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Author Topic: Guardians to 14 y/o with likely BPD  (Read 108 times)
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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Child
Relationship status: Married
Posts: 1

« on: June 20, 2022, 01:29:59 PM »

It's difficult to post this; I have been avoiding friends and family because I don't want to have to explain what's going on, it's so painful and has happened so quickly.  My husband and I were foster parents, and then made guardians, to two sisters (now sister and brother) for the past three years.  They came us at 15 y/o (sister) and 11 y/o (brother.)  We originally thought the 15 y/o would be the more challenging child but we pretty quickly learned we were wrong.  While the 15 y/o has her own issues, for the most part she was emotionally stable and is now 18 and living on her own working full-time.  Her brother however has had trouble regulating his emotions and impulses the entire three years.  He had lots of meltdowns, trouble in school, trouble making and keeping friends his own age, and for the first year he absolutely hated me- he would not listen to me, he'd call me names and be rude or dismissive of me.  He absolutely loves chaos and drama because that's all he's known.  Both parents (who were not together) each got arrested and put in prison within months of each other in 2019.  Bio mom has a strong bond with the kids despite not really being in their lives consistently.  The kids often lived with grandparents, friends, other family members and other foster families through the years.  The older sister would run away and live with friends because she felt unsafe in her home (lots of drugs and strangers coming and going.)  Despite this, our son was insistent that he was just waiting for bio mom to get out and they would live together and have a perfect life.  Nothing bio mom did was her fault; she was dragged down by others.  
We have worked with our son to provide as many resources as possible.  He refused therapy so we got him into equine therapy where the horses provided behavioral feedback for him.  Eventually he warmed up and within a year asked for talk therapy, which we got him.  We moved him to an independent study program so he could focus on one class at a time. We got him an IEP and a tutor and he steadily improved in his study habits and grades to the point that we didn't even need to remind him to do his homework, he took the initiative.  He finally started bonding (or so I thought) with me, sharing lots of really wonderful times.  He shared very personal things with me and told me how much he trusted me.  He would literally cling to me at times.  There were times I found his behavior with me to be inappropriate for a teen but I would chalk it up to him not knowing how to properly express affection.  When he opened up about wanting to transition to a male, I worked with him to set up an appointment at our Children's Hospital's gender affirming care center (had a year-long waiting list so we don't have an apartment until October.)  We tried being the most boring parents possible in an effort to demonstrate what a stable family looks like.  
We still struggled with his moods and impulses during this time.  In the past three years we caught him vaping, smoking weed, drinking alcohol and abusing cold pills (DXM.)  He would be very loving and giddy and then cold and withdrawn (especially with me) in cycles.  We had no diagnosis except for depression and anxiety, so I couldn't put the pieces together of what my husband and I were experiencing.  My body warned me but I kept ignoring it.  My anxieties were sky high because I was so afraid of setting him off, or how he would react to me, and I absolutely dreaded when he would turn on me and see me as his enemy.  I never understood why he kept doing this, why I always felt this nervous feeling in my gut each time I'd hear his bedroom door open or when I had to knock and ask him something.  I have lost 40 pounds from this anxiety.  How do you acknowledge that a young child could cause this in a grown adult?  I thought I was going crazy.  I wanted to save him so much that I ignored my gut and pressed on, thinking that if I could just love him enough and show him that I could be the mother he needed, he would come to terms with his trauma and finally start healing.  He was heavily neglected as a baby, and we did know that he had been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) as a young child.   This meant that because he did not create a strong bond with his mother, he now has trouble bonding with others and can be especially challenging and defiant with his caregivers, especially female caregivers.  Again though I thought I could help him work through this and because our relationship had improved so much, I saw this as progress and healing.
We learned some effective techniques to deal with his negative behavior.  You cannot parent a child with trauma the same way you would an average child.  We learned to be very clear and exact in our expectations (school, waking up on time, chores, no drugs, etc...) and were just as clear in the consequences of not following rules.  He would take us at our word and if we deviated even a little, would claim that we were liars and could not be trusted.  Structure and consistency were of utmost importance in raising him, and for a long while it seemed to be working.  Mind you, our expectations of him had to be recalibrated- he thought we were asking so much of him to do pretty basic things- wake himself up on time, do his homework, clean his room once a week and do about 20 minutes of chores once a week.  He grew up without and structure or rules so for him this was big (and could even be overwhelming at times.)
Well, bio mom was released from prison this past March, and our son's behavior spiralled very quickly.  Since knowing in February his mother was being released, we have taken him to the ER five times for self-harm and suicidal ideation.  He called the police on me because I was "acting weird".  He started shoplifting and taking large quantities of DXM and lost 25 pounds in three months.  I thought his new anti-depressant and/or anxiety was causing this, I feel so stupid now.  After catching him with pills and weed, we would take away his phone, which was the only thing he seemed to care about, though he was free to use our phones to talk to bio mom.  My husband would take him to see bio mom (per court order all visits had to be supervised.)  They met her one time at an AA meeting and our son ended up speaking.  My husband noted how comfortable he seemed at this meeting, talking with adults 2-3 times his age, all struggling with their sobriety and their lives.  Since February he went from being very close to me, telling me how scared he was to reunite with bio mom because they are now such different people, to pushing me away as hard as he could.  Us taking away his phone only made him angrier and more withdrawn to the point that the only times we'd talk would be about basic information like dinner or calls with bio mom.  After his first ER visit in Febraury we got him into an 9 week intensive outpatient program (IOP), which we thought would help.  Again, car rides to and from the program got quieter and quieter over time.  He had much angrier outbursts and would say some of the meanest things I'd ever heard from him.  My mental health was taking a toll from all of this, my emotions were as on as much of a roller coaster as his were, and I again started questioning my own sanity.  Every time the police came to our home or the social worker came to investigate, and despite him making false claims of abuse, they would place him back in our care because there was no evidence of wrong doing.  This only made him angrier and he would say that the police are always on "our side."  We started to suspect that our son would try and do anything to be removed from our home because in his mind he would be reunited with bio mom more quickly.  After his last stay in the ER, his suicidal ideation increased and the psychiatrist warned us to remove any obstacles that would make him unsafe, so we took the door off his room, installed cameras in living areas and put all sharp objects in a lock box.  It was scary and sad and I think we all hated living like we were in prison- my husband and I couldn't sleep because we were afraid he would hurt himself or run away.  One particular afternoon driving him back from his IOP in silence, I was so distraught from being dismissed and ignored I asked him if he wanted us to end the guardianship, and he said it was the only thing he's ever wanted. It started a huge argument between us and has since become his sole focus. I know I could have approached this better but I was so tired of being the villain and feeling trapped in my own home, I just kind of lost it.  Apologizing to him only seemed to empower him more.
The last three weeks things have shifted dramatically.  We caught him with a weed vape and he ended up trying to punch my husband.  It wasn't the first time but at this point my husband had had enough and put him on the ground and just held him there while our son was biting, kicking and spitting on us, calling us every name he could think of.  I called the police and taped all of this on my phone for our own protection because we knew he would claim abuse. When the police came 40 minutes later, after interviewing us and us showing them the video of my husband restraining him, they told us this was more a behavioral issue and not a mental health issue.  Once they left our son told us he was feeling unsafe so my husband took him to the ER where they again admitted him.  My husband noted that for as much hate our son displayed for him, once they were in the waiting room, our son was talking to him like nothing happened, it was very odd.  
Since being admitted, our son has not come back to our house.  He claims he will kill himself if he comes back and we do not end the guardianship, so we have been scrambling to find safe places for him until we can get him into a residential program. We had a CFT meeting to talk about his future that included his school, social worker, psych unit doctors, bio mom and ourselves.  We concluded that we may indeed need to relinquish the guardianship to get him the care he needs, as he has quickly surpassed mine and my husband's ability to care for him.  Both his school and the county made it clear that he would not be placed with another foster family but would be going into residential treatment instead.  He refuses to believe this and still thinks he will be reunited with bio mom more quickly.  The county reiterated that not only does bio mom need at least a year before she could even petition the court for custody, but that they would also not consider reunification unless he too was in a mentally stable place.  He doesn't seem to be hearing this, he seems delusional and in his own world. His school IEP has a place lined up for him most likely within the next few weeks, which I thought was a short period of time.  We were wrong.  After keeping him in the psych unit as long as possible, we had no where else we could place him - there are no other local relatives or family friends we would trust to properly look out for him.  Both the social worker and psychiatrist recommended a youth shelter that, after calling and researching, looked like a caring and safe place for him.  So we had him transported there to wait the next few weeks until we could get him into the facility.  He lasted three days and has now gone AWOL.  The shelter and my husband and I have reported him as a runaway, and the shelter has been able to share what they know of his whereabouts.  It appears he went to see his new girlfriend, who he met at the psych unit and had know for less than a week.  He has now been missing for two days and we have called anyone we think he may have spoken with.  We have his phone so he is using his girlfriend's phone to call his mom, a friend and the shelter.  
I am in shock how we got to this point in such a short amount of time.  I have been going through the five stages of grief and right now I'm angry and just starting to accept that I cannot save him or control the situation.  If he is determined to do drugs or run away there isn't really anything we can do to stop him.  We have met with a lawyer and will be going through the process of terminating the guardianship.  My heart is broken but I also know that this may give him the best chance at long-term treatment.  He just needs so much more care than what we can provide.  I should have believed him when he told me he was just biding his time with us until his mom got out.  
I was able to have a long talk with the psych unit psychiatrist, who told me they have not "ruled out bpd."  They don't like labeling teens with this diagnosis because of the stigma.  When she read the characteristics of BPD to me I almost cried because I felt like someone was hearing me for the first time.  His black and white thinking, the splitting, the roller coaster of high and low emotions, the anger and impulsivity, the lying -way beyond what a typical teen experiences.  The walking on eggshells at all times rang very true in our house.  I realize now that taking away his phone was like snuffing out a candle.  He needs people (even though he can be very anti-social) to feel like someone, so taking away his lifeline to others only increased his symptoms.  But we were doing what we thought was best at the time because he kept making poor decisions and we needed him to have consequences for this.  I love him and ending the guardianship does not mean the end, our lawyer let us know that if he gets help and wants to reunite with us we can petition to get the guardianship back.  I want him to know that we are not abandoning him, but we also have to set boundaries on what we can and cannot tolerate anymore.  I feel both empty and more peaceful without him. My husband tells me that I show symptoms of a battered woman because of how he's treated me over these three years.  Yes, there is some truth to this and if he was an adult I would have taken a harder stand but he's just a kid- how can you abandon a child?  I had been struggling mentally with ending the guardianship but it has been very helpful to have a team of people reassure us that this is no longer a question of love but the fact that he is a danger to both himself and us right now.  We suspect he will go back to the shelter once they realize there's no where else to go.
Apologies for this very long post but these are the things my husband and I have learned from this experience:
1.  If you decide to foster or adopt, make sure you and your partner have a strong relationship.  These kids will constantly test you to see if you will stick around. And the stakes of these tests get higher and higher.  This will put a strain on your relationship if you are not on the same page.
2.  Make note of all incidences.  I have a spreadsheet of action notes by date.
3.  Keep a folder of all resources you have gotten for your child.
4.  If you think your child has a personality disorder, insist it be looked into by their doctor.  Doctors don't like diagnosing teens but there are intances where it's warranted and could prevent so many issues.
5.  If your child is acting out, record it for your own protection.

Our son's younger brother was adopted by another family and they shared with us the adoptive telling story which gives as much background on the child and child's family as possible.  I have now compiled a group of information on our son that includes the Telling, action notes, IEP and IOP info and other relevant information to give to any provider who is working with him.  This provides background, context and documentation of his behavior so it's no longer just "his word against ours."  We now realize we have to advocate loudly to get him the help he needs, and having this has really made a difference.  Thank you for listening, trauma manifests itself in such sad and terrible ways.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2022, 01:44:15 PM by KMLPparent » Logged
Our objective is to better understand the struggles our child faces and to learn the skills to improve our relationship and provide a supportive environment and also improve on our own emotional responses, attitudes and effectiveness as a family leaders
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Gender: Female
What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner’s ex
Posts: 1806

« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2022, 09:40:57 AM »

Hello KMLPparent, so glad you found this space to share what's going on in your life.

We know the feeling here of needing to get it all out "on paper", and how crazy it all is, and how you can't just tell anyone about what's going on, because it's so extreme that many people don't know what to do with the chaos.

if he was an adult I would have taken a harder stand but he's just a kid- how can you abandon a child?  I had been struggling mentally with ending the guardianship but it has been very helpful to have a team of people reassure us that this is no longer a question of love but the fact that he is a danger to both himself and us right now. 

The mid teen years are so difficult for those kinds of choices. On the one hand, they're still minor children, on the other hand, they're at ages where we really are starting to face having no control over them. I tell myself, regarding my H's kids (they don't have PDs but their mom has strong traits and so they have "fleas"), that once they're both 18, it'll be easier, because it'll be "official" that we have no control over them. It's just the "keeping them alive and safe until they're adults" part that becomes so challenging when they're old enough and big enough that they can push back if they really want to. What do you let go and let them do? It's so hard.

And I also want to echo what I'm hearing from you, which is that "normal range" parenting practices don't apply in these scenarios. So don't worry, you won't get "normal" parenting advice here Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post) Laugh out loud (click to insert in post)

It makes sense to radically accept that your child is a danger to self and others at this time. It's not what you would have wanted for your teen or your family, yet it's what's real, and we have to work with what is real today, rather than what we would have wanted. That being said, it can be hard yet necessary to find space amid all the chaos and hypervigilance to grieve what we would have wanted for our families.

I think your decision to move forward with "lovingly letting go" of your 14YO makes the most sense at this time. It may be hard to watch at times, so I hope that as you and your H "hand things over" to the team and shelter, you have support for both of you to process the transition.

Let us know how you're doing, whenever works for you -- no pressure here.


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