Back to reality

Last week was spring break. We had a great vacation. Evan went to respite because our family desperately needed a break. Respite care is when one foster family temporarily keeps another foster family’s children.

The foster mom that kept Evan was full of things to tell us when we picked him up. She is a seasoned foster parent and she was deeply disturbed by his behavior. She said she had never seen any child with behavior as bad as his. While at her house, he did the same things he does at our house. He is very defiant and tries to start arguments constantly. He does not like authority and throws a temper tantrum any time he doesn’t get his way. Getting him to pick up his toys after he plays is a nightmare. He yelled at her and told her he hates her. He told her that he wants to be a girl.

He was put on medicine for ADHD a few weeks ago. I have said from the beginning that I couldn’t tell any difference from the medicine. The respite foster mom told me the same thing. There were no naps while he was with her and he refused to go to bed. During the night, we are lucky if he sleeps six hours and very rarely does he sleep through the night. Most nights he wakes me up by screaming my name around two or three. He did the same thing at her house.

I felt sorry for this lady and she felt sorry for me. We both agreed that something needs to be done. There are still four more months until he goes for neurological testing. While I am hopeful that the testing will show something, four months seems like an eternity! Most days I’m not sure how I will get through. So many times I have heard stories about foster children and how the system failed them. I feel like the system is failing Evan.

Nothing that has been said by me, or his previous three foster homes has made any difference. This child needs help! There have been two different social workers tell my husband and I that this was the hardest case they have seen as far as the child’s behavior. I know social workers are very overworked and I’m sure there are guidelines they have to follow, but I can only do so much.

Since coming to our home, he has started preschool. His principal recommended after school care, so I started him with it too. After speaking to his case manager, his therapy has been bumped up to three times a month instead of two. I signed him up for soccer, hoping being part of a team and having that time to run would be good for him. We have a sticker chart at home that focuses on behavior. After consulting with both an RN and a nutritionist, I have changed his diet and started him on vitamins. So far, none of these things has made any difference.

After having been away from him, I feel even more discouraged. Sometimes stepping away really opens your eyes to the truth and severity of a situation. Now, it’s back to reality. It’s back to physical and verbal aggression. It’s back to lying, manipulating, temper tantrums, and confrontation. I haven’t given up on him, so for now, this is my reality!

Mommin ain’t easy

Parenting is hard work! It’s even harder when the child hasn’t always been yours. My biological children have always been with me. If they are afraid of dogs, I know why. If they don’t feel well, I recognize the signs. When they are having a bad day, I know what to expect. I don’t wonder what all they have endured in their little lives. I never think that a certain thing they say or do is a direct result of being starved and neglected.

My heart hurts. I want to do what is right for him and what is right for my family. There are always doubts, what if the parent judges are right? I’m not sleeping much these days and my anxiety is at an all time high. Some days I think things are getting better and other days, I’m not so sure.

Yesterday I made Evan sit in time out after breaking several toys that don’t belong to him. He did his usual and threw a tantrum because he didn’t want to go to time out. Then he yelled at me “I don’t like you!” I’ve been at this mom game for over 13 years and words like these still sting! I told him it’s okay if he doesn’t like me, he was still having a time out. A few minutes later he told me he loves me.

He had therapy yesterday and all of the people that work at the agency were telling my husband and I how much he has changed since being in care. They say he has really progressed. This gives me hope that things will soon start to get better.

Everyone knows best

When you have a child like Evan with bad behavior, you become exposed to a whole new level of parental advice and even parent shaming. So far, I’ve encountered two types of people through this journey.

Person one hasn’t spent much, if any time with Evan. This person talks about how cute he is and how his behavior isn’t his fault. They often tell me how they would take him home if they could. Even if they don’t say it, sometimes I get the feeling that they think I am exaggerating about his behavior. Or, perhaps they think they could do a better job than I am at caring for him. While I agree that his behavior is a direct result of his environment the first three years of his life, reading a story and living it are two different things.

Person two often times started out as person one. This person has spent a little more time with Evan. Person two still hasn’t seen the whole picture but has a better idea of how everyday life is. This person tells me I’m crazy for dealing with this. They question why I do foster care. They say I should “get rid of him” like he’s an old shirt I no longer wear. Once again, I get the sense that they judge me as a parent for having him in our family. They make comments about what he is doing to our biological children.

I have one person that doesn’t fit either category. She is a foster parent herself and has had some children with some of the same behaviors. We listen to each other without judgement, and sometimes that’s all we need. She encourages me. We are able to talk about the changes we witnessed with different children.

As for person one and person two, I’m sure there is someone out there that could do a better job. When it comes to my biological children, I also worry about how they will be affected in the long run. I hope they learn compassion and love but only time will tell.

For now, this is our family and this is our life. We are stressed and sometimes frustrated. All things aside, I look at this little boy sleeping at night and I know his belly is full and he is safe. That’s enough for me to get up tomorrow and try again.

One day at a time

It has been three weeks and three days since we welcomed an energetic, blue eyed little boy into our home. For the privacy of the child, I will be calling him Evan.

In the beginning, Evan’s personality was very magnetic. He has a laugh that is bigger than life! At four years old, he is the same age as our youngest son. I was thrilled for them both to have a playmate. In the foster care system, they refer to the first days as “the honeymoon period.” Sometimes the honeymoon lasts days, sometimes it lasts months. Eventually, it always comes to an end.

Our honeymoon has officially come to an end. It only lasted about a week. Slowly different behaviors started to come out of hiding. In the past two and a half weeks, we have experienced biting, hitting, kicking, spitting, lying, using the bathroom on the floor (both number one and number two), and being very confrontational to others.

Some days I think it’s getting better while other days I think it’s getting worse. Today, I’m not sure. I know three and a half weeks is not a very long time but it’s longer that two out of the three past foster homes kept him. We are his fourth home in four months.

What has happened to Evan is not his fault. He is the product of how he was raised for the past four years. I am going to do everything I can to help this child. If this placement fails, it will not be for my lack of trying. For now we will take it day by day and hope that one day I will read this and realize that we have come a long way.