Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rage, Attachment and Residental Treatment.

Let me first say this is my blog and these are my opinions, you are welcome to disagree with me and you are welcome to say that you disagree in the comments but please do so in a respectful manner. Hurtful comments will be deleted.

I have been struggling with the choices for/against residential treatment since I saw the news coverage of boy whose parents made the choice to send him to treatment "ranch" in an attempt to help him heal. The story cycled around adoption blogs for a few days and then slipped into cyber space as so many stories do. But that family still exists even though they are not in the spotlight any longer. They are still struggling to make the choices that will be best for their son and so are many other adoptive families. It is not something that we really talk about and yet it happens, parents choose to send their children for treatment in a residential setting because they believe that it is the best possible choice at that time, perhaps it is the only choice in some cases. I have been pondering those choices in the last few days.

On Sunday night as my son raged in our house and then in our yard, as he smashed things and threatened to break windows I started to wonder if we were enough. When he tried to throw a log at me and screamed every obscenity he could think of I wondered what would happen if I called CPS. When he refused to comply and started to escalate yet again, I walked away and cried. I took one deep breath and listened to him screaming at his father, I took another breath and then another until I was calm and then I went back. I kept going back until eventually it worked, eventually he heard my words, he calmed, he cried, he felt bad and made amends. It took over 2 hours.

It is two days later and we have all moved on. Calvin is playing with lego on the floor and his brother is reading comic books. We look like a normal family sitting in our playroom. Except underneath the "normal" there is an awareness that things could shift for either one of my children and they could explode into a rage. Calvin rages more than Fudge but I do not doubt for a minute that if pushed far enough Fudge would be capable of the same things that Calvin is. Even knowing that it is possible, I can not for a minute think that sending him away is the answer to our problems. Yes he is capable of things when he is raging that I do not even want to contemplate but I when I look at him I can not even imagine how much more broken he would be if I sent him away.

Like many adopted children Calvin was neglected and abused in his birth family, then he bounced around in the system, his behaviour at 5 was out of control and he was expelled from kindergarten. In grade one he was suspended and then again in grade 2. By the time we heard about him he was about to be moved because his foster parents could not cope with his behaviours, they were overwhelmed and the system was not supporting them. Fudge was not a cake walk either and so both children moved on to another placement. They moved him and his brother to temporary home with very experienced foster parents (that would be the club med placement) who could assess the boys and help create a plan for them. One of the thoughts that the agency was having was to separate the boys and put Calvin into a treatment home ( code for group home/RTC) and try to have Fudge adopted on his own. Thankfully that did not happen, they had a worker who thought that this was not such a good plan and found us instead.

When we were approached to adopt the boys we were pretty naive about why they had thought about placing Calvin in treatment home and after about 6 weeks it started to become clear. The boys were placed here in July 2008. From late August through October Calvin started to show his true colours. By November he was raging most days and that lasted until March or so with a few breaks when he was just manipulative and lying because we had company or special things going on that he did not want to miss out on. We also dealt with a variety of other behaviours that are common among kids like Calvin, it was exhausting to say the very least. He calmed a bit and then started raging again as summer drew near. By the fall of this year he was a lot better at home and with a big rage in October ( trauma anniversary) he seemed to be moving past them. We have seen some issues since the fall but nothing like we had seen before and we started to be hopeful that we had turned a corner. It appears as though we have indeed turned that corner, although each time he takes a step back it makes me wonder if the corner is truly turned.

So that brings me to Sunday, when I understood yet again what causes parents to make the very difficult decision to send children into residential care. It is not a decision that is taken lightly and I do not for a minute think that it is, however it is not what we are choosing for our child.

I strongly believe that what is helping my (our) children to heal is; love, lots of structure ( like some days it is boot camp around here), educated parents who are always learning and trying new things and (for the first time in a long time) the beginnings of an attachment to parents who are working very hard to help their children heal.

The past 19 months had been a long and sometimes terrifying journey but, I am writing this today because I think that it is so important to share and talk about just how hard this parenting gig can sometimes be. Parenting broken children is challenging and helping those broken children to heal is harder still. Some days it feels impossible and I wonder about some of my other options. But as the sun sets on a good day I know that sending him away for treatment is not the answer for us, we need to keep here and teach him that this time no one is leaving and that we are all strong enough to weather the storms together.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. I'm glad you're sharing the hard parts and being honest about how you feel and what you're dealing with. I'm glad you were able to bring Calvin and Fudge home when you did, but you're also dealing with so much that they brought with them. I don't think it seems like you're judging anyone's parenting harshly. These are wretched decisions to have to make.

GB's Mom said...

The are wretched decisions to make and the the children get physically bigger, the decision gets scarier and harder. I always found myself praying that they would heal faster then they would grow.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Those families were so sad on that show. And yet, I thought when I watched the story that was just the tip of the iceberg. Just the tip. That they were showing one tenth of 1% of how bad it can get with these kids.
I agree that the rtc is sort of the least bad of really rotten options, and I don't see many kids coming out the other side better off. But I guess if one child is hurting another I would use that as an option. Hurting me I can handle, stuff/things I don't care about, I can usually contain a child hurting themselves but if one child seriously hurting the other and was a threat to my other child, I couldn't choose the safety of one over the other.
It's an ugly position to be where hospitalization or residential treatment is one of your least crummy choices for your child and family.

BT said...

J - Thanks for this post. It made me think, a lot. I think I've been where you were Sunday night. We've been very scared by the rage/extreme anger (I realize it's not anger but something more scary to them that they prefer to release as anger) that seemed to lurk within P. We have been where we've been up half the night scared out of our minds because he ran away. And we've had our bones chilled by the things he said he was going to do. It is some seriously scary stuff, all of it. And I've watched the younger brother go through the resulting fear, shame, worry, desire-to-be-peace-maker or desire-to-please-the-parents gyrations. And we've been through the days/weeks/months after, when there is a semblance of "normal" to the outside eye, but within you is this festering paranoia that something's going to set him off again. All of it has felt so dysfunctional. Now P's 10 and getting bigger, and, though we see such incredible -- INCREDIBLE -- healing in him, I still worry about what could happen when he's in a bigger male body and/or his hormones start going haywire. I have felt all along that we're in a race against RAD.

At times (in the past), we seriously questioned whether we were the right thing for P, whether we could ever be what he needed. But, like you, our choices for him ultimately came down to the fact that it felt like another "abandonment" of any form, even if it were for his own good, might be the thing that would push him over the edge into unrecoverable. I believe that parents who do disrupt or place their children in RTCs probably worry about the same thing. I think, in our family we've just been lucky that P's rages are really mostly perpetrated against people/stuff that we could accept -- not against his brother, not against animals, not against people other than M and me, and not usually really against us. I can't imagine if this hadn't been the case. Just the thought gives me such pain, and sympathy for families who've had way worse circumstances that we've had.

I think you are doing amazing things with those boys of yours. And I think it's still early in the game, when you factor in the huge changes (not to mention hurts) they faced for so many years before they came to you. Don't become discouraged. I can vouch that tremendous healing is possible, and it is truly glorious.

Lisa said...

All of this sounds so familiar. The 8/10/12 hour rages. I'm getting PTSD twitches just thinking about it. Yet knowing they can recover and heal. You're doing a fabulous job!
Love BT's comment...race against RAD. This is the way I felt with J and now I'm feeling it all over again with K. More PTSD twitches....

K- floortime lite mama said...

hugs hugs and many many hugs
Its a rough road for sure sometimes