Monday, May 28, 2007

My Experience as a Foster Parent - 2

The first foster child we took into our home in the summer of 2005. My wife and I were excited, apprehensive and very naive. Our 7 year old daughter, Nicole (not here real name) was excited to have a sister.
Carsey (not her real name) was 11 years old. She was the oldest of four children and had been place in charge of them by her mother. Her mother had a substance abuse problem, but we were never given any details about the nature of her problem. Her father was not part of her life.
Carsey had been diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and RAD. She was also mildly mentally retarded.
Carsey told me that when she was 5 years old, her mother had put her and one of her younger sisters into the bathtub and told Carsey that she was going down the hall for a few minutes and to give her sister a bath. She also told her not to answer the door. Sometime later, Carsey heard someone at the door, and despite her mother's warning, answered it. It was a policeman.
Presumably, the policeman called CPS and Carsey and her brothers and sisters were removed. When Carsey came to our home, she had been in St Joe's residential facility for over two years. I don't know where she had been before that, though she did mention that she had been in other foster homes, had lived with some relatives and had spent some time in another facility besides St Joe's. She had not seen her mother or brothers and sisters in several years.
Our first visit with her was a supervised visit at St Joe's. Carsey started calling us mom and dad right away and started referring to Nicole as her sister. On our second visit, we took her to our home for a few hours and went out to eat at McDonald's (Carsey's choice). She ordered chicken strips with ranch dressing, ate them all and asked if she could have another order. I complied. I remember thinking at the time that they must not feed these poor orphans very well.
When we finally moved her into our home, Carsey did not want to sleep alone and said she was afraid of the dark. We tried to make her as comfortable as possible and when Nicole volunteered to let her sleep in her room, we decided to let her sleep there. We were a little nervous about it, but since we were in the next room, we didn't think there was any danger.
Carsey was constantly seeking attention and was very clingy with me. She had occasional out vocal outbursts and one time when I sternly told her that her behavior was not acceptable, she curled up on the floor in a fetal position with her hands over her face.
She was taking several medications for ADHD and, at first never gave us any difficulty when it was time for her to take her medicine.
After the first week or so, her behavior began to change. She became defiant at times and less clingy. She started teasing Nicole. One time she got upset with my wife and went and hid under the bed for an hour. She claimed she didn't know left from right.
We moved her into her own room, across the hall from Nicole, and she did not like that.
She became more defiant over time, started refusing to take her medicine and would curse when she got upset. She would play board games with my wife and try to make up the rules if she started loosing.
Two activities that she liked to do were swimming and basketball. We have a pool in our back yard and she would swim as often as she could. When I got home from work, she and I would play basketball in the driveway. One day, while we were playing basketball, she accidentally broke a window on the garage door. She got very scared and was convinced that my wife was going to be very angry and beat her. I tried to explain to her that she was not in trouble and that I saw what had happened. She tried to stop me from telling my wife about it, physically blocking me from entering the house. When I did get to tell my wife, and she agreed that it was an accident and that no one was in trouble, Carsey became uncontrollably hyperactive. She ran around the house laughing. Something changed at that moment because from then on, she was almost unmanageable. She refused to follow any directions or requests. It was time for her afternoon medicine and I eventually had to go and grab her and carry her back into the kitchen and make her take it. After that she went into her room and shouted obscenities for about a half an hour.
School started a few days later and my wife and I were hoping that school would turn her behavior around. It didn't. Carsey fell into a pattern of being defiant with my wife clingy with me and mean to our daughter. Nicole spent most of her time avoiding Carsey, usually hiding in her room.
We took her for respite for the first time that weekend. Respite is when the foster child is placed in another foster home for at last part of one day. It is designed to give foster parents and foster children a break from each other. When we took her to respite, she asked if she was going back to St Joe's. She asked it in such a way that she sounded as if she was expecting it or even wanting it.
By the end of the next week, she was acting out in class as well as acting out at home. We could no longer manage her behavior and had to make the decision to remove her. She was in our home for only 9 weeks.

A few days before she left, I was helping Carsey do her schoolwork. She was in a special education class and the work level was far below what a typical 11 year old should be able to do. The worksheet she had was a set of two digit addition problems, the point of the lessen was about carrying digits over to the next column. There were 24 problems 4 rows by 6 columns. She struggled with the first problem and got very frustrated. I helped her and coached her through the next 2. She seemed to be getting it and Nicole was asking for help so I told Carsey to work on that row while I helped Nicole. When I returned my attention to Carsey, not more than a minute later, I was hoping that if I was lucky, she would have finished that row. She showed me her paper. She had finished the entire sheet and gotten every answer correct. This made me realize just how much her behavior was damaging her own development.

Carsey was afraid of the police. Whenever we saw a police car on the street, she would hide in the backseat and tell us we had to run away before the policeman got us.

She showed many signs of RAD, ADHD and ODD. I have no way on knowing how much of this was learned behavior and how much was caused by brain damage do to her mother's in vitro drug use.

Looking back, we now realize just how much Carsey manipulated us. We allowed her to turn out home into a place where none of us wanted to be. She had no intention of staying in our home. I remember her telling me more than once that she wanted to go back to her real mother. I think that she somehow got it into her mind that if she got rejected from enough foster homes, they would eventually send her back to her birth mother. As painful as the experience became, we did learned a lot and were much more prepared for the next child we fostered.

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