When they leave the home – NOW WHAT?

Many, many parents have kids that have had to go into residential treatment, foster care, or even hospitalization long-term.  The rest of the family sits around shell-shocked staring at each other for awhile… as if, “Now what do we do?”

Remember that you all have been in survival mode for so long, there’s going to be a period of adjustment.  Then will come the healing of the rest of the family, the time for rebuilding those bonds that got damaged.  You will probably hear from other kids how they felt left out, neglected, whatever words they use – listen.  And it’s true.  In survival mode, you can only put out the house fire.  You don’t worry about the dirty spot on the rug, the ugly curtains that should be changed.  Your only concern is saving the house.

Now is the time to focus on their – and your own – hurts from just surviving.  Work on those relationships.  Be sure to give your other children what you simply couldn’t before – your complete attention.  An understanding, listening ear.  What you shouldn’t give yourself is raging guilt over how your other children suffered during that time.  That’s not to make light of your other children’s needs and issues, but in the middle of a raging house fire, do you stop and dust the knicknacks?

Take the time as a family to listen to each other, to spend quality time together being relaxed and get to know each other in a non-crisis situation.  Just chillaxin’.  It will take some time for the stress to leave your bodies and minds, it will take some time for your over-reactive nervous system not to jump at every little thing.  But it can happen, it will happen.

Give yourself, your spouse, and your children lots of grace, as you learn how to live this “new” way.  It is a learning process.  Don’t carry the guilt, while your children are telling you their feelings, listen and understand, and apologize and explain if necessary, but don’t carry the guilt forward.  That does nothing but drag you down, and truthfully, what else could you have done?  If you could have done it differently in the moment, most likely you would have.  You did your best, just like you ask your children to do.  Tell them that, if they’re teens and old enough to understand.  But don’t dwell on it yourself.  Let your kids lead you on talking about it, and focus on building your family up and strengthening that bond.

You can do this.



Help, America! Story 2

Here’s story number two in the series of pointing out real people and real life happenings with children of trauma and foster and adoption.  This story is a little bit different, because the children in question were months away from the adoption being finalized, so technically, they were foster children.  This story is also shared with permission, information has been altered to protect the innocent and underage.

Picture this:  A beautiful summer day, sunny, warm – a perfect day for a trip to the beach.  You’re a foster parent, with 4 kids under the age of six. In just a few months the two oldest children will be yours forever when their adoption is finalized.  Your life is perfect.  You and your spouse decide to take the kids to play in the sand, and you’re meeting up with another family, also foster parents, with their kids and two new foster kids they’ve taken in.

The first hour or so is great.  But the the baby starts to show signs of reacting to the new sunscreen you’re using, so you leave with the baby to head to the nearest drugstore for Benadryl and to wash it off, leaving your other 3 children, aged 6, 4 and 2 in the capable adult hands of your partner and the other family.  And that’s when the dream becomes a never ending nightmare.

When you return to the beach with the baby, your 6 and 4 yr old are being given CPR by strangers.  Your spouse is frantic, holding the 2 yr old.  Your children are taken to the hospital.  There is no hope.

What happened?  In a foot of water, how did 2 children who could swim drown like that?

Foster child of other family, aged 11, admitted to police he drowned them by holding their faces under water.  Evidence backed up his story.  He threatened their six year old that he’d drown her too if she told.  He waited until the adults were distracted by the babies – and then murdered two younger children.  Children he’d just met an hour before.

No charges were ever filed against this child.  He was simply moved to another foster home and things were brushed under the rug by Child Services.  The foster parents of the deceased children were blamed by CPS for the incident, although no police charges were ever filed against anybody.  CPS needed a scapegoat, so they chose the foster/adopt parents, and revoked their license, end of story, punishment given, deal done.  Does the next foster family know this child has already murdered twice?  Do they have younger children in the home?  Are there children in the neighborhood near him?  Do THOSE parents know what this child has done?  Is he receiving counseling, treatment?  Chances are – the answer to every question is NO.

I’m not demonizing this child.  He’s a victim.  He was an innocent before he became what he had become.  But he should never have been placed in a family with a baby and younger children.  One just doesn’t go from “I don’t like you” to “Now I”m going to murder you and your brother” in the blink of an eye.  This child has killed before.  Basically in front of a crowd of witnesses, he boldly pushed those two little faces under water and held them down at the same time.  It’s guaranteed there is a line of bodies starting with small animals in his past – of which that foster family was never made aware of – they had an infant, for crap’s sake!  And pets!  And a 6 yr old!  It could just as easily have been their own children who died that day, or the next.  Why?  Because Child Services will not take responsibility for these kids that are violent, will not offer help to families, will hide the fact that some of these kids have some serious behaviors that need special treatment and special centers, NOT a family environment.

Am I trying to scare you into not becoming a foster or adoptive parent?  If you have kids, yes!  Because you will be entirely on your own, and chances are if something happened, you will be the scapegoat.  These kids needs help, oh yes, and they deserve it.  Is every foster kid like this?  Oh heck no.  I was a foster kid.  So was my hubby.  This is one of the extreme cases.  But here’s the catch: you don’t know, if they aren’t going to tell you, support you, or listen to you when you have reservations about actions a child is doing, if you have “that” child or not.  If they won’t help you get help for the child, then how do you know whether or not you have the one that can cause serious damage to others?  If they won’t listen to you when you say you believe there’s something seriously wrong with the child, they have no empathy or remorse, and you need help or the child needs a more structured environment and not a family environment where they can hurt someone, and you get threatened with the removal of all your children, rather than help and testing and evaluation of that child?  If they won’t step up to the plate…. are you willing to risk creating trauma in your own children?  Are you willing to risk their lives?  Eyes wide open… resources and knowledge… support system…. and you can make a huge difference in the lives of children.  Become an advocate for open and responsible adoption and foster care, and providing services for those children and families.  They deserve it, and much more.


This is why we’re silent… and yet this is why we must SPEAK UP

3/26/15 – Debra “Kali” Miller, psychologist, had her license revoked by the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners.  The reasons the Board gave were based on a case where a tween she had been treating prior attempted suicide.  She had diagnosed the child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (Board says, wrongly).  Her methods to the parents for treatments that were considered serious enough by the Board to revoke her license included having the child drink milk from a baby bottle while sitting in his father’s lap, having the parents place small treats in his mouth for good behavior, having him sit for a certain time period in a cross legged straight posture.  They were also advised to separate him from his siblings, and put an alarm on his door.  The child was confined to his bedroom for extended periods of time.

Now whether or not Dr. Miller did do something that deserves to have her license revoked, I don’t know.  I’m not arguing for or against her.  But let’s look at what the media, and the Board, brings up as “harmful” and in their words “might have contributed to his suicide attempt.”

If the parents followed her recommendations, and the media says used it as punishment, rather than the way it was intended to be used for, then why aren’t the parents charged with child abuse?

Since when is giving your kid a sweet treat for behaving a bad thing?

He had to sit in a cross legged position for certain lengths of time – isn’t that called a time out?  Now that’s wrong too?

They put an alarm on his door so that they would know when he left his room.  No locks, no barring the door – simply a notification of the door opening.  Well, folks, turn off those damn house alarms – apparently Oregon’s Board of Psychological Examiners says that damaging your kids!  It makes them suicidal!  Well, guess we’ve just solved all the incidences of teen/tween suicide across the country.  And here we were, blaming the poor ole social media…..

I laughed at the misdiagnosis as being part of the reason:  how many times has your doctor misdiagnosed something, only to find out later, or after more tests, that wasn’t it?  Put any two psychologists in the room and they will always disagree on a diagnosis.  If that were a reason to take away a medical license, we’d have no doctors!

Looking at the other more unorthodox ways she suggested treating this child…. drinking milk from a bottle while sitting in his dad’s lap.  There is no indication that the child was forced to do this against his will.  There is no indication that it was a humiliating experience (like done in front of his friends, posted on Facebook) for the child.  It was an attempt to recreate a bonding experience the child may have missed….  maybe good, maybe not, but without further evidence in this case that it was abusive to the child, how does this play into it her license issue?  Doctors try medications “off label” all the time.  I guess because the pharma companies put big money into it, then that’s ok, even if in a lot of cases those are actually proved harmful… but if there’s not money in it, then it’s bad.  The other things – separating him from his siblings – do we know if this child was abusing his siblings?  Was he a danger?  We don’t know.  And I don’t care what some board says, if one child is bullying/hurting another child or pet in my family, I will keep them separated until it no longer happens.  Finally, putting him in his room for extended periods of time – didn’t most of us get sent to our rooms when we misbehaved?  What is an extended period of time?  15 minutes? 8 hours?  No details given.  So tell me, dear Board, what are the guidelines?  It seems children’s services doesn’t think (so far, anyway) any of the things the parents did were enough to bring them up on child abuse charges….  So why are these methods being brought forth as the criminals?

Anything we do – it seems now a time out can be considered “harmful to your child” – can be twisted into looking like it’s something more than it is, can be twisted into looking evil and abusive when it’s not.  This is one of the reasons why parents of traumatized kids, who need to parent differently, are quiet on how their households run, are quiet on their discipline methods.  The “normal” methods don’t work because our children’s brains aren’t wired normally.  So we adapt, we learn, we change how we do things to teach our children how to get along in life.  And yet this is also the exact reason we need to speak out, as a group, as a community, because methods are being demonized, ideas are being demonized that shouldn’t be.   Yes, these methods can be used abusively.  Anything can.  But that fault lies with the individual, not with the method or ideology.

Whether this particular case was a witch-hunt or whether Dr. Miller was a bad therapist, I’m not here to judge.  I don’t have the facts.  But what the media, and the Oregon Board, has done, it put these methods on trial and found them to be guilty.  And that I will not sit down for.  There are thousands of children with severe issues from trauma and attachment, whether this child was one of them, again, I don’t know, I don’t have the facts.  But I do know children that do have these issues.  I invite each member of the Oregon Board of Psychological Examiners to take just one – ONE – of these children into their homes for specified time period – I will provide not only the child but will specify the time period – and then we can chat about whether you call it RAD or depression or DSED and whether a door alarm will make your child suicidal.  Only then – when they have actually walked the walk… only then, will their opinion matter to ME and we can have open dialogue.


Why Wonder Woman?

Some of you may wonder why Wonder Woman is a theme in this blog…. or not.  I’m going to tell you anyway.

Although it started out as the mascot for the house I was assigned to at my first “trauma mommas” retreat, it has become much more than that.  Not only does Wonder Woman get to save the day – every time – putting down bad guys and keeping the world safe, she gets to look good doing it.  Her Lariat of Truth makes sure no one ever lies to Wonder Woman.  Oh the analogies…

The Lariat of Truth?  Our attachment/trauma kids lie to us constantly.  If we adopted our kids from foster care, we were probably lied to.  If we adopted our kids internationally, we were probably lied to.  If we are seeking out diagnosis for our children, we just want the truth of what is going on so that it can be treated.  We want therapists to tell the truth of what they are really capable of handling and not string us along for a year before saying they are in way over their head.  We want agencies to tell the truth and actually provide the resources they have listed on their brochures.  The truth is something we get so little of.  Sometimes we can’t even tell the truth to ourselves.  Sometimes we lie to ourselves about how serious the problems are with our children with they are extremely violent when they are really young, and we let things go too far.  Sometimes we lie to ourselves when we say that someone else could do a better job than us, maybe we should disrupt.  And sometimes we lie to ourselves when we say we are failing as parents to these children.  We listen to their lies as they tell us we suck, we’re mean, we don’t love them.  Lies, all lies.

And wouldn’t it be nice to win every time?  To put down the bad guys of the past, of our children’s trauma, and make sure that our children are never hurt by them again.  To lock them up forever and allow our children to heal, to be the hero that saves the day and have our children see that we did that for them, because we love them.  To be able to defend ourselves from whatever crap is thrown at us, without even getting a hair out of place, never breaking a sweat.  To know, that in the end, we will win and our children will be completely healed and the bad guys from the past are gone forever.  And – the icing on the cupcake – we looked good the entire time!

So that’s why Wonder Woman, at least for me.  She started out as a mascot, for lack of a better word.  (Yes, I grew up in the 70s with Lynda Carter gracing the air waves, one of the few strong female leads, but I never wanted to grow up and run around in a bustier and high heeled boots in my underwear.  I could never figure out how she could climb and do those high kicks without getting some serious wedgies.)  But the symbolism of Wonder Woman came to mean more to me as time went on.  And so – she has become my symbol for this life.  I am no Wonder Woman….  But I am trying to live up to the idea.  I am trying to fight off the bad guys for my kids.  I’ll even take the wedgies that might go with it.


Love is NOT enough

That’s a double-edged sword.  In raising kids from hard places, love is not enough to get them through all the trauma they need to work through and come to a place of healing.  They need experts, trauma experts, attachment experts, support outside the home, they need parents who can love them through the bad stuff – and the parents need more than just “love” from the community around them.  They need respite, relief, real life stuff to get them through it all as well.  They need understanding teachers, qualified professionals to work with them to help this child.  Love is definitely NOT enough.

Earlier I wrote about love being an action, and that by taking care of our children in the hard times, even if we don’t feel like we “love” them, we are indeed loving them.  I am adamant in saying that it’s ok to not always have fuzzy warm feelings towards children who treat you like crap.  By providing for them, you are showing them love.  But what about when that’s all you have left? When that’s all there is and there’s no appearance in sight of any warm feelings at all?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this.  Growing up, in a very German “show no feelings, spare the rod – spoil the child” family, I love you was not heard.  Hugs were not given.  Pats of affection were unheard of.  Slaps of correction were frequent, however!  I once overheard my father tell someone “Of course my kids know I love them.  I feed them every day, don’t I?”  As a kid, I was shocked.  I actually DIDN’T know that he loved us.  I thought the “feeding every day” was kind of required…. by law…. I did not see it as an expression of love.

Of course the differences between my upbringing and my children’s traumas are very, very different, the differences were cultural and generational from my father’s generation, and our children have suffered the break in bonding.  So for me, as a fairly-normal-well-adapted-kid, the words, and a pat now and then or a “well done” or a “I love you” would have been enough.  For our kids, probably not.  But then again…. whether we feel it or not, maybe we should throw those in there anyway.  A hug for no reason, if tolerated by the child.  A nightly “I love you”.  Even pointing out the things we do for them because we love them – because they sure as heck won’t notice it on their own – “Hey look, I bought you your favorite flavor of juice because I was thinking of you!”  The words might matter to them even when they don’t seem to.  To me, as a kid, the difference would have been obvious that they mattered – or so I think.  To our kids, it’s not going to seem to matter.  But deep in those damaged, traumatized brains – those words are going to take hold, take root – and eventually, with luck, Hail Mary and a rain dance, sprout.

So while we’re going through the motions when we don’t feel lovey-dovey, while we’re showing the love in action by providing for them, by giving them what they need, by not throwing them out the door when we feel like we’ve had enough… let’s also tell them.  Let’s also touch them softly, gently.  We may not feel the emotions that we want to feel – but we are still SHOWING THE LOVE.


Help, America! Conclusion to story 1

Part 3 of the series….So let’s finish the story of the mom who sent the email… to get no response for her request for help.  She finally did get a response.  The school asked the child if he would like a meeting to discuss his behaviors.  He said “No.”  So the school replied to his mother that they felt they should honor his wishes and would not be participating in any such meeting.

Wait… WHAT????

A kid who is not even old enough to drive tells the school what to do, and so they honor his wishes and do not assist the mom in figuring out ways to work with this behaviorally, emotionally challenged teen who also has an underlying mental illness?

Am I the only one flabbergasted here?


Don’t give up on yourself, either.

So many parents, after years of being worn down, worn out, beaten up verbally and sometimes physically, losing friends, family, having to be hypervigilent to keep children safe, fighting teachers, administrators, the system…. simply have nothing left.  There’s nothing left to give, there’s nothing left to feel even one ounce of joy at the life they’ve been given.

Don’t give up on yourself.

Some parents, after being treated like dirt by their children, called names, hit, having their things destroyed, peed on, pooped on, having their world literally and figuratively destroyed, can’t muster up the nicey-nice feelings towards the children that are causing the chaos.  It’s just not there in the midst of all the abuse they are receiving.

Don’t give up on yourself.

Other parents are simply too tired to fight any longer.  They know their children need a structured place that will provide real help in a safe environment for their children so that they can learn to survive and even thrive in the real world.  But they no longer have the energy to fight what seems like an endless fight of “no one else gives a shit”.

Don’t give up on yourself.

Take a break, a long one if need be.  Take a vacation.  Take a vacation from your kid(s), your life, your job, everything, and go somewhere where you have no responsibilities for a little bit and relax.  Maybe for you that means reading a few romance novels at the beach.  Maybe that means kayaking down a lazy river, or hiking in the mountains, or just hanging out with friends and talking and laughing and watching stupid movies.  Whatever it means to you – do it.  No one can be immersed in this life or any other stressful situation 24/7 and expect to keep their sanity.  Get away from it, relax, get some “me” time.  It’s alright.  It truly is more than alright, it’s a requirement.

Don’t give up on yourself.  You’re the only one watching out for you.


Help, America Part 2

This is part 2 of a series where I am taking a break from my regular style of posting and asking ya’ll to share this on all your social media accounts.  Get the word out.  All you have to do is share and ask everyone you know to share it.

The story in my last post, where the mom sent out an email requesting help for her child because, basically, the family was out of ideas?

The email she sent out details the destruction and violence she encounters daily with her child.  It includes everyone working “with” her, crisis workers, private therapist, psychiatric NP, skill builders, service integrator, the list goes on.  This child is a teen, and very capable of inflicting great harm on this woman.

She wrote, “This has escalated to the point that I do not feel safe home alone with (Son). (Spouse) and I coordinate our schedules in such a way that if I am home alone with him, I am locked in our bedroom with all 3 cats and my cell phone. Son admitted to (therapist) this past week that he understands why I do not feel safe with him, however he has only continued to escalate since then.”

She goes on to say, “all of his providers are talking about cutting his services. I understand that, I do, because they have worked with him for several years and have seen no progress at all. They continually meet with him and attempt to work with him, and he states he will follow through, and he never has. However– if this entire team of people is unable to help him, what hope is there? He has 4 more months of 10th grade, and then 2 more school years. I understand he is doing well at school, and even though I have lived with him through 6 years of this it is still amazing to me that that is true. (Spouse) took videos of some of his recent meltdowns to show providers who only see the “charming” side of him (at school), but even those could not convey how constant and overwhelming it is to live with him like this. I can’t imagine surviving 2 and a half more years of this, but I have absolutely no idea what else I can do. We have been told… that all residential programs for kids his age are voluntary — he would have to agree. And there is absolutely no chance of that. He will never leave here voluntarily.”

” I have done a LOT of research and I have a huge support network of moms of kids with attachment issues. I have also recently been reading a lot about borderline personality disorder, all of which seems to describe him perfectly. I understand that there are no perfect answers. I also understand there is nothing any of you can really do (this second). I understand that at some point he needs to be the one to change– I am just honestly not sure how to survive until he gets to that point, and I would absolutely welcome any ideas anyone has. Thank you!”

The mom wrote to me later, with regards to not getting even a “email received” response a majority of her son’s “team” – “I really feel like I put it all out there and the fact that I got no response at all from most of the people who are supposed to be helping us is just insulting…”
Might I add that this mom is a an RN?    This is no slouch picking up words and catch-phrases off the internet to get attention.  How long before people are shaking their heads at “her” poor parenting because her son does something unimaginable?  Will they blame her?  Does this sound like poor parenting?  Does this sound like ignorance, denial, lack of trying to you?

Just the facts, Ma’am

I don’t like to argue. This “does RAD exist” argument tires me.  And the people shooting off the mouths, err, keyboards, seem to be full of opinions and no facts.  So, just the facts, Ma’am…. But in layman’s terms.

The diagnostic criteria for Reactive Attachment Disorder in the DSM-IV:, 1994, DSMV IV TR, 2000

A. Child has significant difficulties and developmentally inappropriate social interactions in most situations, beginning before age 5, and

B. Child does not have another issue such as mental disability or a pervasive developmental disorder to account for A.  

Type 1: Inhibited.  Consistent failure to respond in an appropriate fashion to social interactions, inhibited, watchfulness, avoidance, resisting comfort

Type 2: Disinhibited.  Indiscriminate sociability, Child does not show appropriate preference to known adults over strangers

C. History of care includes at least 1 of the following:

(1) Child’s basic emotional needs for comfort, stimulation and affection not met

(2) Child’s basic physical needs not met

(3) Repeated change of Child’s primary caregiver

D.  C is presumed to have caused A.

In the DSM-V, the diagnostic criteria focus solely on the former inhibited type.

A. Child shows emotionally withdrawn behavior towards adult caregivers, includes both of the following:

     (1) Child rarely or minimally seeks comfort when distressed

     (2) Child rarely or minimally responds to comfort when distressed

B.  Child shows social or emotional disturbance of at least 2 of the following:

    (1) Minimal social and emotional responsiveness to others

    (2) Limited positive affect

    (3) Episodes of unexplained irritability, sadness, or fearfulness

C. History of care includes at least 1 of the following:

    (1) Child’s basic emotional needs for comfort, stimulation and affection not met

    (2) Repeated change of Child’s primary caregiver

    (3) Raised in unusual setting that limited opportunities for form attachments (i.e. institution)

D.  C is presumed to have caused A.

E. Child does not have autism.

F. Child has signs of disturbance before 5 yrs of age.

G. The child has a developmental age of at least nine months.

And there you have it, instead of inhibited and disinhibited RAD, you now have RAD – formerly known as inhibited.  The RAD formerly known as disinhibited has a new name, it’s called: Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder.  But the criteria looks oh so familiar:

DSED DIagnostic Criteria – DSM-V, 2013

A. A pattern of behavior where a child actively approaches and interacts with unfamiliar adults and exhibits at least 2 of the following:

     (1) Very little to no hesitation in approaching and interacting with strangers

     (2) Overly familiar behavior outside of age/cultural norms

     (3) Little to no awareness of where caregiver is, even in unfamiliar surroundings

     (4) Little to no hesitation to go off with unfamiliar adults

B. Behaviors are not caused by ADHD and are not limited to impulsivity.

C. History of care includes at least 1 of the following:

    (1) Child’s basic emotional needs for comfort, stimulation and affection not met

    (2) Repeated change of Child’s primary caregiver

    (3) Raised in unusual setting that limited opportunities for form attachments (i.e. institution)

D.  C is presumed to have caused A.

E. The child has a developmental age of at least nine months.

So there you have it.  Although the initial cause might be the same, the direction it takes is different and therefore treatment is different, hence the separation.  Does a name change really change the roots of it?  Obviously not, the criteria are listed identically.  Also, both are now listed under a new type as trauma and stress related disorders – a step in the right direction.  Neither definition, or diagnostic criterion, included the violence, or raging, or passive-aggressiveness that parents associate with our RAD kids, and didn’t before.  Our kids have an alphabet soup of diagnosis and we shorten it to RAD.  Primary, secondary, fifty-sixthary, whatever…. we just shorten it.  Those fall under different diagnosis for the sake of the pencil pushers and the insurance people and the ones who like to enter a bajillion numbers into spreadsheets… ODD, CD, IED, DID, BP, and a lot of other things that can piggy-back with this, genetic or otherwise.

Do you like my Gymnocarpae?  Or maybe you prefer my Hesperrhodos.  Be careful of the thorns as you admire the beautiful buds and breathe in that sweet fragrance.