adoption, family

When the Grass is Greener: Residential Treatment

That old adage about the first year of marriage “being the hardest” is a myth. When I married Luke ten years ago, I had no idea what it would really be like. It was a whirlwind of anticipation. At the time, I wondered what the grass really looked like on the other side.

The first year of marriage wasn’t hard. The first year was delightful. It was filled with blustery New England storms. They’re called “Nor’Easters” and I love them.

Luke and I would curl up together in front of our apartment’s floor-to-ceiling windows. We listened to the wind howl as a soft white blanket covered the world. We’d sip hot, exotically flavored, coffee Luke would brew. I’d clutch my mug of “almond toffee” or “coco-mocha” and tuck my feet underneath my new husband’s lap. My hands and toes would warm me into a languid, dreamy state of contentment.

Old folk sayings never do these things justice.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Then why did all of these terrible things happen to our children before we knew them?? Why weren’t we there at the beginning?

“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side”

It is greener. Being married to Luke is sooo much better than before-Luke. Our daughter’s residential treatment center is sooo much better than the psychiatric treatment facility where she was. 

I didn’t realize how effective the residential school would be. I didn’t realize how much good they would do for our daughter. I didn’t realize how supportive they would be to our whole family. I didn’t know how much it would hurt. They are doing what we could not.

Mary is finally in a place that truly understands developmental trauma. The non-profit that runs this residential school specializes in adoption-related difficulties. They know complex trauma inside and out. They use effective, evidence-based treatment models. They all communicate. The staff are all well trained and on the same page. Mary is being kept safe.

I’ve never heard her take ownership of any part of her treatment. Lately she’s been talking about what she can do to reach goals that she has set for herself. She’s responding to the structure and boundaries of this place. Hugs are for families, not staff. Mary cannot call any of the staff “mom” or “dad.” She doesn’t sit in laps or snuggle the staff. They gently remind her about what her family is there for.

She isn’t allowed to call me between 10 and 30 times per day to scream at me when she is unhappy. Instead, she is encouraged to build better family relationships. She may call once a day and she is explicitly taught about how to speak to her parents respectfully.

The best/worst part is that it is all working. We are having pleasant visits. We enjoy our phone calls with Mary. She is making connections about what they are trying to teach her. I know we are only at the very beginning of residential treatment but I have such newfound hope. So far it’s everything we weren’t able to help her with and more. The grass is so very green here.

“Jealousy is a green-eyed monster.”

I am so jealous. I am this monster. Why couldn’t we have accomplished this at home?

Their program is nearly identical to what the kind of therapeutic parenting we practice. The relational model we use is the same. We don’t have their staffing. We didn’t get their results. It hurts.

This first year of RTC is shaping up to be so successful. Will it be the hardest? I don’t know.

“Hindsight is 20/20”

What I do know is that ten years into marriage, I can look back and laugh at my worries. Perhaps, when she’s been safely at home for ten years, I will look back and see the same. Until then I will curl up with Luke while the wind is howling. I still have a warm place to tuck in my feet while we wait out the storm.

**Names have been changes to protect the privacy of those involved.


21 thoughts on “When the Grass is Greener: Residential Treatment

  1. C says:

    I am so happy to hear that Mary is making great strides, is thinking clearly and not in that cloud that she was. I was the same at the program I was in. I can understand that feel jealous. I would imagine any parent would. Well any good parent. I imagine it would feel like someone else is doing my job. I can’t say why it wasn’t working at home. I would guess getting her out of that cloud of psychosis has a lot to do with it. Also the staff goes home after 8 hours they don’t get the worry, stress, overwhelming emotions. They only have one job. You as mom have a ton. There is also the fact sometimes we learn better from people we don’t love. That’s why we have coaches, teachers, and trainers etc. who are not our parents. or it could be something totally else. All that aside you must be so proud of her. I bet she knows that she has a family waiting for her and she is waiting for you too.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It’s a long and winding road. Paul McCartney was right. When things are kinda good we have crazy interfering ( but understandable) emotions like jealousy! Sorry 😐

    I have a couple boys for a three week respite…while my husband is out of the country. I have a little sprint to do right now. You’re on the iron man triathlon.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. WenofSF says:

    Its so encouraging to hear that your daughter is on a healing path.
    We had a foster child who was placed with us for adoption, along with her younger sister. We were so green, we had never heard of RAD or even attachment disorder for that matter. We had no clue that such young children 4 & 1.5 years could be so damaged. It was a rude awakening for us. After the 1.5 years we called it quits for the older child after she tried to molest the little one & was fantasizing about stabbing her (out loud to anyone who would listen). She went to a therapeutic foster care, then the younger one, who we ended up adopting, came out of her shell to let us know that she too had RAD, chronic PTSD & hypervigilence. Now our daughter is 6, with RAD, doing Neuro feedback, doing neurological organization, with an attachment thetapist, an IEP, support all day at school. Our daughters older sister just got adopted last month , is doing wonderfully in school, us so well behaved and is a wonderful older sister to my daughter who acts like an evil bratt when we see her on visits..It’s painful to know that she us better now and we couldn’t do that for her, it’s wonderful that she is better now and we chose to have her sent to a therapeutic placement to begin her journey. So much sadness surrounding the issue, but in the end we pray that we will ALl one day be okay. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I understand those mixed feelings so well. That is so terribly painful. You are giving the best therapy and support you can to your daughter. As for her older sister, I’m glad she’s better. It doesn’t mean you failed. She maybe needed to be away from her younger sister to heal. Who knows. It’s a crazy journey. You’re not alone.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. skinnyhobbit says:

    💜❤💜❤ I’m so happy Mary is doing better. You did NOT fail her. The staff have time away etc to regroup and recharge — you don’t! Mary will learn that you are doing the very best you can.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Heather Chagnon says:

    Are you able to disclose what RTC she is at? We are currently looking for a placement for our 9 yr. old daughter. Sadly, I have heard to many stories where the children end up coming home in worse condition than when entered RTC. We are scared to place her in a RTC, but we are also fearful of keeping her home. 😔

    Liked by 2 people

    • Heather it’s VERY hard to find a good one. Are you located in New England? There are several JRI facilities in New England that are all evidenced based. I’ve also heard good things about InterMountain in Montana and CALO in Missouri. Paying for residential is a whole separate issue.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Shanna says:

    Can I ask if you had any negative response from family when making the decision for residential treatment? We took in my nephew after the death of my sister in law. He has fetal alcohol syndrome, RAD and who knows what other illnesses
    We didn’t spend any time with him before he lived with us because of her addiction and resulting behaviours. We didn’t have any idea what we were in for. He has lived with us since Oct and has started to decompensate. He is mumbling to himself, he expresses violent wishes against his cousins (saying he hopes one dies in a fire someday soon), he has been drawing disturbing images of violence and scrstching out the eyes. He is failing in school, despite being quite intelligent. He is in eed of help and we are trying to fnd him the help and structure we can’t give him. My in-laws have completely freaked out noting that he wasn’t this bad when he lived with them (2 years before his mom’s death). As if we want to live like this, in fear, sleeping on the couch so he cant sneak up to our other sleeping children. We are in over our heads and drowning and now are facing a fight from my in-laws on considering residential treatment. (Note, they live many states away from us so have very little contact with our family, other than maybe monthly calls). Any and all advice is welcome and would be really really appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Shanna. I’m really sorry you are going through this. We did have the support of our family. Our daughter was having regular violent outbursts and we had tried everything else. There are good in-home programs that might be helpful. RTC is extremely hard to get. We had multiple hospitalizations, in-home, crisis services, partial hospitalizations, intensive outpatient treatment, and many medication failures first. I’m not sure about your nephew’s insurance plan so they would be a good contact for you. As far as what other people think? They aren’t living it. You are hang in there.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Acceptance | Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

  8. My daughter has been diagnosed with a personality disorder. We are hoping to go tour a reputable residential treatment facility in a few weeks. We have been guided to use Dialectical Behavior Therapy!
    Anyway— your post brought me such hope. I am thrilled to have found you and hope in following you I will have peace in knowing we are not alone, our family can survive, my girl can lead a joyful life.
    Thank You for being here!
    Thank You for sharing this experience in your BLOG!!


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