Guest Posts

Hold Me and Take Away My Control -The guest post I did for SweetButter Bliss 12/14/2010, about my childhood experiences with the use of restraint.  

Hold Me

Imagine a group of 3, maybe 4 grown men and a couple of women tackling an 11 year old child to the linoleum floor, holding her down, spread-eagle while they pull-up her shirt, pull down her pants and green Peter Cotton tail underwear.  As the child is crying and thrashing, and asking them to stop, “leave me alone, I’ll do what ever you want, just let me go!” All the while they laugh and joke about the child’s choice of undies they have a picture of a bunny tail on the butt. 
I am not describing a case of child rape.  Nor am I describing some kind of ritualistic child abuse, well maybe I am.  What I am describing is being forcibly strip searched upon returning to my placement after a short afternoon visit with my mother. 

Then there was the time one of the therapists went to a seminar, upon returning she wanted to train the staff in a new therapy she learned, she thought it would help me to get in touch with my feelings, so I agreed (at 11) to help them out.  I walked down to the gym (well out of earshot and eye-shot on my own accord).  To be taken down, wrapped in numerous blankets, laid on by several staff members while they shouted insults at me intended to “get me in touch with my feelings”.  All the while I cried, screamed that I couldn’t breathe, thrashed, wiggled, became drenched with sweat and begged for what I thought was my life.  But to no avail…It went on like that for what must have been hours. 

The first placement I was at a child could expect to be dropped and rolled, and shown who was in control for just about anything; not moving fast enough, rolling eyes, a smart mouth – needless to say I found my self on the floor more than once.  The time I gave the “time-out” chair a Bobby Knight worthy toss down the hall, I earned my self a take down and a day in seclusion…Very nice!  

I have sat down to write this post several times, deleted, started over deleted it, had it deleted for me by my 5 year old who wanted to play games at, started again.

What I can’t seem to convey is the feeling of being a child, thrown down, hog tied, smothered by adults you know, trust and usually really like.  It feels like you are dying, it feels like they are crushing the breath out of you.  It feels like your ribs are going to snap at any second. 

It feels like you have no control over your life.  It feels like you have no control over your will.  It feels like you have no control over your body.  It feels like you have no control over your destiny. 

When you first go down, you fight.  You squirm.  You explain. You cry. You beg.  You truly believe that they just may crush the life out of you this time. That is the moment you give up.    You give up your indignation. You give up your will.  You give up your thoughts.  You give up control.  You disengage.  You dissociate. 

And that is the point of therapeutic restraint.  So they let you go.  
And you stumble away to catch your breath leaving your dignity behind.  And you learn how to not be present in your own skin.  And that is the point of therapeutic restraint. 

While some of the adults in authority may have escalated situations, and restrained unnecessarily, on the whole they were just doing their jobs the way they were trained to do it.  When a policy allows restraint out side the constraints of “eminent harm to ones self or others” there is a lot of latitude in the interpretation as to what is or would be res trainable offenses.   

The year after I aged out I was badly beaten and raped, after the blow that broke my nose it clicked in my mind:  I have been here before…

I have no control over my life.  I have no control over my will.  I have no control over my body.  I have no control over my destiny. 

At first go I fought.  I squirmed.  I explained. I cried. I begged.  I truly believed that I just may have the life crushed out of me. I gave up.   I gave up my indignation. I gave up my will.  I gave up my thoughts.  I gave up control.  I disengaged.  I dissociated. 

I stumbled away to catch my breath leaving my dignity behind.  I had learned how to not be present in your own skin. 

I had learned well, and isn’t the point of therapeutic restraint?

May is national Foster Care Month and I should be blogging my bum off. Let’s face it would do my bum some good. I have just not been able to get my divergent thoughts together enough to come up with what I thought would be a coherent post, it just wasn’t coming to me. When Amanda asked me to do a guest post I decided to give it another try.

The problem is – the US foster care system is broken. Really broken and is damaging the very children they are supposed to be helping.

Here in Michigan we had a state Senator Bruce Caswell who proposed that our foster children would receive certificates for their $79 semi-annual clothing allowance that could only be spent at second hand stores. He later revised the plan and explained that the proposal was not to further marginalize our foster kids; it was to protect their clothing allowance from being misappropriated. Now what struck me about the whole controversy that has seemed to escape everyone else is – If our states foster parents (and / or agencies) can’t be trusted with $79 dollars twice a year, who on earth is approving them as foster parents in the first place and why? Why on earth do we trust them with the lives and souls of this state’s children?

Because we need foster parents to care for our state’s foster children, I assume. There are not enough good foster homes to go around and they system and our foster parents are stretched to thin.

But what if the way we view the foster care IS the problem with foster care?

The two tenets of foster care that shape the whole system are: A) that it is temporary and B) that kids need to be in a private home /“family” setting. What if those two premises cause more harm than good? What’s that you say? Blasphemy, right?

They say that the average stay in foster care is around 2 years, there are 20,000 kids who will age out of foster care every. While temporary and adoption are worthwhile goals, it is not a reality for many.
“Chances for adoption. Among those infoster care as of September 30, 1999, 127,000children were “waiting to be adopted,”27 meaningthat adoption was the placement goal for thesechildren or that parental rights had beenterminated.28 However, only 36,000 childrenwere actually adopted from foster care in 1999.Thus, only about 28 percent of children whowere eligible were, in fact, adopted over thecourse of the year. And the odds of these“waiting” children being adopted declined asthey got older. Children ages 1 to 5 accountedfor 35 percent of children eligible for adoptionbut 46 percent of actual adoptions .29 Incontrast, children ages 11 to 15 accounted for22 percent of the adoption-eligible children butonly 14 percent of actual adoptions, and thoseages 16 to 18 accounted for 4 percent of theadoption-eligible children but only 2 percent ofactual adoptions.”
Are we as a society allowing pipe dreams for the futures of our foster kids stand in the way of real, practical help? How different would the system be if we shifted the paradigm and from the moment children are made wards of the state we viewed the number one goal as permanency above everything. Anything else, such as reunification or adoption would be seen as a happy accident. What if from day one we looked foster kids in the eye and said, “This could take a while”? And what if from day one our goal was to put children in situations that could serve them long term? What would that shift in attitude hurt?

How bad would it be if we accepted the fact that a large number of kids in the system, who were not initially placed in kinship care or reunited won’t in fact be adopted, and that maybe for many older kids it isn’t the best option anyway?

What good could come of such a radical shift in the way the foster care system does business?

Children are initially traumatized by being removed from their families of origin, no matter how good the reason. Removal from the only the only life the child knows is damaging, that is a fact. Any time a child is removed there had better be a darn good reason. In cases where there is poverty driven neglect or cases of mild parental mental illness CHILDREN would better served by providing their parents with health care, medication, counseling and assistance, than by being removed in the first place.

After being removed, the most destructive and lasting damage to foster children comes from lack of continuity, seven or eight placements (in my case) many more in others, six middle schools, eight high schools. The psychological effects of living in 8 different places, with 8 different sets of rules, countless caregivers with myriad different personalities are the stuff that attachment problems are made of.

What if large numbers of children would be better served in small, well run, managed, staffed and regulated group facilities or “boarding schools” where at least they could wake up in the same bed year after year. Are we are denying them that so we can hold on to hope of a fairytale happy adoption fantasy ending?

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