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Success…for now

THANK YOU for your prayers and encouraging words.

In case you’re just joining us, I presented this week to a group of eleven professionals appointed by the government to ensure children receive appropriate services. They hold the power to choose the best route of treatment for our son.

My meeting went well, although the current residential facility representative maintained the opinion the best option for our boy is a step-down to a group home. After hearing about his current outbursts, the team agreed a step-over to a different facility is warranted. This was our desired outcome. As one of the members noted, he is still not in control of his anger.

The current facility’s mindset is that he’s made great progress since January. However, they’re ignoring the huge swing he’s experienced since admission. In some ways, his behavior is now worse.

We admitted him because he expressed suicidal thoughts, and his actions were harmful to himself and others. When he became angry, he usually expressed it verbally (or in writing, as I often sent him to his room to write in his journal).

From November through January, his expression escalated to physical. He began provoking and fighting with the other children—specifically those he saw as weaker than himself. We worked with the therapist to create a reward/consequence system to eliminate the physical aggression (“TV time” is his most effective motivating factor; an altercation = no TV).

Although the therapist agreed with and supported the plan, getting the general staff on board proved difficult. Part of the issue stemmed from attempting to communicate the plan with the large number of individuals involved. In addition, not everyone agreed with our tactics. They felt barring him from TV made him feel as though he were not “part of the group” and minimized his “socializing” opportunities.

I argued that punching another kid in the face might also limit his social acceptance.

We had very little success. Enforcing rules from a distance is difficult, especially without buy-in from staff.

He figured out that his physical aggression was keeping him in the center longer and occasionally affected his TV access, so he stopped punching kids and started punching and kicking the walls when angry. He hasn’t yet cracked the sheet rock, partly because some walls are cinder block. This week, he bruised his hand badly.

To the center, this is progress. To Hubby and me, not so much. He’s still expressing his anger in inappropriate ways, with the threat of property damage looming just one kick away.

This week, he sat down at a table in the classroom and refused to get in his seat because he wanted to color. When the teacher explained this wasn’t an option, he walked out of the class. Staff informed him he may not refuse school (the center allows them to refuse certain activities) and he flipped out, punching and kicking windows and walls. Call me crazy, but this does not feel like progress.

Thankfully, the team agreed with our concerns; we can move forward.

Next steps involve obtaining admission from the desired facility and sending a description of why this is our best option to yet another government employee for final approval. She knows our story, so I have hope for limited delays. Having the team’s backing also gives credibility to the request.

The road to healing is long and it hasn’t been easy, but I have hope.

 

I write our story to be a support and to help other families in similar situations feel less isolated. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I write our story to show the individuals who support these families: YOU ARE NEEDED.

Adoptive parents AND adopted children—we learn from those who’ve gone before. Please feel free to give your opinions and guidance.

We need each other.

You have a story. Chime in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Change ChangHe’sfThe c

 

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Living in 3D

Writing used to be cathartic, therapeutic.

If necessary, I’d write in the middle of the night.

For the last few months, I’ve struggled to force it. Until this week, the reluctance to record has baffled me.

I don’t easily admit, even to myself, “I have a problem.”

As you may know, the last 6.5 years have been a true roller coaster. When I scrolled through a few posts from a couple years ago, I read HOPE. I read PROGRESS. And I realized

I’ve been living the last few months in 3D.

But not the thrilling “let’s see a movie with those fun glasses” 3D.

Discouraged. Depressed. Distracted.

These three D words have ruled my life of late—and I didn’t even realize until now.

Discouraged

I drive Hubby a little nuts sometimes. I am the Optimist who makes everyone roll eyes at least once in our friendship.

Hitting every red light? Maybe God knows if we get to point X in ten minutes, we’d be crushed by a falling tree. He’s slowing us down on purpose. 

Traffic is at a standstill because a tree is blocking the road? Well, thank goodness it didn’t crush us. 

Cashier had a horrible attitude? Maybe she just found out her mom has cancer. 

Lost that job (this has happened to both Hubby and me)? God’s got a plan. We’ll be fine. 

I have an immune disorder? (This one took a few months to find silver lining…) Well, I guess this will force me to take better care of myself. 

Our boy is in residential treatment? This will give me the ability to focus most of my attention on helping our daughter excel in school. 

Give me your worst scenario and I can find a silver lining or a probable reason it can all turn out for good. It’s a gift and a curse, because sometimes I can come across as flippant, but I generally have this belief that God will work it all out in the end.

I’ve always applied this belief to our kids. I still believe.

But this boy is wearing me out.

He doesn’t seem to care about coming home.

I’m resigned to the knowledge that he’s not coming home anytime soon. And that even if/when he does come home, it’s likely many of our dreams for him will never happen.

All that is okay, but without even realizing, I’ve become discouraged.

Depressed

The discouragement has pressed down on my soul for weeks. They say expectations are the death of everything. Our lives would be better without the word “should” in our vocabulary.

Unmet expectations destroy relationships. Bring destruction to the best-laid plans. Decimate optimism.

Underneath it all, here’s the narrative my heart wrote when we brought these two kids into our home:

Siblings experience trauma and too many re-homing disruptions until they are 5 and 7. At that time, they find stability with a loving couple who provide them with everything they need. Although the first year is terrible, subsequent years grow easier and within three years, they are well-adjusted, happy, bright, inquisitive children in love with learning about the world around them. The entire family enjoys traveling, playing together and finding ways to help others. When the kids turn 10 and 12, the family travels to Peru on a missions trip, where the children are thrilled to bring love to others who may have had an even tougher early life than the one they experienced. 

I have recently confronted this narrative I didn’t even know was lurking under the surface of my thoughts.

This is not our story.

Right now, our girl is flourishing, although she periodically reminds me (usually when I praise her for progress) that “it’s all still in there, in my head. It might come back.” And it might, but we’re prepared.

Our son has been in residential treatment since October 1 and shows no sign of wanting to come home. Although I do understand that trauma played its ugly part, on some level he’s choosing this.

In recent conversations, he’s informed us that he wants to stay at the center because they “let us watch lots of TV and you don’t” and he likes to play basketball. Ironically, when they have gym time, he usually plays in a corner by himself—something he can easily do at home with our hoop. (His TV complaint…totally valid. Not going to change.)

He also informed us that he sees the situation in the following light:

You’re putting in a lot of effort, and I’m not putting in any effort.

At least he’s honest.

The death of my narrative has depressed me more than I was able to acknowledge until now.

Distracted

Discouragement and depression are not my usual modus operandi. I’ve felt a dissonant fracture within…and been unwilling to address it.

Giving me relief for a short time: Once Upon a Time, a series about happy endings.

I’m a sucker for fairy tales rewritten, as well as pirates in leather and guyliner. Win-win.

The show is true Brain Candy; almost a soap opera with fairies. And SOOOOOOO distracting.

As I watched Emma Swan learn to BELIEVE, there was no room for discouragement or depression.

As Regina the Evil Queen became my favorite character (the reason for her Evilness was underlying trauma and heartache), I forgot my own heartache.

Finally realized I had a problem.

Hubby went on a business trip and I watched the series until 3 am.

Used the Netflix app to watch in my spare moments.

And I didn’t really want anyone else to know, which was my first clue I needed to quit.

The second clue? Realizing I’d burned through hours of the show, time I could have used for…ANYthing else.

Sometimes I’m a little slow, but when I finally get it, I get it.

This week, I faced my 3D life.

I listened to an audio version of the Bible to fight the Discouragement (audible.com is fabulous—and no, they don’t pay me to say it).

I admitted to Hubby that I’ve been dealing with Depression lately. He’s incredibly supportive, giving lots of hugs (my favorite) and a package of amazing cupcakes (my less healthy favorite).

My Distracting Netflix app went the way of Candy Crush (an earlier addiction I needed to delete from my phone).

And now, I’m ready to go

4D

Discouragement, Depression and Distraction will always be with me, but I’m also

DETERMINED

I’m sure the 3 D-words will sneak up on me from time to time, but I’m Determined to stand my ground.

Letting go of “my” narrative will likely be a battle I fight for the rest of my life. Remaining vigilant and keeping myself focused won’t be easy.

Admitting my flaws and weaknesses is always frightening, but one of the great lessons in Once Upon a Time is this: your flaws hurt you when you try to hide them. Out in the open, they simply make you human.

Our son described us to his counselor as “The Grizzly and the Pit Bull.” Hubby is the Grizzly Bear, fiercely protective of our family. I’m the Pit Bull, ferociously hanging on to keep us together and make sure the kids get whatever services they need.

Pit Bull.

Determined.

This week, I live in 4D.

Ephesians 6:13

New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can, you will still be standing.

*Verse from BibleGateway.com

Girl Meets World and RAD Part 1

If you grew up in the TGIF generation (USA early 90’s), you might remember that theme song. In our house, the TGIF jingle signaled time to crowd in front of our little TV for Boy Meets World.

 

Sometimes I feel like I’m in my own show, Casey Meets World.

For five years and four months, I’ve searched for a way to reach our girl. We’ve powered through a trauma counselor, a mentor, a play therapist, outpatient counseling and in-home counseling. I’ve read every book recommended by every counselor, friend or acquaintance…and then some.

We’ve utilized an occupational therapist, speech therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, nutritionist, neurologist and several other “-ists.”

Three months ago, we descended to the proverbial bottom of the canyon to find rock. Rappelling without ropes, if you will.

She flat-out refused to do anything I asked, and in fact did the exact opposite of EVERYTHING. Her behavior was out of control in ways I won’t describe here, but if you’re experiencing RAD, know that you are not alone.

You’re not crazy, and neither is your child.

Primal need for protecting herself (or himself) runs unbelievably deep. However, when you find your family unraveling at the seams, underlying reasons for a child’s behavior don’t matter as much as the emergency of the moment.

By the time a family reaches the cold, dusty bottom of that deep, dark pit, all anyone can do is scrabble for purchase, trying to find a way back up crumbling walls.

We finally admitted to ourselves that our tween needed more help than we could provide and we had to consider a therapeutic setting outside the home.

Back to the beginning for a moment.

Upon the children’s arrival, I began re-reading books by a respected psychologist. As a teen (I was a little weird in choice of reading material for my age), several of his books helped me understand myself better. Nothing in the books worked for these kids. NOTHing. Finally, in absolute frustration, I emailed him, with a subject something like, “Help! We adopted two kids.”

I don’t remember the exact time frame, but shortly after I sent the email, my phone rang. His secretary asked, “Will you be at this number in twenty minutes? Stay by the phone.” And twenty minutes later, he called me.

I’m not one to be awed by position or title. I’ll chat up a CEO or a streetwalker with equal interest. Everyone has a story. Everyone is human. Nothing about who you are makes you more or less valuable than the person walking beside you.

However, I do recognize that people are busy. I’m a mom, a recruiter and a blogger, and I barely have a spare minute. As yet, I’ve never published, never been a sought-after speaker on radio and in person, never been the end-all authority voice about, well…anything. And I’m sure that’s not a definitive list of his responsibilities. I can’t imagine being that busy.

I was floored that he’d take the time to call a random individual, considering the hundreds of email he must need to sort.

He gave me some advice I’ve never forgotten.

Be clear with the child that you understand their motivation.

If you know they’re being disobedient so they’ll get the attention they crave, don’t be afraid to say,

‘Hey. I know you’re acting up because you need some attention. (Fill in the blank with behavior) will only bring negative attention. Do you want negative attention, or would you rather ask me to spend time with you for a few minutes?’

Be open. Let the child know you’re aware of their game. Explain cause and effect, and let them know where the behavior will take them.

Following the above advice, we explained residential therapy to our girl. We showed her pictures of RAD Ranch (not the real name, but if I ever direct one, I am totally calling it that), where children with attachment issues live on a working farm, attend school and have physical consequences for bad behavior. If you act like a poopie-head, you might get stall-mucking duties. (And for those of you not well-versed in ranch speak, that means you’re shoveling poop.)

She didn’t believe us.

With crazy-impeccable timing, the director of said ranch rang our home phone at that moment. While I discussed our situation with him, I heard Hubby ask her, “do you know who’s on the other end of that call? This is no joke.”

Returning from the call, I explained a few of the details to Hubby, in front of our daughter. She watched our conversation, head swiveling as though viewing a tennis match, as we took turns discussing pros and cons. Finally, we turned to her.

Continued…

 

 

 

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