Friday, March 28, 2014

Guest Blog over at The Last Mom

I was so lucky to have shared a guest post over at Last Mom!  Not only do I love her blog, she is a fantastic parent to Princess, but I've gotten to know here in real life too :)  Below is a copy of my post that I shared with her readers, be sure to check out her page too!!!

I'm so excited to be sharing with all of you in The Last Mom community today!  For those of you who don't already know me, my name is Bessy and I blog over at  I want to talk with you today about having a child who seeks out attention, comfort, and sympathy from everyone and anyone.....other than you!

My journey into the world of foster care and adoption began about four years ago when I took in my first placement, a sibling group of three boys ages 5, 21 months, and 7 weeks old......oh and did I mention I'm a single parent?!  It was a whirlwind and roller coaster right from the beginning.  This "we just need a place for them to stay for a weekend" placement never left and we became an official family two years later.  The boys are now 9, 5, and 4 years old and we still foster 1-2 kiddos at a time. 

Things have been far from perfect in our journey, shortly after the boys came my oldest was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder and in the years that followed we received additional diagnosis of ADHD, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder and more.  My middle son has also been diagnosed with ADHD and a Mood Disorder as well as "attachment issues".  I knew we were in for it when this cute little boy jumped into my car that first day, within minutes of meeting me, and said "Can I call you Mommy?  I LOVE you SO much!!!".  I thought it was slightly odd and had knew about attachment stuff, but had no idea the trauma a statement like that really signaled.  Oh how na├»ve I was then!

The first few weeks were great, my oldest would tell me he loved me and hang on me and play with me, showering me with affection and adoration.  However, as the weeks went on that affection towards me dissipated and was replaced by distance, anger, and pushing me away. I began noticing that he would easily walk up to strangers or acquaintances and climb in their laps, hold their hands, ask them for help tying his shoe or reaching something high.  Oh and the ladies loved it, they would take in his big gorgeous smile and shower him with special attention, hugs, kisses, and treats. They would tell me what an adorable, affectionate,loveable sweetheart he was and I was left feeling like something was very wrong.  As I learned more about early childhood trauma, reactive attachment disorder, and my own child's personal history, the pieces all began to come together.  My son was able to accept "love" from these other people, his relationships with these people weren't a threat to him, they were superficial, he was getting what he needed (attention, affection, things) without having to worry about attaching, trusting, being vulnerable with someone only to have that person abandon him, abuse him or neglect him.  It further reinforced this idea he had learned that adults were stupid, worthless, and dangerous, that he didn't need to rely on me for anything. He could take care of himself by manipulating adults into getting him things he needed by being superficially charming. Something had to be done to enforce my role as parent, a trustworthy caretaker who could meet his needs without abuse, neglect, or abandonment allowing him to just be a kid without worry.

Here are some of the things we have done over the years to help encourage my son to seek me out to meet his needs instead of others:
  1. Keep your child's world small:  One of the most important things you can do, when trying to discourage your children from seeking out others instead of you, is to keep the child's world very small.  Try to avoid environments where your child will have the opportunity to seek out others.  For us this meant using online schooling for a year so we were able to focus on bonding, trusting, direct instruction of social skills, and fun!  If you have to go out keep your child close, this may mean they hold your hand or stay by your side but you want to minimize any interactions that would encourage further separation from you as the caregiver.
  2. Inform those around you:  Often times people have the best intentions when interacting with your child.  Most of the world has no idea about attachment issues and no idea what to do to support you in parenting a child with attachment issues.  They may question your parenting when you wont let your child out of your site or go to a friends house for dinner.  I have found that the majority of people are willing to listen.  Most of the time I don't get into a lot of details, but I have shared that my child is working on bonding with me and learning to trust me to provide his needs.  For those closer to you or who may see the child often, you may want to provide a list of ways they can support your child or explain a little of your child's history if appropriate.  Another idea you may want to use is developing a small business card relevant to your child's struggles that you can pass out to strangers or acquaintances you come in contact with when out
  3. Look for missed areas of development:  Our children often missed some pretty important areas of development, go back and look at some development charts and get an idea of what skills your child doesn't seem to have.  You may need to provide Direct Instruction (see #4) in order for them to learn those skills.  Children often learn through play in their early years, unfortunately many of our children never got the chance to play with Mom or Dad and create that bond while also developing.  Many kids love to go back and play some of those games, or read some of those stories that are typically geared for younger children.  Having some special "play" time set aside each day or week to play with Mom or Dad can be a great way to encourage trust and bonding with you that they never received. Over on my blog I am doing a series on "Teaching" Our Kids how to Play, going back and working on those missed play stages, come on over and check it out :)
  4. Use Direct Instruction to teach them how to get their needs met:  Many times teachers and other adults have told me that my son would "pick up" appropriate social skills by watching others or by modeling it for them.. I have found this to NOT be the case for my kids, maybe because they have holes in their development from before they came (see above), but I have found they need direct instruction.  For example,  if my son wanted a snack he would just go take one.....or twenty, lol!  Instead of just saying "No" hoping he just learned this was not okay and understand why we would teach it as a skill.  We would develop steps for getting a snack 1. I feel hungry 2. Go ask Mom for a snack 3. Listen to the choices of snack 4. Pick one 5. Sit at table and eat.   We would then put the steps on a sign with pictures of the child doing each step or illustrations of the step and hang it where it will be needed.  Whenever the issue arose we would head over and check what the steps said to do.  Pick one or two things to work on at time; maybe how to ask Mommy for a snack or what to do if you are hurt.  Think of an area your child doesn't come to you to get their needs met and break it down into simple steps for them to follow.  I found it easier to reinforce when it was coming from the sign, then it wasn't ME telling them what to do and reduced some control issues.
  5. Have your child ask for everything:  As kids get older and gain independence it is really easy to let them "take over" certain tasks.  What we want is for the child to learn they can trust you to provide everything they need and accept it from you.  One way you can encourage this is to require your child to ask you for everything, sure my 5 year old could get his own snack or pour his own water, he had been caring for himself and his brother long before I came along.  However, requiring him to ask me first began to create a need based relationship and allow him to accept me to be the provider.  If he did something without asking, I would simply respond, "Oh it looks like you were hungry, you got the yogurt all by yourself.  Next time, you need to ask me for a snack first and then we can get it together.  You might even be able to get a cookie for a snack if you ask.  Would you like that?" There is no punishment, just reinforcing that Mommy is the one who provides, which leads me to my next point!
  6. Say yes whenever possible:  You want to be associated with good things, find ways to say yes to things instead of no.  There is a great article talking about this over at BeTA (Beyond Trauma and Attachment)

It can be really difficult to feel like the rest of the world is getting to interact with your sweet loving child and you are getting the cold shoulder.  You just have to realize that this is a marathon and not a sprint, slow and steady my friends!  Its been four years with my boys and I can honestly say each year has gotten better and better.  Sure we have our ups and downs and regressions and progress, but I'm pretty confident at this point my son prefers me, he may not be fully "attached" in all senses of the word, but if given the choice he would pick me.  Four years ago, that wouldn't have been the case, he would have happily climbed in any persons car and driven off into the sunset asking "Can I call you Mommy?".

Thanks to The Last Mom for having me over today and you all for letting me share a small part of our story!  I'd love to have you join me over at my blog or on my facebook page


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Alex has first visit tomorrow

Today around lunch time I received a call from Alex's DHS case worker. He wanted to set up a visit with mom in prison for TOMORROW!  Nothing like waiting till the last minute.  He also told me he should have done it weeks ago and he's not making excuses BUT there was snow and he was sick, blah blah.  So now I have to pick him up early from school and drive him downtown, which will take about 45 minutes.   The best thing about all of this is that NOBODY has told Alex that mom is in prison.  He thinks she is at College learning how to be a great mom.  Anyway I probably should have kept the information about the visit to myself, but I told Alex he was going to have a visit with mom tomorrow.  We went around the house taking pictures of things he may want to show her and talk to her about, like his room, some toys, and the dog.  Now it is 10:00pm and he is complaining about his ear hurting and will not go to sleep.  His ear hurt last night when he didn't want to do homework too, only it was magically the other ear, and there has been no mention of either ear hurting all day.  Im getting really tired of all of thee phantom illnesses that only come around when he doesn't want to do something or is needing some attention.  Don't get me wrong I completely understand the "why" behind this behavior, but it doesn't make it any less draining.  I've taken care of his ear and babied him and pointed out that I think his ear probably hurts because he has some big feelings about tomorrows visit.  He told me he wants to be happy about the visit but is just afraid his ear is going to hurt too much for the visit.  He guesses he will just need to go to the hospital.  I'm trying to be patient, but I've been up to his room at least ten times now, the wailing and fake crying at the top of his lungs is pushing me to the edge.  Anyone have an overly dramatic, phantom illness kid at their house?  Any ideas?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Post for Flying Solo: I'd like to pee alone please......

I've got a new post up at Flying Solo, a blog for single foster/adopt parents.  Go check it out :


Getting my BRAVE on!

I'm not one for confrontation, Ill pretty much grit and suffer through anything rather than confront someone.  That is why this is such a HUGE brave for me.  I'm going to be asking for a new Mobile Therapist for James. 

Allow me to vent.........

He is really unprofessional and inconsiderate of our time and its driving me crazy!  He originally scheduled with me to come on Tuesdays.  He has always been late at least twice during the month, anywhere from 15-60 minutes and would never call.  He began consistently showing up an hour late for weeks,  it finally caught up with him when his supervisor stopped by to observe the session and he called an hour after he was supposed to be here claiming he was stuck in traffic and couldn't come.  The next week he switched us to another day claiming the traffic from his appointment before us was causing the continued delay.  While once again he was never on time (one day he was an hour early cause he had to take the bus) and he never calls to say he is running late, sometimes he just doesn't show up.  The funny thing is the BIG thing they said I needed to work on was to create a visual schedule and consistently follow it.  Aside from the fact that we already had that and a visual schedule is the least of James problems, don't you think its hard to have a consistent schedule when the therapist is inconsistent in showing up on time or at all???   SO a few weeks ago he asked if it would be possible to do a couple of Saturday sessions when he has other clients who have signed up for an evaluation during out normal therapy time.  I said that was fine to do a few.  Saturday however is our ONLY day to relax.  Furthermore he never specified what Saturdays he needed to do this.  So for the last month he hasn't shown up on Monday(our normal day) at all, he showed up last week on Saturday after calling Friday night and asking to come at 1.  He then claimed he hadn't shown up cause I was on vacation in Orlando?? BUT he only heard that from someone else, he never called me to schedule anything, AND we were available on Mondays our normal day both weeks.  Furthermore he could have still come on Saturdays as the boys were here!   As he was leaving last Saturday I asked if he was coming on Monday and he said no he needed to do Saturday, I said fine.  I assumed it would be the same time.  Well its Saturday and he was supposed to be here at 1.  At 2:30 he called and asked if he could come at 3:30.  I told him I thought he was coming at 1 and he said he "told" me he would call on Saturday with a time.   EVEN if that was true what were we supposed to do, just sit around all day waiting for him to call and tell me what time he was coming??  Its already 2:30!!!  If he hadn't been coming we would have gone to the movies or the park or something!  When I asked if he was coming on Monday next week he said no he couldn't he needed to do Saturday and then got irritated when I said Saturdays were not going to work for us.  I'm so irritated, sorry for the novel!  Our Behavioral Specialist is coming this week and I'm going to ask about switching Mobile Therapists.  My boys really like having a male at the house but he doesn't do anything productive and I cant handle this scheduling anymore!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sending your child to Respite

I went out of town March 6-10 for the BeTA (Beyond Trauma and Attachment) Annual Retreat, one of the conditions of me taking our latest placement was that they needed to find a respite placement while I am gone.  On such a short notice it is not feasible for me to find any other options. I really hate having him go to respite so soon after placement :(  This is the first time I have ever sent a kid for respite so I'm trying to get everything organized.

I've created a form that can go with your child to respite placements.  It includes all of the relevant information they would need as well as an inventory of items you are sending with them.

Brief Hiatus :)

My apologies for the brief absence, lol!  Things have been busy around here.

The new placement is going well.  Alex really gets along with James and Joel.  Matthew is struggling a bit because Alex does not let him get away with his bullying behavior and need to be in control of everything all the time.  James and Joel just let Matthew have his way....not so much anymore.  It has been really good for me to see what areas Matthew still needs a lot of work in and also good to see how great James has been doing with learning "friend" skills.  I have to say I'm feeling a little odd about this placement.  Maybe because Im used to kids with attachment issues who were calling me Mommy after day one or overly affectionate.  Alex doesn't seek me out and frankly wants little to do with me, he doesn't really need anything other than food and clothes.  Im left feeling like a babysitter most of the time.  To be honest I don't think he even knows my name!  He's fairly well behaved and polite and so far isn't displaying any type of issues.  I guess I should just be thankful things are going well in all of those areas.

I got back last week from the annual BeTA (Beyond Trauma and Attachment) Retreat in Orlando.  Once again it was a great experience, I really had a chance to get to know a few more women and enjoy a break from all the kiddos.  Alex went to respite while I was there and that was touch and go at first.  He started pretending he was sick and didn't mesh real well with the older lady who he was staying with the first few days.  However by the end they had a great time!

We have been having some sleep issues with Alex.  He is up at 4am everyday.  James was sleeping in his room but the waking up early thing was creating all kinds of chaos.  I moved James out of the room, which Alex was really upset about claiming he was too scared.  Alex will continually turn the light on at night, which I finally conceded and let him leave on.  I will then turn it off when I go to bed, but at 4 am he has it back on and will refuse to go back to sleep.  The light was waking everyone else up and I was trying to get him to keep his door closed if he wants his light on.  He would close it and then ten minutes later open it back up, waking me and others up again.  He will drive his cars around the floor causing noise.  Ugh, last night I gave my boys Melatonin because things were getting cranky around here without them sleeping.  They slept through the morning crazy with Alex and things went so much smoother getting ready for school.  Not sure what Im going to do yet about this? Any ideas?

Hopefully Ill get another post with more details about my BeTA trip and respite up soon!
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