Saturday, March 24, 2012

Residential Treatment Part Ii

There were so many responses to the post I wrote about the Myths of Residential Treatment that I thought I would address some of the comments.

First I'd like people to understand that I really had only one point in writing it. I don't want people to have to endure the things that we have had to live through because of the decisions we made to put our kids into residential. We have pretty strong evidence at the moment that the RTC decisions we made did not serve our kids well. The two that spent the longest time there are currently incarcerated and have fathered children, one born and one unborn. The third that was there for a few weeks was pregnant at sixteen and even though doing well, is not in a place where she is happy.

So this is a personal thing for me and seems to have become my mantra in the past few months -- helping people benefit from the mistakes Bart and I made. But I must point out that we didn't feel that we had any other options and we made the best decisions we could knowing what we knew then. But I really I don't want others to go through what we have, knowing what we do now.

But my main point of this post is to address the comments made and continue the discussion we've started.

First, we obviously understand parenting difficult children and how sometimes the only answer for the family system is to place a child out of the home. We did it twice by our choice. So if it sounds like I'm stating that nobody should do it, I get why people have to ... but in looking back, and based on comments here, I see how many people regret their decisions because of the damage it has done on the relationship. It may be a person's only choice, but there will be ramifications.

Secondly, I think Tubaville Quilts and DF made great observations when they talked about how there is a huge gap there that needs filling. There are no services between a few hours of PCA (if you're very lucky with the new laws) and Residential. Something to help families during crisis that doesn't involve giving temporary custody and decision making power to the county that may never be returned. It's a huge risk and we need something in between.

Third, the statement "Maybe I could check MYSELF into a RTC?" made me think about how awesome it would be to have a place where parents could go -- while their kids were somewhere safe -- for more than just a night. Where they would KNOW that their kids were fine and they could truly relax for a week or so. And while the parents were in that setting they could meet other parents who have learned other approaches that might work and brainstorm ideas and feel renewed. There have been weekend retreats that have been sponsored that are wonderful, but I just don't think that a weekend is enough -- and often only one parent can attend. DF and I were talking yesterday about a respite house... I'm wondering if this is something that an Orphan and Adoption Care ministry might undertake as a project... and my wheels have been turning.

Fourth, those of you who have been in and work in RTCs have validated. I really appreciate the insider perspectives of Anastasia and Psychesick. But I was kind of hoping for someone to jump in and really defend RTCs and give me examples of ones that are working, so thanks to Kathleen for providing some of that.

Not intending to leave anyone out who commented, but just wanted to continue the discussion. What can be done for families who are parenting VERY hard children and need something more? What programs are out there? What programs should be created?


bgawboy said...

Hi Claudia,
I am in complete agreement with you about RTCs and about a respite house for adoptive parents to share time and space in a soothing setting and I believe that I can help in part of that. We have a beautiful second home on Lake vermilion, on Vermilion Indian Reservation. It is large (sleeps 16 in winter and 20 in summer) and it could be available to groups several times a year. It is completely modern, has a huge outdoor eating space and a table inside that seats 8 to 10. We have several canoes and kayaks, a wonderful swimming beach and a firepit with grill and dutch ovens and a large charcoal grill. We live 10 miles away on 100 acres. Several adoptive families have spent weekends there with their kids, but it seems like it would be a good retreat place for parents also. The one caveat is we do not allow alcohol on our property and we do not allow smoking in or near the house.
I believe we should also lobby the state to have different standards for PCA/waivered services for adoptive families. A successful adoptive family saves the state and society bundles of money and resources. We have taken kids that have been thrown away by society and we need support if we are to do our very important work. We are struggling as we speak with our 13 year old son who is in our home only because of the PCA hours he was awarded last year and the extended PCA hours he was given to supplement them. With the added hours we are able to hire a PCA who stays awake all night and checks on our kids hourly to make sure everyone is in their own rooms, in their own beds and asleep! Without these hours we cannot keep our family safe. With them we are making slow and steady (2 steps forward, one back) progress with our son and believe that in time he will finally accept that we love him and will not abandon him. We also know that if he were to be placed outside our home he would never return. The disruption would be VERY traumatic for the other kids at home and his future would be in the prison system. My email is if you want to talk about a retreat at our Lake Vermilion home.

Shannon said...

I too have been toying with idea...and Claudia, will be privately emailing you....Funding is the toughest challenge. But this type of place is needed. I have thought about a RTC that the parents come to attach to children. For Empowered to Connect to fully work, parents need to be there. Children should not be attaching to RTC staff...WOW, cool things bgawboy! Hope Blooms has the 501(c) ETC training, Claudia comes with much experience....and now a place...although far away. It is a beginning....Meet up time!!!

MsMP said...

I think there are few options for families (e.g., home or ER/residential) because the experts/professionals don’t know what to do. The system isn’t set up for the alternatives because they don’t exist. If someone knew what to do, we would all know about it. And whoever was teaching “it” or offering “it” would be making a ton of money.

I continue to research and ask the experts/professionals I come into contact with what to do about safety. They can tell my WHY my child causes harm to self and others, but no one can tell me HOW to keep things safe. The therapeutic interventions, medications, in-home supports, and advice I have received and implemented have had a minimal impact and have not resulted in safety. Keep in mind, I’m not looking for a “silver bullet.” Rather, I am seeking ways to keep things safe AND parent my daughter at home.

The only practical, hands-on advice I’ve heard of for parents to use in their home is the Aggression: Creating Safety and Healing training by Dr. Ronald Federici and Heather Forbes. My understanding of this training is that it teaches families to keep kids home and close until safety is restored, and to create the supervision, behavior management systems, and holding (restraint) of residential treatment centers. Not sure what I think of this option yet.

I have an amazing, courageous, and lovable daughter who struggles to keep her body safe when dysregulated. I understand why this happens. I also think she is doing the best she can. It makes me sad that physical separation is the primary option available in our community.

Many times, like the experts/professionals, I blame myself. Maybe if I had better parenting skills? But placing blame on the parent has not proven to be helpful to my daughter and our relationship. So I release blaming anyone and continue on in love with great hope.

Oh, and the funny (not so funny) thing about trying to find a RTC placement for my daughter in December was that the RTCs didn’t want to admit young people who were violent and would be a danger to others. As I searched, I got the feeling that there has been a shift “out there” and that they are suggesting a corrections setting for young people who are violent regardless of mental health issues and FASD.

I would love to be part of a think tank to come up with better alternatives for children and families.

Barb said...

Great post Claudia. I agree that in-between something is needed. Our experience with trying to advocate with the county for our kids has been a nightmare with us always being the bad, stupid people who can't care for our kids. All we want is to keep everyone safe. And right now in my fight I could really use a respite house for parents to heal my battered body and soul. I would love to help in any way that I can - keep me in mind.

Anonymous said...

I'm behind in my reading so I apologize for my late comment. My son spent 43 months in voluntary out of home placement prior to his 18th birthday. 19 of those months were in residential treatment at Northwood in Duluth, the remainder were in a CADI home one block away from residential treatment and run by the same staff.

When we adopted our son, we didn't expect our life with him to be "easy", but we never in our wildest dreams (nightmares) imagined that he wouldn't be able to live at home. Or that the only residential treatment center that would agree to take him would be 3 hours away.

It's not an ideal way to raise a kid--in treatment so far away. But, I believe with all my heart that the staff at Northwood saved my kid's life. And our therapist there (Amy) put our shattered family back together again. Because of their commitment to our family, my husband and I were able to keep our commitment to our son. The staff at Northwood (two of them in particular) took our impossible family situation and made it possible. I will be grateful to them forever.