Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nobody Wants the "Bad" Kids

On Sunday, LT wrote that she finally had an answer for why she was never adopted:

Nobody wants to adopt a REALLY bad kid. It is hard enough to adopt a kid, let alone one that is REALLY bad. Right? My foster care records are full of “bad” things I did — wet the bed, pissed on the floor, ran away, stole, hoarded food, hid food, stole clothes for my mom (long story), cried, had flashbacks, had nightmares, burned the Hippie’s records, drugs, cutting, eating disorder, etc, etc, etc — how many labels were in those records? Did it say I was beaten to a pulp and raped repeatedly? Did it say my dad stabbed me and was in prison? Did it say I couldn’t read well? Did it say I was “traumatized?”

It's a sad truth that her foster care records were probably a barrier to her adoption.  Many adoptive families don't want to take overly-troubled children into their homes.  This is why so many families go the route of private or overseas adoptions, even though they are substantially more risky and expensive.  They are hoping to spare themselves of the pain of adopting a damaged child.

No there's no denying that there are a certain number of good people who are willing, ready and able to take care of kids with these types of histories.  They come into the system with their eyes open and the knowledge and experience to handle it.

But the problem is that for many parents, they aren't prepared.  They don't know what they are getting into.  It's easy to think that one might be able to handle anything and everything that could be thrown one's way, but it's an entirely different experience to live it.

And some families, whether we want to admit it or not, are duped by the system.  Social workers lie, or they use their doublespeak to conceal or misdirect prospective parents into thinking that a child's problems are less than what they are.  Even when a family is very clear about certain things they feel they will or will not be able to handle, social workers are very good at placing kids without telling them that the very conditions  the foster parents said they would not accept are placed in their home anyway.

A small example in our case was that we were very clear that we weren't willing to accept children infested with lice, or kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Every child placed in our home had lice, and the second foster child placed in our home had severe RAD.  It made me wonder how many parents take in children they aren't really able to parent, but don't realize that until they've already fallen in love with them and make decisions with their heart, thinking that they can handle it.

The reality is, though, that many parents bypass the more troubled kids (at least when social workers are honest) because they understand their limitations.  The smarter prospective adoptive families also know that the promised services and support will be hard to find (if not totally unavailable) even though officials will promise otherwise.

I would never have agreed to knowingly adopt a child with as many issues as LT described.  It's not because that child is less deserving of a home or a family, or because she was inherently bad or defective as a human being.  It's simply because I would have recognized my own limits, and known that I wasn't the right person to parent a kid with all those issues.  If the opportunity had presented itself after I'd had some experience with the system, I also would have known that the counseling and other mental health services a child like LT would have needed and deserved, are not available in our area, even if we could afford to private pay.

If we were in the market to adopt an adult child, which we are not, I similarly wouldn't want to adopt someone with significant mental health problems.  It's not that someone like LT doesn't deserve a family, or that she is inherently unworthy.  It's just that I recognize that I wouldn't be able to give her the unconditional support she needs.

I frequently find myself overwhelmed with my own child's behaviors and needs.  She definitely had issues prior to the adoption, but we never dreamed that they would get worse.  Kids are supposed to get better as they age.  At least that's what everyone told us, and that's what we really wanted to believe.

We thought we were doing the right thing.

Clearly, we were wrong.  Although there are myriad reasons why we probably shouldn't have adopted our daughter, the biggest one was because it placed her in the untenable position of having divided loyalties.  She should never have been put in the position of having to choose between remaining in foster care (and being bounced around from home to home to home) or legally terminating her mother's rights so that she could remain with us.

That's a terrible, terrible, terrible decision to force a 13-year-old to make.

Why couldn't there have been a third option?  Why couldn't there have been an option that would have allowed her to remain in foster care, to receive the appropriate counseling and mental health services, and to remain in a home that wanted her for as long as she wanted to stay?  I think that would have been the best solution for all of us.

And, if, we found ourselves in the position we are now, where our child wishes she could live anywhere else but here, then that would have been a viable option.  Unfortunately, with a finalized adoption behind us, our state and our county do not leave us any option to find her a more suitable family.  Short of legally abandoning our child, and facing the accompanying felony charges, we have no real options.  She's not sick enough to qualify for state-funded residential treatment; she's not violent enough to sustain a trip to juvenile hall or a group home, which she disturbingly claims to want; and we aren't wealthy enough to afford a private RTC or boarding school.

Ideally, our child would simply get better so that we wouldn't be in the position of having to contemplate out of home placement.  Given all that we've done and all that we've tried, I don't think that's going to happen.  It's especially not going to happen when we can't find suitable long-term psychological care.  We will start, very soon, with mental health provider number eight.

Why so many?

Because our county doesn't authorize long-term psychological services for anyone.  They approve a limited number of visits with a provider, and if that doesn't work, the approval process must be repeated again.  Often, by that time the provider has moved on or has too many other cases, and you move to the next person.  Out of all the providers we've worked with, we've only fired one.  Even then, it doesn't really count, as her service contract only allowed us to have a total of eight sessions with her.  We had completed seven.

Guess how many sessions will be authorized with the new provider?


Of course they claim that the number of sessions can be extended, just like they have in the past, but I don't expect that will happen.

Can someone please tell me how a child who has suffered years of abuse will be made measurably better in eight weeks?

This is why LT is right when she says that nobody wants the more difficult kids.  People don't want to live with a child's out-of-control behaviors, especially when the system that's supposed to help the kids completely fails to do so.


  1. At some point you gotta look at the end result and say, hey, there is too much corruption and too many systematic failures to justify their existence, even when they can claim a success story such as in your case where the child was adopted. That's all it takes for them to make themselves look good in the eyes of the sheep, by how you measure success and sell it to the public through the public relations departments. "The state adopted out X number of foster kids this year." Then sweep the rest of it under the rug.

    They are not doing right by these kids, you know that, I know that, they are only making their situations worse by bouncing them through an uncaring and incompetent system then passing them off onto the first people who are gullible enough to believe that with love everyone will live happily ever after.

    LT was failed in every way imaginable, both before and after she was taken into care. Her story is all too common, yet all the people involved from the worker to the foster parents are viewed by society as the Angels of Mercy because they are "protecting the children from abuse or neglect." Not one person ever made the commitment to her and many other kids. Yet they're all heroes in the eyes of the ignorant.

    Nobody is ever held accountable for any of these failures either, except for the child and the parents (real or adoptive) of course.

  2. I think this blog post makes me sad for more reason that one. First I really hope this is more of a vent, so that you can regain your ground, your sense of discipline, your resolve and go back with fresh eyes and a fresh look. If not, then I am sad, because in dealing with adoptions, families, and even the animal shelter - this is exactly the thing I hate seeing. Of course their are going to be problems, and of course their will be no solution to some of them... Things probably own't get better in 8 weeks, 9 weeks, 10 weeks, 1 year even - it all depends on the parties involved and a whole lot of things we can't control...

    All I can really say, is be happy for the small things. The big things will come in time, and while they may be frustrating, it's best to be understanding. Even for an adult, bouncing back can be extremely difficult - and they never really bounce back, it's more a very slow recovery with a lot of work, effort, and hopefully a fair amount of support...


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