Posted by Casey
Continued from Part 1
Keep Sibling Groups Intact
In general, keeping sibling groups together helps prevent disruption, although there are a few exceptions.
One study listed in James Rosenthal’s paper followed 47 children placed as part of sibling groups. None disrupted.
Be Reasonable in Your Expectations
Forget the Brady Bunch, June and Ward Cleaver, and Andy Griffith. Think CSI, NCIS, Law and Order.
There IS no perfect family. Adoptive situations tend to magnify imperfection. Everyone is stressed. After the honeymoon phase (six months if you’re lucky…three days if you’re us), kids with trauma are black holes waiting to implode, behaviorally speaking.
The most sobering finding in this study* concerned the prevalence of behavioral problems…Children often experienced behavioral problems many years after placement.
Therefore, parents adopting a child with behavioral problems should anticipate the possibility of continued problems rather than a marked decline following an initial adjustment to the home.
Behavioral problems are the single largest source of stress for families who adopt older and special needs children
– James A. Rosenthal, Outcomes of Adoption of Children with Special Needs (Emphasis mine.)*Rosenthal, J.A., and Groze, V.K. Special-needs adoption: A follow-up study of intact families. New York: Praeger, 1992
Get ALL the information ahead of time. Request pre-adoption education beyond just the home study process. We got a taste of possible issues during that 10-week course, but in-depth classes, suggested/required reading material and workshops about RAD, mental illness, behavior and PTSD would have been invaluable. Demand copies of all paperwork (medical, info regarding previous placements, etc.) BEFORE the adoption is finalized.
Our social worker balked at sharing background information because she didn’t believe we would “last;” therefore, she kept vital information from us regarding behavior, number of placements, nature of reasons for removal from foster families, etc. I was fairly certain our kids required occupational and speech therapy, but the social worker blew us off. When I received the full file, I found that another foster parent had the kids evaluated but never followed through. Had we known, we could have started therapy much sooner.
Find an Advocate
If your social worker isn’t supportive, request someone new. Our first worker left us feeling inadequate and ill-prepared. The second worker helped us finalize adoption less than six months after she took our case.
Advocates don’t have to be social workers. A family at our church became one of our greatest supports. We barely knew them when the kids arrived. The husband is a now-grown adopted child; he had a greater understanding for our situation than most people. He and his wife continue to show our family kindness at times when we need it most.
An ally in your corner is essential.
(Rosenthal’s study) found that social workers’ ratings of parents’ capacities were highly predictive of an adoption’s outcome.
If they had doubts about parents’ ability to deal with an emotionally nonresponsive child, the adoption was more likely to disrupt.
Plan for Respite Care
Respite care is time (hours, days) away from the children. This is not negotiable. You must have time to yourself. Yes, this is one of the “two most important” points.
We all want to be Superparent. None of us is. Take time away from the kids, for everyone’s sake. A few hours to recharge or even to grocery shop without hearing “Can we get this? Or this? Or this? Are you buying this? Why? Are you getting that? Why not?” can give a whole new perspective.
Finding group support is another great way to recharge. An agency near us provides once-a-month support services. Parents meet in one room; activities keep the kiddos busy in a separate location.
Put respite care and childcare into place before adopting. For single parents, create a “tag team” support system. – –MN Adopt Fact Sheet
Another adoptive mom and I occasionally “trade” kids. It gives her adopted son a chance to shine, as he’s on his best behavior outside their home. For parents of RAD kids, chances to encourage their children can be few and far between. I make sure to praise him in front of her at drop-off, which gives her the opportunity to give him positive feedback. It’s good for everyone.
Parenting traumatized children can be traumatizing. So we need to work on our own “stuff”. This means finding (and doing) what sustains and heals us. This can/should include seeking your own therapy; finding times to retreat/get away from your family and stressors; exercise and healthy living; doing something just for fun; connecting with your partner and friends. Many of us may view this is selfish or a waste of time. But remember that you are the greatest catalyst for your child’s healing. That means that your child and your family need YOU to be strong, energized, healthy. You can’t give more than you have — so replenishing, refreshing, and regulating yourself needs to be a top priority.
– Attachment & Trauma Clinic, Therapeutic Parenting
Don’t Give Up
This final point is most important. So many others have counted these kids out. Some days are hard. Some weeks are difficult. Some years are exhausting. With determination, though, we have seen improvement. It’s a roller-coaster, for sure, but hang in there. Nothing worth having comes easily.
Finally, have you or your system given up on any children? Given up on finding a permanent home? In other words, how many alternative planned permanent living arrangements are you overseeing? Are you absolutely sure that the young person doesn’t know anyone that he or she wants to develop a close caring relationship with? Have you asked them lately? Are you sure there aren’t adults who have known or know the young person that would not be willing to develop or strengthen a caring relationship with the young person? Have you asked them lately?
– David Sanders, Casey Family Services, delivering plenary address at the Third National Judicial Leadership Summit in Austin, Texas. (Emphasis mine.)