Once she settled in, we began a routine of visits and phone calls with Fiona. We entered into family therapy with her. It was rocky. Weeks went by and then months. Eventually it was decided that we were not an appropriate adoptive family for her. Our house had several children. If Fiona would ever survive in a family environment she would have to be the only child. More testing happened and a medication regime that was truly scary. I think that the professionals felt that Fiona was bipolar but didn't want to use that word. Bipolar is a scary dx and might diminish her chances at placement. So mood disorder, conduct disorder, you name it disorder was floated. Meanwhile there were still lots and LOTS of holds going on because of her lack of behavior control, there were instances of very unsafe behavior (trying to jump over a railing on the second floor) and more. It was clear to me that though I really had come to love her, she couldn't live with us. I wasn't prepared to try and guard her. Parent her yes, but the type of care she required was awake staff 24/7 and that wasn't realisitic in a home.
Still, her close proximity to us was great for visiting. We did picnics on the lovely grounds, pizza parties inside when it was lousy weather and eventually after another psych eval and yet another med change, we were allowed to start taking her off site. The best visits tended to be things like shopping for her hair care supplies, movie trips or a trip to an art place where kids could paint pottery. She wanted me to take her shopping for clothes but this resulted in a total meltdown. I opted to make shopping one of the very infrequent things we did. Being close by also meant that we could vary who went to see her. Often I would go alone and it really strengthend the bond between us. Robbie had begun to develop a circle of friends and didn't always want to go see his sister, especially since one never knew till you got there if she would be okay for a visit. (I could call ahead and she might be fine but in the 15 minute drive might have had a meltdown which would take a long time for her to work her way out of.)
The first year she was there we tried to bring her to our house for Christmas. Holidays were very hard for Fiona, and Christmas is a double whammy as it is also her birthday. Unfortunately she had such a severe tantrum the staff said they didn't feel safe putting her in our car and she had to remain at the RTC. After that we made plans the next several years for her to visit us the day after Christmas. This worked much better and finally the last year, she was able to spend Christmas Day with us.
I became her educational surrogate and attended all her team meetings and also all her treatment meetings. Educationally it gradually became clear that the original concerns abouther IQ were valid and that the progress she could make academically was not at a level that made her a good fit for the RTC. She was by now 12 or 13 and couldn't read a calendar or count money or tell time. She could read a first grade chapter book but couldn't write legibly. Still we were able to keep her there quite a long time. We adopted our next child KC while she was there. We explained about our trip to bring him home and brought him over to meet her. I agonized over whether she would be upset about this adoption. Would she think that we were replacing her? Would she think this meant we thought something was wrong with her? She loved him and was very good with him. KC was a quiet easy going baby and she bonded with him deeply. As he grew older she would play happily wiht him and he would smile at her and hold her fingers when we went to visit. Oddly, this made things easier for Rob as KC sort of took the heat off of him with his dealings with his sister. She would spend a lot of time focussing on KC and Rob was very happy to let that happen.
However emotionally Fiona was still not stable. She had two hospitalizations for med review and due to efforts to self harm. The RTC wasn increasingly concerned that she should be in a different type of facility and DSS frankly said that the bill for this RTC was a lot higher than that of other placements they could find for her. Efforts actively began to remove her from this location.