Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's goin' on.... and a plea for help.

Oh dear, it's been a while since I've updated, huh?

Did you think maybe I stopped posting because we threw in the towel and our boy got placed in a therapeutic foster home? Rest assured, we're still hanging in there with Big Guy and don't have any intent to stop.

It's partly the Jewish holidays - Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Simchas Torah... They have taken up a huge part of my time for the last month. It's also partly that there's so much to say and I know I'll never be able to update you on everything that's going on.

Here is a bullet list of just a few of the many things that have happened since I last posted:

  • His team (case workers, etc) decided if this placement fails he will be placed not in a therapeutic foster home but in a Residential Treatment Center. Holy crap, talk about pressure on us! We feel so strongly, as does his therapist, that at this point he does not need an RTC, he needs a family. It's one thing if we adopt him and then he needs RTC, because he'd have a family to visit him all the time and then to eventually come home to. If he went to RTC right now we'd have no rights to even visit him and at most he might get a weekly visit with mom and an occasional visit from a social worker. 
  • His therapist asked me "So, how does it feel living in a residential treatment center?" Because he acknowledged what everyone else is coming to realize, which is that we are basically providing a residential treatment center and therapeutic foster home without the training or compensation.
  • Big Guy's therapist is excellent and Big Guy is starting to talk about his anger, why he takes it out on us, his sadness, etc.
  • Big Guy has been revealing more abuse history. I'm feeling so angry I just want to kill everyone who hurt him. I have to laugh that I told people when he was first placed with us, "He doesn't seem to have any kind of major abuse history, at most maybe a little emotional neglect." Warning to first-time foster parents like us: Never, ever believe that the story you think you know during the first month or when a kid's placed is anything near what the full truth is.
  • We found a great psychiatrist who is starting him on an anti-depressant! Hallelujah! She actually gets that it's not just ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder that are happening here, and she diagnosed him with PTSD after we had been increasingly feeling that some of his behaviors are trauma reactions.
  • We have been talking to Patty (Big Guy's mom) a lot and learned from her more about her own and her mom's mental health history which has helped us understand the situation better and also helped us inform the psychiatrist. We have an awesome relationship with her...
  • ...Which makes it so frustrating that CPS has decided we shouldn't be allowed to supervise visits. Because an outside agency that CPS contracts with is now doing visits at their offices and doesn't allow any contact between birth families and foster families, we cannot see her, and Little Guy (Big Guy's baby brother who we had for the first week that Big Guy was with us), at all. She literally enters through a different door than us, we think, so we can't even "run into her" in the waiting room. It's awful. So much for our dream that we could help mentor and support her. Basically CPS has made it clear they want to build a case to terminate her parental rights, even though she is parenting her baby and her older kid has only been in foster care 3 months with us. They have a foster family who is very competent and has a good relationship with the birth mom, a birth mom who never hurt her child directly, and a foster child who isn't traumatized by contact with his birth mom... The perfect situation to allow a mentoring relationship between foster and birth family or at least to allow more casual visits outside a clinical setting. Yet they don't want to make more work for themselves or risk her actually getting help from us, so they're screwing everyone in the process. Nice.
  • School started and life became much more manageable because of everyone having a set schedule, so we no longer feel we're living in constant crisis mode...
  • ...However, around the time school started Big Guy stopped sleeping through the night. He woke us up no less than seven times last night. He simply cannot and will not sleep without a grown-up in bed with him (please, spare me the lectures and horror stories about how foster parents should protect themselves from abuse allegations by never ever laying down with a child. It's the only way to keep from multiple violent meltdowns at night right now, and if those meltdowns are hard to deal with during the day they are impossible to deal with when half-asleep). His anxiety is so out of control. Usually I go lay down with him when he wakes us up, but end up falling asleep and waking up hours later in horrible pain because his bed sucks and I have a bad back. If anything is making my life feel unmanageable right now, it's not his tantrums or violence... it's the lack of continuous sleep and how we're held hostage by him at night because he wakes up multiple times and is terrified to go back to sleep without us with him. Have I mentioned I have idiopathic hypersomnolence, and am therefore supposed to get 9 hours of sleep a night in order to safely drive? Haha.
Any suggestions on how to deal with the sleep issue, experienced mamas and papas? He's already on 3mg of Melatonin and is taking his Risperdal at night as well. He has nightmares but frequently he wakes up without having nightmares. I hope the SSRI will help. I feel like the parent of a colicky infant, who feels ready to kill someone due to weeks and weeks of interrupted sleep.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Dear Big Guy

    Dear Big Guy,

    You are fast asleep after a night of anxiety attacks that woke you out of a sound sleep. You have been asleep for an hour, though I keep expecting you to wake up any minute. I don't know if it was the Chamomile Calm drops I gave you at 5am (I am still amazed at how well they work) or the imaginary circle I drew around you to keep the bad dreams away or the guided meditation I did with you in the middle of the night as a last-ditch attempt to get you to sleep. All I know is your skinny little body is curled up in your massive bed and you look peaceful, finally. You are so handsome, so little, and so angelic when you sleep. You look innocent, not like the wild creature that tears apart the house and tries to punch and kick and bite us. Mama and I know you are a creative and kind little boy, no matter what your behavior might look like someitmes. You deserve to feel good, not to suffer. You deserve to be happy, well-rested, and calm. One day you will know what it is like to not be so fearful or angry, I just know it.

    I love you deeply, honeyboy. I wish I could sneak in there and give you a kiss on your silky-smooth cheek (the most kissable cheek I've ever encountered!) but I'm afraid I'd wake you up.

    Dear G-d

    Please let the new psychiatrist we are taking Big Guy to today be kind, good at listening, and full of ideas. Ideas about what is going on with him and what to do about it. Please let her take seriously the fact that he was up for 1.5 hours last night afraid that he was dead ("can kids be half-dead?" he asked my partner), that he'd have nightmares if he went back to sleep, and that we were going to die (he kept saying "I love you, mama. I really love you, mama" in a scared voice over and over to my partner... which is not normal for him). He said his heart was pumping blood really fast and "beeping" really fast (he thinks his heart beeps, not beats). He was a wreck. Please let the new psychiatrist take seriously the fact that our house is in danger of being destroyed during his rages and that we are in danger of being hurt. Please let her understand that he has a gentle and sweet soul, which is why he gets so depressed when his behavior is out of control. If she has more clarity about diagnoses, great. But I care less about diagnoses than that she can do something to help take the edge off for him so that he can work more productively on changing his behaviors and coping better with his feelings. A kid who is so anxious they are refusing to go to sleep (or waking up 10 times during the night like he did Sunday night) and is so out of control that they fly into physically violent rages is not in any place to be doing productive work in therapy. We aren't big on medicating kids, but this child is clearly not on the right meds right now and he is suffering. So please let this woman be compassionate and insightful, and have some idea of where to go from here. My sweet boy deserves this.

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    L'Shanah Tovah! Happy New Year!

    L'shanah Tovah (Happy Rosh Hashanah / New Year) to everyone.

    I know I'm way overdue for an update post, especially after my last post which was written amid a major crisis. Suffice it to say, we are still holding in there with Big Guy (though just barely). We are more in love with him each day, and he is more and more bonded with us... and the tantrums continue to be out of control and sometimes real violent. The Agency continues to be unable to give us any real support, I'm starting to wonder if they're secretly hoping we'll "give up" so they can send Big Guy to a residential treatment center and transfer his case to another agency. But we're trying. We're still trying... with all our heart and soul and blood, sweat and tears (literally).

    My prayer is for this new year to bring peace and calm and self-love into this sad, angry, hurt boy's heart. And, while we're at it, I hope this new year brings us a good psychiatrist with some new ideas about meds; a continuation of the good work that's finally happening in therapy; a lot of fun for Big Guy riding his new bike; increased trust in ourselves and each other; and a greater percentage of family time spent doing fun things and just loving and enjoying each other instead of spent managing violence and rage.

    We are off to spend the holiday with family and friends for 3 days (two are Rosh Hashanah, the third is shabbos [the Sabbath]). I'm hoping Big Guy can handle it, and maybe even enjoy it.