Sunday, June 20, 2010

When you are fostering, you have a lot of appointments.  Especially if you have a child in therapy or children who have visitation with birth families.  Fortunately for my schedule, we don't actually have to do visitation with Mr. B and Baby R.  We do have weekly therapy however.  In addition to the children's appointments, we also have several people out to the home each month.  The caseworker is required to come visit us in our home once a month.  The CASA worker also visits once a month, as does the Help Me Grow worker.  This week, all of them came to visit on three consecutive days.

Mr. B did not do well with these visits.  There has been lots of crying, fits, anger, sadness, anxiety, and defiance.  The visits clearly do not make him feel secure.  He loves his caseworker, but when he found out she was coming, he immediately went upstairs and brought down his shoes.  To him, she represents moving.  Six moves in a little over a year will do that to you.  My heart breaks for the pain that these kids have been through.  

The information that we have now on childhood development tells us that when repeated trauma like this happens to a child, that their brains actually rewire.  So Mr. B not only has the memories/impressions from his past, his brain is actually wired differently than a normally attached, normally developed and secure child.  It's just devastating.   I have found a lot of help and encouragement in several different books on adoption.  I know that we're not technically in the 'adoption' category at this point, but the information is still highly relevant.  People like Nancy Thomas (Attaching in Adoption), Gregory Peck (Parenting the Hurt Child), and Karyn Purvis (The Connected Child) have been gifting parents with help to parent their hurt children.  I owe them a great debt of gratitude.  What a blessing it is to not have to go through this on my own.

Mr. B has been asking for extra nurturing activities - several Theraplay techniques that we learned in therapy (God BLESS you, kind therapist).  I'll try to explain more of what each individual routine consists of.  The ones he specifically asked for during this traumatic week were boo-boo cream, band-aids, and fishies.

'Boo-boo cream' is a routine that we go through where I inspect his body for boo-boos.  He is responsible for telling me where they are.  I gently rub lotion onto each spot (real or imagined), and reassure him that I like to take care of him.  That it's my job to take care of him.  Thanking him for telling me where he hurts.  Letting him know that I, the adult in the relationship, will always be there to take care of him and care for his hurts and pain.  The band-aids go right along with this.  Just a reassurance that as the mama, I am the one who can care for his needs.  That I provide a healing and safe presence, instead of an inconsistent, anxiety-inducing, hurtful presence.

The 'fishies' are a nurturing feeding activity that we do.  He sits in his bean-bag chair, and I feed him goldfish (or some other small snack).  He does not touch the bag, the food, or anything during this time.  I put the fish directly into his mouth when he tells me he's ready.  This exercise is to reaffirm the nurturing and caretaking aspect of our relationship.  Of course he can feed himself, but it's my job to take care of him.  It's my job to provide him with his needs.  For children that have largely been left to themselves, to care for themselves, and with no safe parental figure to turn to for needs, this is a very important skill for them to learn.  I also like the 'baby' aspect of it since this is not a stage of life that I got to experience with him.  The regression, I think, is extremely bonding both for him and for me.

One of the most important things during all these activities is the attempt to make and maintain eye contact.  When Mr. B moved in, he was very reluctant to make eye contact.  He still has some hesitancy.  But his willingness to trust me and just the simple act of meeting my eyes is healing for him.

Maybe I'm not describing these Theraplay techniques in the most clinical way.  Maybe the things that I'm getting from therapy aren't actually the things that are designed.  But they're working for Mr. B and me right now.  We are bonding, albeit slowly.  We are attaching to one another.  He is learning to trust me as a parent, as someone who will always keep him safe and care for his needs.

In other news, Baby R has been introduced to several new foods.  She LOVES food.  I am enjoying watching her discover new tastes and textures.  She is clearly attaching to all of us significantly.  We are her family (as far as she knows for right now).  And she's adorable, and I am falling in love.  The end.

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