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!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


There are 2 residential treatment centers in our area. Someone was thinking about taking their child to the one that is closest to us (T.O.). (I'd be happy to share the names, but not on this blog). I shared my experience with them, and want to share it with you. Not because I want to slam the center, but to point out that our expectations can have such a huge effect on children.

I know T.O.. We live nearby and researched them. If at all possible, run away! We talked about taking our son there, and met with one of the therapists. Her first question was:

“The majority of our population is minorities, are you OK with that?”

My answer: “No problem, our son actually prefers to hang out with minority children.”

Her SECOND question!“Because your son is aggressive, he will be on the ward for aggressive boys. Are you OK with him getting beaten up daily?”

My answer: “Um, NO?!”

Needless to say we did not take him there.

Flash forward 2 years. Our daughter needed partial day hospitalization and the only provider in the area, Ma., is on the campus of T.O.. We did not realize how much interaction she would have with the children from the residential side. Plus, children released from T.O. as early as the day before were sent to Ma., many of which went back in less than 3 days.

Our daughter who is emotionally/ developmentally about age 5, and sheltered by us to avoid triggering her PTSD went into this program for 3 weeks before we pulled her. She witnessed several fights in which punches were thrown (usually in the face); she began cussing like a sailor (even the van driver – one driver, 8 emotionally disturbed teens!) was listening to music filled with cuss words; one of her classmates managed to pull up some soft porn on the computer; one female classmate made a pass at her; on her first day a girl called her a b***h several times and told her she smelled like a litter box (the van driver didn’t hear and my daughter would never snitch); and so on and so on… we pulled her after 3 weeks.

Someone asked me if I felt the agency should be investigated, and our insurance offered to let me file a formal complaint regarding our daughter (maybe I should), but I do honestly think they believe this is just how these kids are. Like when you hear people say, "boys will be boys."

It's not how these kids "are," or at least not how they have to be. I believe if my son had gone to T.O. he would have been beaten up every day. Having nothing to do with the second treatment center getting his diagnoses correct and him on the proper medication, this is purely based on T.O.'s expectations.

My son did physically attack one of the staff at the second treatment center within the first week. They restrained him, and when he wouldn’t/couldn’t calm down, they gave him a tranquilizing shot. There is no tolerance for aggressive behavior there. He NEVER got physically violent again (some of that was helped by getting him on the correct meds though). They didn’t tolerate the cussing and intimidating behavior either. Night and day difference between them and what we witnessed at T.O.

Our daughter is at the second treatment center now. She is homesick, but she is not terrified. She is not cussing like a sailor. She is not full of the "teenage bratitude" she learned was OK at Ma./T.O.. Truthfully I wish she was a little scared or defiant, because then we might not have to be fighting so hard to keep her there (she's not showing any negative behaviors at all and so the insurance company is saying she doesn't belong there!).

Another example of expectations:

When my biodaughter, Bob, was little (2-3 yrs) we had a lot of issues with her being aggressive. Some of it was her personality, but it got worse when I was pregnant with her little brother, coincidentally at the same time she started a new daycare. I asked the staff repeatedly if they were having issues with the aggressive behavior there. They said no. Until the day when she ran from me and hid in a playstructure. I was about 15 months pregnant (OK, it just felt that way!) and couldn’t get her out. She put her hands on another child’s throat, pressed him against the wall and refused to let go. I was yelling for the staff and she walked away from us toward the front of the room?! She got out a bag of candy and offered a piece to my daughter!! Admittedly it worked. My daughter did stop hurting the little boy and came out of the playstructure. I freaked though that they were teaching her she would get rewarded with candy for aggressive behavior. The school decided that my daughter had gotten in with an aggressive group of little girls and the best way to solve the problem was to move my daughter up to the 3 year old room. She was super tall and very bright, and we didn’t have a lot of options so we agreed.

The aggressive behavior at home continued though and they continued to deny seeing it at school. I figured that was typical for her, angel at school and then letting it all out at home (– little did I know this was God’s way of prepping me for my RAD daughter!). Until one day I left the baby with my mom and came to pick Bob up, and found her watching a movie. I thought I’d let her finish the movie (found out later it was Iron Giant – a PG movie that the three year olds were watching). Usually the baby and I were swarmed. That day the children were engrossed in the movie. So I finally got to watch the kids interact. One child would bump into another accidentally. That child would turn and shove them. Raspberries were standard as was the pushing, shoving and pinching I’d been seeing at home. No wonder my daughter was so aggressive! The staff saw it as totally normal 3 year old behavior so ignored it. That’s why they denied seeing any of her aggressive behavior – to them she was perfectly normal!

We pulled her out of the daycare the next day. Went on a two week vacation then started her at a new preschool where there weren’t 35 children in the room, and the kids were well –behaved. At the time we were trying to adopt from foster care, and the state had insisted we take our daughter with all the “behavior issues” to therapy before they would do our homestudy. 3 weeks after we left the preschool the therapist saw Bob again and couldn’t believe it was the same child. Bob was calm and talkative. She saw her once more to be sure then released her from therapy. (We were still turned down by the state, but that’s another story!). After the fact, I started hearing that all the kids in this childcare center had major boundary issues.

Long way of saying, it’s all about expectations. One treatment center expects kids with issues to act up and hurt each other. Another expects it, but doesn't allow it to continue. One child care center expects preschoolers to play roughly and be aggressive. Another expects them to be polite and helpful.

My adopted children expect to be treated badly. They "know" that "ALL" kids/teenagers act up and are rude to their family. My biokids expect to be loved and cared for. If a family member hurts them or their feelings they assume it's an accident or that the parents are there to keep them safe from any real harm.

When Bear was raging out of control and physically violent to the parents, the whole family felt the stress, but the biokids knew everything was going to turn out OK. Our adopted children did not. They "knew" that our son was going to be beaten, kicked out, and abandoned again. Our daughter "knew" that he would hurt her if she got in his way, and that when he was kicked out, she was soon to follow.

Our son is no longer raging and the biokids are "over it, " their expectations have been met. They are probably a little stronger and better people for the experience. Kitty might always live in fear. The world she expects is a pretty horrible place.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Just found your blog and I wanted to tell you that this post really spoke to me. My son was in an adolescent psychiatric unit for 17 days last Dec. (it was supposed to be a 3-5 day stay, but he showed his true colors and they thought they ought to keep him a bit longer). He functions at about a 6-7 yo level (on a good day) and looks like he's about 10 - but he's actually 15 now. So, he's hanging out there with all of these big kids with horrible attitudes and what do we get back 17 days later? A foul mouthed brat who has decided that he will "do anything and say anything he has to do to get a new family". You know, one without rules. He thought nothing of calling me a f'ing b--ch as I walked by. He called his sisters filthy names too. It took months, but we don't hear that language out of him. It was like teaching a toddler all over again though. Now his home-based therapist wants to send him to a facility where he would have lots and lots of freedom that he does not have here - because he cannot handle it. He is not capable at this point of making appropriate choices and putting him in a facility that would allow him these freedoms, then sending him home in a few weeks or months where he WILL NOT have these same opportunities to lie, steal and wander the city with little to no supervision will be a disaster for the rest of us. I think you did the right thing by forewarning this person of your experiences. I think that MY expectations of mental health services was way out of whack and I'm learning that the help that is out there may be of no consequence to my child.