Sunday, May 29, 2011

It's Okay that It's Not Okay

Living with the nasty trauma monster is...exhausting. I have no coherent narrative for what we're going through right now. As I often do when I'm trying to reconcile complicated facts, I can only think in bullet points.

- We are beyond the place where we can get by with the anemic services we've had thus far. We need more robust mental health care for T.

- I am not sure we can get it. Because our adoption is not final yet, he is still a legal ward of the court, via DCFS. Particularly in Los Angeles, that is a fate I would not wish on my worst enemy. His caseworker has long depended on the ritual dynamic of placement/disruption/7-day notice/replacement, and does not understand foster/adoptive parents who wish to locate intensive mental health services whilst remaining committed to a child.

- DCFS is clearly waiting now for the juvenile justice system to take over. T. recently received one-year probation, and T's DCFS caseworker continually defers now to the potential for services via the probation department. I understand where she's coming from; the probation department certainly seems to have more expertise and a broader range of programs and services for kids T's age. At the same time, I sense him passing from a situation where he is treated as a child requiring guidance to a situation where he is treated as a young adult deserving punishment. I am not sure the punitive orientation of probation is likely to benefit him.

- Lately I feel misunderstood and mischaracterized in almost all my dealings regarding T. His behavior has brought a host of consequences down on him and our household, and that means nearly daily conversations with caseworkers, DCFS supervisors, probation officers and judges. They are eager to tell me I'm too nice, too naive, to easy on him, too inexperienced, etc. I'm not really any of those things. I can't stop him from doing what he does, but that doesn't make me weak, dumb, or indulgent.

- I'm more aware than ever that sometimes there is no answer, no fix, no known solution to life's difficulty. I had cause to really meditate on this one recently while I was sorting out my health issues. It's even more starkly apparent in T's case. We human beings tend to dislike that ambiguity. It makes us uncomfortable. Currently, I am forced to entertain a constant stream of opinions from well-meaning, peripherally involved outsiders - I should get him into sports, I should find him a mentor, I should home school him, I should be harder on him. I no longer argue. He's a severely traumatized young adult, and I'm not going to succeed in MAKING him do any one of these things. There is almost nothing I have not tried. If you think you have the answer, spend a week at my house.

- At the same time, I am truly not all that distraught about all this. I am sure there are some out there who won't believe me. Here's the thing: I knew this would be very, very hard. I knew it would not be like traditional parenting. I did not WANT to be a traditional parent. I wanted to foster/adopt older kids and I actually knew some older kids in foster care as a young adult, so I had some sense of what I was getting into. There are certainly days when it's harder than I expected, or simply different. Lately, there are days when I am not certain T can stay here at home with us. But I was prepared for that going into this. I still love him very, very much. I still feel tremendously lucky to have met him, and somewhat awed that I like him as much as I do. I still trust that we are deeply attached to one another. Through all of his current rage and confusion, he still reaches out to try to connect with me, and I know he is as confused by his behavior as I am. That does not EXCUSE the behavior, but it means I am still the one person on the planet who fully comprehends how complicated he really is and shares some sense of where his misbehavior comes from. I am still his advocate. He is still precious to me. I would like to see him heal, but I do not NEED for him to heal right now. I can wait. I can take care of myself while I wait. I can accept that he may not be able to live at home with us and heal at the same time. That's painful to me in the immediate term, but it's okay with me on a deeper level, because it's just a fact.

Blessings to those of you parenting older traumatized kids. Your blogs have been a great sanity check for me lately. :)


Anonymous said...

Lulu, You are brilliant.

I do intensely dislike the part of our system that wants juvenile justice to take over providing services to our kids. That is a fight we have also fought. In my experience, the juvenile justice system only made things worse. The services they offer do not promote healing.

Time and commitment are both key. Weather or not T. is able to access more intensive mental health services, your commitment and time will help him. I know this to be true.

Try not to feel badly about the people who don't get it. Stay focused on what you know is the truth. Stay committed. Somehow-everything will be ok. I believe in you and T. and I know that victory does not come without a fight.

Hang in there, Friend.

GB's Mom said...

Lynne nailed it, but I wanted to say that you are an awesome Trauma Mama and I am so glad you and T found each other. {{{Hugs}}}

marythemom said...

I admire the way you handle yourself and your relationship with T. Knowing you are smart enough to hang in there as he gradually matures, inspires me to try harder to be patient with my own son.

I wish I could give you advice on how to get better services, but we're in the same boat and I pretty much doubt they exist.

Hugs and prayers,

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