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“I don´t want to have anything to do with her” 04/10/2010

Posted by Sir Ralph in How it went on.
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Those are the words of Jeannett she had in store for her sister during a supervision session. We have agreed that Jeannett should take part if this would be of any help for us as foster children. We were talking about the consequences of the parting from Susan a month ago.

Jeannett must have suffered terribly, She didn´t mention, but she must have been afraid that our whole family would break apart. This would have destroyed the setting which she classed as stable enough for the first time in her life and gave her enough security to survive in a world where she couldn´t trust any adult except us as her foster parents. She was trying to save what she thought would have supported her in her future development. Her sister in this situation was a crucial threat to her.

Jeannett and Ruth these days are not able to visit Susan at the emergency unit these days. The hurt would be too much. The fact that I was losing more and more of Susan´s trust didn´t make things easier. It would be best for all of us to keep distance. so we were getting used to the fact that Susan should be accommodated in a therapeutical housing group which was not necessarily in reach of a day´s trip.

“Why has my sister changed so much?” 16/08/2010

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How amazing it is that people change fast when changing the environment they live in. This has obviously happened to Susan, and Jeannett is appalled.

It was the day when Jeannett had decided she wanted to come and visit Susan with me in the emergency group. Susann hugged her sister for hello. As the day was fine, we proposed to have ice cream at a nearby ice cream parlour. Susan refused, however. She rather wanted to show Jeannett her new place where she had been living now for three weeks. Jeannett took a good look around the room, judging everything neatly.

“You have started shaving your legs?” she asked in an intriguing manner.

“Yes, indeed! I also make up my face.” Susan gave back in the same way. She seemed nervous and restless. She used dirty language and chewing bubble gum all the time – which was completely against her behaviour when she stayed with us. Finally she disappeared without saying good bye, a big distress for Jeannett.

Susan now seems to be regressing into behavioural patterns which she has acquired before she came to stay with us, and the cause seems to be that she is under the influence of the other youngsters in the housing group. We think it would be best for her to get out of there and start a therapy. But this might take a long time.

For the first time, my wife Ruth and I feel that we have lost influence on what is happening to Susan, and we know there is no way back.

Susan, what is becoming of her? 20/01/2010

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The day couldn´t be more controversial. In the morning the assistance conference for Susan took place. Our welfare official was present, together with another official who is in charge of children who are in danger of mental handicap. Both of our foster daughters have been classed in this category. As Susan is in the custody of the youth welfare, there is a change in responsibilities. Not to our best, as will be proven.

Furthermore, the biological father and family case manager were taking part. No idea why the co-ordinator of the family case manager was present, as well. Does she mistrust her own employee?

In the beginning, I gave a detailed description of the reasons for giving Susan into the youth welfare office custody. It is a strange situation. Why couldn´t I get rid of the feeling that we have failed? Nobody said so, and the atmoshere is professional. Maybe that´s the reason. A mention like “Don´t worry, you have done all that there was to be done” would have shown some appreciation for us.

In fact, the decision-making of the authorities played an important part in the coming up of the present situation as we see it. The authorities argue rather blodly that the trauma therapy which we applied for during a year´s period was not sufficient any more. No word about the fact that it was them who refused a special therapy, without having an idea of how it works. No word about the fact that in my position as foster parent had tried to find an appropriate institution, writing letters and making telephone calls. Is this my competence, anyway, or isn´t it rather the responsibility of the professionals to get this under way?

The educator in charge of Susan is looking at the problem from another position. We believe her report to be trustworthy, as she leaves an impression of dedication with us. Her report gives a totally different picture than we had of Susan before she had left us. She is easy to be integrated, keeps to the rules. She is amazed about how calm and relaxed the reaction to her situation was.

The biological father came up with what he probably thought to be a brilliant idea. Susan should be accommodated in an institution near his place of residence, so that he could visit her more often. Was this the start of returning her to the person who had abused and neglected this girl for such a long time? Was it going to start all over again? Is the fact that he had served his sentence enough of a reason to give it another try? Just the idea of that gives me the creeps.

Fortunately, this suggestion isn´t acceptable even for the youth office officials. Most of all, the intention to keep up Susan´s relation to Janet was reason enough not to follow this proposal.

It is evident to everybody present that Susan needs a therapeutical housing group. A suggestion for such a group near our residence is turned down because it is supposed to be unsuitable.

At least, everybody agreed on the procedure to visit any chosen institution beforehand and also escort the removal. I agreed because it gave me the chance to keep up some influence at least on the choice – as things will develop, I won´t be very successful with putting through this intention.

Change of location and situation. Emergency unit in the emergency housing group. Susan was already attending my arrival. We were spending ten minutes outside on the playground. I observed that the present situation is of utmost importance for her. She left the impression of being distractable and nervous, always moving about and avoiding eye contact. She is not able to concentrate on any conversation, all the time looking around as if she was searching for something. It gave me the impression of a typical lack of concentration syndrome, like when she lived with us, only more intense. She spoke in confusion about clashes amongst members of the housing group. Maybe it is only my perception from a more distant position that made me feel uncomfortable. Anyway, soon Susan had enough of my presence and decided to leae.

Ruth and Janet were already attending my return when I arrived. What was it like? I told them of my impressions. All of us felt distressed. Still, it will be me to keep up contact. Both of them wouldn´t be able to bear this sort of situation, and I don´t like it, either.

The Search goes On 21/12/2009

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Searching is one of my main activities these days. Today I am searching the virtual world of the Internet for a pulmonologist. Ruth has fallen ill with an asthmatic cough. The excitement during the last days finally shows also in her physical health. All doctors we are calling, however, have a waiting list of three months or more. How can it be that in a civilised country like ours, you have to wait for an appointment with a medical speciaist for months?

Finally we succeeded. The diagnosis is evident. Asthma. Ruth now has to stay under constant surveillance. All exciting situations are problematic for her health.

Second search. We decided to finally tackle the problem from the very basics. Janet is refusing to begin with a therapy. She needs our help and support when being confronted with a therapist; no chance for a male therapist. So I am trying to find a family therapist.

An enquiry at the health insurance turned out that systemic family therapies wouldn´t be paid for for what reason whatever. No chance to get costs reimbursed by the youth welfare office.

So I looked for welfare organisations who offer this sort of coaching for free. After a while I found out that again, there are responsibilities according to areas of service. Finally, I found a social welfare organsiation which was willing to make an appointment.

Unfortunately, we had to discover that this sort of assistance was not sufficient. Ruth and Janet were calling it a “tea-time small talk”. Both ladies really did their very best, but we had to notice that they hardly had an insight into our problems.

Many specialists had already told us that our situation was extremely difficult and complicated. Still, what´s that good for if we don´t get any assistance?

Besides, there are lots of foster families fighting just the same as we do to obtain the best results for the kids for whom they are responsible. We know some of them. It is only that far to few people know what ist means to bear responsibility for children who had to endure such a lot during their shot lives.

I still remember the quote of a well-known psychiatrist during a coaching for foster parents:

Foster parents are obliged to stand for the interests of their traumatised foster children. Who else will do that if not them? They have to show their foster children full solidarity by unconditionally taking their part.

When will authorities, therapists and clinics finally accept this fact and begin helping foster parents and their traumatised foster children, regardless of specialist discussions and responsibilities?

The Birthday 22/11/2009

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After the supervision ruth and I set off to the emergency unit. It is Susan´s birthday, and we had promised her to visit her. Janet stayed at home with our individual case adviser, a person who is especially assigned by the youth welfare office to help children and their families to cope with different problems in education, at schools and with authorities. Janet would not be able to manage the situation of meeting her sister, as she had to cope with her own problems.

Susan showed some appreciation of the presents we brought for her: some new pieces of clothing and a portable radio-cd-player. She had already attended us and welcomed us cordially. We were spending about twenty minutes in her room which she was sharing with another girl. Still, she was not willing to leave the unit with us, although the wardens would have allowed us to do so. She seemed to feel protected in some way in the emergency group. After all, maybe she felt just embarrassed by the situation and guilty, although we did everything not to give her any reason for that. Everybody tried not to talk about any critical topics, so you could really call it small talk. How are you doing, have you made any new friends, what about school. What else could we have mentioned without hurting. Susan did not show any signs of distress due to the fact that Janet did not accompany us. We only mentioned that she is not well.

Susan told us that her room mate had visits by boys and smoked in her room; something which really irritaed us. Asthma had been diagnosed with her since the very day when we took custody of the girls. The warden had noticed what was going on and put an end to it.

The social worker in charge for Susan told us that Susan had been beaten by a class mate. Otherwise she was calm and adapted well to the group.

On the way home we tried to explain the situation to each other. What we had not wished for had now taken place. Susan was now in the company of youngsters who had been taken into custody for different reasons, and were spending sometimes only a few days in the emergency unit. Was anything going wrong at her school? Was she well? What did she feel and think about? For the first time, we noticed that we were not responsible any more and didn´t have any influence. Back home, I would have contacted her school immediately and would have put everything right. We were out of power now and not any more part of her development. We were happy that her social worker in charge was reacting very professional, as well as sensitive, also in relation to ourselves.

What stayed was a vague feeling and the certainty of not being able and not being allowed to do the best for Susan.

Having a Bad Time 18/11/2009

Posted by Sir Ralph in How it went on.
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The days after the turning point were hell for the three of us. We were laying the dinner table for four persons, removing one of them. I felt that our decision to part from Susan would have consequences for a long time and we would need much time to cope with them. Ruth has been suffering from a bad stomach ache and would not be able to work. Janet didn´t attend school for some days. I was the only one of us to continue working, probably to get some distraction. Things had to go on.

I visited Susan in the emergency unit to leave her some of her belongings. She welcomed me cordially. Ruth and Janet would not be in the emotional state to be confronted with Susan. They have my sympathy.

Susan made a relaxed, or should I say, weary impression on me? No, not really. She seemed calm, but not depressed. She made contact with the other youngsters in her group; she is the youngest. Still, it is obvious to me that for Susan parting from us meant yet another situation of abandoning ties to persons with a strong influence on her life. I only can hope that there will be professionals to help her get over the parting and her trauma. And I would do what I could to minimise the consequences. This is my firm resolution.

Fortunately, the youth welfare office had granted us a supervision which had already helped us on a lot. The supervisor confirmed our decision. Susan could not bear the closeness of family ties, even if she appreciated it from time to time. All the holidays in France, Britain and Austria she really enjoyed, all of our relatives and friends who had accepted her without reservation, being successful in the local spoorts club where she could really work herself out…

In conclusion: we did the right thing, and there had not been any other way. That is why she would be better off in a children´s institution like the one where she was now.