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.

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!