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.

 

Difficult Week

Malachi

Malachi

This has been one of those all consuming weeks.

  • Hope’s teacher wrote home, inquiring if, perhaps, Hope had missed her meds. (She hadn’t) She isn’t raging, but her temper tantrums are still epic, and she is still not safe.
  • GB switched therapists, as planned. She said goodbye to the therapist in the Little City that she shared with Hope. She started with her new therapist. The goal is that GB be able to express her needs verbally in “I” statements. She did much better than I expected.
  • GB and MK had a session together with the family dynamics therapist. I haven’t seen any changes in their interactions.
  • Malachi is still struggling. I enlisted the help of his other grandfather to get Booboo to agree to two days a week in a therapeutic preschool. I do not know yet how successful that was.
  • The Dad realized this week that on his retirement income we can’t afford to live in our current house; at least not while subsidizing J and MK. Duh.
  • We have been consciously cutting costs. We had already started our Food Diet- buying only food in it’s natural state, which helps not only our bodies, but our grocery bills.
  • The Dad started talking to MK about how we would be able to help her, now that we have much less money to live on. She flipped out. She has calmed down, but isn’t ready to explore her options. The Dad is confident MK will be cooperative.
  • I am busy with my new virtual filing cabinet. I finally have it usable and have started filing both girls school records in it. A paper free life sounds delicious!
  • Our rescheduled appointment with Hope’s new therapist is Monday. Unfortunately, it conflicts with my appointment with the neurologist. The neurologist needs to be rescheduled.
  • Hope is saying goodbye to the therapist in the Little City this morning. She is unhappy about having to change.
  • As I am switching to a paper free life, I realize there is a lot of other stuff clutter we do not need. Minimalists may be on to something!

Good Bye 2012

2012 was a long year and I am not sorry to see it go. My health reared up and demanded attention. I lost my focus with Hope, lost it in a sea of attachment. I forgot I was trying to make Hope an integral part of my family. I let others take the lead with Hope. I have never done that with one of my kids.

I thought I was improving my relationship with Mk, but it was superficial. She still hates me and thinks I hate her. I have been married almost 35 years and this year I came closer to divorce then ever before.

There were mixed events. I got to know GB’s needs much better. The cost? I had to face how much damage alcohol exposure prenatally did to her. My pain has steadily increased, but I discovered acupuncture provided relief. I dared to reach out to new friends. It is a much better way to live, but it sometimes results in pain.

There were a couple of blessings. Jimmy came back into our lives. I have three new grandchildren and became a great grandmother for the first time. We found a team of four therapists to work with our family.

2013 holds the joy and promise of healing and a new start.

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.

Mary, Joseph, and the Shrink

Our latest worker, aptly called Mary Poppins by my friend, came to see the shrink with us this morning. I knew Mary Poppins was clueless and I planned on calling her supervisor this afternoon and either getting a different worker or discontinuing the agencies services.

The shrink was pleased with how well GB was doing and Mary sat there quietly. That took 10 minutes of our hour. The other 50 minutes were devoted to Hope. Honestly, I am not quite sure how everything fell apart, but when we were done with Hope, the SPOA application was put on hold, Hope was off the anxiety medication and we were coming back in three weeks.

Nothing has changed with Hope’s behavior. When she is interacting with me it has actually gotten worse. I feel like not only wasn’t I being heard by Mary, but now I was also not being heard at the shrink’s. Joe (The Dad) won’t talk about anything beyond “now”. I am not willing to waste another three weeks with everything staying the same or getting worse. Last week, Hope’s service providers took 12 hours of my time, plus numerous phone calls to arrange details. With SPOA paperwork derailed, there will be no RTF or RTC this year. Life will just go on.

I can not and will not do it anymore. Joe has Hope. I will no longer discuss Hope, answer calls about Hope, go to meetings about Hope, make plans concerning Hope, or schedule Hope’s appointments. I won’t even call to get Mary Poppins replaced.

All our services for Hope are time sensitive. We are midway through our time allotted for all our outside help. Nothing has changed. Reams of paperwork filled out, endless hours of meetings and therapy, and nothing is better. I am willing to work hard for Hope to become a functioning part of our family. I am done playing the system’s games.

And if that brings out the Trolls, makes me evil or a failure, so be it. I am already screwed.