Adoption FAS

A Plea for Help From an Adoptive Parent

I have a friend on my adoptive parents Yahoo email group who is in dire need of a solution to her family problem. She’s in the place we were months ago with no solution in sight. She has one week. I am asking prayer for her and her family as well as any input you all might has as to a solution. Below is part of her story from her blog, Adoption Drama…The System. She lives in Michigan. The comment in red with brackets is mine.

Michigan’s Post-Adoption Support Fails Youth, Families, and the Community.

I am an adoptive mom and a professional in the foster care system. I cannot sit back and watch the post adopt system fail our children. The children that are in adoptive homes today and those awaiting adoption. At the time of adoption, some children qualify for Michigan’s Adoption Subsidy support – medical and/or financial support. The concept of this support is to provide adopted children and their families with the support they need to meet the needs of the adopted child that were present prior to adoption. These needs are considered prior to signing of the adoption document. A family has to option of submitting documentation after the adoption is finalized to add other conditions that were present before adoption but not diagnosed until after adoption. No where in any of the support, does it say there is a limit to how much they will cover for the qualified condition.

My son is 16. He came into foster care when he was 4 and adopted when he was 5. The conditions he lived in prior to adoption have had a lasting impact on who he is and how he operates in society. Its like he is miss-wired because of the abuse he suffered (prenatal drug exposure, severe physical abuse and neglect). His behaviors started around age 6 and became out of control at age 12. Things continued to escalate and he went for residential treatment at 14 1/2 years of age. Well in the first facility, things got worse and he acted out more, placing more people in danger. He was moved to another residential program and spent the last 1 1/2 years there. He’s completed their program but not without incident. Their program has not addressed all of his behaviors or needs, but has touched the tip of the iceberg.

FUNDING HAS STOPPED. Despite the fact that he has not addressed the initial needs that placed him at risk or a danger to himself or others, FUNDING HAS STOPPED. It doesn’t seem to matter that the need hasn’t stopped – the qualifying need that got him adoption subsidy. But all they can say is, “FUNDING HAS STOPPED.”

The reality is that if he makes any of the same choices he made prior to going to residential treatment, he will go to prison. The reality is that he has lived in a very structured program of 2 years and they are just open the door and send him on his way. No transition back into the community, even though programs exist to help him transition back and be successful. All this because FUNDING HAS STOPPED.

Where is the adoption subsidy support that is suppose to help him get the care to address the needs without a limit? Without a limit doesn’t align with “Funding has stopped.” Helping him be as successful as he can be given the past he was dealt, isn’t a part of their plan. Where are my son’s rights to care and treatment from adoption subsidy?

The transitional program costs money. If I had the money, I’d pay for it myself. I don’t have the kind of money the program costs. I want nothing more than for my son and the other adopted children in the same situation and the foster children with the same struggles that are waiting to be adopted to have a chance for a successful future. To be given the opportunity to use the “support” from adoption subsidy they were promised. As adoptive parents, if we don’t pick them up when funding ends even though the need has not, the state threatens to file CPS neglect charges on the parent. Yet, Adoption Subsidy it the one who is neglecting their need and the agreement to support the treatment of that need. [If we bring them home and a child is hurt, we will be charged with “failure to protect. This is a lose/lose situation for the adoptive families.]

Please help me help my son and others in the same situation. Our funding is scheduled to end on 3/19/2010. Coming home places me and the other children in the home at risk due to his violent and sexual behaviors. He has threatened to kill me and tried once before. I love my son dearly and want for him to have a chance of being successful. Home and back in the community is not where he belongs right now.

Adoption FAS

A Three Day Snapshot – Day 3

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

with temper tantrums orToday he pulled the same thing at the CMH appointment.  I knew there would be toys to play with and told him ahead of time that if there were little cars or legos he’d have to play with something else, as he’d been grounded from those for behavior, and that if you are grounded from something at home, you are grounded from it everywhere you go. They had both, but there was a whole cabinet full of other things to play with.  He zero’d right in on the little cars, grabbed the bag they were in and when I said, “No,” and took them, he got ahold of one.  I had to forcibly take it. I told him if he didn’t stop arguing and fighting he had to just sit on the couch in time out, and he began punching and kicking me.  In some ways, as bad as it sounds, I’m kind of glad it happened right in front of the clinician doing the intake.

At dinner time, he was NOT going to eat his dinner (chicken breast stuffed with broccoli and cheese) because he thinks broccoli with cheese is “nasty”.  He loves broccoli. We finally said if he didn’t eat it, it would be wrapped and reheated for every snack and meal until it was gone, and that he’d not be allowed to play outside before and after service tonight at church with the other kids. He must have been using his selective hearing for that part, right along with Manny, who had decided since Matt didn’t like dinner, neither did he, so his got wrapped up too.  After dinner, I was headed upstairs to change for church and saw Matt putting his play shirt on under his church shirt and asked what he was doing.  He told me it was so he could play after church, and I reminded him he was not going out after, only Allen and Ike would, as they had eaten their dinner. When I came back downstairs, both boys were in the kitchen with their dad finishing their dinner. So at least that worked out.  They were fairly good the rest of the night.

Tonight during prayer time, my husband thanked the church for the men who have been helping me with Matt on Sundays when he can’t be there, and asked for prayer for Matt and for our family.  Our pastor added that he would like whatever men are sitting anywhere near us on Sunday to do the same, just get up and take him out when he becomes so difficult and reminded everyone that Matt needs a lot of prayer, and a lot of love, not judgment, that he’d been badly abused and it would take time.  He also said he’s already seeing some progress with him.  I so appreciate this church, it’s the first church we’ve belonged to since moving here that I feel my kids are safe from criticism and where I had no one minute of hesitation about calling the pastor and his wife after the Sam’s incident to ask for prayer, knowing I wasn’t going to be judged as a bad parent. Unfortunately, we have had that happen in other churches, when Allen was younger.


Adoption FAS

A Three Day Snapshot – Day 1

I have a long time friend who recently found me on Facebook. We reconnected after about ten or so years. We originally met during our old adoption advocacy days when we lived in Flushing. Our adoption support group was instrumental in bringing her and her first son together by adoption. I will call her Linda. This is day one of three days in the life of her newly adopted son, Matt. She currently has four sons.

 Monday, August 24, 2009

Today I had no choice but to take all the kids to Sam’s. I had to pick up a prescription that could not wait. Matt wanted me to let them wait in the car, which I have allowed if I am just running in somewhere for a minute or two. But today I knew it would be longer, so I said “No,” and that they would have to come in with me. First, Matt ran away in the parking lot and Allen ran and got him for me, which set him off against Allen now, too. We went in, and by the time we got back to the meat coolers he was working himself up deliberately. You can actually see him doing it; he clenches his fists and starts breathing harder and faster to work up a good rage. I ended up having to hold him against the cart with one arm while pushing/steering the cart with the other, because he’d started running up and kicking Allen as hard as he could. So he started kicking me, in between pressing his foot on the wheel so I couldn’t move the cart. I ended up having to hold him against the cooler to stop him trying to hurt me, Allen, or himself.

We made it to the pharmacy counter and had to wait a few minutes for it to open back up from lunch break. A lady, who’d been shopping back by the meat dept. and tried to speak with him when he was doing all this, followed us. I saw her come around the corner and duck back when I saw her but didn’t think anything of it at the time. She apparently followed us out and took down my plate number and called 911. Not 10 minutes after we got home a county sheriff’s deputy was at the door with a worker from FOC. To avoid speaking with them, Matt ran to the back of the house and out the back door, but they got him to stop. I told her what happened, and Matt admitted all. She came down squarely on my side, and told him he has to obey me, that I have the right to discipline him, and that she thought he was very lucky to be where he is (she had already asked about his background).

He told her he knew he was lucky, but that being told, “No,” makes him “want to get mad and hit people.” So, I’ve joined the ranks of parents who will need to document, document, document, I guess. She said this was NOT going to CPS; she saw no reason for it. It looked to her like that lady who called 911 was a nosy woman who had no idea of the actual situation or circumstances, and apologized for having to come here especially when it was very clear I’d done nothing wrong. The whole cops at the door for what he had done scared him though, I think. After that, he apologized to me and then to Allen and couldn’t do enough for either of us for several hours. He and Manny have an appointment tomorrow at CMH to get them services. Here’s hoping for at least respite time, huh?


Adoption FAS

Gertz’s Pile of Ideas

On another adoptive mom blog, I found an article about a magnetic sleep technology that got a special needs little girl off sleeping pills. Some FAS kids have difficulties with sleep and need medication in order to fall asleep and achieve and sustain REM sleep. This is interesting and worth looking into if your child has this difficulty.

“On January 1, 2009 I made a commitment to find an alternative to sleeping pills for Ellie. She has needed to take a sleeping pill every night for 3 years to get her to sleep. The guilt I felt about this ritual was inconceivable. Ellie is 6, so for half of her life, I have watched her struggle in a drugged haze to get her teeth brushed before she conked out in a drug induced state. That little body would shudder as it passed into a chemically induced state of fake REM and every ounce of natural therapy I would incorporate into our daily routine was lost … to read more click here.

Spiritual Truths

The Obscurest Believer

Matthew 18:10 “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”

John Wesley Commentary comments on this verse:  See that ye despise not one of these little ones – As if they were beneath your notice.  Be careful to receive and not to offend, the very weakest believer in Christ: for as inconsiderable as some of these may appear to thee, the very angels of God have a peculiar charge over them: even those of the highest order, who continually appear at the throne of the Most High.”

Barnes NT Commentary says:  “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones,” etc. That is, one who has become like little children – or, a Christian. Jesus then proceeds to state the reason why we should not despise his feeblest and obscurest follower. That reason is drawn from the care which God exercises over them. The first instance of that care is, that in heaven their angels do always behold his face. He does not mean, I suppose, to state that every good man has his guardian angel, as many of the Jews believed; but that the angels were, in general, the guards of his followers, and aided them, and watched over them (Heb 1:14). 
“Do always behold the face of my Father,” etc. This is taken from the practice of earthly courts. To be admitted to the presence of a king; to be permitted to see his face continually; to have free access at all times, was deemed a mark of peculiar favour, (1Kings 10:8; Es 1:14) and was esteemed a security for his protection. So, says our Saviour, we should not despise the obscurest Christians, for they are ministered to by the highest and noblest of beings; beings who are always enjoying the favour and friendship of God.

C.H. Spurgeon’s Commentary on Matthew says:  Those who are servants to poor saints and little children are allowed free entrance to the King: what must he think of his little ones themselves? Nay, this is not all. Jesus himself cares for the poorest and neediest. Yes, he came to save that which was lost. How dare we then be proud, and despise a child because of its youth, or a man because of his poverty, or his want of intelligence? The angels and the angels’ Lord care for the most despised of our race; shall not we?

Adoption FAS

Exhausted and Bleeding – Part 4

 A couple of weeks ago we attended a meeting in Lansing with some key people regarding the issue of adoptive families trying to access residential placements or theraputic foster care using their medical subsidy for funding through DHS (Department of Human Services).  This was the second in a series of meetings that addressed the problem of families in crisis being charged with neglect. MI Representative Alma Wheeler Smith attended the meeting along with her assistant, 4 adoptive families in crisis, Atty. John Lewis, 2 DHS personnel, and a representative from the legislature. At that meeting Atty. Lewis requested a moratorium for the families present, including ours. We were hopeful that our need to immediate help would be met. We again found ourselves needing in crisis shortly thereafter, but had heard no promise of relief other than through the grapevine. We thought we’d be stuck in the neglect charges arena again, but due to a quick phone call to the Dpty. Director of DHS from an adoption compatriot, our needs were temporarily met for our son with only an hour to spare.  

The problem we are encountering now is the uncertainty of the system. Once you receive approval for residential, you must agree to allow the child to return home whenever DHS decides – whether or not the child is ready. Oftentimes it is just down to a question of funding. To keep costs down, funding may be withdrawn without considering the needs of the child. This is how many families come to be charged with neglect. They refuse to let their child back into the home because they fear for their family members.  All they are doing is requesting DHS to either extend the residential placement or find a therapeutic foster care placement (trained foster parents with no children in their home) for the child.  In my book, any parent who spends hours pleading for help for their child has already proven they are a parent who seeks to provide for the needs of their child.  Yet, in Michigan, parents who ask for help from DHS in the form of alternate placement often must be charged with neglect in order to get the needs of their child met. It’s one of those ridiculous glitches in the system that ends up destroying families.

I know of a couple who considered divorcing, not because they wanted to, but because they needed to provide a safe home for their children with one of the parents, while the other suffered charges of neglect – for refusing to take a dangerous child back into their home. Protective services had threatened to take all of their children during their standoff. It’s a pretty common occurance, to use such a power play to keep adoptive parents in their place. In the end, the parents signed off their rights in order to save their family from being destroyed. How’s that for DHS’s primary goal of family preservation?

On our medical subsidy contract, it clearly states that medical subsidy payments are made in order to provide and obtain services necessary to achieve or protect the child’s adoption – based on the needs of the child. How on earth does that translate into neglect? Like MI Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith said, we need to redefine the word  “neglect” [for DHS and the Legislation]. I have great respect for Rep. Smith, for she has taken time out of her busy schedule to help adoptive families. Her advocacy work, along with Atty. John Lewis has made a difference in several adoptive families lives and probably will pave the road for system change. Too many adoptive families are not finding the help they need when they run into trouble with their difficult children. They are being charged for neglect when all they want is a safe, appropriate solution for their kids. Until it happened to me, I had no idea what was going on. Please remember to pray for them and the changes that need to be made in the system and legislature.

Adoption FAS

Exhaused and Bleeding – Part 2

Speaking specifically to the FASD label (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), I have parented three types of FASD kids, two of which are managable, one that is not.  My categories certainly are not scientific – they are only based on personal experience.

One is the confused, struggling child who has trouble in relationships, school, and every day living skills – they have trouble understanding “cause and effect.” They are very frustrating  to live with but are managable for the most part. These are the ones who make the same mistakes over and over and don’t think before they speak or act. “I don’t know,” comes out of their mouth more than anything else. Though you have trouble reasoning with them, they pretty much only hurt themselves in their habit of going from one negative experience to another, never really connecting the dots. When this child meets the Savior, they immediately see their sinfulness because they’ve known all along they are empty and sinful. They will always struggle with spiritual growth because they lack the ability to sustain a thought for any length of time. These are the kids that are often seen by others as having a “big heart.” They are very good at putting on a “show” for others. According to the Bible, they could be categorized as “simple.” These kids are not normally dangerous to the parent, though they would be the ones to complain about how mean the parent is and during times of anger expressing how much they hate the parent. As long as things are going well for this child, they can be very amiable and easy to live with.

The second is the one who live their life with a careless abandon that often results in running over everyone in their way. They’re not purposely attacking anyone, they just are running at high speed considering only their needs and opinions. They are either highly excitable or tend to be passive agressive. These are the type that say, “I forgot,” translated, “I just didn’t care.” It’s hard to reason with them because they “just don’t get it.” These kids can be very shallow and cause others to shake their head in disbelief. The school of hard knocks is usually the only way they learn to live by a set of standards and it’s only out of self preservation. It can take them years to manage their life in a way that they can live peacefully and stay out of trouble. They tend to be very self absorbed and hurt others by their lack of consideration. In their world there are only two people – themselves and the person they want something from or they consider is in their way.

When these children experience spiritual regeneration, you see a marked difference in their understanding of God’s expectations and standards of right and wrong. All of a sudden they understand their focus has been wrong but feel powerless to change.  These are the children that are often seen by others as being “live wires,” “drama queens,” or “pouters.” Most people can pick them out of a crowd as being a trouble maker. The Bible term for this child when they are out of control is “rebellious.” These children can be dangerous to the parent simply because they tend to blame others for their mistakes. To cover up or explain their poor decisions, this child may tell others around them that the parent was abusive and will go so far as to call up the authorities to make such claims in order to soothe their conscience. They have an overwhelming need to have others’ approval. Later when confronted over this disloyal or dishonest behavior, they will usually lie about it or explain it away with the excuse that it was during their “bad” time but they know better now.

The third category of FASD children is the type that is causing adoptive families to fall into peril. I believe Satan is priming his Last Day’s army using this third type. They are the ones with no conscience. They can stare you in the face and tell you they didn’t do something even though you are holding the evidence right in front of them. They set people up to get hurt and enjoy watching the pain they’ve inflicted. They are right and everyone around them is wrong. They will keep going in their self deceit until either they, or the one standing in their way of what they want falls and they really don’t care which one it is – them or you. They can rise to any occasion and put on any face that will get them what they want. They think they are tougher than everyone else and are in perfect control of their actions when it suits their needs. They truly believe every false word that comes out of their mouth. 

angry-teenThe moment this child realizes their physical dominance, the end has come in the parent’s ability to control this child’s behavior. There is no pliable heart that can be won. These are the kids who may eventually be labeled “sociopath” and will probably end up in jail. The Bible calls these children, “scorners.”  In their mind,they are the center of the universe and everyone ought to serve them. All of their bad behavior is written off as justified because they believe they have been unfairly treated. They only remember the discipline, not their behavior that warranted the discipline. Not only will they tell others they were abused when they were not, but they will gloat to others that they “got Mom and Dad in trouble.” These children are very good at twisting the truth and telling it  in a believable manner. They are very confused and deluded individuals who can be a danger to anyone that gets in their way.

There is no way anyone can know which category an alcohol exposed child will end up in if they are adopted very young. Adoptive parents go into the parent/child relationship trying to meet every need of the child and sometimes it just can’t be done. Often the families with these type of children feel very isolated because the behaviors are so extreme it takes every ounce of their being just to manage them. Constant supervision and trying to anticipate every move is very wearing on a parent especially if they are feeling condemned by others. It is a very tough position to be in. A parent wants to know that they have been successful in their child rearing efforts. To many, parental success means seeing their child grow up to be a strong, successful godly adult that aspires to change the world with their presence. To many adoptive parents of these very difficult children, success simply means both they and their child lived through the  growing up years.

Adoption FAS

No One is Looking

Occasionally I run across things that I just have to share. This is one of those times. People need to be informed. Most likely you, my reader, are one of them. Here you go, lesson #1…

Below is my comment on my Adoptive Families’ FAS Yahoo Support Group. One of the moms said she thought her son would do better if he could see immediate and appropriate consequences when he saw other kids get caught stealing. Below is my response and then below that is hers.

“Well, I’ve had a lot of kids mess up and my younger kids watched and even though they saw the consequences, they still did the same thing themselves. I never understood why they wouldn’t learn from seeing others suffer consequences. They just always either didn’t think they’d get caught or didn’t think before they did it. “

Here is her excellent explanation of the typical behavior of a FASD kid – friends, welcome to MY world:

“You are right….., I agree with you completely on this.  As a matter of fact, this particular behavioral feature (not learning from consequences) is what seems to me to distinguish FASD.  So, when I said: ‘I postulate that if he had seen others steal, and seen them get caught, and seen them suffer some unpleasant consequences, he would have avoided doing the same.  Seeing is believing. All else is just conjecture, and does not apply.’  

I should have said: ‘If he had seen someone steal the money and get caught and punished immediately, he might have decided not to try stealing the money from the same place in that situation, as least not right away.  As long as he knows that there was someone watching everyone’s every move, ready to immediately punish every act of thievery, then he would behave himself most of the time…. except when he was really mad, had a strong feeling that he deserved to have whatever he would be stealing, and thought that he had a good chance of not getting caught…. i.e. no one is looking.’

In residential treatment settings, my son rarely ever steals anything.  At home, even with locks on every cupboard and door that contained forbidden items, he was constantly trying take anything that he wanted any time he was upset about anything.  He did the same at school, but he was even more sneaky about it. 

The therapist at the residential home apparently thinks that he is reformed, because he has stopped stealing.  Knowing him and FASD as I do, I am thinking that this may be short sighted.  It seems to me that it is only the fact that 2 staff watch EVERY move of EVERYONE 24/7.  He has stopped this behavior because the environment has been modified to meet his needs.  (thus the need for the “external bodies” to monitor in order to ensure proper behavior)  

In written reports, while admitting that he has “not yet internalized” the lessons he has learned in therapy, his therapist maintains the words “not yet” which imply that he is going to do this, can do this, and is expected to any moment internalize these things that he can speak so well about. 

 This is the reason I think FASD training is so important for professionals serving our kids.”

Adoption FAS

An Exclusive Club

I ran across this introduction by an adoptive mom that has joined a Yahoo Post Adoption Support Group I’m in. Have you ever been tempted to judge an adoptive parent of a child who has FAS? Do you think they are somehow responsible for the behavior of a child who has been damaged by their birth parent’s drinking? Do you think you could have done better? Have you ever wondered why it is that even though you have taught your adopted child how to live right they totally ruin their lives with bad decisions once they are out on their own? Well, welcome to our club – the Adoptive Moms of FAS Kids Club. It’s exclusive club. You have to have loved someone else’s child and been ostracised because of it to join.  

Our questions may never have any answers, but God knows that the parents of these kids have been faithful and are not responsible for damage done way before they came on the scene. That’s really all we do know for sure – God understands and knows. Well, maybe there is something else we know for sure. Others who haven’t adopted and raised a child with FAS don’t understand and don’t know. Am I bitter? No. God has taught me way too much to dwell on the ignorance of others and to let it affect my view of myself or God. Am I disappointed? Yes. I am disappointed for this adoptive mom – that she’s not supported or helped by those who ought to care and have the resources to help. BTDT!

Here is Mrs. Smith’s introduction:

I am an infant mental health specialist, certified teacher ART k-12 and general ed K-8. I have a Master’s in Early Childhood Education, and specialist in FASD [A term used to identify damage to a child because the mom drank alcohol while pregnant] issues. I’m on the state’s FASD Task Force as a parent, but previously as a professional I was the coordinator for Wayne County’s FAS Awareness project. I live in the Ann Arbor area. I adopted 2 children from foster care…. long story but I am a single parent…. I became involved in foster care when I decided to participate in a grant to take in drug-affected infants. That must have been about 16 years ago, because my son is now 14.

Yes, my ds [dear son] was my first infant I took in on the grant, 3 days old from the hospital. As an infant mental health specialist I worked hard on the attachment piece. The attachment had a bigger impact on me that I expected, and when his birth mom’s rights were terminated at age 2, I decided I would adopt. About 4 years later I decided to adopt one more. That is my dd [dear daughter], who is now 9. Interestingly, my son looked good at birth, full term, full head size. Only “alleged” drug use. My daughter, on the other hand was premature, low birth weight, tested positive for crack and came out swimming in alcohol. Guess which one has the brain damage. My son! Go figure. This is one of the big mysteries that surrounds FAS. We know that of twins both exposed to alcohol, one can have the syndrome, the other not. We know that brain damage can be just as substantial with the facial features as without them! Kids with an average IQ, like my son, can have the same serious brain damage as a kid with low IQ, but people don’t recognize it as brain damage because of his IQ, and hold him culpable!

Ah well, enough preaching!

My son has been in residential for 2 years, supported by adoption subsidy. I have been facing threats of neglect charges for almost that long. I have come to understand that this is not uncommon in Michigan post adoption support services. It is sad for the parents who try so hard with the state’s most difficult kids. It is sad for the children who, through no fault of their own (i.e., alcohol and/or early neglect), must be abandoned by the state if they cannot be “fixed” within a time frame, or look like they will need a life time of support. I want to work with the state to find solutions to this problem. The solutions need not be expensive, but must be practical. “Punishing” parents won’t help. In fact, it will deter “good” potential foster/adoptive parents from considering the state’s children. It is a lose/lose situation. Let’s work to discover the “win/win.”

Adoption FAS Links

Adoption Drama – a Story of One Woman’s Difficult Journey

Here is a blog I just read this morning. I spent an hour reading it from back to front (blogs post the most recent first, and then you become so intrigued you keep hitting the back button to see what preceeded it). If any of you wish to read a story very similar to ours, please check this blog out. After you read it, spend some time praying for this woman. I could have written 99% of her story and put my name as author – it is so much the same as ours. Though I am so very sorry for what she’s going through, it was strangely validating. If you truly want to understand the plight of a family who has adopted emotionally impaired children, please read Adoption drama…. “The System.” I’ll start you from the beginning posting so you can read it in order of occurrence. 

The sad thing is, there is no answer. We are adrift in the sea of fear and regret. Only God knows…and those who have lived it.