Yesterday I spent a couple of hours with old friends of mine who I actually encouraged to adopt about six years ago. They have had quite a ride. And now, their 14 year old son, soon to be diagnosed with FASD and already diagnosed with RAD, has made false allegations and created a mess.
And, as you can imagine, based on reading about my experience, the county has targeted the parents and is listening to every word this child is telling them. He is taking everyone for a ride just like any kid with RAD might do. And the "professionals" who are trained to listen to the child, are buying it.
The story is all too familiar. Cindy has been through it. Paula has been through it. Countless others who do not blog about it have had the same challenges.
Here is the way it goes. Something happens to trigger an investigation. Then the child makes up things or exaggerates. Then the county offers services that are sometimes not possible to comply with or unreasonable. If the parents do not agree to follow those recommendations, it is documented that the parents are uncooperative. And then the circus begins.
Now I realize that this is going to ruffle feathers of some folks, but here is how I see it.
Most Child Protection Workers are trained to view family systems. They are trained to document things that parents are doing wrong. And for some reason they do not seem to understand that there are some children who are just so damaged and so difficult, that regardless of where they live, regardless of the family system they enter, they are going to be manipulative, impulsive, challenging, and nearly impossible to raise.
So the journey begins. Multiple individuals involved who are attempting to figure out why the parents are messing up this kid. The manipulative child has an "equal vote." Everyone is asking them what they think and what they want and the kids with FASD really have no clue how to determine what is best for them. The adoptive parents' opinion often becomes the least valued opinion, because after all, they are the suspects in the whole picture. And often, unfortunately, the more the adoptive parents assert themselves and try to help people understand, the more they are blamed for being defensive, or angry, or unreasonable, or not giving the child a fair chance, or blaming, or difficult to work with or whatever.
Often when we are at the very end of our ropes with a child and have tried everything is when things fall apart. And at that point in time, after 3 or 4 or 6 or 8 years, we are at the end of our emotional resources. And then, when we need support the most, is when the accusations begin. And then we have to fight every inch of the way for services to help our child.
This is not to say that I think i am a perfect parent or that I have done everything right. It's not to say that I don't need to make some changes and be open to direction. But would it hurt the investigating workers to say to a family, "Thank you for all you've done to attempt to raise this difficult child. We are sorry that you are having struggles. Let's work together to find a way to help the child?"
The most tragic thing is when counties conclude that they should terminate parental rights for a child who will never be re-adopted. I remember clearly the day that we were told that they were going to terminate our parental rights of MIke. His therapist, who he had spent a long time manipulating, wrote a letter to the court saying, "Mike deserves to spend the rest of his childhood with a family who loves him." That still makes me burn with anger and want to weep all at the same time. How could a therapist of a kid with FASD and RAD, with only 2 sessions with us, conclude that we didn't love him???
But recommending termination when a family already is committed to a child for life and is not neglectful or abusive is simply not wise. On any level.
I don't have the all the answers to this dilemma. But I know that this is the one thing that makes it difficult for me to recruit families for these children. It's not the children and their behaviors, it's the accusatory response of the rest of the world that brings parents to wits end.
Obviously my conversation with my friends yesterday opened some old wounds. But looking back on all the painful things we went through, we survived. John is turning 18 today (more on that later) and Mike is 19. We made it until they were legal adults with them being alive and us having our reputations fairly intact.
So if you are going through it, remember, it will come to pass. Eventually you will be vindicated. It will be over at some point and life will seem more bearable. And in the meantime, hang in there.
Wow, this seems like a disjointed and weird post, that I took way too long to write. (Started it last night). But I'll publish it anyway. Not publishing it after working so hard on it would be about as stupid as terminating parental rights for a teenager who already had parents committed to him. But not quite.