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!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Self-Harming/ Cutting

Marythemom Disclaimer:
I have not personally dealt with a lot of self-harm with my children. I have one child that self-harmed but for only a short time because she was very afraid of pain. For her, the self-harm was triggered by being put on an anti-depressant (she is bipolar so this triggered severe mood swings) but continued even after the anti-depressants were out of her system. 

"Luckily," the types of self-harm she chose were digging her fingernails into her arms and erasing (rubbing skin with an eraser to the point that it rubs off the epidermis leaving it raw). Neither action left a mark longer than a couple of days. 

Cutting and Self-Harm: Warning Signs and Treatment By Jeanie Lerche Davis
Cutting. It's a practice that is foreign, frightening, to parents. It is not a suicide attempt, though it may look and seem that way. Cutting is a form of self-injury -- the person is literally making small cuts on his or her body, usually the arms and legs. It's difficult for many people to understand. But for kids, cutting helps them control their emotional pain, psychologists say.

This practice has long existed in secrecy. Cuts can be easily hidden under long sleeves. But in recent years, movies and TV shows have drawn attention to it -- prompting greater numbers of teens and tweens (ages 9 to 14) to try it.

Karen Conterio, author of the book, Bodily Harm. Twenty years ago, Conterio founded a treatment program for self-injurers called SAFE (Self Abuse Finally Ends) Alternatives at Linden Oak Hospital in Naperville, Ill., outside of Chicago.

Her patients are getting younger and younger, Conterio tells WebMD. "Self-harm typically starts at about age 14. But in recent years we've been seeing kids as young as 11 or 12. As more and more kids become aware of it, more kids are trying it." She's also treated plenty of 30-year-olds, Conterio adds. "People keep doing it for years and years, and don't really know how to quit."

"The problem is particularly common among girls. But boys do it, too. It is an accepted part of the 'Goth' culture," says Wendy Lader, Ph.D., clinical director for SAFE Alternatives. "Self-injury is definitely a coping strategy for unhappy kids."

Very often, kids who self-harm have an eating disorder. "They may have a history of sexual, physical, or verbal abuse," Lader adds. "Many are sensitive, perfectionists, overachievers. The self-injury begins as a defense against what's going on in their family, in their lives. They have failed in one area of their lives, so this is a way to get control."

Self-injury can also be a symptom for psychiatric problems like borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, she says.

Yet many kids who self-injure are simply "regular kids" going through the adolescent struggle for self-identity, Lader adds. They're experimenting. "I hate to call it a phase, because I don't want to minimize it. It's kind of like kids who start using drugs, doing dangerous things."

"Yet self-harm is different from taking drugs," Conterio explains. "Anybody can take drugs and feel good. With self-injury, if it works for you, that's an indication that an underlying issue needs be dealt with -- possibly significant psychiatric issues. If you're a healthy person, you might try it, but you won't continue."

Self-harm may start with the breakup of a relationship, as an impulsive reaction. It may start simply out of curiosity. For many kids, it's the result of a repressive home environment, where negative emotions are swept under the carpet, where feelings aren't discussed. "A lot of families give the message that you don't express sadness," says Conterio.

It's a myth that this behavior is simply an attention-getter, adds Lader. "There's a [painkiller] effect that these kids get from self-harm. When they are in emotional pain, they literally won't feel that pain as much when they do this to themselves."

About 8-10% of all people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) commit suicide.  This does not include those who engage in risky behavior that results in death.  
Suicide (and other impulsive, dysfunctional behaviors) are seen as solutions to overwhelming, uncontrollable emotional pain.  Self-injury is a coping mechanism that may release chemicals that lead to a general feeling of well-being.  There are many reasons for self-injury, and it may be done intentionally or unconsciously (unaware and in a haze).  An intellectual understanding of why they do it doesn't make it any easier to stop.  There is a misperception that all people with BPD harm themselves or are suicidal.  Many high functioning people with BPD do not, but those that do, however, may seek professional help more often than those who don't.  ~Stop Walking on Eggshells

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Child to Parent Violence

Child to Parent Violence

Abuse of parents by their children, also known as child-to-parent violence (CPV), is a form of domestic violence and is one of the most under-reported and under-researched subject areas in the field of psychology. Parents are quite often subject to levels of childhood aggression in excess of normal childhood aggressive outbursts, typically in the form of verbal or physical abuse. Parents feel a sense of shame and humiliation to have that problem, so they rarely seek help.
‘Parent abuse’ has been defined by Cottrell (2001, p. 3) as ‘any harmful act of a teenage child intended to gain power and control over a parent. The abuse can be physical, {verbal abuse (for example, swearing at or threatening a parent)}, psychological {such as intimidation}, or financial.’
It may be a one-time incident or it may escalate in frequency, even to the point of a daily occurrence. And although parental abuse is often associated with explosive anger and rage, the abusive behavior may occur with no emotion: a quiet, deliberate act of harm used by a teen to maintain power over a parent. 
Though this type of abuse often takes place during the teen years (often from 12 to 17), it can happen earlier than that. There's been some reports of children younger than 10 years old. 
Effect on Parents
The effects of experiencing abuse from one's child can be profound. In the short term, ongoing parent abuse has been found to impact on a parent's and other family members’ physical and psychological health, with specific negative emotions such as fear, shame, guilt, and despair commonly reported (Cottrell & Monk, 2004) Parental abuse can leave a person feeling embarrassed, ashamed, angry, terrified, and unsure of what to do. These are feelings that we call “parent paralyzers,” feelings so intense that they overtake logic and reason and leave us questioning ourselves and trapped in uncertainty about what direction to take. 
Causes of CPV
The causes are yet to be properly studied, as there's still very little research on that, but three main variables have been suggested as possible contributors to child to parent abuse: the presence of a mental health condition, {special needs, ASD, FASD, brain injuries, impulse control issues...], attachment difficulties (which might or might not be related to a mental health issue), {substance abuse} and/or previous experiences of abuse {this can include witnessing acts of domestic violence}[Or as is often the case with children of trauma, some combination of all of the above.] 
Children within these risk groups may have “several overlapping issues”, says social worker and CPV campaigner Helen Bonnick. Early trauma, such as neglect or living with domestic violence, may have affected the way they react to stress – or had a modeling effect. Children who are abusing substances may lash out while intoxicated or demand money for drugs. They may be living with such high levels of anxiety that it takes very little to tip them into fight, flight or freeze. 
~from the article Parental abuse by children

Tip of the Iceberg
In the US, recent estimates of the prevalence of child-on-parent violence range from 5% to 22% of families, which means several million U.S. families could be affected.

A 2008 study by the U.S. Justice Department found that while most domestic assault offenders are adults, about 1 in 12 who come to the attention of law enforcement are minors. In half of those cases, the victim was a parent, most often the mother. 

In the UK, Met Police figures show reports of child to parent violence (CPV) increased 95% from 920 in 2012 to 1,801 in 2016. However, it is difficult to know whether this is because the issue is more widespread or is reported more often.

“My feeling is that it is more widespread,” says social worker and CPV campaigner Helen Bonnick. “I am seeing lots of links with CPV and children and young people’s mental health – so if, as we are told, that is worsening you would expect there to be a knock-on effect.” [For those of us who only speak "American," - "Knock-on effect" appears to mean "causes other things to happen." - In other words, the increase in mental health issues will most likely mean an increase in Child to Parent Violence (CPV).]

What is clear, is that the problem is much wider than reported – “for very understandable reasons”, says Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of domestic abuse charity SafeLives. “Those who experience intimate partner violence only call the police at a rate of one in five. We can all see the reasons why you would be even less likely to call the police about your child – and not just the police – there is so much attached in terms of any stigma people feel, and in terms of worries about consequences for themselves and the child.”

Shame and fear can prevent parents seeking the help they need – as can lack of understanding from family, friends, and agencies. “The kind of dismissiveness people in previous times applied to intimate partner violence is still applied to CPV,” says Jacob. “People end up minimizing what is actually an incredibly serious issue in somebody’s home.”

The insidious nature of domestic abuse also plays its part. “It can build up gradually,” says Bonnick, who runs the campaigning and resource website Holes in the Wall. “It takes a while to acknowledge that you are being abused … because it’s become so normal,” she says.

Lack of services

“I think often people do ask for help and get knocked back – passed from one agency to another,” says Bonnick. “It can be very difficult to find where to go in the first place, and then even if you do approach an agency, what sort of help do you get?”

It’s a good question. The reality is that there is no national blueprint for dealing with CPV and the quality of help families receive is patchy. “What you get is pockets of good practice,” says Condry, “but a lot of areas where there is practically nothing.”

The United States currently protects abused children using Courts, Child Protective Services, and other agencies. The US also has Adult Protective Services which is provided to abused, neglected, or exploited older adults and adults with significant disabilities.
There are no agencies or programs that protect parents from abusive children, adolescents or teenagers other than giving up their Parental Rights to the state they live in.~from the article Parental abuse by children

Responding to Parental Abuse 

By  and 

Aggressive and abusive behavior is not a part of typical childhood or adolescence. It’s not a stage that your teen will “grow out of” if you ignore it. If you’re dealing with parental abuse in your home, your child is violating the rights of others. It doesn’t matter that it’s his parent’s rights; that doesn’t make it any less serious or illegal. Your home is the place where your child will learn how to interact in the world. He is learning what’s acceptable — and what’s not. He’s learning about consequences for behavior and accountability.
One of the hardest tasks a parent can be faced with is responding to their own child’s aggression or abuse. It’s natural to feel torn. On one hand, it’s instinctual to protect your child. On the other hand, nothing can push a parent’s buttons of anger, disappointment, and hurt like a child’s abusive behavior. Some days you may feel emotionally stronger than others. Only you can decide what you’re able to follow through with at any given time. Here are some suggestions:
1. Clearly Communicate Boundaries
Make sure your child understands your physical and emotional boundaries. You may need to clearly state:
“It’s not okay to yell or push or hit me.”
If you’ve said this to your child in the past, but allowed her to cross those boundaries in the past without consequence, she’s gotten mixed messages. Your words have told her one set of boundaries but your actions (by accepting being yelled at or hit) have communicated another set of boundaries.
Make sure your non-verbal communication (what you do) matches your verbal communication (what you say).
2. Clearly Communicate Consequences For Abusive Behavior
Tell your teen:
“If you hit me, throw something at me, or otherwise hurt me physically, that’s called domestic violence and assault. Even though I love you, I will call the police and you will be held accountable for your behavior.” 
Then – again – make sure your actions match your words. If you don’t think you can follow through with contacting the police – don’t say you will. This will only reinforce to your child that you make “threats” that won’t be carried out.
You may choose to provide other consequences, other than legal, that you enforce. If a friend physically assaulted you, would you let her borrow your car or give her spending money the next day? Probably not.
3. Contact the Authorities
We don’t say this lightly or without understanding how difficult this can be for a parent. Some parents are outraged at a teen’s abusive behavior and react: “I’ve got no problem calling the cops on my kid if he ever raises a hand to me!” Other parents struggle, worrying about the long term consequences of contacting the police or unable to handle the thought of their child facing charges.
Remember, if your teen is behaving violently toward you now, there is the risk that this will generalize to his future relationships with a spouse, his own children, or other members of society. You are not doing him a favor by allowing him to engage in this behavior without consequence.
Related content: 
When to Call the Police on Your Child
4. Get Support
Parental abuse is a form of domestic violence. It’s a serious issue and needs immediate attention and intervention. Domestic violence has traditionally been characterized by silence. As hard as it is, break that silence. Get support from family or friends – anyone you think will be supportive.
If your natural supports tend to judge you and you’re afraid it will only make the situation worse, contact a local domestic violence hotline, counselor, or support group. For support and resources in your community, you can also call 2-1-1 or visit, a free and confidential service through the United Way.
The road to a healthier relationship with your child will very likely take time. There’s no shortcut or quick fix. It starts with an acknowledgment of the issue and accountability. If you’re facing this issue in your family, we wish you strength and empowerment.

So What Do You Do About It?!
Some ideas (in no particular order):

Handling Rages

Handling Dysregulation and Meltdowns- helping them learn to regulate their own behavior independently. Calming and Relaxation Techniques 

You Have not Failed!! 

I had to reread this post (You Have not Failed!!) often after my son moved out and got into serious trouble. Part of me believed that I could have/ should have done more and this was all my fault. One of the hardest (and most important) things I've done was to accept that I did the best I could and that was enough. 

My Top 10ish Things I Couldn't Do This Without

Document, Document, Document! - this helps you get services for your child and can help protect you and your family from false allegations.

Call the Authorities
I know it's scary, but often it's best to get the authorities involved when your child is violent. In addition to protecting you and your family, this provides documentation, and can often give you access to services you might not normally be able to access.
Some authorities that might help:
Police, Mental Health Authority, Child Welfare Agency (Child Protective Services, Post Adoption Services, Adoption Agency...)

National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) | En EspaƱol | If you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto or text LOVEIS to 22522.

Safety Plan - It's easier to make that call to the police ( or mental health authority, adult protective services, child protective services...) if you already resolved to make it and under what circumstances. You can research in advance who to call (ex. our area has a "Mental Health Police department" but a regular police officer has to come out and determine that it's needed). This gives you time to have contact information gathered. You can also contact them in advance and make sure they understand the situation they might be walking in to. This is a good time to establish a relationship with them without a screaming, raging child present or a triangulating child who is doing his/her best to make it appear that you are the one who is abusive/ raging/ out of control... 

Understanding The Child's Behavior
Why Won't My Child Just Behave? Why Do They Do That? If You Find Out I'm Not Perfect You'll Leave
Why Doesn't My Child Feel Safe?
Recognizing Triggers

Prevention/ Setting Up A Successful Environment For The Child
Structure and Caring Support
Therapeutic Parenting Based on Emotional/ Developmental Age
Chores, Responsibilities, and Other Things My Kids Can't Handle

Setting Boundaries
Boundaries are essential for the safety of the child and the family but when dealing with an aggressive/ out-of-control child, especially when your life hasn't been set up that way from the beginning... if can feel impossible. This post has a lot of information about how we handled it - Structure and Caring Support.
Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul Mason MS, Randi Kreger - I found this book to be helpful for anyone dealing with a child with an attachment disorder, not necessarily borderline personality disorder. It helped me better understand why they acted this way, which helped me be more empathetic. It also helped me with setting boundaries when my kids were teenagers, all of them, not just the adopted ones. 

Get Support! 
Find people who "get it."  Real-life, online... just find them, and share!! Remember, "You are not alone!" There are people out there who have been and/or are in similar situations. Reach out and ask for help and support - and accept it! You need help.  You deserve help.  Ask for it.  Accept it.  Please!

Diagnoses/Labels for Services
I found it helped to get full neuropsych evaluations to access services but all medical professionals, psychologists therapists. and even school evaluations can provide useful information. Trauma and other issues can cause results like IQ and mental health diagnoses can change dramatically. Try getting multiple assessments and then cherry-pick the results you need to get the services you want. [When Is a Label a Good Thing?]

[I carry a one-page document [Current Meds and Diagnoses Document] that has a summary of my child's information including diagnoses and medications. I'm the one that wrote it, so it is easily changeable. I could, and did, include (and/or leave out) whatever test results we needed to get what my child needed. To be clear, I did not falsify the information! I just carefully chose which to present and emphasize. [Persuasive Writing - How To Get Your Document Read]. 

Psych hospitalizations - Psych hospitals are designed for short-term crisis care only, but often just the fact that the child has been in a psych hospital is enough to open doors to services. Our insurance required that "all other interventions be tried" before it would pay for residential treatment so while multiple psych hospitalizations rarely changed/improved my child's current situation, they were helpful in getting our child into an RTC. 

Most importantly, psych hospitalization allowed both our family and the child to get a little respite from each other in a way that ensured the child was safe - I quickly learned to stop feeling guilty about enjoying the break and using the time to recharge my batteries and spend time with the family. 

Unfortunately, the psych hospitals often sent the child home before any changes had been made (even my child stating to the discharge nurse that she was actively suicidal didn't stop her being sent home after the standard 4 days that was all our state Medicaid covered). 

We did use a "revolving door" technique. The moment the child was suicidal/ aggressive again, we went right back to the ER/ psych hospital. I know one family that pretty much just circled the block (during which, the child was aggressive and threatening) and walked back in the front door to apply for admission. 

Residential Treatment [Finding and Funding Residential Treatment (RTC/RTF)] - I know some parents worry that RTC will damage the parent-child attachment relationship but we didn't find that to be the case. Possibly because we stayed in touch with the child and took the child home again when they were released (something that didn't always happen before the child came to live with us).

PINS / CHINS Petition / YIC Sometimes a teen's misconduct is so extreme or has been an ongoing problem for so long that his or her parents can no longer manage and feel they have no recourse but to remove the child from the home. His or her parents would have to go to their state's family court to file what is called a PINS (Persons in Need of Supervision) petition. In some states, it may be known as a CHINS (Children in Need of Supervision) petition or a YIC (Youth in Crisis) Law [Parental Options For Out-Of-Control 16-Year-Olds by Susan Price, Principal Legislative Analyst]

The process may vary somewhat from one state to another. Typically, before filing, the parents and child must meet with a representative of a government social-service agency, who attempts to resolve the family crisis and keep the case out of court. This step, called diversion, can last ninety days. If reconciliation proves unsuccessful, the parents may then file the petition asking the court to order supervision or treatment for the child. (Legal guardians, school districts or social-service agencies charged with looking after a child may also file a PINS petition.)

The court will appoint an attorney for the young person and for the parents as well if they cannot afford one. While the case is under consideration, the teen will continue to live with his or her parents, unless the court decides that is an unwise arrangement. In that event, the teen may be released to the temporary care of a relative, foster care, or possibly a group home. A hearing is then held. The family may place the teen in either a treatment facility or in foster care. ~Out-of-Control Teens: PINS Petitions & the Juvenile Justice System

Juvenile Justice System - If a person commits a crime while still a dependent minor, then it is considered not a criminal act but a delinquent act. Accordingly, the case is heard in family court or juvenile court rather than in criminal court. Exceptions may be made, however, for minors who have perpetrated particularly serious or violent crimes, called designated felonies. They may be treated as juvenile offenders in a criminal court, although the criminal court may return the case to family court.

An initial hearing is held to determine whether or not the teenager should be released to his or her parents' custody and allowed to go home. With minor or first-time offenses, that's usually what happens. But if the teen is felt to be a danger to the community or unlikely to return to court, he or she can be detained in a locked or unlocked facility until his or her day in court.

A minor found guilty of a delinquent act may be sent to a detention center, a shelter, even a boot camp. But the growing trend is to place teenagers in the least restrictive environment possible, such as a non-secured group home. Ideally, the teen can eventually come back home and return to school. The goal of the court is not to punish, it's to rehabilitate and create a productive adult capable of functioning in society. A delinquent act does not become part of a minor's criminal record; a designated felony, however, does. ~Out-of-Control Teens: PINS Petitions & the Juvenile Justice System

Legal Guardianship/ "Rehoming" - whether with a relative, friend, or someone else, one option might be to temporarily (or permanently) place the child with another family. Be aware that there can be many legal and other repercussions from this and it is strongly advised that you do a LOT of research and discuss it with a family law attorney.

EmancipationA teen who wishes to live on his or her own legally, without running away from home, can appeal to the family court for a declaration of emancipation. Emancipation grants many rights of adulthood to teens who are approved by the court.

The criteria for emancipation vary according to jurisdiction. In some states, children as young as age fourteen may seek legal independence. It helps if the child can prove that being emancipated from the parent(s) is in his/her best interest and can prove that he/she can financially support him/herself financially and are capable of making decisions independently. Other criteria frequently include marriage, parenthood, or enlistment in the armed forces. Emancipation is also sometimes granted if the parents give their permission. Parents can remain involved with emancipated teens pending court approval. ~What You Need to Know to Become an Emancipated Minor

Last Resorts

Joint/Shared Custody with the State - This can be the equivalent of voluntarily placing the child in foster care with the parent retaining a limited amount of control over the child's care/ placement. Unfortunately, parental rights might be involuntarily terminated if a child is placed in foster care. However, this is up to a judge and the likelihood of this occurring varies from state to state. Also, some states may require the parent(s) to pay child support to the state.

Second Time Foster Child: One Family's Fight for Their Son's Mental Healthcare and Preservation of Their Family by Toni HoyAs an infant, Daniel entered the foster care system as a result of severe neglect, which manifested in violence and aggression later in his childhood after he was adopted by Jim and Toni Hoy. Denied the opportunity to get him into a residential treatment center and keep their other children safe, Jim and Toni were given two options by the state of Illinois: "If you bring him home, we're going to charge you with child endangerment for failure to protect your other kids.And if you leave him at the hospital, we'll charge you with neglect." "If any of our other kids got hurt, once we brought him home, they would take the other kids," Jim says. "They put our backs against the wall, and they didn't give us any options."  
The Hoys were investigated by DCFS and charged with neglect. They appealed in court and the charge was later amended to a "no-fault dependency," meaning the child entered state custody at no fault of the parents. 
Mental health professionals recommended abandoning Daniel at the hospital after the state denied all viable sources of funding for his treatment. So Daniel re-entered the foster care system for no other reason than he was mentally ill.
A year later, Daniel’s mother discovered that his treatment was covered by a funding source that he was awarded as part of his special needs adoption. For two years they fought the state government to re-gain custody of their son and get the services he needed. Their fight eventually led to the Illinois Custody Relinquishment Prevention Act, which became law in 2015, orders six state agencies that interact with children and families to intervene when a family is considering giving up custody to get access to services. 

Terminating Parental Rights -  To get the child access to mental health services that the family can't afford and/or access, to ensure the child's safety (from him/herself and/or others), and/or to protect family members from a violent, dangerous child, some families have felt their only option is to legally terminate their parental rights. 

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights - Courts will not grant voluntary termination of parental rights unless parents can objectively prove this is in the best interest of the child. (This is where all that documentation comes in [Document! Document!! Document!!!]). Judges are generally hesitant to terminate parental rights, even if they're being given up voluntarily. Consult a family law attorney to figure out how to best argue for the termination of parental rights. He or she can help you draft a strong statement illustrating why giving up your parental rights is in the child's best interest. 

This may mean admitting to fault on your part - which, unfortunately, can lead to criminal charges for "child abuse" (child "abandonment" can be considered abuse) and even lead to the loss of custody of other children in the home. Parents who work in helping fields (teachers, medical professionals, police officers...) risk losing their careers if they are convicted of child abuse. 

Involuntary termination of parental rights - Legally terminating parental rights through the courts can occur when "the parent has failed to correct the conditions and/or parental behaviors that led to State intervention and is unable to provide a safe home for the child, despite reasonable efforts by the State agency to provide services to prevent out-of-home placement or to achieve family reunification after out-of-home placement." 

“Psychiatric lockout”When the child goes into a hospital for psychiatric care, the parent has to refuse to pick the child up. The hospital may call and call and call, but the parent repeats, ‘I’m not coming.’ It may sound cruel, but there’s a goal: once the parent refuses to pick-up the child, DCFS takes custody of that child. That means, legally, the state has to give the child the mental health services he/she requires. This can include a residential program --one of the services many states don't fund and that families often can’t afford on their own. ~Excruciating Choice: Trading Parental Custody For Mental Health Care
By Shannon Heffernan

Because legally this can be called "Child Abandonment" the parent(s) will most likely lose parental rights. 

Obviously, terminating parental rights is considered a last resort. 


Prioritizing Yourself, Your Marriage, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order
Protect yourself and the rest of your family and prioritize the needs of the family as a whole! 

Continuous Traumatic Stress(CTS) - When Your PTSD is Not Post/Past Yet What to do when you are burnt out, empty, drained physically/mentally/emotionally, have 'Caregiver Fatigue'...

Prioritizing Yourself 

I know it probably sounds impossible but you HAVE TO put yourself first. It's not selfish. It doesn't make you a bad parent. Like they say on an airplane, you have to put the mask on yourself first before attending to the needs of others. If you are completely drained, there is nothing left for ANYONE. I know many Trauma Mamas who after years of damage caused by stress and trauma (and lack of sleep!) have permanently damaged their health and immune system. 

One of my biggest regrets is that my "squeaky wheel" kids drained all my time and energy leaving nothing for my family. 

Self-Care: Caring For The Caregiver
Giving Until There's Nothing Left (But My Child NEEDS Me!
Finding The Joy

Getting Respite

Marriage - Keeping it together

My marriage suffered (many trauma mamas I know are now divorced). Since the kids will (hopefully) be out of the house eventually and Hubby is the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with. I've learned that next to myself, my marriage

Parenting Biokids And Adopted Kids Together
Especially now that my kids are adults, I realize that having scary, severely mentally ill siblings was not the biggest problem for my biokids. 

In addition to missing the happy memories, fun, family stuff like vacations, baking cookies together, and hanging out at the neighborhood pool, we missed a lot of the important-to-kids stuff like attending sporting events or seeing Bob's art displays on Parent's Night at school because we talked to Kitty's teachers instead. 

Also, there were also a lot of issues that I didn't catch. I didn't discover until his junior year in high school that Ponito had severe ADD causing him to almost flunk out of high school despite having an extremely high IQ. It wasn't until they were in their 20s that one of my children finally confided to me that they'd been sexually molested as a teen. 

Looking back, it breaks my heart that I spent most of my children's childhoods being so busy and overwhelmed that I missed out on so much of the important stuff. 

I wish someone had told me that it was OK not to focus everything on trying to heal one or two kids. That even if my efforts were 100% successful (which did not happen and was never going to be possible)  it was not worth the sacrifice.

 I'm not saying we shouldn't have adopted (although that might be true). I'm saying that I should have prioritized maintaining a balance. 

There is no right way to parent, and even if you could do everything "right" that does not ensure the outcome you want, or that it will happen when you want it to.

Resource Posts:

Friday, May 31, 2019

Jail and Prison - Foster Care and Mental Illness Statistics.

Almost 80% of inmates incarcerated in our prisons have spent time in foster care.
 45% to 75% of inmates are mentally ill. 

Foster care Statistics - Unacceptable Facts and Stories 
40-50% of former foster youth become homeless within 18 months after leaving care.

60% of youth earn incomes below the poverty line.

65% of children in foster care experience seven or more school changes from elementary to high school.

Only 1-3% graduate from college.

25% of foster youth will be in prison within two years of emancipation.  

Four of five (80 percent) young women become pregnant too soon.

Kids who've been in foster care are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at six times the general population and double the rate of veterans returning from war.

Eight of ten (81 percent) males have been arrested compared to 17 percent of their peers who were not in foster care.

Serious Mental Illness Prevalence in Jails and Prisons

In state prisons, 73 percent of women and 55 of men have at least one mental health problemIn federal prisons, 61 percent of women and 44 percent of menIn local jails, 75 percent of women and 63 percent of men

Serious mental illness has become so prevalent that jails and prisons are now commonly called “the new asylums.” 

In point of fact, the Los Angeles County Jail, Chicago’s Cook County Jail, or New York’s Riker’s Island Jail each hold more mentally ill inmates than any remaining psychiatric hospital in the United States. Overall, 

Approximately 20% of inmates in jails and 15% of inmates in state prisons are now estimated to have a serious mental illness

Based on the total inmate population, this means approximately 383,000 individuals with severe psychiatric disease were behind bars in the United States in 2014 or nearly 10 times the number of patients remaining in the nation’s state hospitals. The number of severely mentally ill individuals behind bars is 10 times the number of patients in state hospitals. 

Mentally ill inmates remain in jail longer than other inmates. 
In Florida’s Orange County Jail, the average stay for all inmates is 26 days; for mentally ill inmates, it is 51 days. In New York’s Riker’s Island, the average stay for all inmates is 42 days; for mentally ill inmates, it is 215 days (over 5 times longer!)

The average stay for mentally ill prison inmates is 5 times longer than other inmates.

The main reason mentally ill inmates are incarcerated longer than other prisoners is that many find it difficult to understand and follow jail and prison rules. In one study, jail inmates were twice as likely (19% versus 9%) to be charged with facility rule violations. In another study, in Washington state prisons, mentally ill inmates accounted for 41% of infractions even though they constituted only 19% of the prison population. 

Mentally ill inmates are incarcerated longer because they find it difficult to understand and follow the rules.

Additionally, pretrial inmates with serious mental illness experience longer incarcerations than other inmates in many states if they require an evaluation or restoration of competency to stand trial. A survey of state hospital officials in 2015 found that 78% of the 40 responding states were wait-listing pretrial inmates for hospital services. The waits were “in the 30-day range” in most states, but three states reported forensic bed waits of six months to one year. Mentally ill inmates in some states are reported to spend more time waiting for competency restoration so they can be tried than they would spend behind bars convicted of the offense for which they have been charged.

Pretrial inmates with a serious mental illness might have to wait for one month up to one year for hospital services; many wait longer to be evaluated than they would spend behind bars convicted of the offense for which they have been charged.

Mentally ill inmates create behavioral management problems that result in their isolation. 
Because of their impaired thinking, many inmates with serious mental illnesses present behavioral management problems. This is a contributing factor to their heavy over-representation in the subset of prisoners in solitary confinement. In Wisconsin, for example, a 2010 audit of three state prisons reported that

 “between 55% and 76% of inmates in segregation [isolation] are mentally ill."
Solitary Confinement (Isolation)
Solitary Confinement: Torture, Pure and Simple
The practice of placing incarcerated individuals in solitary confinement dates back to the 1820s in America when it was thought that isolating individuals in prison would help with their rehabilitation. Yet, over the past two centuries, it has become clear that locking people away for 22 to 24 hours a day is anything but rehabilitative. 

Solitary confinement is so egregious a punishment that in 2011, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment condemned its use, except in exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible, and banned the practice completely for people with mental illnesses and for juveniles.

Despite its barbarity, the United States continues to place thousands of people, including individuals with mental illnesses and children, in solitary confinement, sometimes for decades

There are more than 80,000 men, women, and children in solitary confinement in prisons across the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Note that figure is a decade old and doesn’t include people in jails, juvenile facilities, and immigrant detention centers. Nearly every state uses some form of solitary confinement, but there’s no federal reporting system that tracks how many people are isolated at any given time.

Prisoners are often confined for months or even years, with some spending more than 25 years in segregated prison settings. As with the overall prison population, people of color are disproportionately represented in isolation units. [Solitary Confinement Facts]

Solitary confinement often exacerbates existing psychiatric conditions and not infrequently leads to suicide. 
In Texas, for example, suicides rates for those in solitary confinement are five times higher than that of the general prison community.

Mentally ill inmates are more likely to commit suicide. 
Suicide is the leading cause of death in correctional facilities, and multiple studies indicate as many as half of all inmate suicides are committed by the estimated 15 % to 20% of inmates with serious mental illness. A 2002 study in the state of Washington found that “the prevalence of mental illness among inmates who attempted suicide was 77%, compared with 15% [among inmates] in the general jail population.” In California in 2002, the Los Angeles Times headlined: “Jail Suicides Reach Record Pace in State,” and added: “Some experts blame the recent surge on forcing more of the mentally ill behind bars.”

By the Numbers: Mental Illness Behind Bars
“We’ve, frankly, criminalized the mentally ill, and used local jails as de facto mental health institutions,” said Alex Briscoe, the health director for Alameda County in northern California.

Mentally Ill Women in the System
The statistics paint a stark picture, with mental illness affecting a greater percentage of jailed women than men:

In state prisons, 73 percent of women and 55 of men have at least one mental health problemIn federal prisons, 61 percent of women and 44 percent of menIn local jails, 75 percent of women and 63 percent of men
Jailhouse Fights
 Inmates with mental illness are much more likely to be injured in prison fights. The Department of Justice reported that 20 percent of inmates with mental illness were injured in jailhouse fights compared to 10 percent of inmates without mental illness. In local jails, inmates with mental illness are three times as likely to be injured.
Jail and prison are particularly bad places to be mentally ill. Men and women with behavioral disorders and mental illness end up in stressful prison environments — many are put in seclusion for long stretches of time — that further exacerbate their conditions, researchers say. 

It is estimated that 20–25% of homeless people, compared with 6% of the non-homeless, have severe mental illness. Others estimate that up to one-third of the homeless suffer from mental illness. 

Studies have also found that there is a correlation between homelessness and incarceration. Those with mental illness or substance abuse problems were found to be incarcerated at a higher frequency than the general population. 

Fischer and Breakey have identified the chronically mentally ill as one of the four main subtypes of homeless persons; the others being the street people, chronic alcoholics, and the situationally distressed.

So Now What?

First, you have to decide, when does it stop? How many hours do you take away from everything else to devote to keeping this child out of jail, safe, and/or with a place to sleep? What if this isn't the first (or the 50th!) time you've had to find her a new place, paid for groceries, or he's asked you for bail money?

Only you can decide what you're willing to give (and it's ok to make changes to that in the future!)
Prioritizing Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order!


If your child is like mine, he/she needs a LOT of structure. {Structure and Caring Support} There are only so many places our kids can get that structure once that child legally becomes an adult. 

We looked at a couple of options but unfortunately, my son didn't qualify for either.:

1.  Military
People with current mood disorders or a history of serious mental illness cannot serve. Recruiters have allegedly lied to my son and said he was eligible (to meet their enrollment quotas?) but it is more likely that he lied to them about his diagnoses.

How do you know whether your child may have a disqualifying condition? The U.S. Department of Defense has a directive called the Criteria and Procedure Requirements for Physical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Armed Forces which provides a detailed list of what mental health conditions prevent a person from being in the armed services.

  • current diagnosis or a history of a mental disorder with psychotic features, such as schizophrenia or a delusional disorder
  • bipolar disorder or affective psychoses
  • depressive disorders (for example, major depressive disorder), disqualification from the service will occur if a person had outpatient care that lasted for more than 24 months or any inpatient care. A person with a depressive disorder must be "stable" without treatment for a continuous 36 months to be eligible.
  • anxiety disorders (for example, panic disorder), a person cannot enter the armed services if he or she needed any inpatient care or outpatient care for more than 12 months cumulatively. A person must not have needed any treatment for their anxiety disorder in the past 36 months.
  • history of obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • history of or current dissociative, conversion, or factitious disorder, depersonalization, hypochondriasis, somatoform disorders, or pain disorder related to psychological factors or a somatoform disorder
  • history of an adjustment disorder within the last three months or recurrent episodes of adjustment disorder
  • history of or current psychosexual condition like voyeurism or exhibitionism
  • history of or current alcohol or drug abuse or dependence
  • history of attempted suicide or suicidal behavior
  • disturbances of conduct, impulse control disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or other personality or behavior disorders characterized by frequent encounters with law enforcement agencies, and antisocial attitudes or behavior are other mental health problems that warrant disqualification from the service
  • personality, conduct, or behavior disorder that is believed to serve as a serious interference to adjusting to the military
  • other causes for disqualification include (but not limited to) a history of anorexia or bulimia, a history of encopresis (soiling your underwear) after the age of 13, or a history of an expressive or receptive language delay
    [Can Those With Mental Illness Serve In The US Military?}

2.  Job Corps

Job Corps is a program administered by the United States Department of Labor that offers free-of-charge education and vocational training to young men and women ages 16 to 24.

Unfortunately, Job Corps has a strict student conduct policy. Violence and drug and alcohol use are strictly prohibited. This may rule out many kids with trauma issues, mental illnesses, aggression, criminal history...

You may NOT be eligible for Job Corps if you:

  • Use drugs illegally under federal law
  • Exhibit behavioral problems that could prevent you or others from success in Job Corps
  • Have certain criminal convictions or require court supervision

Helping Your Child Support Him/Herself?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Many people with a serious mental illness live on Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which averages just 18% of the median income but can allow your child to live more independently. It includes Medicaid, which can get your child most, if not all of the health services and medications that he/she needs.  {Getting SSI For Your Adult Child}

Living Outside of the Home
You love your child but having him/ her live with you may not be an option.

So what do you do?
  • do you try to find a group home or assisted-living place that takes people with your child's disability?
  • do you pay out of pocket?
  • do you take your child to a shelter? 
  • do you give her a bus ticket to wherever she thinks her life will be better (and pray she doesn't get pregnant)? 
  • do you pay for an apartment for him? (not that that's financially an option for us). 
  • do you hand him a tent and a sleeping bag? 
  • do you pay for a hotel room just until...? 
  • do you help them find roommates and a place they can afford?
  • do you bring them groceries?
  • do you co-sign something?
Finding A Place to Live
Your child may run into housing issues after being discharged from an inpatient care unit or jail. Finding him/ her a place to live can be difficult.

Section 8 Housing 
This program provides vouchers for people with low incomes to obtain housing in the community.  In general, a Section 8 recipient has to pay approximately one-third of her monthly income towards her rent, and the voucher pays for the rest.  Many people with special needs who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits as their sole source of income will likely qualify for Section 8 as well. 

Section 8 vouchers can allow people with mild or moderate special needs and low incomes to live on their own in the community.  However, they're cutting this program back more and more and it usually takes 5 to 10 years to obtain a Section 8 voucher and, once acquired, there may not be any available Section 8 units for rent in the individual's community. Section 8 housing is also not appropriate for people with more complicated special needs who can't live on their own.

  • Section 811 Housing
    Through the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, HUD provides funding to develop and subsidize rental housing with the availability of supportive services for very low- and extremely low-income adults with disabilities.

Group Homes
This type of housing provides the most support for its residents. Trained staff members are present 24/7 to provide care and assistance with things like medication, daily living skills, meals, paying bills, transportation and treatment management. These group homes provide their residents with their own bed, dresser and closet space, and shared bathrooms and common areas. This is the best type of housing for people experiencing a serious mental illness which may affect their ability to perform their daily tasks.

Residents of group homes usually have a disability, such as autism, intellectual disability, chronic or long-term mental/psychiatric disorder, or physical or even multiple disabilities because those are the non-profit and state-regional organizations which began and operated the homes.

How much does it cost to live in a group home? On average, residential care homes are about half the cost of skilled nursing facilities and less expensive than many assisted living communities. The cost can range from $1500 to $4,500 a month. It will depend on the level of care needed, the quality of the home, the location, and if the room is single or shared.

Partially Supervised Group Housing
Some support is provided for the residents, but staff isn’t there 24 hours a day. The residents can be left alone for several hours and are able to call for help if needed. People who choose to stay in these group homes can perform their daily living tasks independently or semi-independently, help with cooking and cleaning and may even hold a part-time job or participate in a day program.

Supported Housing
Supportive housing provides very limited assistance. The residents of these homes live almost independently and are visited by staff members infrequently. However, they do have someone to call and resources available to them if a problem does arise.

Finding a place that takes Medicaid, Medicare, some sort of government program that doesn't require years on a waiting list... 

Your Child Has Been Incarcerated, Now What?

"Well, expect to be asked to bail her out. Don’t. {Our kids knew from day one that we would never bail them out.}
Expect to be asked for commissary money. Don’t. {We decided to give our child commissary money but it was a very minimal amount. You can find out what is already provided by the state (like toiletries). Bear lied because he wanted more than basic quality items and stuff to use for trading.}
Expect to be asked to pay for a lawyer. Don’t. {Warning: If you start down the path of paying for things like lawyers and mental health evaluations, your child can lose his status as indigent/ requiring a public defender and you will be on the hook for everything}.
Expect to be asked to be a character witness and write a letter to the judge. Don’t.
Oh, and don’t accept collect phone calls. I learned the hard way it was $2.99 a minute. {We did accept collect phone calls (and later started putting money on his phone account) but we set concrete limits on them. Ex. Wednesday nights at 9pm only. Otherwise, he would literally call us 9-10 times a day because he was bored.}
Do take care of you!
Go to court if you want. For me, it was the only way to find out how you will hear what is actually going on. {I know Bear will not/ cannot tell me the truth.} It’s never our kids' fault.
I liked it when my kids were in jail. They were safe, fed, and not homeless.
Their choices, their consequences! Take care of you!"
--A Fellow Trauma Mama.

Finding Out What's Going On- 

Try Googling/ Internet Searching:
"{Your state} offender search" - it should bring up your state's department of correction website rather than one of those "free" report things that will spam you forever.

On Demand Court Records (
This has a lot of information about why your child was arrested, charges filed, court dates, whether your child appeared in court, if there's a warrant out for your child's arrest, whether or not he/she is currently incarcerated, court costs, judge and attorney's name... I believe this site crosses state boundaries.

What Do You Tell The Court?
Obviously, this is up to you and your child. I will warn you that most public defenders/ pro bono attorneys don't want to spend a lot of time on each case. It was almost impossible for us to get info to my son's attorney.

Mental Health Court
As long as your child did not commit a violent crime, he/ she may be eligible for Mental Health Court. I don't know a lot about this because it wasn't something we were able to get our son into. 

At What Point Do You Let Go?
Many of my friends are struggling with children who are chronologically on the cusp of adulthood, but do not have the skills needed to be successful... in fact, most of their kids are determinedly on a rapid, self-destructive path.

It sometimes felt like I was in the middle of the ocean holding my son like a lifeguard.  We did everything we could to teach my son to "swim," and he just couldn't learn.  For as long as I held him up, he hated me, was actively fighting me, and was absolutely convinced he could do it all on his own. 

I knew his struggles could drown me and they almost did many times.

I knew that the minute I let go, he would flounder for a little while, but inevitably, he would sink to the bottom of the ocean.  

How do you let go, knowing your child will most likely drown?  At the same time, I knew I could not hold him forever.  At what point do I let go?

I got some excellent advice from a fellow trauma mama: 
The fact of the matter is this - Bear is going to drown no matter how much you do for him. The only difference is that you are going to drown right along with him if you continue doing the things you're doing. He is very clear that he doesn't want your help. He is even making things worse in his zeal to get you off his back. As long as you are giving help and advice, he is convincing himself that he knows better, is smarter and can handle it all himself - and hating you for it. What's wrong with letting him know that you are going to step back and let him handle things, but that if he needs your assistance with meds (or whatever you decide the boundaries to be) that you are willing to help in any way you know how - but only if he asks. Maybe after a few months, he will concede that things aren't going as smoothly as he thinks.
His perception of how he's taken care of himself all this time on his own is only a small indicator of his distorted thinking. The one thing I've learned (the hard way over and over) is that their reality doesn't really have to be based on the facts, and when it isn't, there is no reasoning with them. I know it is so painful to watch, but this is real life and unless you have guardianship (and lots of times even when you do), he is legally able to make his own decisions - which he's been doing. YOU are doing all the work on improving his life and he's fighting you every step of the way. Let your husband field the phone calls and advocate for him - I think he will find out quickly that helping Bear isn't as easy as it may seem.

Detachment Parenting
When I first heard of it, it sounded like heaven to my burned out, PTSD suffering, guilt-ridden self. I'd been trying to parent my attachment challenged children the way society told me I should, the same way I parented my neuro-typical, totally attached bio-kids - nurturing, child-focused, self-sacrificing... and it was killing me! {Giving Until There's Nothing Left - But My Child NEEDS Me!}

I see Detachment Parenting as a small step beyond all of that. A step I desperately needed. A way to validate not feeling guilty for not prioritizing my child's needs over everything else - even though I knew my child would most likely fail without my constant intervention (and remember that my child would most likely fall whether I was there or not). {You Have Not Failed} 

I had to prioritize my life differently in an effort to function again - to get a thicker skin about ignoring other's expectations and "shoulds", and stop being reactive or even proactive about my child. I needed to parent my attachment-challenged child calmly and with perspective about the needs of my family and myself.

I realized I needed to focus on myself (especially healing my PTSD and building my reserves up so I had enough to give again.), my husband, my family as a whole, focus on the other kids (not just the squeakiest wheels), and only then on the child that I couldn't heal. 

I know it sounds impossible, but SELF-CARE has to be your first priority!

But My Child NEEDS Me! 

When my kids first got here, I was empathetic, calm and patient with them- maybe TOO patient.  I stuffed things down, let it roll off my back, and GAVE and GAVE and GAVE... until there was nothing left. Nothing left for my child, for my family and most of all, for my self. I was so burned out and overwhelmed that we were all miserable.

You can't help anyone if you're so emotionally drained that there's nothing left. 

I once heard a house parent in a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed girls tell a teen that she was a "bottomless pit of need." At the time, I thought he was a horrible person. Now I get it. If we drain our emotional reserves trying to fill a child who can't be filled, then we're empty. You can't fill from an empty cup. Our kids need a different type of parenting and society's "shoulds" can suck it! {Finding The Joy

One thing that really helped me with setting boundaries with all of my teens (even my neurotypical biokids), was one of my favorite books, Stop Walking on Eggshells. I still reread it often. It helped me with setting boundaries for my children and for myself too. 

You Have Not Failed
Not only did I need to grieve that my children didn't have the life I'd hoped for them, but I had to acknowledge it was not my fault. I did everything I reasonably could. Often more than I should.

Yet one of my children did not heal.

Deep down, I felt guilty about this. Especially because I knew I had never really emotionally bonded to this child. In fact, I don't like to be around him. As a mother, especially as an adoptive parent, I was supposed to feel nurturing and loving toward this child, right? What kind of mother am I?

I had to acknowledge that not feeling nurturing and loving toward my abuser (and yes, that is what he was) is perfectly understandable. Yes, he was a child who did not always have control over his actions. That does not change the fact that it hurt and scared me when he lashed out at me and my family. 

If my spouse had treated me the way my son did, everyone would criticize me for not leaving my husband. Because my abuser was my child, everyone told me I could not leave and, in fact, I was shamed for not being more loving and nurturing. 

Here're some of the posts that helped me through this -