Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A 180 Turns Into A 360

I've been offline lately and here's why:

- T. got into some serious trouble in his foster placement (he's been living in a foster placement and spending weekends with us while our adoptive placement is pending).

- During that time, T took a ride with another kid in his foster mom's car (he wasn't driving, but I'm pretty sure it was his idea). They crashed, left the scene of the accident in a panic, and eventually got picked up by police. (They are 15 years old and their foster mom left them at home alone that day, forbid them to go out, and left the keys on the kitchen table...as he put it "It was wrong, but it was just so tempting!")

-In response, his foster mom called in a 7-day notice, meaning that DCFS has 7 days to get him out of her house. Of course, he had no idea she's given notice, and continued to go about his life until his social worker showed up and told him to pack his things. She drove him to a town 100 miles away, dropped him at a group home and then left us a phone message telling us how to contact him.

- That made us absolutely furious - nobody called us to ask if we would take him before they moved him. And we've been pursuing an adoptive placement since August and we're licensed foster parents. In another post someday, I'll explain the hideous DCFS politics that have caused this situation to drag on and on.

- This whole experience made T. frantic and re-traumatized him - he has PTSD-type symptoms stemming from early mistreatment and abandonment on a rather grand scale. He immediately started running away from the group home, staying out all night and otherwise demonstrating his suffering.

And here's the good news:

1. We all got through it. This weekend, we were back to "normal" - he spent the weekend with us and we had a lot of fun. As he got in our car, he sighed, slumped back in the seat and said, "This feels like a family reunion." Tomorrow we're picking him up for a five-day Thanksgiving holiday.

2. It showed us the strength of T's bond with us. Finding himself in a group home in a strange city and knowing we didn't know where he was, he took matters into his own 15-year old hands. He went to the park, challenged a group of men to a game of dominoes for dollars, won $20, took the money to WalMart and bought himself a cheap text-only cell phone that he now uses to text message us from morning to night. If you don't think that's funny, you probably wouldn't enjoy parenting an older foster kid, but I think it's hilarious and ingenious. He calls and writes to me in the middle of the day, with questions like "I'm thinking of getting a tattoo. What do you think about that?" and "I met a girl at my new school today. I think I've got game! Can I go hang out with her this afternoon?" As I've said before, open invitation to parent, albeit from afar.

3. We experienced a serious moment of doubt in the midst of all this, which I'm pretty sure is an unavoidable component of older child foster adoption. I fully admit that for a period there, we weren't sure we could continue to pursue this adoption - we felt inadequate in the face of his behaviors and totally unsupported by DCFS. I'm not proud that my commitment to him flagged for a moment. But it's done and it taught us that we need to find support wherever we can so we're prepared for the next crisis. Even as I tried to convince myself that it would be okay to admit defeat, it made me feel utterly sick and heartbroken to think about letting him down. We just couldn't do it. It was interesting to realize that even if we thought this was the worst decision we ever made, we wouldn't give up for anything. My mom tells me that's how ALL parents feel sometimes.

4. Because he got in trouble and got moved without notice, he was separated from some dangerous peer influences in his previous placement. He knew he wanted to leave those friends behind, but had he not been yanked out, it would have been hard for him to separate.

5. Our relationship as a couple stayed intact. We stayed friends through all this drama. We weren't always in the same emotional place at the same time but we did a good job of letting each other be honest. We made decisions together quickly when we needed to, and laughed at the situation whenever we could.

Now we're picking him up tomorrow for a 5 day trip to Northern California. He's never been outside of Los Angeles and he's never spent Thanksgiving anywhere other than in a group home. We're trying to keep things low-key because the holidays can be overwhelming under the best of circumstances. Thankfully, he's met some of my family before, so he won't be entirely among strangers -and everyone has been briefed: don't throw your arms around him, don't say "welcome to the family", don't ask him questions about why he's in foster care, and recognize that this is a stressful situation for him. If all else fails, we'll take him out to practice his driving, which never fails to make him feel good. Fingers crossed.

1 comment:

marythemom said...

So glad to see you here! I've been wondering what was going on with you guys.

Yup, totally normal to have doubts about whether or not you're doing the right thing. Normal too to not be on the same page with your husband. Keep remembering that if you don't keep your marriage a priority you will be doing T a major disservice. He needs good examples of how relationships should work.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mary in TX

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