When Adoption Doesn’t Work

MendedNobody goes into adoption with the thought “What if this doesn’t work”. Nobody. I have been quiet here because I have been busy thinking. There was a minor brouhaha at another adoption blog. The blogger is in a tough spot and I would not personally have the gonads or the presumption to tell her what the right thing to do was. Apparently, there were enough people who put their opinions out there. There were the “protect your *real* children” crowd, which were inevitably followed by the “all the children are *real*  children crowd. Last I looked, the *real* issue is safety– no more, no less.

Her situation really wasn’t out of the ordinary. She had adopted an older child, a teenager. The child had mental health and behavior issues. When you adopt an older child, that is what you have to deal with. This lady, in particular, had the added weight of being days away from delivering a child and having her husband walk out on her. She was physically unable to keep her teen, younger child, herself, or a new born safe. Families do not work when the parent(s) can not keep everybody safe. It is not a matter of choosing one child over another because of their *realness*.

Serious mental illness is more common  in adopted children, but biological children are not immune either. The mental health resources in this country are scarce and insufficient to meet the needs of the people, including children, who need them. Families who are fortunate enough to have their own resources to use can keep their families together by such over the top measures  as renting two apartments or buying a second house. For most people, that kind of solution is out of reach.

I have more than a few friends who have had to disrupt an adoption. Like the vast majority of adoption that don’t work, mental illness and traumatic experiences were part of the child’s experience before they were adopted.

The parents have used every resource they found- social workers, therapists, medication- read every book, tried every method and hit the same wall- nothing they do keeps their child safe. Disruption or dissolution of an adoption is never easy or pain free. These people have poured more of themselves into their child to make the adoption work then any outsider could imagine. They freely give of their resources; emotional, financial and physical. When their adoption fails, the pain and guilt stays around for a long time- sometimes forever.

The real solution to the disruption/dissolution dilemma is to fix the underlying problem. This country has outstanding medical services. It is time we had mental health services to match.

 

Back to School

girls

Today was the girls’ first day back to school after winter break. GB started her new class in her new school. They take different buses, but leave and arrive within a couple of minutes of each other. After they were safely on the bus, I began to worry- serious worry that consumed my mind and left no room for everything else.

It is hard to send any child into a new school situation in the middle of the year. It is even harder when that child has disabilities that make communication difficult for them. My primary goal is that she feel competent at school and finds joy on occasion. I still want her to learn as much as she is capable of learning. I do not want to put limits on the future of a child who hasn’t turned 10 yet.

GB came home with a smile, one page of homework, and lots of things to share. Day 1 went well. Hope came of the bus whining and complaining and pure attitude. She struggled through homework and when it was bath time, she lost it. She didn’t come back. The bottom line on Hope is that she still is not safe. Her psychiatrist is suppose to come back this month.The medication she is on does not cut it. We meet with her new therapist Friday. I am hoping she will lead us in a new direction.

My moment of the day: laying in bed with GB, working on a word search puzzle. She is a very visual kid and is good  at them. We enjoy them together and it doesn’t hurt her vocabulary or spelling skills.

Welcome, 2013

Exactly one  year ago, I wrote this post, https://adoptingspecialneeds.wordpress.com/2012/01/page/3/ . My word for 2012 was going to be “moment“, as staying in the moment. Looking back, I would have to say I failed more often then I succeeded. There was a a 3 month period over the summer where I was unable to start fresh each moment. Getting physically beat up can do that to a person.

The last couple of months The Dad has been Hope’s primary caregiver. Yesterday, Hope raged and got him with a head butt in the face. It looked painful. She kicked me, but it didn’t catch me by surprise, as she had already kicked The Dad’s brother.

Hope is on medication, which she wasn’t on this time last year. Her raging is a little less in terms of frequency and intensity- but not much. This year provided very little healing for Hope.

We have a new configuration of therapists lined up. If you are interested you can read it on the other blog.

I am looking at 2013 as a fresh start, but I decided to use the word “moment” again. I do not want to repeat all of 2012’s mistakes again this year. I still think an RTF is Hope’s best shot, but I am willing to try a new approach. For Hope’s sake, for my families sake, I pray for healing.

It Is the Little Things…

I have decided that at this time, in this place, for GB, happiness is more important than being educated. The decision made at last week’s CSE was that her class was working at a level and speed GB was not capable of handling. The decision was unanimous. She

IMG_0917will do a thirty day trial, in a new class, starting January 2, 2013.

The Dad and I met the teacher and observed the class. It is officially called the “Multiple Needs” class. The new teacher went to GB’s class yesterday and spent an hour. GB liked her. GB visits the class for three hours tomorrow.

It was agreed at the meeting,  since GB was leaving, and the work was beyond her, Mr. Teacher was not going to place any demands on her. Sounds straight forward enough. Unambiguous.

GB has missed every recess because of incomplete work. That is four days straight. I have called him, emailed him, and wrote in her notebook. Finally, today I sent an email to Mr.Teacher and copied the principal and the Director of Special Education and told them that the next time she missed recess would be her last day in that class room. The principal and Director of Special Education are unhappy, although it wasn’t clear who they were unhappy with.

GB is looking forward to her new class. For now, that is good enough for me.

Why Attachment Therapy?

A reader, JM, left the following comment:

I’m curious, if you don’t mind answering, why you chose to do Attachment Therapy with Hope as opposed to other therapies? Also, what do you think about the controversy and criticism of Attachment Therapy?

As we have recently made yet another four hour trip to see the attachment therapist, I thought this would be a good time to start to answer this question. I can only start to answer because Hope’s treatment is a work in progress.

When we Hope first joined our family, it was obvious that she had been severely neglected. Abuse, both sexual and physical, was red flagged by Hope’s behavior the first couple of weeks home. From the moment we took Hope, it was apparent that her rage was focused on the mother. That would be me. Hope has been seeing two trauma therapists since she came home. Last spring, the physical violence against me reached dangerous levels. A friend of mine, who had adopted a child from a Russian orphanage, had used the attachment therapist we are using with good results.

The therapist was Dan Hughes based, and also treated trauma. We did an eight day intensive in July and it was difficult. Difficult for us, difficult for Hope. The therapist told us how seriously disturbed Hope was. She said Hope maybe unable to live in a family, but there was still a spark there to work with.

Hope is not my first child with attachment issues. My first child was adopted at 10 weeks. He cried for the first three months he was home. My oldest daughter, who has FASD, was adopted at 6 months. When my daughter came home, she smiled at everyone. She never cried. She would take right away to anyone she came in contact with. Everybody, including me, thought it was a blessing that she adjusted so well. This was 27 years ago and nobody in the adoption world was talking about attachment issues. She wasn’t diagnosed with RAD until she was 17. She still struggles.

I was looking for a healthier outcome for Hope. I realize attachment therapy comes with a lot of controversy. The “holding” therapy is the source of much of that controversy. Children have died from it. Some of those deaths occurred because parents didn’t feel “in charge” and therefore did not educate themselves on the therapy their child was receiving. By not taking charge themselves, they became subservient to the therapist and allowed physical abuse. The Dad and I are always in the room with Hope and we always know exactly what is going to happen. The only time there is any “holding” involved is during trauma work. During trauma work Hope is rolled up in a blanket on a mattress before it begins.

I feel that since Hope is so young the best outcome for her is for us to become her psychological parents. I still think it is possible for The Dad. I am not sure it is possible for me. I do not know if Hope will ever let anyone be her mother again. This leads me right to where I am. Does Hope have to accept me as her mother in order to grow up healthy in our family?

I have no answer to that question. I can’t find anything in the literature. Most of the literature is written with the assumption attachment is necessary and then goes on to how to get the child attached. I am sure that secure attachment would be the best outcome. Nobody looks at  how to help a child who is not capable of attachment. There were some case studies of unattached child who grew up to be sociopaths, but no examination of unattached children who grew up without becoming sociopaths. I was looking for a study of the differences between the two groups.

I am sure this doesn’t fully answer the question, but I don’t really have an answer. We are a work in progress. Hope is a work in progress. Day by day, we look for new paths, partial answers.

When Things Change…

The last week have been full of many unexpected changes. It has now been a whole month without Hope attacking me.  This week I realized it has also been a whole month of me not being Hope’s mother. That is not acceptable to me. We have two different agencies involved with out family to help Hope. We saw nobody from either of them this week and Hope’s behavior hasn’t been any better or any worse. She has still raged, she has been nasty, and she has been physical with GB. Monday the newest worker, Mary Poppins is coming to meet. I have scheduled 15 minutes for this meeting. I plan on telling her I see no benefits for our family in her visits and we will not be using her agency’s services any more.

I now have over 12 extra hours a week available, since Kenny chose to let go of this world and move on to the next. I have done a bit of crying, but overall I feel proud of him…the courage it took to deliberately say “I am ready to go”. I want to have that kind of courage when it is my time. I kept a regularly scheduled appointment with my cardiologist and heard that I have been upgraded from “cardiac insufficiency” to “heart failure”. I go to St. Peter’s this week for tests that, among other things, will measure the ejection rate of my heart. It explains my ongoing fatigue and how difficult it has been to get anything accomplished.

Divide and conquer techniques have made life easier for GB. The school, in its infinite wisdom, decided GB could skip recess in order to mainstream. I am not sure of their reasoning, since I spent Wednesday and Thursday with Kenny and only had time to remind them, via email, that they could not mainstream her without my permission and they did not have it. I meet with the school this week to figure out the next step.

GB is still heavier than is healthy because of the loxapine. I printed of two healthy eating charts, one for me and one for GB. I will take them to Stapl*s to get them laminated. I hope, by making us more aware of what we are putting in our bodies, we can improve our eating patterns. If we are both doing it, it might be easier on GB.

Kenny’s funeral is Tuesday. For many reasons I have avoided church in the last year+. I will be there Tuesday.

Five Hours of Peace

It was pouring outside. I was lucky- there was a parking space right next to the door. I walk down the hall to the blue elevator and take it to the second floor. Stopping at the nursing station, I learn dialysis is running late. When I enter the room, he is asleep. I put my chair in place and settle down. The TV, as always, murmurs in the background. It seems like his arms are thinner than last time and his face more swollen, a side effect of the drugs. I put my hand gently next him, not sure how bad the pain is today. I watch him breathe, comforted by the evenness of the breaths. I sit for awhile, comfortable, waiting until he wakes up. I have a book to read, but leave it closed. All the stress slowly leaves my body.

His hand moves and covers mine. It is warm and soft. I half notice the background noise has changed from football to golf. I smile, thinking that I had never seen the point of watching a golf game. He has always liked his sports. His eyes open. “You’re here”, he says. I use my fingers to lightly draw curlicues  on his forearm, watching his face to make sure I am not causing pain. The nurse enters to give him his morphine. She gives me a quick look that says “Rough night”.  The endocrinologist comes in. He glances at his patient and tells me they have to lower his insulin, because he is eating so little. Then we are alone again. I go back to to drawing my curlicues, concentrating on using enough pressure that he feels them, without using so much that it becomes painful. Touch is so important.

His eyes open.” You’re here”, he says.”That feels so good”. I smile. He is not the first dying person I have sat with. They all want the warmth of touch. His eyes catch mine and hold them. “How long can you stay?” I keep my voice soft. “Until I have to get GB off the bus”. His eyes close again. We hold hands for a long while. Tears  leak from his eyes. I ask him for a number- the hospital code for pain. “7” he says. The goal is to keep him under a 5. I buzz for the nurse and ask her to give him his dilaudid. I know we are an hour away from another dose of morphine. The dilaudid goes through his PIC line and his face relaxes. His hand reaches for me and I take it. “I am glad you’re here”, he says. “So am I”, I answer. Too soon, it is time to leave. I kiss his forehead gently and tell him I have to go. He says, “You’ll come back.” It is not a question.