Rebecca – I am sorry if you feel “attacked” in any way. That isn’t my intention and I don’t believe the intention of your comment to be negative and I wish I would have been able to see your response. Learning that you are an attorney does give me an insight as to why you responded as you did. I agree with the comments that it is fantastic that you are trying to learn about the different sides of the triad. In fact, I wish Mom’s attorney could meet the children. I think it would give her some insight into how better serve her client. I’d like to invite you to be a guest post if you are up for it. Please email me if this is something you are interested in or if you’d like to respond privately and not on the blog.
A great point was made about the difference between the legal requirements and actually living them out. Much work needs to be done to bridge that gap. I’m not saying that biological parents shouldn’t be given chances or that parental rights shouldn’t be fiercely protected but it shouldn’t be at the cost of children’s mental health because it perpetuates a cycle of trauma and in the end it doesn’t protect the kids (which is the idea in the first place). Especially, when time is dragged out and then the children are too old or have too many issue to be adopted and get the help they need. (The families that would adopt four, Hispanic children, with a history of sexual abuse, mental health hospitalization, and probable RAD ages 12, 8, 10, 5 is a very small number. And the foster homes that can parent them therapeutically are just as small. It took 5 other families before us.) Right now in this case, Mother’s rights trump the kid’s right to healing and that doesn’t sit right with me. Of course it is subjective and very, very complicated and there are more factors and details than I can blog about.
We actually did an exercise for the team where we identified specific issues that we felt needed to be addressed in order for Mom to parent full time. The “Good Enough” rule was applied to the minimum parenting standards. In our state the definition of those standards are:
Minimum Parenting Standards - Adequately fed, clothed appropriately for weather conditions, provided with adequate shelter, protected from physical, mental and emotional harm and provided with necessary medical care and education as required by law.
Someone who has not lived in our home wouldn’t necessarily understand why the mental and emotional piece is so important. We have 4 fun, bright, excited children on the outside with deep rooted sexual, physical and emotional trauma on the inside. If you have not lived with traumatized children I think it is very hard to understand the importance of keeping structure and equality. We also have a Mom who is traumatized and not emotionally healthy who has a ton more work to do to protect herself from emotional harm.
Truthfully, if I were on the other side of the table from me – an educated, very direct, passionate personality who wants to adopt – I’d doubt what I had to say too. I’d be thinking - this woman just wants these kids to be hers and she has no issue picking on Mom or making a bigger deal out of these “emotional” issues. Until I saw the video of Jelly Bean raging and then I’d listen to what that person was saying because any person who could go with days of that kind of thing would impress me.
I thought I’d share an excerpt of what we as the foster parents presented to the team. I love seeing how other bloggers present things to professionals and perhaps this will be helpful to others who may have to consider the same type of question. If the kids could handle moving I would have left out adequate shelter but they can’t and they have trauma surrounding it and it is something Mom does a lot. (In fact I learned this week that she is moving in with a sibling of hers. I have no idea if he is in the same town as us still or if she is moving 45 minutes away again.)
It was a hard exercise because we did have to step back and say not how we would do it – how this standard applies. I have to give Hubby some credit as he did a large chunk of the editing back from being critical and comparing to how we run our home.
Concern is primarily around adequate shelter and protected from physical, mental and emotional harm.
Mom needs to understand that it will take lots of time and consistency for the children to believe she has truly learned what she has done is wrong. They also don’t feel that she has apologized for her prior acts. It is with this in mind that the following need to be met in order for parenting will be effective:
· Apologize for her actions
· Stop trying to excuse her actions…the kids feel that she really isn’t sorry for what she does.
· Understand that any physical action on her part (even a hand motion) will be triggering to her children
· Be consistent with discipline
· Meet the children at their level – not at where she thinks and/or wants them to be
· Connect and bond with the children in other ways beyond food and gifts
· Respond appropriately to the children’s anger – so as not to make it all about her
From a parent’s perspective, Mom will have to learn to put aside her own fears in order to advocate for her children. She will need to learn to work with others even if she does not feel they are supportive of her. She will need to learn to put her own issues aside so that her children can get the support they need.
1. Provide Adequate Shelter
The children need stability in a home. Mom has lived in several different homes in the past 15 months. Moving every few months will worsen their feelings of instability and concern over if their Mother can provide for them. Her current home is very concerning to the children, especially Little Mama. Little Mama stated that there were other people sharing the home. The children will need to be in a home without roommates in order to feel safe. It will also be important that if a move to a new home is necessary that the children attend the same school. Jelly Bean receives a great deal of emotional support at school and remaining in the same environment is important to her mental health.
2. Equal Parenting
The children do not feel that Mom is equal in her love, affection, or attention to them. She will need to find ways to connect with each of them while also maintaining a balance within the group. This is challenging with the age gap between Mr. Mohawk and Jelly Bean, Jelly Bean’s mental health needs, and Gabby no longer wanting to participate in the goal to reunite the family.
- Little Mama: When Little Mama feels that she is not treated fairly she will either become physically aggressive towards the offending sibling or emotionally “shut down.” Mom needs to learn how to prevent this from happening and diffuse the resentment created.
- Gabby: When Gabby feels she is not being treated fairly she will remove herself from the situation. Mom needs to learn how to show Gabby the attention she needs. Not being able to do this then causes Gabby’s anxiety around not being loved to increase and she begins vomiting.
- Jelly Bean: When Jelly Bean feels that she is not treated fairly it often results in at least a 10 min tantrum which can escalate into a full blown rage. Mom needs to learn how to appropriately handle these fits from Jelly Bean. At this point in time, Jelly Bean is too fearful of her Mother to allow her any physical contact if she perceived Mom to be angry.
- Mr. Mohawk: When Mr. Mohawk feels he is not being treated fairly he will strike, steal, whine, or cry until he gets his way. Mom will need to learn how to say no and stay consistent in her decision despite the crying, whining, and aggression Mr. Mohawk may show.
3. Establish Appropriate and Consistent Parental Boundaries
The role of parent and child needs to be maintained.
- Little Mama: Little Mama was a very parentified child when she came into care. Recently, she has reverted to this behavior as it gives her a sense of control. Mom will need to make sure that she does not pass her responsibility on to Little Mama as the oldest. Little Mama mothering her siblings creates a lot of tension and often ends in aggression between the children.
-Gabby: Gabby is very opinionated and very fair. She will be the first to tell the parental figures about what is going wrong. She will do this for almost every situation which is detrimental to the family dynamic as she will be deemed a “tattler.” Mom will need to prove to Gabby that she has a hold of the situation and that she does not need this “help” from Gabby. She was also need to be careful not to push Gabby away as she is very sensitive.
- Jelly Bean: Jelly Bean’s perception of the current situation is that her Mom won’t change. She still reports being fearful that her Mom will continue to hit her. Mom will need to work to be able to establish a parent child relationship in which Jelly Bean feels she can ask her Mom a simple question without her Mom becoming angered and hitting her.
- Mr. Mohawk: Mr. Mohawk needs to be disciplined consistently each and every time he is in trouble, even for small reasons. Mom will need to establish her place as a figure of authority.
4. Establish Trust
The children do not trust Mom’s word. They feel her actions don’t support what she is telling them. Mom will need to pass this test over and over again in order to earn back the trust of her children. The children also need to trust that Mom will take care of them and make them the priority in her life. Little Mama, Gabby and Jelly Bean have all stated that they don’t feel that they are their Mother’s priority. In order to build this trust she will need to:
· Focus on their needs at visits
o The children report Mom focusing on visit supervisors over them
· Make them feel she cares about their needs and wants
· Understand the trauma they have experienced
· Acknowledge and understand the experience the children have had since coming into foster care
o The children feel that Mom does not want them to like their foster family and they purposefully avoids the topic of what goes on in their daily lives because of this.
o Understand the fear that multiple placements has created
· Address the children’s fear regarding the men she has brought into their lives
o The children believe that Mom will still associate with people that hurt them
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