Friday, November 2, 2012

Knowing When to Let Go: Part 4: Hindsight is 20/20

This is the fourth and final 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. 

The other posts (Knowing When To Let Go: When Giving Up is Giving a New Chance,   Part 2: Getting the Child Ready and Losses and Gains) went through the decision making process of me getting to the point of letting the child go, telling the rest of the family, and dealing with my own feelings about the situation.  In this post I wanted do a final reflection on the dynamics in the home and how they have changed.

Sometimes when we are in the midst of a situation it is hard to see how things are affecting the many aspects of lives in the house, now, seeing how things are changing, and improving, I hope that my reflections might give others courage to try their hardest for the kids they love, and let go when need be for the kids they can still help.

Hindsight is 20/20 A Look Back to Help Others

So, Bobby has been gone now for a month or so, and although we still interact with him via phone calls and his sibling, who is still in my care, has had visits with him, I am able to see things more clearly and to take one final look at what having a particularly destructive force in my home did to both me and my other foster kids.

 Although here the situation was a bit rare perhaps, in that I am a single Foster dad, Bobby has a sibling here, and many of my kids had complex behavioral and emotional issues including attachment disorders and sexual abuse histories, I know I do share a common theme with a lot of foster parents out there. We get into foster care to help hurt kids, and admitting failure is very, very hard.

So, with that, I just wanted to summarize my experience, knowing many of you can commiserate, or that perhaps it will inspire some, or be a learning tool for others.

Let’s get to it: I look back and think about Bobby and how he related to the others in the home:

1.     Yelling:
a.     He would yell at the other boys, call them names or swear at them or me.
2.      Physical Assaults: 
a.     He was physical with the other boys in the home and even with me at times.  He would have good days or even weeks, but then he would blow up and would hit or would “accidentally” hit his foster brothers.  It would often occur during game play or when he wasn’t getting his way.
3.     Controlling:
a.     He was the oldest in the home so he would try to control the other boys. He wanted to determine what they could watch on TV or games they play.  
b.     Now he could use this power for good to, if he wanted, to make me happy with him. He could get everyone to work hard. They would clean the house or the yard and pile firewood, so he could be as good as he could be bad. That is the thing about RAD children they are smart and most of the time they will work hard at whatever they set their mind to.
4.     Sibling Manipulation:
a.     One of the boys in the home was his real brother and his brother would take most of the abuse from him. He was much younger and did not want his brother to leave the foster home.  Most of the time he did not even want to tell me about some of the hurtful things Bobby would do to him and he would try to deal with his older brother by himself-which meant he would get hurt. 
5.     Poor Role Model
a.     Bobby’s bedroom was always the dirtiest room in the home.  Bobby would give me a hard time when I would talk to him about his room or his sloppy work. I could get him to do a better job by using “carrots” or punishment, but this would take a lot of my time away from the other kids.
6.     Instigate Chaos:
a.     He would try to push the buttons of the other foster children in the home to get them to fight with him or to get them in trouble, so he could get his way.  I always had to be watching him for this reason.
7.     Breaking the house rules:
a.      Now he did not do this all the time, but in our house, rules have “carrots” or perks tied to them, so he always wanted to get those extras.  If he would break the rule and was going to lose money or privileges, he would throw a tantrum.
8.     Stealing:
a.     He could go weeks without stealing, but then he could start up any time, so I always had to be watching for this to try to stop it as soon as possible. I talk about why this is important in other blogs posts on stealing.
9.     Lying:
a.     He was a good liar and would use this to get his way. Thank God I have cameras. This is something I had to watch closely so I could try to stop it. I talk about lying in other blog posts.
Now we have cover what it was like to have him in the home… what was it like when he left?
1.     Fighting Lessened:
a.     First thing I noticed was the fighting between the other boys was a lot less and the two boys left in the home could work things out without me stepping in.
2.     Mornings routines went smoothly:
a.     Getting the boys off to school was a lot easier and they were able to get things done that were hard for them to do before.  Getting their chores done before school went much more smoothly without numerous reminders and fighting.
3.     Socialization Increased
a.     The other boys could have friends over without having to make sure Bobby was not fighting with them or trying to take his younger brother’s friends away. This allowed the other boys to work on their friendships. 
4.     Failure as an Example:
a.     The other boys learned why Bobby had to go, and this helped them to understand what they had to change in their life, to make it better. Now I took a lot of time explaining to the kids how Bobby gave me no choice but to let him go and how they could make changes in their lives so they wouldn’t have to leave or so they could get back to their own homes.
5.     Smaller Problems Noticed:
a.     I had more time to work with the other boys on their schooling and their social problems.   Bobby could be so bad that I was letting lots of the little thing go and the other kids were getting away with small things.  Always remember the little things grow to be big things, so try to deal with them when they are still small.
6.     More Family Time:
a.     I was back in control and we as a family were able to do more things like roller-skating and movies, walks in the woods and shopping trips without problems.
7.      I was the Role Model:
a.     The children in the home learned better cleaning habits and followed the house rules better.  They wanted me to be happier with them and share my smile with them more often.
8.     Stress for everyone decreased:
a.     The stress of the family was gone. His younger brother was doing better in school.  The stress on me was a lot more than I thought it was, so I am happier to and have more patience with the other children.  
Well I will say this seems to be the best thing to happen to us here. We are all doing so much better and so is Bobby.    He is finally getting help that I could not give him and better special educational opportunities.
Ultimately his future is his to make.  
We all continue to pray for Bobby and hope that God heals him and never lets him forgets the love that wrapped its arms around him here at our home. 

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