** Sorry about the long hiatus. I have been very busy and things have been nuts. A quick catch up: Rights have been terminated to Baby T’s birth mother and we do not know yet if he will be returning to his birth father or not. We are trying to get a much-needed hernia surgery for him but the court is making this difficult because his birth father is MIA and his signature is needed. He is having a some issues as you may have guessed from the above letter and I will be busy addressing them with various appointments. The legal red tape makes it even harder. I am now a stay home mom. I am adjusting to it but find myself missing adult contact. I am pretty sure that I will need a game plan for the summer with all the kids off school or I may slit my throat. I have discovered that wine tastes best with a good book. I now rediscovering the book-worm that was hibernating in my soul. Finally, if anyone has a fool-proof plan on how to lose say 30 lbs by my high school reunion next week, please let me know…