Progression isn’t enough

Three months before his fourth birthday, he wasn’t potty trained and was attached to his pacifier. He spoke the F word like it was his job. Racial slurs flew from his mouth. He had three little fingers and one thumb folded down while proudly displaying his middle finger. He could not be contained. Several social workers had to form a circle around him to keep him from running. It took hours to get him in the car and secured in his car seat.

Fast forward five months and you will find where we are today. Thanks to the foster mom he had right before coming to us, he doesn’t use a pacifier and he is potty trained. I haven’t heard him say the N word since the first day he came to us and it’s been a few weeks for the F word. He still uses other undesirable words on occasion, but for me, that’s a big improvement.

We are still trying to teach him about personal space. Hitting, spitting, pinching, kicking, pushing, tripping, and biting are a work in progress. There are definitely deep-seated anger issues. His obsession with guns and killing doesn’t seem to be letting up. The tantrums we experience are the stuff parent nightmares are made of. The defiant behavior and incessant chatter are enough to make any sane person question their sanity. No matter how many words I use, there is no way to truly explain it all. Yet, I have grown to love the little guy.

Earlier this week, there was a panel of interested parties that met to discuss Evan’s case. Their recommendation was that he go to residential care. I didn’t even know what residential care was. It’s like a group home. There isn’t one parent or set of parents, there are employees that work there in shifts. The children have their own bedroom and bathroom. There is one living room and kitchen that they share.

Yesterday, his worker called and told me they were looking into a new program for younger children like him. He will be there for 90 days. I asked if he could come back to us when he’s finished with the program. She said only if our home is available and we are open to adopting him. I was assured that I will be able to visit him while he’s there.

Eleven weeks ago I had never seen his face. He had not yet made me laugh by making silly smiling faces and saying “cheeth.” I had never heard of GAD and I had definitely never seen a child this hyper. I didn’t know the exhaustion and stress that is brought on by such a nonstop kid. Eleven weeks have changed my life.

Never have I been so afraid for anyone’s future as I am right now. I tried looking up the program but with it being so new, there is very little information available. My fear is that he will be around so many troubled children that he may pick up more bad behaviors. I feel we have made progress and he is comfortable here. He has made a connection with me as his mother figure. Will this move set him back? Is he going to think I abandoned him?

So many thoughts go through my mind. My heart is broken. Everything is so uncertain. No one knows for sure if this program will help him. We don’t know if he will be able to come back to us.

Trying to see the positive side, I realize I will have so much less stress. I can go in public again without humiliation from him telling a stranger they are fat or old. Just imagine all the sleep I will get!

Guilt starts to take over and it’s unbearable. How dare I look for joy in a time like this. I’m not reading a book or watching television. This is real life! A life that will forever be changed by these 90 days. There is no way for me to know if that change will be positive or negative.

Monday I will receive a call letting me know if they have a bed available. My trust is in the Lord. Everything happens according to his plan. I have to believe the social workers are doing what they believe is best for him. They have seen many more cases than I have. The system has been in place long before I became a foster parent. So for now, I wait.

Baby steps

Have you ever seen the movie What About Bob? In the movie, Bob suffers from several phobias. His psychiatrist has written a book called “Baby Steps.” After learning about the book, Bob repeats the words “baby steps, baby steps, baby steps” with everything he does. At this chapter in my life I feel like Bob.

On Thursday we went to Evan’s psychiatrist appointment. I was able to share most of what has been going on with her. She changed his medication from once a day to twice a day. She said if this doesn’t help, there is nothing else she can do until he turns five. I asked her about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Medication to treat RAD cannot be given until age five, and the medication is an antipsychotic. I feel very uneasy about a five year old taking antipsychotic medicine. Her suggestion was that I find a hospital that will provide inpatient care for him. She said she doesn’t know of any place that takes children under five though. Why is five the magic number?

When we got home from his appointment, I needed a moment to collect my thoughts. Hospitalization is something I would really like to avoid. Of course, I want the best care possible, but I think that should be a last resort. Ultimately it’s not my decision. As a foster parent, I have guardianship, not custody. Decisions regarding medical care are up to his physicians and the state.

Doubt reared it’s ugly head and invaded my mind. “Am I really the right person to be caring for this child? Should he be in a home without other children, so he has more one on one time? What if this medication doesn’t work? Has anything I have done so far made any difference?”

While I sat there at the kitchen table with my face in my hands, Evan came in and handed me a toy knife from the kids kitchen center. It was from a Melissa and Doug set. The knife is made of wood and doesn’t have sharp edges. He had broken it in half.

“Can this knife do this?” He asked me. I told him that it wasn’t supposed to be broken in half and for the thousandth time, I explained to him that we should treat toys kindly and not break them. If all of the toys are broken, he will have nothing to play with. I asked him why he had broken it and like always, his response was because he wanted to. Preparing myself for the storm that was going to follow, I told him to stand in the corner.

Much to my surprise, he walked over and stood in the corner. There is a first time for everything! He cried a little but he stood there. There were no shoes thrown, no screaming or banging his head against the wall. He did not make his body go limp. He did not scream at me about how he doesn’t like me. When the timer went off, I told him his time was up and he ran back in the other room to play.

Baby steps.

For most people, this incident sounds insignificant. Big deal, my child had a time out and didn’t act like the world was ending. For me, this was a huge deal! It shows progress. Consistency is so important when parenting. It may have taken seven weeks but he now knows that when he is put in the corner, no amount of screaming, yelling, throwing things, or any other negative behavior is getting him out of it.

Is it possible that he is exactly where he is meant to be? Maybe I am the mom he needs. What if seeing my other kids being disciplined when they misbehave is helping him? For seven weeks, each day we have stayed in the same place or taken a step backwards. This morning, I woke up one step forward. It may have been just a baby step, but it was a step just the same.