Look, I haven't read all responses, but I'll tell you what I know from my perspective as someone who spends every working day with children in these circumstances: You need help.
It really is fantastic to hear that you appear to be a stable and loving home, and that you really want the best for your child. This is far better than what many kids from backgrounds of abuse and neglect can ever hope to go home to. It's also really positive that she's been placed with you so early in her life. You have a wonderful opportunity to be a positive and healing influence on her.
Here's the thing though...your normal parenting approaches aren't necessarily appropriate here. They will be, in time, but right now they're not going to bring you the results that you want for your step daughter or the rest of your family. If what you've described is the worst of the situation, please count your family lucky. It is very rare to come across children in care who do not have significant behavioural and interpersonal difficulties. It is very normal for teenagers to be wetting/soiling the bed nightly; for siblings to be engaging in sexualised behavior with each other; for children as young as 3 to be physically, emotionally and sexually threatening carers and assaulting them. If refusing to use the toilet and being rude is the worst of the behaviour you're dealing with, things are going well. Please try to remember that this behaviour is in response to the trauma that she's struggling to deal with...it is not an intentional attempt to subvert your family or your values. The last thing this child needs is to feel that she is failing to meet your standards.
I would suggest, in no particular order:
-read up on the effects of trauma on the developing brain. Abuse/neglect changes the way that a brain physically develops. Often children from trauma haven't ever devloped a stable trusting relationship with their primary caregiver. This is fundamental to how our brains develop. This NEEDS to be your priority.
-Speak to the department/her (ex?) social worker etc. Demand that you get support. This is not just about short term behavioural difficulties...this is about setting a child up for life. Tell them flat-out that you want to do what's best, but you need their help. Don't stop fighting for her.
-Relax on the rules/consequences. Look, I get it...I have my own kids and I treat them very differently to the children that I work with. The thing is, that I know my children have a secure attachment to at least one person. I know that, however I respond, they know that they are a permanent and valued part of our family. A 3 year old who has been in care and then placed with another parent/family does not know this. Our approach with kids in care is "therapeutic care". It essentially means that we don't implement consequences unless it's necessary for safety, and we never EVER implement punitive consequences (like denying a treat later in the day due to earlier rudeness). We point out natural consequences and let the child make their own decisions. It's not viable long-term ina family environment, but something more in that vein may be more effective in the short term while you're looking at building relationships and trust. You can always up the discipline as she gets older and feels more secure with her place in your family.
Good luck with everything. It must be a tough situation to deal with, but please PLEASE seek help. You should not have to deal with this alone.
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04-08-2016 20:28 #31
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04-08-2016 20:34 #32
Wonderful advice Renn xx
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04-08-2016 20:49 #33
Oh, here's a thought. Have you heard of "active listening"? It's a useful strategy with all kids, but particularly with kids from backgrounds of trauma.
Basically, when she's behaving in a way that's problematic (either for herself or for others), try to look past the effects for the moment and focus on why she might be behaving that way. So for example... "You sound frustrated with dad that he's still talking." If you REALLY want to comment on the behaviour, then "I feel sad when you say 'shut up' to me, I'd prefer if you said "XYZ"" and leave it at that....basically showing that you're paying attention, and you can see where she's coming from. If you're not sure of the reason for the behaviour, "i wonder" statements are useful too.... "I wonder whether you're eating very slowly because you don't like the food". You might not get a response, but you might find that she actually opens up a bit if you phrase things that way. Sometimes you'll get an adamant "NO, that's NOT IT"...but even that is great progress. You're trying to figure out what her triggers are, and how you can help her to cope with them.
04-08-2016 21:00 #34
Always remember when they're at their hardest to love they most need it.
04-08-2016 21:08 #35
I know I know, I keep posting. Blame the cider...
I have to add that some social workers/case workers are fantastic, and some are utterly infuriating. My current client has been with her social worker for 3 weeks, and I think we've had 1 or 2 phone calls (after - between the lot of us - we've called her 50-100 times) and she hasn't once spoken to or met with the client. As someone who cares about the child, it's incredibly frustrating to deal with people who are doing their jobs so poorly - however overworked they may be. I'll tell you though that if that were my child, I'd be camped outside the social worker's office and accosting her as soon as she stepped foot near her door. They have a responsibility to ensure that the child they've signed off of is in good hands...and "parents who mean well" is not good enough if those parents feel that they're lacking the skills and support that they need.
04-08-2016 21:55 #36
No one has ripped into you, members are saying you need professional help. That doesn't mean you are bad parents, just that this poor little girl has a terrible past and complex needs. Needs that can be met by you and her father but that you just need some professional assistance with. You can't expect her to slot in and respond to your choice of parenting when she has been in different environments in the most formative years.
Renn has given excellent advice and is on the front lines so please take what she has said on board. badger her current/past Case Worker for referrals and assistance. Generally there is an extended period after the child is reunified where Dept contact is cut right back, but are still there to monitor and help. Did you request any counselling for her?
I would also suggest you ask them to refer you to a community organisation that has a Families program. They will be able to advocate for funding for psych appointments, and assign a case manager to help you, even if it's transporting your step daughter to appointments and being an ear for you to vent to.
04-08-2016 21:56 #37
Awesome advice Renn!
05-08-2016 07:44 #38
OP I hope you are still here reading along. I know you said you felt attacked but I've spent quite some time here on the hub and have gotten to know the nature of these ladies. I assure you that they are in no way trying to attack you, they are trying to offer you the very best advice. I hope that you sit down and re-read what has been said without your guard up. They are only sharing your concern for this little girl that's had a hard start in life. I sincerely hope you can take this advice on board and get this little girl what she needs. Please use the resources that would be available to you.
08-08-2016 20:42 #39
The fact that you care enough to post on here says you are a great mum. Thank goodness she has ended up in a stable home at last. Maybe google circle of security, it is a great simple approach to attachment. Almost treat her with as much love as if she were a newborn and then go from there. I think someone else mentioned it but I was also wondering about physiological damage to her brain from substance use in pregnancy. Good luck hun x
17-11-2016 22:49 #40
Don't think she is reading all this advice.
It's great advice.
Perhaps the OP didn't have the best upbringing herself. I don't think she gets that we are trying to help not attack.
The child's father should be moving heaven and earth to get the child and this family some help!
You obviously care enough to post. So open your heart and mind please take some of these words of advice and wisdom dear.
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