The day after Ann moved in I wrote this to my friend:
December 9, 2002
I am trying not to invest anything in Ann's visit. The social worker wanted to talk about the possibility of her staying. I told her that I was just going to think about it one week at a time. Of course Ann is welcome here, but as I said, I don't want to invest. Yesterday happened because Ann called her previous social worker and said that she did not want to live there anymore. She had got in trouble with her mother and was pouting. The other girls started picking on her. They tipped over the chair she was sitting on and sprayed her with a water bottle. The social workers told her that she should not make any decisions while she is angry. So I guess they have suggested that she might live here. I told her last night that I wanted her to feel that this was her second home, and I wanted everything to work out for her with her parents and her sisters.
December 10, 2002
I am trying not to get wrapped up in the possibility of Ann moving in, but it is an effort. I have decided that I just won't talk about it with hardly anyone in my regular life. That way I don't have to tell many people when it does not happen again. So prepare yourself for lots of emails..
The social worker went with Ann to her therapy appointment yesterday. She told me that Ann has a good handle on things. She talked about how difficult it was for her to deal with the girls coming and going. She would get to like one and then they would leave. And she is angry at Mandy. She feels like she is always in trouble. The social worker told me that for the second year in a row Ann is not invited to the family special Christmas celebration. They celebrate Christmas on the 25th with all the Challenge girls, but then they send them all to respite and do something special with the “real” family. Ann had always been a part of that, until last year. The social worker wants to "work that out" but she said that she thinks this might be the beginning of the process of moving Ann. I think she feels like I do. Ann should be considered part of the real family. If she is not, then she should be part of mine.
On one hand I understand Mandy. She cannot control the Challenge girls if Ann is allowed to get away with things they are not. On the other hand, Ann is not like the Challenge girls. They are kids that have been out of control. They need that tough hand. Ann is caught between being Mandy's real daughter and being just a foster kid. She acts out because she wants to be reassured that she is really loved.
Ann decided in therapy that she would just stay here 3 or 4 more days. I am glad that she is going back. It would be best for her if she and Mandy can work things out. On the other hand, if they can't, then I want her. I am really bothered about the Christmas thing
December 11, 2002
“Ruby” (the social worker) was here again yesterday. She told me that she met briefly with Mandy and her husband yesterday and said that she wanted to arrange a meeting with the three of them, "Robin" (director of social work, previously Carl's worker), and Ann. Mandy and her husband said that they wanted to meet with just Ruby and Robin. They also said that sometimes it is just time for kids to move on. Ruby asked them to consider the "circle of family" model. And they said they would.
Ann has been diagnosed with attachment disorder. That means that she is charming with strangers and increasingly panicky with relationships. They tried to adopt her a few years ago and she freaked. One strategy in my agency for these kids is “the circle of families” model. They find them several different families and they rotate them every week if necessary. The kids are told that they will not be placed with one family. Over time the kids start asking if they may spend more time with one family and if everyone agrees they are allowed. Mostly though they don't take them out of the circle. Even when they are mostly attached to one family they still put them one week a month (or something) with someone else. It keeps the situation from getting too emotionally tense. I don't know if Mandy and her husband will agree to that. I think we can deal with Ann on our own though. We already have an emotional attachment and we are pretty good (after Carl) at de-escalating. The trick is to recognize the reaction and disengage emotionally (just a little).
Mandy and her husband are really great foster parents. They take the hardest kids that can be placed in a home. We need more foster families like them. Ann just doesn't belong there.
So Ruby and I are agreed that the circle of family model is worth trying, but the rest of the staff have to agree. Of course if they tell Ruby and Robin this morning that they want her to move, that will be the end of that.
I wrote to my friend nearly every day during this time. She was the only one to whom I confessed how much I wanted Ann, and how much I thought that Mandy and her husband were not providing her what she needed.
By the way, I still think that Ann needs to be the only child in a home. She also needs a foster mother who is as good as I now know Mandy is.
As of now, Spring 2008, Ann is about to turn 18. She never found a home she could stay in for more than 6 months.