Pivot

Friends, this blog has been basically dormant for a couple of years, for lots of reasons. Our family has changed – my kids have gotten older, and as they have their privacy is more important. That’s the line that I thoughtfully and intentionally crossed when I started this blog many years ago – I gave up my and my children’s privacy in return for awareness-building that led to badly-needed resources for them and will hopefully contribute toward badly-needed system change. This blog is directly responsible for getting our state’s healthcare authority to actually pay for very necessary inpatient psychiatric care for one of my kiddos, for example, so I’m glad it exists.  It’s also directly responsible for resentment on the part of at least one of my kids, which I knew was a possibility and I completely understand. I’d like to work toward a day when being obnoxiously public about what your kids need, and using your privilege to get that, is not a necessary thing for parents of foster kids, parents of adopted kids, parents of kids of color, or parents of kids with disabilities. Big party at my house when that happens. We will have a great band – promise. 

Along those lines, it’s time to pivot this blog. There are lots of families who need support and lots of very broken systems out there, and I’d love to use the momentum I’ve built to drive those things, and I’d love to hear from you how you’d like to help me do that. 

  • Are you interested in supporting foster/adoptive families? What questions do you have? How is your civic group, PTA, place of worship, happy hour group, or book club helping? What advice do you have for me in helping people do that? Post both in the comments here or email me.
  • Are you interested in effective, abundant mental healthcare for all? I am. If you’re in Oklahoma (like me), the most effective thing you can do is ask elected officials to support Medicaid expansion, which will result in, among other things, more mental health care “beds” or slots for people who need care. Oklahomans Decide Healthcare is a new group that is working toward Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma, and you can read about their efforts and how to become involved on their website. What’s happening in your state? I’d love to help you amplify good stuff, so comment below or email me.
  • Are you interested in ensuring people of color have the same opportunities as we white folk? Or do you think that’s already a thing? Convinced racism doesn’t actually still exist? I would love to respectfully and empathetically help white folk build the same perspective that raising children of color has built for me. For clarity – I don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color, nor will I ever. I do know what it’s like to be a progressive white woman who used to think I understood, and now I know I really, really don’t. How can I build that for you, white friends? What do you want to know, or confront, or call BS on? Comment below or email me, with your input.
  • If you’re in Tulsa, please ensure you’re following what City Council is doing around race, including the equality indicators (full disclosure – I led part of the Resiliency Plan for Tulsa) and the search for mass graves related to the 1921 Race Massacre. Like and follow the Demanding a JustTulsa Facebook page for more information as well. What is happening in your state? How can I help amplify positive movement where you live? Comment below or email me.
  • Are you interested in criminal justice reform? Or are you not sure what that means? Or do you think we should lock ’em up and throw away the key? I’ve unfortunately learned how little justice there is in the justice system, via my personal and professional life, and I’m convinced we will look back on this time in our nation’s history as our second round of slavery. In Oklahoma, we keep getting really close to real reform, but we’re not quite there yet. Follow Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, ACLU Oklahoma, and Open Justice Oklahoma for great information. For those of you who are employers, please work with ReMerge and Women in Recovery to hire their wonderful graduates. I’ve hired several! For those of you on the politically conservative side of the house, check out what the Koch Foundation has to say about criminal justice reform – they’re big fans.  Also, check out Right on Crime, Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform, and The American Conservative Union Foundation.
  • If you’d like to meet with me, ask me to write a piece for your blog or publication, or ask me to speak with your group, email me, please. I am adamant about using my own experience for good in the world. 

Big love, friends! Let’s do this.

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Pivot

As Good As It Gets

Usually when I write, I try to come up with some kind of lesson, something I’m supposed to learn, some bigger picture reason for why things happen the way they happen. Today, though, I’m just amazingly angry.

I just left T, my 10-year-old, at inpatient psychiatric care for the second time since November. It’s her third stay – the first one was a little over a year ago. She arrived at psychiatric care via a police patrol car. The same incredibly kind police officer who showed up at our house last Tuesday (five days ago) called me after she heard our address on her radio today and said “I’m on my way. I heard dispatch give your address, and I said “I know that kid.” I’m coming over.” By the time she arrived, I was drenched in sweat, shaking, afraid I might be having a heart attack, and pushing with all the strength I had left in my legs to keep our attic door closed as T threw her weight against it from the other side, as she screamed and yelled to be let out and kicked holes in it. She hurled her tiny little 10-year-old body like a weapon against the years of abuse and neglect that she suffered and can’t escape, though she’s been safe, loved and cared for for almost four years.

That’s where I find myself more and more lately. Sweating, exhausted, terrified and praying to God that my daughter doesn’t get out of wherever I’ve been lucky enough to trap her and accidentally break her neck or throw herself into the covered pool and drown. For years she would at least stay in her room while she was raging, which provided some level of safety. But over the last few months, she leaves her room, roams the house, the yard and our neighborhood if I don’t physically restrain her, which is getting harder and harder. Last Tuesday, with both my husband and I home, she managed to throw her closet door down the stairs, nearly falling down with it, then get out the back door, narrowly miss falling into the covered pool, out the gate, and run down the street wailing hysterically and tearing off her clothes. My husband and I stood in the driveway, knowing if we chased after her it would only get worse. So, we stood, feeling hopeless, doing nothing, hoping the police arrived soon.

So, here’s where I have to ask, how in the hell is this as good as it gets for mentally ill children in this country? I read with both horror and relief  “Thinking the Unthinkable” by the Anarchist Soccer Mom where she writes “I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother,” and I thought, “yeah, that’s me. Is my kid the next one on the national news?”And I know a lot of other parents who are thinking the same thing.

My husband and I both have advanced degrees, we make what is an upper income for the state in which we live, we’re resourceful, and I’m assertive to the point that I’m sure I’ve been called a b*tch more than once. I’ve got a great supportive network, including a wonderful extended family, and I’ve read every book I can find on Reactive Attachment Disorder (her diagnosis). She has therapy weekly, takes medication, sees a good psychiatrist, and is on the waiting list for the Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) unit in our community. Though the RAD unit has a good reputation, there aren’t very many beds, and the stay there is a minimum of 6 months, so the beds don’t open up often.

There’s not much written about her diagnosis – in fact if you read attachment texts it’s generally not covered. My kids’ therapist has asked to write his doctoral thesis on our family, because both of my girls have RAD diagnoses, and in his words “are not burning down our house nor stabbing us to death in our sleep,” so we must be doing something right. So, basically, I’m the Mrs. Cleaver of the RAD set. I’m the Mrs. Cleaver, and I still can’t help my kid. I’m doing every damn thing I can think of, and I still can not help my kid.

In ten days, the psychiatric hospital will likely send T home, because she will no longer be “acute,” – no longer a danger to herself nor others. T can do 10 days in a psych ward like it’s Six Flags. She won’t show any of her defiance. She’ll be a super sweet kiddo, because she’s smart and she knows how the system works, and she wants to be in control. In foster/adoptive circles, we call this the honeymoon. If she didn’t have a RAD diagnosis, she’d be stepped down into residential care once she was no longer acute. But, because she has a RAD diagnosis, the hospital will send her home, because they know they can’t help her in the 90 days or so they could keep her and actually get paid. They know she needs the RAD unit (6 months to 2 years). So, they’ll send her home, and she’ll continue to have rages that require police intervention once a week, with no end in site, and it will traumatize my two other already traumatized children and stress my marriage and slowly but surely destroy our family. And, the best I can hope for is that she doesn’t hurt anyone else. And, this is as good as it gets.

As Good As It Gets