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#1 of 15 Old 03-02-2013, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I work as an advocate for kids in the mental health system, have experience as a therapeutic foster parent, and a bio-son on the Autism Spectrum. All those things tie in to my question...

 

I have a new case that is really troubling me. The kid is 11, and diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Also attachment issues and PTSD, after an abuse/neglect history. He has major eating issues, is significantly underweight (unclear if that is from early malnutrition or current food aversion, or both). He takes meds that must be taken with food, so getting him to eat is a major part of every day. Also enuresis, which Mom believes is intentional. These, and other behavioral issues are things I could probably help the family with, but...

 

Foster Mom is the most rigid, controlling parent I have ever met. Her style is in direct conflict with any suggestions I can think of.  He has been in their home over a year, and she is coming to resent him mightily. She told me about their morning breakfast routine, when she takes up to 2 hours, sitting at the table with him, coaching every bite. "Take a bite. Chew. Swallow." I would resent that also, but the fact is it isn't working! She feels the school is too easy on him, so she drills him every afternoon in academic work. Interactions with the siblings are mainly negative, and I think the other kids resent him as well. They have 4 other kids, 2 homeschooled, and I think they took this child out of a sense of moral obligation. He is a nephew of the Dad, and the bio-parents are not involved. DHS is involved now, and it looks like the plan is adoption.

 

It is pretty clear, from just one meeting with the Mom, that no one in this family likes or understands the kid. I can help with the understanding part - ASD kids to take some extra understanding to "get" them. But I don't see how I can teach them to like, let alone love, this boy. I am really afraid that the adoption will go through, and this poor kid will never have the chance to be appreciated for who he is.

 

Although I can't really say this professionally, at least not yet, at this point my advice would be to have the child moved. I have never been in this situation before - as a foster parent, I have always been for permanency, but in this situation, I almost think the child would be better off "languishing in foster care" as they so melodramatically put it, rather than being a resented obligation.

 

Any ideas or comments?


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#2 of 15 Old 03-03-2013, 06:02 PM
 
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Are they working with a therapist? One suggestion I have to is to speak with the therapist,  who hopefully is trained in attachment and trauma. It can often look like a foster parent is controlling and rigid when in reality there is an interesting pattern going on that is related to the attachment problems. There can be many reasons why someone appears to get more rigid. A skilled therapist who knows a lot about attachment should be able to figure out what is going on in the relationship and hopefully to help resolve it.
 


 
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#3 of 15 Old 03-04-2013, 06:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, it was the therapist who referred the family to me. She specializes in trauma work, and is experienced with attachment issues. I have parented kids with RAD, and I understand the many facets of these relationships. I understand the theory of structured intensive parenting (although that is not what worked in my case). I haven't even met the child, so there is none of the common play-acting, sweet and innocent act that professionals frequently initially see. My main concern is that the Mom at least, and the rest of the family by her report, don't like or love this child. It must be a pretty miserable way to live, for everyone! I really think they took on this child as a charity project, and they seem to expect a level of gratitude he is really incapable of. I know he has some pretty tough, unlovable behaviors.

 

In working with this family, I want to help them see some of the good in this kid - although so many social workers and therapists take a "strengths-based approach", and I expect it has already been overdone. And to understand the quirky, ASD aspects. But I believe every child deserves a parent whose eyes light up when they enter the room, who gets genuinely excited at their accomplishments, who loves them even when they act like total creeps. I don't hear any love coming from the Mom. I remember when my hardest RAD foster daughter was at her worst, I still saw her potential, I still was amazed at her resilience, I still loved her with all my heart (not that I always liked her very much!)
 

I guess I am asking for advice on how to help them build love. Is it even possible?


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#4 of 15 Old 03-05-2013, 11:38 AM
 
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It might help to encourage the mom to take care of herself.  Maybe some respite care so she gets some breaks from the really hard behaviors.  A support group with other moms who have been there could be really encouraging.  

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#5 of 15 Old 03-05-2013, 11:47 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post

 I really think they took on this child as a charity project, and they seem to expect a level of gratitude he is really incapable of. I know he has some pretty tough, unlovable behaviors.

 

 

I think helping her get past this part will be huge.  It seems really common from those who aren't well versed in foster care and adoption to expect adopted children to be grateful that they were taken from the situation they were born into.  Maybe just recommending some good books to help her see what's going on inside his little mind will help (Three Little Words comes to mind, but I'm sure there are others).


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#6 of 15 Old 03-06-2013, 01:42 PM
 
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My father and his sisters were adopted by kin, out of a sense of obligation.

 

Much as I have loved being raised in my extended biofamily, my dad and aunts would have been better off in another placement. If your instincts are screaming I would not ignore them. Realistically, you are not going to get a social worker to put the brakes on an adoption plan that will get a PDD-NOS 11 year old's file off her desk. But maybe you could coach the family to demand financial assistance with residential school as a condition for going ahead with the adoption? While it would be IDEAL for him to grow up with parents who love him, the best that you might be able to do is a daily life surrounded by people who appreciate kids with PDD-NOS, and holidays with an aunt and uncle who are able to be more tolerant and loving because their family life is no longer being dominated by an unwanted child with significant special needs. 

 

Temple Grandin's mom loved her to pieces, but she still sent her to boarding school. 

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#7 of 15 Old 03-07-2013, 08:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I love MDC for all the perspectives and food for thought. Thanks for all the responses. More thoughts are always welcome!

 

I love the idea of researching boarding schools in advance. I see online that there are autism-specific schools. I can't find the tuition rates on any of them - does anyone have a guess? I think a tentative plan would perhaps give them less a feeling of being trapped.

 

Any suggestions for a brief compassionate book that explains autism would be welcome. I did my research on that subject when my YoungSon was diagnosed - not only was that years ago, and I think there must be new books, but I read huge textbooks - way more than I want to recommend to a family who is already overwhelmed.

 

 

Thanks again, all!


Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)

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#8 of 15 Old 03-07-2013, 02:50 PM
 
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What region of the country are we talking about? 

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#9 of 15 Old 03-07-2013, 03:54 PM
 
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I know our school district pays $180,000 a year to send a teen to one in The Boston area (the child is from Colorado).

Good luck.
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#10 of 15 Old 03-08-2013, 08:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by 34me View Post

I know our school district pays $180,000 a year to send a teen to one in The Boston area (the child is from Colorado).

Good luck.


Wow.


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#11 of 15 Old 03-10-2013, 10:26 PM
 
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Yeah pretty contraversial. Even the parents of other kiddos with special needs are pissed because that is 2 teachers and a para. The district thought his needs could be met closer and cheaper but the parents disagreed. But the parents sued and won so, it is what it is.
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#12 of 15 Old 03-10-2013, 11:04 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post

It is pretty clear, from just one meeting with the Mom...

 

Although I can't really say this professionally, at least not yet, at this point my advice would be to have the child moved.

 

I know you're a specialist or something but I really wouldn't read too much from ONE meeting with ONE member of the family.

 

Instead of jumping straight into strategies for how this family can improve their relationships, maybe you should start by building one with the family yourself, first.

 

It's important to remember, too, that foster parents who are hoping to adopt are under a tremendous amount of stress. The process is incredibly difficult. Just imagine what it feels like to know that there are all these professionals who interview you just once and if you're having a bad day/ hour and admit some of your negative feelings they think, "my advice would be to have the child moved". When you're a foster parent there is literally a CONSTANT threat that the child will be removed. This can make bonding difficult.

 

I don't want to say this mom should adopt the kid because I have no idea what she's like, what the kid is like or anything. I just think you have a professional duty to refrain from judgment this early on. Not just hush hush, don't put anything in a report refrain from judgment. I mean, actually, refrain from judgment.

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#13 of 15 Old 03-11-2013, 03:33 AM
 
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Additionally, parents often present the "worst" side of the child when they are meeting someone new who is supposed to be helpful to their family. It would be odd if they said "everything is peachy keen, he's a delight!"

 

That said, there very well could be issues, and the therapist should be pointing toward specifically what she hopes you will address. S/he should have already assessed the family situation and determined what everyone's needs are. Truly you should be working together to help mom find the light in her eyes for this child (if in fact it is missing). Often if the child is related to the parent who is not doing the bulk of the work, the placement is rubbing some partner issues raw that need to be addressed. The therapist should be doing this as well, not just treating the child in a vacuum.

 

Keep us posted!
 


 
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#14 of 15 Old 03-11-2013, 08:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by lauren View Post Often if the child is related to the parent who is not doing the bulk of the work, the placement is rubbing some partner issues raw that need to be addressed.

Keep us posted!
 

This makes good sense to me. I can talk with both the therapist and the mom about it.

 

And to reassure folks, I am not in a rush to break up this family, even if that were within my power. I hope they can find find a level of acceptance, understanding, and hope to build some love and connection on.


Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)

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#15 of 15 Old 03-17-2013, 07:47 AM
 
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I agree most with marsupial-mom. Please reserve judgment after one visit.  She spends two hours feeding him breakfast and worries about his academic progress Because she loves him.  If she didn't care she wouldn't do those things.  Our family has many, many professionals involved.  Some of whom I am sure might have written similar assumptions about my parenting.  I noticed you listed "PTSD" in the list of diagnosis.  The new thinking is that PTSD is actually a diagnosis for someone who had a specific incident that was traumatic.  "Complex Trauma" more accurately describes someone who suffered ongoing neglect and abuse.  Their brains are wired differently.  Attachment with my kids is very complex and difficult.  We have tried so many different approaches to get the kids to sleep, eat and regulate their emotions.  At any given moment I am sure some of the things I have tried might have looked crazy or inappropriate.  

 

I am trying to point out what it might feel like from the perspective of another overwhelmed but, loving parent.  But, that doesn't really, exactly address your question.  Since I can relate more to the Mom I will say that what would help me is a supportive person to bounce ideas off from.  Not to give me more useless advice.  But, to listen as I think out loud and try to figure out what will work for kids with very challenging behaviors.  Conventional methods fail more quickly than creative ones.  But, often I am too exhausted to think clearly.  Other people also mentioned respite.  Being encouraged to take care of myself and finding a way to have time to myself have gone a long way to me being more patient and loving toward my children.  If you can advocate for her to get childcare or respite help that will likely relieve a lot of her stress.  For me being referred to more books or support groups is not helpful.  I don't have the time or energy to read or participate and they are usually not relevant to my situation anyway.  I really feed off professionals that compliment my strengths.  And I remember the compliments when I am at a crossroads where my reaction to a situation could be more positive or negative.  

 

So there are a number of ways that you could support this family.  I have also been reminded many times that parenting is a life long process.  If we are not perfect in one moment we have the rest of our lives to get it right.  So supporting them to have more relaxed and happy moments will lead to a more loving relationship.  


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