Wednesday, October 31, 2007

One More "What If"

I don't know that it would have made a difference for Frankie or not...this what if is so far from what we did experience that I can't project us into it and predict an outcome.

But still...what if Frankie was the only child?

So, so often I think placements end because of conflict between siblings.

Ann left Mandy because she got into a fist fight with another girl. She left me, in large part, because it was too hard on Andrew and Brian to see her scream at us. Well, you know, that and she insisted on being moved and threatened to harm one of us if she didn't -- but the risk assessment there again involved the boys.

David's younger brothers lost their last pre-adoptive placement because of the stress they were putting on the previously adopted son. (There are more details, but they are irrelevant).

This is not an argument for separating siblings (although I do think that sometimes they replicate in their own relationships the abuse they experienced from their parents and must be separated), but it is an argument for more single child adoptive and foster homes.

One child plus one child does not equal two children. One child plus one child equals two children and their relationship.

Before, there were just your needs and the child's needs. If the child needed quiet time, the child got quiet time. If the child's anxiety regarding food meant that you needed to keep plenty of food in plain sight, you did. If they child needed to rage, you coped.

But when you have one child who needs to SEE that there is plenty of food, and another who is a compulsive eater and needs for a good deal of food to be out of sight. Well, then you have a problem.

When one child needs everything to slow down and be quiet for a while, and the other needs to express rage ... you get the idea.

Ann has been moved and moved and moved again. I have said since she left me that she needed to be the only child or a child with much older siblings. I don't know if she would have succeeded in that environment, but it was never tried.

And I wonder if Frankie would have managed better in a family with no other children. I don't know.

But I find myself wanting to beg all of you who are parenting one traumatized child not to take another. I want, without really knowing the details of your home, to say that if things are going well, maybe that is because your child is getting what he or she needs.

I don't know really what is going on in your homes. I don't know what is best for you.

But I wonder how many placements have ended primarily because of concerns for children already in the home.

I'm turning anonymous commenting back least for this post. If you have a disruption experience you are willing to share, please do. And you can leave it anonymously if you like.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Conversation with Carl

Well, I got to talk to him.

There is nothing terrible, just the blues. He has a history of falling into melancholy and then feeling like he has to make a dramatic change in his life (like move) because he can't be happy where he is.

He seems to be able to recognize the pattern and was willing to talk about the need to address the depression itself.

He likes his job, is making more money than he ever has, likes where he lives, and yet everything feels empty.

He'll be okay, or at least he has the resources to be.

He is 24 now. He has had five years of living independently to struggle with the whole growing up thing.

In any case it was good to talk to him.


Maerlowe asks whether the "911 night" might have been partly Frankie's way of controlling how he left my home. You know, he left us...not the other way around. Maybe...but certainly not at a conscious level.

But since I am inclined to go over everything in my mind, all the things we might have done differently, and whether would have made a difference, and a few of you are wondering the same thing, I think I will go ahead and write that post. This is not, by the way, a self-recriminating post. I am not thinking that if we had just done things differently the outcome would have been different. Still... one wonders what might have been different.

So here are all the things I wonder about...what would have happened if....

1. We took the decision-making process more slowly. What if we had refused to visit with him until after we had read the file? What if we had insisted on at least two visits? What if we had given the boys more information and included them on the decision?
A: I think we would have taken him, but he might have missed the beginning of school. Brian may be have been more prepared and that would have helped him.

2. We had got him a PSR and kept him in regular high school?
A: I think this is the first decision that might have made some sort of difference, or should have. I don't think he would have been able to manage regular high school, even with a PSR. I think now though that it wasn't really fair of us to come to that judgment without him having a chance to try. I want to believe that he would have either succeeded (possible but unlikely) or that he would have understood and accepted that he needed to be at the learning center. Given his disordered thinking though, I doubt he would have learned from those consequences. If he did not succeed in the regular high school, I don't think he would have admitted that it was because he need more help. But he might have. He should have had the chance.

3. What if we had "protected" him from things that frustrated him?
A. Hubby is convinced that keeping him from video games would not have made a difference. I'm not quite so certain. Of course all sorts of things frustrated him. With each passing day his melt-downs happened over less important things, and become more extreme. As Marelowe points out in her comment to the last post, and as AidelMaidel had in a earlier post, there are reasons why what happened on the "911 night" happened that night.

Sometimes I think abut whether he would do better with a foster parent I know who deals with difficult boys. He says the key is physical exertion. He takes the boys to the gym every day after school and works them out. Of course Frankie's motor skills are poor and if he was taken to a gym to play basketball with other boys he would have ended up rolling on the floor crying, but maybe it would have helped if he could have had a more structured day, in which he was kept busy doing things that did not frustrate him.

On the other hand, that is part of what they were trying to do at the learning center, and he was insisting he be moved out of there from the beginning.

So I wonder if there was anyway to direct his time and energy so as to minimize his frustration. Someone else suggested that. Was it Mrs. Butter B? I know that my response was that he might need it, and we were not able to provide that.

Now I think that it is an impossible situation: he needs far more structure than he will admit he needs. So he is either frustrated by the world or by the structure itself. I just can't imagine a balance that would have prevented those increasingly exhauting and frightening melt-downs.

3. It is like the WoW thing. It was bad for him. He knew it wasn't real, but he wanted it to be. Playing WoW was causing problems, and taking it away caused other problems. If we had refused to allow him to play from the beginning he would have been justifiably angry that the other boys got to do something that he wasn't allowed to do.

So much of dealing with Frankie was a fricative dilemma (or trilemma, whatever). Every single option wouldn't work, although for a different reasons.

4. And what about respite?

Lordy... I have never sent a child away on respite like that. I hope I never feel the need to again. Sending all the kids away so Mommy and Daddy can have some grown up time is very different from sending the foster kid away so that everyone can rest. He may have concluded that it was the beginning of the end, and probably sending him off on respite did escalate him.

The other choice though would have been for him to stay, and for me to call the social worker and say that we were too exhausted to continue. Would that have been a better ending for him? I don't know. I know this end, as difficult as it is, is easier for me. That night was bad, but it was also so bad that I felt confident that I was doing the right thing. In some ways he released me from guilt.

I don't know that means. I don't know which path would have been the better one. Prior to him going on respite the only real issue was whether we were going to colapse from exhaustion before or after he errupted in self-destructive violence.

When I start trying to describe what sort of environment he would need for that not to happen, I end up describing the group home he was doing so well in. It is not an environment that I am capable of re-creating for him.

5. What if we hadn't cleaned his room?
I shouldn't have done that. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't. I think that I did had something to do with out exhausted I felt -- how out of control I felt everything was. One of the things he was melting down about was not being able to find his things. I had a fantasy that I could fix things by cleaning the room. I would find the lost things and he would have one less thing to get upset about. Unfortunately I did not find the things that he was most upset about losing. I am sure he felt violated by having all of his objects sorted, pawed over, while he was gone. And it made him have less hope that he would ever find the things that were still lost.

Of course the room had reached a level that was unsafe. I would have had to clean his room or make him clean it with me -- neither of those options are good. No amount of telling him to clean his own room would have worked. I don't think he is capable of it. So I would have had to do it with him. No...that would have been a nightmare.

My standards for cleanliness really are outrageously low. Really.

Oh...I can't think about the room any more.

For me every "what if" ends up like this. I can imagine things happening differently, but I can't imagine the final outcome being different.

I really do believe that he simply needed a level of care that was beyond what I could provide.

Of course that doesn't make any of us feel better about it.

Still Thinking About It

No one answered at Carl's house again last night. Worrisome. He is supposed to be renting a room from someone. Why isn't anyone home? But then again they are young people, so who knows. It could be anything. I refuse to let myself obsess. (Not that I am really succeeding...but you know.)

I spent time last night trying to figure out WHY I was so miserable over Frankie.

Hubby, being the brilliant man that he is, suggested that I feel so bad because I feel like I and he and Brian are too wore out to do this again, and yet I am mourning the thought that I would never do it again.

You know that someone has hit upon part of the truth when it makes you start bawling.

And the dear, sweet man let my cry and patted my hair and said, "We just need a break. You need a break. But you know we will do it again. There will be another kid. It won't be soon, and we know that we can't help every kid who is or might be GLBT, but there will be another kid eventually. Even Brian will be ready to do it again at some point. It isn't over."

I dreamed about Frankie all night long. I kept waking up and trying to shake off the dream. I am not sure what exactly the dream was.

I think I just kept trying to tell people the story. I think I keep trying to go over it and make sense of it.

Well, that and I keep re-living what I have come to think of as the 911-night. I remember him slamming his fist over and over and over into that box of ... I don't remember what was in the box. The things were plastic; the box was plastic; the box was sitting on a cement floor; his fist was bloody and he would not stop pounding. How many times did he do that? I try to count in my memory, and I know that is totally unreliable. Was it five times before I said "You have to stop or I will call 911"? Was it ten times by the time I got to the phone? Was it twice that? How many times did he continue before Hubby walked out of the room to nod at me and tell me he had stopped?

And everything before and after that...everything he said that just didn't make sense. How much of it was because he went on respite and we went through all of his possessions? I think that did cause a great deal of anxiety for him -- but I also think that if we hadn't done that something else would have set him off.

If he were a three year old I would have grabbed him and held him tight and said, "I won't let you hurt yourself." But though he is short for his age (5'3"), he has the body of a fifteen-year-old and there was far too much power there for me to restrain. (That and it is against the rules, although rules alone are not that meaningful when someone is in danger. If I had thought I was strong enough to do it, I would have done it.)

I think in my dreams I kept saying to people, "He isn't a bad kid. I just can't keep him safe. He has to be someplace where he will be safe."

And I know the whole thing triggered another trauma, a time when someone I love was in need of psychiatric treatment and did something self-destructive, something that could have killed him before I got him the treatment he needed.

Only Frankie frightens me SO MUCH because he does not believe he needs help. He does not think that his rages are unreasonable. He thinks that the meds that he takes only cloud his thinking.

I am so afraid of what will happen to him when he is 18.

Will he still be too mentally ill to know that he is mentally ill?

And there is nothing I can do. I know that he is where he needs to be.

I just keep feeling bad.

And I am so tired of feeling bad, you know? I want to say to myself, "Self, it's time to shake and shimmy it off."*

And I always feel a little better after I write these posts, even after the ones I delete, and there are a lot of those. I think, okay, I've talked about it. I had (another) good cry. I've come to terms. Now I will feel better.

And then the next day I still feel crappy.

*Same Buffy episode. You may have figured out that I am a Buffy fan, but I always love movies or songs or TV episodes that capture those complex, mixed emotions. And "Something Blue" (Season 4) does such a good job of dealing with that phenomena when you are as much tired of feeling miserable as you are miserable.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Carl Lives

I was getting really worried about Carl -- especially when his birthday came and went and he did not call. You can usually count on kids to contact you (for no particular reason) a week or two before their birthday. You know, just to say hi, and make sure that you have their address.

Saturday on the way back from the play we debated what could be going on. If he hadn't called to ensure a birthday present, then it must be bad. We shared our version of How Bad Might It Be, and Would He Call If It Was [insert horrible thing here]. We had a pretty short list: broke, fired, homeless, and illness.

But that night he sent an email! Sunday morning I read this:

I appreciate the birthday greetings, to be honest though it was not a very happy birthday at all. I don't have the time to spell it all out here, so would you do me the favor of calling me at my home ###-###-####. I would have called but I'm without a phone and have been relying upon the house phone.
I guess we can rule out homeless and any illness that would make typing impossible.

We called seven times (really, I counted) on Sunday and three times today. We just get the answering machine. I sent him an email telling him that he had to email me back with a time when he would be home.

So I'm glad he is alive and all...but it would be nice to know what the heck is going on.

Just Today

Brian told me yesterday that though he does think it would be strange to be the only kid in the house for all four years of high school, he is tired of getting attached to people who move out.

He is relieved that Frankie left, but the pain he feels associated with that placement is not all that different than the pain of all the other boys moving away and leaving him.

He knows it is normal for kids to grow up and leave, but he is tired of it.

He is very happy that Carl and David and Evan are part of his life (I asked). He would not for anything go back in time and have us make a different decision. Whatever pain there was in adjusting to them moving in and being sad that they moved out was worth it. He is glad that we took them.

"But, Mom, I think I have enough brothers."

I hear ya, babe. I might have enough sons.

Though as AidelMaidel points on in a comment on the previous post, maintaining our license and doing respite periodically is not difficult, and getting re-licensed should we let it expire is a big deal. I think we probably will maintain the license, if only to do respite care.

And none of us are making any decisions about what me might want to do later. All I know is where we are today.

Today we have enough sons and brothers.

Today Hubby and I are thrilled at the idea that we could go out to dinner and not have to get a sitter.

Today we are still tired.

Will it be different later? Maybe, I don't know.

If it were just me I would be confident it would be. I will feel better and be willing. I know that.

But will they? I don't know.

I can imagine a day when the agency would call and tell me about a kid and I would respond with excitement.

But today, just today, I cannot imagine a future in which I turn to Brian and say, "Hey Kiddo, do you think you can do it again?"

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Are We Done?

I don't think so, but we talked about it.

Of course we always talk about it, especially after a difficult ending.

When we had Carl we hadn't really planned on taking any more kids. When he moved out I thought I would like to do respite care, and maybe we would do another, but I wasn't sure. I had known Carl for years before I became him mom. The idea of taking in a kid I didn't know was very anxiety-producing.

Then things were so difficult with Ann. That ending was so hard, so brutal. We both wanted to crawl into a shell and never come back out again.

But we did, and we got David. For the first year and a half it was wonderful, then again, the ending was difficult. My response, though not so much Hubby's, was "I do not want it to end this way. I need to have a placement with a happy ending."

And of course I got that with Evan. Oh, our story with Evan is not over, but the point is that the placement ended well.

And after Evan left I was just wanted a break and then another kid.

As soon as Frankie moved in though I felt like maybe I was over-committed. I don't mean that at that time I thought he was too much -- just that I now had SIX kids. I know, compared to a bunch of people who blog that's nothing, but it seemed like quite a few to me: too many birthdays to remember; too many Christmas presents to buy; too many children who may legitimately need something of me.

In general, I am more enthusiastic about doing care than Hubby is. At one point years ago he said that he viewed this as "my calling" and he felt obligated to support me. I wanted it to be our calling, and with Frankie it was.

Now he is again suggesting that maybe we should be done, maybe Brian needs us to be done, which is an odd thought because prior to Frankie moving in Brian's needs weighed towards having another kid. Not that we had any illusions that we would get a child who would be a companion for Brian (anyone else nauseous at the thought of "getting" one child to meet the needs of another?), but just that Brian had grown up in a crowded house. How strange and lonely would it be not to have anyone to fight with? And maybe this is as many young adults as we are meant to be responsible for.

And for the first time since Ann left, I am wondering if he is correct. Maybe it is better to have a bedroom open for all the boys when they want or need to come home for a visit. Maybe it is time to say, "this is our family."


Hubby said yesterday that maybe they won't need us anymore. They are working harder to train all foster parents to be open and accepting; a home particularly for the GLBT kids might not be necessary -- and Hubby has always been clear that his motivation is his perception that those kids need us in particular.

I can imagine being done. I can imagine Brian being the only child in the home through high school. I can imagine giving him more dedicated attention, or at least being willing to be.

I wonder, what would I do with all that time and energy if I didn't not have a needy kid in the house?

The thought frightens me, and excites me.

But no decisions need to be made until next spring. Right now we are a licensed family and if they come up with a kid they want us to consider we will. The decision will be about that child. Next spring we will have to decide whether to sign the paper requesting that our license be renewed. Right now, I think it would be difficult to turn it in.

I'm glad to know that it will be more than six months before I have to decide. I won't be tired and grieving then. I'll be able to make a clearer decision.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Big night out

Friends of ours invited us over for dinner and out to a play. They have season tickets and all they knew was that this was supposed to be humorous and we could us a break -- you know from all the insanity.

Um yeah.

The play was about two psychologically damaged people snowed in together and each forcing the other to confront the traumas that brought them to where they were.

When the woman was overwhelmed with a decision she had made and felt worthless she fell on the floor crying out "Oh what is wrong with me!" and I swear to the Powers That Be that she behaved and looked exactly like Frankie. It was this powerful moment and many people around us were getting emotional. Hubby and I glanced and each other and started to laugh.

Oh we kept it stifled. Only our friends next to us, and probably the people behind us, could tell we were shaking with laughter.

I laughed silently most of the way through the second half of the play. Not because it was funny (although there were genuine moments of comic relief), but because I kept thinking, "We came here to get away from this" and it was all so absurd I couldn't stop myself.

Ever watch The Producers? Hubby and I were that audience -- stunned and then laughing.

Unfortunately everyone around us was moved by the way the characters slowly dug up and shared their pain, coming together and connecting and maybe beginning to heal. So when the curtain went up we were surrounded by people wiping tears out of their eyes and we just had to make a run for it.

We got outside and our friends turned with apologies on their faces. I said, "Thank you so much"' and suddenly all four of us were laughing.

Highly inappropriate considering other people were talking about how powerful and moving it was.

Still here

I'm here...still feeling sad, still processing, still trying to pull it together.

I go through all the "what ifs." Some of them, I think, would have pushed the stream of our journey in one direction or another, but not much. No matter how we turned the stream it would end up in the same lake.

I wonder about how Frankie is feeling, but there is no comfort there. I think that at some level he knows he is where he needs to be. I think he will continue to feel angry and frustrated. I know he is safe.

I want to write to him, but I am not certain what to say. I am not sure what he will "hear" at all. I know that when I wrote the Evan in rehab he did not even open all the letters, but he kept them. It was the getting of them that mattered. But I still have to write something. "I hope you are doing well" or "I am glad to know you are safe" or "We miss you, but don't let that confuse you because you can't come back." No, definitely not that last one.

Maybe just, "Just wanted you to know that we are thinking about you. I'm sorry I couldn't find your glasses or your ring. I'll let you know if I do. Take care of yourself." (It can't be any longer than that. That is about as much as he can read in one sitting unless he is very, very interested.)

Or is it better not to write at all? I don't think so...

There is just no fast track through the pain, is there?

I can fantasize about it...I could cast a spell that my will be done so that I could heal myself...and then demons would attack my friends, Giles would go blind, and Buffy and Spike would get engaged.

Sounds like a plan....

Friday, October 26, 2007

So tired

Sorry...there isn't much in this post other than a bit of a whine.

Lordy, yesterday was a rollercoaster. Tension in the morning, relief at hearing from him and from Guy, good time with the fam in the evening.

And now...

I miss my cat. I want to find her and hold her. She always let me hold her when I felt sad.

I miss Frankie.

I want Carl to call. I want to know he is okay. I don't know how to find him, and right now I have such a need to know all that all my kids are okay.

I want to fast-track the grieving process.

I want to feel better and get caught up on my work.

I want to believe Frankie is going to be okay, but I really don't know that he ever will. I believe he is where he needs to be, but I have no illusions.

I want to feel better.

No (well not many) regrets

If someone came to me who could send a message back to me when I was deciding whether to take Frankie this is what I would write:

"It isn't going to work out, but take him. You will have him barely more than two months and it will break your heart, but take him.

Frankie is a kid who has problems that stem from his abuse and neglect, but also from something else. It may be fetal alcohol effect, it may be a mental illness that we already know is heavily genetic, but whatever it is, Frankie's way of processing information and of experiencing his world are fundamentally different. That will make him delightful, annoying, endearing and, eventually, unsafe. In just over 10 weeks you are going to realize that he needs something more than you can give, that he isn't safe in your home, and you are going to ask for him to be moved.

But in those 10 weeks you will give him something that is potentially valuable.

He will come out to you. He will tell you that he wants to be a girl and he will learn what "transgendered" means. You will introduce him to Jane and buy him girls' clothes and for the first time in his life he will have brought this desire, this thought, out into the world and been accepted. He will learn that there is no shame in it. When he leaves, you will not be certain that he is "really" trans or if wanting to be a girl was the way his disordered brain came up to deal with severe physical abuse which he suffered and his sisters apparently did not. Whichever it is, when he leaves you, and you are helping him pack his things, Hubby will say, 'What do you want to do with your girls' clothes?' He will laugh and say, 'Put some in everything! I'll tell anyone who helps me unpack that I am transgendered!'

And you will know that you helped that sense of shame go away, at least some, and he will be better able to look at that desire and figure out for himself where it comes from.

And though he won't be able to cope with the stress of living outside a controlled environment, neither he nor the powers that be will believe that until he tries. His thinking is so disordered that he might not come away really understanding that he needs more, but he certainly won't if he doesn't try.

There is just one part that is unacceptable that you need to be prepared for. When you realize he needs help, you will go through three days of not being able to get that help and being anxious about how long it will take. You and Hubby and the kids will feel emotionally wrung out. But it is just three days. You will make it."

And if my time traveling messenger said, "Whoa. Gotta make it short woman!" I would say, "Take him. Time from red flag to adequate response is three days."

I'm not saying that I will ever take a kid like him again. It is pretty clear to me that if I want to keep either my career or my family, I can't. We will never again take a kid who has no experience being successful in a family, but maybe we also needed to learn where our limits are, and maybe we can only do that by trying.

So I couldn't do it twice, but if I could only do it once, I am glad that it was with Frankie.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

First News of Frankie

The guy from the center (shall we name him? who has an idea? How about "Guy"?) came by for the things Frankie wanted. He said that Frankie cried himself to sleep in the car. When he got there so many people greeted him and welcomed him back that he started feeling at home.

I like This Guy from the center, and he clearly likes Frankie. I am so happy to know that Frankie is someplace where he is liked.

He says he also thinks that Frankie knows this is where he needs to be. Guy also said, as so many of us have, that Frankie will probably need a supportive environment all of his life. I don't know that there will be one for him as an adult, or that he will accept it if there is. I hope so though.

I told him that it was important for Frankie to understand that he could not come back here to live, but if he understood that then I wanted to be able to visit him and maybe even have him visit here.

It turns out that Guy is a foster parent with my agency! So he understands how I feel about having made a commitment to this kid, even if I can't be his parent.

I asked Hubby, "Can you imagine working at a residential treatment center and then coming home to be a foster parent?

And he said, "I wonder if it is like being a special education teacher and a foster parent."

Um, yeah...probably something like that.

OH! And the social worker said she is going to see if she can arrange for Frankie to go to the same counselor he has been seeing -- you know the one who is a child counselor with experience in sexuality and gender identity? If she can arrange it, the agency will continue to pay the counselor and even for transportation back and forth from the center. It's about a 45 minute drive, one way.

Oh I hope so. Even if it is only once a week instead of twice. He is so good with Frankie.

In other news, today Brian had a band concert with his school. He is in Advance Junior High Concert Band, which is sadly hampered by one terrible trumpeter and that Different Drummer whose beat all the eccentrics are marching to. Seriously, this kid was staring off into space beating out his own irregular little rhythm while the band struggled to stay in some sort of time. It was so bad that at one point I really had to struggle not to laugh. They played two songs. The second piece had two kids on drums and the new one could keep a beat and the Different Drummer followed him. So with the exception of the occassional sour note from the trumpet, it was okay.

But Brian is also in Jazz Band, one of the only two 8th graders, thank you very much. They were really fantastic. I mean, it is a high school band, but I have sat through a lot of junior high and high school band concerts over the past six years, and they were good.

And then the four of us went out to ice cream.

You know, oddly, I feel like today was a good day, a very good day after quite a few difficult and bad ones.

Franke Called Already

"Hi Yondalla, I'm sorry about how I acted earlier."

"It's okay, Frankie. It's okay to be angry."

"Can you send my caligraphy things? They are in the little suitcase."


"There is the pad and the pens and the cards with the Old English letters and the Elvish."


"And can you find my other box of contacts, the ones for my right eye?"

"I can try. Do you know where they are?"

"No. But will you get them and can you find my glasses too? I don't know where they are."

"I'll look for them."

"I don't like the glasses because they won't stay on my nose. Wouldn't it be nice if you could get your nose frozen so that your glasses would stay?"

"You come up with the craziest ideas."

"Yeah. And my oracle cards, do you know where those are? And the scarf you found this morning and my book on druids, can you find all those things?"

"I think I can. You know the guy who got you this morning has to come back for your meds, should I just give it all to him?"

"Yeah. Thank you. I'm really sorry for this morning. And thank you."

"It's okay. I love you, Frankie." Very short pause before I jump back in, "So you're welcome."

"Okay. Thank you Yondalla. Bye."

"Goodbye Frankie."

Before you ask...

Hubby announced last night that he wants a break for a while. No new kids.

Not disagreeing I said, "How long?"

He said, "I don't know. Several months. If they call before it had better be a very, very special kid."

I nodded.

In other words, situation pretty close to normal.

I won't hope, as I did before, that they actually look for the right kid, but if one of the ones who needs us comes along, they should call.

But hopefully not for a month or two, at least. It would be nice to have the bedroom available to Evan for the holidays, and I need to catch up on a lot of sleep.

At least two months. Four would be okay. They could call next summer. Unless Evan wants to stay here next summer. He could have the room. They could call us in a year.

That part where I need sleep? Yeah.

Choosing Honesty

This morning I was honest with him. He claimed that I was "in on it" and that I had lied to him. I was slightly tempted to try to explain that technically all I did was withhold information, but I didn't. Besides, I did lie. I told him I did not have information that he was wanting.

I told him several times this morning that I wanted to stay in touch with him and everything I did was because I wanted him to be safe. I don't know that it "got through" but I know that the man who took him heard me and can reinforce that message.

I have his address and can send him letters. I will keep them very short. I will also have to make myself print carefully because he can't read cursive.

I know now that lying to him last night was absolutely the right thing to do. Given what he was saying and trying to do this morning, I am sure he would have attempted to destroy his belongings since, "I can't take them with me and they will all get lost and I will never have them again anyway." We would have had to call the police and he would have destroyed things he cares about.

I think it was right to be honest with him this morning too.

See, I really would like to see him again. I don't think he could ever live here, but I would be willing to let him have a respite weekend here (months from now). I really do care about him.

But I can only have a relationship with him if it is based upon honesty. If he leaves and builds up a fantasy that I did not know what they were going to do and that maybe I even would have tried to stop it if I did, well, that would be bad.

But I'm okay. Sad, but not overwhelmingly so.

I know he is going where he needs to be.

And I am relieved for us all.

Thursday Morning

I'm not going to publish this until after Frankie leaves. I figure it is kinder to you all to let you have the whole story at one time.

We woke up late this morning (nearly 7:00am), which wasn't a problem for me or Frankie as I was planning on working at home and he is being picked up at 9:00am. It did mean that the rest of the family ran around like crazy and there wasn't much time for sentimentality. He has been saying sadly that he will miss everyone. He even hugged me last night. He looked like he wanted to get close for a real hug, but could not tolerate that much physical closeness.

We got just about everything packed last night. I keep finding odds and ends which I will put into the bags. everything he owns is in three suitcases, two duffel bags, and four largish boxes. NO BAGS. I understand why garbage bags must sometimes be resorted to. When I have moved I have packed a good deal of things in garbage bags myself. When Evan moved into the dorms I saw a lot of kids with things in garbage bags. On the other hand, for kids who tend to feel like they themselves have been thrown away ... well suitcases (which he brought with him) and study boxes are better. Fortunately I am usually able to get good boxes on very little notice at work.

I kept trying to persuade him to separate out the things that I knew he was allowed to take to the center. He wouldn't. I know where they are though, so he can dig them back out again if he is calm. He has his MP3 player out so that he can listen to it in the car, but he will not be allowed to take that.

Last night in the car I said, "You know how David and Evan have moved out but are still part of the family?"
"Well, you are moving out A LOT sooner than we expected but..."
"I'm still part of the family?"
"Yes. I doubt you will live with us again, but I want to be in your life. You are still part of our family."

I happen to know that the plan for him after some months is to send him out on short stays with foster families. They would like to find him more than one that he can visit regularly. I told the social worker than I can't make that decision for the family, but when they are ready to do that, they should call us.

The man from the center showed up. Frankie raged. He banged disks into the table, leaving scratches.

I told him that I wanted him to know why he was leaving. I had to get him to stop and re-start my sentence more than one but I finally got out the words "After you hurt your hand on Sunday I knew I couldn't keep you safe."

And what he concluded was that I was "in on it." I did not deny it. I told him several times that everything I did was to keep him safe.

And he yelled and said that he wanted a home, not a rat hole. Everyone had lied to him.

An hour ago he hugged me awkwardly and quickly, smiled and said that he would miss me.

Five minutes ago he left the house without his shoes because he was too distressed to look for them and the ones he had left out were suddenly not good enough to wear. He walked out the door saying, "Thanks a lot Yondalla!" (Not nicely of course). He climbed into the back of the car, turned to look out the window, and gave me the finger.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

He's not stupid

On our way out to the counseling appointment he spoke about how he hoped they had found him a good family and remarked that he had no idea they would find him a new family this quickly. Last time it took months and months.

By the time he got to the counselor he worked it out. This was just too suspicious. He must be going to one of those rat holes. He would rather live on the streets. He did just fine on his own in the streets.

He and his counselor had a pretty good time together. They played with light sabers and were finished a little early. I think the counselor found it emotionally exhausting. Like the rest of us he has to pretend not to know something that he knows. Frankie said he would miss him, and I think he meant it.

We went to Frankie's favorite hamburger joint for dinner. He asked if he could order the monster burger even though he thought he probably couldn't finish it. I said, "What am I going to do, ground you?" He looked at me trying to puzzle that one out and I said, "You can order anything you want."

All the way home he talked about how they couldn't fool him, there was no way they could find a family this fast. They were taking him to one of those rat holes. He doesn't seem that upset though -- more triumphant that he has figured out the plan and is too smart to be fooled. Fortunately he is not so smart that he has guessed that I must know the truth.

Or maybe it is just that he trusts me.

But I think part of him knows that he needs to be in a residential treatment center.

He knows.

I told him

I told him that he was being picked up tomorrow and I lied and said that I didn't know where he was going. He looked a little troubled and said, "So I have to pack up all my things tonight?"

"Well, I could do it for you, but I thought you would feel better if you got everything sealed up yourself."

"We could do it together!" He grins, offering me a last fun activity we can share.

"I'm going to play my game until it's time to leave for counseling. Is that okay with you?"

"It's okay."

Tomorrow Frankie Leaves

They just called. In the staff meeting they decided to send him back to the residential treatment center (the place before the group home) where he did the best.

I was asked if I wanted for him to be picked up today or tomorrow. I said tomorrow so that he could see his counselor one last time and pack up his own things how he wanted them packed. So two people will be coming in the morning for him. They provide everything at this treatment center so all he can bring would be a couple of notebooks that he has been writing in.

When we were imagining last night all the places he might go and we suggested this one he said that he couldn't go back because he had a bet with a staff member that he wouldn't ever have to go there again. He was supposed to go back when he was 18 to visit in order to "win."

But every time he talks about how much he hates his school he explains how they did school at this location. That was the sort of school environment that he thought he was signing up for.

I am recommended to tell him that he is being picked up but that I don't know where he is going so that he will stay calm.

I hate that idea because it feels is deceitful and I like him, but I am almost certainly going to do it because I am afraid of and for him.

There it is...I am afraid that if I tell him the truth he will rage and hurt himself and destroy his things.

I told the man from the treatment center that he would feel like he lost a bet and let someone down. He agreed that he would emphasize to Frankie that this is where he felt he was getting the best education.

I feel sad.

And I feel relieved.

His Perspective

I wonder what it is like for him. I mean really.

He has complained about the school since the beginning. He has wanted to move. He has called Diane and she has said things like, "I will talk to my supervisor." Nobody told him, until yesterday, that it just wasn't possible.

I mean, he knew, but he didn't know. He knew that it wasn't supposed to be possible, but he asked if something could be done and he was told "maybe."

I see that his behavior has become more outrageous, but does he?

He always sees his behavior as reasonable. He thinks being defiant and uncooperative in a behavioral program will help people to see he does not belong in a behavioral program.

He thinks that, with the exception of stabbing his pooh bear, shredding two shirts, and pounding his fist in the floor, that his behavior has all been reaonable responses.

And in one way they are. If you know all his history and you understand what it means you can predict that there is a high likelihood that he would behave this way.

But he doesn't understand that it does not seem reasonable to others.

I have wanted to talk to him, but his mind works in such a different way that it doesn't seem possible. I mean -- he really thinks that being defiant at school is reasonable and should be interpretted as and indication that he should be in a less restrictive environment. He believes that.

So he doesn't know that while he has been saying "move me because I don't like this school," we have been talking to each other about how difficult and unstable he is, and how his needs outstrip our abilities.

I don't know how this all seems to him.

The wheels on the bus go... know the rest.

2nd verse, same as the first.

He is cheerful. He is frustrated. He is endearing ("Did you know that the longer you leave the tea bag in, the darker and stronger the tea gets?"). He is annoying.

He tells me he has solved his anger problem, because Hubby fixed the game...or whatever. Something outside him...always outside. Whatever he does or feels it seems to him perfectly justified. he dumped out all the trash bins in the study. He needed to find the instructions!

I emailed the state worker today and said, "When?"

He emailed me back and said, "Don't know. We are talking about it in a meeting this afternoon."

Yes, everyone agreed on what needed to be done on Monday, but still no plan, no date. "If you have to take him to the ER or call the police don't hesitate." Been there. Done that.

Everyone asks me "when?" I say, "I don't know."

Hubby says, "I'm completely exhausted. It is affecting my job. When?"

"I don't know."

Brian says, "Will you have to call the police again, Mom?"

"I don't know."

"Will that hospital have a bed? Will they take him now that he seems happy he is leaving?"

"I don't know."

"What is going to happen next, Mom?"

I don't know.

We wait. We wait for the wheels to turn.

No one wanted this. No one is happy about this.

Our hearts are breaking.

In slow motion.

The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

He Knows

He listened to his voice messages and there was one from his state worker that was left yesterday. The state worker said that he would be coming to get him this week or sometime next week.

Frankie made a mistake in sequences, but it worked. He figured if the message from the worker was left yesterday that must be after he told Diane that he wanted to stay, if she could change his school. So that must mean that the decision had been made. The message from the state worker was actually left before he talked to Diane, but the conclusion was accurate. The decision was made.

So we have been talking about it for a while. He has been processing through what this means.

I told him that living with us and changing schools wasn't possible.

He talked briefly about missing us -- or missing the things he likes about being here. What if he wanted to play video games or express himself openly? We told him that we could not tell him what the rules would be like somewhere else.

We agreed we would all be sad, but that we could take care of ourselves.

He asked why he couldn't stay in the permanency program but be with a different family so he could go to a different school and still see us. We explained that any school in the area would put him in a similar program. He is in a behavioral program and not doing well. No school around here will accept him except the ones that deal with behavioral kids.

He got frustrated, but not loud or violent and he didn't cry -- all good. He talked about where he might go, how he wanted to go back to the town where his last foster home was (more than 2 years ago) because he liked that school.

I asked him what he would think if he had to go back to the group home at least for a while. He said he would die, that they had the worst schooling of all.

Anyway, we talked about it for over an hour. We kept telling him to tell his state worker what he wanted.

I am pleased that he knows the decision is made. I am so very happy not to be concealing information from him, worried that he will find out and that he will blow.

Of course he still could, but from my perspective this is better.

We will see how tomorrow goes.

Hubby on your lizard brain

Hubby talking to Frankie:

Your brain has three parts. The bottom part is your lizard brain; the next part is your animal brain; and the very top part is your human brain. [Frankie starts to giggle.] When you get angry you are using your lizard brain, and lizards are not good at making decisions. They can only decide to do one of two things: run or attack. [Frankie is laughing and checking with me to see if Hubby is at all serious.] So before you decide what to do you need to be calm so you can decide with your human brain. Trying to make decisions with your lizard brain is like using a military tank to thread a needle. [Lots of giggling.]

I will spare you the accounting of the events that made this story appropriate.

How we are

So...a couple of you have emailed and asked how we are doing.

I'm feeling okay...a bit strung out, apprehensive, but okay. I wish a bed would open up in the fricative adolescent psych ward already, but I am okay.

Frankie is happily talking about how he is going to be spending next month's allowance.

Brian pulled me aside to asked worriedly if he was going to be here to GET next month's allowance. I said no, but that the social workers said not to tell him that because we don't want him to get upset.

Hubby took Brian and Frankie to the Y with the plan that he will wear them, particularly Frankie, out.

Andrew took advantage of the situation to talk to me, "Mom. I want you to know that first, I am not afraid of Frankie. Okay? Second though, Brian is afraid and I need to tell you that I am not okay with Brian being put in a situation where he is afraid. This is his house; he shouldn't be afraid here."

I said I was sorry and that I would never do it again. I would never let them rush us on a placement decision again. I would never make the decision without all of us having a chance to talk about it after the youth had visited us. I would not accept a child who had any history of violent outbreaks, even if it had been 6 months since the last one.

Andrew thought about it and said, "Well, okay then."

So... that's how we're doing.

How are all you?

In other news

I just brought the almost one-year-old Shih Tzu back from the groomers. The Cattle Dog (5+ years) who has insisted on being the dominant dog is suddenly doing submissive displays.

I think the groomer sprayed the Shih Tzu with alpha juice.

The Shih Tzu is deeply confused.

An Odd Evening

Yesterday was an evening like any evening we might have had in the first month.

Frankie asked me if I wanted a CD of his poetry that he has read into his MP3 player. I asked if he knew how to burn it onto a disk. He said yes, so I said yes -- because it seemed like the polite thing to do.

Then he was frustrated because he could not find the disk that came with the MP3 player that would let him do that. I said that I thought the program was on the kids' computer. He said NOT THAT program, the OTHER program. And I said, "Well, you can usually download those sorts of things from the Internet."

And he looked at me and said in a loud and how-can-she-be-so-stupid tone, "My poetry isn't ON the Internet! It is in my MP3 player!" And I decided he was far too worked up for me to try to explain that I meant downloading the software.

Hubby suggested that they not worry about that right now and just put the music that Frankie wants onto the player. "But there isn't enough room! I can't put it on because my poetry is on there and it takes up too much room and the music won't fit!" He's got that annoying, whiny, I'm-working-up-to-crying-and-rolling-on-the-floor sound in his voice.

So I said, "You know Frankie, I would rather have your poetry written down anyway."

Frankie said, "I don't have time to write it down! That would take forever!"

"Well, why don't you just make a copy? We have a scanner. We can scan and print it."

So he ran to his room to find it and came back up and said it was gone. I must have thrown it away and now he would never have his poetry ever again.

"Did you look in the big plastic box of papers in your cupboard?"

"Yeees! I look eeeverywhere!"

"Is it okay if I look?"

"Yes. But you won't find it. It is gone and now I won't ever have any of my poetry and I worked hard on it!"

And I went down to his room and pulled out the big clear box full of papers and started to look at it. He walked in, saw it and said, "Oh, I didn't know you meant THAT box." He snatched it out of my hand and started going through it while I wondered what other box he could have possibly thought I meant.

And he found it and smiled at me and told me about all the fake names he had used when he signed it, "because that way the people at the center wouldn't know I wrote it. They don't like for you to write poetry, you know. Did you ever use any fake names for anything?" "Um...probably...once or twice." He took it to Hubby and Hubby scanned it and Frankie was happy. He deleted his poetry from his MP3 player and added some music and all was well.

And I watched him on the floor listening to his MP3 player, I thought about how emotionally young he really is, how little he seems to be aware of the needs or emotions of others. And I don't mean that in a "he's such a jerk" sort of way -- I mean that in that in some ways he is three years old, not the ten I have been claiming. Maybe it is the Asperger's that he may or may not have.

And I know that a month ago I would have thought it was sort of cute that he carried around a book in which he wrote poetry but signed with a variety of fake names so that other people would think someone else wrote it. Now though, after this week, I think "He's serious. It's not so much cute as paranoid."

Still, last night I could tell the Hubby and I were both trying to walk a fine line between allowing ourselves to be held hostage to his demands and a desire to keep him calm so that we would not have to call the police or take him to the hospital. The option of saying just giving him the problem back with sympathy, "Golly, sweetie. I don't know what you are going to do, but I am sure you can figure it out" did not seem to be an option, or at least not a safe and wise one.

I think he needs psychiatric treatment. He has been getting worse and with every fiber of my being I know he cannot control himself and he needs help -- and I cannot get him help in this backwater unless he is an immediate danger to himself or others, because the one and only adolescent psych unit is full.

I think the counselor did a good thing for him yesterday. The counselor got him closer to reality. He left understanding that he liked us, that the loss of his possessions was his responsibility, or at least not ours, that the only thing that he really, objectively disliked about this placement was the school. I don't think the counselor intended to make Frankie think he was in control of what would happen, but the counselor is not a magician and only had one hour. He brought Frankie back to a place which is both more emotionally stable and connected with reality. And I do of course mean relative to where he was the night before.

But I thought about the possibility of trying to tell him that the social worker could not change his school and he was going back to the group home. I cannot imagine how that conversation would go -- or I can, but none of them "work."

I can imagine him getting agitated and not believing me, insisting that HE was the one who spoke to the social worker and to the counselor and so HE knew what was happening. I think if I told him that I had also spoke to them he would either conclude that I had not understood them, or else the paranoia would kick in. I can so easily see him getting really angry because we were all talking behind his back and lying to him.

I don't like not telling him the truth, but I am afraid that trying to convince him of the truth is likely to succeed only in provoking him.

I wonder how what will happen next. Will he be told that it just isn't possible for him to change schools so, consistent with his proposal, he is going back to The Town From Whence He Came? Will he perceive it to be what he wanted? Or will he be angry and feel that he is being pushed around without being consulted?

And who is going to pack his things? Will they ask me to do it while he is at school and send someone to get them and him when he gets off the bus? Will they give him some notice and a chance to pack? And if they do, will he pack carefully, or will he throw a fit?

And how honest should I be with him? Should I let him go believing that it is all about what he wants and the terrible school, or is there anyway I can communicate to him that I think he needs a higher level of care than I can provide?

I don't know. I wish I did.

I'm okay...I am not as anxious as I might sound. I'm...apprehensive, and sad.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Responding to Stacy

Stacy writes

I am playing devil's advocate here, but is there ANY chance that you could work it out so that Frankie could come back after some intensive treatment??

What about a day program at a hospital complete with med management, individual therapy, group therapy etc. My son did one of these and it was a lifesaver. Basically he went there during the school day and did all his therapies, role playing, they were able to tweak his med fast because they saw him every day, and he came home at night. It lasted about 12 weeks, but I can honestly say I don't know where my kid would be now if it weren't for that program.

I am sure you have already thought all of this out, but since I was once in a very similar situation as Frankie, I am really sympathizing with him.

I am sympathetic too. I wish it were possible. I really do. One issue is of course that we now have a whole set of social workers who are on board with the decision to move him. Some of the ones who would have to agree would refuse at this point because they would believe that they were protecting me and my family -- even from me. Once you call them and tell them that you think that the dynamics are unhealthy for your birth children they don't tend to let you change your mind back. Just like they won't let Frankie, I can't unring that bell.

They know how difficult it is for us (all the foster parents) to come to that conclusion and how torn we can be with guilt and sympathy, and they tend to make us stick to our guns.

But the biggest problem is that there is no such program here. All we have is a psych/rehab hospital with a teen unit and it only does inpatient care. Well, I believe it has outpatient programing for recovering addicts, but nothing like you describe.

I wonder though -- if there had been such a program we probably would have considered it before we got here. Would it have worked?

I don't know.

One of the big differences with foster kids and birth kids is that birth kids are attached to you, and I don't just mean emotionally. They don't have the option of getting different parents. It is a tremendous piece of leverage that we use without even realizing it. If I tell my birth kid that he has to go to this program, he just doesn't have the out of refusing and insisting that he be moved.

If I had had to put Brian in the behavioral program that Frankie is in he would have complained about it. I would have told him that there was no choice. There was no where else to go to school. He would have cried and fussed and complained, and then he would have done what he had to do to get through it.

Frankie does likes us, but in no way feels that he can't get along without us. We are nice, but replaceable. He knows that if he really doesn't want to do what we want him to do he can fight it and he can eventually "win."

Of course he does not understand that "winning" is really just setting him further back on the path to independence.

But there is another part of your question. Could Frankie ever come back?

The answer is maybe. I signed a permanency agreement and though technically I am not bound to it after the agency has moved him out, I feel that I am. My commitment to him has to be balanced with my commitment to the rest of the family, and I have to do what really is best for him, not what I want to be best for him, but the door is not closed.

If a year from now Frankie has made progress in understanding why he does what he does and what he needs to do to change it, he can ask to come back and we will consider whether it would work.

It might.

Anything can happen.

"You decided what?"

I'm okay. Ever had anything happen that is so bizarre that it ... well ... I have no idea. I will just tell you.

Frankie came home from counseling today saying that his counselor talked some sense into him and he was staying.

Everyone got that? Frankie said he is staying.

They even called the social worker during the appointment and told her. Frankie explained that he realizes that we are a good family and he should make it work with us.

He just needs his counselor to work out one thing. He needs her to get him into a new school.

Because you know, we went though a gut wrenching, painful decision about what he needed, what our kids needed, and what we were able to provide. We watched him cycle through manic/hyper/frenzied states. We dealt with him being near-incoherent for hours, complaining that the had to leave here because he was losing too many possessions. We called the police.

We comforted Brian who is now afraid to live with Frankie and told him what we had decided, and Brian sighed with relief.

And I cried and mourned and wondered, "What if?" And so many of you offered me comfort and understood.

We talked to Diane, the agency social worker, who called the state social worker and they decided that he needed a more structured environment and started all the paper work and came up with a plan.

But none of that matters, because Frankie has decided to stay. You know, just so long as his social worker gets him into a new school. He says that his in-school behavior has only been an issue because of the school. If he gets into a new school he won't have any problems there, and that will allow him to work on his behavior at home.

And I stared at him dumbfounded.

Totally dumbfounded.

He can't change schools. It isn't possible. With his recent behavior there is not chance in H. E. double-hockey sticks that any local school will accept him out of the learning center. I mean, it is mind-boggling that he could think he could be having temper tantrums and being defiant in a behavioral school and just transfer out. If he thinks he can, well, he is not in touch with reality.

But then we already suspected that.

We called the social worker to ask her to tell us her version of the conversation. She sighed. She might be as tired as we are at this point. As far as she is concerned we did not make the decision because it is what he wanted. We made it for a whole list of reasons that haven't changed.

She recommends that we allow Frankie to remain deluded for now. He is calm and she sees no point in upsetting him.

But I stopped crying.

I have no idea what will happen next.

I mean, he will be moving, but I don't know if he will get angry and change his mind a couple hundred times over the next few days or if someone will have to tell him. I don't know how he will react if/when someone tells him.

Brian is nervous. He's packed an over-night bag so that if it gets crazy again he can go to a friend's house.

By the way, I tried to talk to Frankie about his behavior last night. He says Brian shouldn't be afraid of him, "I'm really just a big ole teddy bear. I only hurt teddy bears! No. I mean I only hurt my own things or myself. I won't hurt him."
"Frankie, what do you think about your behavior last night?"
"Well, banging my fist in the box was excessive. It hurt too!"
"Do you think anything else was excessive?"
"Um...not really."
"How about throwing your things on the floor?"
"I just dropped them! I mean, I dumped them on purpose, but I didn't think they would break!" [He threw them on the floor hard. I was there.]
"Okay, what about tearing apart the cassette player?"
"I didn't mean to break it! I was just trying to get the tape out! I didn't want to break it."
"And everything that happened before that? All the anger over the game?"
"I think I know what to do about that! I think that it just wouldn't save because I had the wrong disk in. If I change it, it won't happen again. But I am sorry for scaring you...and for all the other stuff."
"What other stuff, exactly?"
"Um.... losing the things you gave me?"

Feeling sad the sadness has hit.

I had hoped he would get into the local psychiatric unit. It left open the possibility that he could come back. It meant that I would be able to visit him while he was being treated and that if much of what has been going on in the past couple of weeks is something that can be treated, he might have been able to come home.

It wasn't likely, but it was possible.

But if his state worker is coming to take him back to The Town From Whence He Came, then he will be gone. He will be fully exited from the private agency for which I work.

I had assumed this was the end, but there was still a chance, a possibility.

But there isn't. Or it is so slim that even I can't hope for it.


But maybe he is going where he needs to be. Maybe he needs more care than we can provide, but maybe coming out and being accepted is an experience that will make a positive difference in his life.

Maybe we won't just be one more foster family that failed him. Maybe he will take something from this that will make a difference in his life.

Decision Made

It turns out that there is only one facility in the area that has a psychiatric unit for teenagers, and it is full. We thought there was another, but it only takes children under 12.

It is also the place where Frankie went and "never came back." Being told that that was the alternative to deescalating is what brought him down both Tuesday and last night. So maybe it is good that it is full. His state worker will be coming to pick him up "hopefully by the end of the week" and take him back to The Town From Whence He Came, probably back to the same group home.

So...if Frankie is still under his own control at all, this news will placate him. We will be able to have a couple of days to make a scrap book, load whatever music he wants onto his MP3 player, help him pack and generally have a civilized parting.

If he is cycling into a psychotic episode and becomes dangerous then we are to either call the police and have them take him to JD or take him to the hospital and insist on a 72 hour psych hold. I'm 80% confident that he will chill when he knows he is getting what he has been insisting upon, but part of me is afraid that he is outside his own control.

At best it will be a sad and difficult couple of days. He does not have any understanding of how his actions affect others. At best, he will talk happily about leaving and not notice how much that hurts Brian's feelings, which it will.

I don't know what set him off...but from my perspective this has been building for a couple of weeks. I would date it from the attempt to lower one of his medications, but I don't think the issue is as simple as, "They lowered his medication and that threw his mood disorder out of whack" although it could be. AidelMaidel does a good job of listing stressors and triggers he has gone through the past week.

I don't know. And at the moment it doesn't seem important. It happened. He's leaving. I'm sad.


Do you remember when we were making the decision to take Frankie and I was feeling overwhelmed with how much information I was getting and how quickly I was getting it?

Well I thought I would tell you that I think we made this decision fully-informed. It is partly because I was so well informed about his past behavior patterns and diagnosis that I am responding to him the way I am. It is based upon his past patterns that the social workers are responding to him the way they are.

I have loose rules for what I share here. I try to share my story with the kids, which includes a fair amount of thinking about why they are the way they are. In Frankie's case I know much more about his history than I have or will share here.

I will tell you that he had 6 months of doing really well in the group home, which is what made everyone think he was ready to try a family.

And I will tell you that given his past patterns if I were to have told the social worker this morning what Frankie had done over the past 24 hours and that the family was feeling totally confident in our ability to cope and help him, she would STILL be looking for a bed in the adolescent psychiatric unit.

To the foster care alums & others

AidelMaidel left a comment on the last post, which I welcome.

I know that reading this story may trigger your own traumas. I understand. Do not worry about my feelings. Leave comments here or write on your own blogs as you need.

This shouldn't be happening to Frankie. He should not lose another family because he has a mental illness that needs treatment. It shouldn't. It is possible that he is just now finally at the point where he can express some of the rage over what was done to him. It might be that now is when he most needs a family to stand by him.

Right now I know he needs something I cannot give him. I think he needs to be in a treatment center or psychiatric ward.

I am open to the possibility that he would come back, in a week or in a year. It is not a decision that I can make myself. The family and social workers will have to agree. It is possible, but I do not have high hopes.

But please, all of you, take care of yourselves. If you want or need, give voice to Frankie's pain as you see it.

Give voice to your own pain.

Take care of yourselves.

For everyone: so far all the comments have been respectful. The decisions that are being made are being made based upon the needs of everyone involved. Frankie is not a bad kid. Frankie is a deeply hurt kid with very deep needs. We may be unable to meet them, but he is not bad.

I love my agency [update]

I could cry with relief.

I got an email from the Diane this morning. She called the state worker to suggest placement options. The state worker is going to talk about it with his supervisor and call her back later. We should have a plan by the end of the day.

I knew I could count on them to recognize that Frankie is very ill and needs help...still there is always that nagging fear that they will think you are over-reacting, you know?

You know...last night was bad, that was when I knew his behaviors were more than I could deal with. This morning when he was curled up in a fetal position groaning I knew he was sick and needed treatment.

Update: if the adolescent psychiatric unit has a bed, they will move him there today. If not they will reassure him that they are working on a plan to move him but he will stay with us until they work it out.

Not Angry at Frankie

The last post was about me...this one is about Frankie.

I am not angry at him. I do not think that he is a bad person. I think he is a very disturbed child. I think he needs and deserves love and security and help. I anticipate letting him go, helping him pack and saying goodbye, but it will be with sadness and love. I will never say that he was a terrible child. I am not angry. He is not a bad child who must be sent a way; he is a very sick child whose needs are more than I can meet.

A few minutes ago he was rocking himself in the dining room. Now he is curled in a blanket, lying in the hallway in a fetal position. Periodically he makes a soft groan. I asked him if there was anything I could do to make him feel better right now, and he said no.

Last night, after the police calmed him, he sat on the sofa. Periodically he would say something like, "Sorry that I have to go guys, but I have just lost too much of my stuff here. I have lost more stuff than I have got while I am here. I have to go." Once he pulled out a shard of plastic embedded in his knuckles. I realized his hands should be cleaned and disinfected; and I knew that I wasn't going to do it. He would snap angrily at one of us for something we said and then the next minute calmly ask the same person to explain a plot point in the movie Hubby and Brian were watching.

Right now, my amateur diagnosis includes manic-depression. Last night was the mania; this morning is the depression.

Is this happening because his meds were reduced for a week? Did that throw him out of balance, or would it have happened anyway? Does he need a higher level of medication to survive outside of institutions?

Or is it just happening because he is not ready to deal with the stresses of the outside world? Perhaps he needs to be scheduled and monitored by professionals throughout the day.

My heart breaks for him. I am not angry at him; I will not speak poorly of him.

I do know that he needs to be somewhere else.

I'm not Cindy

I woke up thinking that -- that I am not Cindy.

And I am not the wonderful foster mother I met on the panel on Friday who talked about how difficult her grand-nephew and niece were when she first adopted them. How they were violent and flew into rages.

I am not them. Part of me wants to be. I want to be the woman who sticks with the kid even when he rages and breaks things and says he wants to leave. I want to say, "Sorry kid. We made a commitment to you and now you are about to learn what that means."

Or at least I want to take him to the one hospital that has a pediatric (teen) psychiatric ward and see if they can get him stabilized, because another way I am not like Cindy is that I have a greater confidence that medication can make a difference.

I want to be the one who in a couple of years can laugh at this story about how he broke his own possessions and then said he had to leave because all of things got broke or lost here. [He did keep saying that last night. It was as though cleaning his room and NOT finding the ring we recently bought him or the toy knight that his mother had given him confirmed that they were gone really and truly forever -- and it was because he lived here. Ah, but I digress, this post is not about him. It is about me.]

What I was saying was that I want to be the one who stuck with him. I don't want to be one of the foster homes on the list of homes that makes people gasp when the story is told. "From age 9 until 18 I was in X number of residential facilities and Y number of foster homes. Every time I got to a foster home they just kicked me back out as soon as they realized how angry I was. Of course I was angry! But they only wanted nice kids. Did they really think that they could be foster parents and take in kids who had been abused and bounced around and they would not be angry?"

But I am not that person.

I am an abuse survivor myself. This should give me perhaps added strength, and I think it does, but I have my own little Scarlett O'Hara in me. Years ago she held up her fist and said, "As God as my witness, I will never be afraid in my own home again."

I have said laughing, but serious, that we specialize in the calm passive-aggressive and deceitful. Before I started I would have told you that honest was the one thing I had to have in a relationship. Now I know it is necessary for a relationship with a spouse or a friend, but not, for me, in a child. I can live with kids who lie.

I have the picture of how the day might go...I know it won't...but I imagine it anyway. I imagine that they make arrangements for him at the adolescent psychiatric ward and take him there. He is treated and he realizes that he does want to be here. In this story I know he will probably need more than one hospitalization, but we stick with him. When he says he wants to come home, we agree on rules that keep everyone safe.

If they offered that option to me today, I would agree to it. Last night, before the rage, but after he came home hyper or manic, pick your word, Hubby and I agreed that we could certainly imagine him choosing to leave and us letting him go, in fact we suspected that would happen, but we were not anywhere near the place where we would ask for him to be removed.

And now?

I am not Cindy. I am a parent of boys to whom I have made a promise about what their lives would be like. It is not a biological child v. foster child thing, or at least it is not that simple. If Evan were here it would be as much about him. I would be asking him if he could stick it out; if he could feel safe. I think he would be more likely to say that he could, because he had been there himself and understood, but he might say, "I was like that until I spent time in that military-style home. He needs to be in a place like that." The point though, is that my commitment to the kids who are already here takes precedence over the kids who might be here or who have most recently moved in.

But this is not just about the boys. I am the wife of a man who teaches special education, who deals all day with kids like Frankie, who has said from the beginning that he cannot come home to the same thing. He cannot come home to kids who need as much help regulating their behavior as the kids at school.

And it is about me. I have made career sacrifices to be a foster mother, but there are limits for me too.

I look at this kid, who right now is sitting in the dining room in the dark, arms folded over his chest and rocking himself, and know that he needs more than I have.

Is this guilt? A little perhaps, not just a very little. Mostly it is sadness. I do like this kid. I really do, but he needs more than we can give him.

I cannot help but imagine a future when after six months or two years he asks for us again. I imagine an older Frankie asking to come back and wanting to try again. And I would want to give him another chance.

Would I do it? I don't know. It would depend upon so many things.

But I would want to.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Silph writes:

It makes me a little sad and concerned to know that you're actually right
there, right now, as I am up studying for my midterm tomorrow (it's 1:34AM right
now for me) .... if I could pray, I'd be praying for you right now.My thoughts
are with you and your household right now.Keep on writing as you need to,

Thank you. Study well, and know that I shall be sleeping. All is quiet on the basement level and there is no light under Frankie's door.

Thank you again.

Just sitting here

This is so bizarre.

I am sitting in my chair with my computer because I don't feel safe going to sleep until after the slamming of doors stops.

He came up here a minute ago and said, as though nothing had happened, "So how are you feeling Yondalla?"

And I wondered if it was safe to be honest. I said, "Well, I'm a little sad that you are leaving."

"Well, I have to go. I have lost more things than I have gained here. I can't risk any more of my possessions like this."

"And I am feeling disappointed that that is your attitude."

"Well, it is not my fault everything is getting ruined! I said before that I didn't want to be here. I need to find my WoW disks, do you know where they are?"

"Frankie, it is time for you to go to bed."

"I'm not sleepy."

"Well, I am tired, and I don't think I can sleep while you are prowling the house. I need for you to go to your room."


"Frankie, go to bed."

"And that is another reason why I have to get out of here! You are all so damn paranoid! I can't stand it here..." (Ranting continues as he goes down the stairs.)

I think it is safe to go to bed. He has only destroyed his own property, not any one else's. His right hand is scabbed over from slamming it into the box of stuff, but no one else is physically injured or was even threatened.

I'll wait another half hour to see if he starts prowling again.

I don't want to spend another night in the ER with him. I hope he calms down and does nothing worse than destroy his own property.

Oh... I did write the social worker and told her that I did not feel that I could keep him safe and that Brian no longer felt safe living with him.

Total Melt-Down

I don't know what to tell you.

Frankie had trouble with a video game, although it could have been anything. There was much ranting, and breaking of personal possessions.

He would not de-escalate.

I called 911 and the agency.

The officers were really wonderful. They spoke calmly to him, listened to him. The supervisor from the agency called and she spoke to him too.

He is insistent that he be moved.

His reasons for moving are more than a little incoherent. Right now his biggest reason seems to be that the video game doesn't work and there isn't anything else to do. That and all of his things here have got lost, broken or taken (which seems to be the fault of the house or the family somehow).

He was finally given a choice between staying calm and going to the hospital again. He choose being calm.

Brian is now afraid to live with him.

I can't tell you exactly what will happen next. I suspect that he will be moved within the week.

I think part of what happened was that he spent 48 hours on his best behavior and it wore him out, but I don't think that matters now.

When he came here we knew he might not be ready to live in a family.

Heeeee'sss baack!

He likes his room. Well, either he really likes it or doesn't really care and feels like he should express appreciation. He buzzed around for a while looking at everything. He agreed that it looked good.

Then he asked us about the things that are still missing. He paced and talked about them and speculated that he lost them while playing in the backyard and maybe they went into the trash, which is too bad, really.

And then he said that the respite family was fine, and they told him all about the rapture. It is going to happen in his lifetime, they said, because America isn't even in the Bible. I asked if he heard that at their church or if they told him. He said they told him, but it was his fault because he brought it up.

And he still thinks that his past foster parents should just give him his stuff. And no, he doesn't think that they threw it away, they have sheds full of kids' things that they haven't given back.

But he still wants to live on a ranch, not their ranch, but a different foster family's ranch, because you can make really good money over the summer. I suggested that maybe he should stay here, since we like him and likes us. He smiled and said he did, but do I know any job in "the city" (really, this is a SMALL TOWN, I promise) where he can make one, two or three thousand dollars in the summer? "That's probably more than you make in one month, isn't it?"

I refused to confirm or deny.

Anyway, then he paced and talked and paced and talked and asked Brian when it was his turn on the computer.

And Hubby said, "I have to get more work done in my classroom, so I will leave this very capable boy in your annoying hands."

"Right. Gotcha."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Invasion of Privacy

Maerlowe writes

You know, we still leave Huck's clothes and toys and things on the floor where he can see them. We used to put his clothing and toys away each day, but then it made him frantic -- do you remember how he reacted to the 'no pantry" thing this summer at my grandparents? Not being able to see the food/clothes/toys he has makes him insane.

I totally realize that Huck's 4 and Frankie's not... But. We've been trained not to put things in the drawers. Better to have a pile of wrinkled, clean clothes than a child who isn't sure whether he belongs or not.
I started to respond to Maerlowe in a comment, but I decided this was important enough to put in a post.

First, Maerlowe is right. Kids of all ages can feel much more secure with all their belongings in sight. I think that is probably true for Frankie as well. His being older adds another dimension: he may regard it as a justifiable invasion of privacy.

When I decided to do it I was thinking only about how frustrated he has been about not being able to find his own belongings, the fact that I knew some of Andrew's and Brian's things were in that mess, and that it really seemed to have got to the point where it was a fire and safety hazard. I also just couldn't imagine doing it with him. Not because he would not want me to (Evan HATED for me to even look inside his room), but because I just could not imagine him doing anything other than get in my way -- but that might not be fair. Another motivation is that he is supposed to have an inventory of his possessions and though I am confident that I mailed it in, they don't have it. Cleaning his room seemed to be a good, perhaps even necessary, way to do that.

In retrospect, I'm not confident that cleaning his room while he was gone was wise. In fact, it unexpectedly became MUCH more complicated: when I cleaned the room Hubby was able to see that the bed frame had gone wonky. He took apart the bed to fix it and found ... um ... a Secret Thing. It was clearly hidden from us and I am not certain how to deal with it.

If he is upset about the room cleaning, we will apologize and promise not to do it again -- and we won't. We won't however allow his room to get THAT messy again. I really think it was unsafe.

Tomorrow I am going to buy some clear plastic boxes that will fit on his shelves for all his toys and stuff. One of the things that I found was the key to his lock box, and I will offer to put a lock on his storage cupboard, or take the doors off so he can see inside -- whichever he prefers. I want him to know that I really do want to respect his privacy, and I will understand if he has a need for things to be where he can see them. Probably none of this will help. He will continue to drop toys, clothes, trash, and everything else wherever he is.

Regarding The Secret Thing under his bed...well...we are whimping out. We put it back along with some of his papers and stuff, creating the impression that we never cleaned under the bed. We are telling the social worker and counselor what we found and will follow their advice.

Sadly, though I found several things he had lost, I did not find some things he lost recently that he was upset about. I would like to find those for him, but they could be anywhere in the house.

Given that he had put NOTHING inside his dresser I am wondering if I should take it out and replace it with shelves.

Clearly I haven't given up hope that we can keep at least some of this things off the floor and the trash in the trash can.

I cleaned Frankie's room

Everything the kid owned was on the floor.

He is a collector everything. I sorted out toys, trash, papers from school and drawings, books CD's, clothes..everything was in one big mess. I did not find a couple of the things he has recently been complaining that he lost, but I did find things he lost the first week he got here.

I don't know if he will be glad, uninterested, or angry.

Andrew is angry as I found a bag of dice that he he has been looking for and a D&D book. Of course Andrew is concerned that Frankie will keep taking his things. I couldn't get too excited. It was one book and one bag of dice. It is not like I have never found something that belongs to someone else in his room. I understand that part of the issue is his basic mistrust of Frankie. I do understand.

But there were fewer things that belonged to other people than I expected. I will tell Frankie not to do it again. Frankie has issues, but sticky fingers has not been one of them.

It was amazing though that NOTHING was put away. There were no clothes in the dresser, nothing on the shelves or in the storage cupboard. EVERYTHING was either on the floor or the desk. Well, a few things were still in the boxes he moved in with. Playing cards, trading cards, legos, Monopoly money, books, CD's, and of course clothes.

I threw all the clothes into the doorway and told Hubby that was his part of the job.

I thought it was more than fair and he is not complaining.

Seems in some ways an odd thing to do while he is gone, but I can't imagine doing it with him.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Quick Update

Evan was fantastic on the panel. I just followed his lead. I'm so proud of that kid.

Since Frankie has been going through every pen in the house trying to find on that will make his "Elvish" look they way he wants it to, we bought him some felt-tipped caligraphy pens and inexpensive "parchment" caligraphy paper to take with him. He seemed to appreciate it.

He's pretty relaxed about going. His only concern is whether they have time to stop at the store so he can spend the $10 "refund" Hubby gave him yesterday.

And now my darlings -- I'm going to go take a nap.

The first morning after WoW

So this morning Frankie played his new game. It is a basic strategy game. You get to be the Romans or some group the Romans battled. Then there is a battle. You can even be a Roman army attacking another Roman army.

He played it fine and then it wouldn't save. He fussed and complained and whined. He wouldn't believe Andrew who told him that in some games there are only certain places that you can save and that he must not been in one of those places. Frankie insisted that he was supposed to be able to save and he couldn't so he guessed he was never going to be able to play in "story mode." All he would ever do was short battles.

I said, "Okay."

Then he said that even in six months he wasn't going to play WoW. By then Brian would be at level 60 and there would be no point in even bothering.

I said, "Sounds like a good idea."

I'm pretty good at not escalating with them when I am exhausted.

I have to give a test, go home, make myself presentable, and then be a model foster parent on a panel. Hubby will be there too. We will both try not to look like rag dolls that have been put through the ringer while we answer questions about permanency in foster care.

I'm waiting for someone to ask, "Have you had a disruption with a kid to whom you made a permanent commitment?"

Shall I answer 1) "No" 2) "Not yet" or 3) "Ask me again in a month"?

But he shall go on a respite weekend, and I shall sleep.

I may not post much, but that will be because I am spending the weekend napping and playing Sudoku.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

So anti-Clamatic, but in a good way

Right after I clicked publish on the last post Hubby and Frankie came home from a shopping trip. Frankie showed me the new computer game Hubby bought him.

Hubby said, "I told him about WoW. He's fine."


"Yeah. I did tell him we would refund him $10 of the monthly subscription he paid."


And that's it.

This new game will probably frustrate him, but then again everything frustrates him. We haven't escaped that.

What I tend to forget is that sometimes with kids suggesting that you might do something can be much more anxiety-producing than doing it.

Oh...and Hubby told him that he knew he was still making decisions about his school, but if he cooperated with them for six months he would consider giving him another chance with WoW.

What Frankie Needs

Mrs. Butter B asks:

Out of curiousity, does Frankie do better when everything is highly scheduled? In talking to a friend who has a daughter with Aspergers, she mentioned that if things are not tightly scheduled, she melts down and obsesses over stupid ridiculously unimportant stuff. Like whether the hairbows on her baby dolls are tied evenly. Or if the decor statues are facing the same direction. Perhaps Frankie needs less freedom mentally- the old "idle hands/devils workshop" thing. Maybe he needs to have a typed out, detailed schedule for every waking minute, and it needs to be mostly work, very little play. At least on some level, work rather than play.

My response is that I hope not, because if he does he is in the wrong home. That is just far more than we can do. We do hope to get him more scheduled. Hubby is planning on taking the boys to the Y two or three times a week. I hope that Frankie will get regular OT and/or speech therapy, and the social worker says she has started the paper worker to get him a PSR* worker.

All that should occupy him.

Hubby and I did talk about whether we were going to make it with him, or whether he was going to make it with us.

As I see it there are two main issues. The first huge one is his school. As regular readers know, he does not like it. He thinks he was mislead about it (a not-unreasonable claim). He believes he does not need their behavioral program and that he is not learning what he needs to learn. I think he is mistaken on both those claims.

In any case, his attitude has been that if he can't get out of the school and stay with us, he will leave us and the school. Some days he is all worked up about that and somedays he is calm about it. His position has remained unchanged however.

Eventually this issue must be addressed. When it is, he may leave. Personally, I would like that to happen sooner rather than later. (Not him leaving, mind you. I want the issue confronted.) From what I understand the agency worker is trying to coordinate with the state worker so they can present a united front and be clear about what his alternatives would be. If he leaves here, will he go back to a group home, or will he go to another foster home and be given a chance at a traditional high school?

The second we will be crashing into in a couple of hours. You guessed it: WoW. Since we know about the patch he downloaded, he is going to be taken off-line. We are easing into it as best as we can. Over dinner we talked about what other games he liked and I said that I would buy him something to "diversify" his playing time. He found an old computer game we already have that he says he likes. I said I would buy him either the Sims or an Age of Empires game.

We are giving him a couple of hours to think about these alternatives and hopefully work up some enthusiasm for them.

And then we will tell him that he can't play WoW anymore. We will tell him, truthfully, that his teachers, counselor and social worker have all been trying to persuade us for weeks to take him off WoW but that we resisted. Downloading the patch after he had been warned against downloading anything without permission has changed our minds.

I don't know how it will go. Perhaps it will be fine. It is possible that saying "we are thinking about doing this terrible thing unless you can convince us otherwise" sends him into a state of anxiety and that "this is the way life is going to be" is something he will accept.

Or perhaps he will spiral off into another episode like Tuesday night. If he does, Hubby gets to take him to the emergency room this time.

I'll let you know how it goes.