Another Update

I know that I owe you all an update. I’ve been horrible about writing, even though I keep thinking of topics to write about, they rarely make their way onto the blog! I’ll try to work harder over the summer to get back in the habit. I was very good on keeping the blog updated before/during the adoption and I think it is super important now to keep updating as well, as we navigate the post-adoption space as well.

It’s nearly been one year since we received our referral and placement. It’s totally hard to believe! Some days I think that it feels like it’s been 10 years, and other days I can’t believe we’ve nearly been a family for a full year.

Anne and Huck are in the same counseling program. Anne has been there nearly a year, and she is hopeful that she will have completed the program before school starts next year. Huck started the middle of May so he might be finished before summer next year. It is a trauma recovery program and they have one on one sessions, sessions with a behavioral specialist and also group sessions with their peers. I was afraid that Huck’s behavior would become out of control and that he would fight against us to go. BUT he loves it! He is so happy on counseling days. I think it makes all the difference that he has an older boy as a mentor in the group and that his counselor is a man. He really needs that guy time and he listens and takes to heart anything that a male figure will say to him over female figures.

We continue to have bathrooming issues with Huck. He is now 8 years old. In the nearly one year that he has lived with us, the longest he has gone without bathroom issues is 7 days. Recently he will go two or three days and then have a major issue the next day. He attributes it to not wanting to stop activities to go to the bathroom. While he is at home we do our best to remind him every so often, but it’s hard. He definitely has had less poop issues since he has been home from school for the summer, but the peeing is still an issue.

Scarlett is just as sassy as ever. She had a lot of anxiety leading up to the end of school and start of summer. She is my internaliz-er, and she had stomach aches for a while there. She worked herself up and worried about what it would be like home versus at school. I hope that as the weeks have gone on and she’s been home that she recognizes how safe she is. I try to stick to a routine as best as possible because I know that’s best for all of the kids.

Madeline has grown about a foot and is talking twice as much as before. Her giggles fill the house when her siblings perform prat falls or pretend to bump into walls. She dances with Scarlett and lets Anne pretend to be her mama bird. Her appetite has grown along with her love of dinosaurs.

We have our beloved nanny back from last summer. The kids adore her and they’re enjoying being at home. We are taking it one week at a time this summer so that we all make it through alive!

ADHD

I’ll be the first to say that there’s a problem with over-medication in our foster care system. Well, as in all things, it’s a problem in society in general but only heightened for our foster youth. My kids surprisingly have never been medicated. They didn’t come with a long list of diagnoses. So I found that we are actually on the other side of the problem with foster care– incorrect or lack of diagnoses. With the adoption paperwork we received, I was able to read through the kids’ past mental and behavioral health history. More often than not, they were discharged before I believed that they should have been (granted, without firsthand experience at the time). None of the children actually had intensive, ongoing counseling when we accepted placement. This despite over five years in and out of care with more than fifteen different placements. Call me crazy but any child that goes through that much change should be counseled by a professional. We’ve been fighting an uphill battle since we accepted placement to find the right programs for our kids and get them the help that they need and have needed for years!

With that being said, I am always a proponent of finding alternatives to medication. But I found this article on girls and ADHD and it IS our Anne. Every single bit. Every action they write about, it is Anne. I am going to ask for her to be tested in her current counseling program. Anyone have experience with girls and ADHD?

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/girls-and-adhd-are-you-missing-signs

In Home Counseling

I liked Huck’s in-home therapist better this week. She was a lot less new-age and really talked to him about the bathrooming issues. She also came up with a bunch of things for us to do in the future. She said after meeting me last week she had to step up her game because I am cross between Mary Poppins and Mother Theresa. I can hear my husband laughing 30 minutes away over that one still…

Comments

Susan wrote on my last post regarding attachment and counseling:

“I have wondered about that emotional regulation. I might be reaching here and only guessing, but 3 years seems like it would be a normal amount of time? Non- adopted, never taken from their family kids go through the baby, then the terrible twos, then the more terrible want-to-jump-out-a-window 3’s, and then about 4 I think they seem like they morph into a small human. So, and again just reaching here, but older kids starting at a baseline level might be at a baby level and then move through the same process when in a safe and nurturing environment to emerge as a not so small human. As we have been working through the process of figuring out if we are right for adoption I have been wondering about this but really haven’t been able to find out anything, or I am not looking in the right spot. What do you think? Am I way off here?”

This is what I wrote to her in return:

I definitely did not think that the 3 year window she gave me was abnormal. I didn’t get the chance to pick her brain and see whether that time frame is usual for children with this kind of attachment and regulation issues because she is just so scattered.

I hate the 3s. I would take two years of the 2s over a year of the 3s any day. At three is also when children really have attachment issues, which we are going through with Madeline right now. I know that the psych eval placed Huck at a maturity level of a 4 year old. I don’t know much about childhood development but it’s hard to say they start as babies with each new home and grow from there, so that it would be three years as if they were maturing from infancy. It almost seems more complicated than that. They are attached and have attached already, but it wasn’t to us as their new parents, it was to their biological family. So instead of just growing from infancy and working on attachment/maturity until the fourth year that seems to be golden in terms of emotional regulation, they are fighting their biology and trauma past with road bumps that they just might never get over.

For example, Scarlett will attach to any adult that will pay her any attention, and goes through about four heart breaks in a day when she has to leave said adults. But I am concerned that she will never truly attach to anyone, including future partners, because she does not understand/can’t commit to actual attachment and love. She seeks love and attention whether it is positive or negative. Granted she is still young but I do worry about that for her.

It’s interesting to consider and it’s so complicated. Maybe I’ll have more answers in a year or so!

Good luck with your journey, it sounds like you would be a great resource for kids!”

Anyone have some resources regarding emotional regulation/attachment in children with a trauma past? I’m doing a search tonight so I will share anything good that I find!

Family Based Health Services

Today we started in-home family based counseling for our son. Of course he was a perfect angel while each of the girls melted down in their own unique and maddening ways. I don’t know why I wished that he had melted down as well so that the therapist could see what we are working with, but that would have been an extra amount of stress that I surely did not need!

Madeline was going crazy because her schedule was off since the kids had early dismissal and so she was pushed way out of her comfort zone.

Scarlett was on a huge sugar-high from celebrating Halloween at school and my attention was occupied on someone that was not her, so she was craving attention no matter which direction it came from. Or whether it was negative attention!

Anne was by far the worst mess of all. She was being picked up in the middle of the counseling session to go to her own counseling, which she normally has after school. She threw a huge fit that she did not want to go. I could not figure out why she did not want to go to counseling because usually she loves it. I finally realized that she did not want to be left out and all of the other kids got to be at home and play while she went to counseling. I literally had to walk her out to the van so that she would go on her way!

The therapist, we’ll call her June, was middle aged and was just the amount of hippie-dippy that I expected. We got through about half the paperwork she needed to have done because she kept forgetting where she was in the middle of a story and because of the amount of time she was talking to our dog, Chuck. She said that she expects it to take us about three years of rollercoasters of emotions before attachment occurs and we feel like we can parent from a place of security. She said that because of the age of the children when they were pulled into foster care, their emotional regulation is all messed up. Children learn their emotional regulation from their parents. Well, when you live in six different houses before you are six years old and have weekly visits with your addicted and aggressive parents, your emotional regulation is all messed up. She wants Hubby and Huck to get to that buddy place where Huck was with his dad, since that has been Huck’s greatest loss. So she recommended small bonding activities like watching football or running errands together.

We did an exercise where the kids all drew their “family.” Oldest trick in the book, right? Well for some reason I haven’t done it with the kids and it actually turned out pretty convincing. The girls all drew their nice neat families with me, Hubby, themselves and their siblings, and the dogs. Huck drew me and a shadow figure, who he names “Dad.” Then he started drawing words that he turned into footballs. Then June asked him where he was and he said “I’m not on there, I don’t need to be.” And then he said “oh I forgot Madeline” and he drew her over everyone else on the paper, making her a giant figure on top of everyone else. If there’s anything that tells you about this child, it’s that he doesn’t believe he belongs on that paper with his family and that he loves Madeline the most and thinks of her in giant ways! (Also that he gets jealous of her the most, especially relationship-wise and so I am not shocked that he drew her in giant).

Next week we get to meet the male counselor and have two sessions! I hope we get more accomplished and that the male counselor is better with the details… Who knows!

Keeping Home

This afternoon I got THE call from a gentle but fruity lady to schedule Huck’s counseling!! Finally the call that I’ve been waiting for! Maybe it was karma because I blogged about it yesterday??

We have a counseling “team” assigned to our family. One is female and one is male, which I like especially for Huck. The counselor asked if we were ready for this intensive of counseling and I was like, YES! Please yes! We need help! She actually has met and counseled the children before (she didn’t say when but I am guessing from the services that this program provides that it was when they returned to their bio parents for a year in 2011) and she said she wasn’t shocked that Huck had so much developmental issues but she was shocked at how quickly we asked for help and requested such an intensive service. I was shocked that four months is quick, especially for a child that has been in care for five years! She said that we will have sessions just for Huck, we will have sessions with the whole family, we will have sessions with just Huck and me, and some sessions will just be Huck and Hubby. So it sounds like it’s a long but badly needed journey! Because the kids have a half day of school tomorrow she said they’d love to come out.

I can’t wait to meet the counseling team tomorrow and see how this will play out!

Counseling: Update 20192358332749082

First, I have updated the “About” section of this blog to include all of the kids’ pseudonyms in case it gets a little confusing. Make sure you check it out!

https://fosteringourhope.wordpress.com/about/

Second, let me rant some more about counseling. Soon we will have placement of our kids for four months. While Anne is two months into her trauma-based intensive counseling, our son has yet to start his counseling. The initial referral was sent in August. He had his psych evaluation for his counseling three weeks ago. That is the last piece that we were waiting for in order to have his in-home, multiple day a week counseling. He NEEDS it so badly. We are having so many issues and we just can’t get through to him. He is broken. His soul is broken. He is sad. He’s having trouble at school. He’s having trouble at home. He doesn’t listen. He seeks negative attention. He’s having toileting issues, the kind that comes from major anger and frustration and a last-ditch effort for control. He’s been broken. I don’t know how he lasted in foster care for five years without any kind of intensive counseling. I don’t know why someone didn’t help him before. But I will advocate forever so that these children and others like them have the services that they need.

Foster children (really, all children) need to have counseling EVERY time they move homes. Foster children need to have counseling as soon as termination of parental rights (TPR) occurs. These should be automatic. A referral needs to be sent and processed immediately for children who move homes or who have been through TPR. We need this in writing and it should be a rule for all agencies and counties. New foster/pre-adoptive families can only do so much. The families/parents need back up from professionals and people who have degrees in childhood development/trauma/neglect. I only wish that we had as much help on the counseling front as we did from our case manager. Our case manager came out once a week for the first month and every other week since then. The kids need someone like that who comes for THEM. Just them! I have someone that I can call and bounce things off of and ask any silly question that I can think of. But these kids have me or my husband and each other. But they have a lifetime of questions to ask. And they have a lifetime of needs that have not been met. Why is there not some regulation on the mental health front? There needs to be closer monitoring so the issues don’t get too bad and then it takes years to fix. My children need healing from their childhood. Their childhood! My childhood was fun and exciting and these children have to recover from what happened during their childhood. Does that make any sense to you? It certainly does not make sense to me. They should be healed or in the process of healing. But they haven’t even begun counseling!

We are also waiting on the referral for the adoption prep class. Our permanency specialist recommended this class. It’s particularly for kids who have just gone through TPR. It’s an attachment process and helps them work through their often hidden emotions.

When I saw my dad over the weekend he kept saying how excited the kids must be for adoption day. And I couldn’t get it through to him that no, they are not. They are not excited. They might be excited for balloons and candy or cupcakes, and they are certainly excited that they get to miss school. But they are not excited to officially leave their old world behind and join a new one that they’ve only just met! It’s bittersweet for everyone involved. The kids are old enough to have been affected by this mess, but they also aren’t old enough to remember all of the bad times. They remember seeing their parents at visits and getting to eat McDonald’s and getting new presents. They don’t remember what the home conditions looked like or how bad the youngest had diaper rash. They don’t remember how many times their water was shut off or their parents were under the influence while caring for them. I am thankful that they don’t remember specifics but I am also aware that every behavior they have is due to survival. They were badly neglected and they act like they were. I only hope that time will help to heal their deep wounds. Time, and some really good counseling.