Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another adoptive family wanting to give up...


As an adoptive mom of a special needs child who came from foster care with issues (some apparent but most latent), and later diagnosis much like this 11 year old child in OK, I have to say that I can’t imagine ever “returning him”. He’s my son through thick and thin, for better or worse. I made a forever commitment to him to be his mother. I also have to say that rather than lobby the state to “take children back”, there needs to be a lobby of the state(s) to offer more resources (such as federally-mandated and federal or state-funded residential therapeutic treatment) for families that adopt special needs children who need more intensive services than they can receive in-home.

There should also be the option of renegotiating adoption subsidies and post adoption services that rise to the level of need of individual families, rather than some arbitrary figure that fits in the state adoption budget. Finally, the state needs to take some financial and social responsibility for children who have been in their care and custody while in fostercare and that THEY have promoted to the damage that these children suffer – we need biological parent case plans with a shorter timeline to either reunification or termination, adherence to the federally-mandated ASFA, appropriate and immediate therapy for every.single.child in fostercare who has suffered the trauma of loss, disruption, multiple transitions, abuse or neglect, and family court judges and caseworkers who are trained to PREVENT situations such as the damage done to this child and the fear this family experiences as they are basically “thrown to the wolves” once the ink is dry on the adoption order.

Lastly, pre-adoptive parents going into older child adoption need to KNOW (through intensive education, training, and networking) that there is always the potential for serious issues and love alone is not a cure all. Adoptive parents need to go in understanding that the child may not attach to you, be grateful you adopted him, or even show love at all. He may transfer all the pain he’s suffered onto you. The only reward you should expect is knowing you gave the child a chance at a future.

Most of these children were already given up on by their first parents. They were hurt, and the trauma and fear runs very, very deep. They are terrified… of the past and future, of being loved, of not being loved, of moving again, of life, of monsters in the dark coming to hurt them again, of giving love, of letting their guards down, of loving someone, of loving themselves, of never being able to love, of being damaged or unlovable, of being hurt again. That’s often why they have knives under their pillows. These children need intensive therapy and immediate help.

These traumatized adoptive families who have been pushed to their limits financially, emotionally and often physically need support. Giving the child back should not be an option ever — but – the state has some responsibility to these families they helped create. The state needs to pony up the resources instead of allowing/forcing families to give up on their children.

No, I’d never DREAM of sending my child “back” into the state’s custody, where a good deal of his damage occurred! I would (and have) however, kick down doors to get him the therapy, education, medication and other services he needs. Then kick some more down. You fight! You don’t give up on your child and take your story to the media looking for sympathy and pats on the back, exposing your child to the potential shame and ridicule of being "given back" or being "beyond help". You use that same energy and media exposure to fight for more resources and more HELP, not a way out. You make that goal very clear to the media. And especially to the child.


marythemom said...

"He’s only 11, has killed animals, violent to other children, and runs away from home often. Melissa and Tony Wescott are afraid of him. So afraid in fact, they are trying to change Oklahoma law, so they can return him. He has tried to burn the house down, leaving a note which said, >so sorry you had to die<. He has even hidden butcher knives under his mattress…."

This is such a sad story. Yes, staying with the adoptive parents is first priority, but it's also not always possible or in the child's best interest. Some children are just not able to live in families.

This is a severely disturbed child and if Oklahoma is anything like Texas there are no options for residential treatment or somewhere safe for him, unless you can pay out of pocket - the residential treatment our son went to was $800/day. We were incredibly lucky that he was from a state that was willing to pay for it and his adoption was not final yet.

This family fear for their lives. They are afraid to take him home, while at the same time they are up against federal charges of abandonment if they don't. If they managed to get those diagnoses then I'm assuming they have already had to fight and advocate for him - these are not easy to get.

This boy has probably not hit puberty yet. He has permanent brain damage. This family is fighting for his needs as well as their own. My guess is that even if he were bio they would still be trying to find services for him, and failing. Services just aren't out there, and parents aren't getting the information and support they need. I can't blame them for trying to force the state to help them. At this point I would guess they are desperate.

In my opinion this is yet another example of the media putting a spin on the story.

Mary in TX

Ryansmom said...

"Services just aren't out there, and parents aren't getting the information and support they need."

And that is the problem that needs fixing yesterday. There should be post-adoption support for ex-foster childrens' special mental health needs. Many of the issues these children face are created by the state. States should be responsible for the children that they release for adoption who have adoption and foster care-related needs that go beyond that of a typical child. It should not be a felony to seek out of home therapeutic care for a disturbed child, and committing a child to the state for HELP should not be an abandonment charge, nor should a parent have to lose parental rights in seeking alternative care for their child. Have doctors determined that he's cured and/or stable now, or have his medical benefits run out? Why is he coming home after a year away? That part of the story wasn't made clear to me. Either way, I'm not sure going to the media pushing to undo an adoption, rather than fighting to hold the state of OK responsible for subsidized mental heath care and treatment, is the way to go. I guess desperation will drive people to do things they wouldn't normally consider, but
there has to be a better way other than this family exposing themselves (and subsequently the child) to this kind of negative public exposure, given the challenges he already faces. Surely his schoolmates, friends, their parents and neighbors will have seen the many articles and newscasts and look at him as some kind of monster. The child may see it for himself, and view himself as unwanted and beyond hope and help. The child may be emotionally disturbed, and his family may be scared, but he's still a little boy who needs protecting.

marythemom said...

And how many people fight everyday to get post adoption services and support and not get it? We didn't qualify because we adopted out of state. Even if we'd adopted TX kids, what our state offers is pitiful (no RTC for sure!) I'd bet this family tried that route like I did and got nowhere. Maybe this was the only way they saw to go forward or maybe this was just the way the press decided to twist it. They might also have decided to try a new angle since the others obviously don't work.

I see this as a desperate way to get some help. How many people are fighting to get services for biokids too and not getting it? My kids biomom was already mentally ill and traumatized when she went into foster care at age 14, but she did not get the support or therapy she needed. Technically the state made her worse and perpetuated the cycle - does that make them responsible? In my opinion yes.

Biomom allowed her children to be victims of trauma and domestic violence (because of her own illness and trauma), but she also tried to get them help. My kids are mentally ill some of which was genetic, some caused by their traumatic childhoods. She was unable to get the services they needed.

We obviously agree the system is horribly broken. I'm assuming this family is just trying to find a way to cope. If this child were an adult we would not expect his family to take him in when he obviously tried to murder the family, but the state says it's different because he's a child. If this child were bio would we react the same way? He killed animals and tried to murder his family! I think this hit the media mostly because he is adopted.

The coming home after a year? Many programs are only a year long. Some programs decide to send a kid home if the child is "not participating" or they feel they "can't help" the child. Families are not given alternatives.

For my RAD kids they didn't show the RAD behaviors in residential treatment or even much in foster care, because RAD, by definition, is against family and people who dare to try to love them. My daughter was described as the sweetest kid the caseworker had on her caseload. Always a smile and a hug. My daughter's school thinks I'm crazy because she's so sweet and quiet.

It's possible that even though the child was older the state didn't know he had RAD, especially if they moved him frequently (honeymoon periods with new families). When my children were diagnosed the caseworker and even their former therapist were shocked.

As for the child's friends seeing the media, I doubt he has any friends. The child himself seeing it? Unlikely, this type of media is not allowed in RTCs (although staff assume the parents are at fault anyway whether it's in the news or not). Neighbors? Hopefully they will understand the family's plight better.

Our whole family experienced PTSD from dealing with our son when he was at his most violent. If we hadn't been able to get him the help he needed to keep the family safe we would have had to "give him back." We didn't finalize the adoption for almost 2 years because we were lucky enough to see this coming before it was too late - otherwise we could not have afforded the help he needed. There are still days when I think about sending him back. Days when the lying, stealing and intimidation get to me. The physical aggression has mostly stopped though so we will most likely do what a lot of other parents with kids with severe RAD and FASD do - wait until the child is 18 and we are no longer legally liable. We will not kick our son out, we will not have to he'll run.

Anyway, I hope I'm not coming off as arguing with you. I think we agree on most everything. I just wanted a chance to talk about this as it is obviously close to my heart!

Mary in TX

Ryansmom said...

Thank you for sharing Mary. This last post brought me to tears. I'm so sorry that you've not been able to access the resources that you've needed, and that your family has suffered so much. What is the answer? Is there an answer??

marythemom said...

Thank you. We have been able to access a lot of the services we need, but I know we're lucky. Most of our son's issues were from his undiagnosed/untreated bipolar disorder - we were able to get him diagnosed and properly medicated at an RTC while he was still technically a foster child. A lot of his issues were treatable by meds - he doesn't have FASD and isn't a psychopath (and hopefully will never become one). We feel very lucky.

I have a good friend who wasn't so lucky. She adopted from another country (so no post adoptive services). Her son has issues that meds won't fix. She has no way to keep him or her family safe and couldn't afford the expensive RTC that does neurological testing that we used. She has had to basically give up all her parental rights to get him the services he needs, and she was lucky that was an option. If you cried over my comment you probably shouldn't read her blog

There are some places that are trying to fix the system. One I love is Advocates for Children of Trauma ( It's located here in TX and the founder is an amazing man who I am lucky to consider a friend. He has a child with severe RAD (among other issues). She's a biochild, but was raised by her drug addicted mother and he didn't know she existed until the damage was done. He is very aware of how broken the system is, and is working hard to fix it.

I don't think there is an answer, but we can't stop trying. I would have said a college student donating $10K for an ambulance was impossible. I would have said finding people to match that $10K in today's economy right before Christmas was impossible too, but we know that it isn't. What can people do when they put their mind to it? I have hope!

Mary in TX