A bit about the “team” at this point. This point being the first few months with M being back in our home.
M’s social worker from the foster care agency had moved on to another job by the time M came home. We met with the new worker who M knew in passing from agency events. “Kelly” was fresh out of college and wanted to make it very clear that she was the cool adult. She always said “kiddo” and had other little nicknames for M. M took absolutely no notice.
I liked Kelly but she rubbed me the wrong way when she would listen to M’s complaints and take them hyper seriously. M had been in the system for a long time and if there was one thing she loved it was telling exaggerated victim stories about minor incidents. With the right people these stories gave her a sense of power over the adults she wasn’t sure she wanted to attach with. A “normal” kid has had years of trust building with their caregivers and expresses their annoyance in appropriate ways for the most part.
For M every annoyance was catastrophic.
“M’s really upset. Do you know she’s afraid of the dark? She says you won’t let her have nightlights. We think she needs nightlights,” Kelly would say, winking at M. “Right, kiddo?”
“She has seven nightlights.” It was really so petty, such a small thing, but still infuriating to me when we’d been up for weeks listening to M trash her room, blare loud music and obviously not go to sleep leaving her a cranky mess for school the next day.
A few days back we had given her only two nightlights and a 40-watt bulb in the main lamp, changed out the music to a quiet meditation CD and gave her a half hour to listen before we dimmed the lights. Off to sleep she went. But she was annoyed that we were right and saved the story for Kelly who bought right into it. This happened time and again. Stupid little things, but still “wins” for M that actually prevented attachment.
The county worker who also visited weekly was a little older and had a young son of her own. She was not really interested in becoming M’s best friend. She was pleasant and set good boundaries with her (needless to say, she wasn’t M’s favorite). On a side note, it was interesting to me that the county or Medicaid or someone was paying for M to go to a state of the art orthodontic practice – I mean really next level with toys, a mini movie theater in the waiting room, tons of snacks! Meanwhile Nancy had minimal dental coverage for her son through her job. “Nancy” was extremely overworked. My husband didn’t believe it.
“In the corporate world these people would be fired for not getting shit done.”
Everyone involved told us that there were tons of services available for disabled and mentally unwell children through Medicaid. The paperwork took forever. The county was already pressing us to adopt M. At the same time M was still drooling, seeing shadows, talking about suicide etc.
“You need to get her OPWDD after we set her up with B2H which is changing its name to Health Homes and works in conjunction with OMH, but OPWDD is priority.”
“Okay, so what is that?”
“If M is eligible (and everyone thinks she is), she will receive lifetime support. She will need assisted living. Obviously, she has no executive functioning skills.”
By this they meant she would probably turn the stove on and forget to turn it off, give her disability money to strangers, run off with drug dealers etc. This was and is probably true even now if left to her own devices.
“So how do I get her OPWDD?” I ask.
“Oh, since she’s a ward of the county we have to do it.”
A year later we were told by OPWDD reps that the county did a poor job making a case for the services and so she was denied. The county worker then proceeded to tell us that actually the service wasn’t that great anyway and that it was better that she now had a B2H counselor who came once a week to teach M life skills.
This lady, Brittney was actually fantastic. She didn’t buy into M’s manipulation, and she took M into the community to go swimming and meet other kids. The life or coping skills training was slow going. Taking deep breaths or coloring pictures when anxious — these things were no match for the many triggers all around. textures, sounds, smells, a certain look on someone’s face — all of these things brought up trauma responses related to events in M’s past life, some of which she couldn’t fully remember. Trauma that happens before language development is the most difficult to process.
My husband and I rounded out the at home team. We both like STRUCTURE. M needed STRUCTURE but she didn’t always like STRUCTURE. The main way she found to get around it was to charm the school workers.
After M’s infamous first week of school the previous September the school placed M in a small special education class with a teacher who actually believed M had potential as a human. She navigated those months (Feb-June) while M was being weaned off meds with incredible compassion, but also by demanding of M accountability.
About the meds at this point: M’s therapist kicked her to the curb. She spoke with M in her quiet therapist voice. “I know we’ve gotten really close and that you’ll miss me …”
Without missing a beat M broke in, “No I won’t. I never liked you anyway.” (This was true. I was secretly proud of M for saying it. Even a kid high on drugs knows a fake.)
The county knew that we were really getting tired of the medication issue not being addressed. Some strings were pulled, and M finally got an appointment with a highly regarded psychotherapist. The lady had been in the business for decades. She sat with mouth agape as M slithered around the floor, touched everything, made no eye contact.
Finally, M settled down by the toys and the lady turned to me. “I’m stunned that Four Corners put her on these medications. You do know that some of these are never used on children, right? Some are hardly ever used on adults anymore. She could have long term health problems and, well, I just can’t believe this. Her trauma history is so extensive. They have her as psychotic in one place, bipolar in another. ADHD, PTSD, Reactive Attachment! You can’t label a child as bipolar. They’re too young! I mean this is terrible, just terrible!”
In about eight months M was slowly weaned off of EVERY SINGLE MEDICATION.
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