Category Archives: Foster Care
Kate Spade had it all.
Met a cool guy named Andy. Started a business with him (and they later married). Business skyrocketed and became a household name (at least, in any household including teens or young women).
A New York Times headline describes her as the woman “Whose Handbags Carried Women Into Adulthood,” passionate and approachable.
She and Andy seemed to be unbelievably well-matched partners. He came up with the rough draft. She ran with his ideas and crafted the finished product.
She sold her stake in the business shortly after the birth of their daughter. Even in her absence, the website still seems to draw from her unassuming, quirky, vibrant personality.
The designer told Moneyish last year she wouldn’t trade the time with her only child in exchange for her self-titled brand “in a million years.”
In almost every article, Kate is described as the driving force of a fashion empire, impacting young ladies across the globe and in every layer of socioeconomics. “Attainable” fashion, with something for everyone from British Royalty and Chelsea Clinton to high school students. Fans like Jonquilyn Hill, now a producer, are reminiscing about buying their first Kate Spade bags.
Kate Spade was famous. Kate Spade worked hard and attained success. Kate Spade was a fashion phenom.
These are the reasons news of her apparent suicide is splashed across every web page around the world.
But Kate Spade’s suicide doesn’t matter.
At least, not for the reasons listed in many of the articles.
Kate was a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend. Kate Spade’s suicide matters because she was a PERSON.
According to a CBS story, she may have been a person battling mental illness.
Most of us did not know Kate personally. 99% of The Web Collective freaking out right now did not know Kate.
Kate’s suicide doesn’t matter because people everywhere are mourning memories of their first handbag or wallet. Kate’s suicide doesn’t matter because she was a success. Kate’s suicide doesn’t matter because she is proof the American Dream comes true.
Kate’s suicide matters because people cared about her. Really cared. Not because famous people bought her products.
EVERY suicide should receive the same coverage. We should all mourn EVERY life lost to depression, to mental illness, to bad choices made in a moment of hopelessness.
Kate Spade’s suicide doesn’t matter any more than the suicide of my friend or of your parent or of that guy’s brother or of the kid from the neighborhood.
Her suicide also doesn’t matter any less.
The loss of a bright female leader (who chose to take time away from her fashion empire to focus on her daughter) is heartbreaking.
The fact that she is one of 45,000 individuals in one year to commit suicide is devastating.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health,
- Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people.
- Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.
- There were more than twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19,362).
At-risk children, including those in the foster system, are even more likely to commit suicide.
In one study, children in foster care were almost three times more likely to have considered suicide and almost four times more likely to have attempted suicide than those who had never been in foster care.
Perhaps “Kate Spade’s suicide doesn’t matter” isn’t really what I want to say. I think, “my friend’s suicide should matter just as much as Kate Spade’s” is closer to my true intent.
My adopted son’s declaration last September that he’d rather not be alive opened my eyes to the need. IN MY OWN HOME. Maybe in your home, also.
Hopelessness is rampant.
Pay attention to the people around you—especially if they belong to an at-risk population like kids who’ve been in foster care.
If family members seem a little “off,” don’t wait to ask if they’re okay.
If friends admit to feeling depressed, encourage them to seek help—and don’t walk away.
You might be the light that draws them back to life.
Here are a few resources for help:
If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Sending hugs your way.
We met with a neurologist a few weeks ago. She ordered an MRI for our boy, to rule out any physical brain issues. The appointment is tomorrow.
I assume we won’t have any answers for several weeks, but at least we are finally getting some traction.
I just read a blog post from a dad who is committed to making sure he stays connected with his kids. (Click the link; his blog is super.)
His thoughts led me to a few of my own.
We so often focus on getting “quality” time with our kids and doing special things they will remember.
But what do you remember from your childhood? If you have memories of your family doing things together, what is your strongest mental image?
Most of my early memories don’t involve anything elaborate. Many relate to simple things we did each week.
Digging in a sandbox.
Swinging on the backyard set.
Board games on the floor.
We wanted to create similar happy memories with our kids.
When they first came to us, I would have argued that “board games” should just be called “bored.” Or, more accurately, “the quickest way to give yourself a migraine.”
In the beginning, they had zero focus and fought us at every turn (get it…because in games you take a turn…), even when something was supposed to be fun.
However, Hubby and I have fond memories of playing games like Risk and Monopoly, and we’re nothing if not determined. Our kids WILL play games, doggone it.
Brain-numbing (to us) choices like Memory and Guess-Who gave us our first tentative game connections with the kids, and eventually they could make it through a full round of Sorry or Trouble.
Doing puzzles also interested them, although we had to buy puzzles several levels below what you’d expect for their age. As confidence built, the number on the puzzle box rose.
Thanks to my aunts and mom, who often jigsaw when together, the kids saw puzzles as a fun hangout time for adults. This, of course, made the activity more desirable.
Our kiddos recently shocked us by asking for family game night instead of family movie night.
And we played Risk, without any actual casualties.
I call it a win.
I’m sitting next to a family.
Two parents with three most-likely-bio sons. I watch the oldest roll his eyes as the youngest runs around the cafe, repeating with gusto,
“I spy with my little eye…”
The middle boy colors quietly by himself.
I don’t know the names of the older boys.
The youngest is definitely named Liam.
Father and mother halfheartedly chase the towheaded toddler in turns, calling his name.
He expertly ignores, then evades them.
It is a blissful scene of family togetherness, childhood glee and parental exasperation.
Sometimes I watch other people with their children, heart aching.
I am not the woman who gave my children life.
Every so often, I wonder whether things would be different if I’d held them in my arms from birth.
a few days ago
I saw a lady watching as my daughter and I walked through the store
arms wrapped around each others’ shoulders
being our goofy selves
The woman’s eyes sparkled with tears.
I wondered about her story.
And it hit me.
We all watch each other.
Grieving our personal losses.
Assuming others have a better, happier life.
She has no idea of the depths of hell from which my girl and I have fought our way back to be mother and daughter.
She can’t imagine the years of despairing whether we’d ever have a relationship.
I reconsider some of my wishing.
Maybe Liam’s family lets him have run of the place because he’s recently had his third round of chemo and they don’t know if it will work. Maybe they seem happy together because it might be the last time.
None of us has any idea what the others’ lives are like, and yet, we wish.
A few weeks ago, I talked with a friend I’ve always seen as the epitome of happy and positive. We lost touch after college for over fifteen years. Three minutes into the phone call, our friendship was all caught up. She’s the same sunny girl.
Five minutes in, we’d spilled our guts.
Our adoption journey. Their many miscarriages.
Everyone has a difficult patch in life to overcome.
We all have our own battles, and none of us really knows what others endure.
I’m a born advocate; when I read Isaiah 1:17, Proverbs 31:8 and and Isaiah 58:6-11, I feel they were written to me personally.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
8 Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.
Speak up for the rights of all those who are poor.
I can fight for what others (e.g., my kids) need all day long. But if I’m honest, miscarriages would utterly destroy me. God knew what I could handle.
God knew beforehand this was going to be my life, so I’m fully prepped to fight, love and pray my way through the hard times.
Maybe I just need to focus a little more on being thankful I’m equipped for this life, instead of wishing for someone else’s battle.
Isaiah 58:6-11, NIRV
Set free those who are held by chains without any reason.
Untie the ropes that hold people as slaves.
Set free those who are crushed.
Break every evil chain.
Share your food with hungry people.
Provide homeless people with a place to stay.
Give naked people clothes to wear.
Provide for the needs of your own family.
Then the light of my blessing will shine on you like the rising sun.
I will heal you quickly.
I will march out ahead of you.
And my glory will follow behind you and guard you.
That’s because I always do what is right.
You will call out to me for help.
And I will answer you.
You will cry out.
And I will say, ‘Here I am.’
Get rid of the chains you use to hold others down.
Stop pointing your finger at others as if they had done something wrong.
Stop saying harmful things about them.
Work hard to feed hungry people.
Satisfy the needs of those who are crushed.
Then my blessing will light up your darkness.
And the night of your suffering will become as bright as the noonday sun.
I will always guide you.
I will satisfy your needs in a land baked by the sun.
I will make you stronger.
You will be like a garden that has plenty of water.
You will be like a spring whose water never runs dry.
Continued from Desolate
When the kids first came to live with us, I clocked three to four hours of sleep a night. The girl wailed until after midnight; the boy woke screaming around in the wee hours.
Every. Single. Day.
The initial sleep deprivation lasted about six months; four months for social services (still the legal guardian) to approve meds and two more months for the doctor to find the correct dose.
I still remember the relief I felt the first morning after we found the right combination, waking around 6 instead of 4 am.
I’d forgotten how it felt. September brought it all rushing back.
This time, I think, was worse.
Digressing a bit: I’ve had a recent epiphany that I experienced almost no change in stamina from the time I was seventeen. Until now.
Sometime this year, I looked in the mirror and realized I am no longer twenty-seven. Or thirty-seven, for that matter. Am I too old for a ponytail?
Apparently, up to this point my brain has been convinced I’m a decade younger, and the shock of realizing I am OH NO middle-aged was a bit too much.
This time, sleep deprivation almost killed me.
Ok, that’s hyperbole.
But I was beyond exhausted. By the end of September, I started telling Hubby I might like a weekend in the acute center, if they actually had white padded rooms available. 48 hours sleeping in a soundproof room…sounds like heaven.
Unfortunately, checking myself in at one of those places wasn’t an actual option. Hubby took over on weekends and let me nap as much as possible while he was home.
Finally, after weeks of phone calls and meetings and waiting, we got the approval call from the treatment center.
Because we were concerned about what our son might do if we informed him ahead of time, I packed him a suitcase during the night. I crept into his room and slipped his stuffed dog from under his arm. The next day, as we drove to the treatment facility, we explained.
We are not counselors or psychiatrists; we have researched and prepared as much as possible, but we are not trained to provide the care you need.
We care very much about you and want to give you the best chance to succeed in life. The people at this facility have the qualifications to help you.
We are NOT giving you up, letting you go, abandoning you or sending you away.
Our son responded with little emotion.
Like I said before, you’ve tried everything. We might as well try this.
His absolute lack of reaction still stymies me.
The experience at this treatment center was a complete change from the acute center. We met the director, head nurse and several staff. While the nurse completed the intake with our son, we toured the facility.
The staff explained to our son that the initial stay would be thirty days; he perked up and I watched determination firm his jaw.
At the time, we didn’t realize this would become a problem.
He thought if he could “act good” for thirty days, they’d release him. And he decided to make it happen.
He hugged us goodbye without a tear, then walked through the metal door with a staff member. It closed behind him with a heavy thud.
We walked to the car.
I expected to feel guilt at leaving him with strangers.
I expected to feel great sadness at leaving him behind. For almost seven years, we’d been four. Now, at least temporarily, we were three.
I expected to feel lonely, to feel his absence, to experience a boy-shaped hole in my existence.
I expected to feel that I was a failure as a mother, having not been enough to help him.
But here I must admit: I felt nothing but relief.
I truly believed the people in that building would be able to help him in a way Hubby and I could not. I knew we weren’t leaving him permanently; we would, soon enough, once again be four. I understood that I’d exhausted every possibility available, turned over every proverbial stone.
As for missing him—maybe this sounds awful, but…I didn’t.
My only source of guilt: the relief at being able to relax.
No checking every thirty seconds. No worrying whether he’d wake before I did. No concern about destruction or harm to property or living creature (including his sister) if my visit to the loo lasted an extra minute.
The first three days after drop off, I slept like the dead.
A week later, Hubby looked ten years younger.
And the nurse called to tell me our son was the best behaved child in the center.
He is so polite. He is kind to everyone. I wish they were all just like your son.
I was gobsmacked. Flabbergasted. Shocked.
How could this be the same child?
Until now, I’d never realized how determined he could be.
Guess how long that dogged kid kept it up.
Continued from Excruciating Ride, Part 2
If you asked for a one-word description of my internal landscape during early fall, I would use the word desolate.
Desolate, synonyms: miserable, despondent, depressed, disconsolate, devastated, despairing, inconsolable, broken-hearted, grief-stricken, crushed, bereft
Dark storms on the horizon and a long, lonely road ahead.
His six-day stint in acute psychiatric care only seemed to magnify his behaviors. He literally came home worse than when he left. Although he fed us lies about some aspects, we observed serious lack of supervision in the acute facility. He came home with a softball-sized bruise on his arm from playing a “punching game.” Roll the dice, the other kids punch you. Granted, there’s a good chance he willingly participated, but there’s no reasonable explanation for kids getting away with that kind of assault under true supervision.
He hid his shoes in the gym and blamed another child (we found out after); they still hadn’t found the shoes when we came to pick him up, so they led him outside in stocking feet. The nurse couldn’t fathom why we were upset. It never occurred to anyone that perhaps a pair of flip-flops (or a call home so we could bring shoes) might be necessary.
Peripheral concerns like these made us more concerned about the true level of care and supervision at the center. We began to hear stories from other families whose children had bad experiences and became determined to keep him safe at home until we could find a better solution.
I slept about 4 hours a night, making sure he was sound asleep before I went to bed and waking before he stirred. Thankfully, Hubby made it possible for me to stay home starting mid-summer (as we were planning to homeschool). I don’t know how I’d have survived trying to work as well as fully supervise the boy.
We instructed the girl to stay out of his way as much as possible. It was now early September, so each day included school work; he generally complied with the intent of “beating” his sister. Normally I discourage competition, but in this case it kept him focused so I didn’t fight it. Surviving the day was my only goal.
After schoolwork completion and some time in the yard to run around (and outside the fifteen hours of time per week with the in-home counselor, psychiatrist and office-visit counselor), I allowed him to play with Legos or let the two kids watch movies (a complete anomaly; our normal TV schedule included almost no screen time other than a Friday night movie). The only time I could guarantee no violence were the minutes his eyes were glued to the “bug light.”
Meanwhile, I spent hours on the phone with our insurance company, the social workers, a county government team and his in-home counselor. I called and researched longer-term psychiatric facilities within 6 hours of our home. Most wouldn’t take him as they were not considered locked facilities. They couldn’t protect other children from him, and they couldn’t prevent him from running away or hurting himself.
I prayed we could find a place for him; Hubby and I were completely exhausted. He took over much of the supervision in the evening so I could get a shower and make dinner, which meant he was basically working two jobs.
Finally, I found a facility within reasonable driving distance. As I researched further, I found that the original trauma counselor who saw our family in the beginning of our journey wrote the program for the facility and continued to consult with them. They utilized Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, something we’d been advised to pursue.
Every conversation gave us more certainty this would be our best option.
It is so good to have a few moments to write.
Even better: hours.
I have hours. I’m away from the house. Cannot hear the dirty dishes in the sink nor the clothes to be folded calling my name. I have nothing but my laptop and am choosing to ignore my phone and social media.
If you are also a writer, you know what I mean.
And by writer, I don’t mean famous, or published, or even, “manuscript completed and rejected fiftyish times.”
Do keys tapping in a satisfying click-tick rhythm make your anxiety melt?
Words fascinate and enthrall you?
Sentences with perfect balance give you deep satisfaction?
Alliteration, onomatopoeia and entire-paragraphs-sans-adverbs bring you joy?
That’s what I mean.