In the previous post, I wrote about our daughter Gina. For the past two years she really has been the focus of my attention. Joey just kind of ran with the boys and a lot of his problems were over looked because of the severe nature of Gina's issues. When Joey was little, he was quiet and mischievous. You didn't want him to get bored or he would be destroying something, books, furniture, blankets, toys, anything he could get his hands on. We learned very quickly that all scissors and razors should be hidden! Joey is a charmer. He has a beautiful charming side that he puts on for others but as he hit puberty that charming side was only available for others, not for his family. One of his brothers started to notice this and asked me why Joey was so nice to him when they were at a friend's house but when they came home he was mean and grumpy.
We had him psychologically evaluated and we were told:" Psychologically, Joey is a very empty, depressed, lost and confused youth. There is no question that he has had no formal attachment during his early formative years due to multiple developmental failures. He is often fear based, bored, lost and confused as the world around him is too overwhelming and he tends to 'shut down' or comes out in an acting out manner. This is very common in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and children who come from developmental failure backgrounds in which agitation, irritability or times that total 'shut down' tends to take over."
It was very overwhelming to realize both of our children had severe issues due to their abandonment and lack of consistent care givers in their first 5 years of life. We began to realize how important bonding at an early age was. At first, I thought I would home-school him even while in the states. The psychologist gave us some curriculum ideas that he thought would be a help to Joey. Within the first 3 days of 5th grade, I told my husband to take Joey to the school that was 5 minutes away and enroll him, I couldn't do it. Homeschooling children with attachment issues is not the way to go. There is too much of a struggle between the child and adoptive mom. Joey wasn't willing to learn from me, he didn't think I had anything to offer him.
We put him in school and his teachers loved him. He was a leader in the class and a good example for all the students who were on the wild side. He was socially awkward and didn't know how to behave in a classroom but he picked up on how to behave quickly. He was chosen by his teacher to be on student council, he was in art club, he was the best runner in the school. At home, he became more and more troubled. He wanted to be entertained at all times and if he got bored he would get into trouble. He is a great artist, natural God given ability to draw but he was easily bored with drawing. He didn't like to read, he didn't like to play computer games. He always wanted us to take him somewhere, he was happy as long as he was the center of attention and as long as he was doing something fun. We tried to start teaching him and training him that life isn't always fun, it's ok to be bored, you still need to make good choices even when you are bored. He began to argue with everything we asked of him. He didn't want help with his homework, he didn't have a teachable spirit, he already knew everything and whatever mom and dad have to stay is just plain stupid! We sought counseling for him. We also signed him up for a type of brain therapy as this was recommended to us by someone to help him with school. The purpose of the therapy was to start teaching him to think before he responds/acts. It was called NILD and Feuerstein therapy. Another problem with both our kids was, no matter the consequence no matter the reward if they got an idea in their head that they thought they needed to do, they were going to do it. Nothing could motivate them towards obedience. They were very obsessive compulsive, they had to do what was in their head to do even if there was a heavy consequence or great reward, no amount of reward charts worked. I think through all of this, he started to feel like an outsider. Our youngest son was more mature and more trust worthy than he was. He started to look at the family as us vs. him. He couldn't see we were trying to teach and train him and if he would just do what he was told he would earn the same privileges his younger brother had. He did not think he should have to do anything to earn privileges. He was a pathological liar. I am not sure he had the know how or ability to tell the truth. Lying was so natural to him. No matter how small or big his first response to any situation was to lie. "No, I didn't shave my eyebrows." As I'm staring at bald spots in his eyebrows. He would argue with me like I was crazy for thinking he shaved his eyebrows. I would finally take him to the mirror and say, "Joey, I can see that you shaved them, please stop lying." Then the story would finally come out, he thought they were too bushy and so even though we told him not to touch razors, if one was left out, he was going to take care of his eyebrows. I am currently reading a book called, "Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control." It is giving me great insight into the reason behind the lying. I want to quote a bit from the book: "Research in the field of neuro-science has shown that children who have experienced trauma react to stress out of a state of fear, from an unconscious level, as deep as the state memory. The fear receptor in the brain becomes overly triggered and, in this stress state, the traumatized child's perception of the situation at hand becomes distorted and exceptionally fearful. Children with trauma histories are living out of a primal state of survival. They literally lie from a place of life or death. Their survival is dependent on convincing you that they are telling the truth. In this distortion of their mind, the state level of memory drives them with the conviction that they must persist with this lie at all costs in order to survive. Simple events throughout the child's day can cause intense fear reactions...In order to understand this lying behavior, we must first acknowledge that the child is simply reacting from a state of fear. It is critical that we acknowledge that when children with trauma histories are triggered into their stress and confronted in a lie, they will continue to reinforce the lie. Thus, the awareness that the child's unconscious is saying, 'I have to convince you I'm telling the truth because my life depends on it' is necessary in order for the parent to respond from a place of love, instead of a place of fear and punishment."
This has really helped me understand where they are coming from when they lie. Unfortunately, I didn't respond in this way to the lying. It will drive you insane if you don't have an understanding of the why behind these ridiculous lies. They can have chocolate all over their face or you saw them to something with your own eyes and they will look at you and deny it over and over!
In January of this year, we started wondering what we could do to best help Joey. He did not want to go back to Romania. He did not want to home-school again. I did not want to home-school him. We started looking for other options. A family he could stay with and continue with school and brain therapy. We looked and prayed and nothing opened up. We talked with the case worker at Watersprings just to see if she had any ideas and she told us if we wanted, they would take Joey too. By this time, Gina was making great progress and it seemed like since many of Joey's struggles were the same as hers, maybe this was the road we should choose. We prayed, we talked to his counselor and then in March we made the decision that at the end of the school year we would take him to live at the ranch for right now. The goals for him there are to find healing and the ability to move forward by him realizing his identity is found in Christ, not in his past, not in what happened to him, not even in his adoptive family. The other goal is for him to get up to grade level. He has struggled with school and it took a few years for them to get the English language down which put them behind. I was never able to gain their trust enough to help them catch up, we would barely get through that day;s assignments! We took him to Watersprings Ranch on Memorial Day weekend. He wasn't happy about going although he wanted to stay in the states, he just had a different idea of what that would look like. We also were glad the twins would get the chance to bond again. He gave us a very flat good-bye and as we (Baron, Andrew, Nate, and myself) pulled away we were all crying. You feel so bad that your adoptive child feels so bad. It feels bad that they feel bad and yet have no idea why they feel so bad. It hurts to know your child needs someone other than you to provide the help they need. It is natural to leave your child behind for college (even though it is hard), but they are ready to start moving on. Leaving your 13 year olds behind doesn't feel natural, it doesn't feel right but I know it was the right thing to do. I know that God is using others to work in their lives. Watersprings Ranch is located in Texarkansa, Arkansas. If you every feel led to donate to an organization that helps kids from difficult backgrounds, kids with attachment issues, kids who need someone other than adoptive parents to step in and guide them, then please donate to this organization. I have spoken with Joey once so far and he sounded really good on the phone. I'm looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in and through Joey.
For those who are walking this road, know that you are not alone. You need to know that even though you feel guilty for needing respite from your child, you do need respite at times. You also need to know that sending your child away to get help is not abandoning them again. It can feel like it but it is just doing what is best for them and your other children. I have been able to spend time with my other kids and see that some of them have suffered due to my lack of being there for them the past few years. It's hard to make a decision like this but you have to look at the big picture and realize for your child or your other children to have a future sometimes drastic steps have to be taken. You can not worry about what people think, if someone has not walked this road they have no right to tell you that you are making a mistake and how could anyone send their child away, or I could never do that!! You have to make hard and difficult decisions and take everyone in your family into consideration when making this decision. We knew God wasn't finished with us in Romania, we knew that we didn't have the resources needed here to meet Gina and Joey's needs and we knew God had opened this door for them. If you need help please reach out. I don't have all the answers but I can listen and encourage you and let you know you aren't alone and remind you of God's promises to you. I can also provide you with a list of places/services that may be helpful to you.
These kids are not just "rebellious." Their behaviors are rooted in fear and a need to survive. It seems absurd to us that a child wouldn't feel safe and secure and loved with a family he has never been abused in and has had his or her every need met for the past 7 years but the first years of their life are so important. They did not form a bond with anyone in those first 5 years, they did not have a primary care giver to make them feel safe and this has affected their ability to attach to us and feel safe with us. At some point, yes, the sin has to be dealt with but until you can get to the root of the problem there is no way for the child to even see his sin because he is so sure he has to lie or disobey to survive that in he mind, he is justified to behave this way. We learned this the hard way. Parenting these kids looks very different from parenting a child you had from birth. I encourage people who feel called to adopt to read. Here are some books I've read that I recommend:
1. "Detached" by Jessie Hogsett. Written from the perspective of a person with RAD.
2. "Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control" Very good information on what is going to cause some of the behaviors.
3. "The Connected Child" by Karyn Purvis.
I also recommend you find in your area a counselor that has specialized training with attachment disorder. Find a support group. Find people to support you after you bring the child/children home.
I will continue with a few more blog posts on what God has taught me through all of this and how He has sustained me even when there were times I felt like I was just falling and there was no end. God is good. He does provide at just the right time and I continue to learn to trust Him at all times. I still struggle with the fact that we had to make this decision. It is a daily battle to not give into self pity or wonder if we did the right thing. God's grace is sufficient for each day. Each day, He gives me the grace I need to get through that day. I look forward with hope, that our family will be reunited and that God will encourage and strengthen all my children as this has been a difficult road to walk for each of them.