The Weekend: So Many Questions. Not Many Answers. Hard Decisions. Chaos Reigns Supreme!

It may be quite a title, but it definitely sums things up.

This was our first weekend with the new bunch. On Saturday morning, the mother dropped off the three oldest. She stated that the grandmother of the one-month old “missed him” and that she dropped the baby off with her. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. . .

Friday night, when Jessica and I realized that the kids would be coming back, we decided that we really needed to get some legal paperwork straightened out. We had had the kids here for five days and we had no authorizations for medical care. Yes, if an emergency occurred, we’d be able to take them to the ER, but we really had no authority to make decisions.  I had been doing research throughout the week as to which forms I would need, wording of consent, etc, but since we had not seen the mother all week (we really *did* expect that she’d want to see her kids at least once or twice throughout), never formalized much. Plus, to be honest, the week was chaotic enough with everything added on to what was already going to be a busy week.

On Saturday Morning, I contacted some of the friends I know in the legal industry to make sure that I could get my ducks in a row as much as possible. A couple of conversations down and I was pretty certain that we were doing as much as we could do.

The mother dropped the three kids off, signed the forms and then she was gone. Saturday was complete chaos. During the week, Ashley and Jessica had been doing a lot with the kids while I worked on things like getting cars fixed, and even got some work done. While we knew that there were some behavioral issues, a lot of them were averted due to the activities our kids had. But weekends being “family days” (or what we call “Everybody Days”), we got to have a bit more insight into some things.

  • The five-year old thinks she’s a fifteen-year old and that rules don’t apply to her. This, of course, is no surprise, having grown up in a home where it was either do whatever you want or get beaten when the parent has reached the limit. There’s no in between because there is no structure. The idea of enforced rules and structure did not sit well with her.
  • The words “please”, “thank you,” and “I’m sorry” were like foreign words to them.
  • The almost three year old has, on a couple of occasions, come up to us (and the other children) and tried to choke us. And no, she was not playing. When Jessica brought it up to the mother that we’d never seen a kid try to actually choke someone before, the mother’s response was that of shock and, “oh really?” As if it was a normal thing.
  • On at least two occasions, the almost 2-year old and almost 3-year old called both Ashley and Jessica “B*tch” in a defiant manner.
  • In order to get someone’s attention, their first resort is to hit.
  • Until they stayed here with us, they had not been exposed to the use of eating utensils.
  • Rather than use words, they growl and throw tantrums.
  • Timeouts for hitting or other misbehavior could last as long as 90 minutes before apology, manners or positive behavior would be exhibited.
  • The three older kids, ‘A’, Eli and Brenna, spent a lot of time in their rooms because they did not like being around that behavior.
  • ‘N’, who is developmentally delayed and very impressionable, tried to choke me because he had seen the three-year old do it. When I explained that we don’t do that, he responded with, “We don’t?”
  • ‘A’, whose behavior has improved drastically, started to exhibit some of his old behaviors.

So, with that, Saturday night, after the kids went to bed and were asleep, Jessica and I had a long discussion about whether we thought that, at this stage of the situation, we were giving these kids the right kind of help and, as importantly, talked about the impact this one week has had on our kids. After weighing all the options, we concluded that, because the attic is not done, and because there is just too much other chaos going on with contractors in and out and the general Grand Central Station that is our house, along with the fact that having been through the foster-care training, we are now far more in tune to the programs and services available to the mother and the children, we will be working to get these kids and the mother into the programs best suited for her.

On Sunday, Jessica reached out to a child advocate that we were put in contact with through the foster training program and got some advice on how to proceed. Additionally, she called a program that works with the mother and the children, not only to help the children but to help the mother find the help, housing, job and other things that she needs in order to provide them with a stable environment.

Jessica had also reached out to the mother and told her that keeping the kids for a very long period of time was going to prove difficult, and also gave her resources needed to help her out. We opted to pay for another week at the hotel for the mother and, according to the mother, she starts work tomorrow and spent yesterday looking for housing. Unfortunately, because she had not responded to Jessica’s texts virtually all day, we felt as if perhaps she had abandoned the children.

Sunday was very much like Saturday for the first part of the day. However, we finally had some breakthroughs. Throughout the week, we always gave strong positive reinforcement whenever they used their manners (Jessica calls it the “happy dance”), and the children have really embraced it. I told Jessica that by next week, they will be whole new kids. Last night we had a major dance party and we’ve discovered that 2-year old ‘K’ really can bust a move when he wants to.

While we know that these kids are going to be here for the short-term and that we had concluded that there is no way we can take them long-term at this time, it is encouraging to see the positive improvements they’ve made in such a short time. Our hope is that the mother gets all the help she needs, and we have told her that we’ll be there to lend her a hand when we can. Until then, it’s day to day with the kids but we’ll keep doing our best to do what we can, while we can.

3 Comments

  1. Such a tough situation. I’m glad the kids are responding to the positive reinforcement. What lucky kids (and mom!) to have even this short exposure to your loving, gentle, positive influences. I’m so inspired by you and your lovingkindness in action. Hugs to all!

    • MarcBenz

      Thanks Andrea! To be honest, we have our moments. But knowing that we might be having an impact to more than just what/who is under our roof really DOES make it all worthwhile.

  2. Sarah Backus

    Magdalena Gerber is always my favorite here…if you know you can give another human 2 hours, 2 weeks,2 months of human compassion…you just give it!

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