7 weeks ago, we welcomed Madison’s birth brother into our home. I was on Cloud 9. Head over Heels in Love. Officially, he was an adoption placement, but we knew in our hearts that he would be part of our family forever. One week later, the honeymoon ended.
Brother D had more issues than we realized. Having lived the past 13 years in the foster system, he was deeply wounded. My heart broke as I read to him before bed and prayed with him every night for God to keep away the bad dreams. As the days passed, more issues became apparent. The days were the longest of my life. I was stretched to my emotional and physical limits. And, yet, I love him so much.
We were told Brother D was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD, which was of no concern to me since 2 of my 3 kiddos have the same thing. I didn’t know D is bi-polar with a number of intellectual concerns. Highlights of our time together included 3 days of out of school suspension, 2 days of in school suspension, weekly referrals, regular visits and phone calls with the school, constant arguing/shouting matches, being fired by the psychiatrist, more doctor’s appointments than I can count on 2 hands, and nearly losing my job as a result of focusing all of my time on D.
Madison stopped talking to him within a couple of weeks. When he walked into a room, she walked out. I watched my first born stop eating, retreat into her room more often than usual, and completely stop her most bothersome behaviors like not listening and arguing. Morgan, age 5, fought with D every day. And McKenzie, my introvert, avoided him. The stress in our home was palpable. Daily I was questioning our decision. I felt blind sided by the number of issues we were facing.
The most alarming matter quickly became his belief that nothing was wrong with him. He challenged every diagnosis, adamantly believed he did not require medication, repeatedly told us he did not need any help or even our help, and expressed his belief that doctors were trying to kill him. I had one of those out of body experiences in the psychiatrist’s office of being in a Lifetime movie about mental illness. In that moment, God spoke clearly to me. I cannot help someone who does not want to be helped. Period.
The #1 rule when Brother D came to our home was no violence. We made it completely clear that if he were to hurt one of the girls or one of us, he would have to leave. The safety of every family member was paramount. So when he ran into the house Thursday night screaming, “Please forgive me! I didn’t mean to do it! It was instinct!” we were terrified. We raced into the yard to find Madison hysterically crying. I reached her first and she melted into my arms. Immediately D begins shouting (in our front yard for the entire cul-du-sac to see and hear) Maddie provoked him and he hit her. As I held my sobbing child in my arms and felt her tears soaking my shirt, I listened to D loudly explain how this situation was Madison’s fault. Every one of my maternal alarms rang at once.
While Kim dealt with D, I comforted Maddie who had been punched in the side after an argument during which she smacked his arm. His punch knocked the breath out of her and left her doubled over. None of my children have ever experienced physical aggression and all 3 were terrified. In this moment in my front yard, Kim stuck to the rule and made the phone call to CPS that he had to be removed. I was amazed by her strength. I was in awe of her focus. Everything else faded to gray except our daughters and one of them was hurt.
D raged for about an hour, screaming and crying that Maddie should not have smacked his arm and he wasn’t to blame. I was a wreck. I am talking snot bubbles and tears that led to swollen eyes and a headache the size of Texas. I laid on his bedroom floor sobbing alongside D. The guilt was overwhelming. I am so sorry his whole life has been such a train wreck. I am so sorry I can’t make anything better. I am so sorry that he has to leave when I love him so much. I left D’s room to check on my girls and found McKenzie barricaded in the corner of her room wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by her stuffed animals. She was reading to them. The scene in her room caught me off guard and snapped me out of the guilt filled sob fest. My daughter was in the midst of trauma. We all were. McKenzie was responding to a scary situation in her home the way the school taught her to respond in a lock down drill – all children quietly sitting in the corner of the room. What had I done to my girls?
Maddie, McKenzie and Morgan spent the next 3 nights on the floor of our bedroom, sleeping on pallets. They were scared. Brother D left us Friday morning and is now living in a home for boys nestled on a ranch. My sobbing returned as I helped him prepare for the social worker to arrive. He comforted me by saying he is used to moving around and he would be fine. The social worker arrived and all 3 of us loaded her car with his things. My heart officially broke into a thousand pieces when I said good-bye to the only boy to ever steal my heart. I didn’t realize the human body contained that much water and yet my face, neck, and shirt were drenched.
D brought an enormous energy into our home that was hard to live with. However, the absence of that energy was incredibly heavy. Mother’s Day weekend was mostly spent in our pajamas as all of us adjusted to life without D. We cleaned house and cooked the comfort foods of childhood. We cried. We watched movies. We napped. I feel like someone has died and, yet, I can still talk to him on the phone, he still calls me Mommy, and tells me he loves us. My heart is so heavy. I find it difficult to focus on much and recognize I am grieving. It feels like the world has stopped turning and time has stopped. I miss what could have been, I miss the dream, I miss the boy.
All of this has been difficult to talk about and I have struggled to share the news with friends and co-workers. It just hurts. I had no intention of sharing it with the world through a blog but my BFF reminded me that words bring healing. I am not the only mother in the world to have a failed placement. I am not a failure. So I share this story with you in hopes my pain can bring someone else comfort. I share this story in hopes my story can remind others how much our kiddos suffer in this imperfect system we call foster “care”. I share my story because I can’t hold the pain inside any longer. I have faith God will fill the void in my heart, protect my sweet boy wherever he is, and carry each of us through this roller coaster ride we call parenthood. Peace.