My Story

So many streams of thought and life experience have come together to create what will emerge as this blog.  I’m a child of difficult parents, a parent to abused kids (adopted from foster care), a traveler, a social scientist, a gardener, a political junkie and an ordinary person just trying to make sense of it all.

I’m starting this blog as I reach a crossroads in my life.  I’ve been a stay-home mom for the past 13 years.  I really wasn’t sure if or when I would ever jump back into the workforce.  I finished my M.S. degree in anthropology and sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University in 2004.  But, I found myself drawn to the work of caring for hurt kids as what most inspired me.  We moved to a small acreage in Minnesota where I concentrated on raising my kids, growing as much of our food as I could, homeschooling and volunteering for the things most important to me.  We adopted our first kids (a group of 3 siblings, aged 2, 4 and 6) from foster care back in 2006.  Over the years we fostered 2 other girls and adopted 2 more boys.  We took in stray and neglected dogs and cats and healed their wounds and gave them love.  We also took in many wondering travelers and taught them gardening and homesteading skills through the WWOOF (World Wide Workers on Organic Farms) program and worked to find joy amidst the enormous stress of it all.  And we did.  We had family dance parties and jam sessions, lots of bonfires, jumped on the trampoline, took long walks with all 4 of our big, happy dogs, learned so much from our farm interns and went on lots of road trips.  We sought out balance and goodness.

But after 6 years of struggle with our oldest son, who was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, we were finding that more and more chaos reigned and happiness diminished at home.  He was getting bigger and even harder.  He was now 12 and routinely so out-of-control that our lives were constantly upended by police calls and vane attempts to get a handle on his behavior.  He had always been enormously troubled, but it was reaching a new level that we couldn’t pretend we could handle.  We couldn’t keep him, ourselves and our other kids safe.  We needed help.

With many tears and very heavy hearts, we made the decision that he needed more structure, supervision and accountability than we could give him.  Over the next 4 years, we did everything we could do to help him stabilize and return home safely.  For years it only continued to spiral downward with numerous felony-level assaults building up on his record and lots of running away from facilities.  It wasn’t until he got into a secure facility (one with a higher-level of capacity to deal with violent offenders) that he was finally able to get a handle on his impulses.  He was thriving there and able to move to a lower-restricted unit, get a job off site, was going to school consistently and had lots of friends.  He hadn’t had an assault charge in over a year.  Yet the lack of understanding of kids like mine and the unfortunate tendency to blame the family when a kid is troubled led to the disastrous outcome that has changed me and my family forever.  The county who managed his case decided that he was ready to come home.  He was not.

What ensued has been a two year journey that has devastated our lives and upended what had been a stable and close family.  We’ve all changed for the worse and still have no end in sight for what we’re going through.  The cascading effect of my son’s coming home at age 17 has resulted in his sister’s severely triggered PTSD and becoming unstable herself, a wrecked car, injured police officers, a dead dog, a young man in critical condition, so much theft and destruction, threats of losing all our kids and an abandonment of our rural life.  It has also led to a re-evaluation of my life, career path, politics and the creation of this blog.

I’m trying to make sense of these last two years, with everything upended and nothing seeming clear.  I’m pulling out everything I know from my own life and experiences.  To do so, I’m drawing on many different areas of study, including social science, child development, biology, law, policies and whatever else to try to understand what’s happened and why in both my own life and society in general.  I’ll go back and forth between discussing  trends related to attachment, adoption and social critique and my own life journey.  Come along with me on this eclectic blog to see what unfolds.

4 comments

  1. we are in the they want him to come home stage and we do not think he is ready. Still in constraints. and beating up peers and bullying. I read your words and see our future.
    mom to 7 thru foster. 4 out on their own, 2 at home, one in RTC trying to get home, us fighting to keep him there.

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    • My heart goes out to you. I hate it that they put families in these impossible situations – of course you have to protect your 2 at home still! For us, the county would have moved to terminate our rights to our 17 year old son if we hadn’t had him come back home after being kicked-out of his last group home for behavior issues. I later found out that they were considering removing all my children from the home had I not taken him back because it would have been “child neglect”! I worry about you and your family. How old is he?

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  2. he is 11, and we are so hoping he can stay until 12. That opens more beds in our state. They tried the neglect and abandonment angle with us already. I have become so proactive, and we have therapist, mine (ptsd), my other kids at home (fear and guilt) fighting for and with us. A new therapist for our son in the center who does not think he is ready. He will go IF A BED is available to a foster family for 3 months minimum, and if he melts down, they will re-enter him to a center.
    thank you for your kind words, they are like energy to our situation. I truly appreciate them.

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    • I’m so glad you have a therapist who has your back! If these agencies could take a longer view of things they could see that the chaos he’ll bring between 11 and 12 isn’t worth it. He needs to be safe and so do the rest of you. Actually, upon reading closer it looks like he will leave the center and go to a foster home. Is that right? Even that was a nightmare for my son. He just couldn’t handle anything other than the more strict settings of a residential treatment center. I’ll be sending my thoughts your way that somehow things work out for all of you.

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