Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fiona's journey part 1

Fiona's placement was 90 minutes from our home. We made the trek weekly to visit her though and tried to speak with her on the phone mid week as well. Things were rocky at best. She was angry over having to leave our home. She was scared. We were trying to be supportive but didn't really know what to say, what to do. There wasn't a lot of guidance here. The social worker kept saying she would come home. I felt guilty for being afraid of what that could do to our family. Yet I did worry for Fiona. Maybe I didn't love her yet, but I did care about her. And she had been dealt a really rough start in life and i wanted things to be better for her. Happier for her. Yet when she called on the phone we often couldn't understand what she was saying. When we visited she often wouldnot be able to spend much time with us before her behaviors would escalate out of control. Several times we made the trip only to find we couldn't visit at all. The miles clicked by on the odometer of our old van and we worried what was to come.

Meanwhile Faith continued to express anxiety over living with us. The fact that we were two gay women, the fact that we were white, were all posited as reasons she felt uncomfortable. The most compelling reason though was that she repeatedly told the social worker and her foster mom that she didn't want to live with Fiona. I was genuinely heartbroken. Despite Faith's claims of being upset by our sexual orientation and our ethnicity, she and I really did connect. Those issues didn't seem apparent in our interactions with one another. I felt that possibly they were subtley planted by the foster family who wanted to adopt her, but that the third issue was probably the deal breaker.

The reality was I could not guarantee for Faith that she would be safe around Fiona. I know there are families out there who struggle through this somehow. My feeling was although it would be great to keep all 3 kids together, it wasn't great if it made a little girl who was doing well in all other facets of her life (scholastically and socially Faith was thriving) despondent and dysfunctional. The old phrase our social worker kept parroting about the kids writing different stories just seemed far fetched. If we had another room available and the girls could have had separate spaces, maybe things could have been different. But how could I rationally ask Faith to share a room with someone who was so out of control that they literally destroyed the furnishings of their room? I had seen Faith's bedroom in her foster home. It was a sweet girly room and Faith kept her belongings meticulously neat.

We called the social worker and said that we thought the agency should consider her request that she not be adopted by us. We said that we would maintain our commitment to Fiona and to Robbie who had settled in with us quite well all ready. Fiona, I said, would be a harder child to place given the issues that had shown up. Faith was in a placement where they could move forward to adopt and wanted to do so. The agency agreed to separate the sibling group but then told the foster mom she could not adopt. Rather, a cousin in a city near to us was interested in adopting Faith and that would be the new plan. I was sorry for the foster mom. She had I believe a real love for Faith and a real genuine desire to adopt her. But kin come first in the eyes of DSS. I understand that, but it isn't always the right choice.

Meanwhile weeks after all of this happened, the hospital finally released their evaluation of Fiona. She had a host of issues and could not at present and perhaps not ever live in a family setting. We were her last best chance at this but the doctors were unsure she could even progress to a point where she could realistically live in our home. The social worker explained that now we would look for a residential placement.

I was furious that this information came after we 'lost' Faith. Perhaps I jumped the gun but I really believed the social worker when she kept saying Fiona was coming home in 90 days. Perhaps the social worker really believed that. Perhaps it was a case of mind games. I will never know and in the long run it doesn't matter because it was a done deal. We focussed on trying to get Fiona placed in a good residential facility (RTC in the parlance of this type of thing) about 10 to 15 minutes from our home. It was not a slam dunk. Her IQ scores were low, in the borderline mentally retarded range and the home worried that she would not be a good fit there. On the other hand, they were open to the concept that perhaps she was only testing at this range due to the lack of education and negative life experiences. Perhaps her behavioral issues were so profound that they seriously impacted her ability to share her knowledge. There were so many perhaps. Fiona toured the facility with us and loved it. It was beautiful. A far cry from the emergency hospitalization location where peeling paint and ugly hospital green walls were the norm. The beautiful former estate had lovely rooms, attractive open spaces, play areas and even therepeutic horsemanship. Fiona said she loved horses, it was a huge drawing card. We were thrilled when the RTC agreed to accept her and she moved in.

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