This post is in continuation of The Adoption Part Four.
Doing the wheat free/casein free diet in addition to the sugar free/dye free diet, also made a very strong difference for the older two (the younger had health issues, and was off dairy when she came to us. We also kept the wheat and sugar out of her food, but for health rather than behavioural issues.)
It wasn’t like I took out wheat and dairy, and gave them nothing in place of it. They had oatmeal most mornings for breakfast. They ate rice, chickpea flour, quinoa, millet, corn flour… I replaced wheat with other grains. They still had breads and such, though they were made slightly different. They had soy milk, goat milk, and we tried other milks in place of cows. I sweetened their foods with applesauce, rice syrup, sugar free berry syrups…
And they had great appetites. They ate a lot, always licked their plates clean, always thanked me for the “tasty” meals. It was a lot of work, especially when going out, but it was worth it. Again, it would have been my autism that kept me so thorough in this. Without the allergies, I guess most parents would have given in, at least on special occasions, but I never did.
Though they ate well, and had energy, the older and younger child were very thin. I did not hide this diet from anyone. The social workers, specialists, doctors… everyone knew. I asked for help in finding foods that would help the children to gain weight. Mostly I was dismissed – some children are just small. Others said to feed them the wheat and dairy. Finally we got nutritionists involved. They were looking into reasons why the children would be so affected by these foods before the children were taken.
Even so – even though I replaced each food that was removed. Even though everyone was aware. Even though I was the one who requested help for the children’s weight gain. Even so, when they were removed, they called it nutritional neglect. It wasn’t right.
Still we had the issue of the rages. While reduced, they were still there, still dangerous, and I was still being judged for them. I was afraid of the spanking, that we would be found out, and lose the children. I needed something else that would work as well, but not get us into as much trouble.
With my birth son, in addition to spanking (which was only done occasionally until the age of 8, when other methods became more effective) I used black licorice pieces for talking back (he hated the taste), or removing electronics. Both were very effective for him, but then again, aside from school refusal, frequent refusals to bathe and brush his teeth, and the likelihood of having Aspergers, he was not a difficult child to raise.
With my daughter, (who had Fetal Alcohol – all three were diagnosed post placement, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and a high likelihood of being bi-polar) there was nothing I could use or remove to reason with her. With the sugar free diet, bad tasting candy was out, and she liked most foods. The one thing that worked (and again, I got this idea from other parents, not from myself) was a tiny dot of cayenne pepper on the end of my finger, and placed on her tongue.
Again I would threaten her with it first – “Stop, or you will get pepper.” Then I would count, “That’s one….. That’s two…..” and again 90% of the time she would stop before three, saving us from hours or days of rages, and a lot of trouble. Again I hated doing it, and while it was not directly said, I was pretty certain it wouldn’t be allowed.
It was by accident that I tried the third idea. It was a hot summer. A very hot summer. We were on our trip across the country visiting my family, and staying in my mother’s home. She lives in a triplex, with one not so great water heater to share between the apartments. I was giving my daughter a shower (age 5 at the time) when the water turned cold. She had shampoo and soap still on her, which I needed to rinse off. She started screaming, and I told her I was sorry about the cold, but if she stopped screaming, I could get finish and get her out fast. She stopped.
For several weeks the cold showers worked for rages as well – again with the threat first, the count, and only as a last result, the follow through. Whenever possible, I used this in place of the pepper or spankings (which I had mostly stopped by that point.) Again, it was a very hot summer, or I would have worried about the cold causing health issues. I felt this was less dangerous, and less controversial than the other options, but still I was searching for less invasive methods. Still I hated doing it.
When the children were removed, all of these were deemed child abuse. While I don’t fully disagree with this assessment, I think a lot more could have been done to help. Telling me these things didn’t work, when they did, was not helpful. Finding me an alternative when I so often asked for help (and not seeing those requests for help as a desire to end the adoption) would have been much more useful.
I was open with a lot of my struggles – and with the fact that I loved and wanted to keep my children. I was open with most of it – and at the very least, the issues which brought about the discipline methods I was trying to avoid. As the children’s ministry, I feel they should have done a lot more to help me come up with reasonable ways to deal with the rages; with reasonable nutritional diets that would help the children grow, but not add to their behavioural issues. I believe there was a lot more they could have done, before removing the children, and causing more than two years of improvements in attachment and behaviour to be torn away.
This is, in full, the part I played in the removal of my middle child. I know who I am, and knew I needed to find other methods from the beginning. The ministry might say that I am in denial of the part I played – but that is not accurate. I know who I am. I wish they understood there was so much more that they could have done (and so much less in terms of damage) if they could have helped us rather than blaming us. We needed the support, not the judgment – and the children needed the consistency.
Despite my struggles, they were still thriving in our care, and I do not believe having them removed was the answer.
For my youngest daughter, her issues were mostly health related while she was in our home. I did not have a lot of behavioural issues from her (though she has apparently had many since returning to foster care.) For her, time outs or time ins were sufficient to end behaviour. Transitions were her hardest area, but even then she would usually stop screaming for me if I told her that I couldn’t drive while she was screaming, or we would crash (that didn’t work for my husband, but he could ignore until they were nearly home, and she would stop on her own as he turned onto our street.)
Aside from the diet, which everyone was fully aware of, there was nothing that could be considered abuse towards my youngest child.
The older boy was quite a bit more of a challenge than the youngest, and quite a bit less than the middle. I will have to save his story for another post.