I learned of something today that has greatly saddened me. As I've mentioned in a couple of previous posts, I volunteer as a CASA. My current "charge" is a 9-year-old girl ("M") who has been "legally free" (i.e., her biological parents' rights have been severed) since October 2004, when she was 4 years old. M originally came into the state's custody at age 3 after being sexually molested by her father. Her mother had not been a part of her life since she was a toddler due to drug addiction. In addition to being a child molester, her biological father had a long history of mental illness and drug addiction himself. It was never clear to me why her mother thought he should retain custody. I guess she wasn't thinking of anyone but herself and her addiction.
M has lived with a few relatives, in several different foster homes, and in two group homes since being removed from her father's care. She has had three people interested in adopting her who later backed out--one of whom was her maternal grandmother, who kept her in another state for six weeks before sending her back, saying she couldn't handle her--and one couple who declined to adopt just after learning her history. (M has a history of a number of behavioral issues, including severe tantrums and sexual acting out.)
M is a healthy, smart, Caucasian little girl who, but for her behavioral problems and family history, would likely be easy to place. She doesn't have any of the "special needs" that a lot of foster children have, in terms of illnesses or developmental delays. Unfortunately, not many parents want to take on the types of issues that she does have, particularly in a child who has suspected reactive attachment disorder.
Because she is smart, M is able to control her behavior for short periods of time and in certain settings. For example, she has never acted out sexually at school or had a tantrum there. In all the years I have known her, she has only ever had one full-blown tantrum with me and has never acted out sexually. The majority of her behaviors occur in the home in which she is living, and even there, usually only after a few weeks' "honeymoon" period.
After M's last adoption fell through last fall and she was moved to yet another foster home, I despaired of her case manager ever finding a permanent home for her. Although she is still a child, not many parents are looking to adopt a 9-year-old. . . . especially a 9-year-old with challenging behavioral issues.
So I was cautiously optimistic when a married couple who I will call "L" and "G" were found. Wife L had been in foster care herself as a child and was active in foster care advocacy. Husband G works in law enforcement. They had four dogs and two horses. (M loves animals, especially horses.) Despite having spent several weekends with M and seeing many of her behaviors firsthand, they seemed committed to being her parents and working through her problems. I met them and was favorably impressed. More importantly, MM was favorably impressed. (My husband is a MUCH better judge of people on first impression than I, probably due to supervising convicted felons for a living.)
M moved in with L and G full-time just after Memorial Day. L and G were employing strict discipline in an attempt to break M of her tantrums. Nothing abusive: just setting some appropriate boundaries and expectations, something that M has had little experience of in foster care.
In the past couple of weeks, I had received some emails from L that indicated some problems. M had begun using a "divide and conquer" strategy and aligning herself with G. G did not see that he was being manipulated and had begun siding with M against L at times in disputes. Needless to say, this was putting a strain on L and G's marriage. L had investigated the possibility of sending M to respite care for a weekend so that she and G could regroup and "work on [their] marriage."
So I shouldn't have been surprised today when I received this email from L:
M was disrupted yesterday from our home [i.e., she was removed and placed elsewhere]. M sexually acted out toward G on Monday night. Everything I had feared and suspected about M's unusual and inappropriate attachment toward G was confirmed. G was completely shocked and traumatized. We are both devastated, but we know this was the right decision. We are incapable of giving her what she needs to get better.
M is now living in another group home indefinitely. I don't know what will happen to this child, but I am very sad that things did not work for her--yet again--with this family. And I'm worried that she will never find a family who can meet her needs and help her be normal.
Life is so unfair. M has had more instability in her 9 years of life than most people I know experience in a lifetime. She has so much potential. It's sad.