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 11, 2014

Dear Anonymous,

Anonymous - Yes, $650/mo is a lot of money.  Let me ask your advice, since you obviously know so much about this.  If she's on SSI and living with us, what should be done with the SSI money?  Should she just be handed the full amount as it comes in, to spend any way she wants?  

If she somehow manages to save some money (entirely possible with such a large amount of cash and no major bills), should we just allow her to lose her SSI (not being able to have +$2K in assets)?   Should I force her to move to an apartment, knowing that she doesn't yet have all the independent living skills she needs to live on her own?  If she doesn't pay her rent or bills, and gets evicted what are my moral obligations?  If she takes her medication incorrectly or not at all, do I need to do more than call an ambulance when she becomes psychotic or suicidal?  If she can't get insurance in the other state, should I pay the $1800/mo for her medications?  What about a psychiatrist?  therapist? food?  $500+ cell phone? plane ticket home?


As for the FAIR Club, what I said was that it does not work well for Kitty and Bear (versus your statement that it doesn't work at all).  Neither do timeouts, grounding, sticker/level charts, “tough love,” taking away their allowance, taking away their cell phones... some of this is because these are not the right discipline for a kid their physical and/or emotional age, (I'm assuming you are not recommending timeouts for either one of them), and some is because these methods don't work for kids with their issues.  Obviously these techniques work for other kids (sometimes).  We've adapted the FAIR Club for Kitty and Bear.  Just like we adapted it for Ponito at age 7 versus Bob at age 12. We used this method for as long as it was needed for Bob and Ponito.  It worked pretty well.

The FAIR Club is not designed for really young kids, so it did not work for Kitty and Bear who were only physically 11 and 13 - emotionally they were MUCH younger.  Then we discovered that the structure and support of being in the FAIR Club really worked for them, but calling it the FAIR Club triggered Kitty.  So they live in the FAIR Club - we just stopped calling it that.  Recently I felt I had no other consequence options and tried the Adult FAIR Club.  It had mixed results.  Couldn't hurt to try.

I've always advised people reading my blog, or any other book, technique, method, to use what they need, and leave the rest. Obviously this applies to the FAIR Club too.


So again, what do you suggest?  Obviously you know what I should be doing.  Or maybe you feel that I shouldn't be doing anything?  Possibly you think that my kids are adults and no longer need the structure and support that we provided (or maybe you think they never did need it).  Maybe you think they aren’t really mentally ill, that they have no brain injuries, that there is no trauma, that they’re perfectly normal kids, and therefore the way I treat them is abusive?  If that’s the case then, yes, if my kids are totally normal then the therapeutic parenting and extensive structure that we’ve provided is not at all appropriate.  Treating them differently than the non-mentally ill, neurotypical children in the home would be extremely unfair and pretty awful.

Maybe you believe that their issues are all because I'm a bad parent?  I’ve been accused of this before while Bear was in residential treatment finally getting properly diagnosed and medicated.  He’d been with us only 6 months, raging most of the time until the psychiatrist decided to chemically restrain him while we waited for a bed to open up in RTC.  Bear somehow convinced his therapist that he was there because I “hugged him too much.”  He was already 14, but maybe during those brief 6 months I’d known him I broke him.

Under this assumption, then in the 4 years that Bear lived with us (I'm not counting those 1st 6 months when he was not properly diagnosed or medicated, and the 6 months he was in residential treatment), obviously I broke him...    
                                                                                ...nope, sorry, I'm not taking the blame for the years of trauma, attachment disorder, brain injury and mental illness that occurred long before my I met him, which have led to my child's intense need for structure and support.


You say Kitty "doesn't love me" because I “treat her like a prisoner” and “play favorites”, and not because of her mental illnesses, trauma, brain injury and severe attachment disorder, which causes permanent brain damage.  I’d love to know where you got your psychiatric degree that allows you to determine that Kitty’s well-documented diagnoses are all in MY head.  Honestly, I do understand your problems with this, because no one who doesn’t live this life is able to comprehend what it’s like.  You are not alone in your inability to understand the full scope of how Kitty’s unique, interacting combination of issues effect her.  Many of Kitty’s teachers and people on her “team, ” try to put Kitty into a box that fits their experience (maybe they have personal experience with bipolar disorder or have worked with a suicidal child or one who is intellectually disabled), but they don’t understand how Kitty’s many diagnoses and trauma interact (or assume she should be “over it” and since she’s obviously not “over it” – they assume there must be some more recent trauma which Kitty is only too happy to provide – through the lens of her distorted perception of reality).

More importantly, Kitty does love me.  Like most kids, she gets mad at me and she’s been known to say she hates me, but pretty soon after she "flips a switch" and is all loving again.  Again, believe what you want, but this is not about me or my parenting techniques, this is about her well-documented mental illnesses and trauma issues.


Yes, I treat all my kids differently from each other (adopted and bio).  They are different individuals with very different needs.  I remember as a teenager feeling that my mom loved my sister more than she did me... and my sister felt the same way.  Most kids feel they are being treated differently than everyone else. It sucks to be different and have issues. Kitty wants to be like everyone else, so she fabricates reasons to deny our credibility.

We do the best we can to keep from damaging Kitty’s self-esteem and help her feel our love.  Unfortunately her RAD and Borderline Personality Disorder don't allow her to see it all of the time.


I'm curious.  Why do you believe so strongly that I'm a bad parent out to hurt my child?  Is your perception colored by your own experience?  Honestly, you've made some really big leaps here if you're basing your opinion on the limited information that I choose to share here.  You've obviously been reading this blog for awhile so you know my daughter is seriously mentally ill and has other major issues, why would you assume this is about me?  Why would you assume this is about money, or loving my biokids more, or wanting to be a warden?  Have I seriously given you reason to believe this is who I am?  I’m not perfect, but neither am I a greedy, child abusing, sadist.

You say I’ve failed my child.  All I have left to say is who are you to judge me?


Anonymous said...

Mary, I'm only one of your Anonymous readers. I think if you go into your settings (?), you can see the IP address locations. I'll reply to the questions that I wrote:

1) $650 is a lot of money for what you're offering, even at face value. Add in the "strings attached," and it's a downright bad deal for any adult. If you wanted to control her finances as an adult (or even help manage), you should have pursued the option of guardianship. But you didn't, so I think your "moral obligation," AND legal obligation, is to back off and let Kitty spend her money as she sees fit. Sure, you can advise and draft budget ideas, but you can not control this anymore. Let it go. All of the $$$ questions are moot. Let it go.

FAIR Club is unfair and unethical to impose on a tenant. A dependent, yes. A tenant, no. I've had lots to say from early-on, about tenant vs dependent. You blurred those lines and want it both ways. If you read through your contract, take a step back and ask yourself if you were moving into a new place, if you would've agreed to all of these stipulations from a LANDLORD. It's absurd. Any sound person would laugh at this landlord and keep looking. But because she's your disabled adult child, you thought it would be "best" to define your house rules in this way. It's not the way contracts work, and it's not a "moral" way to bend your child to your rules. I don't think you're a bad mom. I do think you are struggling to accept her as a sovereign adult.

I haven't weighed in on Kitty's departure at all. Not have I thought you've intended to be cruel in becoming her "Landlord With Strings Attached." It's possible Kitty would've left, anyways, but what I'm saying: it's okay. It's okay for her to make her own decisions, even bad ones. She's an adult, albeit a disabled one. If you don't think she can handle these (or other) decisions, then take over legal guardianship. Declare her incompetent. Use the court system as it was intended, not as you want to manipulate it with bizarre landlord contracts. Either take legal control of Kitty, or let it go! You may find stress relief in just letting it go, Zen-style, and providing nothing but love and acceptance.

Ranger said...

I wonder whether Anonymous is the same Anonymous who recently enjoyed slamming another mother of a traumatised child on her blog repeatedly (very similar posts) until it became apparent that no patient explanation or reasoning was going to deter them from their enjoyment of criticising every single aspect of that parent and every decision they made on principle.

If so, unfortunately the solution was a block button.

Anonymous said...

I didn't write the comments you're responding to, but I say to the person who did, you can't judge Mary unless you've walked a mile, if not a lot more, in her shoes. I admit I don't always get her style of parenting, but I can tell from her blog that she does love her kids equally, that she is doing her best for them, and that she will stick it out until the end with them. I think it's fully reasonable to have Kitty pay rent, for all the reasons she stated in an earlier post. At least she is letting her keep some of the money for herself, not taking all of it. If she were a money-hungry mother, she'd've surely taken every penny from her. But she's not.
Mary, keep doing what you're doing. I, at least, know you're doing your best.

marythemom said...

Not That Anonymous - Thank you.

Heather said...

Marythemom - You are in such a tough spot, and I know you are doing what you can to keep Kitty safe. I know her departure to biomom has to be so hard to watch. I know I fear that I will be watching the same departure and the same crash-and-burn in a few years. Hugs!!!

Having a child dealing with these trauma/attachment/mental health issues is so challenging, and we all do the best we can to keep our kids safe while letting them test their wings as they reach adulthood. My daughter is so much like Kitty, and will also need things spelled out for her in black and white in order to understand it. The fact is that there will be consequences for poor choices, whether she is at home or in another setting. The problem is that she doesn't perceive the long term effects of her decisions, so the more abstract consequences that will arise from poor choices out in the "real" world - annoyed roommates, lost credit, lost credibility, lost jobs, lost friendships, difficulty finding another job/home, etc. - will be lost on her, as they would be on a younger child, because they are vague and not immediate. Imperfect as it may be, the structure and rules of the FAIR club make the consequences of choices more black-and-white. Some people need things laid out more clearly to know what is expected of them, and actually feel more secure when the lines are more clearly drawn. And the door is always an option.

Anonymous (whichever one you are...and I know there are some who are non-confrontational) you may have different ideas of how to parent a child in this situation, but you have not indicated whether you have parented in a similar situation? From what experience are you drawing your opinions? Knowing that may help us understand why you are judging so harshly choices made by someone you do not know, and in whose home you have not lived. Sharing opinions is fine, attacking is not. Marythemom is a caring mom who is doing her best for her child, not claiming perfection or insisting everyone else make the same choices.

Heather said...

Oh, and FYI - it is a requirement that a portion of the SSI amount be used as rent, or it is forfeited. The amount varies by state, but I learned this recently when a friend stayed with me while in a transition. I had no intention of having her pay rent, but she could either pay it to me as rent, or the government would keep the money. We both agreed it was better to accept the rent to cover electric/water/heat/wifi etc. than to leave it in Uncle Sam's pocket!

Anonymous said...

I'm the first Anonymous you read above. I am a bio parent to two (littles), was a foster parent to one (teenager, now an adult on her own) and a teacher (sees the gamut that urban education brings).
My foster daughter had a lot of similarities to Kitty, but not at such a severe scale. She, too, decided to leave and be back with bio-mom at the age of 18/19. Bio-mom died of overdose a few months later. Daughter developed her own addiction, and could not safely come back to us. I have had to draw boundaries, and she lives her life as she wishes now. Is now a single parent, too. I don't know if that makes me "legit" to speak here, but I did. If Mary doesn't want my comments, she can choose not to post and I'll take that as a sign I'm not welcome in the convo. I think several "annon"s got lumped together into one super-jerk, but what I had to say was about the $$$, the LGBT rules, the landlord/parent blurriness.

Anonymous said...

I did not say that Kitty does not love you, but that she does not like you because of the way you treat her. Your so-called fair club did not work for either of your adopted children and you are unable and unwilling to try anything else. And there are so many approaches that could have helped those kids. And so they run from you. And yes, I actually do have a degree in a mental health field but even without one, people reading your blog can see what you did to those kids was wrong and frankly, creepy. You say you do it in the name of trauma but you are doing it to feed your own issues. And those kids ran. One landed in jail, true. It is amazing that you take no responsibility for the things you did to him and the money you stole from him. Many of your readers remember the blog pages you wiped after Bear discovered your blog. You betrayed him and you betrayed Kitty. You are responsible for continuing and profiting from their trauma.
You can point all the fingers you want at me but my conscience is clear. I do not perpetuate trauma in children. That is your gig. Shame on you.

marythemom said...

THAT Anonymous - Ok, I know I said I wasn't going to respond to anymore of these, but this is such patent b.s. I can't help myself.

"she does not like you because of the way you treat her."
Kitty's perception of how she is treated is based on her past and her disabilities. You know NOTHING of how I treat her, except for some assumptions based on what you've read on my blog - which sometimes admittedly includes a lot of my frustration; however, I try my best to keep from effecting my life with her (No, of course I can't completely keep this from her, but one reason I belong to support groups is reality checks - trying to make sure I'm being the best parent I can be.)

"Your so-called fair club did not work for either of your adopted children and you are unable and unwilling to try anything else."
I've tried a TON of other things - where do you think I got most of the resources on my blog? The FAIR Club is what worked best for us at the time. If you really have been reading my blog for years, and you had some suggestions on what fantastic, no-fail method you've found that would work with my kids, then you should have shared!

"And yes, I actually do have a degree in a mental health field
I too thought my psychology and social work degrees and all my experience meant I knew what would be best for other people and would be able to handle my kids. All I can say is that it's NOTHING like living 24/7 with severely traumatized, mentally ill, teenagers.

"money you stole from him."
What money did we steal from him?! He never got SSI (when he was finally eligible he was in jail, and you can't claim SSI if someone is providing all your support - another reason to charge Kitty rent). We never charged him rent (he was still in high school when he left). We never took the money he made from his job or thefts.

If you're referring to the adoption subsidy, that was never his- nor would it have been in his best interest for us to give it to him. If you have problems with foster and adoptive parents receiving subsidies then you'll have to take that up with the government.

"Many of your readers remember the blog pages you wiped after Bear discovered your blog."
I deleted most of these blog pages after I discovered Biomom was reading my blog. I wanted to try to mend my relationship with her (as the biological mother of my children), and some of the posts I had made were not flattering to her. I deleted all of the pictures to better preserve my children's privacy, after I realized that my blog was more public and searchable than I realized.

No, we did not "fix" or heal our children. Yes, I thought we could, and it hurt a lot that we couldn't. It's taken me a long time to accept that. Now I am trying to figure out what/how I want to proceed and I've opened myself up to ask others. Maybe foolishly.

Yes, criticism hurts me. I've tried to accept it and incorporate what I could into helping my children. There's been a lot of constructive criticism on the last few posts, and over the years too. Unlike other though, yours feels like a personal attack. Why is that? What's it to you? Do you have a personal stake in this?

I hope that by sharing our journey we've helped others, if not help heal their children then at least provide some emotional support in the knowledge that they are not alone. I will continue blogging.

Oh, and my apologies to all the other Anonymous commenters for lumping you in with this "troll."