Friday, November 11, 2016

Peace

Sunny's transition to a new family is now underway.

Sunny is still with us, and will be for a few more days.  However, she and Family B spent some time together yesterday...and it was beautiful. A better match could not have been found...two parents (and a much older sister) who are fully vested in her, understand her needs and understand that she'll need a lot of support...and who are not only able to give her what she needs, but are excited to be able to have the opportunity.

I had tears rolling down my face last night, trying to express to my husband exactly how right they looked, sounded, and felt together. I'm sad that she won't be with us, but am experiencing an overwhelming sense of peace that the home of Family B is where Sunny needs to be.

After a few hours together yesterday, we parted.  We spent time having a heart-to-heart about Sunny's past and present. When Sunny met them, she was initially shy, and didn't talk at first...but soon overcame herself and began interacting with them.  When we left, they were excited about a day-long time together coming up soon. Sunny was crying because she didn't want to say "bye" to them. I was crying tears of joy that I finally have peace in my heart about her future.

Sunny bounced excitedly into preschool today, announced she had a "new sister" and was talking about visiting Family B and moving soon. The next step is for her to spend the entire day with Family B, a few days before moving.  A few weeks after her move, when she's in a good routine and feeling more settled, they'll begin switching her preschool to one that is closer to their home.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Was It the Right Decision...?

This is a question I've been asking a LOT lately.


Sunny
Was it the RIGHT decision to take Sunny as a foster placement, in view of the fact that we're currently in the middle of disrupting her placement?

Would the RIGHT decision in our current situation be to continue parenting her indefinitely, and hope her parent will one day regain custody?

Would it be the RIGHT decision to put our boys' needs on the back burner in order to parent Sunny and assume that all will be alright, and that she'll get better in the next few months (years)?

Was it the RIGHT decision to request disruption...or was it selfish?

I don't really have all of the answers...but I finally do have answers I've been able to make peace with.

For the last question, I absolutely believe that requesting disruption is (and was) the best thing to do in this circumstance, and ultimately, I don't think it is selfish. I think that one of the things that has made this a decision such a difficult one (one that we've agonized over for weeks) is that we ARE a foster-adopt family...and we were originally open to the possibility of adopting Sunny.  We do have a LOT of reasons for disruption, though, as I've begun discussing more on the blog.  Sunny's issues are only ONE of the reasons that disruption is best for all involved; unfortunately, because so many details of her case are confidential and private, I actually can't discuss them in this public forum. But suffice it to say, we really haven't felt much success in helping Sunny at all (indeed, she seems to be regressing more and more often, though she is no longer very aggressive). I've been told and I've read on so many adoption blogs that "God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called."  I've been told that God would equip us to handle Sunny's needs if we would just "hang in there."  But, without delving too deeply into my religious beliefs (or dwelling too long on clichés), we don't feel that adopting Sunny would be right for either her or for our family, as she needs more help and more therapy than we are able to provide.

I also do not believe that I am supposed to put aside the needs of my other children to put Sunny's needs first (at least on an indefinite timeline).  There are times with each of the children that they have more pressing needs than a sibling...but for the last 7 months, Sunny has had significant needs that have frequently turned our family's schedule upside down. The critical few who have said something about it, have said things like we "shouldn't be able to disrupt because birth parents can't do that."  Um, yeah...they can...otherwise adoption wouldn't exist. For that matter, if foster parents never disrupted, a lot of adoptive families would have never been united with their children - a fact that gives me a lot of comfort and peace (particularly since Eli was in foster care in Korea).

Unfortunately, I can't speak as to whether Sunny's parent will ever regain custody, since I can't reveal details in her case.  At this point, it doesn't seem very likely at all.  Still, I don't want to play roulette with a child's life; and Sunny will have at least 6 more months in care, even if she eventually goes home. With all of the unknowns in her case, she would be better off bonding with a foster-adopt family who can meet her needs in the short OR long-term. But, we've found ourselves at a time in our lives where Eli's just started a new school, received a new diagnosis, and has tolerated foster children coming in and out of our house for over a year and a half with various issues and needs...I think it's past time to slow down and give him a break (he's only 5!). Itty Bitty doesn't know what to think about the situation except that there's another kid in the house (Sunny) that actively ignores/avoids him, cries a lot, and flat refuses to play with him, no matter how hard he tries to engage her with favorite toys.  Still, the boys' needs come first because they are ours (still working to adopt Itty Bitty); when Sunny came into our home, it was as a foster (temporary) placement.

Aaaannnddd...the biggie...were we right to take her as a foster placement, in view that we are currently disrupting?

We don't know. We think we did the right thing; we've certainly tried to help Sunny. No one knew about Sunny's needs at the time of her placement. We were her 5th foster home in 10 days, and she'd been seriously traumatized by events leading to her removal from her birth home. She'd never been to preschool or lived in a house with another child. I also was naïve enough to underestimate the effects of trauma and grief on a three year old.  We have been able to get her into therapy, provide her with some preschool experience, and provide a very stable, safe home for seven months.  We spent a lot of time with her in the summer, before school started, and I'd like to think that time helped her.  Lately, though I wonder how successful we've been....she's become more withdrawn and less communicative as the days have gone by, and this is extremely heartbreaking and frustrating. The bottom line is that we really believe that Sunny's upcoming move will be less traumatic for her than her living with us indefinitely would be for the boys.

I can say that the family who will be caring for her next, Family B, has gone through a lot to be approved as a foster-adopt family...but they are excited to have her coming to live with them! They are much better prepared for Sunny than we were, as we now know the details of Sunny's case, her triggers, and what helps with some of her behaviors. And...best of all...they are THRILLED that they are going to get a chance to be her family.  Family B is rested, excited, has only a well-adjusted older daughter, and is well-informed about Sunny's needs - and I think they will be a wonderful fit.  We are going to try a short (few hour) visit with them soon. The best part is that they are local, and we will be able to get updates and possibly visits from Sunny!

How does this fit with remaining a foster family or adopting again one day?  I don't know the answer to this yet. We are still working to adopt Itty Bitty. We have a lot of thinking to do on if/when we will accept another placement of a foster child at all. We've begun to discuss it, because - like it or not - the phone calls requesting placement for a child will begin coming as soon as Sunny leaves, since there is such a demand for foster parents.  We may decide to take children on an emergency basis (1-7 days) or for respite care, or we may wait until Itty Bitty is older and more independent before taking anyone for foster. Either way, we have a LOT of discussion coming up!



No Bohns About It

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Waiting...

We still have Sunny. We are hoping her permanent placement will happen soon, but we're still waiting. We had contact with a family through our foster placement agency, Family A, that thought they wanted to foster Sunny, but things didn't work out. We've received an update from another foster-adopt family, Family B, who should be taking care of Sunny soon, and everything's looking good right now. Family B doesn't have any young children, so Sunny's needs will be front and center, where they need to be. We continue to pray that all will go well, and that they will be the perfect fit for one another.  In the meantime, Sunny will stay with us until Family B is ready.

I'm going to continue with the theme I've had lately, with trying to give more insight into our situation with Sunny. Lately, I've just really felt like I needed to share what's been happening, partially because there aren't many foster-adopt parents who share the good AND bad online. Reading the blogs of people who discuss issues like these honestly have helped our family, though, and have given our family a sense of community.  The decision to disrupt Sunny's placement did NOT come about easily or quickly, and has been a nearly constant discussion since early August, when Sunny began having major tantrums (this coincided with beginning to visit her parent, as well).  We even attempted taking advantage of respite care for a little while, thinking that we just needed a break...only to discover that, while in respite, things were better all around...for ALL of us, including Sunny.

Last month, Family A expressed that they wanted to have a chance to foster Sunny, and asked to meet her, and then to keep her for a weekend for a trial respite.  Unfortunately, things didn't go well, and they decided that they did not have the ability to parent her long term (actually, they even dropped her off with us earlier than planned). Honestly...I was relieved. After talking to the family before the visit, I didn't think they were really listening...or that they were truly ready for Sunny. Their experience also reinforced to me that my family is not alone in having difficulty helping Sunny manage her behavior, and it gave our agency more insight into how tough our current situation is. Thankfully, because of the insight gained through the recent respite experience, the social workers at our foster agency have become much more understanding and supportive than they were previously.  They were also able to find a much, much better match for Sunny - Family B -a family who is definitely much better prepared to meet Sunny where she is.

I've said it repeatedly - but it's still so very true - that my heart breaks for this sweet child, who has survived through more trauma than many adults ever will. Her behavior is the result of trauma repeatedly inflicted upon her by adults who should have protected her. One of the barriers to understanding that we've run across (when trying to get help for her) is that many of her behaviors don't sound that bad - or that unusual - on paper, but are difficult to deal with daily and in-person.

For example, when Sunny wants to speak, she can speak very clearly, in complete sentences with all parts of speech. She's an exceptionally intelligent little girl who will likely qualify for a gifted program when she enters school. However, she often stops talking entirely. Saturday was one of those day. That evening, she stopped talking completely, and didn't speak again until Monday morning (when she couldn't resist singing a few words along her favorite CD on the way to school). She laughed. She grunted. She stared. She growled. But she didn't speak a single word for about 40 hours.  Unfortunately, this is becoming a more frequent occurrence as her visits with her parent continue each week. Each time she has a visit, she tends to stop talking for 1-3 days. By the time we have her talking and communicating clearly again, she has another visit...it's a never-ending cycle. For Sunny, talking is a control/fear issue, similar in many ways to her bathroom control issues, and locking her door (she is now locking us all out of rooms - herself included).  She sometimes refuses to eat, even when served favorite foods, which is another controlling behavior.  Her play time on weekends often consists of sitting and staring or walking slowly and aimlessly outside...or (of what feels like) never-ending tantrums. This type of behavior is ongoing, and we've tried a lot of different things to try to help her, but the one thing she really needs to get back on track to develop healthy attachments...hours of undivided attention...I don't have right now.

In addition, she's had other difficult behaviors that range in severity and frequency. She's deliberately destroyed some of her own beloved toys, a few of Eli's toys, and a couple of dresser drawers. She's hit Eli mercilessly on two occasions, and relentlessly taunts him when she IS talking (and sometimes physically taunts him when she ISN'T talking - by poking, staring down at him, taking things from him, etc). She wanders away constantly when we are out and about (and refuses to hold hands about half the time), and has no problems charming complete strangers (which is one reason our caseworkers didn't take us seriously at first); this has made trips and outings impossible in most cases.  We also actively avoid most restaurants, too, as she will not behave in those settings (smearing food all over, throwing food on the floor, grabbing food with her hands instead of using a fork, flipping around in her chair, etc - she doesn't do this at home OR at school). For another example, she knows very well how to dress herself in the morning (though she refuses to pick out her own clothes...I can't even get her to choose her own socks most of the time).  Sometimes, she will take clothes, turn them inside-out, then put them on inside-out AND backwards (jeans included...I think she buttons them BEFORE attempting this feat). All of this because she likes to hear me tell her to go back to her room and fix her clothes (which she can and does do within a minute or two of being told). While she's nearly 4 years old, she is emotionally around 18-24 months old - if that - and she so often acts angry or depressed (withdrawn/teary) that it is a sweet surprise to be able to see her occasionally happy.

What's interesting to me is that Sunny is a very, very different child when she's on her own (away from children her age), and in the company of older children (teens) or adults. We've had days were it's just been Sunny & I...and those days were, without exception, very peaceful and pleasant.  Our hope and prayer is that she adapts well in her new placement and that she gets all of the loving support she needs to heal. It's also interesting to note that Sunny has never been mean or hurtful toward Itty Bitty, though I have definitely been concerned about that.  She usually ignores him completely, even when he brings her toys and tries to get her to play.  Still, she is very jealous of both boys and tries to demand more attention than we can give.

I'm hoping soon that our boys will be restored to a sense of peace in the house once Sunny does leave. They've had to put up with a lot, and they've missed a lot of activities (even simple ones, like going to the home improvement store to build on Saturdays).  Eli, in particular, was so upset when Family A's situation didn't work out and Sunny came home...and this, in and of itself is a really unusual reaction for him. I feel like we've missed some valuable bonding time as a family, even as we see the miracle of Itty Bitty's amazing progress unfolding before our eyes.  I do not know, given what we've been through lately, if we will continue to foster, provide respite care for the families in our area, or adopt again. I can definitely say that we will be taking the break we originally wanted to take after Scooter left last April, though, and are looking forward to spending the holidays together for much-needed downtime.