28 bruises. It took 28 bruises on Sarah’s legs within 7 days to admit that we were not the family for these boys. This was the easiest and hardest decision we have ever had to make.
Sarah here. The boys came to us 17 days ago with fear in their eyes and skepticism in their hearts. We had high hopes and excitement in ours. The first night went as well as can be expected. They were afraid and in a strange new place. We stayed close, but didn’t hover. We played with them gently and spoke in quiet voices. Day 2 we brought M to school and learned that we were given incorrect information. No, he was not in all day school with an after school program. He was in 3k and that ended at 10:30am. WHAT?! That’s not even possible. What do we do?! We talked with a few people at Children’s and it was decided that he be pulled from the program. Sad, but it had to happen. There was no other option.
We set the kiddos up in daycare, ran to Target and got a few outfits to cover us for the next few days while we figured out how to get more and went back home. That second day we realized that toys in the bedroom are NOT OK. We took all the toys out of the bedroom and moved them to the main areas of the house. Play was to be supervised to try and catch tantrums when they were starting and to keep little V safe. It’s OK. We can figure this out.
Day 3 the real tantrums started. The kicking, hitting, spitting, screaming, biting, the anger. To see so much anger in a tiny body just breaks your heart. That’s the day that I realized that he needs hugs. LOTS of hugs.
Hugs when scared of what is outside the window, hugs when there are loud noises, hugs when we have “big feelings”, hugs to stop tantrums, hugs for everything.
The hugs escalated to me picking up little M and carrying him around while saying soothing things into his ear. If you have not had the pleasure of carrying a 45lb limp body around for 10-15 minutes at a crack 5x a day, I say try it. You will have arms of steel in no time.
We kept our cool until day 4. That’s the day I broke down crying and called my mom. What had we done?! Are all kids this hard!? Are we epically messing up? With a pep talk under my belt I went inside and texted our licensing worker and Ongoing Case Manager, told them we needed help and went back to it.
Monday was no better. Maybe even worse.
Tuesday our licensing worker came to the house for a visit in the morning and agreed that the boys needed to be in a higher level of care home- Treatment foster home. A home where the parents are trained to deal with extreme behaviors, get extra support, are set up for the extensive amount of therapies that M needs. She assured us that V would get to go with M and that they would be well taken care of.
Wednesday we sat down with EVERYONE involved in the case to transfer info. Not only did they KNOW of his behaviors when they brought the kids into care, they did not share it with ANYONE at Children’s. I. Was. Furious. If they had told us about the behaviors, we would have said no. If they had told Children’s about the behaviors they would have put the boys into a TFC home right away. Now the boys need to have a change of home. Sad. We told everyone in the room about the GREAT things about both boys as well as where our struggles are. They told us we were doing great and that they would get them into a new home soon. Our OCM came to the house that afternoon and told us the bad news. It could take about 5 weeks to find a new home. I started bawling. Things had escalated to the point that we had to keep M and V apart from each other for the safety of V.
We wake up and divide the house. I take M, Alex takes V. I take M to daycare in my car after a trip or two around the park to calm him down (daycare causes big tantrums). Alex gets V ready and brings him to daycare a half hour after I drop off M at daycare. Most days we get in the car at 6 and drive around for an hour until he is soothed. Then I sit in daycare with him for 15 minutes until he is calm and the threat of tantrums is lowest.
Then I grab M when I get home and take him out of the house to walk/play at the park/ eat dinner/ relax only to bring him home to change, brush teeth, and go to bed. All that time Alex is parenting V. The dogs had to be moved from our home (thank you Alex’s mom! You are a saint to take them for this long) because M isn’t safe with them. I have 28 bruises on my legs as of that morning. I cried. I cried like there was nothing left. I told her that we couldn’t live like this for 5 more weeks. That they needed to figure something out.
Thursday we were told that the boys qualified for Emergency increase level of care and that there would be a new home by Monday (this was a lie… ). I cried. A lot.
Fast forward to Sunday night. I’m snuggling M in his tiny toddler bed (as I do every night until he falls asleep or he WON’T go to sleep at all!) and he kisses me on the cheek and tells me he loves me. Cue the crocodile tears! How can we say good bye to these little people that have entered our lives and stole our hearts!? How to we go back to life without kids? Such is the struggle of foster parents. I’m sure this won’t be the last time we have to say good bye to kiddos, and in this moment I know that I will NEVER forget the love I feel for these little guys.
I’m sure they will get the help that they need in a TFC home and I will miss them dearly.
Monday comes and we learn that the boys will be with us for awhile yet… on Thursday they tell us that they should be able to find them a home within the next 3 weeks… We pull ourselves up from our bootstraps and put our game faces on. We signed up to be their parents and will do whatever it takes to care for them until they are successfully transferred to their new home. Heaven help us it is quick! We know that we are not the home for these boys but we love them and want to ease the transition as best as possible.
If you see us and feel the need to comment on the fact that we gave notice on these boys within a week, please do not tell us that we just needed more structure, or to be stronger. We know. We need love and support while we heal and process this. Both for us, and for the boys.
We know that we needed more structure but we didn’t know how. We didn’t have the tools or experience needed to care for a child that has so much anger in his little body that he can’t stop himself from hitting himself so hard that he makes himself bleed. We wish we did. As we said, it took us 28 bruises and many tears to admit that these little guys needed more care than we could give them. We now know that we have to ask MORE questions. Press harder for information, and say NO if we have ANY doubts at all. We can’t put ourselves in this position again.
Time to breathe and relax so that we can care for these boys the best way possible until a new home is found for them… whenever that may be.
It has been one rough ride. We took placement on Tuesday, May 10th and by Thursday, May 12th I had a complete breakdown. I sobbed on Sarah’s shoulder and explained that this is hard and I cannot do this. That I was nervous about welcoming two young boys in our home. I was excited in a nervous way about V but M scared me. She picked me up and said we got this. She comforted me and said I was doing a great job for not knowing what the heck I was doing. She made me feel better. I found strength through her confidence. Then the tantrums kept getting worse.
As our lives kept unraveling around M in attempt after attempt to dodge a breakdown, Sarah and I came to the conclusion to split up the boys and now we are each single parenting a child. I parent V, Sarah parents M. We catch each other up with cliff notes of our day and we collapse in our bed at night.
I am frustrated. I am frustrated and angry that we were lied to. No heads up. We would have said no if we knew the full story. Not because we wouldn’t have wanted to but because we know our strengths. It would have allowed them to find the proper home sooner instead of later.
I miss my fiancé. I miss seeing Sarah after work. I see her long enough to give her a kiss while she leaves with M. V is a sweetheart who dances with me in the kitchen and babbles to the songs on the radio. To keep the brothers together is almost a guarantee that V will get slugged to the floor or kicked in the stomach. I miss Patrick and Emma. I miss letting the dogs run in the field. I cannot see Sarah get hit or kicked one more time.
On Wednesday I reached out to our licensing worker who has been very helpful to express my concerns. In that email I told her that I was finished and the boys needed to be transferred out by June 1st. I want my home back. The full team (licensing worker, ongoing case worker, placement specialists, supervisors, Sarah, and I) met to discuss the big picture on Thursday and without saying it outright I was told that my request would be ignored. I am not at all surprised. This seems to be the pattern.
So, Sarah and I continue to live in our home apart. We continue to thank my mom for caring for our dogs. We keep telling each other we got this a little longer. I learned a lot in these 17 days. One thing I learned is my body does not handle stress well at all and I have needed some serious medical help. (No worries, I am ok now.) The most important thing I learned is that Sarah and I make a great team. A wonderful team. I love that woman and admire her strength to see this through. She has been my rock and the reason I can smile at the end of a rough day.
I am not so naive to think that opening our home to a child would not change our lives but this is bigger than we can handle. Please keep your words kind. You are not living with our situation. Our story is not your story. Understand that we tried and we care about these boys and that is why we are helping them find the proper place.