Tuesday, October 30, 2007


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.


  1. "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."

    I differ with you there. My son becomes a stranger when he plays video games; he's so intense and focused that he will literally wet himself instead of pause the game. He will wake up in the middle of the night to sneak in a game.

    We have restricted him completely from video games. The other kids are very limited in the amount of game play, but he only gets to play on special occasions.

    This is recommended by his therapist -- as he has RAD. RADdies love to live in fantasy; it doesn't hurt nearly as much as reality can. But the more they are allowed to indulge that, the less they are in touch with reality and forming relationships. Why bother caring for a real, live person who can hurt you when this imaginary character will do as you instruct?

    I truly don't know if Frankie's issues would have been any different even without WoW. But I do know you can't keep beating yourself up over this. It is what it is.

    Be kind to yourself.

  2. I think you are right. I think that perhaps you might have changed the way things unfolded, but I don't think that you would have been able to change the fact that Frankie simply needed to be in a much more structured environment.

    I don't think he was "ready" to live in a regular foster home. He just wasn't capable of it.

    I think the only thing you could have done differently was to not take him in the first place, but you really didn't know how things were going to turn out. You were told he was doing well in the group home, you were told he deserved a chance, so you gave him that chance.

    If the blame should be placed on anyone, I think it should be on his workers. I just don't see, given his behavior at your house, that anyone in their right mind would have or should have thought that he belonged in a regular foster home.

  3. The "release from guilt" was what I was driving at.

  4. I wonder if the environment of the group home protects Frankie from understanding the reality of his limitations. When he began living in your home, he had to see himself in the context of a broader world, a world he isn't able to be successful in. When he was forced to compare himself to your bio boys and to the regular high school kids, his deficits may have become much more apparent to him. In the group setting, compared to the others, he may be able to view himself as much farther along and much closer to being "normal" than he really is. Some of the things he said while he was living in your home seemed to me to suggest that he knew he was losing some of his sense of himself.

  5. Let me start by saying that I know children and dogs are so so different... but dogs is the thing I have an experience with in this regard.

    In our family dogs are part of the family. Last march we had to return a puppy back to her breeder after two weeks because she really didn't like being with us.We had an er drama before that behavioral therapy. The days after I felt so terrible I couldn't stop reliving everything we did and try

    I was so incredible sad it made me sick. It wasn't the worst thing ta have happened in my life but it was a situation that I felt responsible for without knowing what I could've done better. (except not taking her..)

    E verybody told me I had made the right decision but till this day I fel there wasn't a right outcome just the one with the least damage..

    I can't imagine goping through this with a kid you love and feel responsible for.. I so feel for you..

    (The pup stayed with the breeder and is the light in their lifes now. We have met her afterwards and she was a differant dog. It still hurts though)

  6. sometimes forks in the road meet back up, and there are multiple ways to get to the same endpoint; i think with franki, that's what happened. he wasn't capable of living in a family home right now, despite what you did. so no matter what path you took, what you did or did not do, he was going to end back up in the group home or somewhere with a more formal enviornment. if you changed the variables (gaming, cleaning his room etc) the end result may have been two weeks later, or 5 days sooner. but it sounds like you know it would have come eventually.

    of course, i can't ever know the whole situation, just being a reader and not a participant in the unfolding drama, but i do believe that you gave him something: a chance. a chance to try out his new skills, a chance to express his gender dysphoria in a safe environment. a bra that wasn't a bad drag queen boob set ;) (grin). a chance to have a kind dad figure who listened to him. if he's got some sense of reality, he may be able to hold onto these kindnesses and let them help heal him some as he progresses.

    being kind to another is rarely a bad choice. (unless it is negatively impacting the others in your life for an extended period)...


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.