Once upon a time, there was a Boy. His hair was a little too long, and had obviously been cut at home with kitchen shears. His clothes were too big, too small, too tight, worn through, and badly stained. He was thin. Painfully thin. He had powerful food aversions. Issues with food textures. Chronic gastrointestinal problems. He had only ever eaten foods that were refined, sweetened, purchased in packages and served by his older brother.
He was six. His brother was nine. They lived together with their mother, who did not get out of bed.
Once upon a time, there was a Woman. A mother with adult children who was not finished mothering. A mother who knew what it was to advocate for children with special needs, who had known hunger and poverty. She knew the value of respite care for single parents, and believed strongly that the capacity of love to heal was endless. She became a respite care worker and then a foster parent. She became their dragon slayer and taught them about the myth that is limits, and that faith is knowing she will be there to help them up when they fall.
This Boy came to the Woman with his brother, for respite care. The Boy had been diagnosed with ADHD and Tourettes. His punch-pack medications of was padlocked between pill-times because they were dangerous, controlled substances. Unsafe. The Woman began to question why This Boy had so many medications, so many different kinds, some of which seemed to counteract the other's effects. Did his doctor know?
The Boy had doctors. Several of them. And, no, they didn't know.
The Boy lit his first intentional fire and taken to a secure psychiatric facility, where his medications were carefully reduced for assessment. But then the stress on his body and mind were too much for him, for them. More prescriptions were written, and the boy was sent home.
The Woman loved him. She showed him that people who love you are excited to see you. That they feed you good food and help you have downtime when you need it. That they introduce you to sports, teach you to play games, climb with you and explore with you. She advocated to Children's Services on his behalf, and got him clean clothes that fit him, school supplies and backpacks, shoes and skates. All of these things for the first time in his life.
The Boy was seven.
Several things happened after that, seemingly in rapid succession for the outsider looking in. The Boy's neighbours began complaining about how violently he and his brother played. It was disruptive and worrisome. Where was their mother? Sometimes The Boy and his brother were outside playing until midnight, or later. Sometimes they didn't catch the bus to go to school in the morning. Sometimes became often, and the neighbours' complaints - first mutters, then calls to the landlord - became more strident. Children's Services' involvement increased. The Woman advocated for help at the Boy's school. Surely, if their mother wasn't capable, someone could get him on the school bus each day?
It became known that The Boy's prescriptions - medications that included anti-psychotics, amphetamines, depressants, seratonin reuptake inhibitors, and sleep aids - had been filled at multiple pharmacies. It became evident why exactly The Boy's mother did not get out of bed.
Once upon a time, there was a Boy whose mother had used alcohol and prescription drugs while he was growing inside her. He had been shaken in his early infancy. He lived for six years on the sometime care of friends and strangers. He lived in a home where strange men came and went, often, and his brother (just three years older) was the boss of everything. This Boy waited six years to eat a good meal. He waited through infancy and preschool to be held with loving arms. He found The Woman, and she believed that there was still time for him to heal.
Once upon a time, there was a Boy with FASD, shaken-baby syndrome, and Reactive Attachment Disorder who tried to burn his house down while his mother slept inside it. And he almost succeeded.
The respite-care arrangement became a kinship-care arrangement became a foster-care arrangement. It was not safe for this Boy to be with his mother. He loved her in a way that is difficult to understand. He feared her more and broke, often, under the weight of her power over him. The Woman advocated for child psychologists, play therapists, case workers, and recreational aides. The Woman attended attachment therapy sessions with him, and saw incremental progress where others saw no change. He's healing. Food has healed his body. Love will heal his heart.
At some point a therapist and a social worker suggested adoption. Becoming his mother might be the last step in the process. If you become his mother, his heart might heal.
The Boy, now The Woman's son, got older, bigger, stronger. Assessments showed this Boy, now 11, could function in some areas like a toddler and in others like a first-grader. There were severe limits on how much he would be able to learn. School was an epic frustration that resulted in expulsions, transfers, specialty schools for behaviourally challenged kids, and more expulsions. Homeschooling was researched, discussed, submitted for consideration. The boy became destructive, intentionally incontinent. He defiled his environment.
The Boy began to hurt The Woman. First with his words, and then with his hands and feet. He began to break things, vandalize property, behave indecently, and revel in the attention this earned. The Woman's family began to question softly whether he could get better. Louder, they questioned whether she was safe with him in her home.
The Woman continued to advocate. She stood before panels begging Children's Services officials not to give up on him, to provide the funding and support for this program, this homecare apparatus, this assessment. He is a CHILD. We CANNOT give up on him.
The Boy began to make threats and accusations toward foster children in The Woman's home. She was so careful, cautious, ever vigilant. There were nights without sleep because the children needed to be kept safe from The Boy. The Boy needed to be kept safe from himself.
More advocacy, more assessments, more conferences. It was determined that it was unsafe for The Boy to attend public school, and he had already been ejected from the appropriate private schools. It was determined that it was unsafe for The Boy to be in the community, outside of a secure facility. The Woman toured residential treatment centres for behaviourally challenged children. She met over-worked, over-tired staff. Many of them were fresh out of psychology or child and youth care programs. Many were obviously counting the days until a better placement. She saw a facility that seemed safe, well-run, well staffed and well managed. It was outside of her district. Inaccessible.
And so she advocated again.
After seven years of tireless, constant advocacy against a province that claims to value its children's welfare above all things, the Woman felt like she could relax. The Boy was safe. He was in a treatment facility that would help him heal. She would visit him often to aid his healing. She was NOT abandoning him. And while family and therapists began to use words like narcissistic personality disorder and sociopathy, she held onto the hope that this Boy could grow into a healthy, happy life.
The reports from the facility were immediate and unsettling. The Boy, now 13, had threatened the staff. The Boy refused to adhere to rules and policies. The Boy had been fighting with other residents. The Boy refused to do his course work and told constant, blatant lies. The Boy had threatened other residents. The Boy had escaped through his window and entered another resident's suite. The Boy had talked about attempting suicide. The Boy had left the facility, repeatedly, after lights out, and had returned smelling of alcohol, with scratches on his body, with hickies on his neck, with reports of vandalism and public disturbance.
The Woman: WHY AREN'T YOU TAKING CARE OF MY SON?
The Facility: It is no longer our policy to attempt to restrain him.
On familiar ground, the Woman began to advocate. Again. There must be a safe place for him. There must be someone who can help him. He is a CHILD. We CANNOT give up on him.
After intentionally swallowing a jagged piece of plastic, enduring general anesthetic and endoscopic surgery, this Boy - who was once six years old and painfully thin - escalated into such a state of destructive hysteria that it was recommended the police become involved. In this state, the Boy declared that the Woman beat him. That she abused him. That she whipped him with belts to punish him, and these scars on his body came from her.
And they believed him.
The Woman is alone now. And finally silent. She has been writing, begging, pleading, crying on this Boy's behalf for so long that she is now – temporarily – completely without words.
My question is: What would you do? If you knew this Woman, what would you tell her? Because for me, a person who loves children so much, all I can think to say is "Protect yourself. He has hurt you so much, already. Please, just protect yourself."
What would you do?
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