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!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Why we had Kitty sign the boarder agreement

These are some of the reasons we have had Kitty sign the boarder agreement.

Paying rent is essential for her for many reasons:

  •    She learns an adult independent living skill (paying rent is something she'll pretty much be doing the rest of her life). 
  •    If she has more than $2000, (including property/ assets), she LOSES her SSI, including Medicaid.  Since her medications alone are almost $2K a month, that cannot be an option.  
  •    She NEEDS something to spend her money on, besides junk food and stuff from Amazon.

What seems so obvious to most people that it doesn't even need to be said (like don't create a giant health hazard in the space we used to call your bedroom...), must be spelled out to Kitty, with uber detailed rules and restrictions.  This is because Kitty lives in a black and white world, distorted though it might be by her warped perception of reality.  Without clear, well-stated, consistently enforced rules (preferably written), Kitty feels that everyone is just "picking on her" and she assumes the rules are not real.

She doesn't understand how others just intuitively know and understand the rules and then make a conscious choice to follow them or not (of course, not everyone is able to make this conscious decision every time).   She doesn't understand that most people realize that deciding not to follow the rules means accepting the possible consequences.

Kitty will probably never be happy about rules and expectations, especially when others tell her she "should not" have to have any.  It is also very difficult for her comply (due to her issues and developmental age). We know that, but it's not a good reason to chuck the rules entirely.  We just have to approach teaching her the rules very differently than other kids, and lower our expectations.  She needs to know it's not OK to call me a "bi$%#" or kick holes in the wall, but I'm not going to give her the same consequences that I would for a child who is neurotypical.

Basically we're stuck between a rock and a hard place, but at least if we have clear, written rules, especially if we have her written agreement, then at least it's a little easier to justify what are really very reasonable expectations.  The bible and our justice system, both have exceedingly complex rules and expectations, no one is able to comply perfectly.  We don't expect her to be able to follow this agreement to the letter, but we do expect her to try.


Kitty is planning on running away to live with birth family so she doesn't have to be held accountable.  She believes that living with biomom and her sisters will be just like her distorted memories of her childhood (cheesecake for breakfast, little sisters who obey her every whim, having no rules or expectations, snow and cool weather all the time...).  Most importantly, like Bear, Kitty believes that she will be leaving all her troubles/ issues behind.  She doesn't understand/ believe that they will go with her.

Part of me wants her to go.  I don't know if she can learn from this if things go badly, but if she can, then maybe she'll realize that not only are the structure and rules we have here are a good thing for her, but maybe she'll realize we're not enforcing them just to be mean.  I know that none of us wants to have to continue to live with things the way they are now.

I know that for awhile, she's right; she will be "fine."  She will squash down her anxiety and her issues so no one sees them.  She doesn't trust others enough to see that she's not perfect (for fear they will realize she is "bad" and "unlovable" and reject/ abandon her).  Just like at school she will put all her energy into hiding her anxiety and "being good."  My fear is what always happens eventually (especially with all these major life changes and added anxiety) - the stress gets to her and she snaps.  The last couple of times each led to years of hospitalizations and residential treatment centers.

Now that Kitty's an adult, her dysregulation will lead to a lot different outcomes than before.  She has more control now, but the consequences would be much more severe if she becomes unstable (Ex. There would be young children in the home who could be hurt or endangered.  She'd have to go to ADULT treatment centers and ADULT jail.  She could lose her job, place to live, credit history, endanger others around her, and/or worst of all, feel abandoned and rejected again).


We've succumbed to the pressure to give Kitty her freedoms and privileges, despite our belief that she's not ready... and every time she proves us right.  Lately we've stepped back and just let her go - we've not enforcing any consequences for her actions.  She's stayed out until the wee hours of the morning (missing meds, not feeding the poor dogs), purchased and eaten so much junk food I'm surprised she's not more sick than she is, not told us where she is or will be, driven and almost wrecked a car, dressed "inappropriately," broken her new iPhone... Ironically she's still mad at us for "not allowing her to be an adult" (can you say, "distorted perception of reality"?!).

Kitty treats us like dirt, but then demands we do favors for her (take her places, fill out all the massive amounts of documentation, give her stuff...).  She has no clue that the only reason we tolerate the nasty, surly attitudes and behaviors (although we have set limits!)  is because we love her, but not everyone will tolerate this behavior or know how to help her regulate again.

So we continue to live in this weird no man's land.  Where she resents us because somehow it's our fault that she's still having to live here when she wants to go to a "better place," even though it's not us that is stopping her (is due to lack of funds to move, doctor appointments, therapist's concern that if she's triggered she won't be able to come home, no SSI yet...).  She is refusing to meet any adult rules and responsibilities, yet is mad at us for the guilt she feels for not following the rules.  She is still terrified and overwhelmed by the changes leaving will bring, and she's mad at us for not helping her make the transitions.  I'm trying not to burn bridges with her so that she will feel that she can come home when she's ready.

I want her to go, to bring a little peace to the family (and the ability to celebrate life's joys - like Bob going to college - without having to think, how can we lessen the impact on Kitty?), but I don't want her to become unstable and need hospitalization or worse.

I wish I thought that the boarder agreement or "house rules" would solve every thing, but I know it won't.  All I can hope for is that it might help a little and will tide us over until she leaves.


Unknown said...

Have you suggested JobCorps or Americorps to Kitty?

I've several bloggy friends with Kitty-like kids (adopted, FASD, borderline IQ, co-occurring MI) whose kids have thrived in these sorts of programs -- programs that provide housing, GED classes, job training, etc. -- daughter with FASD in AmeriCorps -- two sons and one daughter with FASD + trauma soup did great in JobCorps

marythemom said...

We looked into JobCorps for Bear. His main reason for not going was the structure of having to live on a closed campus during the week - pretty ironic considering where he is now. We never really considered it for Kitty for many reasons.

1) We were told by the school guidance counselor and a few other people that a lot of the kids are put there by court order (to avoid time in juvie or jail). Which means most of the other kids would be terrifying for Kitty.
2) She's pretty sheltered and has grown to expect a certain level of comforts (we're not upper middle class, but we're probably close). She was not happy in residential treatment.
3) Since she's completed high school, the main goal at JobCorp would be to teach her some kind of trade. Bear was happy with a lot of the options- most of which were more "blue collar" (welding was his first choice). Kitty's expectations (unrealistic though they might be) are all about things like flight attendant, preschool teacher - she wants jobs where she doesn't have to make any physical effort at all.

Anonymous said...

Will Kitty be able to understand and remember the terms of the boarder agreement? What will you do if she violates the terms of the agreement or refuses to pay rent? Will you require either of your bio children to adhere to the same agreement?

Anonymous said...

You say you want to "celebrate life's joys", using Bob's graduation as an example. Fair enough; she deserves to be celebrated. Given tat Kitty is also graduating, have you celebrated her graduation as well? Maybe doing something special to celebrate her completion of school may help her feel loved, and in her mind, given that she thinks you love the bio kids more than her, she may see that you love her just as much, and want to celebrate when she achieves something. Think that would help to improve things? Good for you for not pushing her one way or the other--to go to her birth family or stay with you.
I know I'm not in your situation, but know that I know you're doing your best, and that you love all of your children equally.

Miz Kizzle said...

I read the agreement again and was still puzzled. Kitty doesn't drive, so why mention a parking space? And why bring up guns? And the "morality clause," why is that in there? Why mention subletting? She's not likely to sublet if it's just one room.
And why include the part about being fun to be with? That's not part of a standard rental agreement.
Do you really plan to evict her or call the cops if she fails to comply?
You've made it overly complicated and way too wordy. Kitty won't understand it. I'm a lawyer and it boggled my mind! It's like no contract I've ever seen.
Can't you pare it down to the basics: rent due on a certain date, late fee on such-and-such a date, pay for damages, right to inspect room, she pays for bounced checks and that's it?
I hope Bob and Ponito are also expected to pay rent when they graduate high school, otherwise it will be unfair to Kitty.

marythemom said...

Most of the terms of the boarder agreement are for future reference. So we don't have to hash things out down the road.

We did come up with "House Rules," which are supposed to have consequences, but she was never willing to work with us on the consequences. We might discuss this in therapy next week.

The biokids will absolutely be expected to adhere to the same agreement, but as previously mentioned it most likely won't be necessary. Rent will be different while they're college students, because we'd just be paying it to ourselves since we'll be mostly supporting them. Although I'm still amazed at how much Bob has been able to arrange to reduce the cost of college! Of course after they graduate will be a different story.

marythemom said...

Miz K - That was an old version of the boarder agreement. I'll post the new one which is less complicated.

The answer to most of your questions though, is that the agreement is not just for Kitty. Especially if Bear moves back in then the stuff about morality and guns would be important. We do have minors living here. The parking stuff obviously applies to anyone who lives here with a car.

As to what happens if she violates the agreement or doesn't pay rent... I don't know. She violates the cleanliness stuff daily. She's only paying $100 "room and board" right now. This is the kind of stuff we discuss in therapy.

marythemom said...

"You say you want to "celebrate life's joys", using Bob's graduation as an example. Fair enough; she deserves to be celebrated. Given tat Kitty is also graduating, have you celebrated her graduation as well?" - Anonymous

Anonymous - Actually the "life joy" I mentioned in this post was Bob going to college. Of course we celebrated both girls' graduation. Kitty even got a second celebration, because she graduated from the special school as well. The problem is the things that Kitty is NOT getting, whether she actually wants them or not.