Friday, February 28, 2014

Visits are hard

A lot of people simply do not understand trauma. I sat in a room full of foster parents last night as we went through a required annual training called "Placement Stability". Basically, they took almost two hours to tell us that foster kids have behaviors and we shouldn't give up on the kids and disrupt placements. The instructor briefly went over the idea that trauma changes brain chemistry. But still...several foster parents spoke up about kids they had parented in their home. I heard comments like, "The kids don't understand. I tried to explain it to them - that their behavior was the reason they were being moved all the time - but they just didn't get it."

Trying to explain something like that to a foster child tells me that you, the foster parent, probably don't get it. (Especially since the woman that spoke the most was talking about a kid she did respite for that she was trying to "explain" this to. She didn't even have a real relationship with him.)

So - that said - let's just put this out there...
ALL FOSTER KIDS HAVE LIVED THROUGH HORRIFIC TRAUMA.

If I hear one more person halfheartedly add "neglect" in to the list of things a foster kid may have suffered I just might scream. The child doesn't have to have nearly died in order to have suffered trauma. Ricky has just a food issue or two that is likely the result of a very neglectful upbringing.

If a kid is in foster care, they have lost their family. Even if that family hurt them to where they ended up in intensive care, that child LOST their family and it still hurts. We (all of us...not just foster kids) are drawn to our biological families. Even if you think you hate yours, you still think about them all the time. They are connected to you. Imagine just for a minute if you were ripped from that connection. Because even if you hate your family, it's likely that YOU chose to leave them and there's something to be said for having that kind of power.

Daisy has no power right now. And Daisy has been ripped from her first family.

Daisy is starting to express her frustration with the situation.

Children have very little control over their lives. That's why it's so common to see kids from the hurt places taking control with the only things they can control: eating, toilet issues and sleeping. Adults simply cannot make a child eat, or go to the bathroom, or fall asleep.

Daisy has been having visits with her mom for a long time now. I always tried to make it so that Daisy would need to eat during the time she was with her mom. To me, it seemed like the right thing to do. It is not my job to help sever the ties between Daisy and her mom. It is my job to do what I can to maintain the connection. In the case of an infant, a LOT of bonding is done during feeding time.

Miss Daisy has started saying "E E E E" when she's ready to eat. It's a verbal cue that she tosses out there before she's super hungry and crying. In fact, she rarely cries now because we know to get the bottle ready when she starts saying "E E E E". Recently, things have timed out so that Daisy has just starting vocalizing that she is ready to eat when it is time for us to leave. The CPS office is less than 10 minutes away from my house. It's been perfect. Daisy was ready to eat and she was on her way to see her mom.

For the past two weeks I have dropped Daisy off and told her mom that Daisy was ready to eat. Two hours later when I came to pick her up, Daisy's mom told me that Daisy had refused to eat. Refused! This happened for three visits in a row.

In an effort to help and not sabotage, I offered to bring a bottle from our house. We've started thickening the formula ever so slightly with rice cereal to help with her reflux. I also use a different bottle than what Bio Mom does. Maybe that's why Daisy was refusing to eat?? (Keeping in mind I've got one bottle that is like Bio Mom's and if I feed Daisy when we're out and about I don't thicken the formula and Daisy always eats for me.)

For visit #4 I brought a bottle prepared from our house. This way all the variables would be the same – except for the location of the feeding and the person holding the bottle.

When I picked Daisy up from the forth visit Bio Mom looked a little concerned. Not only had Daisy completely refused to eat at all, but she had also cried inconsolably for over 15 minutes. Bio Mom quizzed me pretty hard. She wanted me to tell her why her baby was crying. She seemed convinced that the vinyl couch in the visit room must remind Daisy of a doctor's office or something.

Eventually I looked at Bio Mom and said, "This separation is hard on Daisy too. She's acting out the only way she knows how. No, I don't have issues with Daisy at the doctor's office. I'm sure she's just confused and sad and this is the only way a baby can express it."

Bio Mom didn't know what to say. I know I made her uncomfortable. Awkwardly, since I already had Daisy in my arms, I just walked out of the office and to my car.

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I've decided that I will make sure to feed Daisy prior to every visit at least for awhile. Yesterday, when I dropped Daisy off (she gets two 2-hour visits a week with Bio Mom), I looked at Bio Mom and said, "Daisy just ate around 2:00PM. She probably won't need to eat for you." Since the visit was at 3:00PM it wasn't like I fed Daisy RIGHT before the visit in an attempt to be mean. And if Daisy really wanted to eat with her mom she probably could take a few ounces. Bio Mom looked a little disappointed, but she didn't say anything.

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It would be lovely if foster care looked like a mentoring program. But I've got to look out for myself and I'm going to protect Daisy from as much trauma as I can. I also found out yesterday that Daisy's new CPS caseworker is NOT a high ranking, well experienced staff member put into place to coordinate the complexities of Daisy's serious case. No, Daisy's new caseworker is brand spanking new to CPS. He's literally at the bottom of the totem pole. He's incredibly young. He's a guy. It's doubtful that he's a parent himself. So I'm not going to go to him with parenting issues like this. Not if I can solve the problem myself by feeding Daisy prior to her visits.

I can't go to the visit supervisor(s) either. CPS has contracted out with a third-party to come in and supervise the visits. It's not the same person every time. Lord knows if they are keeping good notes or doing anything more than staring off into space during the visits. They never tell me anything that happens during the visit. I only know what Bio Mom shares with me.

So, if Bio Mom tells me that Daisy isn't eating and Daisy is crying, I'm going to fix what I can fix.

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Visits are hard on everybody. Even the babies!!

2 comments:

Nellie said...

I spend a lot of time with adoptive parents (even some bio parents whose children CLEARLY come from "hard places" due to issues like PPD and maternal illness), but it is so weird how it seems some parents just WILL not "get it". They seem to see parenting as a we vs. them kind of contest, so if the child tries to get any control, the parent just CANNOT stand it. Connection; compassion; empathy just don't some into their behavioral vocabulary - let alone creative problem solving... I just don't know what to think. Their entire view of the parent/child relationship seems to rest on parent being "in control".

I hope things are generally different where you are, but here, all you have to do is call your worker to ask a question about a difficult behavior and it is like they don't listen - the response is "When do you want him out?" What?

This class sounds good - the question is whether or not the workers have taken these ideas to heart themselves.

Bessy said...

I don't know that I would have been able to hold my tongue, that is ridiculous! Every kid that has come to me has had such a deeply ingrained "shame" piece. They believe this is all their fault already. They do not need you to EXPLAIN that their bad behaviors are causing them to move....most of the time that's the whole point! Let me misbehave and get another move out of the way so I don't have to love someone else and deal with the pain of loosing them too. Grrrrr.....and goodness gracious if its just respite??? I could deal with anything for a few days.