November 18, 2015

“A Table Full of Unconditional Love” – A Project Family Adoption Story

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Project Family tagged , , , , at 11:36 am by Lund

“The visual of the night he came into custody is forever burned in my memory. The sights, smells and sounds trapped in my muscle memory so different than any of the other memories I have. How late it was, how sad he was, how relieved he was when he saw it was me waiting for him. Even now that picture brings tears to my eyes. I cannot believe that three years have flown by because truly it feels like just yesterday.

At first he was with me “just the weekend” and that first weekend was pure fun. Trying to keep his mind off of things, showing him around the farm, driving the tractor, making s’mores over the fire.  It wasn’t until the following week when he found out he wouldn’t be going home for at least 3 months that things got real. The honeymoon was over. All bets were off and I met the angriest, saddest, guiltiest, most self loathing little eight year old boy there ever was.

And even then in our darkest hours he was also plainly the sweetest most compassionate, brilliant glowing ember I am sure I will ever know. People ask me how I could see that in him so clearly when so much was trying to quash his true self. I don’t know. And yet, there it was. Big as life for anyone who spent time with him to see.   Never has there been a more committed team of people from Project Family, DCF, the school, and mental health to Post-Permanence Services. I continue to feel that this group of people truly created a positive outcome where there could have been a much different one. We had this table full of unconditional love that just wouldn’t give up.

I should interject here that there were certainly moments when I thought I couldn’t go on, times when the boulder felt too heavy. There were thousands of dollars of property damage, physical aggression that left me
breathless and bleeding and the running away!!!!! That was tough. It was the self harm though and threats to self that finally pushed me to ask for a higher level of care.  It took three bouts of residential in two different places as well as a couple of short term crisis placements to teach, heal and nurture my child to the point of stability but we made it. He has been living at home for over a year now. He has friends. Real friends, the kind who invite him over for sleepovers and to their birthday parties. It may sound like just a normal kind of kid thing but it isn’t. Recently when he got his first base hit the bleachers and dugout were full of screaming children and adults. He is all of ours. To know him is to love him and he is enveloped in a community of love.

Credit: Steve Allen, Creative Commons on Flickr

Credit: Steve Allen, Creative Commons on Flickr

He used to say that his dream was to one day be a normal kid. Somehow, that reality just snuck up on us. Here he is, my normal, so much more than normal, football playing, avid reading, friendly, well balanced kid.

I hope anyone reading this doesn’t think I have blinders on to the reality of our world and what it may always be because I don’t and I recognize that statistically we are an anomaly and that this may be short lived. Every time we have a good day it goes in the savings to be stockpiled for the next storm. Man, do we have a small fortune in there right now.

-Bianca, Adoptive Mom

August 14, 2015

Vermont’s children and families need people like Lara Sobel

Posted in Commentary, DCF tagged , , , , at 10:04 am by Lund

The recent murder of Vermont Department of Children and Families social worker Lara Sobel outside the Barre State Office Building where she worked was a senseless tragedy that has affected the entire State of Vermont profoundly. For those that work in human services, the impact weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of those charged with continuing the work of keeping children safe and helping families thrive.  With the loss of Lara, we have lost an passionate advocate and dedicated professional.  We know that she improved the lives of so many people in her short time on earth.

The business of helping families is challenging and for social workers within the Department for Children and Families even more so.   Their work is frequently challenged and critiqued without the public knowing the full information.  We are facing increasingly challenging times in our State with the prevalence of addiction and mental illness and the lack of adequate capacity to serve the children and families that need our help.  Now, more than ever, Vermont’s children and families need people like Lara Sobel.  Lund’s Director of Residential and Community Treatment, Kim Coe, states, “At Lund we are proud to work closely with DCF and to support them in their work to make life safer, healthier and happier for Vermont’s children and their families. We honor Lara’s life by continuing to carry forward the mission that she lived by and believed in, all children deserve the right to live safe and healthy lives.”

Lund is committed to the safety of our staff who work in the community teaching family education, providing adoption support services, conducting substance abuse screening and assessment, and supporting clients in their recovery. The security of our workers is key as we support them in delivering the best possible services to men, women and children safely, with confidence and without fear or excessive worry.  We have taken immediate steps to review our safety protocols and provide opportunities for staff members to discuss their concerns.

We are firmly committed to our shared mission with DCF of helping to make life better for children in Vermont. We will support them and stand in solidarity at this very sad and frightening time.  In honor of Lara and all the people that dedicate their lives to improving others, we shall remain steadfast in our pursuit of safety and well-being for all children.

Flowers

October 15, 2013

“I have an anchor now.” – Post Permanency Services at Lund

Posted in Adoption, Foster Care Program, Program Spotlight, Project Family tagged , , , , , , at 8:05 am by Lund

Anjanette has been working with Katherine Boise, Post Permanency Provider, for about 9 months.  This is her story.

“I got a phone call during the holidays from someone at Lund who was doing outreach to check in with families who had adopted and they asked me if I needed any post adoption support. I asked her if she was an angel. I had been praying and crying and talking.  What am I going to do?  Are there boarding schools for a child like mind?  I was beside myself. I was really in need of some additional support and help.  It was perfect timing.

Since I was a little kid, I had always wanted to adopt or be a foster parent. My mother was an orphan and I have the intergenerational PTSD from children who never get adopted.  I know it all too well.  It has always been in my mind that there are many kids who get thrown away because they never get adopted or fostered properly and they have terrible lives with mental consequences. When Dejene arrived in my life, I had 16 days to prepare.    Someone I knew at DCF passed my name onto a social worker because he knew that I had worked in Southern Ethiopia previously and so I got an e-mail asking me if I could take a little boy from Ethiopia. In under three weeks Dejene was in my life.

I was single, divorced and it was just one of those things in life.  It wasn’t the right time, but here it is. I knew it was my son.  I knew it was my kid.  I knew it was my calling. There were too many coincidences, too many things coming together. I had the ability to take a child.  I did not even hesitate at all.  I threw myself into it.  I said yes. They rushed me through the process because they were facing having to put him in an institution because they could not find a home for him. I didn’t see a picture or know anything about his background until a day or two before he got here.  I had to commit before I had the information.  I committed without any clue.  It didn’t matter at that point what he was going to look like though I got a little nervous when I read the file and saw what I was going to be up against.

We had the honeymoon phase for a couple of months and I remember being so mad at people for reminding me all the time that it was going to end.   Do you have to rain on my parade?  It did, it came to a crashing halt.  For the first year or two, I didn’t really believe what I had done to myself.  He had so many problems.  I had a hard time understanding and identifying what was going on.  He had attachment disorder amongst other things. There were school problems, his English wasn’t as good and he was separated from his sister who had stayed with the original adoptive family and we had a really hard time connecting them.

We’re not the standard family.  I guess one of the things that was hard for me was that I did not have any support.  I was on my own.  DCF did some spot checks and Dejene was scared that they would take him away.  I knew and understood that they had to do this but it was so hard for him.  But other than that I have been on my own with this kid until Katherine. We have therapists and I have sought help from counselors and other people.  But Katherine is the first experience I have had with someone helping me regularly on a monthly basis and she will even come out twice a month if we’re working on something.

She has helped me across the board – processing and understanding what is going on with my kid, bringing me literature to understand attachment disorder, bringing materials  to try exercises and she is helping me with the school right now. She helped me with my subsidy to bring it to where it needed to be to support him.  We have identified more special needs that he has. We’ve had neuro-psych evaluations done. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for Katherine.  She helps me to keep moving forward.  Even doing things like sending the first e-mail out to the principal of the school to get something going.  It’s so hard sometimes when you are in the middle of managing your child’s special needs, when you are dealing with your own emotions, your job, your family.  Just to have that little light saying I’ll send the e-mail for you can be such a big deal.   Even though sometimes it seems like small things Katherine is doing, they’re huge things to me.  But then she does very big things too.  She has been teaching me about higher cognitive skills and brain dynamics. This is the first time I have gotten this type of support.  I needed it all along but I really need it now he is becoming a teenager.  Knowledge helps you calm down.  When you understand what is happening with a kid, it helps.  I used to take it personally.  His reactions were so counter intuitive to me on certain things that I needed a neutral party to explain and help me understand. That’s been invaluable.

My son needs different sorts of provisions and so Katherine helps me to coordinate that. We have a team approach now which is really helpful.  I have a best friend, Doug, who is my knight in shining armor who has taken on the role of Dejene’s uncle. He is the extended family that has stepped up to help me with this kid.  I don’t have family here and I needed unlikely suspects to step up and become part of the family to help me raise this kid.  Katherine and Doug have been those people.   I never expected and they’ve been such a big help in raising him.

Katherine brought me an article about the difference between crisis mode, when they are operating in the limbic system and they absolutely cannot hear you or respond properly and how you work with them to calm down and use their pre frontal cortex and reasoning skills.  This has been one of the most useful things that anyone has taught me. I have to understand when he is in crisis mode, he really cannot hear me and cannot answer me.  I used to think he was just not cooperating then I would get all freaked out.  It’s not making excuses for him, but it’s so I don’t run myself  into the ground and deal with things the wrong way and set myself, more than anybody else, up.  My son said that he thinks I am doing better too, I am not yelling as much. I have a better understanding. I had to grow up too, learn, listen, change.  Katherine has really facilitated that. It has been the most dramatic help over the six years I‘ve had him. We have a great chemistry, I adore her and we work well together. I enjoy her company and feel comfortable with her in my home. She is here to work with me and not with Dejene and at first I thought it wouldn’t work then I realized that this was great.  I wanted to fix him but I needed fixing too.  I wanted him to change but I needed to change too.  I see him act different when I act different.  It’s amazing.  It’s unreal and so having her to work with me and not with him is the best things ever.  I didn’t need someone else to work with him.  I needed someone to work with me.  I love her, I would sing her praises from the top of a mountain, I really would.   I can’t say enough about her.  She is extremely good at what she does. I know I have an anchor now.

My relationship with my son and my home life are so much better than they were a year and a half ago.  You have to get outside help because if you keep things internal, it festers.  You need fresh ears, fresh eyes.  It can be scary. None of us want to feel like failures.  We’ve all made mistakes.  It’s a tricky game.  I was so passed being afraid to share because I was in such crisis. I was on my knees. I needed help. It’s vulnerable to open up and admit that you cannot handle your kid.  But if I didn’t have these things in place, I would be lost, things would get worse and we would start taking it out on each other.

It’s coming together in a good way.  I have had some of the darkest days going through this and I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I just try it a different way, I try to look at it from a different angle.  I would love to speak to other families because after what I went through I would like to be a support.  I had some dark lonely moments doing this alone, feeling like what did I do to my life? What did I do to myself? I will never be able to help this kid.  This kid is too much trouble for me.  This kid doesn’t respect me because I am not his mom.  He’s never really going to love me.   I have been through every one of those extreme painful feelings and the bottom line is now after all these years and everything we’ve been through, he’s totally my kid.

The bad days are lessening and the good days are outnumbering the bad.  It goes in cycles, like Katherine always reminds me, don’t feel bad if things are going well for a while and all of a sudden they go to hell.  You’ll work through a stage.  It’s helpful because you are so in it that you need someone to keep reminding you and guiding you through the process.  Without that I would feel very lost right now.  I have made so many gains.  I am not just saying this to make Lund happy.  I was lost.  I was really overwhelmed.  I’ll never forget when that lady called, I went into my closet to talk to her in private because I was like “What? You want to help me?”  I think I cried on the phone with her.  Things can get better, things can change.  Children are not fixed.

I would never trade it, even with all the horribleness, I wouldn’t trade it.  The only thing I would change is my preparedness.  If I had had Katherine from the beginning, I would have understood better, sooner.   If my life hadn’t turned this way, I wouldn’t have a kid at all and how good would life be like that?  He’s my legacy.  He’s my everything.  He’s my kid.   He’s the one I get to pass everything on to.  I never cared whether it was biological, I’m a scientist so I know that human beings are all very closely related anyway.  I wanted to be able to pass on my knowledge.  I wanted pass on how to walk lightly on the earth, compassion for others, love for animals, love for life.  I wanted to share my life with a kid. This is all I ever wanted since I was a kid. While I was not looking, it came.  It was meant to be.”

Anjanette and her dog Charlotte at their home in Huntington

Anjanette and her dog Charlotte at their home in Huntington

March 15, 2011

Ask Us Who We Are: A Documentary About Foster Care in Vermont

Posted in Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , at 4:14 pm by Lund

Kingdom Country Production Presents:

Ask Us Who We Are Title

Ask Us Who We Are: A Documentary about Foster Care in Vermont
April 9, 2011 – Main Street Landing in Burlington, VT at 7:30 pm
Purchase Tickets Today!

Ask Us Who We Are Girl released image

Ask Us Who We Are is a documentary film directed by Bess O’Brien that focuses on the experiences of children living in the Vermont foster care system. While Ask Us Who We Are highlights some of these children finding permanent families, it also highlights many of these children not being able to do so. The film is intentionally activist in nature in order to inspire action and questions such as: “How can I make a difference,” “How is the system managed and funded?” and “How can I become a foster parent?” Ask Us Who We Are is an excellent model for interagency cooperation between Lund Family Center’s Project Family Program, The Vermont Foster and Adoptive Family Association (VFAFA), The Vermont Department of Children and Families (DCF), and other departments and organizations involved in addressing the issues that face more than 1,200 children in Vermont’s foster care system each day. O’Brien’s documentary also functions as a window to show the public how they may become involved in helping the extremely at-risk population of children currently in Vermont foster care. While the film shows the way out of foster care, it also shows the way in, and in this sense functions as a powerful warning to abusive and neglectful families. Ask Us Who We Are breaks opens stereotypes, paints a holistic picture of foster care including its areas of success and failure, and gives a voice to those who are often unheard.

Tickets for the Main Street Landing (Burlington) Screening on April 9th at 7:30 pm may be purchased for $25 here.

“Ask Us Who We Are” state wide tour dates:

Burlington Fri. April 15, 7pm Contois Auditorium Church Street
Burlington Sat. April 16, 7pm Contois Auditorium Church Street
Rutland Fri. April 22, 7pm Rutland High School 22 Stratton Road
St. Albans Thurs. April 28, 7pm Street Albans City Hall 100 Main Street
Montpelier Sat. April 30, 7pm Unitarian Church 130 Main Street
Randolph Sun. May 1, 7pm Chandler Ctr. for Arts Main Street
Stowe Thurs. May 5, 7pm Town Hall Main Street
Middlebury Fri. May 6, 7pm MUHS Auditorium 73 Charles Avenue
Street Johnsbury Sat. May 7, 7pm St. Jay Middle School Western Avenue
Hardwick Sun. May 8, 7pm Hardwick Town House 127 Church Street
Brattleboro Wed May 11, 7pm New England Youth Theatre 100 Flat Street
Bellows Falls Thurs. May 12, 7pm Opera House The Square
Newport Fri. May 13, 7pm Goodrich Library Main Street
Morrisville Sat. May 14, 7pm People’s Academy Copley Avenue
Barton Wed May 18, 7pm Parker Pie’s Village Hall 161 County Road
Bennington Thurs. May 19, 7pm Bennington Museum 75 Main Street
Norwich Fri. May 20, 7pm Norwich Town Hall Main Street

Tickets at the door are $10 for adults and $5.00 for kids. There is a $5 discount for low-income foster families.

For more information visit our website: www.kingdomcounty.com or call (802) 592-3190

Screenings of the film include a discussion with director Bess O’Brien and members of the film

Ask Us Who We Are logo