WOW – do I have an update for all of you.
The call with the little girl fell through, she was placed before we were able to get the last part of our licensing squared away last week. I thought we’d be really upset, but I think we both went into it thinking whatever is supposed to happen will happen.
That, and, well…we didn’t have much time to be heart-broken because we received our second call on Monday- and this time it was for siblings. A is a 3 year old boy and K is a 2 year old girl, they were placed with us that same day as an emergency removal. It’s been a whirlwind 3 days, so although we don’t know much, we know that we already love them and are so thankful to have them in our home.
For those of you who have never been through this process, you literally receive a phone call and they ask if you have room for x amount of kids ages y and z and typically have very little information because it’s usually a dispatcher and not necessarily the case worker or someone who has even met the children. In the case of A and K all they could tell us was that it was domestic abuse related and that he was aggressive towards his sister. Not really helpful when they don’t know to what extent or have any information about the state of the children. Another tricky thing can be the kids have “no diagnosis” on their medical chart, meaning they have no health issues that anyone is aware of, but what that has come to mean to us is that their parents haven’t taken them to a Dr. recently enough for them to be diagnosed.
They arrived at our home around 9:30p the night of placement and the case workers came with two folders with paperwork to sign and some random pamphlets that weren’t even age appropriate. They threw some ratty looking blankets and two oversized jackets on the floor and asked us if we had any questions. We had TONS of questions, but mom wasn’t cooperating with the case workers, so it wasn’t their fault – but they couldn’t answer anything we wanted to know.
Little K was terrified, all she would do is cry and cover her face, she didn’t want to be comforted, she glared at you if she would see you through the corner of her eye and she would swat at you if you tried to get too close to her. It lasted for about 45 minutes (at this point A was still asleep in his car seat) until she eventually wore herself out and fell asleep on the floor. We were able to pick her up, and she was sleepy enough that we could actually change her and get her into some new clothes and down in the pack and play we had for emergencies in the other room.
A woke up, still buckled into his seat very confused. He started yelling, and his car seat was so full of gunk that the buckles were stuck together and it took us a good three minutes to actually get him out of it. The carseat had fleas on it and was covered in dirt and who knows what else so we put it outside and washed everything they came with and put it all in bags in their closet. He would not make eye contact with you – and he kept his head down. He had no shoes on and his clothes were multiple sizes too big, it broke my heart to see him fold himself in the corner with his head down, not wanting to talk or be talked to. His little feet were black with dirt from outside and his hair was a hot mess.
I grabbed a box of animal crackers from the cupboard and opened them and poured a kid cup with a straw full of water and set it down next to him. I got down on my knees, kind of far away from where he was in the corner, and told him my name and that he was safe and that when he was hungry or thirsty he could eat and drink and come into the livingroom and watch Tarzan. Within minutes he had his hand shoved into the bottom of the crackers shoving them into his mouth, so I can’t imagine he had eaten dinner that night. Once he got some food in his belly he slowly made the trip into the livingroom and stood in front of the TV. After a few minutes of that he asked where his sister was and we showed him his room, where his sister was asleep and he reached in to wake up her up and started handing her crackers as well. She ate them as fast as her tiny little arms could grab them, so she was clearly running on an empty stomach as well. It also leads us to believe he may have been responsible for feeding her during long periods of time when no one else was around and he’s very protective of her and whatever he gets he makes sure she gets too (including face washes haha).
K woke up from her power nap a whole new girl, I think seeing her brother and getting some food from us made her feel a lot more secure, so she woke up smiling and hopped right out of her pack and play (we opted for a second toddler bed instead of the crib because no way was she going to stay put in a crib anyways) and wanted to run around the house. We showed them around and then let them meet our two pugs. The four of them are something else together – totally in love. It’s amazing to see how calm the dogs are and how loving the kids are with them. Despite the tough times and the drama and meltdowns of the day to day…A and K will walk up and kiss the dogs on their backs or hug them and walk away with their sippy cup in hand. It’s amazing how resilient kids are, and even more amazing how easily you get attached to them in such a short period of time. This is technically only the 3rd full day we’ve had them and we’ve learned so much and seen them make so many steps in the right direction that my heart aches at the thought of them not getting what they need every second of every day for the rest of their lives.
There is a family share/visitation meeting tomorrow at 1:00 that Chelsey can’t attend so I will have to go it alone with the two of them, some case workers and bio-mom. I’m a little concerned about that, and I’m not quite sure what visitation will look like going forward, but it will definitely mess with their routine. I’m all for reunification when it’s appropriate, but these kids have been through hell, so I think it’s a little early for us to sit down and pretend to be best friends. She has not shared any information with the case manager to help us care for them – no favorite foods, no bedtime information, no medical history or food allergies or anything. It’s like a game of russian roulette at dinner-time and we’re constantly preparing ourselves for something crazy to happen. Thankfully, we’ve discovered that K loves anything with cheese and A loves almost everything you give him that is food. The first few days neither would eat a ton during structured meal time but constantly asked for snacks or wanted to look in the fridge. You can tell they weren’t eating a lot or weren’t eating anything necessarily that good for them, because they don’t even know what a lot of foods are and you sometimes have to show them how to eat it.
A is going to be 4 in a few weeks and is severely behind in several areas. He will definitely require speech therapy, and potentially occupational therapy and counseling as well. He has some pretty extensive anger issues, and his trauma presents itself often, typically triggered by even the slightest inkling of “no” slipping from your mouth. Even if it comes in the form of, “Hey! Let’s sit on our bum in the chair because if we fall backwards we could bump our heads and that will hurt, ok!?”…he knows you mean “no” and he isn’t happy about it. He throws himself on the floor, says things like, “LEAVE ME ALONE, IDIOT” and “I DON’T WANT YOU” and has even thrown in the occasional, “Bullshit” or “Fuck” here and there.
Diaper changes have been all over the place – he typically doesn’t want to change his diaper (he is not potty trained but has had several successes in the last few days!) and says, “Owe, you’re hurting me” before you even touch him. Someone has clearly taught him some preventative “protect your body” type phrases, which is amazing, but it also makes you wonder why he is so well versed in it and if there was someone around him they were concerned about in the first place. You just have to kneel next to him and say, “I would never hurt you, I just want to change your diaper so you can be all clean and then we can go get a snack” or something to that effect and he will usually continue with, “No, I don’t want to” or sometimes, “Not right now” where we’ve let him have a minute or two and then we start the process again so he knows it’s not normal to sit in a wet diaper. Once you get it off, it’s a chore to get one back on! He loves to run around naked and has been a fan of jumping on the couch by the window and flashing his little bum to the neighbors if you don’t catch him in time so we got him pull-ups with race cars on them and we tell him he has to find them because the race care drove away. Once he’s on the hunt for his diaper and finds it, he will actually put it on himself and then he will ask for his shorts and be on his way like nothing happened.
K recently turned 2 and is in the 30th percentile for weight, her height is actually about average. The doctor referred us to a child abuse center for an evaluation next week and he has some concerns she’s failure to thrive or shaken baby syndrome. She’s very smart, can point out letter and loves to look through books. She loves to grab cell phones, is very upset that she can’t have her own lip gloss and throws a tantrum if you don’t pick her up and put her in the kitchen while you cook supper. She’s a lover, she has some meltdowns like her brother, but she is significantly less angry and is definitely more “hurt” if she doesn’t get her way than angry. Her little head has a big bruise on it, but I don’t think it’s abuse related because her center of gravity is still very much off and she walks with her feet turned in. The doctor advised when he last saw her (nearly 8 months ago!!!) he had advised the mother they needed to run some tests, she needed OT and PT and the mother never came back or got her into anything. They have their PCP visit on Monday and we got their record faxed over so we’ll really know what we’re looking at over the next few weeks. My mind is blown that someone could do this to little kids.
As far as other behaviors, there have only been one or two minor setbacks with meltdowns that were significant to the point where we had to either separate the kids in two rooms with one of us reading or talking to the other and distracting them or A having to take a “break” and sit on the couch with us for a few minutes until he has calmed down. We want to be very careful about the way we talk to them and the way we discipline them, because for all we know they had very little or no structure before, and judging by the little bruises and bug bites all over both of them, I’m sure they weren’t paid attention to very often, so we want them to know we are paying attention, but only because we care about them and not because we’re mean or mad at them.
We have a kid teepee in the living room with a rug that they can play in and it’s free standing and A and K pushed the legs together until it fell over. It has fabric all the way around so when it falls it’s super easy to fix and only weighs a few pounds so it’s not a big deal – but the both of them flung around to look at Chelsey as if she were about to scream at them. K got instantly on the verge of tears and A looked like he was about to book it, but then she said, “it’s okay – that was an accident…here, let’s put it back up together, ok?” and they both looked completely relieved. Another situation happened when Chelsey was reading a book to K. She was just about to fall asleep so Chelsey went to stand up and closed the book, and the way she shut it the shadow hit K’s face just right and she woke up and flinched and covered her eyes like Chelsey was raising her hand to hit her. She had to pick her back up and rock her and virtually start all over again because she was shaken by it.
Today is the first full day without either of us home (Chelsey went back to work today, I went back half day yesterday) so they are at home with Chelsey’s aunt and her two teenagers to keep them busy. It’s so crazy how your life feels so instantly different. It’s like you’re walking around with a gaping wound that will never heal all day – you’re so worried about them, but they do something amazing like tell you a letter or color or stack blocks and it’s like your heart could explode. They test your patience, they find your buttons and press them constantly…sometimes they don’t want to sleep, sometimes they want to scream and run around naked and pee in the tub or dump buckets of water on their baby siblings heads…but all the time, they deserve to be kids.
If they stay forever, or if they leave tomorrow…they deserve to be kids and that is what they will be for every second of every day they live in our home.