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.