Q&A: Helping neglected child

Well, that was a vastly longer break than I thought I was going to take! Sorry about that.

Here's a question to twist your head around from Anonymous, who is not a parent yet:

"I have a cousin. Quick background: my mom is one of 4. She had a fairly screwy childhood, falling down drunk mother, very angry father, lots of WASP-y upper middle class pressure, etc. She is the oldest and then her sister, then 2 brothers. Her mother admitted that she never really liked my mom's sister, who we'll call…Q. Q had a hard time growing up, obviously, and a hard time being an adult. She's now married to a guy, J, who is just not very bright. The trouble is this: they adopted a boy, G, from Guatemala when he was 9 months old. Prior to that, G basically lived in a crib and was fed just formula. When they brought him home he couldn't even sit up.

Now G is 12 and we are all very, very worried about him. His parents are completely incompetent. I know I sound like a judgmental bitch, but it's horrid. My parents weren't exactly terrific either, and I worry that G will have some of the troubles I did, but since he is a boy he is less likely to turn violence inward. He is already getting into fights, running away from his mother in malls, getting in trouble in school for being restless, etc. His parents are just terrible, and always have been, about setting any limits and having any boundaries. They often don't do basic things like having dinner and bedtime at a certain time. They do things that indicate that they don't really want to spend time with him–for example he stays with cousins on Christmas Eve, and in the summer when family visits they don't keep track of him and just let him wander wherever he wants, which has led to some serious trouble with another boy–throwing bikes off the pier, etc. Their assumption if family is in town is that someone else will watch him, and half the time they don't know where he is. Basically, they expect others to parent for them. His mother is VERY manipulative and narcissistic : when my grandmother was dying, she swore G to secrecy about their kitten having fleas, b/c she knew others wouldn't want fleas around a dying woman. She told my aunt the other day that it was "really sad" that G wouldnt have presents under the tree-b/c she hadn't gotten any. There are thousands of examples.

So what can I do to support him? I am really worried about the kid. He is very sweet some of the time, and although he sometimes treats me like crap when he visits (he does that w/ the ppl who are taking care of him) I always enjoy seeing him and he seems to respond to boundaries, consistent meal and bedtimes, etc. But he doesn't get that at home. He lives in an area with a number of gangs and I am really worried about his future. I fear that he will become very self-destructive or get caught up in some really bad behavior. Honestly, I just want him to survive adolescence more or less intact so he can start processing all of this madness. There is a small chance his mother could be persuaded to send him to some sort of small nurturing boarding school, and I'd love to take him in 1.5 years when I graduate from college and start grad school but that's probably not realistic–I'll be 26 and he'll be 13 and I'm not sure it would work! I would really, really appreciate any advice on supporting him throughout the next 6 years as well as general advice on dealing with the situation."

Wow. This is a big ball of wax and I'm not even sure where to start.

One thing it does make me think about is all the emails and conversations I've had over the years with people who've said something like "My parents were so horrible that I really have no model for how to do this, so I'm just trying to do my best." And they feel inadequate. This it what I know:

Your best is important. You do not have to be perfect, but you have to try. And if you're trying and you make mistakes, then you try to fix them and stay connected to your kids. You all are doing that, and it's good.

What hurts me most about G's situation is that his parents don't seem to care that they're neglecting him, or even realize it. So he's being trained to think that he doesn't matter and his needs aren't important enough to be met.

If the goal is "to survive adolescence more or less intact so he can start processing all of this madness" (a worthy goal) then he needs to know that what's happening to him isn't right, so he has an alternative to assess against.

I don't know if you could just talk to him straight out about it, cousin to cousin, and talk about it as a family problem that you had to deal with and that he has to deal with, too. But make him aware that it's not normal. Call it out, at least for him, like we were talking about calling bullying bullying.

And I wonder if it's possible to get him some kind of support in his local area. Is there a Boys and Girls Club near him? Or a religious institution near him with a youth group that would reach out to him?

And could you become a pen pal for him. Kids need hugs and food and the basics, but they also need someone to take them seriously and listen to their problems and listen through the rehash of the movie they just saw and just be there. That's something you could do in letters or by email or Skype or any of the other ways we communicate. It might be a little awkward at the beginning if you haven't had an established relationship, but it's worth pursuing.

Does anyone else have ideas of how Anon could support G to help him get through the next few years? Or how she could think about his future? It doesn't seem like he's going to get any help from his parents in figuring out a next step after high school. Has anyone been in a similar situation? What would have helped you most?

 

27 thoughts on “Q&A: Helping neglected child”

  1. Anon, I have a niece who started heading downhill at about this age, and her Mom’s (my sister’s) “neglect” of her was nothing like what you describe. I didn’t do anything to help. What Moxie says about doing something — anything — is so true. If you can get over to pick him up once a week and take him to a church youth group meeting — and talk with the youth leaders about his situation — that small thing could make all the difference. And maybe the leaders will arrange transportation for him after a while. And sending him occasional emails and treats — just anything. OF COURSE, you are busy and you are important — you can’t mess up your own life. But I think you’ll be happy you devoted a little time to your cousin. Many blessings on you and G and the whole situation.

  2. Where is anon’s mom and the two uncles? Can any of them (who I assume are older than anon and more settled) step in to help out? Do they see the problem?Can they either help with G directly or step in with Q on his behalf?

  3. We have dealt with less extreme but similar issues in my extended family. After my SIL’s marriage ended, she dated a man who was abusive to her three kids – I’m talking tying them up, forcing one of them to bathe, terrified, with his dog, and other strange things. The good thing was she was living with other family at the time who saw this going on and were able to influence her. However she has continued to make choices that we consider to be really difficult for the kids.That said, she is a pretty stable and good mom in other ways. Two of them are well into adolescence and are making it so far.
    Anyways what has helped the most has been to have a relationship with the kids. Just that. We live about 5 hrs away. They come down most summers for a good visit, and in the past we met both families halfway for a week on a lake. Those good memories and bonding times are something they’ve let us know they hold onto.
    We aren’t great penpals but we do Facebook with them and my DH plays some WoW with one of the boys. I entertained fantasies about raising them but I realized that it wasn’t going to happen.
    The chaos is not good, but it doesn’t necessarily mean disaster for your cousin. One of the best things you can probably do is give him perspective on the rest of the world out there, just by sharing what you’re up to.
    As someone who grew up with abuse, I have both thought about my experience and read a lot about it. There is a critical role called the enlightened witness – the person who lets you know YOU are not the crazy one, but it’s the situation. The person who sees you as capable. You may be able to stand in that role.

  4. My sister and I lived with my dad, an alcoholic, neglectful guy, with no other family around, my mom died when I was 3. We got out when I was 13 and went to live with my mom’s family. Those years between 10-13 were rough, we survived, and in retrospect, what really helped was occasionally, someone from our church would take us out to eat, maybe a small shopping trip, or just to hang out. Even if you can’t be there all the time, quality time getting G out of his situation so he can see that there is another normal, and give him something to look forward to when he grows up. If other family members can step up and help out with Christmas and birthday presents, school clothes, and school trips, that would also be great.

  5. Really impressed with your maturity here, Anon. I think Shandra’s description of an “enlightened witness” is apt. While your older relatives could play a role, your younger age is a big asset here, I think. You’re still young enough to be able to communicate with him in a way that perhaps an older relative could not. 12 is certainly–I think–old enough to hear some hard truths. I think G would appreciate being treated as a mature individual, not a child. So, maybe, just putting it out there: “I love you. I care about you. I am committed to you. I want you to achieve your potential. How can we work together so I can be a real ally for you?” One thing that drives me crazy about my FIL is he shows up once a year, expresses that to his kids, and then leaves, and his kids get, maybe, a couple phone calls a year. It drives me crazy. So your follow-through matters (as you know). But do be careful not to commit more than you are able to give. Love and compassion are about the greatest gifts a person can receive from another. Best of luck to both of you.

  6. I love the idea of Boys & Girls Club and perhaps maybe she could talk to G and see if he wants to sign up for a Big Brother through Big Brothers/Big Sisters. These are people who are already want to volunteer their time to spend with a child who needs a mentor so will be equipped and will provide consistency and follow-through. A good friend of ours got his Big Brother when he was 12 after his father passed away and keeps in touch with him to this day (my friend is in his 40s). It has been a very important relationship in his life.I wish I knew why people like this even have children in the first place, much less adopt special needs children from foreign countries.

  7. I agree that it is a noble goal to be a positive adult in the life of this boy. The suggestions by Moxie and others are good. But, this is a complicated situation and and the boy has obviously dysfunctional parents. Getting overly enmeshed in these kind of situations can damage your own life, even if you have the best of intentions.

  8. I agree with the idea of looking for local organizations that work with “at risk” kids. At a minimum, they will be able to provide advice backed by experience working with kids from screwed up home situations. And they might even have a program that would help.

  9. You might be interested in books by Alice Miller. I think “For Your Own Good: hidden cruelty in Childrearing and the roots of violence” would be a good one. It’s disturbing in some parts, but really fascinating. One thing she says in that book (I think it was that one) is the importance of having a “knowing other” who helps you realize that what is going on is not right and can be a sympathetic person.The hard thing when your parents are the ones who are hurting you is that you don’t have the emotional freedom to “hate” them or even (when you are young) what they are doing. Instead, children take the badness inward (my parents can’t possibly be bad, I must be the one that is bad). Even children who claim their parents are bad often feel terrible guilt about it, and, internally, still take the badness on themselves. (They try to get rid of it, but usually can’t.)
    She explains why some children were able to come out of concentration camps with relatively few psychological problems compared to some children treated cruelly by parents and explains that part of it is that the children in concentration camps were free to hate and demonize the people who held them captive, but no matter what, children love their parents and believe (and want) them to be perfect and loving.
    So, I would say the same as Moxie, be that “knowing other”. Try to help him know that someone else sees that how he is being treated isn’t right. Let him express those terrible feelings he probably feels about his adoptive parents. And how terrible, to be adopted, and probably already have some sadness at your birth parents being unable to raise you, then to have adoptive parents who do not show you love. It’s heartbreaking and sometimes having someone else who doesn’t excuse your parents, who doesn’t think you are bad for all your negative feelings, and can legitimize your experience, can make all the difference. There will still be a tough road ahead, but maybe it will be a little easier.

  10. I have no practical advice to give that hasn’t been suggested so far, but I wanted to say – what a horrible situation, but how amazing that the young woman who wrote in is aware of the situation and so concerned to do something for this child. Right there, his life will surely have more hope all-round than if no one was watching, or caring.

  11. I’ll just point out quickly that benevolent schedule chaos can be a fine way to be raised – that doesn’t sound at all like what’s going on here, but there’s nothing wrong with a “meals whenever depending on what we’re doing” policy. It’s how I was brought up, and it worked great.The problem here is the lack of interest and guidance from the parents. It’s awful. If you can possibly be that adult witness for this child, and show him some options in life, that may help a lot. Do you know the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic? He’s a writer who came from a pretty rough background (though he had loving parents at least some of the time) and he has some really interesting pieces about things that gave him a sense of possibility. I also think of the “It Gets Better” project – that’s specifically aimed at anti-gay bullying of course, but the message that this isn’t all there is, that there’s a wider world and you can get there, seems like a powerful one for this situation too.
    That’s all I have…

  12. I want to echo what everyone here has said, that just spending time with him and letting him know that he is important will play a huge role in his life. I had a pretty neglectful childhood myself but was lucky that there were a lot of family friends around who reminded me all the time that I was an important person. I went through some acting-out myself (though I was a bit older) but I came through it fine and learned a lot about both myself and the world that I’m very glad to know.Also, my younger brother started acting up due to instability and possible abuse in his household when he was about 12, and I was just as worried about him as Anonymous and felt just as helpless. He would come spend a week or so with me every summer and there would be a drastic difference between the zombie-like kid who showed up at the beginning of the week and the normal 12-13 year old who left at the end of it, simply because I did things that his mother wouldn’t do like ask his opinion and give him responsibilities to fulfill. I continued to invite him to do things with me even after he chose to stop coming to visit in the summers so he could hang out with his friends; he came to my college graduation and was very impressed by it. He’s now 17. I talked to him on the phone recently about visiting him next summer so that I can see him graduate from high school and he was so warm and kind, I was literally beaming when I got off the phone with him. He has grown into a wonderful person.
    The only thing I would worry about for Anonymous is that she might feel like she has to take on too much responsibility. If he gets older and isn’t maturing like he should, she may start to feel like it’s her fault, as if she didn’t do enough. Which of course, it isn’t, and I’m confident that she will do as much as she possibly can to mentor this boy. I just hope that she remembers that along the way.

  13. I am the OP, and thank you all SO MUCH for the suggestions! A few clarifications: he lives about 9 hours away. He has one closer aunt and uncle and they take for a weekend occasionally. He stays with us for a couple weeks every summer and he does a Big Brother. I also write to him some and try to talk to him on the phone some–the trouble, a bit, is quite honestly i cannot STAND to talk to his mother so it’s hard to even make myself call and talk to her! Going through her is difficult.I love the idea of talking to him and letting him know that it’s not OK what’s happening, but I’m a bit worried that that will get back to his parents and they won’t let me see him anymore. I think his mother already knows that I don’t like her.
    Anyway–thanks for the suggestions, keep em coming!

  14. What @Shandra said: “There is a critical role called the enlightened witness – the person who lets you know YOU are not the crazy one, but it’s the situation. The person who sees you as capable. You may be able to stand in that role.”And – sometimes it is really helpful to just bear witness, and to listen without offering advice. Just let G know you care about him, that you wish better things for him, and that you see exactly what is going on with his family, and it hurts you to see it. You don’t need to have all the answers for G, nor do you need to be able to provide all of the solutions to his problems. I, too, am in awe of you @Anon – thank you for being you!

  15. I really like the thought about persuading the parents to send him to boarding school, where he can have structure and stop some destructive habits. There’s nothing saying the parents will do any better with him when he does come back home, but at least their corrosive presence would be diluted. I think it’s much better to send him to a boarding school now than see him go down a worse path and get sent to a troubled youth facility. I don’t suppose a school counselor could be of any use toward recommending a change of venue but maybe it’s worth talking to one in case they’re an untapped resource.Anon, I love that you care so much and I really believe that anything you do will help. I think he’s at a good point for intervention and I hope he can be kept from going down a bad path with gangs, crime, or even teen fatherhood.

  16. I’d echo Celeste. My husband and I both attended a boarding school (the same one) and it was great.Nearly half of the people there with us were fleeing something. And the school was a sort of magnet school for science and math – it drew students from all over. So they weren’t fleeing to just anyplace, they were running toward a great education and away from: bullying, abuse, alcoholism, the sticks, whatever.
    Boarding schools have a funny place in American society. They seem kind of…foreign. Or too fancy. But there are state-sponsored schools and schools with scholarship programs. So it’s not always an expense.
    And it’s absolutely true that my classmates and I got a great launch into life because the school was a safe place. Many of us made friends with whom we could spend weekends and holidays, too. I’ll never forget a classmate opening the cabinets in her parents’ kitchen so I could see the gallon jugs of wine. That’s why she spent weekends at my house.

  17. As an adoptive parent, I’ve done some reading on attachment issues, and the statement that “he sometimes treats me like crap when he visits (he does that w/ the ppl who are taking care of him)” sent up a red flag for me. Not to excuse the parents at all, but sometimes when a kid has an attachment disorder, he pushes his parents away. It could be that these parents didn’t recognize this behavior as attachment-related. If that is the case, going to boarding school is absolutely the worst possible scenario (IMHO) for a kid who is having trouble forming relationships with his parents.

  18. I think it’s great that you want to have a relationship with G and provide him with support, but as someone who went through a pretty bumpy childhood myself, I think one of the most important things you can do is to reserve judgement when talking to him. Don’t start out by saying, “your parents really suck, how can I help?” After all, they are his parents and its quite likely that he loves them and wants their approval. And also you probably don’t know the whole story of what is going on. Things may not be entirely what they seem.I also don’t know the whole situation, but I think it is probably not your job to send him to boarding school or try to raise him yourself. So I think the better thing to do is for you to be a good listener and listen to whatever HE has to say, and if he doesn’t want to say anything, just letting him know that you care can in itself lift him up. If you don’t like to call, just write a nice old-fashioned letter every once in a while, or send him a CD you think he’d like – little things like that can be a breath of air for a kid in a difficult situation. But in your post, as you note, you do sound judgmental (and of course you have the right to your opinion), and that may not be the most helpful thing for him. A good listener and someone to chill out with is probably what he needs most, if my own experience is any guide. And also talking to him about his plans – what college major might he be interested in, what classes is he taking, does he need some help with his homework, etc. Let him know that he has positive options, otherwise the glamour of the streets might start to appeal to him. I wouldn’t start trying to tell him how to live his life, though – no teenage boy wants that. Just listen. Be there.
    Also, since there is a history of alcoholism in your family, I would strongly suggest that you consider going to Al-Anon. Even if your parents and Q are not alcoholics, the patterns established by your grandmother’s drinking seem to have been passed down the generations. All the things you describe are exactly the things that go on in families with histories of addiction. Understanding more about that might help you understand his situation and also your own.

  19. I would just like to say that it’s important not to say anything against his parents. Just listen and acknowledge what you can without speaking against them. Because if he decides to say, “My cousin says you all suck, so I hate you!” then your access will be cut off and you can’t help him. My family is an alcoholic one although many of us don’t really drink, but the patterns are there and in my experience, they won’t want to hear how bad their parenting is.I also agree that just being a positive presence for him and talking about things that are hopeful, like his education or his tastes in music, movies, etc will probably help immensely. He needs a refuge from the negative and help finding the positives in himself. You’re a good person to care and to help. Many people wouldn’t bother with him.

  20. I agree with what everyone here said, including bearing witness, just listening and trying not to be negative about his parents to him (just focus on him, not them, YKWIM?)There are two other things I’d like to offer. The first is not to come across to him with a “rescue” mentality– he may not have enough perspective on his situation to want to be rescued and he may not appreciate being treated like a case, you know? Not that you seem to be doing that, but I’m just saying that there is even a whiff of “I’m fulfilling my own emotional needs by do gooding and you are my chosen project” he will sense that and may reject it, now or later, overtly or silently. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it sounds like he needs someone to respect and appreciate him as an individual exactly as he currently is, warts and all.
    The second is related to the first. I think it may be helpful for your own sanity to recognize that, whatever help you may or may not be able to offer him, he has his own journey in life. It sounds like it will probably be a tough road for him; and it might be that absolutely nothing you do can change that. As others have said, you can listen, witness and support– but you can’t become his Mom, take back the last 13 years, change his brain wiring or make his choices for him. Even if you had every conceivable resource at your disposal– infinite time, money and patience– you *still* might not be able rescue him and lead him on the path to well adjusted, productive adulthood. So, I guess what I’m saying is try not to torture yourself with the idea that you should do more or that you could/should rescue him in a grander way. You’re a part of his journey and you are making a difference– but whether he decides to be receptive to the good influences he does have available is based on a whole lot of other factors that you can’t control, you know? I don’t mean to sound fatalistic; I do believe that people matter in other people’s lives. But given my own crazy family and dysfunctional parents, I’ve also realized you can’t make people heal/change if they don’t want to.
    Good luck; it’s wonderful that you care and are making an effort!

  21. Oh boy. I have a lot to say, so apologies in advance.When I was 24, my room-mate and I (living and working in an innercity community, both white in a non-white culture) met a 10-year-old boy in not disimilar circumstances from your nephew, although he was not adopted (*this is a big deal, adoption. really.).
    Long story short, state said “Whatever” and we set up a private custody agreement between us and his grandmother and he moved in. He lived with us for two-and-a-half years. It was the best of times and the worst of times, two very young (24 & 21) white girls raising a very young, not-white boy. Add lots of dysfunction from room-mate L’s growing up and it was just a whole lot of learning.
    Looking back (13 years!), we did think we were saving him. We did think that just our love and our smarts would be enough to undo what was probably a shitmix of FAS, attachment disorder and plain bad parenting, to say nothing of the systemic toxicity of an american inner-city. After our two and a half years we realized he needed more than we had and we found a school in TX (http://www.calfarley.org/Pages/default.aspx) that seemed like it would be a good fit. But then 9/11 happened and he wanted to be home and so the next year, it was a school closer to home but even though he loved it there and got lots of support, he couldn’t meet the academic standards and ended up dropping out. By then I had moved back to YVR and he moved back in (then out, then in, then out) with L. When he was 17, living with his mom, he got busted for dealing heroin. That summer he and a friend came here to live with me and my husband but we sent them home when they became unsafe. It was the lowest moment of. my. life.
    We had failed. He hadn’t grown up into a rocket scientist. We weren’t on Oprah talking about how we saved his life. He wasn’t inviting me to his opening game in the NBA – watching “The Blind Side” was almost my undoing. Turned out he barely liked me. He could barely f-in read.
    At that point someone said, the story isn’t over.
    And it wasn’t. Three years ago, he had a baby. He still doesn’t work. He may or may not support himself illegally. But he is an AMAZING DAD. He has limited custody, but he goes to court to fight for her. He reads her books. He teaches her to cook. He tells her he loves her. To the moon, and back. He potty trained her. He washes her clothes. He disciplines her without violence. He loves his daughter. Well.
    We’ve seen each other a few times since that dark day I kicked him out of my house. I’m not sure if he’s forgiven me for leaving him or for choosing my husband over him (how he saw things) but we are friends again. We compare notes over child-rearing (our daughters are six-months apart) and seem to find our affection for each other pretty easily. He remains deeply connected to L, who has become a kind of aunt to his daughter and together they are figuring out family in their own way.
    All this to say Anon, you can’t ‘save’ him from the dark parts of his journey, but you may be able to offer him some Light. Success will not be what you hope, but if you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean there isn’t some to be seen. And don’t underestimate the power of being chosen. You choosing him for your affection, time and money will be powerful in his heart. If nothing else, it will teach him how to choose another when the time comes.
    We are not the success story we wanted to be, but it turns out we’re not the burning car crash I thought we had become either.
    Sorry for the epistle but turns out my soul needs it.

  22. Oh boy. I have a lot to say, so apologies in advance.When I was 24, my room-mate and I (living and working in an innercity community, both white in a non-white culture) met a 10-year-old boy in not disimilar circumstances from your nephew, although he was not adopted (*this is a big deal, adoption. really.).
    Long story short, state said “Whatever” and we set up a private custody agreement between us and his grandmother and he moved in. He lived with us for two-and-a-half years. It was the best of times and the worst of times, two very young (24 & 21) white girls raising a very young, not-white boy. Add lots of dysfunction from room-mate L’s growing up and it was just a whole lot of learning.
    Looking back (13 years!), we did think we were saving him. We did think that just our love and our smarts would be enough to undo what was probably a shitmix of FAS, attachment disorder and plain bad parenting, to say nothing of the systemic toxicity of an american inner-city. After our two and a half years we realized he needed more than we had and we found a school in TX (http://www.calfarley.org/Pages/default.aspx) that seemed like it would be a good fit. But then 9/11 happened and he wanted to be home and so the next year, it was a school closer to home but even though he loved it there and got lots of support, he couldn’t meet the academic standards and ended up dropping out. By then I had moved back to YVR and he moved back in (then out, then in, then out) with L. When he was 17, living with his mom, he got busted for dealing heroin. That summer he and a friend came here to live with me and my husband but we sent them home when they became unsafe. It was the lowest moment of. my. life.
    We had failed. He hadn’t grown up into a rocket scientist. We weren’t on Oprah talking about how we saved his life. He wasn’t inviting me to his opening game in the NBA – watching “The Blind Side” was almost my undoing. Turned out he barely liked me. He could barely f-in read.
    At that point someone said, the story isn’t over.
    And it wasn’t. Three years ago, he had a baby. He still doesn’t work. He may or may not support himself illegally. But he is an AMAZING DAD. He has limited custody, but he goes to court to fight for her. He reads her books. He teaches her to cook. He tells her he loves her. To the moon, and back. He potty trained her. He washes her clothes. He disciplines her without violence. He loves his daughter. Well.
    We’ve seen each other a few times since that dark day I kicked him out of my house. I’m not sure if he’s forgiven me for leaving him or for choosing my husband over him (how he saw things) but we are friends again. We compare notes over child-rearing (our daughters are six-months apart) and seem to find our affection for each other pretty easily. He remains deeply connected to L, who has become a kind of aunt to his daughter and together they are figuring out family in their own way.
    All this to say Anon, you can’t ‘save’ him from the dark parts of his journey, but you may be able to offer him some Light. Success will not be what you hope, but if you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean there isn’t some to be seen. And don’t underestimate the power of being chosen. You choosing him for your affection, time and money will be powerful in his heart. If nothing else, it will teach him how to choose another when the time comes.
    We are not the success story we wanted to be, but it turns out we’re not the burning car crash I thought we had become either.
    Sorry for the epistle but turns out my soul needs it.

  23. As an adoptee I think it is important to address as the first issue that started this child out as having troubles. That is the “primal wound” that cannot, often times, not completely heal no matter what the adopted parents do and without an understanding of those issues, nothing else will help. I was in a foster home for the first 2 months of my life and have no idea what my care was like but those are critical months in developing attachment. From the sounds of it, this child could have an attachment disorder as I have come to understand has been what has caused trouble in my life as well. There are types of attachment issues and a spectrum. I unfortunately was adopted by parents who were not equiped to deal with the issues of a child with attachment issues. It can feel like rejection to a mother who adopts the child and therefore bring up her own issues of abadonment. My parents reacted with corporal punishment that would often cross the line into physical abuse.So what can you do about this child’s situation. First of all you could get educated on the issues of adopted children. There is a great book called, “The Primal Wound.” I am not sure of the author. Also, there should be free support group meetings in your area for adoptees, birth parents and adopted parents. You could check those out too and hear their stories. Your understanding could really help this boy.
    Beyond that and as a double whammy, we had no extended family near us. Throughout my life though there were people who tried to help us and they have stood out in my mind. It can feel very lonely to be adopted and then part of a broken family system. You can help by just being there for him and providing support to him no matter how he acts out. Having another adult in his life who understands and loves him may help him through the rough times.

  24. Google Quaker Boarding Schools. Many have boarding available for 8th grade and up. Other schools to look at include Fessenden (sp?), Birkshire Academy, Valley Forge Military Academy and Westtown Friends.Now would be the time to start looking into these places for next year. You’re a little late to the game but won his life story and your support I’m sure the right school will find a place for him. Also, hencould qualify for financial aid if not a free ride.
    I come from a really solid home but went to both a Quaker school and to a boarding school. These places are really amazing. In loco parentes! You cannot be his mother but you can help him find some structure and hope. Good luck

  25. OP again. Thanks again for all the suggestions. He does definitely have some kind of attachment disorder (so do I, from my mom being hugely depressed when I was an infant) so I’m not sure if it would be better or worse for him at boarding school…at any rate, it would be quite hard to convince his mom to send him away (his dad would do it in a second but his mom wants to hold onto the image of being a good mother).Once again, thank you all…and Anon I am all bout the Quaker schools!

  26. Is there any way to get him involved with a sports team? Preferably with a male coach? Is there somebody who can be the person who is responsible enough to get him to practices and whatnot? Anonymous said G seems to respond to boundaries and consistency. Sports practice would offer both. And G is at an age that even if everything were just hunky-dory at home he would be seeking out adult male role models. It sounds like if there is a Big Brothers program in the area that could be really good.I think a male figure here is really going to be important.

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