Last night was our second MAPP class! This time we had what I believe will be our full class.
There was a total of 12 people (six couples) there. The woman who was there alone last week was joined by her husband, and there was a new couple that joined us.
The new additions seem very nice, but again - none of them seem like the type of people I'm going to be running out to have coffee with any time soon.
The class last night focused mainly with how the kids in the system deal with grief/loss and how important 'attachments' are to these kids. When I say 'these kids' or 'kids in the system' I don't mean it in a derogatory way at all....it's just how they always refer to them in the class, so it's just out of habit. :-)
The stages of grief/loss for these kids is very similar to the stages of grief/loss that we all (I assume) learned about at one point in our lives, many of which we've experienced ourselves.
The stages that we reviewed last night were: Shock/Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression/Despair, Acceptance/Understanding.
The biggest difference between the way the kids in the system deal with their grief/loss and the way an adult handles it, is that children are less likely to go through the stages in order. One day they may be running around playing with their friends, acting as if nothing is wrong, and then later that night they could be 'acting out' and throwing stuff around their room. Then the very next morning they wake up sad and depressed, only to come home from school completely fine...etc...etc. You never know how each child is going to handle their particular situation, so you have to be ready for anything.
There were a couple of very interesting things that we discussed last night that I hadn't really thought of before.
Because of the fact that Jim and I have been thinking about getting an infant, my thought has always been that the child would be so young, that he/she wouldn't necessarily have to deal with the loss of a parent. If they never 'met' either parent, Jim and I would be the only parents they knew - no problem, right? What I didn't think of (and it seems SOOOO obvious now) is the fact that as the child gets older, they're going to eventually learn about their 'past' and that's when they'll have to deal with their loss/grief. Noreen (not her real name) brought up the fact that the kids in the system often experience these feelings of loss at significant points in their lives and it's something that comes up time and time again. They may spend years doing just fine, yet when they reach adolescence they begin to realize that void, and will have to face those feelings of grief/loss. Then they'll be fine for a while and it will all come back again when they go off to college, when they get married, have children of their own, etc.
Another big thing that came up last night was the fact that when helping our child deal with their grief/ loss, it's going to force us to deal with our own personal losses. Yikes. This point REALLY hit home with me and made me a little nervous. I can totally picture myself trying to help my child work through their feelings of grief/loss and then I end up a total wreck thinking about the loss of my mother. Noreen said that each time we experience some sort of loss in our lives, it brings all of our past experiences with grief/loss back to the surface. SOOOO True.
Who knows? Maybe that'll be a great bonding moment for our family someday? We can all sit together on the couch in a puddle of tears, and then Jim can enter with a plate of warm homemade cookies to make us all feel better!!!
The other major topic that we covered last night was the concept of 'attachments'. Noreen stressed how important it is for these children to not only be able to form attachments but that we, as the adoptive parents, allow those attachments to be maintained.
The best example she gave is that of a child coming into our home who had been previously placed with foster parents (or a foster family) and had a strong attachment to them. In order for that child to have a successful transition into our home and to have a good relationship with us, we should do our best to maintain contact with that child's foster parents and/or foster family. Now, we're not expected to have them over for dinner all the time, or have our child spend a lot of time with them, but it would be best for the child if they were allowed to maintain that relationship in some form, for however long they 'needed' to.
I won't go on and on, but it was a great class; chock-full of information that I'm sure will come in handy down the line.
There was one case last night that Noreen told us about, which scared the be-jeezus out of me.
A pre-adoptive family was placed with a baby right out of the hospital (the birth mom was a 16 year old). After a YEAR AND A HALF with the pre-adoptive family, they had to give the child back to the mother. In the course of that year and a half, the birth mother had given birth to a second child. After three weeks of having a newborn and a 18 month old child with her in the 'teen mother program' she was in, the now 17 year old girl realized (much to her credit) that she couldn't handle it. She contacted DCF and they ended up returning the child to the original pre-adoptive family.
Now, from the VERY beginning, the pre-adoptive family knew that this was a high-risk case, they knew that after a while the birth mother was doing well, and the visits with the birth mother were becoming more and more frequent so they knew what was going on. However, that CERTAINLY didn't make it any easier for them to give back the child after such a long time. In fact, Noreen said that when she called the pre-adoptive mom and told her the news, she said that she needed a day to think about it. After a day she called back and said that they would of course take the child back. It was just such a shock to them to be faced with getting the child back that they needed to 'process' the whole thing. The good news is that the child is now happily reunited with his adoptive family and is regularly visiting with his birth mom and sibling.
I'm not sure how Jim and I would deal with a situation like that. The important thing to remember is that no two cases are the same and you really have to be prepared for anything.
Now that I've taken up half the day writing this, I'm going to get some coffee and get to work.
I hope you all have a GREAT Thanksgiving....and enjoy the day!!!
I hope none of you face anything that looks like this.....