Development Assessment

Development Assessment

Reflection – Friday evening.  I’m sitting here with a Smirnoff’s Ice – Raspberry and listening to Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy.  I recount the day’s events, as well as the dreaded child development assessment. 

I had one of those days today when I wake up and get the three kids out the door to their three different schools.  Then I get to have my time.  My time to fall apart.  It’s ok to cry.  And it happens.  A day when everything yucky comes to the surface.  Like the children’s book by Judith Viorst.  I had a crappy, weepy, awful day.  Could anything go well to lift my spirits?  My week started with a few appointments Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons for my daughter.  The child with special needs.

I endured a three hour interview on Monday at a children’s hospital’s development and rehabilitation unit.  My daughter got to draw, eat a snack, and answer a few questions, like:  Who lives in your household? Do you have friends?  I got asked all the other questions filling up the remainder of the three hour time. Questions like:  Could you talk more about that? Could you describe situations?  Could you talk more about that so I can visualize how that looks?  This was precisely the reason why I had dreaded this appointment, I was wiped out that evening. 

I will receive a detailed report in a few weeks.  But at the end of this interview, the psychologist offered a brief assessment:  Most likely, my kid was deprived her first year in life and also in her foster home of three years.  She didn’t get her emotional needs met.  There was likely a food scarcity in BOTH homes.  I interrupted to point out that several of the people in the foster home were morbidly obese…

The clinician reported that food scarcity is common with obesity — the unstructured meal times, the ups and downs of food amounts.  She went on to tell me that my child received little to no structure and stimulation in the foster home which would explain the simplistic play behaviors, the lack of coping skills and the obsession with food and tv.

I thought to myself while she talked: I know, I have heard this, why were we on a six month waitlist to be seen here?

The psychologist said to lower my hopes and expectations as she won’t be changing anytime soon. “You basically need to lay down a different foundation, as you slowly remove the old one.”  Really? I said, somewhat sarcastically.   She continued, “Yes, expecting her to change quickly would be like letting your original foundation just crumble and fall apart without any support in place.”

Somewhere I hear my sister and brother-in-law laughing.

She said my kid CAN change over time, a long time, if the parents and every teacher is consistent each and every time with the same rules and repeated direction of adaptive coping skills.  Wow, I thought. Long time. Each and every time. Every single adult at home and school. Yeah! No problem.

Perhaps my depression is now better understood. Tuesday I informed my child’s therapist after another play therapy sand table session what was discussed at the children’s hospital.  She had more to say on this matter.

Friday rolls around and I couldn’t stop crying.  Every time I thought I had gained composure, I looked at myself in the mirror to get cleaned up. And every time, I saw my puffy eyes and eyelashes coated in Kleenex dust.  And every time, I whimpered: is she ever going to change?!  

I picked up my child at dismissal time at her school.  She tossed her name badge to her teacher when she saw me.  I waited for her teacher to make eye contact with me and to call out my child’s name.  Then my kid turned to face her teacher and pestered:  Did I have a good day? Did I? Did I? Did I have a good day? Did I?  Her teacher continued to dismiss the other twenty first graders, but stopped.  “Well, let’s talk to your mom about what happened.”

As I hustled closer so that Ms. T could tell me how my child stole a dinner roll from someone, I bumped into another mom’s arm.  I looked back and apologized.  The woman was wincing and rubbing her right shoulder.  Yup.  That was the finishing touch to my sh*tty day.

Resentment and Negativity

Resentment and Negativity 

Our First Year of Adoption – Final Part

“Resentment is poison.” I’ve heard that saying and I repeated it daily to myself for over a year. Whenever I thought about the foster home and where she lived for over three years, I felt bitter, angry, acerbic feelings towards them. We adopted a kid that had experienced trauma; we also got a kid with so many bad habits that needed to be reshaped or eliminated. I felt overwhelmed by how much we could address in therapy and at home. After months of living with her, I felt genuine concern over how much we were offsetting the balance of the household.

post adoption resentment and negativity

Spring – a time for renewal

The summer she moved in with us started out with a bang. She literally moved into our home the weekend after school let out. Everyone was happy and eager to go to the pool and to sleep in and to play outside. The boys loved going to a field two blocks from our home — they were in and out of the house all day long. They returned for bathroom breaks, water bottle refills, and food. They got tan, they always looked sweaty, they had fun. Even before she moved in with us, I had romanticized the idea of joining them with our third child. Next to the field is a playground. Every day I took her. And every day after walking past our house, she burst into tears and cried out that she was too tired to walk there. The same when returning to the house. The child who had been a couch potato in her foster home had very little energy living with us. Once we got to the playground she did manage to climb the play structure and slide down a few times. She seemed to love doing chalk drawings on the blacktop. She eagerly approached strangers – young and old – to engage in conversation.

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Adoption Expectations

Adoption Expectations – Wishing for a Young Child

Our First Year of Adoption – Part 1

I wanted to relive the preschool years. I had no desire to have another biological child– to go through a pregnancy, delivery, and a hormonal roller coaster. Did that, did that twice. I did not miss the sleep deprivation, the teething, diaper changes and all those day to day moments of the first two years of life. I wanted to adopt a young child. I wanted a girl. I wanted to skip over the three years and get right into imaginary play, conversations, storytimes at the library, questions while we went on neighborhood walks, ballet lessons at the community center, frequent changes in clothing after jumping in puddles and making mudpies, a partner while I ran errands, a helper when baking.

We adopted our daughter when she was three years eight months. She was verbal, she was toilet trained, she slept through the night. She did not know how to play with toys, she could not tap into her imagination, she could not follow simple directions. She threw tantrums when denied anything, her requests relentless.

Wishes, desires, anticipated life situations. Be prepared to be flexible and give it all up. That should have been the inspiration for me to hang on the wall. Not the painted wooden ones with messages of “Hope” and “Dream.”

She refused to play with toys. She fell when running a short distance. She burst into tears when told to drink water. She screamed at me while I was driving: turn here! go faster! don’t just stop, keep going! She climbed onto the counter to reach a knife, waved it at me saying, “Here you go.”  She stuffed pieces of paper into her nightlight. She squeezed toothpaste all over her bedroom rug. She took her clothes and tied them into knots.  She chewed teeth marks into the edge of the dining room table. She constantly interrupted family members during dinner time. She ripped pages out of books. My daughter demonstrated inappropriate behaviors the week she moved into our home. I know we didn’t teach her those things. She was raised by other people, who used practices very different from my own.  She endured experiences that are almost inconceivable to me as a parent, yet for her, real. Will her early years forever impact on and haunt her?

*

I am still mourning the wishes I had. My daughter is now six and in grade school.  We did not become regulars at story time. We do not bake together. I’ve readjusted my hopes for her, and for us. I hope that in time, she will realize we have given her a better life. I hope in time she will develop strong passions and friendships. I hope in time I will experience her strengths more often. I hope in time we will have fun, shared activities. I hope in time I will enjoy her company.

Part 2 – Off to Therapy We Go!

 

Forming Attachment

Forming an Attachment is Hard with Adopted Children

As a foster and/or adoptive parent, you will use this word endlessly. Attachment. I remember in college viewing black and white videos on Margaret Mahler. She was a psychiatrist who originated the two year process of separation-individuation between mothers and babies. This is significant to forming one’s sense of identity. There are two things that have stuck in my memory. One is that when you heard her voice in the voice over, in her East European accent, she repeatedly made a little whistle sound. I remember thinking that’s an unusual speech impediment. The other key recollection is how young the subjects were in this classic study. Babies.

“The attachment needs to come first and be strongly established,” our therapist Beth informed us. Until then, there is anxiety around the following:  will I be accepted, will I be loved always? will this last? is there a trust? She told us that working on the problematic behaviors now is ok, but most changes will occur once the attachment is strong.

forming attachment is difficult

attachment

Our adopted daughter is tight with my husband. I see the beginning of an attachment to him. I hear it in her requests to have him make her lunch, to take her to school, and in her sobbing when she watches out the window as he backs out of the driveway to run an errand.  I know it’s hard on him that she is this way, it’s actually not as gratifying as it should be. He feels badly and a little guilty that I don’t have IT yet. Our therapist explained it is more complicated with me, the female parent, the primary caregiver. Our daughter has formed relationships with not one, not two, but now a third mother figure in her short lifetime. She knows that I am the keeper of the household. Beth tells us that more is at stake in investing feelings with me. I’m a strong person. I’ve worked in mental health. On a logical level, I get it. But it does hurt. And sometimes I let out a sarcastic remark: You really want to wait for Daddy to get home to make your lunch…? Ok! Whatever!

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Post-Adoption Contact with Foster Family

Post-Adoption Contact with Foster Family

We adopted from the state foster care system. It was risky, the outcome unknown. We found our child from a single page narrative written by her caseworker. The first paragraph was about what had brought her into the state system– a few sentences about neglectful parenting. The second covered her placements. The next had a brief description of her foster household. Then, a few statements about the current lack of medical conditions or developmental concerns.  At the end, there was a descriptive sentence of a preferred permanent home. The caseworker was hoping for a loving, non-violent home where the caregivers are willing to provide to the child’s needs.  

Any child removed from their initial environment and placed in another home is likely to have an adverse reaction. A kid with multiple placements is more likely to be traumatized.  The age of the child can be an additional major factor. Our child was removed from her biological parents when she was an infant. She was placed briefly with a relative, then lived in the same foster home for 3+ years. When we read that she had been in this one home I figured we were getting a less traumatized, less problematic child. I was wrong.

When you adopt from the state foster system, you are adopting a child that will be susceptible to emotional disturbances related to the disruptions in their home life. You are also adopting a kid that was raised by others. Yet, no one tells you in detail about the nurturing and child caring practices used in the foster home.  I made assumptions about them.  No one told us what we had to do or should do or what is expected when it comes to contact with the foster family. I was not prepared for how different we could be.

Soon after we were informed that we were matched to our child, the foster mother emailed us. Mrs. Foster informed us of their daily schedule of activities– wake up time, breakfast, one tv show, outdoor time, lunch and so forth.  I was told by the caseworker to try and follow the schedule as closely as possible when she was in our home.

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Making the Decision to Adopt

Before You Make the Decision to Adopt, Think About This…

The decision to adopt. Hmm, it started years ago.  Pretty much after my second son’s birth.  Maybe we’ll adopt our third.  Maybe adopt from Asia, so she and I have some similarities.  She.  I went through two healthy pregnancies and uneventful deliveries.  My boys are close in age.  My body went through two and a half years of being prenatal, postnatal and back again.  I l-o-v-e-d the experiences of having babies.  But I did not want to go through it a third time.  I just did not have the desire to go through another pregnancy and delivery.  I felt blessed that everything had happened normally and in a healthy manner.  I was worried about jinxing things.decision to adopt

We decided I would not return to work.  I stayed at home with the boys.  We moved a few times, packed up our belongings, unpacked, got settled.  We went through the milestones– breastfeeding, moms groups, sleep deprivation, weaning, solid foods, crawling, walking, teething, temper tantrums, potty training, setting limits, nightmares.  The boys got older. And yet, the thought, the wish, the need did not go away.  I did not feel like I was done.  One day at the beginning of a school year my son said, “When am I getting a little sister?” I think he was six.  He explained that all his friends had one, when was he getting one?

That started the dialogue with my husband. Was it two-way? I had so much to say on the matter.  He was no longer gung ho about the idea.  All those times we met a family who had adopted and he inquired about the process.  All those times he said:  we’re going to do that some day.  Now, he said he felt our family was complete and we were evenly matched with two boys, why rock the boat?  We went through months of talking.  I agonized over this.  I wanted this so badly.  I wanted more kids, I wanted to go through the preschool years again, I wanted a daughter.

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