Friday, October 26, 2012

Knowing When to Let Go: Part 3: Losses and Gains

by John and Diane.
This is the third part in a series about the hard process of letting a foster child move onto another placement when you are not making progress in his care. In my case, I had to decide that a foster child I had been working with for over 3 years, who had an attachment disorder, had been sexually abused and physically tormented and abused, had learning difficulties due to fetal alcohol syndrome, ADD, and violent outburst was getting too old, (now 16) and too big for me to deal with. Although I had brought him from being a nearly feral condition to being able to be in school and usually under my control, he was beginning to fight me on basic rules and was becoming a negative influence on the other foster kids in the house. 
Knowing When To Let Go: Part 2: Getting the Child Ready.) went through the decision making process of me getting to the point of letting the child go, and telling the rest of the family, Now, in this post, I wanted to deal with my own feelings about the boy leaving and the effects on the household. 
Losses and Gains
Now the child is gone how does that make you feel are you sad, happy, confused? 
In my case I didn’t know how hard it had been to deal with him.  The first day I got up and didn’t have to deal with him yelling and fighting with the others boys in the home, as they got ready for school.
That was an eye-opener for me!
 What?  No one yelling or fighting? I didn’t have to spend most of my time with the child that left (Let’s just call him Bobby) just to make him feel safe or in control of everything!  He was a typical RAD child.  As long as “Bobby” had my attention, he was somewhat ok.  But now I have all this time to help the other boys in the house. 
Then I started to think of all the things I had to go through just to get “Bobby” up to go to school.
1. Like coming down to wake him up once, then again 15 minutes later just to have him yell at me and say, “I was getting up” when he was still in his bed.
2. Making sure “Bobby” took his pills and watching him take them. Usually he would fake it and not take them so I would have to run them into school for him.
3. Checking “Bobby’s” backpack so he was not taking things to school that he was not suppose to take or finding things he stole from home.
4. Making sure  “Bobby” would let his brothers get ready for school first and not bug them so they would not be late for their bus, which came first. 
 Then after all the other boys would be gone on their buses then “Bobby would want me to spend time with just him.  Now some times this was not a bad deal, we would play games, I would try to make it a game where he learned something like good sportsmanship. Trust me that was a hard thing to teach to a RAD child with learning difficulties.   
But other times it would not go so well.  I might go through the backpacks and find something that “Bobby” stole and I would have to ask him about it. Not fun.  Then the bus arrives and he is throwing things at the wall or kicking the door in.  Ugh.
7. I would have to inspect “Bobby’s” clothes, because he would usually choose to wear the dirty stuff.  So now I would have to ask him to change them, then he would be upset with me and we could have another tantrum.
8.  I would also have to watch him brush his teeth because he would not brush unless I was sitting in the bathroom watching him.  It was a control thing for him.
I am not afraid of hard work. I am patient, I am used to going through a process with RAD kids, and other foster kids who need help and I am happy to dedicate myself to helping them have better lives. "Bobby" simply wasn't participating in making his life better. He fought me at every turn and was only getting worse as he got older. Most importantly, he started to take the other kids down a bad road with him. 
Now that he was gone,  I started to see something in myself. I was feeling better about life. It was easier for me to get up in the morning and I was smiling. Then I realized I had been depressed and didn’t even know it. 
When he left, a lot of things changed. I didn’t have so many meetings with the caseworkers, trying to get help for him.  No more running into school because he had done something.   No more fighting with the school to try to get them to teach him instead of it just being a daycare program.
I had a counselor in my home two or three times a week to help me with his anger problems, but that was time that took away from the other kids and doing other things as a family.
Suddenly, I had time to be with the other foster boys who needed me too and were getting left behind.
Now I see the other boys, first thinking someone had to take “Bobby’s place and be the “bad boy” who would try to run over me, but that was easy to stop. I just had to point out to the next oldest child that what happened to “Bobby” for trying the same thing. Let’s just say that behavior stopped in short order! 
Now my boys are happy just letting me be in charge. See, that is what I was losing.  The longer I put up with “Bobby” and all his bad behavior, I was losing control of my home in the other boy's eyes, and you can’t let that happen.
And now they see he won nothing but lost everything, but we always have hope because God can help anyone who asks him.
 I talk about God and tell the boys how He helped me in my life and He would help them to, in the same ways. I can’t make them believe in Him but I hope I planted the seed that may start to grow later.
Now this was more about how having a child leave helped me but at first I did not know how much I needed him to go.  It is hard to trust and let someone else take over your work.
 If you’re not moving, not making progress with your foster child, maybe it’s time to let God take over for you?  Sometimes for the safety of your family and the child, the best way to help him is to let him go.  .

In the next post in this series:
 I will talk about how letting the one child leave changed the other boys in the home.  Sometimes it is a Blessing when you realize you failed, because God may have other ideas on what is really going on; things that you only see in hindsight.

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  1. Wow... First, I really appreciate your post on this matter. Thanks! Then, I would like to say that even though you had to let Bobby go, in no way you failed. Not in the Lord's eyes, anyway. What you offered Bobby, who, as you say, was in a feral state when first arrived in your home, were years of safety and provision. Who knows? Maybe he would not even be around anymore if it had not been for you. And third, letting him go was the next best thing you could have done, I really see that. I don't think your oppression was what the Lord wanted for you and for the other kids. I am so glad you trusted Him enough to let Him change the course of things and move Bobby on! Still, the fact that you didn't even notice how oppressed you were, the fact that you didn't even notice how hard you had been working, that says a lot about you, and I think that pleases the Lord :)

  2. Hey Gabbie, what a beautiful comment, thank you! You are right, Trusting God to let him change the course is difficult when you fight your own unwillingness to face "failure," so to speak, but Bobby seems to be doing alright in his new place,as most RAD kids seem to do. We can only pray that God can heal him, keep him safe, find a way to bring him happiness and allow him to give and receive real love in the future.