I promised that one day I’d unpack a few of my complicated thoughts and feelings about adoption, and the circumstances surrounding our foster daughter’s recent absence from our home.
I can’t say much specifically about the actual circumstances, since to do so would be break confidentiality and perhaps embarrass one of my children. I will say just enough so that anybody who was not privy to my emails knows a few basic details.
“Lil C”, as we called her (my mom Courtney is “Big C”), came to live with us in October. Actually, she lived at my parents’ house, while we parented from afar. It became clear within weeks of her arriving that the trauma and the issues ran VERY deep–much deeper than we were lead to believe. We struggled through about a month and a half, while her behavior got more erratic and dangerous. The police had to come out once or twice in that amount of time.
Around Thanksgiving, both C’s therapist and social workers began pushing for her to go to a group home. They felt that the issues were so deep, that they could only be worked on once removed from a family, since kids with attachment disorder and PTSD only feel threatened and scared by what normal people find loving. Basically, imagine someone holding a knife to your throat. You’d be scared, right? What if someone asked you to do Algebra problems at the same time? That’s what it’d be like to be a 15 year old whose been in the foster care system since 8 months old! (FOR THE RECORD: We could never let a knife come NEAR our daughter, much less be the one holding it. It was just the best analogy for the moment).
But we pushed back, saying that we wanted to give it a few more months. We thought that if we could just get into our own place and stabilize her, things would get better. By the time we got into our house around February, however, things were completely out of control. The police were at our house every single night, sometimes even at 2am (and we still had to wake up with babies and jobs, only hours later). We actually got to know every cop in our city! Our house was already stripped of every type of sharp object, including razors, scissors, and knives. Sometimes, we had to take away bobby pins or picture frames with glass. I was so stressed out that I would start shaking at all hours of the day– the adrenaline was always pumping, in case I needed to step in and take action. I lay awake all night, praying desperately. Pretty soon, I couldn’t sleep at all. I started bringing the boys into our room and locking the door, out of paranoia. I couldn’t eat either– my stomach was always churning and aching, as though I had the stomach flu. My mom, in particular, became really worried about me, as I lost somewhere between 10-15 pounds in a few weeks. My face looked completely haggard all the time. The funny thing is I didn’t even notice any of this, because I was so caught up in day to day survival.
On one particularly bad day, we had to send our boys to stay with my parents because things got so severe. This was a huge wakeup call for me– things had gotten so out of hand that my babies were no longer safe in their own home. We gave it to the inevitable and cried out for help from the social worker team. Just two days later, after an intense meeting with around 15 government officials (that I sobbed the entire way through), they took C away to a shelter home until they could find the right group home placement. It completely devastated us. Even though I knew it was right, knew that if we continued like this any longer, we would completely fall apart as a family, it was some of the deepest pain I’ve ever felt. I walked around for days, bursting into tears at random moments. Something small, like seeing one of her t-shirts, or smelling her perfume which had taken up permanent residence in her room would send me into hysterics. I felt as though someone had come into my home and kidnapped my child. Eventually, we were able to channel this grief into firm resolve to help her from afar so that she could work on her issues and eventually return to us.
C has now been at her group home in NorCal for 3 months. While she has fixed most of her behavior issues and is finally on stabilizing meds, she has not begun to deal with any of the issues surrounding why she left us and why things got so out of control. Part of me believes this is because she has one established mode of dealing with difficulty– running away and hiding, both emotionally and, sometimes, physically. Just like a video game, when life gets too tough to handle, she blows herself up and decides to move on to the next school, next group of friends, next family. Even now, when being asked to confront the issues, she would rather move on and find another family so that she doesn’t have to work through anything. As we all know, one cannot have a normal or happy life without learning how to face difficulty, sometime or another. We hope and pray that she decides to do this before she “ages out” of the system in just 2 years.
Now that some of those painful memories are out of the way, the next time I write I can unpack some of these crazy lessons and experiences. Adoption has taught me buckets about God’s love and mercy towards us, and I can’t wait to share it!