This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


"He’s only 11, has killed animals, violent to other children, and
runs away from home often. Melissa and Tony Wescott are afraid of
him. So afraid in fact, they are trying to change Oklahoma law, so they
can return him. He has tried to burn the house down, leaving a note which
said, >so sorry you had to die<. He has even hidden butcher knives under his mattress…. The Wescotts adopted the boy in 2007."

This is such a sad story, and causing a lot of debate in the adoption community. A lot of people are strongly against the family trying to return their son to the state. Unfortunately this situation is not uncommon. I admit I'm playing a bit of devil's advocate here.


Once the adoption is final this child is considered a biochild and the fact that the family is trying to dissolve that is causing a lot of anger. According to articles, the family insists that not being told in advance about his severe behavior issues justifies his return.

Yes, staying with the adoptive parents is first priority, but it's also not always possible or in the child's best interest. Some children are just not able to live in families. This is a severely disturbed child and if Oklahoma is anything like Texas there are no options for residential treatment or somewhere safe for him, unless you can pay out of pocket - the residential treatmentBear went to was $800/day and our private insurance only paid for 4 days. We were incredibly lucky that he was from a state that was willing to pay for it and his adoption was not final yet.

This family fear for their lives. They are afraid to take him home, while at the same time they are up against federal charges of abandonment if they don't. If they managed to get the diagnoses mentioned, then I'm assuming they have already had to fight and advocate for him - these are not easy diagnoses to get, and he definitely did not come with them.

This boy has probably not hit puberty yet. He has permanent brain damage. This family is fighting for his needs as well as their own.

My guess is that even if he were bio they would still be trying to find services for him, and failing.

Services just aren't out there, and parents aren't getting
the information and support they need.

I can't blame this family for trying to force the state to help them. At this point I would guess they are desperate. Many of my friends with severely disturbed children have been put in this horrible situation.

And how many people fight everyday to get post-adoption services and support and not get it?

Our family didn't qualify for post-adoption services because we adopted out of state. Even if we'd adopted TX kids, what our state offers is pitiful (no RTC for sure!). I'd bet this family tried that route like I did and got nowhere. Maybe this was the only way they saw to go forward or maybe this was just the way the press decided to twist it. They might also have decided to try a new angle (returning the child) since the other (forcing the state to provide adequate services)obviously doesn't work. I see this as a desperate way to get some help.

We have been able to access a lot of the services we need, but I know we're lucky. Most of our son's issues were from his undiagnosed/untreated bipolar disorder - we were able to get him diagnosed and properly medicated at an RTC while he was still technically a foster child. A lot of his issues were treatable by meds - he doesn't have FASD and isn't a psychopath (and hopefully will never become one). We feel very lucky.

I have a good friend who isn't so lucky. She adopted from another country (so no post adoptive services). Her son has issues that meds won't fix. She has no way to keep him or her family safe and couldn't afford the expensive RTC that does neurological testing that we used. She has had to basically give up all her parental rights to get him the services he needs, and she is lucky that was an option, although she doesn't feel lucky.

Many people criticize this family for not treating their son like a biokid.

How many people are fighting to get services for biokids too and not getting it? My kids biomom was already mentally ill and traumatized when she went into foster care at age 14, but she did not get the support or therapy she needed. Technically the state made her worse and perpetuated the cycle - does that make them responsible? In my opinion yes.

Biomom allowed her children to be victims of trauma and domestic violence (because of her own illness and trauma), but she also tried to get them help. My kids are mentally ill some of which was genetic, some caused by their traumatic childhoods. She was unable to get the services they needed.

I think everyone agrees the system is horribly broken. I'm assuming this family is just trying to find a way to cope. If this child were an adult we would not expect his family to take him in when he obviously tried to murder them, but the state says it's different because he's a child. If this child really were bio would we react the same way? He killed animals and tried to murder his family! I think this hit the media mostly because he is adopted.

Families, bio or not, are not given alternatives. Assuming you can even get them in, many programs are only a year long. Some programs decide to send a kid home if the child is "not participating" or they feel they "can't help" the child. For my RAD kids they didn't show the RAD behaviors in residential treatment or even much in foster care, because RAD, by definition, is against family and people who dare to try to love them. Kitty was described as the sweetest kid the caseworker had on her caseload. Always a smile and a hug. My daughter's school thinks I'm crazy because she's so sweet and quiet.

Is the state responsible because they lied about the boy's issues?

He was described as “respectful toward authority” and “makes friends easily.” The papers say he has no “significant behavioral problems which would be considered abnormal for a child his age.”

Did they lie? It's possible that even though the child was older (age 9) the state really didn't know he had RAD, especially if they moved him frequently (honeymoon periods with new families). When my children were diagnosed the caseworker and even their former therapist were shocked. Kitty was diagnosed as having "attachment issues" understandable considering her circumstances. I don't think they lied to me anyway. Did they lie to this family? I don't know.

How could any family give their child back?

Our whole family experienced PTSD from dealing with our son when he was at his most violent. If we hadn't been able to get him the help he needed to keep the family safe we would have had to "give him back." We didn't finalize the adoption for almost 2 years because we were lucky enough to see this coming before it was too late - otherwise we could not have afforded the help he needed.

There are still days when I think about sending him back. Days when the lying, stealing and intimidation get to me. The physical aggression has mostly stopped though so we will most likely do what a lot of other parents with kids with severe RAD and FASD do - wait until the child is 18 and we are no longer legally liable. We will not kick our son out, we will not have to he'll run.

So what can we do?

There are some places that are trying to fix the system. One that is close to my heart is Advocates for Children of Trauma. It's located here in TX and the founder is an amazing man who I am lucky to consider a friend. He has a child with severe RAD (among other issues). She's a biochild, but was raised by her drug addicted mother and he didn't know she existed until the damage was done. He is very aware of how broken the system is, and is working hard to fix it.

I don't know that I think there is an answer, but we can't stop trying. I would have said a college student donating $10K for an ambulance in Haiti was impossible. I would have said finding people to match that $10K in today's economy right before Christmas was impossible too, but we know that it isn't. What can people do when they put their mind to it? I have hope!

Anyway, I hope I'm not coming off as arguing with anyone. I know I'm obviously preaching to the choir. I just wanted a chance to talk about this as it is obviously close to my heart!


Corey said...

And MARY! Today we found out that ALL $60,000 has been raised!! Incredible!!

I don't know what to think about any of this, most days. I just try to keep swimming.. and encourage other Moms along the way.

Mom 4 Kids said...

Tag! I tagged you for a Happy 101 award! :-) I enjoy your blog and what you share here!

Kristina P. said...

Wow, what a tough situation.

He has all the markings of a sociopath and will probably kill someone if not hospitalized.

I work in a crisis setting where parents can bring their kids for short term crisis intervention. The longest they stay with us is two weeks. I can't tell you how many parents, both adoptive and bio, want to just give their kids to us.

I will say that I think that people who adopt kids from the State, who have severe disabilities, physical and mental, should be given more leeway and assistance. Most of the time, these parents take in kids who otherwise would languish in foster care. And I have discovered that it's very common for CWs to not disclose all mental health issues.

But I also have adoptive parents who have rose colored glasses, and then two weeks in, when their RAD kid starts acting up, freak out and don't want them anymore. Not OK.

Sad situation.

Anonymous said...

We were consulting with our lawyer about what we could do with my bio-son when he was 13 or so. I looked into programs, most probably would't have accepted him. At least I had his dad to kick him out to so I wouldn't have to worry about him bringing run-away cocaine dealers to the house anymore (when I also had a 2 year old). Of course, his dad did nothing to help my son deal with his emotions, trauma, issues, etc. But at least we were safe.

And of course it would have been nearly impossible to have a lessened burden with my disabled daughter before she turned 18. There are no institutions (the state school has almost nobody under 18).

Yeah, even bio-parents are supposed to figure it out, deal with it all entirely on their own.

And I found out that I couldn't have used the police to force my 21-year-old son out of my house after he confessed to stealing over $450 as he'd been "living" here for over a week. He has a right to stay here, but we don't have a right to protect ourselves and our possessions. WTF??!!

But back to the main story. A parallel is those who say one should never abort, even if the child will certainly be severely disabled. And then they don't fight for the rights of the parents to put that child in an institution. Child "lives", parents die. The only life that matters is the unborn one. As here, the only life that matters is the one that is the youngest, even if it is clear that the youngest is going to be a huge burden on the state one way or another.

It makes me want to create bumper stickers: Parents Have A Right To Life Too!

marythemom said...

"Parents Have A Right To Life Too!"

Oooh, I like that!

Don't want to get into politics or religion here, but I've always felt that people who protest abortions should be required to adopt children from foster care.