Corazon's adoption story continues...
It is a good thing I kept daily notes about our lives when Corazon came and throughout that whole transition time. As I have been revisiting the details of Corazon's adoption for this writing I am in shock at times about all the things we have been through. I am sure so many people who go through this process feel this way as well. Nothing seems to be what it is supposed to and life is full of so many ups and downs.
I was so hopeful about therapy for Corazon. I was doing everything the books suggested but I needed help. I needed someone to understand what was going on, and give me some perspective. I wanted to know what else I could do to help this child even if it would turn out that she wasn't going to stay with me.
Therapy was a DISASTER!!!!! The therapist, Stacy, was presented to me as someone who was experienced in attachment issues and trauma. We spoke on the phone for 2 hours prior to Corazon's first appointment. During that time she was very thorough in collecting a history and asking about the kind of issues we had at home. I told her everything we were experiencing--rages, violence, aggression, disassociation, lying, stealing, peeing, sneaking, etc. At the first appointment the three of us met together for the first 30 minutes and then she met alone with Corazon for 20 minutes. After the first session she informed me that Corazon was such a different person when they were alone that she thought it would be best if I didn't sit in on any session but that we checked in by phone prior to appointments "as necessary." She wanted to establish trust with Corazon and get her to open up. I didn't know enough about Corazon's issues to object.
After 3 sessions I could see how over the top Corazon was before, during and after therapy. The whole way to therapy she was gleeful and excited, her voice got louder, her nonsense chatter increased as did her defiance. Despite the fact that the therapy rooms had those little sound machines outside the rooms to limit any passersby from hearing what was going on, I managed to clearly hear Corazon from the waiting room. She was THAT loud. After therapy, Corazon would cling to Stacy, tell her she loved her, beg to stay longer, then throw herself in my arms in a tearful mess. By the time we got to the car, she was more than fine, could barely remember Stacy's name and chattered nonstop about what takeout food would be great to eat for dinner. Whenever she got mad at me she would announce she was going to live in "Ms. Stacy's office because it was fun."
Stacy's response to Corazon was that she was a traumatized kid (I agreed) who needed a lot of love and attention. She suggested I hug her more, love her more, etc. She also told Corazon that anything she said in therapy was private and wouldn't be shared with anyone. She allowed Corazon to control everything, destroy everything, and basically be a hellion for the entire session. Afterwards, Corazon would be furious if I asked her to pick up a toy or not grab things that weren't hers or whatever. Corazon looked forward to therapy and I dreaded it. One good thing that did come out of those sessions was that I was able to see how good Corazon was at manipulation and triangulation. She had the therapist so much under her control it would have been funny if I hadn't been so desperate. I don't think I have mentioned this before but part of how I discovered some of the extent of Corazon's lying and sneaking was through the baby monitor I had in her room because of her asthma. Her room was next to my study so when I put her to bed I didn't generally need the receiver because I was usually doing work and could hear her. The receiver was up in my bedroom and by the time I went to bed she was usually calm/asleep so I would only hear her if she got up or was having a asthma problems. One night (about 3 months into this) I went upstairs right after tucking her in. What an education. I heard my little 4 year old darling talking to herself and she was running down a litany of every little thing she did at home and school that day. The list included every lie she told, every time she got away with something, every time she controlled a situation or person. I was stunned. Most of the things were small things but some were pretty major. I had never seen/heard anything like it. Since then I kept the receiver with me so that when she did this I could be better informed. This turned out to be very helpful in finding out what was going on in therapy.
Stacy was still sharing very little with me because she wanted Corazon to "trust her." But she did need information from me and in the process she would ask questions about people and experiences in Corazon's life and her past. I discovered just how much Corazon was manipulating the situation even when she was actually sharing or acting out through play therapy some significant events. For example the therapist was convinced that Corazon was very hurt by her mother's rejection. I discovered from eavesdropping on Corazon at night that Corazon KNEW the therapist thought she was talking about her mother when in fact it was her aunt that Corazon was talking about. Corazon also learned that there were important "trigger" words for her therapist and so whenever the therapist tried to go somewhere this child didn't want to go, Corazon would pull out those words and would be delighted to watch the therapist scribble on her notepad.
I was getting nowhere and Corazon wasn't doing any better so I hit the books and the internet to try and figure out what she had. I remember finding one of those "Does your child have RAD?" lists and realizing Corazon had almost all of those issues and behaviors. I have never been one to latch onto a label or need one but I would be lying if I didn't say that I was excited about this. Corazon had been with me for 6 months by then. I ordered every book I could find on adoption, trauma, PTSD and RAD. I also started asking questions of the therapist and her experience with attachment. Imagine my surprise when she told me she had limited knowledge about serious attachment issues, had NEVER worked with children until this position, Corazon was the youngest child she had ever worked with AND all of her therapy experience was with adult gay men suffering from trauma! I can see how that made her qualified to help Corazon...NOT!
I started my search for a new therapist but was discouraged by social worker #5, Cindy, who informed me that Stacy was going to be called in as a witness in court and they wouldn't want to discredit her before then. Here I was worried about Corazon and the court case really wasn't my priority. As soon as we got the new social worker, Selma, I broached the issue and she supported my search for help for Corazon regardless of the impact in court. Selma also informed me that they had been ordered by the court to do another "adoption assessment" on Corazon by an "independent evaluator." This independent evaluator did a whole battery of psychological testing with Corazon, examined everything there was about her record, met with her several times, observed her in several settings, met with me for a total of about 6 hours to discuss her behavior, and basically paid more attention to her behaviors and my observations than anyone else had to date. Then he dropped a bombshell. Corazon had an "adoption assessment" that had been done by someone else who he respected highly. This assessment suggested that Corazon had PTSD, ODD, severe RAD, was "borderline unadoptable" and suggested she was possibly bipolar. The recommendation had been for her to enter residential treatment. At the time she had just been moved from the aunt's home and into the foster home she was in before coming to me. He showed me a copy of the report that he had gotten from his colleague and he noted it was not in her social services file. Had that report had been "buried" by social services or did it never make it to the file? I had no way of knowing but I did call her social worker's supervisor, Leslie, about it and she recalled an assessment being done but didn't recall ever seeing it. She suggested it might had fallen through the cracks somehow and promised to look into it. His assessment determined she showed some extremely serious issues, and confirmed the PTSD and RAD. I had NOT broached RAD in my conversations with him so it was incredible that as he "broke the news" to me I was smiling. The poor man was prepared for and expecting me to change my mind about adopting Corazon and I was smiling! I was so incredibly relieved to have someone else "see" what I was seeing. He was relieved that I still wanted to adopt her.
Armed with this information, I continued my search for an appropriate therapist and discovered I was "out of luck." The nearest attachment therapists were hours away and had extensive waiting lists. Their services also weren't covered by Corazon's insurance. I had to find another option and went to the head of one of the most well-respected children's centers in our area. She seemed to understand my plight and recommended someone in her office who was not an "attachment therapist" but had extensive experience with attachment issues. I met this woman, Anne, and she had done significant study of attachment issues in children. She was still continuing her training in attachment therapy, admitted working with some kids with mild RAD, knew about RAD, and was willing to work with us. The first words out of her mouth after our initial conversations and as we prepared for our first session were magical. She said "I will never meet with your child alone. I am here to help the two of you attach to each other."
We scheduled our first session for a month later (due to conflicting schedules). We would start the day after I was to testify in court.