Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Do I Deal With: Foster Kids Who Threaten or Talk About Suicide

Is Suicide too tough for foster parents to deal with?  It is a difficult subject to be certain, frightening for many to be sure. If a foster parent hears that a incoming child has attempted or threatened suicide in the past, would they or should they consider not taking the child?

Of course they'd be afraid the child would attempt suicide again "on their watch." Its a natural fear. But, isnt this the type of child you got into foster care to help? OR, is it okay to know your own limits and be okay with that?

Whether you know it or not, many children in foster care, who have suffered abuse or trauma, may be suicidal at one point in their lives. Whether you are ready to deal with it or not, if you are doing foster care, you should be prepared and ready to address self-harm or suicidal behavior in your foster children.

Here are some facts from:  Suicide and the Foster Child  By Helen Ramaglia, July 11, 2013

• Adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly two and a half times more likely to seriously consider suicide than other youth (Pilowsky & Wu, 2006).
• Adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly four times more likely to have attempted suicide than other youth (Pilowsky & Wu, 2006).
• Experiencing childhood abuse or trauma increased the risk of attempted suicide 2- to 5-fold (Dube et al., 2001).
• Among 8-year-olds who were maltreated or at risk for maltreatment, nearly 10% reported wanting to kill themselves (Thompson, 2005).
• Adverse childhood experiences play a major role in suicide attempts. One study found that approximately two thirds of suicide attempts may be attributable to abusive or traumatic childhood experiences (Dube et al., 2001).

Ramaglia goes on to say:  "Foster children can benefit from programs that bring together other like-minded children where they can share their pain, share their stories and heal from the inside out. If such programs existed, and were led by foster alumni, this would aid them even more of ridding themselves of turmoil that can often become debilitating.

There are few, if any programs encouraging the foster child to rid themselves of the pain and darkness that often consumes their lives outside of a therapeutic setting."
(read full article here:  Suicide and the Foster Child)

So... What can a foster parent do? Educate yourself. Ask for training from your therapeutic staff and avail yourself from materials offered through foster parent training.  

Know the warning signs.
According to The Role of Foster Parents in Suicide Prevention the warning signs include: 

 ■■ Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
■■ Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
■■ Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
■■ Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
■■ Talking about being a burden to others
■■ Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
■■ Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
■■ Sleeping too little or too much
■■ Withdrawing or feeling isolated
■■ Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
■■ Displaying extreme mood swings

Another excellent point made in this same booklet says: 

 Encourage your child to talk with you. Your comfort in speaking with a foster child about suicide (and his or her willingness to talk with you about these issues) may depend on many issues: your experience as a foster parent, howlong the youth has been with you, his or her family’s cultural background, and whether the child is used to talking with adults about difficult topics.

 For example, some families talk things over, while other families are reluctant to discuss personal issues. Some families have a tradition of mutual support, while others encourage their members to
be self-reliant. A family is shaped not only by its own history, but by the cultures the family belongs to. All of this affects the approach you select when initiating a conversation with your foster child about how he or she feels.

■■ Another factor unique to foster children is the possible fear that sharing their suicidal thoughts will result in being removed from your home. This may influence whether a foster child will admit to feeling suicidal.
It is important to let foster children know that they can talk to you about their problems and that you will make every effort to keep them with you. Foster parents can help by not automatically moving a child who expresses suicidal feelings.

Finally, get professional help.  Know that this is a difficult psychological situation and your foster child needs professional intervention. Contact their case worker or counselor and or take them to emergency health services if necessary to keep them safe. 

There are many published materials and resources for foster parents on this subject. Be familiar with them so you know what to do when the situation arises. 
Here are some links:

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Monday, July 22, 2013

How Do I Deal With: Kids Who Cut Themselves

by Diane and John

Cutting behavior is not uncommon among teens and pre-teens in general populations and among foster kids, who have suffered trauma of some kind, it may be even more prevalent.

Cutting behavior refers to the act of cutting into the skin, deeply scratching or any self-harm activity done usually on a child's arms or legs with some kind of sharp implement.  It is not an indicator of a suicide attempt, but is an attempt by the child to deal with emotional pain that they cannot express any other way.

Recognized most often in girls, it does happen in children of both sexes. It often starts as a response to a self-esteem issue (body hatred, response to molestation etc) but once it becomes a habit, it is turned to as a release of any kind of stresser.

If you receive a child in foster care who is a "cutter," hopefully the issue is already being addressed through counseling and therapy. Be sure to talk about it with your team to be sure, as the behavior is ofter well-hidden by the child. 

Dealing with the issue in your foster home should be part of your open conversation. Just as we recommend with sexual issues, it should be part of the family conversation, and if the child is willing to work on the behavior, a plan can be developed. 

Cutting releases endorphins which releases the stress the child feels when under pressure. Although counseling works long term, in your home, you want to provide ways to help your foster child deal with emotional pressure.

If the child is not in school, try running, basketball or any sport the child enjoys. It should be something enjoyable, and not seen as a punishment.  Since the issue is something that the family will talk about openly, when you notice the child is under stress, you can initiate the conversation: "Honey, do you feel okay, do you need to burn off some pressure? Why don't you and your brother go for a bike ride?"   Afterwards, you can talk about how the physical exercise is a way to substitute for the cutting.

If the child is in school, start with a simple behavioral modification technique, a rubber band around her wrist. A quick snap can relieve building emotional pressure and can be just a first step to learning to deal with angst.  Deep breathing should follow.  Then a program where he or she can simply snap her fingers, squeeze her earlobe or take other measures to trigger her decompression.

Coach your pre-teen or teen to know that the issues that trigger these events, perceived failures at school or in sports, feelings of rejection etc, are all part of life, are part of growth and can be accepted and moved through.  Build self-esteem through other therapeutic process and exercises as well.

Check out the WebMD information on Cutting for more information. 

Cutting and Self-Harm: Warning Signs and Treatment

Do you have experience with "Cutters" in your home? Share your stories here please.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Is Neurofeedback the Solution for Your Child? Follow Our Journey: Part 5 The First Report Card Since NeuroFeedback

 The below post is from our friend “Marie.” She is sharing her story with us as she tries a brain-retraining program (neurofeedback) with her daughter who has ADD and severe memory issues.  This will be an ongoing series following their progress and success.  We hope you find it helpful as you search for solutions for your own children.

If you missed the first four parts of the series, read them here: 
Is Neurofeedback the Solution for Your Child? Follow Our Journey: Part 1.

Is Neurofeedback the Solution for Your Child? Follow Our Journey: Part 2 The First 3 Sessions

Part 3:  Seeing Signs of Success and Positive Changes!

Part 5: The First Report Card Since Neuro-Feedback Started

My daughter received her yearend report card. I was curious to look back at the comments from the first semester pre-Neurocore
They said things like “She is very capable when she challenges herself and doesn’t let herself get distracted. “
Then I read and compared her last semester post-Neurocore comments.
 They were as follows: “The last 6 weeks of class have been great for ___ in math. She is on task, and using her problem solving skills to figure out problems she wouldn’t have tried before without a teachers help.” 
Fabulous! I was so thankful to hear the official feedback.

As I have discovered, she does have the ability to remember. She may daydream while she is listening to instruction, but if you can get her to stop the habit of daydreaming AND hold her accountable then wallah! 
This has taken a combination of Neurocore - neurofeedback and regular home spun behavior modification.   
Before, I think I felt a little squeamish about holding her accountable to a task.  Mainly because, in my gut, I felt she wasn’t grasping the information fully. Unfortunately, my attitude enabled her to become undisciplined and lazy.  
 I am so thankful that I know what I am dealing with now. With this information under my belt, I feel confident she has all the capability and NOW it is time to tackle the laziness, etc.
And we still have 12 sessions to complete…

Have you tried Neuro-feedback and have a story to share? Please comment here or on our Facebook page.  We have no personal interest with NeuroCore - we are only bringing you the true and unbiased findings in hopes of giving parents some information from another parent.
Copyright All rights reserved by lluviadefloresdejacaranda

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Use of Art Therapy with Kids with Attachment Disorders

Art therapy is a natural tool to use with children, and when used with children with attachment disorders or RAD (reactive attachment disorder) it can help to unlock the doors of communication between the child and caregivers.

We have talked about art therapy with RAD kids before, (The Safety Fort: An Art Therapy Intervention for RAD and Trust Disorder kids,  Great Conversations: Letter Writing and Art Therapy with the Introverted RAD Child , Art Therapy with Trouble Foster Kids: Addressing Defiance, Detachment and Behavioral Issues, Helping Foster Kids Understand Change and the Foster Process Through Art) and have encouraged use of the arts with all kids, foster, adopted and your biological kids, especially when trauma is present.

We found this article which discusses the use of art therapy with children with attachment disorders which features some case studies that we thought you might find interesting.  Read on, and consider asking for art therapy with your kids if it is a tool you think might help.

The following is an excerpt from: 

The Use of Art Therapy in Treatment of Attachment Disorder

Marilyn Magnuson MSW, RSW

The Use of Art Therapy in Treatment
Children often have difficulty speaking about their concerns, feelings and past trauma, but they can draw and paint these images through art therapy. Art Therapy makes use of symbols and images as an alternative language.  Memories, emotions, desires and concerns are externalized and released from body tissue through the art.  Once a therapeutic environment has been set, art therapists 'get out of the way' while art makers relax and use their intuition to guide their artmaking.  Art materials such as clay, paints, pastels, and markers provide visceral stimulation, brining body memories to the conscious.  These images from the unconscious reveal hidden aspects of Self.  By tapping into right brain activity through spontaneous artmaking we by-pass the judging, censoring and rationale left-brain.  Art therapy is useful for children who experienced trauma prior to speech, as they do not have words to express the trauma, but the symbolic memories remain in the old brain.  For example, this girl drew her hospital experience as an infant. Through the doorway (left vertical line) she saw the nursing station and the emptiness of the experience (sparse lines), and her separation anxiety (where's mom?).  These Limbic memories do not appear during talk therapy.  

 Family involvement in treatment is essential.  This usually begins with family art therapy assessment exercises, as well tools to uncover intergenerational history (Genogram) and community supports (Ecomap), and a behavioural questionnaire.  The Kinetic Family Drawing (KFD - Landgarten, 1987) requires all family members to draw on the same page without speaking.  They then draw together on a separate page while speaking to one another.  The resulting drawings reveal family dynamics that assist in developing therapeutic interventions (Gil, 1994).   

This six-year old boy, Billy, was brought to therapy for aggression, nightmares, learning problems, and lack of social skills.  Family history disclosed that Mom gave birth at age 16 while living with the father and his parents.  Although they moved out of the grandparent's home when Billy was 2 years old, Billy often stayed with Grandma, and learned to phone Grandma when there were domestic problems.  Grandma then would rescue him.  Mom and dad were emotionally, verbally and physically abusive to Billy.  Mom was overwhelmed and Dad was in need of psychiatric care for depression and anxiety. Billy appeared insecurely attached and was afraid of his parents during stressful times.  Neither Mom nor Dad had a history of secure childhood attachment and found it difficult to nurture him physically and emotionally.

The non-verbal family drawing was started by Grandma who took up much of the space on the page with her sun and tree.  She encapsulated herself and Billy in a tree.  Billy drew dad with rabbit ears, possibly a symbol of dad's ineffectiveness.  He drew mom with hair on her legs and a large razor, possibly symbolizing mom's aggressiveness.  He drew a sun in the upper right corner, copying Grandma, and pushing dad over to the middle of the page next to mom.  It appeared that his desire was for his parents to get along.  Dad drew a sword stuck in a rock, possibly symbolizing his emotional state.  Mom drew herself and dad as separated from the two boys.  

The verbal family drawing began with Grandma taking over mom's space, pushing her out of the activity, possibly symbolizing Grandma's rivalry with Mom, and Mom's disempowerment within the family.  Billy again demonstrated his anger with mom by giving her a bat that resembled a knife.  Dad drew his brother as a humorous character  Grandma drew Grandpa as small and stated he was rather uninvolved.  The black oval object is a garbage can that Billy included, possibly symbolizing his view of family nurturance. Mom was left with no room to draw and solved this problem by placing grass under the feet of each figure.  The family drawings demonstrated triangulation and coalitions.  Grandma appeared to be matriarchal and protective, triangulated with Billy.  The couple relationship appeared to be stressed, and Billy appeared to be both angry and afraid.  Within an hour family dynamics were revealed through art images and the processing of these images.

Read the entire article here: http://www.expressyourselfarttherapy.com/id20.htm

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Getting Rich On Foster Care: The Great Myth

by John
I got a message the other day from a fellow foster parent. She just needed to vent as she had just had a disturbing conversation with a good friend of hers.

 “Sarah” (not her real name) has adopted 3 children out of the foster care system, all with complex issues like attachment disorders etc. Her friend is aware of the difficult behavioral and medical issues Sarah deals with on a daily basis with all three of her children.

However, during their friendly conversation, her friend made a comment about how nice it was that Sarah didn’t “have to work” because she gets state aide for her children. 

Sarah was really offended, because, of course, now that she has adopted her children, she gets no special financial aide, even though she is dealing with these pre-existing issues, but even when she was fostering them, her friend assumed she was “making a lot of money” doing foster care.

During my talk with Sarah, she made a point I have heard over and over again from Foster parents.  There is a huge misconception from people about Foster parents. Somehow people think that families actually MAKE money doing foster care!

How did this belief come about? The only thing I could think of is from the horrible news stories of abusive foster parents who starve and neglect foster children and pocket the money they receive to care for them.

The truth is this, and feel free to print this out and share it with your friends and family when this discussion comes up. 

The average foster family gets about $14. A day for an average child who has no outstanding physical or behavioral issues (at least that are known at time of intake.)

Children that have complex issues, like attachment disorders, extreme anger or behavioral problems, kids that will threaten and verbally abuse you, and destroy your home … those kids you’ll get about $20 a day for… but only after jumping through hoops and begging and pleading for it.  (This is based on my experience only, in my home state of Michigan,)

Now, subtract from that number the following:

· Clothing
· Medical costs
· Food
· Costs to repair your home from the damage they do to it
· The value of your time because you need to drive them to appointments, counseling, you go to court dates, meet with social workers and counselors, have home visits, deal with police visits, and phone calls in the middle of the night. Etc.

· Costs of sports equipment and uniforms for school
· School supplies
· Games and toys
· Educational tools
· And everything else you would supply for your own kids.

You also invest all of your time… just like you would your own kids, and for troubled kids, you spend extra time which means you aren’t available for your own wife, husband or kids.

So, why do we do it? For one reason.  We believe in trying to help others. For myself, it’s the joy of seeing children get better or going back to their homes. Seeing them grow up and be happy… it’s part of what I do in my faith.

If you enjoy life and children and you believe they are seeds that God has given us to take care of, then you know that when you help a child you feel closer to God.   You are happier doing that then any thing else, so you can’t do it for the money. You do it because you love it.

Have you had to defend your foster care “career?” What have you said, how have you dealt with misconceptions? Please share your stories. 

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