Goodbye to My Daughter, Age 13

I remember the day that we decided we would adopt. We had a miscarriage after investing money we didn't have into fertility treatments. We had gone from our highest of highs to our lowest of lows in a matter of weeks and after months at not knowing how we would grow our family, we attended an adoption orientation at a local agency. We left that meeting with a renewed hope for a large family. We were excited, relieved, and eager. 

Nothing about adoption was easy, but let's be honest... nothing about infertility was easy either. Having a family was simply not going to be easy for Jason and I. So I guess it was good that easy wasn't a requirement for us. 

Our first few kids came with great health complications, but we were matched much quicker than we had ever dreamed. Our family was growing and I was in my element. I was a MOM! I had dreamed of being a mom since I was 9. I wrote in my third grade journal to the kids I would one day have (Yes, I really did). 

I had my babies, my sleepless nights, my cuddles, massive piles of laundry, and dinner on the table for my husband when he got home from work. It wasn't a dream for most people but for me, I WAS living my dream. 

It was then that Jason and I branched out into the world of adopting a tween. It wasn't easy either. But as you are starting to see, not much that we ever did was. We knew choosing a tween was complex... we just had not idea how hard it would get. 

I remember the first big blow up. The "honeymoon" phase had wore off and our simple request to have our newest daughter join the rest of the family in the yard to hang out was met with great resistance. I couldn't get my head around it. Why was what I was asking so upsetting? 

She arrived in our home with therapist, psychologists, and social workers in place. There was never a false pretense that this young lady had it together. And yet I never expected it to go so wrong. She was ELEVEN? How could an eleven year old kid turn a household completely upside down?

She was 12 by the time she was devising lies about us abusing her and threatening to get Child Protective Services to remove all of our kids. Thankfully, the in-home therapist was able to document her horrible intentions so we were somewhat protected from false allegations but it was terrifying all the same. 

I will never forget the day that I had to call the police on our daughter. She had now turned 13 and been with us for about 18 months. Crisis teams had come to our house twice at this point, but always were able to get her regulated and into more intensive services shortly after. But at this point, we were told if she started to make allegations of abuse, we would need to protect ourselves and our other kids by getting it documented right away. 

It's odd that I don't remember what upset our girl. It often wasn't significant enough to remember. We had sent her to her room inorder to create seperation. She refused to go. She had packed a bag to "run away" but was afraid of the dark so not willing to leave the front porch. She didn't get the rise out of us she was looking for by pretending to leave. She opted to change tactics. She decided to pick up crockery and threaten to smash it. We remained calm still so she needed yet another shift in strategies. She decided to declare her intent to go down the hallway of her sleeping siblings, wake them up and take them with her to "get out of this awful place". 

She got the response she had been looking to get with this threat. Jason got up and physically blocked the opening to the hall. She started to push and kick at him, like a kangaroo attacking the HULK. My husband is 6'4" and could not be moved and yet he was not willing to have a teen beat on him. He grabbed a decorative pillow from the couch and used it to push her away from the hall and onto the carpet. She screamed threats to say he was beating her so with that he told me to call the hotline, then the police. 

She got indignant when the police were on the way. She was finally willing to go to her room stating she "didn't care" that we called the cops. 

When the police arrived, they interviewed my husband and I separately and asked our daughter to go to the back patio table and wait. Then the officers took turns interviewing her. The crisis hotline team arrived to see police at our home, so left the police to handle the situation. 

After interviewing our girl, the officers informed us that they were stunned by her responses. Apparently, most teens the police are called out to deal with are full of complaints about their parents, their home, and their lives. Our daughter was the opposite. When asked what one thing her parents (meaning us) could do to make things better at home, she said "nothing". She just hated us and didn't want to live with us. She had no reason. She had nothing she wanted us to do differently. She was just a hurt an angry kid. 

She was taken to jail for the night and in the morning we had to pick her up or face charges of child abandonment. We picked her up but were unwilling to take her home. You see, something happened that we couldn't just come back from. Our daughter had crossed the line from having bad behavior and idle threats to having UNSAFE behavior. Our daughter was willing to assault her dad and go after innocent toddlers in their beds. Letting her come back home was no longer an option. We were not willing to risk the placement of our other three children (2 of which were not yet adopted but still considered foster kids) and their safety. As much as we loved our teen, we were going to have to love her long distance until we felt confident that our home would be safe with her back in it. 

For me, it was both the hardest and the easiest decision I had to make. Our girl needed to go into a therapeutic boarding school. I was confident of that. We had 18 months of trying EVERYTHING that her insurance covered and therapists recommended. She wasn't improving and our family was at risk of losing more than just her. My heart was at peace that our family needed her moved. And yet, I was devastated for the daughter I had grown to know and love as my own. I knew she didn't want to be the hurt, confused, frustrated, scared girl that she was. Her past set her up for a life of mistrust, lack of confidence, a need for control, and manipulation. She didn't choose her past. And I don't believe she was capable of choosing her behaviors even then. I didn't want to have to send her away. I didn't want to have to be yet another person that created seperation when things got hard. 

I won't drag you through all that we went through in choosing a program. It is a decision no mom ever wants to make and only makes as a last resort. And even then, no mom has direction or wisdom in how to go about choosing a place to heal, raise, educate and rehabilitate a child. Our hope was to have her home with us after 9-12 months in a program. We did a parent program along side her program. In the end, she came home full of hope and love but relapsed into her destructive and abusive ways in a matter of months. She was placed into yet another program. And this cycle repeated itself over and over until she turned 18 and left the schools and our home. 

The story would be a sad one if it ended there. I am so thankful it didn't. Our daughter is a young woman now. She is a young woman that I am so incredibly proud of. She doesn't have it all together, but she is honest about her short comings and continues to battle for her best self daily. She has a relationship with us that is accountable and full of integrity. She is a wonderful sister to those siblings that she once was a threat to. She is not perfect by any means and I don't need her to be. I never needed her to be. It isn't about being perfect, it is about being kind, honest, and well intentioned. 

I have a son that was disrupted from 2 homes as a teen... where the families quit on him when it got hard. That has created deep pain and huge fears of rejection for him. Alternatively, I am so glad we didn't quit on our daughter and create the same pain and fear for her. Yes, we sent her away. But we loved her even when she wasn't with us. We wrote her. We did our parent program work. We longed for her health and her return and prayed for her daily. She was never without a family even when she didn't live with her family. 

I have parents ask me when things get impossibly hard in the home if they should end the sufferring and place the child inpatient somewhere. I can't answer that for any given family but I can say that safety was always the measure for me. I worried what affect the chaos and ugliness would have on my younger kids, but God has protected them. They know right from wrong and dare not repeat the things they saw. Her influence on them was not more powerful than their father's and mine. Thank you, Jesus for that! But had she woken them out of their sleep and tried to drag them out our door... those are wounds that are hard to come back from. Had CPS determined our home to be a risk for the little ones and them get moved to another family, their lives would have forever been changed. Safety was the deciding factor. 

Another consideration that I wasn't aware of when we first chose to place our daughter that I am very aware of now, is the poor likelihood of a child remaining in the home once they have been placed out of the home previously. Our daughter never wanted to be in a program, but when she decided that she didn't want to be in our home she knew how to get the home unsafe again to where we had no choice but to move her. Our daughter gained a level of control over her circumstances that no child should have. She identified the line in the sand, and couldn't help but to cross it over and over. 

The cost of placements out of the home... you don't even want to know. It is unimaginable and a sacrifice that the whole family financially has to bear. The hard part about the expenses is that with every dollar spent on the programs and nothing to spend for the family back at home, the inpatient child resents being in the program so gratitude for the tens-of-thousands of dollars spent is simply not going to be there. It is thankless, sacrificial, and truly devistating. 

Do I regret it? Do I regret adopting my girl? Nope. Do I regret my decision to place her out of home? Nope. Do I regret downsizing our home, cashing in retirement plans? Nope. I don't regret any of what I felt I had to do. It is sad that it was necessary and yet, it was exactly that- necessary. It was a big price to pay for all of us but we have the most amazing young woman in our family today because of it. Simply put, I have nothing but gratitude. 



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