As most of you probably know by now, silence on raising dc's website does not necessarily mean silence in raising dc. I wish that were the case. The last three weeks have witnessed some pretty serious and sensitive developments. We always struggle with striking the right balance between what information to share online—in this quasi-public forum—and what to keep to word of mouth, or to ourselves.
Since Jennifer moved to Arizona, you've read and seen pictures of her progress. We are amazed and thrilled to see what is happening there. Her new family reports how helpful she is, and that she has embraced the role of big sister. We talk to her several times a week and she really does sound like she is blossoming. From her new look (see link to eyebrows post) and her new language (I've heard the word "heck" out of her at least twice), she has enthusiastically thrown herself into this new world. It's not that she's not sad, or that she doesn't miss her family—most of all her sister—and her friends. She does. But when she gets sad, she's turning to her new parents and siblings to comfort her, and that seems to be just as it should be. Even when we tell her that we miss her and ask her if she wants to come back, she says 'no.' Arizona is where she wants to be.
Back in DC, we are struggling with a different problem. Since Jennifer left, Paulette has experienced at least two of the stages of grief we expected: sadness, and anger. For the first three weeks after Jen left, Paulette was unusually clingy and tender, and visibly sad. She would sleep in Jen's bed, for example, or listen to Jen's favorite cd of primary songs as she was falling asleep. This seemed, at the time, to be a pretty important breakthrough. (Usually, when she feels sad, or vulnerable, or lonely, she expresses it as anger instead.)
Unfortunately, the anger is back with a vengence. And so is the disrespect, dishonesty, and occasional explosive violence that marked her behavior during the first few months she lived with us (and, as we have come to learn, that has marked her behavior for years). Three Fridays ago, she took two extra hours to come home from her piano lesson, with some cockamamie story about where she had been in the meantime. Two Fridays ago, she bit me. Last Friday, she didn't come home at all.
Worried and frantic, Kimberly called the police to file a missing person's report—the second time we've had to do this in two and a half months. Paulette eventually showed up at her piano teacher's house while the police were at ours, and the police officer brought her back to the house. It would be an understatement to say she wasn't exactly repentant. Fortunately, the police officer remembered her from when she responded to a call at their old house. She says that she remembered Paulette being the "mom" of the family. The officer said that she was going to be a constant presence in Paulette's life. YEAH!!!!!
Since then, Kimberly and I have spent countless hours trying to figure out how to get Paulette the help that she needs. It's clear that the current situation isn't helping her—something we'd come to realize days before. What we know is that Paulette needs a major therapeutic intervention—a combination of medication, therapy, residential treatment, and an environment that is structured and contained enough to keep her safe. She also needs a change of heart, something all the doctors, therapy, and medications in the world can't provide.
Unfortunately, we are realizing how few options are available. Preventive mental health care in this city is atrocious. Unless a kid is suicidal, homicidal, or in the juvenile justice system, there aren't a lot of options for care.
Yesterday, we admitted her into a two-week therapeutic group home (called "respite care"). It will be a needed break for us, and hopefully a wake-up call for her. During that time, we'll amp up her therapy, and start her on some meds (something the doctor suggested months ago, but we had been reluctant to do for the obvious reasons).
Our hope (pipe dream?) is that somehow, we'll be able to find a way for Paulette to participate in an Anasazi-type program that would serve as a bridge between where she is now and where we hope she will eventually end up—with a loving family. We vacillate between being hopeful that this will work out, and certain that it won't.