Tuesday, March 25, 2003

What is Normal When A Child Has Been Through All Of This?

It is looking like I am making more of an issue about some of the things that are going on. Advice I get suggests that this kind of stuff is normal for a child who has been through everything our little girl has been.

I can't even imagine how hard this must be for such a little child. She seems to act like she understands everything that is going on--but, how could a little girl this young really understand what it means to get "new parents" and what it means to say "Goodbye" from your mother? On top of it all living in a Foster Home that it seems to be clear didn't fit her well. Or something--because if these were the kinds of things that were happening--no one bothered to get her help or even document it. To me there is a huge difference between tantrums that last a little too long--and the complete melt-downs we see.

I also notice that she reacts like I am going to back-hand her or something. She will flinch away when she is starting to act up--as if I am about to smack her. I have no idea where this reaction comes from--but, it wasn't noted in her file so apparently no one else has seen this? Or we are the first? This afternoon I was picking up the toys in her room and lifted her guitar up--she responded to me like I was holding it in the air threatening to beat her with it... ODD! And clearly Post Traumatic Stress. Clearly she has been hit with hands and things... We know she witnessed a lot of domestic violence. But, no remarks from the foster home about these kinds of responses. You would think that something like this would be documented.

Inappropriate Behaviors—Makala demanded that Tori and her boyfriend kiss each other in front of her…..of course they did not.

School—We had a meeting with all the ‘important’ players in the group—the counselor, teachers, special ed teacher and someone else—Basically the whole group seemed to miss the fact that I had some real concerns…. They presented us with a behavior plan…it was pitiful and of practical uselessness for what we needed. It is clear that back surgery was a failure--I still cannot feel my left leg or foot.

How long does a child have a tantrum? Isn't 4-6 hours a little long? And do most kids tear the house apart? Kick--bite--scratch--hit--spit??? Is this stuff normal for a tantrum? It is killing us and making it very hard to even want to be nice.... It all ends so fast for her and takes us hours to get over...We are tired and sort of feeling some deep anger toward her....Is is hard to see her good side right now it is hard to even see her as the pretty little girl she is.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Mom Takes a Tumble over the Baby Gate

During a -Tantrum Makala was out of control and mom needed to move to another room... and fell over the baby gate—Cannot feel my left leg..... or foot

What a horrible night!

It is clear the honeymoon has come to an end, and we are seeing what I believe are very extreme tantrums for a child of the age of 5 years old. While I do know that a certain amount of this kind of behavior is normal at the age of 5--what we see seems like a little 2 year old tantrum.

The hard part is that while Makala is in the middle of a tantrum it is as if she can't hear a word we say. When we try to talk her "down" she escalates and for a child of 5 she is not small--and her out-of-control tantrums are rather scary--and violent.

Tori and I also tried the approach of counting...1...2...3...and then offered a negative consequence if she would not get off the floor and stop kicking--but, that didn't work either because when we suggested a negative consequence (time out) she responded as if she was "already" in trouble--as if she had no chance to avoid the suggested consequences... So the tantrum changed from what the tantrum was about--to Not wanting a time out. ?

This behavior is so hard for me. I don't recall dealing with temper tantrums with my oldest son and Tori? And I also don't know if we are just reacting the wrong way? Wanting to help her adjust and deal with her emotions we thought maybe we are giving too much attention to the tantrums? Maybe we need to stop paying attention at all.

So that was the attitude I had tonight since we have been seeing 2-3 tantrums in the day I decided that I will attempt to ignore the negative behaviors and try to overlook the 68 pound 5 year old laying on the floor kicking--screaming and scratching her own arm.

Earlier in the day when she started over wanting to play outside after lunch (in the pouring down rain) I just let her go and said nothing and went about my business. It lasted for about an hour non-stop and all I did was pay enough attention to be sure she didn't hurt herself. Eventually she calmed down and just dazed into the space--sniffed a few times and slowly got off the floor.

I thought that was a great start and that maybe as the days go on I can help her learn some ways to calm herself down a little. But, as she got off the floor and started to play in the family room she came into the kitchen for something. I told her I was proud she got herself under control! I asked if she wanted a drink and she said yes.

After I gave her a drink I wanted to hug her so badly but I could tell she was still very hostile under her composure. She drank her drink and then walked passed me--and "Nudged" me in the hip with her shoulder--hard and rood for a child her age. I told her I didn't like that and it hurt me and asked her if she needed a hug. She said no--not from you.

Things went okay for the hour or two--both kids were up playing in the family room and Makala was watching cartoons... Tori got home from school and we were talking about her day--when Makala interrupted and asked for a treat. I let her know that I was getting ready to cook dinner and she could have a treat after we ate dinner...

Well that was it... She Hit the ground again... Screaming like she was being beaten or poked with a hot stick... Kicking the dining chairs...the table...the plants and scratching her arm and head... She was contorted and I could tell she was Not Going to Hear anything... So I walked to the laundry room knowing Tori was there and wanting to continue with my approach of "ignoring"... when Makala jumped up from the floor and ran at me... She knew I was going to take a break but needed me to pay some kind of attention to her tantrum.

She got up to me and grabbed my arm and scratched at it...not too hard. I took her hand off and went to move a bit faster to leave the room--and step over the baby-gate when the bottom of my foot caught the top of the baby gate and BAM! I hit the floor HARD. Instantly, I could feel something in my left hip or back hurt like Nothing in my life has ever hurt before...

We went to the emergency room...they cant tell anything of course, it is always Go See your doctor... By the time we stopped at the pharmacy for some kind of pain killer and got home, I could feel hot down my whole leg and twitching--and numbness moving from my foot up the back of my leg. Inside my left hurt the worst.

I can't believe this fall happened and I don't think that Ignoring her tantrums is what she needs--clearly? I am not sure what will work but it is clear that she doesn't need us to ignore her fits...

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Post Adoption Family Therapy

Therapy: PAFT—Post Adoption Family Therapy I had several meetings by myself with someone from PAFT and found all of it to be helpful and interesting… However, we had not figured out many things to work on yet—Placement was still too early and I didn’t really know what things to bring up yet there had not been any alarming issues so this therapy dwindled off.

Tantrums—Were starting to see these happen…. At first only a few moments and everyday they seemed to get longer—or be about the most crazy things….We never knew what would trigger it…

At first Tori and I used a paper sack and put wrapped up gifts inside every morning she got a prize if she had no tantrums the day before… It didn’t work.
Time—Outs—yeah right, first we had to get her to even agree to sit in the spot we told her to sit in….

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

November 2003

Originally Posted 11/25/03

School--I went to help in the classroom and was very alarmed while watching Makala…. Apparently the teacher didn’t notice these things but I did… Makala would do exactly what the teacher had said not to do…. When the teacher told the class to take out the red marker and put the rest under their seats…M-took out several markers and did as she pleased…. While the teacher was telling everyone what to do with the red-marker M was on to other things…. The entire time I was watching the class M—did not follow a single instruction the teacher made

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Let Her Use Her New Name A Letter to the Schools

Originally Published 10/21/03

To each and every party concerned:

Attached you will find the only documentation we have at this time demonstrating our daughter Makala is being legally adopted by us. This information was sent to me by our DHS caseworker for the purpose of providing this information to be temporarily used by the school and the school district, for the purpose of begging her identity be known by her new adoptive name and only by her new adoptive name.

Put aside any issues that jeopardize her safety and situation. Disregard the fact that our identity, address and other information is in confidence with the state in regard to the whole termination of the birth families parental rights, because these issues are not nearly as relevant as the needs of a beautiful five year old girl.

Makala has liven in our home for only 10-months. Between her fourth and fifth birthdays she lost her birth family and she lost her foster family. She has experienced deep pain and grief and we have done all we are able to gain her trust and help her to feel she is with her Forever Family. She knows that big-people change things in her life…they say one thing and then days later say something else. In EVERY circle of adoption be it internet, local support groups and the training classes we have taken, it has been assumed the public school system would be our allies and not work to undermine this process. The only people we have found to ever face a rigid policy and demand the use of the “legal” last name under this circumstance have been Oregon families. All over this nation schools have become helpers to the needs of an older child being adopted.

I have spoken with the Oregon Department of education, and been told this is a district matter but they cannot see any reason our daughter cannot be treated with the respect she so badly needs. The pre-school did not face this issue, they were more then happy to place her “legal” information into an emergency file and use her new name. The doctor’s office has had no issue in calling her by her new name. I have emails from people all over that have found their public school more then happy to make accommodations for this special situation. Policies are not laws, they are not etched in stone. Some say policies are meant to be broken… I say, policies should allow five year old little girls to feel safe and secure while they are attending school.

My passion in this matter has little to do with me. My need is only for my daughter, who came home one afternoon and pulled a piece of paper out of her backpack and collapsed to the floor in tears and accused her new family of lying to her about the fact she was being adopted. A beautiful little girl who spent a whole weekend wondering when the police were going to come and take her away again. A little girl who was in fear the caseworker was on his way…to take her away again.

Since this ERROR has occurred, Makala has regressed in some areas at home. We have seen the reemergence of the out of control tantrums, the harming of herself, the cat and her brother. We have seen impulse control issues that had been absent since the middle of July. She has been talking about her birthmother, her last name, her hurt… and while regression is normal along this path we cannot ignore the fact it started with a note in her backpack Thursday before last.

Please understand this adoption will be final at any time. This process is about getting all the papers to the right people and having signatures and blah blah blah – things five year olds don’t know or care about. It is NOT enough assurance to us that a secretary will black out her name on the roll sheet. It is not enough assurance that the teacher will try to remember not to use the birth name. It is not enough assurance that our daughter will have the right to make her adoption private. She should not be forced to “live” with the inevitable mistakes made by people. We are very much begging the school to show this little girl some basic respect and LET HER be who she is.

When the adoption is complete I will petition to see Makala Maureen's entire school file. I will ask that any and all records of her adoption or life before adoption are removed from her record completely. At that time we will provide the school with her new social security number. No other agency has an objection to this. We will not take the risk of her birth name showing up someday down the road. If this is impossible please contact us so we can choose an alternate method of education.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

October 2003

Inappropriate Behaviors—Stealing from the Pet Store we went in to get one thing for the Fish and Makala palmed a ball and proudly dropped it on the way to the car—she seemed to think it was the ‘right’ thing to have done…. We went back in and returned the ball—Makala would not look at the teller or talk…Makaylah didn’t seem to feel anything about the situation…. Not at all sorry about anything.

School—Refused to use Makala’s adoptive name until it was Final and paperwork and things were coming home with the wrong last name—this was upsetting to Makala and she was worried that we were not keeping her…. The caseworker tried to intercede on our behalf but the school was not going to change the policy.

Friday, January 24, 2003

September 2003

Originally Posted 9/25/03

Inappropriate Behaviors—Makaylah wanted to cuddle in our bed—and she was reminded of the rule and this made her angry and she went back to her own bed this happened at least 2-3 times during the month of September.

School--Kindergarten Starts.

09/18/03--Mom had surgery.

Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center—sent a training packet and video tape to be used by school staff and teachers…. It is designed to promote healthy attitudes for adoption…. I gave the school this information and never heard if they used it or not.

Thanks to all the family and friends who were able to help at the house after the surgery.

Jeremiah did terrible at the day care center and I can see that some of his issues might be an insecure attachment. So now we need to see what we can do to help him....it was so hard on him we had to pull him out and not send him to the day care he just could not deal with it....

Thursday, January 23, 2003

August 2003

Originally Posted on 8/28/03

Inappropriate Behaviors—It became clear there were some real issues because Makala starting grabbing daddy again in the morning on the rare days that she wanted to slip into our bed and cuddle. A new rule was made that Makala could only cuddle on Mommies side—this made her angry and she ran to her room and went back to bed in her own bed.

Mom's MRI indicates two ruptured disks and after a few cortizone shots the recommendation is surgery! OMGosh just what we need....trying to put it off but this pain and lack of feeling makes my life sooooo hard.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

July 2003

Originally Posted 07/24/03

Vacation--End of the month we took a trip to Disneyland. Mom and Kids drove down first and spent a week with Grandma Vickie & Grandpa Nelson, Uncle Jamie, Uncle John and kids Jason, Rebecca and David. We also saw Grandpa Jim and Grandma Kathy and the kids there, Scott, Jake, Joey and Sarah…. Everything went as it should be expected with a one year old and five year old…. There were few minor behavior problems. On the way home in a Hotel Makaylah had a rage so badly we just knew the police would be called… luckily they were not….

Monday, January 20, 2003

June 2003

Originally Posted 6/23/03

Change--The back of the play room was set up with toys and a TV with only a VCR to watch approved children’s videos and pretend play.

Inappropriate Behaviors—We were made aware that Makala was stealing offering money every week at her Missionetts’ Church group. The teacher of her group hated to bring it up but it was becoming a real problem….

Safety Town—children’s Safety Program Makala actually didn’t get it….she was confused about a lot of things…and she pointed out that she didn’t know what a stranger really was because when she first met us we were strangers….She also told us that the police are the bad guys!?! After talking it became clear that birthmom had been 'running' from the law and that the night the children were taken into Foster Care the poilce were the ones to come and get the kids..... Never even thought of these issues before now.

I still cannot feel my left leg and foot from the fall--physical therapy has been horrible and pointless....and I have stopped taking the perscription pain killers the last thing I need is an addiction to pain killers...urg! Doctor is planning an MRI to see what might be going on.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

May 2003

Originally Posted 03/25/03

Major Change--Big sister Tori moved to Ashland to go to college so we cleaned and painted her old room just the way Makala would like it and moved her into Tori’s old room all redone in Purple.

Inappropriate Behaviors-- A second grabbing episode occurred when daddy was reading a ‘good night’ story in Makala’s bed… she became very angry when daddy said, “no” and went into to full rage when mommy made the new rule that from now on ‘ALL’ bedtime stories will be read downstairs on the sofa.

Therapy--We went to a new Mental Health Center for several sessions and had a very young ‘intern’ who really felt Makala was doing well—considering everything. The State medical insurance is CRAP and we clearly cannot get any real therapy until we finalize and put the kids on our private insurance... This really is a joke and this young therapists is so awe struck by the fact we adopted that she simply isn't going to be able to offer much help.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

April 2003

Inappropriate Behaviors--The first event of ‘grabbing’ daddy’s privates. When daddy said, “No” she acted mad at him for stopping her….later she would play at grabbing his under ware under his pants waistband---or passively press her knee into daddy’s privates. We did report this to the DHS adoption worker.

Inappropriate Behaviors—Aunt Maureen had an overnighter with Makala and things went pretty well—until the went to the Mall to pick up OMA (Grandma)…. Aunt Maureen said that M had run off inside of a store and would not mind her—it was frightening because M was completely out of control..Aunt Maureen had to physically pick M up and take her out of the store….Aunt Maureen does not want to take M into a store again.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

TPR and Goodbye Visit with Birth mom

Birth mother Good Bye Visit—Originally the State had wanted us to take both children to visit Once a month with birth mom. However birth mom failed to appear at the pre-hearing for the Termination Of Parental rights and the visit on January 16 was determined to be the LAST one and the good bye would take place…..

DHS could have handled this whole thing soooo much better. I was told I would not have to meet the birth mother—it ended up that I did…and the whole situation was terribly stressful. The children and I went down the day before and stayed in the same hotel we had when we did the transition. The next day we had to go to the meeting at 1 pm.

I took the children to the DHS visitation center and the caseworker and visit supervisor met me. They told me when birth mom came that I should leave and come back in an hour. Birth mom came—I had to meet her….and I left.
I came back and waited forever….then the visit supervisor came out with the baby and asked me to take him to my car….because they were having ‘Problems getting Makala out of there….” Later I noticed security and the supervisor and others escorting birth mom out to the car while she clung to Makala…. She said her “I Love you’s” to Makala and handed her to me and said, “thank you.”---and we were off….Both children feel right to sleep.

I cried for about 100 miles of the 300 we had to drive.... I did not expect to have to see birth mom and it honestly broke my heart to hear her tell me, "Thank You." but at the same time at least a part of my spirit knows that birth mom does not HOLD US responsible for the TPR or the fact we adopted her children. I am so Glad we didn't go Foster to Adopt....I would have felt a party to the action of ending her rights and I would have had much more contact with her.... I don't think I would ever do Foster to Adopt just for this one small moment in time.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Day CARE! Required!

—We enrolled M in a Day School For two days a week with a teacher who had also been adopted at age 7 with a sister who was 3—this was a great environment for M and the teacher was fantastic.

I simply cannot understand WHY we have to put her in day care? Because the adoption is NOT final the STATE can require us to do this and personally I think it is stupid....should the children have time to bond with us before we send them off to day care or pre-school? I thought that was part of the reason the children were placed with US---because I am a stay at home mom!

Anyway--apparently they feel that she needs Social activities in order to develop skills she never got for the first four years when she was with birth mom....and because the Foster Family had her in Head Start they thing she should continue... I hate this I think it is Wrong but I cannot do anything about it.

Friday, January 10, 2003

The Goodbye Party

1/10/03—Goodbye party at the Foster Home. FM said that Makala would not be able to have any ice cream because she had not eaten her dinner. We sat in the tiny manufactured home with tiny little bedrooms and 8 children all together living in the home. We had been aware that once a baby turned one year that child could no longer sleep in the parent's bedroom. It was so clear that baby Jeremiah had a healthy attachment to his foster mother and by the time the Goodbye party came along foster mom was distant and possessive of him.

I could so much understand but, it made it so difficult to be part of. The foster family invited all the families from their church. It was a little difficult for Andrew being a Catholic and it was not much easier for me being a Southern Baptist. Their church was just a little more Charismatics than either one of us were really wanting to be involved. Andrew actually did very well and thankfully I had spent a good deal of time involved in a youth group and singing with Rene' at a church of the same denomination while in high school.

There were at least another 30 people gathered inside the tiny little home or box as if felt. Andrew and I did have a real hard time dealing with the small space and spent some time making sure we had everything.

The foster family showed us the so-called gifts that had been donated to Makala for Christmas. It consisted of a bike that was about as too big as the size of clothes the foster mothers said Makala wore. It was so big I think Tori and my oldest son could ride double on it. And then there was the Barbie Roller Skates which would have been nice if they were Not two sizes too small already.

I hate to sound bitter about the things that were donated by well-meaning people who only wanted to make a difference for a child in Foster Care, but I am sure none of the donors would have thought that the specific requests would cause a little girl to get basically nothing from Santa. People should know that when they give to children in Foster Care sometimes the foster parents don't bother to make sure they are the most appropriate gifts... and really that does seem like a simple thing to expect.

Then everyone had fun with a little Polaroid Sticker Cameras and took pictures and placed them in little books. Each person signed a good wish for Makala in her book and Jeremiah in his... They were very nicely made and cute.

All of the children including at least another 10 or more from the Church were given Ice Cream except for Makala. Foster Mom ‘sort of’ gloated to "Makala" that she didn’t get any because she didn't eat her dinner as she should have, but Jeremiah did. I was very upset by how I watched her treat Makala and really didn't like the way the foster mother made me feel. I can't imagine what it had been like for the past nearly year and was so relieved that Makala would be getting away from there.

As the party wound down the foster family explained that they were emotionally devastated and that they didn't feel it was going to be healthy to see the baby for at least a year. It was clear that our families will very different and we were not likely all going to be friends. We had such a hard time dealing with the fact they decided to foster for the money and told us so. That foster mom was not planning to want to adopt and they tried to say the only reason they were not able was that they didn't get the correct home study done.

We left feeling sort of like we had taken another woman’s baby. We decided that there was a lot of emotion and that it would be better to NOT have contact with the Foster Family after the children left. It seemed right not only for the adults involved but, for Makala too. There was no reason that a child should be treated so badly on the night of her own Goodbye party. Really there was no reason she shouldn't get ice cream really.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Notes found: Things that happened during Transition.

We were not sure how to respond to some of the first sign of an odd behavior we noticed that when she was angry she would scratch at daddy’s arm. Sort of a pinching and grabbing with her fingers on the top of his forearm.

1/?/03 Met Head Start staff and were told Makaylah is bright and a joy to have in class.
The testing done by Head Start indicated that Makaylah is doing fine but ‘AT Risk’ Socially.

1/8/03 Met the therapist Makaylah had been seeing and we were told that so far there was nothing to be alarmed about.

The transition went VERY stressful for both the Foster Family and Us. There was little involvement with the Case Worker. The Foster Mother did not want to let the baby go….and was very spiteful toward Makaylah.

The Caseworker felt that Makaylah was ready to get out of there on day one but that the baby needed a better transition and that we needed to do things right to avoid issues coming up with him later.

Friday, January 03, 2003

We met our daughter for the first time

We met Makala for the first time in the town she lived in for Breakfast.

Makala was not the least bit shy around her new father and in fact paid him more attention then mom.

She understood who we were and what was going to happen…she seemed happy about it.

We simply could not believe how beautiful she is--her pictures sure didn't do her any justice! What a beautiful little girl and such a bright personality--her eyes are amazing and her lips are perfect....she is so pretty we never would have created such an awesome sight to behold....

Thursday, January 02, 2003

We met the foster family.

We met the Foster Parents and the baby for dinner and talked about Makala. It was awkward because it was clear the foster mother was very bonded to the baby and really feeling as if we were taking her child. It was hard for me because I wasn't that happy watching her feed him with her hands and allow him to eat directly from the high chair tray with his fingers.

Call me a little uptight but, I always teach my children good manners even when they are little and as a mommy I would have been feeding my nearly one-year old with a spoon and a fork not my hands. To each their own I supose.

The Foster Dad advised Andrew that Makala would scream every time he got near her at first so to not be surprised if she acted afraid of her new father for a while. We were not sure how to take this information -- really it did seem a little odd to just blurt right out the way he did. But, it is good to know I suppose...after all this is going to be hard for her and for Andrew becoming a dad for the first time all at once with two children--and one who has so much history.

The Foster family told us they had wanted to adopt the baby but felt Makala needed more then they could give her. The said that had asked the state for a sibling split and had lost this request. I think we should have been told this before we all showed up at the local Denny's as if everyone was happy with the transition plan--and the overall situation.

The talked with us about the tantrums written up in the Profile. Foster mom confessed that she had been to a class about ‘Attachment’ and that she had thought about working on some of the ideas with Makaylah but thought she would let the adoptive parents do these things… Foster mom said she felt Makaylah had attachment issues. Was mean to the baby and had drawn a picture of a penis which was why Makaylah was in Therapy.

...... I left feeling really anxious about going all the way back to a baby of one-year old but, also knowing he had been well cared for and very much loved for most of his life on this earth.

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