Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why I have the on-call worker on speed dial.

My two foster daughters have PTSD and ODD. Granted, these are diagnoses are what I've come up with on my own. We don't have the psychological evaluations back yet. But I'm pretty sure the ones with the degrees are going to agree with the ones that live with it.

So you might ask...just how does this look at your house?

Weeellllll.... let's just say there is a LOT of arguing going on. Then, at bedtime (where the abuse occurred all too frequently) they get freaked out.

When my girls are freaked out they do. not. listen.

Not to me. Not to my husband. Not to each other.

However, I've figured out a system that's been working pretty good. And since it's all I've really got, I'm using it.

My girls will listen when I'm talking about them to someone else.

My girls are very scared. Bottom line - they don't trust grown ups. When they start freaking out at night, they are literally trying to push me to the end of my rope. They want to know how much it will take before I'll hurt them. They don't believe they are safe. They don't believe that there is a support system doing all they can to take care of them.

The agency we are licensed through is wonderful! We have tons of support. Someone answers the phone every time I call. When I leave a message, it always gets returned. And when I call after hours, I always get a hold of the on-call SW right away.

So, I take advantage of this.

When I really need to get my girls to listen to me when they are dysregulated (especially at bedtime), I call the on-call social worker. I do this right in front of the child that is freaking out. I calmly describe what has been going on. I make sure the worker knows that the kid is listening and that this call is mainly for their benefit. Because you see, as soon as I start talking about the child to the worker, the kid starts listening to me. Sure, the child is usually in the background calling me a liar. Yelling that I'm stupid. Insisting that they aren't going to talk. But...they are listening to me.

A conversation could easily sound very similar to this:

"Hi. This is Cherub Mamma. I'm calling tonight about my girls MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle. They are having a very difficult time settling down for bed tonight and I would like to give them an opportunity to talk to you about it."
Usually this is where the SW asks what the problem is.
I spell it all out. I validate the girls feelings and let the worker know what my expectations are.
"My girls have been with me since September 10. From everything I've been able to learn, they were hurt quite terribly in their last house. This often happened at bedtime. I totally understand that they are still scared at bedtime but they haven't been able to follow our two simple rules.
We only expect them to stay in their beds and to not disturb others.
However, TurtleTurtle is kicking MissArguePants and both girls have been spitting water at each other tonight."
This is where the girls will of course scream out that I'm lying. They'll usually throw in an insult or two if they can.
"I am hoping that TurtleTurtle can talk with you about this behavior. I'm sure she wants to settle down and go to sleep. She's just having a hard time right now. Can you talk to her please?"
Most of the workers I've talked to have figured out that I'm doing this mainly for the girls. And most of the conversations go on a bit longer before I try to pass the phone off to the child. I usually try to include as many positive things about the girls and their behavior as I can. I also include a line about why I'm calling.
"I'm having a hard time with their behavior right now. I'm tired and I need to be able to relax and go to sleep too. More than anything, I want these girls to know that they are safe. There are lots more people than just Mr. Amazing and I looking out for them. That's why I called. They are obviously very afraid right now or else they'd be able to go to sleep as it is quite late and they are quite tired. I need them to hear from someone else that cares about them that they are safe."
So far, this has worked for me almost every time. The girls just can't keep fitting while I'm talking about them to someone else. They want to hear everything I have to say. I get a chance to spell out the simple expectations. And, if they manage to calm down enough during the call and actually agree to talk to the worker, they get my message reinforced by someone else.

I worried a lot about calling all the time. But as this placement has become more and more difficult I decided I need to have as much of their behavior documented as possible. I feel better when it's not just all being documented by me. My agency has also made it very clear to me that this is what they are here for!! So, I'm taking them up on it.

And that is why I have the on-call worker on speed dial.


MamaFoster said...

lol, i love it-especially that it works! i am sad to say i can't really see my agency being so good about this.

Mary said...

Good for you for taking the time to validate the girl's feelings (and your own). It must take a lot of patience and calmness.