Thursday, February 23, 2012

Psychiatrist Appointment

After what has seemed like an endless effort, we finally have a psychiatric appointment for Danielle coming up soon.

This is after countless phone calls, firing our pediatrician and hiring a new one, getting a prescription requesting psychiatric care, and writing several letters.

It's done.  We have an appointment.

Finally! (For any ASL students out there, this is the perfect moment for the sign PAH!)

Now I don't believe, for one second, that this will be any sort of miracle for us.  I don't think that a psychiatrist is going to be able to spend two hours visiting with Danielle, and find a cure for what ails her.

I wish it were true, but I know it doesn't work that way.

We are hoping we will find a doctor who will listen to our concerns and take them seriously.  We are hoping that the doctor will take a good hard look at Danielle's medication (currently a very low dosage of Fluoxetine) and investigate whether there is something else that might take the edge off her depression and her hair-trigger temper.

It's clear that the medication she's on now isn't really solving any of her problems. Although the frequency of her explosions has been somewhat reduced in the five months she's been medicated, the severity of them has been much, much worse.

This past week or so we've seen some pretty darn decent behavior for a change.  Unfortunately, things are back on the downhill trend again.  Danielle has been disrespectful and mildly verbally abusive for the past few days, and we got an e-mail this morning from her teacher, describing a whole new bunch of trouble she's gotten herself into at school.

Discouraging, but not entirely surprising.  It often seems that when something really dreadful happens around here, we see a few days of good behavior.  We got the double-whammy of some bad news coming from Danielle's birth family and had to deal with Sir Spudly's passing all within a few days of each other. Now that the shock has worn off, and things are starting to settle into their "new normal," Danielle is edging back into her usual modus operandi.

Of course the news isn't all bad.  We finally had a chance to "meet" (at least by telephone) the new school-provided therapist who will be working with Danielle.  We had a long talk about some of Danielle's issues, and this new person has had experience working with extremely troubled teens in a group home, so she understands the issues that we are facing.

Although I won't say that this new therapist will be immune to Danielle's skillful attempts at manipulation and triangulation, it seems she will at least be resistant to them.

At least one can hope.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

PSA - Avian Veterinary Care

In response to Farewell, Sir Spudly, an anonymous commenter wrote:

Did you have his death investigated because you wanted to make sure you could not blame Danielle for his death?

I replied:

Whenever a bird dies, especially in a multi-bird household, it's always a wise precaution to ask for a necropsy. This ensures that if the bird died of something contagious, the others can be properly protected. In this case, even though we were 90% sure Sir Spudly had died of a heart condition, we still wanted to make sure that there weren't other unknown pathogens that might have contributed to his passing.

We never suspected Danielle had done anything nefarious or contributed to his death in any way.

This post isn't going to focus on my usual topics relating to foster care or adoptive parenting.  This post is really going to be more of a public service announcement regarding avian veterinary care.

The perception seems to be that birds are "cheap" pets, and that they don't need much in terms of veterinary care.  Just this morning, I found an article on that claimed the average veterinary costs for a bird amount to $9 a year.

I cry baloney.  I have never spent as little as $9 a year on a bird.  I regularly spend a lot more.  Hundreds more, in fact.

If you are going to take good care of a bird, you'll bring him to the vet at least once a year, just like you would your dog or cat.  Your bird should have regular medical care, just like any person or critter living in your family,  Your bird needs to be seen by a qualified avian vet, who has specialized experience in caring for birds.  Their biology and physiology is different enough from mammals that their care providers need a different skill set and training.

Just like regular vets, avian vets cost money.  If you are going to have a bird in your home, this expense goes with the territory.  In fact, this is probably more true for birds, because they tend to hide illness when they aren't feeling well.  You might not notice your bird is feeling unwell, but your vet might discover there's a problem.

Birds are not cheap pets by any stretch of the imagination.  Even if you are lucky enough to find an affordable vet, the cost of food, cages and toys can run quite a bit more, especially for a larger bird.  A happy, busy bird (especially a parrot) will destroy his toys, so they have to be replaced, regularly.

If you have started out with an inexpensive bird, such as a cockatiel or parakeet, over the course of his life you could spend many hundreds (or even thousands) more in veterinary care, supplies and food than you originally paid for him.

That is if you want to take exceptional care of him. 

It seems quite a few bird owners (especially those who have the smaller, "cheaper" birds) never bother with veterinary care.  If a bird gets sick, people often decide that it's cheaper to replace him than it is to go to the vet.

Sad, but true.

Every bird that has come into our home received a full medical workup right away.  We even did workups on Beeper and Bitey, even though they were tiny, "cheap" birds that we could have replaced for less than the cost of the medical workup.  We did this to ensure not only their health, but also the health of our existing birds.  We wanted to make sure that we didn't unknowingly bring disease into our previously-healthy flock.

Each time a bird has passed, we've asked for a necropsy.  We've done this, not only to ensure the health of our surviving birds, but also to make sure that we didn't do anything wrong.  Since it is very common for seemingly-healthy birds to die for what appears to be no reason, it's always good to know what went wrong.

Going back to Anonymous' question for a moment, we never suspected Danielle of foul play in any of our birds' deaths.  Beeper died in my hands in the middle of the night, Bitey died when Danielle wasn't even home, and Sir Spudly passed quietly overnight in his sleeping cage, which is kept in our locked bedroom.  There was no way Danielle could have done anything bad immediately before our birds died.  We ordered the necropsies, not because of suspicions of wrongdoing, but simply because we wanted to know what had happened.

Despite the myriad times that Danielle has threatened to kill our birds, she hasn't actually done so.  Now she has tried to hit Chicken, who fortunately got away, but she's never actually caused any physical harm to our feathered buddies.  I wish I could say the same for the emotional health of our birds.  Danielle's rages have been incredibly upsetting to all of them.

Of course the truth is that we don't give Danielle the chance to hurt one of our feathered friends.  She's never left alone in the house, or left unsupervised with the birds, so the chances of her hurting a member of our flock are reduced.  Granted, it doesn't completely eliminate the possibility of her hurting a bird, but it does make it a lot harder.

The truth is, Danielle has difficult relationships with our birds, just like she has difficult relationships with all of the people in her life.  It seems she has a love/hate relationship with everyone, even her friends.  Since the birds aren't large enough to completely protect themselves against potential threats, we simply make sure that Danielle's interactions with them are always supervised.  This means that the birds are safer, Danielle is safer, and we have a lot less to worry about.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Farewell, Sir Spudly

Regular readers might have noticed that my blog has been silent for more than a week.

I haven't written, because I haven't known what to say.  We are grieving.  Last Monday, the day before Valentine's Day, we found our dear African Grey parrot, Sir Spudly, dead on the floor of his sleeping cage.  He was 34 years old.

My heart is still broken.  He was my friend, my confidant, and sometimes even my defender.

His intelligence, his sensitivity, and his wisdom never failed to amaze me.

I can remember several times when Danielle had treated me badly, and he'd wait until the end of the day to peck out his petty avian revenge against her.  He would puff up his feathers, and call to Danielle sweetly.  "Come here," he'd say in his most charming voice.  When she reached into the cage to pick him up, he would pay her back by giving her her a nasty pinch on the finger and yelling, "Bad girl!"

It always amazed me when he did this.  The fact that a bird could piece together the understanding that my child was mistreating me, and respond by devising a carefully executed plan of revenge many hours later, was absolutely stunning.

I think the truth is that Dr. Pepperberg has only scratched the surface in terms of the cognitive abilities of these animals.

When Spudly came to live with us nine years ago, he was already 25 years old.  He had been through a series of homes, some good, some bad, some in the middle.  He had been living in a small, grubby cage, and fed a diet that seemed to mostly consist of old, stale sunflower seeds.  When we brought him home, his former owner gave us a five-gallon bucket filled with seeds that were so old, most wouldn't even sprout.  Even though his living conditions weren't ideal, he grieved for his former home, and he gave both FosterEema and I some unpleasant bites.

With time, he grew to love us.  He was my bird.  Although he did accept handling from Danielle and FosterEema, it was me that he wanted.  I was the only person who could rub his ears just the way he liked, and he would sometimes sit on my lap for hours while I rubbed them.

When he wanted me, he would call me by name.  He rarely used my real name, preferring to call me by the name of his previous preferred person.  I didn't mind.  I was proud and I felt honored that he had chosen a name for me.  He didn't call anyone else in our home by name.  If he wanted them, he would look at them and say, "come here."

His passing wasn't a complete surprise.  Some time ago, at his last veterinary visit, the doctor noticed that he had developed a heart murmur.  The vet said there was nothing that could be done for him, and he'd just keep going until he stopped.

And stop he did, in a sudden way.  He had seemed fine the night before, playing on the loveseat with Danielle and eating walnuts.

Our birds sleep just a few feet away from our bed.  When Spudly passed, it was quick and silent.  Birds do not always go quietly when they die.  Our cockatiel Beeper, who died several years ago from a kidney tumor, went squawking and screaming in fright, not wanting to leave this world.  This was not the case for Spudly.  One minute he was alive, sleeping peacefully in his cage.  The next, he was flying to the rainbow bridge after what we thought was a sudden cardiac event.

Just to be sure, we asked the vet to perform a necropsy.  She confirmed what we already suspected.  His failing heart had finally stopped.  There was nothing we could have done, she told us, to save him or to prevent what happened. He died so suddenly that he didn't know what hit him.  He didn't have the opportunity for fright or struggle. 

Knowing that there was nothing to be done, and that he didn't suffer was a small consolation.

Now the house seems eerily silent.  I had grown used to Spudly saying "bye-bye!" when we left, and greeting us with "hello" or a cheerful whistle when we returned.  Although we have other birds, neither Chicken nor Moonie have the amazing verbal abilities that Sir Spudly had.  His absence is palpable, like the silence that occurs in a house after the power has gone out.

There aren't words to describe the feelings of loss that I am experiencing right now.  Sir Spudly was absolutely unique.  His age, his genetics, and his life experiences made him a one-of-a-kind friend. He wasn't just another bird, he was a unique personality, with intelligence, self-awareness, and sense of humor.

Although I was profoundly sad when my one and only dog died, this loss feels much, much worse.  Spudly wasn't just a pet, he was a friend. He was a sentient being, with a mind, thoughts and feelings that were entirely his own.

Our surviving birds, Chicken and Moonie, have been upset by Spudly's passing.  Chicken was allowed to briefly see his remains, because I thought it was the best way to explain to her what had happened.  Although Chicken seems to have an amazing comprehension of English, I wanted to make sure she knew he had died, and hadn't just disappeared under mysterious circumstances.  She witnessed Beeper's passing as well, and although the circumstances were distressing, I think knowing what had happened made the transition easier for her.  Birds do grieve the loss of flock mates, and it will be a while before they adjust to the new normal of the house.

Danielle's reaction to Spudly's passing has surprised me.  She cried when she learned he was gone.  I was stunned, because she didn't shed a single tear for Beeper, even though she was by far our friendliest bird.  She barely cried for Bitey, even though Bitey was her bird.  She wept copiously for Sir Spudly, even though she constantly complained about him, and they had a relationship that wasn't always amicable.  The truth was, he probably nipped at her more than he cuddled with her.

It seems odd that she would cry so much for a bird she claimed to hate, while she barely shed a tear for the ones she purported to love.

The morning Sir Spudly died, it rained.  I thought that it was fitting that the heavens wept along with our family.  Later, when the sun began to peek through the clouds, I knew that somewhere, the inevitable rainbow had formed. I imagined my old friend flying higher, and higher towards that rainbow in the sky.  I silently hoped that the story of the Rainbow Bridge is true, and that one day, we'll meet again.

Fly free, Sir Spudly, we miss you terribly.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Herding Cats

Something that's been bandied around at my house for years is the following phrase:

Doing x is like herding cats.  It's rarely successful and it annoys the cats.

This saying came to mind earlier this week when Danielle unsuccessfully tried to pet the neighbor's cat.

Our next door neighbor has this absolutely wonderful kitty that lives in our yard.  I feel sorry for her, because she's the sweetest thing, and often tries to sneak into our house when the door is open.  I'd let her in, but FosterEema is deathly allergic.  We never leave food out, knowing where she belongs, but when we are coming or going, I'll often call her over, and give her a scratch.  She responds by bonking her head into my hand, and purring furiously.

The cat has a name, but I almost never call her by her given name.  Instead, I call her Miss Kitty.  She comes just as well to my name as she does to her real one.

For whatever reason, Miss Kitty seems to prefer our yard to her own.  I frequently find her sunning herself on the lawn.  Sometimes, she's in the back yard, other times, she's in the front.  Almost every morning, I hear little kitty feet scampering across our roof.  She walks along the top of the fence between the houses, and leaps onto my garage roof.  She leaves her little kitty paw prints on my cars when they need washing, and pretends to hunt gophers in my yard.

Once, she got trapped in my garage overnight, because she was a little too curious and opted to do some investigating.  I unknowingly locked her in there, after I'd finished my outdoor chores and pulled the garage door shut.

We found her a day later, when the concerned owner's daughter came looking for her.  I hadn't seen the cat in at least a day, but then remembered I'd heard some yowling in the middle of the night.  I opened my garage, and Miss Kitty flew out like her tail was on fire.

Since then, she's opted to stay out of my garage.  It is probably a good thing, as I have an old car stored in there, and it would suck if she jumped in through the window and peed inside.  (Cats have a tendency to pee in cars, I've noticed.  A neighbor's tom cat jumped in the window of my mother's car once and sprayed the dashboard.  In the days before FosterEema, I had an angry cat pee in his carrier, which then leaked out onto the upholstery of then-truck.)

I don't mind Miss Kitty hanging out in my yard.  She isn't a nuisance, though the neighbors reported that the previous owners of my house used to complain bitterly about her.

I don't care.  She's a nice cat, and minds her kitty business.  I only wish she would actually catch the gophers she pretends to hunt.

Earlier this week, Miss Kitty was outside sunning herself on my front lawn, in one of her usual spots.  We were on our way out the door somewhere, and Danielle tried to call Miss Kitty over for some lovin'.

Miss Kitty wasn't having it.

Now in Miss Kitty's defense, Danielle had been having an extremely bad week.  We'd seen lots of yelling, temper tantrums, and emotional instability.  Even though Danielle wasn't having a tantrum at that precise moment, I'm sure Miss Kitty sensed Danielle's unstable internal emotional state and refused to come over.

Our birds do the same thing.  When Danielle is unstable, they won't go near her.  If she forces them, she gets pinched for her trouble, or they will attempt to escape at the earliest possible moment.

Animals know.

So no amount of coaxing that day would convince Miss Kitty to agree to visit Danielle.  Instead of accepting the animal's refusal, she became angry.  Her eyes blazed.  I could tell she was furious.

"Fine, be that way!" she shrieked at the cat, as I asked her to get into the car.

As we drove to our destination, I told Danielle that I understood her disappointment, but that her lack of respect wasn't appropriate.  "Just because you want something, doesn't mean the people and the animals around you are obliged to give it to you." I explained.  "Speaking to Miss Kitty that way was hugely disrespectful."

Danielle sulked.  She seemed to think that Miss Kitty didn't deserve respect because she was only a cat.

I didn't say much more after that.  I just aimed the car towards our destination and shook my head. I was shocked at how angry she became simply because a cat didn't want a petting.

Friday, February 10, 2012

No Contact, for Now

After meeting with Danielle's therapist and discussing our concerns about additional birth family contact, we've decided that we are not going to allow it, at least for now.

It possible that Danielle may resent us if she later learns that we denied her access to her birth family.  It is also true that if we allow it now, she will act out, and possibly even explode.

So we are faced with a difficult choice. We must decide whether we want to deal with ugliness and resentment now, or whether we want to deal with ugliness and resentment later.

After carefully weighing our options with the therapist, we have decided to choose ugliness and resentment later.

Granted, we are already seeing immense levels of verbal abuse, arguing, refusals and threats of physical violence these days.  The verbal abuse and arguing is constant.  Even when we walk out of the room, or simply ignore her, Danielle will carry on endlessly.  She will shout insults through the house, even after we've walked away and focused on something else.  She refuses to participate in family activities, whether they be meals, chores, or whatever, on an almost-daily basis.  She threatens violence several times a week.

Even our therapist could barely hide her frustration when Danielle insisted on arguing over trivia during our most recent session.

So the truth is, even though things are already terrible, we have no incentive to want to make things worse than they already are.

A reader pointed out in a private note to me that if members of my family were substance abusers or involved with criminal activity, I would be expected to block those people from my child's life.  If I didn't, authorities would look at me askance and accuse me of failing to protect my child.  Yet, somehow in the adoption world, visits from similarly-affected biological family members should be automatically permitted. 

If I wouldn't let one of my family members, a friend, or a stranger be with my kid if I knew they were substance abusers or involved in criminal activity, then why on G-d's green earth should I allow contact from this group of biological family members?

Sure, we can debate for days and days about a child's need for contact with her family of origin, but at the end of the day, we have to consider the immediate effect of those letters, visits, and phone calls.

In the short-term, I don't see anything good coming from it.

So for now, no contact.

Even if Danielle's missing family members didn't have the problems of substance abuse and criminal activity, I'm not sure that she's really in an emotional space to deal with something this large right now.  At the moment, her temper flares at the slightest provocation.  Over the past ten days, much of what has upset her has seemed pretty minor, trivial, and senseless.

Here are just a few examples:
  • She had a temper tantrum over the timing of her doctor's appointment, even though we didn't have much in the way of control over the schedule.  
  • She became furious that I didn't agree with her fashion sense.  
  • On a recent trip to the grocery store, she got angry because she believed some girls on the street were staring at her.  Strangely, the teen girls were standing on the corner waiting for the traffic light to change, while Danielle and FosterEema were driving by in the car. "Why are those bitches staring at me?" she demanded.
If Danielle can't handle people passing by on the street, minor disagreements over trivia, or just the regular inconveniences of life, I don't think she's ready to handle something as important as having contact with people she hasn't heard from in more than a year. If she isn't capable of making it though a single day without some sort of angry outburst, she is not in a position of emotional stability or maturity to handling something like this right now.

One of my commenters suggested that we might want to ask Danielle whether or not she's ready for such a reunion.

At least for now, I think this is a bad idea for two reasons.  First, as I've already said above, I don't think Danielle  has the emotional regulation to deal with this right now.  Second, I am not sure that she is capable of making decisions that serve in her own best interest.  It seems right now that she's focused on doing things that are completely contrary to her own interests, in the hopes of waging some sort of war against us.  She's behaved unsafely in the car, and she's acted out, which she knew in advance would cost her things like her MP3 player or visits with friends.  She's gone out of her way to irritate us and everyone around her, only to be surprised when her victims don't want to give her the things that she wants.

The therapist put it rather succinctly in our most recent session.  "You aren't doing much to argue your cause," she told Danielle.

Sure, Danielle is arguing everything.  She's just not doing it a way that makes anyone willing to concede to her demands.

Given all of this, it seems only prudent that we say no to additional birth family contact, at least for right now.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is Birth Family Contact in Danielle's Best Interest?

After more than a year of zero contact, with the exception of one letter that arrived a couple of weeks ago, some members of Danielle's birth family want to have contact with her again.  According to a half-sibling who has spoken to them, they want to give Danielle a scolding for "messing up."

Apparently, the half-sibling has been sharing some of our conversations with the rest of the birth family.

I'm of two minds on this.  On the one hand, if Danielle hears from yet another source that her behavior is unacceptable, maybe she'll change it up.  On the other hand, it seems that any contact from her birth family tends to make her behavior substantially worse.

Honestly, I'm not sure that yet another lecture about her behavior will do any good.  Plenty of people have talked to her about it.  We've talked to her, our extended family members have talked to her.  Teachers, therapists, school psychologists, social workers, behavioral aids, her half-sibling and her friends have all talked to her.

I think we are beyond the point that talking will fix anything.

I've never contemplated blocking contact from Danielle's birth family until now.  Whenever they have come, we've allowed the poorly-timed letters, and phone calls.  We allow regular visits, even though they are inconvenient and end up happening at our expense, with a family member who lives nearby.  We even allowed a visit, when out-of-state family members showed up in town, with no advance warning, and we had conflicting plans.

Each letter, phone call and visit has caused Danielle to spiral into a new level of ugliness, disrespect, and violence towards us.

But now, I wonder if perhaps it's time to put a stop to it.

I don't feel good about contemplating this.  I don't feel right in denying her contact with her birth family.  Still, when Danielle amps up the dreadful behavior for days, weeks and sometimes even months after contact, I have to ask, is this really good for her?

I know that it's not good for us, because we deal with the fallout.  We deal with the explosions, the disrespect, and the violence for long after the birth family has satisfied their desires.

Is birth family contact in Danielle's best interest?

I don't know. 

It sure seems like it isn't.  Obviously, this is something we'll take up with our therapist as well.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ditching and Failing

This afternoon, FosterEema checked the school's attendance and grading system.

Danielle's attendance record is showing at least one unexplained absence.  She told us that her homeroom teacher had asked her to stay late, so she missed one of her elective classes.  Her homeroom teacher was supposed to clear that same day, but obviously that didn't happen.

The school's attendance system called us to advise us of the absence, and it still remains in the computer, despite Danielle's assurances that the absence was legitimate.

* * *

Danielle's grades, at least in her elective classes, are lousy.  She's showing a C minus in two of her classes and is failing the third.  I know she is capable of doing better, but it seems that she hasn't been turning in all her assignments.

The class she is failing?

Conflict Management

* * *

When Danielle came home from school this afternoon, she told us that she took the first half of our state's high school exit exam.  Every student must pass this test in order to graduate with a diploma.  Special Education students who are unable to pass the exam receive a certificate of completion instead.

Danielle felt confident that she had passed.  When we asked her about the types of questions on the test, however, her answers were so vague that it made me wonder if she really understood the work that was being asked of her.  She mentioned there were sections of the test that she didn't understand, even after the teacher explained them.

As recently as last year, Danielle scored at "far below proficiency" when she took the state-mandated standardized academic tests. Since I don't think the high school exit exam is any easier than the test she took last year, I don't share her optimism.

I hope she passed.  The realist in me fears that she did not.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Unsafe on the Road

This weekend, we went and visited my mother.  Although the visit was mostly pleasant, Danielle started acting up when it was time to go.  She was being insulting and rude, because I'd dared disagree with her over an item of fashion.

My mother, who usually remains silent no matter how dreadful Danielle becomes, called her on her behavior. She was none too nice about it, and in the end demanded, "Is this behavior really necessary?"

Danielle admitted that it was not, but then rolled her eyes and made ugly faces as she headed out the door.

My mother called her on that, too.  Even though she was angry at Danielle, she still gave her a hug as we left.

On the way home, Danielle behaved unsafely in the car, and experienced a natural consequence of that behavior.

Fortunately, nobody got hurt.  It is a darn good thing that we enabled the rear-door child safety locks on our car a few weeks ago.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Next Time, Knife?

Wednesday afternoon and evening, Danielle had what I guess what could be called a "mild" temper tantrum, because she didn't like the scheduling of her doctor's appointment the following day.

I'm not going to bother detailing a blow-by-blow account, because it consisted of the same old routine of arguing, name-calling, and accusing us of various crimes that we've committed only in her mind.

But she did ask me a question that was pretty disturbing.

When I told her I didn't like her behavior, she responded with a veiled threat.

"Oh, so next time would you like me to stab you with a knife, instead?" she demanded.

Last night, FosterEema took Danielle to her weekly meeting with her therapist, and she shared Danielle's remarks.

The therapist remains concerned about the safety in our home.

I am frustrated.

If we have a kid who is threatening harm to self and others on a weekly basis, whose behavior has her parents, teacher, doctor, therapist and school officials all concerned, why is it that the powers-that-be won't hospitalize her?

It doesn't make any sense to me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The New Doctor - Part II

Today, we all went to meet Danielle's new doctor.

This was, of course, after a mild temper tantrum last night where Danielle expressed considerable anger over the scheduling of the appointment.  In her mind, we had deliberately picked a time that was inconvenient for her, and we didn't care how these appointments impacted her schedule.

The truth was, the clinic offered an appointment, and we took it.  We were trying to get the kid in as soon as possible.

So we went to the clinic and waited for nearly an hour to be seen.  When we finally got in, though, the doctor seemed very nice.  Truly, she is a breath of fresh air.

So we sat in the exam room and discussed what has been going on.  The doctor seemed really shocked when we told her that Danielle has been physically abusing us for the past three years.  When we finished, the doctor turned to the kid.

"Is this true?" she asked.

Danielle shrugged sheepishly.  "I guess," she mumbled.

We spoke for a few minutes, and then the doctor met with Danielle privately.  When she was finished, she called us back in to the exam room.

She agreed it was important Danielle be seen by a psychiatrist as soon as possible.

She instructed us to get back in touch with the county mental health people, and wrote the following on  a prescription:

[Danielle] would significantly benefit from obtaining psychiatric care and evaluation as soon as possible.  If I can assist, please notify me. [phone number]

We will be taking a copy of this note to her therapist tonight, and we'll also contact the county mental health office as well.

Here's to hoping this moves us in the right direction.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Empathy for Bad Choices

My heart is going out to Claudia and her family today.  Her son did a terrible and foolish thing, and will no doubt pay some serious consequences for what he did.

She wrote an incredibly poignant post about these events.  This morning, she wrote:
When we look from the outside in at newspaper articles, at news programs on TV, at jail rosters we have feelings that range from disgust to anger at these "losers" who are ruining our society. We can wish for serious legal consequences, not thinking about how they got where they are or how well they might have been doing.

But more than ever before I'm realizing that behind each of those faces on the jail roster website there is more than likely a mother, or other person, who loves them -- or at one point did before it got too difficult to bear. There may be years of neglect and abuse as children where society failed to protect them. They might be people who are homeless and mentally ill who can't get services because we as a society (and dare I say as a church) are failing them.

My wife and I worry that we too may be in the very same situation with our child one day.

Our kid has done some pretty dangerous and impulsive things in the past.  Do I believe that she could do something that would cross the line into serious criminal behavior?

Yes, absolutely.

This isn't a value judgment on whether my kid is "good" or "bad."  It's simply recognition of the fact that she is impulsive and explosive.  That combination often ends with her making bad choices that she later regrets.  So far, the worst she's done is threaten me with scissors and kick a boy in the groin.  Could she escalate from there?

I think so.

Three years ago, she was just threatening to hit.  She has since started hitting, kicking, biting, spitting and throwing things.  She's damaged property and she's bruised and scratched us, even drawing blood.  Now that she's threatened with weapons, do I think she could go further?

If her pattern of escalating violence continues, I think she could, and that really scares me.  I'm frightened of the life-long negative consequences she could give herself.

Claudia is right in saying that our society is failing these people.  It's absolutely true.  When our child welfare system doesn't intervene, or intervenes too late, the damage has already been done.  The system creates generation after generation of children who grow to be adults who can't, or won't make good decisions for themselves.

It's incredibly sad because we as parents can do the best job we know how to do, and it's still not always enough.  We can't stop our kids from making terrible decisions that are made because their brains don't work right.

Society, rightly or wrongly, expects people to behave to a certain standard, and when our kids do not, they find themselves in trouble, and the world looks upon them as bad people with uncaring parents.

We care!

It's just that caring, sometimes, isn't enough.

I'm just so very, very sad for Claudia and her family right now.  They are in my heart and my thoughts.

The New Doctor - Part I

As I mentioned a few days ago, we finally fired Danielle's pediatrician.

This morning, we verified that her case had been reassigned, and we called her new doctor.  We asked for an appointment, explaining that we wanted to discuss whether a medication adjustment or perhaps a referral to a psychiatrist would be warranted, given our daughter's recent violence at home and at school.

I was expecting that we'd have to wait at least a couple of weeks, if not longer, for an appointment.

We were amazed when FosterEema called, because the new clinic was able to get us right in.

Danielle has an appointment tomorrow.