Tag Archives: adoption

Fear of the Unknown

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Fear of the unknown is something well known to the parents of a kid with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  I know something is going to happen, I just don’t know what or when.  Today my son left for school with a look in his eye.  A distant, far away, completely detached look.  My son who usually has an adorable cuteness, beautiful brown eyes and a warm smile, had a blank stare.  My talkative child who would argue any point, didn’t argue and really didn’t speak at all.  He made one sarcastic remark about restoring our relationship and went out the door.

I sent an email to the school saying that I feared that a bad decision was in his future.  Now, I sit with butterflies in my stomach and dread the phone ringing.  Will he actually do something?  How bad will it be?  Or will he be wise enough to seek out a trusted friend or teacher to talk about what’s on his mind?

The fact of parenting a RAD kid is that you will never be the one he will confide in.  You will never have the honor of being the one to teach her right from wrong.  You will never be the one who can give advice or guide him.  Oh, you can try….and you will.  You will spend years and years trying to guide and instruct.  You will spend years and years trying to comfort and nurture.  You will spend years and years trying to welcome her into a deep relationship with you.  But, you will fail.  Oh you may get a glimmer of a bond, but it is probably just superficial.  You may even believe you are making a difference…for a moment.  But you will never make the difference that you hope to.  You will never get out of this relationship what you put into it.  I know, I know, never say, “never.”

OK, so you won’t get the relationship with your child that you desire, but does that mean you get gypped out in the relationship department?  Absolutely not.  You will get to know many people that you would’ve never gotten to meet without your special needs child.  You will develop friendships with strangers that adore your child and bail him out at every chance. You will get to make deep, sincere friendships with other RAD parents. You will get to have deep respect for all those people who take the extra time to make a difference in your child’s life. You will revere coaches, teammates, therapists,classmates, bus drivers and even janitors who are called to bring joy into your child’s day.  Your relationship with your spouse and your other children will deepen as you all work through the pain, grief and bewilderment of having a child with RAD living in your home.

And, ultimately, it is my hope that you have a relationship with God and that it will deepen because of your ultimate reliance on Him to get through a single day.  It is during those times when you see that look, the empty, bone chilling evil look in your child’s eyes that the fear will make you run to the Lord and pray for the best.  You will pray that a smile from the lunch lady or school secretary will change the course of a day.  You will ask God to help your child make a good decision.  You will pray that God will foil any plan that your child may have that will cause him further pain.  You will ask God to comfort the pain your child suffers from his past trauma that now also causes you pain.  You will ask God to comfort you.  Your child’s determination to not have a relationship with you will cause you to deepen your relationship with the One who created you…and created your child…and knows exactly what the day will bring.

The fear of the unknown? There is no “unknown” to fear, even if it may be unknown to you.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.    –Isaiah 41:10

 

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Nowhere To Go !

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No.  There sincerely is nowhere to go.  We have a son with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  What does that mean?  That he appears healthy and well on the outside and his inside is filled with rage and distrust of his parents.  To others, he’s a sweet, charming, polite kid.  To his adoptive parents, he’s a thief, a liar, a menace.  And we took an oath and adopted him.  Because of his early care…or lack thereof, he has decided he doesn’t want to love, so anytime, he finds himself getting closer to us, he does something off the wall to push us away.  And, each time, the push needs to be harder.

As a toddler, it was little sneaky things, an extra cookie, a stolen video game.  Now, as he approaches adulthood, it’s a stolen gun, a broken TV, and stolen car keys. No matter how much instruction he receives, it appears he will self-destruct in his own poor choices.

I’d like to say that this morning was a shocker,  but this traumatizing event was just another day.  Another day of lies, violence, screaming and a home ruled by mental illness.  I’d like to say this is rare, but quite the opposite.  This is how we live.

The aftermath leaves us bruised physically and scarred emotionally.  He rages, goes to school and I receive a message that says, “Paul has arrived safely at school.”  I reply, “Mom and Dad are traumatized at home.”

So, after a morning like this, what are we going to do?  Should we heed the advice of many caring concerned people?  “He should go somewhere.  You can’t live like this anymore.”  I agree 100%!  He should go somewhere.  Where might that be?  There is no special place for kids with RAD.  There is no known therapy that cures, there is no group home, there is no residential treatment facility with an open bed waiting for me in this moment.  In this moment, there are text messages to friends who may or may not be able to help me today.  A wait for a psychiatric bed in a hospital could be months, a call to the police would have them responding to a situation that would diffuse on their arrival.  He needs to go somewhere. There is nowhere to go!

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a RAD support group meeting where I met 8 other families with kids just like mine.  Amazing.  We are not alone though society would think we were.  We live in an isolated existence where no one knows what to say or how to help.  We laughed, we shared war stories, we understood.  Today I texted a few of those families and received cyber hugs & support.  Today’s pain is raw and feels huge….however, when I am once again in the comfort of these special people in a few weeks, we will have a laugh over my husband burning my son’s mattress.  We will joke about us finding the hidden cigarette lighters and stolen cheese. We will laugh on the outside and cry on the inside as we each lose a little more hope each day.  Oh, how I wish that didn’t have to happen.  That we could have hope.

A statement my 9-year-old reminds me of at times like these: “Mom, remember you always say, ‘You can steal my money, but you can’t steal my joy!'” Maybe I need to apply it to hope.  “You can steal my cell phone, but you can’t steal my hope.”

This morning I screamed, I cried, I raged.  Today I will post scriptures and messages about patience and will strive to look at things above.  I will try to turn the events around so that I can survive another day, another evening…even another moment.  I will search deeply for hope.  It is my HOPE that we will all make it through.  That we will somehow heal, somehow cope.  There is no place to go.  We have to figure out how to live and have hope here. “Be patient, then brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.” Someday we will be able to go there.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.  –James 5:7-8

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Miracles

K is my foster daughter.  We met her when she was turning two and she is now four.  She was abused and arrived at our home with a casted broken leg and was recovering from the other leg being broken five weeks prior.  Her eye is permanently swollen from an untreated infection and the court master ruled that she was abused.  She was returned to her home because no one would identify the abuser and after ten weeks, she was injured again and returned to us.  The second time she was placed with us, I felt sure that the courts would be swift to make a decision on her behalf.  They did not. They spent months , even years, attempting to rehabilitate a couple who didn’t see a problem. A couple that took anger management classes and parenting classes, but never recognized their need for them. Court hearings were held every 3-6 months and at each one, I desperately prayed for permanency for K.  I recruited others to pray and as we prayed, we waited for the courts to make a decision for K. Should she return home or should the rights of the parents be terminated? At each hearing, my hopeful prayers of permanency for K were met with a decision to wait another 3 months and meet again.

My journey of faith took a huge walk uphill when after a year and a half in care, they decided to start a reunification plan and award the biological parents increased visits and overnights in the hopes that K would return home.  These visits were heartbreaking and disruptive for my family and even harder for her. While she had previously enjoyed her visits a day at a time, these extended visits were scaring her. She didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay with us.

Since I met K, my prayer has always been for the Lord to place her where she needed to be and to comfort my family if she needed to be reunited with her biological family . I stated many times that I felt like I was praying out of both sides of my mouth. “Lord, allow her to be part of our forever family…BUT, if you don’t, comfort us.” Many times I struggled with whether I should be grieving losing her or fighting to keep her. “Thy will be done Lord.” “Let her stay with us IF it is your will.” Though faithful in prayer, I felt like my prayers were indecisive.  What did I want? My belief that a child deserves to be with their biological mother fought with my belief that a child deserves to be safe. Enter all the other considerations of raising a 5th child when we are approaching retirement age into the mix and I almost didn’t want to know God’s will.

As time passed, it became apparent to us that K would be better off in our home. We were the only “real” family she knew, yet I didn’t feel I had the right to tell God what he should do but someone needed to do something in the this case! The courts with their overcautious behaviors were doing a disservice to us and to K. We needed a decision.

I awakened to the idea that what we needed was a miracle.! A miracle is “an event or action that contradicts known natural, scientific laws and is due to a supernatural cause.” It would take a miracle to get an overly cautious court system to make a decision. I increased my prayers and the number of people I recruited to pray. I asked them to join me in praying for a miracle.

The day of the hearing came and I immediately became the recipient of not just a single miracle, but many miracles. I had a peace that made no sense, I had friends calling me and supporting me, my other children were having a good first day of school, I wasn’t as anxious as I thought I should be, I saw two deer in my front lawn and wasn’t too preoccupied to recognize the blessing in God’s creation and the list goes on.

I received a call from the caseworker following the hearing sooner than I expected and though there was no official ruling, steps are being taken to lessen the biological mothers visits and permanency is well on it’s way for K.

Later that evening, my Pastor called and said, “Well, did you get your miracle?” I had to think about it for a bit and then realized that I had. Though the court didn’t make an official ruling that day and officially K doesn’t have permanency yet, I realized that I had received my miracle. My miracle is accepting the fact that I received a miracle by letting go and letting God decide what is best in this case. My miracle is the peace I felt. Not every item on my miracle check list was checked off, but God knew exactly which ones to check off at this point. The miracle isn’t in the change in the situation, the miracle is in the change in me.

NOTE: Originally written 9-2-10 and I am pleased to say that K has received permanency and is a true blessing to our family!

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Today is her birthday!

Today is her birthday! Wow. She is 9 years old. She has grown into such a fun young lady. She loves tumbling, singing and laughs easily. She has great friends and good health. She is a blessing to all who know her. We celebrated her birthday a couple of days early with a party of 17 of her friends at the local youth center. I remember bringing her home from the hospital…twice. I met the caseworker at the court house parking lot to pick up my “wounded bird” with broken legs, one still in a pink cast, with a swollen eye and thin hair.  She had a sweet, gentle smile, but turned her eyes to the floor when a man entered the room.  We met her through foster care and last night when I tucked my 8 year old daughter in, her eyes filled with tears and she said what I knew she would say someday, “Why did she let me go?”  K’s birthday is May 11th which falls entirely too close to Mother’s Day.  A weekend full of memories of past love and trauma, of celebration and sorrow.  K loves her first Mom.  She was good to her.  She remembers how her Mom comforted her when she had been injured by the boyfriend who was in charge of watching her.  She remembers the cuddles, the sleeping in, the presents bought, the scrapbooks made.  She remembers all the love her Mom poured out on her, yet she remembers the dark garage that she was locked in, she remembers how he bounced her off the wall over and over, how he sat on her and she couldn’t breathe.

Yesterday in church the choir sang a song titled, “I’m adopted.” K thought for sure that I would tell the congregation afterwards that she was adopted.  “Oh honey, they all know you are adopted.” “How?” “Those people in those pews and other churches you’ve never even visited prayed for you for months. You touched everyone you met.” She sincerely did. She put a face to abuse, abuse of the bad boyfriend, abuse of the system who sent her back again, abuse of a Mom who refused to put her child first. So sad. When we met her we prayed for her, we prayed that God would place her exactly where He wanted her to be.  We had to trust. We still have to trust. We don’t have answers to her questions of why, we simply don’t know.  Why would a Mother pick an abusive boyfriend over a precious little blonde? Why would a judge send a chlid back into a home with with 3 indicated child abusers? Why did it take so long for parental rights to be terminated and an adoption to be final? We don’t know. We never will.

Today is her birthday.  I, too, have mixed emotions. This isn’t the plan I would’ve picked for her.  Mothers are supposed to love their daughters and put their safety above their own, but for someone reason, K’s couldn’t or didn’t.  It’s sad.  Yet, that Mother’s bad decision made this Mom’s heart even fuller. I had the honor of receiving a lettuce plant with a card saying, “Lettuce say thanks, Mom” for Mother’s Day.  I counted my blessings yesterday for the 5 children that God has entrusted me to raise. Two of my blessings have other mothers and pain that I can’t relate to.  Two of my children celebrate their birthdays without the stories of “how excited we were this day x number of years ago” or “I remember your teeny tiny toes.” That’s sad. And, the memories we all share about their first days are not happy ones.  There is no way to wax eloquent here.

Years ago when I was fostering an infant, I took her to the pediatrician for a check up.  When the doctor entered the room, he said, “Congratulations!!”  I quickly corrected him and said, “Oh, she’s not mine.”  He said, “You have the honor of caring for a beautiful baby girl, congratulations are in order.”  I’ve never forgotten his words or his sentiment.  It is an honor and a privilege.

Today is her birthday.  I think we’ll acknowledge her sad memories, maybe briefly, and attempt to move on to what is truly important in this 9 year old’s life.  Birthday cake with lots of icing, stories of the friend party on Saturday, choosing which new outfit to wear to school today and lots of singing.  I have the honor of caring for a beautiful “baby” girl, congratulations are in order!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding… –Proverbs 3:5

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Reactive Attachment Disorder – What is it?

My recent post,Reactive Attachment Disorder stinks! created some buzz among my readers.  Those who have a child with RAD, understood and probably felt some relief knowing that others are in the same boat.  Others, those who know my son personally, find it very hard to believe that life in my home is as difficult as it is sometimes.  He simply does not display these behaviors around others.  BUT, that doesn’t mean that it is not true.

I am the parent of a special needs child, however, my kids’ disability is the inability to receive love from his parents.  This makes treating this disorder extremely difficult.

While researching for a fact sheet or a tip sheet on Reactive Attachment Disorder, the shortest one I found was 3 pages in length.  Who wants to read that?  Even those of us in the trenches get bored with all of that, so it is my hope to share some information, the Cliff Notes of RAD – In a nutshell:

Paul has RAD which means that he did not develop an attachment with his primary caregiver early in life.  This lack of connection influences his physical, neurological, cognitive & psychological development. It produces ongoing feelings of rage, deep shame, a lack of trust and a fear of attaching to anyone. He has an inability to understand cause and effect and a compulsive need to control everyone and everything. He has difficulty regulating his emotions and his behavior.  His fear, rage & distrust is so bad that he may explode when a limit is set or a line is drawn.  He truly believes that he will die if he is not in control.  He was deeply hurt, afraid & lonely as he survived severe neglect.  He developed strategies to survive this time in his life and those strategies are to manipulate and control any situation he considers unsafe.  The battle for control is constant.

So, if I ask Paul to put his shoes on…he may feel out of control.  He doesn’t put his shoes on so that he can control that situation.  Even the smallest of things.  If asked to put his plate in the sink, he may put it beside the sink to remain in control.  If you don’t live it every day, you may not even notice the little ways in which he controls things.  Some subtle attempt to control can be interrupting, asking someone to repeat themselves even when he heard, mumbling, ignoring, fidgeting, refusing to put forth appropriate effort, & telling lies.  Children with RAD often maintain control by demonstrating learned helplessness.

You may never see Paul rage.  He’s not angry at you…he’s not even angry at us, but he is angry at the situation of neglect that he experienced and he will take it out on those who love him the most now. You may get the opportunity to see some of the other symptoms:  Lack of guilt or remorse, blames others, difficulty with cause and effect, stealing, lying, manipulative, lack of empathy, poor impulse control, overly friendly to strangers, mood swings, tantrums, refuses to do assignments or does them poorly, & has abnormal eating habits.

That said, I love Paul.  I knew I was meant to be his forever Mom after just a few weeks of knowing him.  I knew I could make a difference in his life.  We’ve come a long way…yet we have a long way to go.  Please keep us and all those who are parenting children with this confusing diagnosis in your thoughts & prayers.  We need them.  Thank you for understanding that this disorder just might be something you will never understand.

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The Final Count

Today I was cleaning out that drawer in the kitchen…you know the one…nail clippers, matches, pennies, cork screw, paper clips, chalk, buttons, receipts,stamps & bits of paper.  I came across a piece of paper with dates and tallies on it.  A very important piece of paper.  The final count was 1,220.  Hmmmm….I knew what it was & I knew what it meant, but I want to keep you guessing.  Those tallies could represent sleepless nights, tears, anxious moments, hugs, prayers, arguments, court appearances & good byes.   Or maybe I made a hash mark for every hello, broken promise, doctor appointment, parental visit, kiss, or court delay.  A tally for each book read, each butterfly kiss, each game of ring around the rosie?  It actually is a count of days that included all of those.  The final count was 1,220 days that my daughter spent in foster care.  She had been alive approximately 2,016 days on the day we adopted her.  There is something terribly wrong with a system that does this to children.  However, we are no longer making tallies….she’s been ours legally for about 1,581 days and counting. Though the journey began and ended in different places than we expected, we are so blessed that we get to be her forever family.  Together We Rise is an organization that frequently publishes pictures of kids & their final foster count.  I wish there was a way we could all work together to make those numbers smaller. My thoughts and prayers go with all foster families who are still keeping track!

http://togetherwerise.org

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Books & Bonding

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.”

— Kate DiCamillo

Today when the bus arrived Kaylee said she wanted to take the book with her to school.  No Way!  I am NOT letting her read on….  We are reading this book together and loving every minute of it.  It was tempting to not just finish the chapter while the bus pulled away, but I resisted.  It will be much more fun to finish the chapter when she returns.  As much as I love to read and as much as I want my kids to love reading, reading to them is still something that I have to be very intentional about. Sharing a book together and reading aloud doesn’t just happen, It takes two parties agreeing on the same activity at the same time.  However, it is definitely worth the effort.

A study once found that if you ask a kindergartener if they like to read books outside of school, 100% of the students will say they do.  But, if you ask a fourth grader that same question, only 54% agree.  What changes in that student?  By the time a child reaches fourth grade, they can read independently so instead of a parent grabbing a book and inviting the child to read with them, the parent hands a book to the child and tells them to go and enjoy it…..alone.  Reading stops being a shared activity and may become a chore.  Reading aloud to your children is the single most important contributing factor to their success in school in ALL subjects.

In addition to the academic benefits to reading aloud to your child, you will also find many other perks.  Any time spent with your child is an opportunity for bonding, but time spent reading is a guarantee for quality time.  While reading, you are focusing on your child and one book.  You can not multitask, you can not entertain other distractions.  This will show your child that reading is important and even better, time with them is important.

Reading together also gives you the opportunity for many discussions.  Characters in your book may or may not be like your child, you may or may not agree with their choices and you can discuss these things with your child in a non-threatening way.  What easier way to talk about a school bully than by reading a story about one?  You can then share your experiences and maybe how you would handle the situation differently than the character. Also, your child may open up to an experience they are currently going through.

I don’t like to fish so putting on my boots and heading to the pond with my son is not a way I want to spend my afternoon, but sitting on the couch under an afghan with a book about fishing is definitely something I’m willing to do.  Books allow us to experience activities, hobbies and interests with our children that would otherwise not occur.  I have no intentions of swimming with the sharks….but I can read about it!

Most parents know and recognize the importance of reading to children & do it naturally with their young ones, but I find that even the most attentive parents need a little nudge to keep reading aloud to their children as the children get older. Kids are never too old to be read to and they will begin to read to you too.  It happens often in my home…I read an article in the newspaper out loud, my son shares something he’s reading on his phone.  We DO read aloud to each other, we just need to be more intentional about it.

And, parents of adopted children have to make reading together even more of a priority in their homes.  Many adopted children come from less than stellar backgrounds.  The children may be behind academically and reading will help them improve their vocabulary and comprehension skills.  In addition to that, reading together is a non-threatening way to have a child sit on your lap or near to you and for a child to share stories & experiences and ask questions.  Sometimes it’s easier for a child to initiate conversation when their eyes are diverted to illustrations on a page.

I hope after you read this you will find a child and share a book with them.  I have to go now.  The bus will be here soon and I can’t wait to see how Mallory and Mary Ann will be able to keep their pinkie promise!

Mallory and Mary Ann Take New Yorkwww.LoveKidsLoveBooks.com

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