I’m not sure why I’ve always planned to adopt. I have a step-sister who was adopted as an infant, but I doubt that’s it. More likely it’s that my mother taught us to care about others, often to the detriment of herself. We were taught to always be selfless and rescue and help others. That might be one reason why I got my bachelors in psychology with a focus on child abuse and neglect. Then I got a masters in social work with a focus on mental health. I burned out of social work pretty quickly, but not until after I’d worked with children at the Center for Battered Women, a residential treatment center, The Autism Center, Communities in School (briefly), doing foster care home studies and worked with mentally ill adults as well. I knew I wanted to adopt special needs children, especially sibling groups because we felt they had the biggest need. I knew it would be hard, but thought I had the experience needed. I thought I knew what I was getting in to.
We’d thought for years that we’d end up with custody of our nieces and nephew who had been in and out of Nebraska foster care due to their mother having a long history of issues with drug and alcohol abuse and abusive men. When that didn’t happen we decided to adopt from foster care. We took Pride training when our children were 1 ½ and almost 4. We were turned down by the TX caseworkers because our biochildren were so young. We tried again when our children were 7 and 9. We went through training with a private Christian agency this time. We had found a sibling pair on TARE (Texas Adoption Resource Exchange) that were 6 months to 1 year younger than each of our children and pushed through getting our license as quickly as possible. The children were removed from the TARE website 3 days before we got our license (they’ve since been returned, but now are to be adopted separately – they’ve been on the site 4 years now. Deja and Zachary.). We did not find a good match on TARE.
We found children on AdoptUSkids.org. We chose to adopt out of birth order (our bio children were 7 and 10 and this sibling pair were 11 and 13). The children came to us with many issues that we were made aware of, but they also came with many more that we weren’t. No one, not the children’s Nebraska therapist and caseworker or anyone in our TX agency who were contracted to provide the children’s case management had ever even mentioned or apparently heard of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). When the children’s rages quickly became violent no one had any suggestions or could offer any help. All we received was reprimands and treatment like suspected criminals.
Our 13 year old son was kicked out of school on his 3rd day for threatening to throw another 7th grader out of a second story window, cussing out a teacher and threatening the vice principal. He was constantly threatening to run away, commit suicide, intimidating and scaring the family, property damage, lying, stealing, manipulating and pitting adults against each other, within a month he began physically attacking my husband (the first time the police were called by a neighbor but we decided not to press charges so he stayed. After that we usually managed to keep him from drawing blood so the police wouldn’t take him even if we asked). Within 6 months we had to place him in residential treatment for the safety of himself and our family. While we were waiting for an open bed though he had many more rages. We were told by the agency to just try to “keep him from escalating.” Our son was already 5’9” and 200+lbs. He escalated anytime he was told “No.” We were being asked to do an impossible task and felt abandoned and betrayed. We were ready to disrupt the adoption process and send him back to foster care in Nebraska because we were afraid we would lose all 4 of our children when (not if) something went wrong.
When our son received a minor injury during one of these rages our adoption agency contacted child protective services. The agency decided to remove both children during the investigation. Luckily for us the Nebraska caseworker was able to demand and push for resolution (the TX agency was unwilling to do this because TxDFPRS -Texas Department of Family Protective and Regulatory Services, was their licensing agency). Our daughter was currently in attachment therapy trying to help her foster some sort of bond with us. The bio mother put both children in foster care because they were “out of control,” then she terminated parental rights. Our daughter was terrified because this felt like the pattern was repeating. The children were returned within a week, but this was especially traumatic for our daughter. Our son ran away while in respite and exhibited many scary behaviors that upset the respite providers. We were told we needed to pay for the respite care. This is still a mark on my husband’s record because the charges were not dismissed as they should have been, but were “unable to determine.”
Luckily at this point his adoption was not final so this treatment was paid for by Nebraska (TX Medicaid does not cover residential treatment – especially not at Meridell Achievement Center which provided the neurological assessments he needed while keeping him safe – something we were assured he would not be at The Oaks Treatment Center). He was there 6 months, and we discovered he was bipolar, ADD and confirmed the diagnosis of RAD. He was placed on a medication cocktail that helped him. He was finally safe to come home. He still lies, manipulates, steals, and intimidates others to get his way, but is no longer violent. We were glad we finally felt safe to finalize his adoption last year, particularly because we were no longer fearing ambush and condemnation as we tried to cope with our son’s behaviors.
Our daughter’s issues were more subtle, but equally devastating. She raged, threatened suicide, threatened to run away, physically attacked others (including leaving scars from bite marks and fingernail claw marks on myself, my biodaughter and our attachment therapist). Most of the family suffer from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She has been in and out of psychiatric hospitalization many times this year. Shoal Creek psychiatric hospital stays offered little help. TX Medicaid would not pay for partial day hospitalization or residential treatment, but luckily our private insurance did for short periods of time. Our daughter was not actively suicidal or homicidal. Most of her anger and rages are directed at the family and not at school so others rarely see them. Does this mean she didn’t need residential treatment? Even the treatment center did not agree with that. They kept her for another week at their own expense, finishing neuropsychological testing we couldn’t get anywhere else and helping as much as they could, but they are a for profit facility and they couldn’t do that for long. It was written into our adoption subsidy that Nebraska would pay for residential treatment (a post-adoption service offered if we lived in Nebraska) if we could not access funds, but they reneged.
At age 14 and 16, both of our children still require behavior programs in school and direct supervision after school by people capable of working with emotionally disturbed teens. We spend many hours each day coping with their special needs (verifying everything they say; protecting the other children; taking them to therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, specialists… many of whom do not take TX Medicaid); watching them after school; attending school meetings like ARDS - this is what Tx calls IEP meetings….). I had to quit my job because they could not accommodate me leaving when my son was kicked out of school, all the appointments, suicide watches, and dealing with my lack of sleep from my insomnia caused by stress.
Because our children were adopted out of state we do not qualify for any post adoption services such as respite. We search for support in as many places as we can find. There is not a lot of help out there for children adopted as teens after spending years in foster care. There are few treatments for children with our children’s diagnoses, particularly because they have such a multitude of them. Most of the specialists we use (such as our pediatric psychiatrist we see every 2-3 weeks) will not take Medicaid, but there are no effective alternatives so we must pay out of pocket. The psychiatrist is $95 for 15 minutes of med management. When we had private insurance we paid a $25 co-pay weekly for therapists (both children and often family therapy). We no longer have private insurance so must find new therapists that take Medicaid and are willing and able to work with older teens with the many diagnoses that my children have.
I now take an anti-depressant, a mood stabilizer and sleeping pills to get through the day and night. The biochildren receive almost none of their parents’ time and attention. Our marriage is suffering because of the stress. We now own our own business and a major reason it is suffering is because I can focus on little but the children’s needs.
Mom to biokids son(10) and daughter(13)
Sibling pair adoptive placement from NE foster care 11/06
Finally finalized on daughter(14) on 3/08 - 2 weeks before her 13th birthday!
RAD, C-PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, ODD, ADHD, learning disorders, cerebral dysrhythmia
Finalized on her bio half-brother (16) on 7/08. He turned 15 the next day.
RAD, C-PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, ADD, cerebral dysrhythmia
" Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."