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Reconciliation

Sometimes, while reading my Bible, I find a passage reworking itself in my head. No sacrilege, just applying it to my current situation.

I know what it is to respect the Lord, and when I try to see through His eyes, I know He wants me to try to persuade others to follow His example, advocating for children and for reconciliation.

God knows my intent is pure and I hope you can see this, too. When I write about the our lives, I don’t write to brag or in hope that you will hold us up as an example of perfection. I write to give you hope and the knowledge that you are not alone. To be honest, some people think we are out of our minds. If we’re insane, we’re crazy with intention. Christ loved everyone, and His love compels me to love others, specifically vulnerable children with no protector.

He died for everyone and rose again, to show that He is making a second chance available to every individual. If He wants to give a second chance to all, how can I do otherwise? Because of what He did for me, how can I do anything but live for him and do my best to advocate for those who need help?

I used to see through my own eyes, but now I try to look through the eyes of Jesus. Anyone who sees through His eyes sees in a new way. God reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the example of the ministry of reconciliation. God reconciled the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.

And He has now given us the responsibility to spread the word; it is our duty to promote reconciliation. We choose to be ambassadors of this great love; God is making this appeal through us. I implore you on behalf of Jesus: be reconciled to God and bring reconciliation to others, so their lives and families will be preserved. 

2 Corinthians 5:11-21, UCV (Unauthorized Casey Version)

Reconciliation is a lifelong ministry of bringing others to know a great love. What better example of God’s love and reconciliation than the love of a parent who will do whatever it takes for a child?

The initial intent of the foster care system should never be to remove children from their original parents.

Sometimes, as in our situation, the abuse is so great there is no other choice, but in many cases, the biological family simply is missing something necessary to survival. Helping a family achieve reconciliation and forgiveness is an amazing opportunity.

Before I truly understood foster care, I was one of the would-be adopters who refused to consider foster care because “it would kill me if the child were removed” from my home after I’d formed an attachment. I’ve heard this sentiment from a number of other people.

We need to reconsider our understanding of foster care. It is not a means to adopt (although this may happen). It is a ministry of reconciliation.

God gave us the original blueprint, doing everything possible to create a connection. We need to approach foster care in a similar manner, being willing to do everything we can to enable families to remain together.

Your thoughts?

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I Want YOUR Quote in My Book.

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Photo by Tekke

I’m writing a book (and have three publisher appointments this month).

Goals: 

a. present an accurate view of foster care

b. inspire people to step up and foster (or if they can’t foster, to support those who do)

I’d appreciate your input. Comment below to answer all or some of the questions (or write whatever you want). Be as detailed or as brief as you like. Alternately, send your response to casey@hypervigilant.org if you’d rather. 

Also, if you’re willing, please repost this to your blog or other outlet directing people back to https://hypervigilant.org to post answers so I can collect them.

THANKS for your help!

*In your response, please include a name (pseudonym is fine) for quote purposes. 

  1. What is your experience with foster care?

  2. Is foster care important/necessary? (please explain why/why not)

  3. Was your experience positive or negative, and what made it so?

  4. Who should foster?

  5. Other than the obvious (e.g., people with legal or abuse issues, etc.) who shouldn’t foster?

  6. What are legitimate reasons to foster?

  7. What are not legitimate reasons to foster?

  8. What do kids in foster care need most?
  9. What do potential foster carers need to know?

Battle Gear

Related to: Put on Your Armor, Part 1 and Part 2

Several times, now, I’ve “diagnosed” our children in the face of therapists who disagree…only to have a psychological evaluation support my assertion six months (or more) later.

This is not because I’m more intelligent or have higher qualifications.

I don’t point this out to brag.

There is a reason it happened:

NO ONE can be an expert on EVERYTHING.

Every therapist has specialties.

If you’ve been part of the Hypervigilant community for more than a year, you may have wondered why I sometimes write yet another “we have a diagnosis!” post. Since he came to live with us, I’ve asserted our boy is on the Autism spectrum. And every time a professional confirms Autism, a different therapist disagrees the following year.

Some people don’t want their kids “labeled,” but in our case, what I call a diagnosis-in-writing helps us obtain needed services. (A number of therapists agree, “yes, I see those traits, but I’m not ready to put the diagnosis in writing”)

In search of someone who could finally help him, we bounced through the counseling community for six years. When the yearly psych came due, his counselor du jour completed the process.

At the time, utilizing the counselor most familiar with his current behaviors seemed logical, but not all of them were adept. In some cases, he refused to complete questions or gave answers he thought they wanted to hear.  

His fluctuations in participation, combined with the wide array of specific spheres of knowledge, created anomalies in his diagnoses.

In January, a psychologist at the residential center completed a psychological for our son. Her field of expertise is ADHD. Almost all of her recommendations centered around mitigating ADHD symptoms. She did not address any of our concerns about Autism, ODD or social behavior, nor did she delve into factors impacting his aggression level.

I requested (okay, demanded) the center pay for a new psych evaluation with a different individual (since insurance wouldn’t pay for another). They declined to provide a full workup but agreed to a specialist performing certain specific testing.

Here’s what I never realized until now: we needed a TESTING expert.

The individual who performed the second battery does not provide counseling, therapy or psychological services of any kind. He only handles TESTING.

Our son’s session with the tester ended up fielding even better results than I’d hoped and I learned a valuable lesson in the process:

For therapy, turn to a licensed therapist or counselor. For medication, seek a psychiatrist. For accurate test results, consult a testing specialist.

But I digress. My point here is that no professional will ever have full command of every possible issue. Have you seen the DSM-V? It’s a chunky little book. And some of the diagnoses it contains are the sole focus of entire Ph.D. degrees.

When it comes to the kids in our homes, it is OUR responsibility to be the expert.

Children who’ve experienced trauma are each unique, but parallels appear in symptoms and behaviors across the group.

Unless your counselor is well-versed in results of a traumatic beginning, you will likely be your child’s best advocate.

If you live with a child, you know the child better than the “professional” ever could.

Don’t allow fear of being wrong or less qualified stop you from speaking up about concerns.

The most important part of being a child’s advocate is preparation. We need to put in the time to learn and to research.

With this in mind, in the next few weeks I’ll be posting resources to help kids who’ve had tough beginnings.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 encourages study of the Bible, so that we can be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” While not specific to kids who’ve experienced trauma, it’s a great resource for finding hope and fighting fear, both integral to healing.

The idea also applies to studying on behalf of our kids. The more we know about needs and behaviors related to trauma, the better equipped we are to help them and to fight for them.

Let’s get out there and do GOOD WORK.

 

Put on Your Armor, Part 2

Continued from Put on Your Armor, Part 1

Preparation for helping our kids also applies to the spiritual side.

If, during a professional baseball game, the umpire decided to forgo the mask and padding, we’d think he was crazy.

If a policeman waded into a firefight without his bulletproof vest, we’d consider him nuts.

And yes, if someone ran a marathon in stilettos, we’d be amazed at the reckless (yet fabulous) nose-thumbing at potential bodily harm.

But so often, I neglect to prepare my mind and heart and spirit. And the days I forget, separating my child from his behavior becomes difficult.

My child is not my enemy. 

The enemy is the evil that caused the trauma. I need to prepare mentally to make that separation and help my child heal.

I can’t do it alone.

…put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:13-17

If I prepare my spirit and mind to do what is necessary, I can focus on the true target: helping my children find healing.

I may not win every fight in this battle for my kids.

But if I remember to put on all of my armor, at the end of the war, I’ll still be standing.

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Photo credit: Alexxx Malev
*This statue, The Motherland Calls, is in Volgograd, Russia (formerly Stalingrad). I found her while looking for images of a female warrior and before I saw the title, could almost hear her calling, “follow me, and fight. I will fight before you.” I want to be this brave, to have this spirit, to defend, to protect. She is simply amazing.

Let’s Ride Again

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Photo Credit: Warren County CVB

Roller coasters are my favorite amusement park ride.

If you stay at the park late enough, people stop filling the queues for cars in the middle of the coasters. If no one is waiting, the nice 16-year-old earning minimum wage to run the train will let you stay on for extra rides.

The day our son almost passed out on a kiddie ride, I thought my dreams of sharing terror and joy at top speed were dashed.

Five years later, I rode the tallest coaster in our state. The air rushing around me filled with the happy screams of my kids.

I love roller coasters, and I love that my kids have become amusement park thrill-seekers.

Sadly, this summer, I found my limit.

Three coasters with upside-down loops, and I’ve had enough. (Thankfully, I can still ride no-loop coasters in indefinite glee.) 

***

Our son has been in a residential treatment facility since the fall. Sometimes I think of it as

Centre Residential Amusement Park, where EVERY ride goes upside down.

I’ll leave you to think through the park name acronym for yourself. 

Good behavior earns passes for leaving the facility with family in 6-, 12-, 24- or 48-hour increments.  

He displays consistent major upsets over minor issues; because of this, he qualified for only one 6-hour off-grounds pass in nine months.

However, this month he appeared to turn himself around and managed to have ZERO incidents requiring a staff member to physically intervene.

We worked with the therapist to quickly arrange two passes, hoping to show him that his good behavior benefits him.

One of our concerns is his potential intent to hurt his sister, but she was away at camp, so we brought him home for a day, and the following week we brought him home for an overnight.

He appeared to be a different child; even when things didn’t go exactly as he wanted, he managed beautifully.

We talked with the therapist and decided to try bringing him home for an overnight now that his sister has returned.

And then…

Tuesday, he intentionally provoked a peer, trying to get the child to fight him.

Wednesday, he punched someone.

He hasn’t physically assaulted another individual in almost two months.

The therapist called to let me know he didn’t feel comfortable approving a pass.

After a month of good news, I thought we were heading for the exit of Centre Residential Amusement Park.

Guess I’m buying a few more tickets for the roller coaster ride: one for me, one for Hubby, one for Jesus. I thought I’d reached my limit, but it looks like we’re riding once more.

Sometimes I forget to mention how much I appreciate Hubby and Jesus.

If I have to ride these loops again, at least I’m never alone.

 

 

Three Things Every Kid with RAD Needs

There is NO silver bullet and NO easy way to overcome Reactive Attachment Disorder.
Kids exhibiting RAD symptoms have endured deep loss and continue to grieve.
As I understand it, their brains have rewired to compensate. They may experience low levels of emotion or pain. Our daughter was able to turn off her emotions at will, but some of her lack of emotion was not intentional and concerned her. She used to ask me if there was something wrong with her because she didn’t always cry when she thought it would be appropriate (e.g., funerals, pet loss).
Our son’s pain receptors don’t work properly; at the treatment center, our guy broke his hand by punching a wall in a fit of rage. When I confronted the nurse on duty after seeing his hand (swollen three times normal size), she said they’d checked it earlier and assumed he was ok because he went back to activities with no complaint. He played basketball with a broken hand all afternoon.
He had to have an MRI for something else and I mentioned this to the neurologist. She said lack of response to pain is typical of kids who’ve been through trauma.

Kids with RAD need three things:

  1. True belief that you will not abandon them and will never give up on them

  2. Motivation (external or internal; sometimes related to #3)

  3. Definite realization they want to stay with you 

Finding ways to help them accept #1 and identifying #2 are equally difficult. When you’ve been abandoned by the people who should have been your rock solid forever protection (bio family), you have a hard time understanding why anyone else would stick with you. When everything that matters has been stripped away, you cease to put value in anything because it will likely be taken as well.
It is impossible to create #3, although this often grows from #1 and #2.
Seven years of CONSISTENT love, positive and negative consequences and promises kept worked for our daughter. About two years ago, we openly discussed the fact that we needed to consider residential treatment for her (because if your kid has cancer and you’re not a doctor,  you go to the hospital…we’re not psychiatrists and nothing was working). This shocked her into realizing that she did want to be with us. She asked us to give her time to try to change her behavior, and we gladly agreed.
That same amount of time has not worked for our son…YET. We had the same conversation with him last August, but he had a different reaction. He’s been in residential treatment with wild swings in his behavior and very little progress until last month. The one thing that does motivate him externally is television; he’ll do anything for TV time. Unfortunately, the treatment center hasn’t been the most cooperative with behavior modification; it’s “too difficult” to tie TV time to behavior. We’re looking at moving him elsewhere due to many factors, and as a part of that process our post-adoption social worker (whom he’s never met) needed to visit him. I asked her not to introduce herself as a social worker or as from social services because every time a SW showed up at our house during the foster years, he freaked out.
I was sure he’d assume she was there to take him, because I know he still doesn’t believe we’ll keep him.
The center therapist wasn’t aware (I didn’t realize she was going so soon and didn’t have time to prep him or our son) and introduced her to our son as “from DSS.” Our guy immediately went there.

They’re sending me to a new family?! I knew it!! 

The therapist said he morphed to scary-angry on the spot. Once they calmed him down and explained, he relaxed a bit. We called later that day and reinforced that we are not going anywhere and neither is he.
I think the misunderstanding shocked him into realizing that he really DOES want to be with us. Since her visit, he’s had a completely different tone with us, both on the phone and in person. His behavior is suddenly better; he’s like a different kid. We are praying that this will be his turnaround.
RAD is a roller coaster that never fully ends. I never get completely comfortable or expect things to be wonderful forever, because ridiculous expectations = death to healthy relationships. Expect that things may sometimes be rocky, and know that you’ll survive.

To anyone parenting a kid with RAD symptoms: ENJOY the quiet ride while it lasts, and just know that the crazy ups and downs are all related to their pain. As they heal, things will get better. Keep in mind that they’ll likely never be “over” the hurt, but they can move past it in many ways.

 

 

 

 

Adoption Reddit

You may already be familiar with Reddit. Have an interest? Reddit probably has a running discussion; it’s a treasure trove.

(Careful…it can be addicting. Hilarious kitty pics are hard to ignore.)

If you have Adoption connections, I’d like to recommend that you join the Adoption group* (sub).

If you’re part of the Adoption Triad (an individual who was adopted/fostered, an adoptive/foster parent or a biological parent) or if you’re considering fostering or adoption, it’s a great place to hang out.

Many members who were formerly adopted or in foster care provide excellent advice for adoptive/foster parents with honest questions. I won’t list user names because there are too many (and I’ll end up accidentally leave someone out), but believe me, if you have a concern, someone can help. It’s also a great place to talk with other parents in similar situations.

*I feel as though the sub has gotten a bad rap recently; if you get a negative response in one (or more) of the comments, just ignore it. Most of the time, individuals posting negative views are dropping in to stir the pot (you can click the user name to see their post history). Most of the truly active members are incredibly helpful and truly care about making life better for our kiddos.

Also, keep in mind that negative comments often source from a well of deep grief and loss, so if someone’s acting like a jerk, they are probably hurting. 

Why Would I Say That?

I used to write down funny things the kids said.

(For those of you beginning the journey, keep a journal, send yourself a text, etc. You’ll definitely want it later).

Looking through old texts to myself, I found this one from early 2016:

Me (to my daughter):

“I couldn’t hear what you said, but it sounded like ‘I love you so much!'”

She (with emphasis and attitude):

“Why would I say THAT?!”

Wordpress

Photo credit: Steven Depolo

At the time, we were in the throes of RAD. She and I did not get along. Every time she considered loving me, her trauma triggered anger and fear.

Two years later, LOVE WINS.

We have come so far, this girl and I.

We’ll probably have more roller coaster days and maybe months ahead, considering she’s now a teen, but we’ll make it.

She’s gone to camp and I really miss her. She’s one of my favorite people in the world.

Reactive Attachment Disorder, you can kiss my butt. 

 

 

Call to Action, Part 1

A passion for the plight of orphans has gripped my core since the first time I read the biography of George Muller.

I was eight years old.

His story of faith and his dedication to rescuing children continues to inspire me.

That book sparked an unwavering, lifelong desire to adopt.

To make a difference with my life.

To stand up, to protect, to speak on behalf of children in need worldwide.

My heart is continually broken over the plight of children left without parents, whether by death, abandonment or poverty. Many of the world’s orphans still have parents who, in desperation to save their beloved children’s lives, leave them at homes where they will be fed and sheltered.

Let’s do a little math.

According to CBS and NPR, the number of Christians in the world is over 2 billion.

UNICEF and global partners define an orphan as a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death. By this definition, there were nearly 140 million orphans globally in 2015, including 61 million in Asia, 52 million in Africa, 10 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 7.3 million in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This large figure represents not only children who have lost both parents, but also those who have lost a father but have a surviving mother or have lost their mother but have a surviving father.

Of the nearly 140 million children classified as orphans, 15.1 million have lost both parents. Evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of orphans are living with a surviving parent grandparent, or other family member. 95 per cent of all orphans are over the age of five.

UNICEF Website

Although not all children who have lost both parents are available for adoption, let’s use that 15 million number.

2 billion divided by 15 million is 133.

Assuming my math is correct, if roughly one Christian out of every 100 adopted an orphan with no parents, every child would have a home.

*Identifying as a Christian is not a requirement to adopt or love children. I use this limiting description to make a few points.

1. Followers of the Way generally try to do what God wants. Only three items comprise God’s definition of Pure Religion. One of them is taking care of orphaned children. (James 1:27)

2. People who say they love Jesus for real should be willing to follow His example of sacrifice for others. Not everyone can adopt or foster, but we can all do SOMEthing to help current orphans—or to prevent a child from becoming one.

3. If a relatively small population (one Christian out of 14) stepped up to help in some way, EVERY ONE of those 140 million children would have what they need.

(And if you’d rather just use the world population, 7.6 billion, of which at least half are over age 24, well…we really have no excuse for poverty, much less children without homes.)

You’ve possibly already seen those statistics. A topic less discussed is how to prevent a child from becoming an orphan in the first place.

I’ll chat with you about that option soon. For now, feel free to add your opinion below. 

 

 

 

Adopting? Keep This in Mind.

So well said by one of my adoptee friends—please take note if you’re interested in adoption:

There seems to be an abundance of adopters/hopeful adopters so enmeshed in getting their own “needs/wants” met.

Adoption should be about the child’s needs FIRST and FOREMOST.

Children just about never have the ability to “opt out” of this process if they don’t like it.

 

 

 

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