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, June 20, 2012

Trapped Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I don't even know where to start with discussing Kitty.  When last we "spoke" I was wondering whether or not we would be able to keep Kitty at home.  Basically we still don't know.

A lot of things have changed here at home.

Bob has gone to live with Grandma for the Summer.  I miss her soooo much, but it does seem to be better for Kitty to have her gone.  When Bob comes home on Friday nights and spends the day with us on Saturday, Kitty struggles with jealousy.  Bob has grown up a LOT and watching her interact with her little brother makes me want to cry.  They actually hug each other when they see each other and when they say good bye.  That may not sound like a big deal to you, but they've always been semi-antagonistic.

Ponito has a girlfriend, and it just makes you want to go "Aaawww!" every time they're together.  He still hasn't hit a puberty growth spurt (although he has 4! armpit hairs!) so he's just barely taller than this petite girl and when he puts his arms around her it's still cute (instead of sexual).  This girl is quiet and shy (and a year older and grade ahead of Ponito).  Her mom works, so she's got little to do during the day - so the kids are constantly arranging hanging out with each other.  On weekdays that's here.  On weekends and evenings, Ponito spends a lot of time doing stuff with her family (her mom watches them as well as I do!).  I've let him go hang out there a little more than I would like, simply because I have sympathy for him having to live with Kitty's irrational meltdowns.  His poor girlfriend has witnessed a lot of  tantrums and meltdowns, as Kitty has apparently decided that she doesn't need to keep it together in front of Ponito's friends.

Bear has decided that he's probably staying in Oklahoma, but it's still changing on a daily basis.  His 19th birthday is next month (the age of majority in Nebraska is 19 and our adoption agreement goes until then).  Wish we could have shown him that we're not kicking him out then, but he was too afraid we would, so he left first.  We'll always be here for him if he needs us, but he doesn't believe that and what we're willing to provide is limited by what we think is best for him and the family.  He did call Hubby for Father's Day.

Kitty has amped up the, "I'm leaving when I turn 18" comments, citing Bear as proof that she can (something we'd been worried about).  Since she doesn't graduate high school until months after she turns 19, we'll most definitely have to pursue legal guardianship when she turns 18.  She knows this is something we're looking into and is adamantly against it, but she is in denial as always.

I've already posted about our decision to let Kitty know that we're going to treat her like she's six.  She still hates the idea, but most of the time it's working.  It helps not to have Bob around to make the differences more obvious.  I'm not looking forward to how hard this is going to be when school starts again.

Hubby and I have definitely noticed that as the stress of school and peers lessens, it becomes more and more evident that she really is 6 in almost every way.  I wish we could think of a way to better parent her at this level.  She needs friends her own (emotional) age and not to feel she has to keep up with her siblings and friends.  We've tried to enable friendships with other adopted kids who are younger chronologically (tweens) and usually emotionally delayed too, and therefore closer to her emotional/social age, but it's hard for her to maintain friendships and they have their own issues and activities planned.

When she hangs out with Ponito and his tween friends she sounds exactly like a little sister wanting to do what the big boys are doing... whining and trying to get their attention.  That's how they react to her too, and I can't blame them.  Chronologically younger kids don't really like to hang out with her either, because she's not fun to play with - she doesn't have the same interests they do and at the same time she's not empathetic and focused on their wishes and needs like an average older child would be.

I worry about her with truly younger kids because she doesn't understand the differences.  She came home from being an aide at vacation bible school, talking about a shy little 4yo boy she'd befriended (when no one else could get him to engage) and was telling me how she felt like punching the other teens who were working with her, because they were taking pictures of him after he told them he didn't want his picture taken.  There was a lot more to it than that, but what worried me was that she didn't see that her reactions were not appropriate.  If someone hurts her (intentionally, accidentally or imagined), she will lash out without thought.  My biggest fear is that one day she will terrify or actually physically hurt a young child.

Kitty has been working as a preschool aide with Vacation Bible School and really likes it.  It runs for two weeks total and we're in the second week.  It's stressful for her, but she's handling it with relatively few meltdowns (and so far only one relapse of the double vision and dizziness).  I wish it went on all Summer.  I have a friend who owns a home daycare that has offered to let her help out a couple days a week, but Kitty hasn't been able to hold it together enough to start yet.  Will probably be easier after VBS is over.

This Summer I only have two kids most of the time, but it doesn't really feel like it.


About the same time I was dealing with the events that led to the temporary closing of my blog, Kitty's psychiatrist told us we had two choices. To move to another state with better health care (Texas ranks 50th! in the country for mental health services) or just put her back in foster care.  Not because foster care could provide better care, but because she was getting increasingly hard to handle at home and insurance doesn't cover long-term residential facilities.  They'll provide short-term residential treatment, but not long-term residential care.  Moving is just not an option I'm really willing to consider, and neither is abandoning her.

We've very clearly been told that if Kitty goes back into residential treatment she'll lose what little attachment she has left and therefore would never be able to return home.  Now that Kitty is 17, any residential treatment would technically be "short-term," because when she turns 18 she'd either have to come home or be dumped out on her own without a high school diploma, job skills or the ability to live independently.  Clearly neither option is what we want for her, and not really viable either.

I've spoken to her current psychiatrist to find out her agency's policy on recommending legal guardianship.  We ran into problems with this with the MHMR agency Bear's psychiatrist worked through. They were not willing to sign the guardianship paperwork for Bear.  It is even more obvious that Kitty needs it, but if this agency won't do it, then I want to know now while we can still switch back to the psychiatrist we went to 2 years ago.  (I know he'll do it because he's done it for a family friend's adult children).  We'd had to stop seeing him because we no longer had private insurance, but now we have the only kind he accepts again.

I'm also trying to look at long-term for after she graduates (if we can make it that long).  I'm assuming she'll need to be in a residential facility of some type - maybe a group home with other people with mental illness.  Since she's technically not developmentally delayed or intellectually disabled I haven't found a lot of alternatives.  The best option is to live with us or in a place of her own with us closely supervising, but I'm not sure she can allow that to work.

Currently, we've decided that our only option is partial day hospitalization or intensive outpatient services.  Our private insurance covers partial day hospitalization (unlike Medicaid) so I contacted the in-network programs. Unfortunately all of them have group therapy at the core of their program.  Kitty doesn't do well with group therapy for several reasons.  The main one being that other teenagers in the group are not her peers.

  • A teens normal developmental stage is to be working toward independence, which Kitty's attachment issues mimic.  Other teens provide validation and reinforcement of Kitty's maladaptive behaviors and issues.
  • She doesn't have the insight that they do and is not able to process and reason as quickly.  Nor is she able to accept her differences.
  • She is socially and emotionally much less mature so reacts differently. 

We've found a company that provides intensive outpatient services that is willing to tailor them to her needs, but of course they are out of network for our insurance and don't accept Traditional Medicaid (although they do take other kinds of Medicaid).  Our out of network deductible is almost $2K and after that they'll only pay something like 50% of the costs.  We can't afford that.  If we can't find an option that works I don't know what we'll do.

For now she's continuing with weekly attachment/somatic therapy and starting equine therapy.  We wanted to start her in a group rhythmic riding class, but our private insurance doesn't cover it and Medicaid is notorious about not paying so they aren't willing to take her unless we pay up front for the whole Summer.  Even if we could afford that, if she ends up in the hospital or other treatment (or pitches a fit and doesn't want to go), then we'd still have had to pay for the sessions missed.

While in Nebraska, we arranged a last minute meeting with our adoption caseworker and post-adoption services.  We didn't go in knowing what we wanted.  We just figured it was a chance to meet face to face and brainstorm options.  They pretty much agreed we're stuck between a rock and a hard place.  It was mostly a wasted trip.  *sigh*

If I could just come up with a plan, then I'm sure we could make it work.  I feel like I'm trapped without any choices and the avalanche is coming so we can't just stick with status quo for long.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Bear graduated high school!!  It was a Saturday evening ceremony and there were 700+ graduates in his senior class so we had to get a picture of him crossing the stage on the big screen hanging down from the middle of the auditorium.  We didn't find him for over an hour after the ceremony and he'd already stashed the cap and gown so we only got the one fuzzy picture.  We managed to get a few pictures of him with the family in the parking lot, but they're pretty bad.

We met the latest Kleenex girl.  Bob overheard him hinting that he was going to ask her to marry him, but we've heard nothing from him on that (not that that means much since he doesn't talk to us much these days).

He did ask if he could go with us the following morning on our first trip back to Nebraska since the kids came to live with us, but we had to tell him no.  First of all, we haven't seen him enough to know if he's stable, but were pretty sure he is not,   Second of all it would be a BAD idea to put him in a car with Kitty for 14+ hours.  We weren't even sure it was going to work as it was.  Also, he'd told us he planned to go up there in a couple of weeks on the bus.

We went to Nebraska for a week!  Nebraska is the state we adopted from and we used to go visit Hubby's family there once or twice a year.  And of course we'd told the kids we'd go visit their biofamily when we visited Hubby's family.  Immediately after we adopted the kids we bought a company which we ran together (although I was President so I was Hubby's boss!  ;) ).  Within a year of the purchase the recession hit and we've spent the last 5 years struggling to make ends meet.  After the company went under, Hubby had been doing contract work so he couldn't take any time off without losing a paycheck.  Luckily in April the big company he'd been doing contract work for, hired him away from the contractor service company as a... contractor.  Yea doesn't make sense to me either, BUT although he gets a smaller paycheck now he gets benefits, including paid time off!!  So we took our first family vacation in 5 years to... NEBRASKA!

For future reference, if you're planning on making a long trip with a kid like Kitty... pack a TON of DVDs!!!  We brought every movie we had, bought new ones and borrowed from a friend.  Each kid got their own DVD player with head phones (Bob and Ponito used laptops with a power converter and we had a portable DVD player for Kitty -she chose it because it made her feel special to have something different).  We spent 40 hours in the car on the way there and back, plus a week in Nebraska.

The first night in Nebraska we stayed in a hotel so we could meet with Kitty's biograndmother and her husband in the morning on Memorial Day.  We had breakfast with them and showed her pictures of the kids.  I knew the visit could be overwhelming for Kitty (and we thought an Aunt and her kids might be coming) so we'd arranged to meet at a hotel with a pool.  Kitty got to swim with Ponito and hang out with her grandparents without having to do too much face to face stuff.

Grandma K is a pretty negative person and it was a little hard to hang out with her.  She did call Kitty down on a couple of her comments and behaviors, but it wasn't too bad, and luckily Kitty didn't get upset.  Amazingly Kitty took the visit really well.  We had lunch with the Grandparents and then drove on to meet Hubby's family.

Kitty isolated most of the trip (spending time in a bedroom watching DVDs), except when she was hanging out with our 17yo niece.  I was a little nervous about that (this is the niece that had a baby a few months ago and had it taken by Child Protective Services),  but the girls got along well.  They're only 3 months apart in age chronologically, but this niece is emotionally only about 10 and has broken up with the baby's daddy. We even talked about the niece spending part of the Summer with us, but she had a court date she couldn't miss.

Grandma B doesn't have internet so I went into massive internet withdrawals.  Even worse, when I got home, my computer died so I spent another week with very little internet access.  OH DID I MISS MY INTERNET!!!!

Tuesday we got a call from Bear saying he'd decided to take a bus immediately to Oklahoma to visit his biograndfather, but the check we'd given him for graduation wasn't clearing the bank.  I told him there was nothing I could do from 3 states away.

I got a worried call from the neighbor we had feeding the pets saying Bear was sitting on the back porch using the outlets and wifi connection.  My guess is that he'd run out of people to mooch off of, and we weren't home to let him in.  We apologized to the neighbor for putting her in the middle, but asked her not to let him in.  He's been known to get in and unlock doors/windows so he can come back later and we did NOT want that to happen.

Apparently the check cleared Wednesday, because we got a call at 4pm on Wednesday from Bear saying he was leaving on a bus in an hour. *sigh*  He couldn't even wait until we got back.  He said it was just a visit and he'd be home in a couple of weeks, but we recently got a call admitting he'd decided to move there and could we please mail him all his stuff?

A friend of the family admitted about a week later when I called to say hi, that she was the one to take him to the bus station.  I didn't mind her taking him, but it bothered me that she hadn't even given me a heads up (until I mentioned it).  This friend has special needs kids of her own that she has legal guardianship of, has her own trauma history, and has been a great resource and source of support over the years, but her kids are bio and she doesn't "get" the RAD/ trauma stuff.  She's made overtures to Kitty about being a person Kitty can call if she's upset.  I think I'm going to stop that relationship, because I can't be sure she'll back me up in a productive way.

There's a lot going on with Kitty, but I'll leave that for another post.  This one's too long already.

Biomom response

The following is Biomom's response to my letter regarding my discovery that someone from her hometown had begun reading and commenting on the blog around the same time Bear found the blog.  A lot of people recommended I not send the letter in the first place, but I do have a relationship with Biomom that I want to maintain and I hoped she would have some influence with Bear regarding accepting what he'd read in the blog.

First, I would like to say, I am not the one that responded to the blogs, I have been reading the blogs for many years {*EEK!*) and I have never responded, because I enjoyed reading them, this is way my way of watching  the kids and their progress.  I never told you because, I didn't want you to do what you did, block me from reading them.
However, Mary I must admit there are many things in your blogs that have bothered me for years!
For instance, I know that you could never love the children like I do, they are a part of me,my love is unconditional, just like yours for your two children is unconditional,  but when I read on there that you can not stand the kids, that hurt, I trust you with the kids. I wanted them to have a better life!  Clearly, you also, have many issues that need to be dealt with, how can you have such mental illnesses and be able to take care of the kids?  In order to help them, you have to help yourself.
Second of all I know you have supposedly never bashed me in front of the children!  However, on your blogs, you have said many things about me that IS NOT true.
I recently read in one of your blogs that Kitty has melt downs when it came to cleaning, she has always been that way!  My house was always cleaned, and if I was a "welfare" mom how did I afford to go buy new clothes instead of doing laundry.  {This was in reference to a post from last year in which I mentioned my kids birthmom when responding to a hateful video about welfare moms.  It was not based on facts, and I've apologized and included a note to that effect on the post.)
I was NEVER on drugs with my children!!! There has been many blogs where YOU suspected that Kitty has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, I never DRANK when I was pregnant with my children.
I have noticed in your blogs, how you try to make me sound like I am a person who would be a typical person who gives up their children.  But let me tell you something, the State of Nebraska Sucks!!!!!! I had fought with the children for many years with their behaviors, and I know you believe I gave up on them but the deal was this!  And I am not telling stories to make my self look good, and I know you think I am full of crap but, when it comes to these kids, I do not tell stories.
We had the caseworker,  family support, counseling, and a guardian en lit em in our home, my kids were a safety issue to the other kids, and I WAS TOLD THAT IF I DIDN'T DO SOMETHING DRASTIC THEY WAS GOING TO TAKE ALL FOUR OF THEM. My decision to let them go was based on that, I was afraid of losing all of my children and that would have devastated me, could you imagine losing everything in your life that you ever cared about?
As far as the issues with my friend J, the night that she supposedly slapped Kitty in the face, it was about midnight, we was outside, I was not with my husband we was separated, Kitty was upset and started screaming as loud as she could, all J did was grab her face and told her to stop yelling she was going to wake the neighbors!  What you don't understand is that the kids controlled a big part of my life, pretty much like they are doing to you!  They are very manipulative and want everyone to feel sorry for them. They have not been held accountable for their actions!  Yes, bad things happened to the kids, but some of the things that they believe happened never did!
I understand how hard dealing with the issues these children have, and I feel sorry for you but EVERYTHING you are dealing with are the same things I dealt with, as far as reading your blogs, I noticed that they put you through the same things they did to me!
Yes, I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, however, with borderline personality disorder, it was explained to me different, people with this disorder, tend to push people away, and then pull them back in, they have many trust issues, and have terrible relationship issues.
There are many other things that I have read that I have had issues with, and I have been very hurt because YOU don't know me!!! Only based on what the state told you or what the kids believe!!!
I am not saying that I gave the children because of their behaviors, I am saying, I did what I thought was best for all of us.  I see now, after I visited with Bear when we came to Texas, that he still has a problem with the word NO, and with Kitty, I understand that she has issues with J, but she handled herself very well with the visit!
Before a person jumps to conclusions, maybe they should get all the facts straight, like you said the kids have a black and white thinking, they don't remember things happening the same way they actually happened.
So please before you post this email on your blog, please don't delete anything out of it, because what I have told you is true and my feelings are, yes, I gave up my children because I had no other choice, I was going to lose all four of them, and because the state of Nebraska sucks!!!
So now I know you think I am full of crap, but I do love the kids and want them to do well, and if you think that dissolving the adoption would be best for you and your family, I completely understand!  Bear is old enough to be on his own, and even though he is failing at many things, when I was 18, I was on my own, and this is how you learn your mistakes and take from that what you can and move on.  NO ONE IN THIS WORLD IS PERFECT, WE ALL HAVE TO LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES, EVEN IF IT IS THE HARD WAY!!! Sometimes us being parents, have to let go and let them learn.  For example, a baby bird doesn't know how to fly, but when it is ready the mother bird will push it out of the nest, sometimes, they make it and sometimes they don't.  That is why when we push our kids out of the nest, we have to be there for them, and pick them up and let them know we love them no matter what. 

Once I recovered from the shock of finding out that biomom had been reading my blogs for years, I sent the following response:

Dear Biomom,
The anonymous commenter was from your hometown  and appeared to start reading and commenting about the time Bear got upset about the blog, so I assumed it was you.
I have not blocked you from reading the blog.  I just stopped blogging and shut the blog down.  It’s been coming a long time – it’s been getting hard to keep up the blog and other stuff, plus I’ve been posting from a more and more negative place, because the kids are in a more and more negative place.  Honestly, now that I’m over the shock that you’ve been reading all this time, I’m tempted to start blogging again (after going back and removing pictures and some of the things I think could be harmful to the kids), but the anonymous commenter makes me nervous.  The person who commented went straight to the blog (not from Google search or something).
My blog was always a place for me to vent, and provide information to other parents in similar situations.  Sometimes I wrote things I didn’t really mean because I was upset at the time, and sometimes there were things I didn’t blog about for lots of reasons.  I’ve tried to be as open and honest as I can be, because so many adoptive parents are going through the same things and need to know they are not alone.  Anyone who tells you their family life is all happy and healthy all the time, especially those with seriously mentally ill children, is LYING.
Yes, I deal with my own mental illness (mild bipolar and recently diagnosed attachment disorder), but that does not make me a bad parent, in fact I think it makes me a better parent for Bear and Kitty.  I know it’s hard sometimes for others, even my husband, to understand why they act the way they do and be empathetic.   Obviously the kids’ issues have brought up things for me over the years, and I have been in therapy and taken medication as needed to deal with them.  Like everyone else, stress makes things harder for me.  You also know that I was only recently diagnosed with the attachment disorder, although it explains a lot, and am therefore still working on coping with how it effects me as a parent.  This is a tough life as I’m sure you know, and even the strongest parents struggle.
I do not think you are “full of crap.”  From the beginning, I’ve always known you walked a hard path, and I’ve always been empathetic about you giving the kids up, even if it’s not something I’ve taken the time to write on my blog.   I know that even with all the support I’ve had, we’ve come close to not being able to keep everyone safe.   I knew it would have been even harder in your situation with 4 kids and no husband or family support.  No one ever told me that you had been told that you could have lost all 4 kids, but since we had the same worry once, I can see that.  It explains a lot.
Of course I have made some assumptions about you over the years.  A lot of my assumptions have developed as I learn more about the kids’ issues.  You’ve been reading my blog, so you know Reactive Attachment Disorder has to start before they are age 3. There has been lots of documentation that you were treated for cocaine and meth addiction in 1997, and I’ve seen other documentation stating that you had been doing drugs since you were 18.  It’s a reasonable assumption that someone addicted to drugs is drinking too, although the kids’ symptoms could be explained by prenatal drug use too (even doing drugs or drinking once while pregnant could seriously affect the part of the baby that is developing at that time).  The info I’ve received over the years has come from Nebraska and the kids, but also other sources.  I try to keep an open mind, but you have to admit that some of my assumptions are the most logical explanation.
I will say that now that I know you’ve been reading my blog, your request that I take care of your other kids if something happened to you makes a LOT more sense.  It seemed a really strange request to make of someone you knew so little about, and I have to say it negatively influenced my opinion of your mental health.
The “welfare mom” comment was uncalled for, and I apologize.  I never believed you were on welfare.  It’s been so many years since I’ve read any of the paperwork, combined with years of listening to other people talk about the birthparents of their children had caused me to get sloppy in what I said.  That particular comment was merely meant to make a point to conservative, judgmental people who are wanting to cut desperately needed services because a few people (like the woman in the video) are abusing the system.
I will admit I do not love Bear, with the unconditional love of a mother.  I tried and tried for years.  He would not/ could not let me love him.  He did everything he could to push me away.  I will admit that any warm, fuzzy feelings I tried to maintain and develop based on empathy for the abused, little boy I know he still is, have been systematically destroyed by him, and that his constant rejection has probably triggered my own attachment/abandonment issues from my childhood.  There was a time when I thought we were finally making progress (he was about 15), but something happened and he pulled back again.  I’ve always wondered if we’d been able to separate him from the birth family like we did with Kitty if he’d have been able to bond with us like she did.  I know his age, the loyalty issues, and repeated rejections (mostly on Biodad’s part) made that pretty much impossible for him.
I wish you could have seen him when he was on meds and living at home.  He’ll always have issues, but watching him spiral down these last few months has been horrible.  I may not love him like a mother loves her child, but I do have a deep, committed love for him, and will always be here for him.
I don’t know what we’re going to do about Kitty.  I got even more negative news from her psychiatrist Thursday {back when all this occurred}, that I have not had time to process yet (I’m just getting over stomach flu).  We won’t be putting her back in foster care, despite the psychiatrist’s recommendations, but I don’t know what our options are going to be.
When all of this first started with Bear finding the blog, I was devastated.  It was one more thing on top of a very tough list.  It took a nasty case of stomach flu, and a few God-placed friends and information to help me make the decision to see this as a positive thing.  I have decided that I’m going to be making some positive changes in my perspective, and I’m going to figure out how to get Kitty what she needs and what the family needs.  I’ll need lots of support in this, but I have that.
I’m sorry if anything I’ve unknowingly said over the years has hurt you.  I’d like to fix this, and have a better relationship with you.
I’m going to leave it up to you if you want me to stop blogging, make my blog private with you invited to belong, or are you OK with me leaving it public?  I’ve also considered removing ALL private information and just leaving up the educational information.  It’s up to you.   I think a positive, open relationship with a birthparent isn’t something people get to experience a lot, and I’d like to share it (without sharing your private information of course), but that’s up to you.  If it’s OK with you, then I’m going to leave anonymous comments open on my blog and I want you to feel free to chime in anytime you want to or you can just e-mail me.  If I do open up the blog, I’d be happy to post your replies just as they are.
Happy Mother’s Day,

So after more e-mails back and forth with biomom and my support network, and some time to recover and edit my blog (mostly just removing 4 years worth of pictures!).  I've decided to blog again.  Probably won't be as often (I know you're all asking how that's possible!), but I get too much out of it.  I need you guys!