Sunday, January 17, 2010

Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control...the first in a series of essays on parenting with love

My posts over the next ten weeks will contain information about an online parenting class I am taking. The class is produced by the Beyond Consequences Institute which was started by Heather Forbes LCSW, a mother and therapist. The Beyond Consequences Institute provides education and support for families with children with severe acting out behaviors. Their model is a love-based, rather than fear-based, model.

I was introduced to Beyond Consequences by a fellow adoptive parent. She and I have children with particular attachment issues and no “main stream” parenting ideology “works” with our children. Someone had recommended the book “Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control” to her, she recommended it to me and here I am, taking the online course!

For years I have struggled with parenting. I had the dream, like many women do, of getting married, getting a good-paying job and having 2 children, a boy and girl and living happily ever after…

Then came fertility issues.
Then came multiple miscarriages.
Then came adoption.

Being adopted myself, I was really looking forward to the biological connection I would have with my biological children. I had never quite “fit in” in my adoptive family. I loved them and cherished them, but always felt very different. Once I met my biological mother in 1996 at the age of 27, I finally felt whole. The missing puzzle pieces had been found. I knew where I came from. Where I got my laugh, where I got my innermost feelings, how I came to express myself the way I do…

The last thing I wanted was to raise a child to grow up feeling the way I did as a child: alone and different. Adoption was something I was NOT interested in. It was too close. Too hard.

But NOT having children was even harder and so, with a lot of soul searching and encouragement from family and friends, my husband and I chose to adopt.

Now became the question of where and how to adopt. Things had changed drastically since I came into the world. One thing I knew for sure (or thought I knew for sure): I would NOT adopt a child that had ANY chance of meeting his or her biological parents! I saw the pain my own mother had gone through when I met my birthmother. I knew that I could not face that pain.

As fate would have it, our first child was born just 45 miles north of our home. Not only would she meet her birthmother, I would have to bring her for visitations with her for the first year and a half of our life together. My husband and I had come full circle…no international adoption for us…there were children right here in our home state that needed loving families. We would become foster parents and adopt through the foster care system.

And that’s how Meka came into our lives. She came home at 6 months of age. She had been in a previous foster home for the 1st 6 months of her life. She had received good care, but not a lot of nurturing, holding and comfort. She was happy, healthy and a good sleeper…in anyone else’s eyes, a perfect baby.

What we didn’t realize at the time was that Meka was experiencing attachment trauma.

Our second daughter, Jolee, was a traumatic experience from the second we met her. She came to us at birth from the hospital. We were told that her adoption was “a sure thing.” That her birthmother had lost custody of 4 other children and that she would be staying with us. Well, 10 days later, a judge didn’t agree. He ordered intensive reunification to being immediately. For the next year and a half we spent most of our time transporting Jolee to visitations with her birthmother and her birthfather. We knew that all of the visits would eventually lead to her leaving us to live with her birthmother.

During all of this, I was working for what was best for Jolee. I developed a close, trusting relationship with her birthmother (yes, this is the same woman who NEVER wanted anything to do with my children’s birthparents!). I knew that Jolee would be much better off if she had a large community helping raise. I wanted to offer her birthmother the support she needed in order to be a good mother to Jolee.

In June of 2005, just three months after her 1st birthday, Jolee left our home to live with her birthmother.

I had set up a visitation schedule which allowed us to have Jolee at our home every-other weekend. I also would take Jolee if her birthmother was not feeling well or if we had a special family outing.

It was the hardest time of my life. I have never shed so many tears. I have never questioned my own existence more. I was living in hell.

During all of this, I still had a little girl who needed a mother. Meka was just 4 when Jolee came home. Parenting her took a backseat. Poor little Meka was experiencing her own trauma for the second time.

When we realized that Jolee would not be with us forever, we decided to look into another adoption. My husband and I knew that the foster care system was NOT an option. An international adoption was what we wanted to do. We decided on Guatemala, a country whose culture we were drawn to and whose proximity made it more possible for future travel.

And, get this, our daughter would have more of a chance of finding her birthmother one day.

Can you believe the shift in my thinking? I think this is called “growth.”

Elvia’s adoption was less than easy. She was our third referral. Our paperwork was delayed and, what should have been a relatively short, easy process turned into a year and a half of waiting (I apologize to any of you readers who have been waiting for 2-3 years. I do not mean to sound crass). We traveled to Guatemala in February and then again in April of 2005. I was making plans to go down and stay if she hadn’t come home by May. I came to see that the reality of our situation was that I could not go. I couldn’t leave Jolee…what if she needed me? I couldn’t bring my blond haired, blue eyed little girl to Guatemala and feel safe. I would stay home.

In late June I was stripping vinyl flooring out of our kitchen. I was doing everything I could to keep my mind off of Jolee and Elvia.

The phone rang. I was our DHS worker asking if I could come pick up Jolee. That there had been a situation and Jolee would be returning to us indefinitely.

Shock. Joy. Panic. Disbelief. Relief. My baby was coming home!

Long story short (yes…this next part could fill another novelette):
Jolee came back home at the end of June
Our dear teenage friend moved in with us in the beginning of August. She was homeless and needed a safe home to live in during her senior year of high school.
Elvia came home at the end of August.

Have we experienced trauma? Oh yes.
Do our children have attachment issues? Oh yes.
Am I thankful to be taking this online class? Oh yes.


  1. WOW Leslie. What an experience you have had and shared. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts and more of your story throughout the course! So glad to have you with us.

    Big hugs, Andrea

  2. I'm interested in hearing what you learn in this class. Please share lots.