I was single and living in a townhouse in Charlotte when I decided that I was ready to follow my lifelong dream of having a house full of foster and adopted children.
It was late at night and I began my research on how to start the process. I made calls, left messages, and sent emails. The next morning my calls were returned and I chose an agency to start the process with. It is not a quick or easy process. It is LONG, HARD and very PERSONAL. Every aspect of my life and my home was reviewed. I took the classes, I had the fire department over for inspections, I filled out hundreds of pages of documents and I signed my name a lot.
I was finally licensed to foster in February of 2013. I also fell and broke my foot and needed to have surgery the day before I received my first call for placement, which I was unable to take due to my situation. I then received another call and was close to healed and it unfortunately (I thought at the time fell through). I continued to receive calls but there was always something I was away on business and they couldn't wait the day, or I was in NY for something. Call after call from February to August 6th didn't work for some reason or another.
On August 6th I would get the call that would not only change my life, but change my path in life. 3 children, ages 2, 7, and 9. Would I take them? My heart stopped. I was looking to start this process with 1 aged 0-6 if I remember correctly, and they wanted me to take 3! I had 3 minutes to think about it, and my answer was yes of course. I was sick to my stomach with fear. I had never been a mom. I love kids and I knew I was capable, but to start with 3? It felt overwhelming. I waited hours for them to get to me. They needed to be brought to the hospital first to be examined and it felt like I was waiting days. Then they were there. Getting out of the car 3 of the most beautiful children I had ever seen. They were filthy, and scared, and in clothes way too small on each of them, but they were beautiful. They walked in my door and in one minute I changed from single woman with a career and a dog, to a mom of 3. That moment was life changing.
As days and weeks passed we were getting into a routine and I was noticing issues. They would rage. They were violent. The boys would self harm, and my now 8 year old would also try to hurt me and his brother. I did all the research I could. You know you see and hear from everyone in person and on TV, they just need love, they just need to feel safe, they are just testing to see if you would get rid of them. So I followed all the recommendations from my research and none of it worked. They were given psychological assessments and it was recommended my 8 yo be placed in a Therapeutic Foster Home. I had no idea what this meant but DCS and my agency SW told me not to worry about it. As time went on the diagnoses changed from month to month. And we were sent for med management and talk therapy. And then Intensive In Home therapy. Then I adopted them. Surely this would make the boys feel safe and maybe lessen their behaviors right? Not at all. Shortly after the adoption we moved right over the boarder to Ft. Mill SC.
I was told my now 10 yo suffered from O.D.D, Conduct disorder and ADHD. He was violent, destructive, stole and lied constantly. He had been in talk therapy and IIH 5 times at that point and nothing had worked. His therapist had been recommending a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility for almost a year and had added the diagnosis of RAD. I originally fought that because the thought of sending my son to live somewhere else was heartbreaking, but I finally consented. I didn't know it was not that simple. So I called a bunch of places and finally decided on 3 Rivers in Columbia SC. They said there is a waiting list and I need to get a Colocus completed and SC Certificate of Need signed by his doctor. Great. Simple enough right? Wrong. The therapy center we were with no longer had Psychiatric services in SC only NC. His new psychiatrist refused to sign it stating he has never sent a patient to residential facilities; the parents usually just terminate their rights and make the child the state's problem and he called his lawyer and no longer wants to see either of my children. So I go to his PCP and she refused to sign and says the psychiatrist should. Then she suggests I just have my son arrested and let him be the court's problem. Again I did not want my son to be any one else's "problem" I wanted to get him the additional help that he needed.
Then one morning my son went after my other son with a pair of scissors threatening to stab him. I immediately got my son to safety and got my other son in the car and took him to Piedmont hospital because we were in crisis. Piedmont Psychiatrist turned me away and told me to go to Catawba Mental health. So I drove there and they also said there wasn't much they could do today but I could try another hospital. I contacted his case manager who came to my home for crisis and she called Simpatico who called back and said there is nothing they could do.
I was then advised to bring my children back to Catawba for a 3 hour intake meeting for each of them and advised my case would be staffed the next week. I received a call the next day and was advised that Catawba couldn't get my sons a psychiatrist for 90 days so they would be out of medication for that amount of time and that is not their problem and if I need meds for my children I should take them to the ER every time they need medication.
I was also advised that because we now needed to go to Catawba we would need to start from scratch as if my kids had never seen a therapist. This is awful because starting from scratch is a nightmare and we had already done it so many times because the places that covered their care had a high turnover rate. This was just not an acceptable answer to me since I had been fighting for the proper treatment for my children for 3 years at that time. I only needed a new psychiatrist for my sons for med management but Catawba's rule is if you go to them for psych you must also go for therapy. So my children would forced to leave the therapist they had grown comfortable with and start over from scratch which would actually set them back in ways you can't imagine having to tell their story of abuse and neglect over and over again. I was also advised that they did not have enough therapists at Catawba to see my children after school so they would be required to miss school every single week for this when we had standing evening appointments with their current therapist. My oldest every other week and my youngest every week on Weds. nights Now they would both need to go every week and miss school to do so because Catawba won't permit them to stay with their current therapist even though they don't have enough therapists to see my children without them having to miss school and me to miss work 1 day every week.
So at that point my kids had no therapist, no psychiatrist, no intensive in home counselors, no medication, and my youngest does not have a certificate of need signed to get the services I though he needed at 3 Rivers and NO ONE CARES!!!
This is the reason there is a mental health crisis in this country! This is the reason kids shooting up schools or killing themselves. Because when they need more help and their parents do everything to get it for them no one will help.
I had finally gotten switched back to NC Medicaid and was able to get my son's back into therapy and with 2 different psychiatrists. And my younger son was sent to PRTF for 6 months. I was elated. I had finally done it. I was able to get my son the care he needed in a 24 hour psychiatric residential treatment facility! At the time this was a big win for me. Or so I though. I thought he would be wrapped in therapies if all kinds and that they would truly help him, but I was so wrong. These facilities are in my opinion 24 hour babysitting services and my son received less therapy there than when he was home with me. But at least he was safe and we could rest and recharge as a family. And I could start to focus on my oldest who also had severe issues and since there is a rule that only 1 child in a home can receive a higher level of care at a time ( ridiculous rule) my oldest never received it because his younger brother was always just a but worse.
My oldest suffers from Attachment Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, PTSD, Anxiety Disorder, and Mood Dysregulation Disorder. You must know these names and diagnoses change constantly depending on the doctor you see.
But the time in which my youngest son was in PRTF I was able to do a lot more research. And my children suffer from Developmental Trauma. Which basically means that due to their abuse and neglect the brains did not develop properly. So I did more research and everything pointed to Attachment Therapy, Neurofeedback Therapy, Brain Reorganization Exercises. And both of my children needed this desperately. So I started making calls and writing emails and guess what these therapies are just not covered. I met with an attachment therapist in Charlotte NC and she suggested that I take my youngest to a 2 week Intensive Attachment Therapy Program, and recommended the 2 places that offer such a program 1 in MN, and 1 in CO. I chose the one in MN. This trip and program would cost 12k out of pocket. But what choice did I have, these are my children and I would do anything for them. So 12k on a credit card it was and off we went in June of 2018.
I cannot begin to say enough about this program. It changed my family. It helped me and my son. We still had a long road to go but I saw tremendous progress. We returned home and both of my son's and I began Attachment Therapy and Neurofeedback Therapy immediately in Charlotte NC. This treatment is also not covered and is very expensive. But my family was happier. There were no more rages or physical aggression or self harming behaviors for 2 months. I thought we were finally healing. Unfortunately school started my son turned 13 and puberty kicked in and he regressed back to his old patterns. Neurofeedback once a week for each of my children just wasn't enough. They needed more and unfortunately I just couldn't afford more. So now my son continues to get the improper treatment and is failed by doctors, therapists, social services, hospitals and his 3rd PRTF placement simply so he can be kept safe.
So what was I supposed to do now? I can't just stand by knowing that there are so many other families feeling isolated and alone. There are foster parents and adoptive parents struggling every day with rage, aggression, violence, destruction, stealing, lying, and basically living in a war zone, and no one is helping them. And if the children are still in foster care DCS just moves them to another foster home. Hence the reasons you hear that a child has been in 13 foster homes, or an adoptive family relinquishes their rights and puts the child back in foster care, or puts them up for 2nd chance adoptions. Because NO ONE is helping them to get the right treatment for these children.
I remember feeling isolated and alone. Friends and family members couldn't possibly understand it because you just don't get it unless you are actually living it. You are judged and begin to believe it is indeed your fault and you are a bad parent. How could I make a difference? I began by starting a Facebook Support Group for parents of children with attachment disorders and developmental trauma. Then I started hosting Support groups in my home once a month, so parents would be able to be surrounded by others that get it, when no one else does. And now with Tiffany Bolling have started a nonprofit organization Attach Families to do everything we can to help these families get the right treatment for their children. We have created a Facebook page Attach Families to educate and advocate for families with children who suffer from Developmental Trauma Disorder/RAD, created a website, continue to host online and in person support groups and created a Respite Co-op. We are speaking at foster and adoption support groups that invite us to discuss Developmental Trauma Disorder/RAD, attending conferences to educate and advocate, and are meeting with the Deputy Director of Child Welfare in NC with the hope of educating and advocating for all families dealing with this very misunderstood disorder that just doesn't fit into the normal checkboxes of mental illness because the brain has literally not developed properly
My hope is to one day have enough financial stability with grants and fundraising to open a center in the Carolinas that will offer Attachment Therapy, Neurofeedback, EDMR, Brain Reorganization Exercises, Yoga, and parental support and training, as well as offer Respite for parents who are desperately in need of a break and time for self care. I would also like a 24 hour manned support line for parents to call when they are feeling defeated and hopeless. I would live to create a training/educational program for friends, family, educators, therapists , Social Workers and police officers as well. Unfortunately even this won't be enough for some and PRTF will have to be the answer, but with that said the checkboxes need to change. Our children do not fit in those boxes. PRTF will have to be trained to understand DTD/RAD.
The entire path of my life changed when I broke my foot. I was meant to be their mom. They were meant to be my children. I am grateful for them every single day, and my love for them can't be measured. We are going in the right direction, after 5 long years of advocating for the proper treatment for my boys, and funding so many other families struggling, now we want to make sure that every child and family that can be put on the path to healing can have the opportunity to do sol. Money should not be the deciding factor in whether or not a child of severe trauma, or neglect, can get the help they truly deserve.
If you'd like to schedule a time to talk personally, one of our Volunteers will be happy to listen and offer your family support.