Eleven year ago I found out I was expecting, and while surprised, this baby was a welcome blessing. I took every measure as an expectant mom to make sure he was given the best environment to grow and develop in.
At the same time I was finding out this news, unbeknownst to me, another baby boy had just been born. However, this baby boy was the fourth child born cocaine and alcohol exposed to a mother who had no intention of parenting him. He had no warm welcome into this world. He had no stable environment and no one to attach to.
Nearly ten months later our little boy made his appearance a little overdue and a little too healthy at nearly eleven pounds. At the same time, my other son was being abandoned with a stranger that did not even know his name.
Over the next three years one of my boys was growing up in a nurturing, loving family. However, my other child was cycling through DCFS placements, sometimes three in one year, maybe up to ten before we learned of him at age four and a half.
At the time that we moved to Hope Meadows parents were making a commitment to adopt three to four of the hardest to place children. All children being considered for placement were pre-adoptive, meaning that parental rights were already terminated and they were legally free for adoption. Parents worked with the case manager and therapist to “match” child and family. We were very open and eager, but also trying to be cautiously realistic in what we could handle in our home. So we did the customary checklist: bedwetting-ok, fire-setting-not ok, hyperactivity- sure, Sexually acting out- no way, etc. Most of the children had profiles on Adoptuskids.org. We are now a featured family if you do a quick google search of adoptuskids and the Granger family.
When this cute, chubby-faced four year old popped up, smiling from ear to ear, we called right away. We began the process of getting to know him and there were plenty of red flags that we overlooked. His hyperactivity was the most apparent. It went above and beyond normal little boy wiggles. It was more like chasing a tornado from sun up to sun down. He would run headlong through parking lots and stores and act like we were killing him if we tried to hold his hand. To him there was no such thing as a stranger. We were uncomfortable with him sitting in people’s laps, but we saw it through rose-colored glasses that it was because he had been shuffled around so much.
As the honeymoon period wore off and we began setting expectations and rules he began to pull away from us and deflect all affection. This included anything we gave to him. Within minutes whatever it was would be lying in the floor destroyed. Again, we chalked it up to his early chaotic life and just not knowing how to play appropriately.
He had too much knowledge of things he shouldn’t. He crossed people’s boundaries and was often inappropriate. Many times he attempted to walk in on me or his sisters while we were showering. His female caseworker had several instances of him groping her or attempting to reach inside her shirt. Often I would awake to him standing silently over me, staring at me. In hindsight, my feelings that this was predatory and stalkish were spot-on.
It was hard to balance the negativity that I felt with him and the love that I had for him. Watching my two boys together I seen this very genuine and beautiful brotherhood that came so easily for them. It truly was all that I had hoped for. He looked out for his much smaller, younger brother protectively. They would get completely caught up in some wild boy adventure, usually in complete Spiderman and batman costume and cowboy boots! However, with me in particular I felt that he was demanding and pushy, obstinate and sneaky, sullen and manipulative.
Still, we felt that as he adjusted to our family these behaviors would dissipate. As spring turned to summer and summer began to fade we prepared for him to begin Kindergarten. He was so adorable standing in front of the house, like every other kid, in his new shoes and with his new backpack full of fresh school supplies. I was that mom that lingered to long and took too many pictures as he marched off to his classroom. I was filled with hope that whatever misgivings we were having would be detected by the school and we would get the right interventions we needed. His poor first-year teacher and I had no idea what we were in for!
Everyday became an all-out assault on the teacher and the classroom. He would hold the whole room hostage by refusing to line up, throwing tables and chairs and making his teacher chase him as he crawled around on the floor. He was physical with teachers and students and when confronted showed no remorse. Instead he would make up outlandish stories that he was not being fed at home or once he choked a student and claimed he did it because his dad choked him at home. Many times he was very malicious and intentional in trying to do harm to someone with no conscience regarding how bad that was.
Early interventions probably could have saved us. We did not know who to turn to or how to access what we needed. No savior showed up. We were becoming aware that we were in way over our heads, but who wants to admit that they can’t manage a five year old. We turned inward. We focused on finding new ways to parent. We made a trip to Colorado to attend a three day conference called Empowered to Connect. I highly recommend all the wonderful resources they have available. We learned so much and came home eager to forge ahead. However, nothing could have possibly prepared us for the long, hard road that was awaiting us….https://adoptuskids.org/adoption-and-foster-care/overview/adoption-stories/.story?k=granger-family-adoption