A Huge Disappointment

The author of this book has completed Day 1 of a 2 Day conference on trauma. His book had previously been recommended in my all things adoption (which includes foster care) group. It is impossible to accurately convey how disappointed those who view the first day’s live event are with this man’s perspectives. I just signed up for free as there is still Day 2 to go this day and then, there are supposed to be recordings, if one misses the live event. Here is the link – The Body Keeps Score.

From the registration site –

Dr Bessel van der Kolk presents his signature presentation on treating the imprints of trauma on the body, mind, and soul.

He claims – “I’m presenting this training to serve as both a guide and an invitation—an invitation to dedicate ourselves to facing the reality of trauma, to explore how best to treat it, and to commit ourselves, as a society, to using every means we have to prevent it.”

Dr van der Kolk shows you how to apply proven methods and approaches like neurofeedback, EMDR, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and sensory integration in your clinical practice — so you can experience the satisfaction of helping even your toughest client heal from deep-rooted trauma.

Some comments from my all things adoption group after watching Day 1 –

There were some horrific comments about foster children being dangerous and difficult and burning houses down. Not as specific cases. Foster children in general.

Of the 8 or so hours, I can probably boil the helpful info down to about 3 sentences and none of them are new.

Assumptions that all adopters are very nice and that any problems with adoption trauma must be due to the first mom drinking during pregnancy. I’m exaggerating. But not by much.

He also said that combat veterans with PTSD don’t benefit from Prozac because they’re too invested in blaming PTSD for all their problems. He also claimed that Prozac always works for everyone who isn’t a combat veteran.

Therapists are victims and powerless, that DSM is “a piece of sh*t”.

He also thinks everyone should take tango lessons and that it would solve their trauma better than therapy.

I hope people only ever access his works thru pirating and only to laugh at him and that his empire crumbles under his feet.

Let me guess he said adoption trauma isn’t real lol Most people think that children when adopted are clean slates, and our minds and bodies can just start over but that’s not even true, even for babies.

He spent AGES showing a video and talking about how traumatic it was for a non adopted child to be away from his mom for a day or two while younger sibling was being born. But oh gosh if it’s adoption, then adopters are very nice people and are absolute saints for putting up with difficult adopted children.

A lot of people are just uneducated and adoption trauma doesn’t exist to a lot of the world.

He also made a comment that assumed all foster children are correctly and justly taken from their families because they’ve all been abused by their first families.

A questioner asked should I skip reading the book ? The answer was – the book itself is great. Just not the adoption aspect, but overall.. worth a read!

His bigotry made me unwilling to financially support his business.

As an adoptee my response to him is: how f***ing dare you assume all adoptees are difficult and dangerous and all adopters are saintly and amazing for putting up with us ? How dare you, you overprivileged white man, one who feels entitled to say that colonizing wasn’t that bad and China is a miserable place to be ?

He is drunk on his own power and has no capacity for critically thinking through his bigoted views.

I have read the book. The book is not all about adoption, in fact, if I was describing the book I wouldn’t even discuss that part. It is about the bodies physiological, neurological and biological response is trauma. It is a very important way of understanding regarding why people respond they way they do. It’s been a while since I read it but I’m sure there are some generalized and probably offensive statements for adoptees but overall it’s extremely helpful in understanding how trauma effects all the multiple systems of the body.

I was told flat out by a Guardian ad Litem that my children needing glasses was due to my drug use during pregnancy. Never mind the fact that I’ve never had a drug problem, never failed a drug test and was drug tested during, before and after my pregnancy… Couldn’t be that every member of mine and my husband’s family needs glasses and sometimes children just have vision problems. It must be drug use (meant sarcastically).

Keep in mind that over 50% of psychological research cannot be replicated. (Over 50% actually according to a top scientific journal – Nature magazine.) While therapists can be beneficial, there are a lot of quacks who present as authorities in the field. Some of the most well-known people in the field can be the most problematic such that their work cannot be replicated, but they ride the coat tails of their notoriety and most people don’t know how to keep them accountable.

Just a note, that 50% number is not quite accurate and most of the psychology quacks aren’t the ones actually doing research. There have been a lot of critiques of that article since, including the kinds of studies they chose to try to replicate and the conditions under which they claimed replication failed. I’m not saying it isn’t a problem, but that article almost certainly overstated it.

I’m a PhD in psychology. We have a giant problem with public communication of our science.

Someone suggested the book – The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris MD. From a review at NIH website – Hans Selye, a Hungarian-born physician, developed the concept of the General Adaptation Syndrome as the first neurohormonal model of physiologic stress implicating pituitary and adrenal function in the etiology of many chronic diseases, and the associated sickly appearance of those suffering. claimed the physiologic life is fundamentally a process of adaptation to the totality of one’s experience, with real health and happiness being the successful adjustment or adaptation to those ever-changing conditions. Failure to adapt to the stress burden resulted in disease and unhappiness. In 1985, Vincent Felitti, MD, Chief of Preventive Medicine at Southern California Permanente Medical Group, San Diego, added mightily to Selye’s work with his findings of the profound, destructive, multi-organ system consequences of adverse childhood experiences. Nadine Burke Harris, MD, discovered Felitti’s pioneering work later, yet immediately understood the potential power of its lessons if implemented in her pediatric practice. She describes well her newfound understanding of the pathogenesis of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and the excitement of potential, effective therapeutic interventions. The Deepest Well is the story of how Burke Harris transformed herself into a champion persuader of truths difficult for others to hear, and a better clinician.

Bessel van der Kolk was booted by The Trauma Center (which he helped establish) because of his issues. The Boston Globe from March 7 2018 – Allegations of employee mistreatment roil renowned Brookline trauma center.

This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest (I’ve met Bessel before and my old boss worked under him at the Boston Trauma Center when he was in charge… he went down with Me Too NOT because he’s a sexual predator, but because he’s such an a**hole that he got more or less ousted from the PTSD community). It’s really a shame because his work is SO important and good and foundational in the complex PTSD world but he’s such a horrible person it overshadows it a lot of the time. I didn’t realize his what views were re: adoption etc, but I did know his insane levels of narcissism and his general tendency to bully.

Another one says, I met him at an International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies conference as well, in 2012 or 2013, I remember him being rude, though I had no idea he had any specific views about adoption in particular.

I’m so very disappointed to hear this. I read his book and it was so very eye opening for me. His work seems so foundational to the study of the affect of trauma on people. It is so very disappointing and even more frustrating.

Abortion Prevents Adoptions

I once had an abortion. The timing of my pregnancy was all wrong (and significant drug use was taking place), the father to be all wrong (not interested), the progression of the pregnancy was all wrong (see drug use above) as breakthrough bleeding was occurring. My sister-in-law gave birth to a son with severe birth defects. While I cannot know if her desperate attempts to hide her high school, out of wedlock, pregnancy played a role, it could have. I know when my first husband discovered I was pregnant at a time when he had an active case of hepatitis (most likely also drug related) he feared our child would be compromised. I stuck with that pregnancy and she is as close to perfect as any of us are (we do all have our individual health related challenges in life).

So, I was grateful for the ability to have a safe and clean, medically provided, mental health counseling included before the procedure, abortion at Reproductive Services in El Paso Texas in the mid-1970s. Honestly, it has haunted me. Not because I think it was the wrong decision but because abortion is such a contentious issue. For a long time, I didn’t tell anyone I had had one.

I am old enough now that whether abortion was outlawed or not, it would not affect me personally. I am wise enough to think, instead of trying to control women’s bodies, men could choose to control their own. For one by not promiscuously pursuing sex. Young men could be given vasectomies that are reversible when they become mature enough to be responsible as fathers. That’s a winning option in my perspective.

I loved the passion in Paxton Smith’s speech because I see my own self when I was that age. I have always been an outspoken person. I loved to debate the boys in my Algebra class in high school (I also had a coach for Geometry class who made it more understandable). I gave impassioned speeches at pep rallies on occasion. I am still outspoken as anyone who follows my Facebook page surely knows. Paxton has said the most meaningful reactions to her speech have come from concerned fathers who fear for their own daughters’ futures.

Paxton Smith had pre-written a speech on how TV and media have shaped her worldview, which had been approved by school administrators. But when it came time to address the graduating class of Lake Highlands high, she switched course. Her nervous emotions are plain to see before they reach that level of impassioned anger. I recognize how that feels.

Texas’s new “heartbeat” measure ranks among the most extreme abortion bans in the US, blocking the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy – before many women and girls even know they’re pregnant. The bill, due to come into force in September, doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest and allows private citizens to enforce its provisions through what could be a torrent of expensive and time-consuming lawsuits.

Abortion or Pro-Life issues are the hot button for evangelical Christians. It is not lost on me, what the Salvation Army in El Paso Texas told me when I was researching my dad’s adoption through them – they had to close down their homes for unwed mothers (a method of channeling infants to prospective adoptive parents) after Roe v Wade passed because there were simply not enough clients to keep the enterprise going. Another factor is the societal acceptance of single mothers – I know more than one who is doing a fantastic job raising their children – both genders included in this number. I don’t know if the Salvation Army took “donations” from prospective adoptive parents in exchange for infants but it would not surprise me if they did. Adoption is a lucrative business at any level of charitable intent.

Evangelical Christians are very interested in taking heathen babies and converting them to the faith. True, it may simply be emotional, adorable baby feelings that they think causes them to be against abortion and Pro-Life. However, just like Mitch McConnell’s nefarious agenda for our government’s institutions, the powers that be in the Christian hierarchy seek to increase the number of the faithful in part through adoption.

When The Money Matters

Family court is always about who can outspend the other, not about who is best for a child. Now, if you are biological family to a child who’s parents aren’t fit and that child is taken by the Dept of Social Services, any foster parent can outspend you in court and adopt and take that kid, YOUR BLOOD family, anywhere they want. Biology means nothing compared to a “foster” parent wishing to adopt a “Same Race American” baby the cheap way.

Its much more expensive to adopt a child if you’re not a foster parent, but you can run most families in the ground financially trying to save their blood, and take that child with the help of Dept of Social Services (taxpayers help pay for these adoptions) for much less, usually. All thanks to this case ruling that was only intended to allow a foster to adopt – only – if the biological family was ALL unfit.

Now it applies in any case, even when that child has a huge, wonderful, loving family, even if a family has to cut ties with a biological parent. As always, $$$ talks, and this child could lose her wonderful grandparents after a $100,000 + 3 year battle.

I am so heartbroken for Gracie and The Hajeks. This case could affect any of us and often no one even knows about a family’s challenges. Many of us have either benefitted or lost in a divorce/custody case because of the amount of money we could spend, rather than what was in the best interest of the child. It would be morally wrong if this child is purchased by the highest bidder, rather than remaining with her natural family.

It is a complicated legal case – the grandparents have a temporary joint custody of their granddaughter in an odd custody arrangement that includes the former foster caregivers. The grandparents are being pushed to settle with previous foster parents because they want to adopt the child.

The girl was taken away from her mom at 3 days old when drugs were discovered in her biological system. The baby girl was then placed into foster care. The girl’s mom had tried to hide the identity of her dad and so put someone else’s name on the birth certificate (my own sister did that with my nephew).

So, the grandparents found out about the baby’s existence when she was 3 months old. Their son had learned about her and was trying to get custody. He had to have his paternity confirmed. This was finally completed when the baby girl was 7 months old. Though he wanted a relationship with his daughter, he wisely believed he could not care for her fully and asked his parents to step in. They willingly agreed.

The Dept of Social Services and the child’s Guardian Ad Litem recommended family placement. The judge presiding at the time awarded a visitation schedule to the foster caregivers along with placement with grandparents. Several months ago, when the Dept of Social Services wanted to close the case, the judge awarded an odd temporary joint custody between grandparents and foster caregivers. The girl spends 3 days with the foster parents and 4 days with her grandparents. The grandparents do have final say in her issues. The Dept of Social Services is no longer involved.

The foster caregivers are now fighting in court to adopt the 4 yr old girl. They have not done much to move the case forward. The strategy appears to be continuing the case, so that the grandparents run out of money and lose by default. The foster caregivers have never been generous as they have always wanted to adopt her. Originally they only wanted to give the grandparents 4 weekends a year. The grandparents pushed for their rights and were given every other weekend.

The grandparents are young – age 40 and under. They want to raise their granddaughter but feel trapped in the legal system. They don’t have funds to fight the foster caregivers for much longer. The grandparents have lost their lawyer because of falling into arrears in their payment of legal fees. So now, they are on their own in this fight.

Only noting here that the male foster caregiver is a police officer and worked as a court bailiff for many years. So he knows how the legal system functions.

Here is the link, Help The Hajek Family Fundraiser, if you are willing to donate to the grandparents’ legal expenses.

Disappointing Reunions

Worse than not having the opportunity at all to experience a reunion with the woman who gave birth to you is having one that turns out crappy.  This story breaks my heart –

Feeling so lost and broken. Although a relationship can be built, it’ll never be the same as being raised by my mom. Currently stuck in Nebraska and waiting to leave the hotel at 4 am. No point in sleeping for 3 and a half hours.  I’m stressed, hoping Uber shows up on time so I can make it to the train station in time with my 3 kids.

To make a long story short I got a ride to Nebraska last week.  My hubby’s job traveled from Chicago to Nebraska.  So I said, “Please take me with you.”  We got a hotel after begging my mom to make the 3 hour trip from South Dakota to Nebraska to see us. I had to pay for her gas and give her the king size bed in our hotel.  I slept with my 3 kids on the sofa bed.

Then, my husband’s job finished by the end of that same week.  I said to him, “You go home.  I’m gonna go back to South Dakota with my mom.  She said she’ll bring me back in her van.”

I was there almost a week and the plan was for us to leave and go home today. She texts me from her room and asks me to leave on a plane.  She can’t handle the kids.  Their noise causes her fibromyalgia pain to be worse.

I reply, “Can we wait till you feel better and you can take us home?”

She said, “No, I really can’t take it.”

So I went online to check flights.  A last minute effort is really expensive.  So I try to rent a car but I can’t because my credit card is maxed out. The train doesn’t depart from South Dakota.  I have to find a way to get back to Nebraska.

My mom’s husband drops us off at the hotel in Nebraska that my husband paid for.  He also paid for (what feels to me to be unnecessary) train tickets, but that is the reality.

This trip to reconnect with my mom cost more than a real vacation to Wisconsin Dells.

Today I feel so alone and abandoned – once again.  Sorry, but I really wish she had aborted me.  Mine was a Termination of Parental Rights adoption due to neglect and drug use.

And – she has the audacity to tell me I need to parent better and get off of my phone !?! At least, my kids are alive, well fed and loved. MY KIDS ARE KIDS.  THEY ARE NOT SOLDIERS!

I actually said, “Let’s not talk about parenting.”  LOL  I really wanted to add, “the nerve of you.”

So, I am just feeling completely broken.  This is the first time I have ever actually cried in front of my kids.  I just couldn’t control it.

=========================

I’m just going to let this one speak for itself.  I have no words to offer but lots of compassion for the heartbreak and disappointments. 

Foster Girl

Foster care is a cause that affects you whether you realize it or not. Your tax dollars fund the care of these throwaway children in your community, and you pay for their outcomes as adults who experience homelessness, incarceration and another generational cycle of welfare.  The majority of outcomes are tragic for kinless, abused, or neglected teens that age out of the system and transition into the real world inadequately prepared.

Georgette Todd has written a book that chronicles her difficult childhood that included sexual abuse and drug use.  It could not have been easy to dig deep into all of her experiences.  Due to her effort to educate herself and make it into college, she has learned to write well.  After earning BA and MA degrees, she worked at an adoption agency.  She eventually ended up providing the youth perspective for the Alameda County Child Welfare Dept in a program called the Youth Advocacy Program. She was in charge of presenting the emancipated foster youth perspective and recommendations about department policies and practices.

Todd outlines the basic premises of the foster care system approach.  The US foster care system is far from perfect. There needs to be a systematic way to save children from abusive and neglectful homes.  The purpose of the system is to place an abused or neglected child with a safe, loving relative that lives in the child’s original community.  If proximity is not available, then the foster child will live wherever the biological relative resides. Until then, children are placed into receiving homes, emergency foster homes, or whatever facility is available.  If the social worker cannot find a biological relative to care for the child, then efforts to secure a more permanent placement take priority. Permanence can mean adoption or long-term foster care in a group home or house setting.

These are the key goals of foster care but these plans don’t always pan out. Bureaucracies don’t always work.  Unfortunately, many foster children end up in understaffed group homes and inadequate facilities. They also go into crowded juvenile halls or wind up going out on the street hustling for survival.

I selected Todd’s book because I belong to a private Facebook group called Adoption: Facing Realities.  The members are adoptees, former foster youth, expectant mothers, original parents who permanently lost custody of their child and adoptive (including those who hope to) parents.  Some find the perspectives in this group difficult.  The mission of this group is to help expectant mothers believe in their ability to raise their own children, and not to chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Though adoption figures prominently in my reason for joining this Facebook group, I’ve become more aware of foster care because of this group.  And I realized I really had no real life background experience with which to understand foster care.  Though Georgette Todd’s book is only one experience among thousands, I did gain the perspective on the system by reading her full childhood experience of it that I was seeking.  The book may not be a good choice for victims of sexual abuse and former foster youth may not need to read it for the reasons I have.  If a former foster youth wishes to compare experiences, then that may be a reason.

Some related links –

Georgette has a website – www.georgettetodd.com.  She was a participant in a 30 minute documentary about the foster care experience which you can watch on youtube here – https://youtu.be/hS5JVSTf4LA.

I am not inclined to do Facebook birthday fundraisers but for this year only, I am doing one to support the work of Connect Our Kids, which I learned about at the end of Georgette Todd’s book.  They are applying technology to help social workers located extended family for displaced children that may be able to care for them.  Kinship is often, but not always, a better option for many children.  Modern families are far flung and often lose track of one another.  I set a modest fundraising goal of $200 and donated the first $25 myself.  Here’s the link, if you would like to help the cause – https://www.facebook.com/donate/310497696609444/

 

A Growing Problem

It is possible for parents to love their children dearly but be unable to kick an addiction that endangers their ability to parent.

Nationally, neglect is the most common reason for the removal of children from their parents (62 percent).  These cases often involve other underlying factors such as drug or alcohol abuse or parental mental health problems, which may not be reported or even known by child welfare agencies at the time of removal.

The threshold for indicating parent drug abuse as a reason for removal varies among, and sometimes within, states. For example, some states require a formal diagnosis of drug abuse for parental drug abuse to be listed as a reason for removal, while others maintain lower thresholds such as a positive urine screen or investigator suspicion. States also do not report data on informal arrangements in which a child stays with relatives or family friends without formally entering foster care.

In 2017, the rate of children entering foster care due to parental drug abuse rose for the sixth consecutive year to 131 per 100,000 children nationally—a 5 percent increase from the previous fiscal year and a 53 percent increase since FY 2007. Of the 268,212 children under age 18 removed from their families in FY 2017, 96,400 (36 percent) had parental drug abuse listed as a reason for their removal.  35 US states have experienced an increase in both the number and rate of children entering foster care due to parental drug abuse.  Federal law does not require states to specify the type of drug abuse involved in a child’s removal from the home and so the role of opioid addiction is not quantified.

Challenges for keeping families together include a lack of resources to provide appropriate treatment for parents battling addiction and a shortage of foster homes to care for children while their parents are in treatment.

Addiction is an isolating disease.  Due to the pandemic, AA and other 12-step groups have moved online, and some methadone clinics have shifted to phone meetings and appointments.  The coronavirus may make it harder for parents who have struggled with addiction to stay in recovery.  The pandemic has changed some long standing rules for treatment – it is recommended that clinics stop collecting urine samples to test for drug use.  Many patients can now get a 14- to 28-day supply of their addiction treatment medication, so they can make fewer trips to methadone or buprenorphine clinics.

It’s too early to tell what long term effects this unprecedented time we are living through will have on families.  Compassion, understanding and whatever support can be given under pandemic restrictions may be critical to the long term outcome.