Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas letter:-)

Merry Christmas!                                                                              Dec. 2011

            It has been a busy year! (When hasn’t it been? Haha) We’ve been slowly improving our house and are really enjoying it. This year we took out half of our front lawn and expanded our flower and vegetable gardens. We’re thinking about taking out the rest of our front lawn next year. It is a small front yard and we don’t use it for anything, so why not make it useful? In the backyard we’ve done the opposite and taken out many of the flowerbeds that were there to expand the grass area. We also had to redo our roof this year. We were hoping it would last longer but alas it began to leak… We all worked really hard. Our three teens outdid themselves! We also had great help from friends and family. Kevin built a new gable over our front porch. It completely changes the look of our house. I love it! Next Spring we’re going to build a small pergola across the front of the house. It is going to look great! Now for what each of us has been up to this year:

            Kevin still teaches photography at both the Community College and the University. He still has his commercial photography job. We thought that was going to be a temporary position but they continue to need him and we are grateful for that. In addition to that he still has his freelance photography business. This year Kevin found out that the University gives him free tuition credit for every class that he teaches. So, like Kevin wasn’t busy enough already, he decided to go back to school to finish his Bachelor degree in photography. Kevin has an Associates degree and 20+ years experience as a professional photographer. This allows him to be an adjunct professor but not to officially be hired as fulltime. So Kevin is a student again. It is kind of funny, he teaches classes and then he and many of his students attend classes together. He is doing really well and getting straight A’s. He’s finishing up his second semester as a student. We think he’ll have about another year and a half to go before completing his degree. He has been talking about maybe getting his Master’s degree after that but we’re taking it one step at a time. He is one busy man!

            T has also been a busy girl. This year she started her Junior year at high school. This semester she has been taking classes at the Tech Institute. She’s getting her CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant.) She does that half a day every other day and then attends regular high school after that. She’s also taking Medical Terminology, a class that she is getting duel credit for at the Community College. As a part of her CNA program she also has to work at an Adult Care Facility part time. She works there every Monday until 8pm and on Saturdays. In order to get her CNA she needs to have so many hours of clinical practice, working there part-time as a CNA in training gives her the hours that she needs. It is volunteer work and she is really enjoying it. She has been so busy this semester with school, homework, and working that she hasn’t had much time for friends. I worry for her, but that’s just the way she is. She’s a super hard worker and mature beyond her years. Next year she wants to become a Dental assistant and basically do what she has been doing this year with school; Attending tech school part-time and then high school part-time, getting duel credit. By the time she graduates from High School she’ll be able to get work as either a CNA or a Dental Assistant. How many high school students can begin a professional career right after graduation? But that’s our girl. I keep hoping that some of my immaturity will rub off on her haha. She does like to have fun though. This past summer she took private swimming lessons. She is also a great rock climber. Kevin has enjoyed teaching that to her. She likes to go to movies with friends. Her favorite TV shows are Dr. Who and Merlin. She likes music, lately she’s been listening to Colby Caillat, Ingrid Michaelson, and she still loves David Archuleta.

            J’s biggest accomplishment this year is that he finally graduated from his Neurological Reorganization therapy. It took us over four years to get him to this point. J still struggles with some ingrained behavioral habits that we are still working on. At this point he no longer shows signs of PTSD or many of his neurological challenges stemming from FASD etc. But he has these behavioral habits that need working on. It is amazing though to see his ability to actually recognize his problems. He has started working on those habits and I think we are making progress. I remember J’s former therapist’s words, she said that she believes that J will reach a place of complete normalcy but that it’ll just take him a little longer than most kids to get there. She believed at the rate he was improving, J would be around his mid twenties when he would reach a mental place that most children get to when they are around 18 or 19 years old. That doesn’t sound so bad to me! He’s had SOOOO much to overcome. He had the world stacked against. He is getting better all of the time. We can see this real change in him since completely his NR program; it is so exciting for us. J loves to do yard work. He’s quick to volunteer at church or for neighbors any time yard work is needed. He’s spent the last couple of years earning a little cash mowing lawns, pulling weeds, raking leaves, etc. He wants to be a landscaper after high school. We found an online school that offers a certificate in Landscaping. J is interested in doing that after high school. J played water polo this year as part of a community league.  J loves to swim, he’s our fish. J would play video games all day if we let him… we don’t let him haha.  Over all J is on a really good path, he still has some struggles, but he is improving all the time.

            R has grown up a lot this year, in more ways than one. For starters he keeps getting taller and taller hahaha! He’s 14 and a few inches shorter than Kevin. He’s also discovered girls… and girls have discovered him- heaven help us! Girls are starting to hang around our house, girls walk back and forth past our front fence and girls I’ve never seen before walk up to me and ask if R is home… and girls are asking him to be their boyfriend etc etc… oh man. People talk about needing a shotgun to protect their daughters; I need one for my son hahaha. He’s been getting straight A’s at school. He was also nominated and elected for the Peer Leadership Committee at school. It is a part of the student body government. R is a total bookworm. He reads four or five books at once. He checks out so many books, so often from the school library that the head librarian has started finding and holding books that she thinks R will like at the library desk and she tells him about the new books she’s getting for the school. That’s so great. R also played waterpolo on the same team that J played for. He did really well; he just has a hard time being aggressive enough. He wants to play again next year. R is our sports fanatic. The Junior High basketball coach wanted him to try out for basketball but he missed the tryouts by a week, he was really bummed about that. R is still doing NR therapy and still struggling with a few issues. But like J, he’s on a really good path.

            C just turned 12 years old! I can’t believe it. She is still very very young for her age. She is more like a 7 year old in many ways. She is in 6th grade at school but at about a third grade level. I’m starting to stress about next school year. She’ll be move up to the Junior High… She’s so far behind academically and so young developmentally. I worry that she’ll get eaten alive at the Junior high School. So we don’t know what we are going to do. C’s physical issues were such that professionals started telling us that they suspected that she has a mild form of Cerebral Palsy. I recently watched a part of a documentary about children with CP and there was a girl that was so much like C and did all of the same things that she does with her hands and arms. So we had C see the same Neuro-developmentalist that all of our children have seen, Nina Jonio. C started her own NR program this past summer. Her coordination has improved so much since then. Her legs are working so much better! She still needs a lot of work with her arms. We are also beginning to believe that C has OCD.  Nina can address that also, down the road. C needs to do more work on her lower level brain functioning before a midlevel brain disfunction, like OCD can be addressed. But aside from her obvious struggles, she is the sunshine of our family. She loves all things Disney Princess. She also loves to sing and listen to music. We’ve been buying Disney movie soundtracks for her. At any given day we’re all rocking out to Tarzan, or Little Mermaid, etc hahaha. C loves to read. The Elementary school librarian has been helping her find books on her level. Yay for school librarians! :-) So she’s been bringing a lot of fun books home to read. C has also been discovering 80’s cartoons on our netflix instant watch. Her favorite right now is She-Ra (do you remember that He-Man cartoon spinoff? Haha) We put C in swimming lessons over the summer. With her disabilities she wasn’t really able to learn to swim BUT she did learn to float! That was so cool to see! Her balance is getting so much better now though that we think she might be able to handle a bike with training wheels. We’ll see if Santa can manage that… that’s a pricey ticket though LOL, so we’ll see.
            As for me… well, the kids pretty much keep me busy. When I’m not doing NR therapy with them, I’m helping with homework, dealing with teenage drama, or dancing obnoxiously along to whatever music my kids are playing hahaha. For a little while I was writing for adoption.com. But they wanted me to sign this new contract that was crazy and I refused. So if I ever have anything to say, I just stick it on our family blog:-)
As always, I love our garden. During the warmer months of the year I can be found out in the yard digging, pulling, trimming and this year hand pollinating (my squash weren’t pollinating on their own so I had to get up early when the blooms were open and hand pollinate them… it worked:-) ) In addition to that, I’m canning fruit and dehydrating herbs. So the garden finds it’s way into the house too. :-)
            We still have our zoo. Our two dogs, Jakob and Charlie, are getting older. Charlie is turning gray and they are starting to show their age a little. I wonder how many more years we’ll have them? Not too many more… I don’t like to think about it. Our millions of cats are as obnoxious and cute as ever. Have you ever seen the children’s book, “So Many Cats” by Beatrice Schenk de Regnires?  It is one of our favorites and sums up our household very well. :-) 
            This last year brought a lot of good things and progress but it also brought some heartache. My grandmother (Oma) passed away this year and then a couple of months later Kevin’s father passed away. We shed a lot of tears in 2011. So 2011 gave us some ups and some downs.
            We are looking forward to 2012. Next summer we’ll be visiting Germany. It’ll be great to see where I grew up again and to see family that I haven’t seen in years. We love you all. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!
Love, Anita and Kevin, and the kids:-)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Article: US report: Foster kids get high rate of psych meds

(Great article. So sad because there are therapies (like NR) that do get to the root of the problem without meds! )
Associated Press

(AP) - Federal health officials are failing to monitor how state agencies are doling out powerful psychotropic drugs to foster children, according to a comprehensive investigation released Thursday showing foster kids are prescribed the drugs 2.7 to 4.5 times more than non-foster children and often at much higher doses.
Hundreds of foster children are being prescribed five or more of the medications at once, which can have severe side effects including diabetes and suicidal behavior. In some regions, foster children as young as 1 year old were twice as likely to be prescribed the medications, according to a two-year investigation by the Government Accountability Office. The investigation looks at 2008 data from more than 100,000 foster children in Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del, requested the investigation's release after media reports of high prescribing rates and anecdotes from former foster children who said they were on multiple medications at the same time. The report was released ahead of a hearing Thursday by his congressional sub-committee that deals with federal services.
"This report we are releasing today confirms some of our worst fears," Carper said.
Some of the drugs have "black box" label warning for children's safety and are not approved for use by young children. But doctors often prescribe them off label. The drugs affect the central nervous system and can change behavior or perception. They are prescribed for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions. Little is known about the long term side effects of the drugs and drug, experts said.
"We're kind of flying blind as far as knowing the safety and efficacy long term risks (for children)," said Dr. Christopher Bellonci, a child psychiatrist at Tufts Medical Center.
The report offered several explanations for the high prescription rates, noting the children had greater exposure to trauma before entering foster care and that state agencies were lax in overseeing the prescriptions.
Critics say the drugs are overused as a chemical restraint for unruly children.
Child welfare advocates say there's a nationwide shortage of child psychiatrists, often leaving pediatricians to handle complex behavioral problems.
"I do believe that medications are being used almost in default and my concern is that is being used in lieu of psycho-therapeutic interventions," Bellonci said.
Six-year-old Brooke was on two psychiatric medications for an ADHD diagnosis when Todd and Lisa Ward adopted her out of Florida foster care in 2010.
Over the next two years, doctors put her on an array of powerful drugs as her parents watched her behavior become more aggressive, erratic and agitated. She twice tried to kill the family dog, pulled skin off her nose and wiped blood on the walls, threw tantrums as doctors plied her with more than a dozen medications over the years, her mother said.
"Her hands would just shake insanely and they would tell us, `oh that's just her'. But it wasn't her. It stopped once she went off the medication," he mother said.
The Wards tried desperately to get her into a psychiatrist but wait lists were typically nine months long, so she ended going back to the same mental health center that Ward said constantly overmedicated her. The Wards finally found a psychiatrist last year who helped decrease Brooke's medications and stabilize her behavior.
But this summer an incident with her sister triggered Brooke and she tried to set the house on fire in an attempt to kill her sister, said Ward, a 39-year-old accountant who adopted Brooke and her two siblings.
The Wards placed her in a residential facility where she got intensive therapy for the first time, including yoga and play therapy. Three months later, Brooke is home and down to one medication.
"The difference in her was night and day. She actually can express emotion," said Ward. "They were able to figure out what this girl had held inside for eight years."
Ward, who started a nonprofit to link other foster parents to doctors and therapists, says the medication was just a bandage and notes the girls no longer have the ADHD they were diagnosed with when the Wards adopted them from foster care.
The new report found foster children in some areas were twice as likely to be prescribed five or more of those drugs at the same time compared to non-foster children. Texas foster children were prescribed five or more medications most often.
"No evidence supports the use of five or more psychotropic drugs in adults or children, and only limited evidence supports the use of even two drugs," according to the report.
Eleven-year-old Ke'onte Cook, who entered Texas foster care at age 4, testified he was on 20 drugs during his time in foster care, sometimes taking five drugs at once. He didn't know why he was taking them and was never told of possible side effects.
"It was the worst things someone could do to foster kids. I was upset about my situation and not because I was bipolar or had ADHD," said Ke'onte, who has since been adopted and stopped taking all medications. "Meds aren't going to help a child with their problems. It's just going to sedate them for a little while until it comes back again."
Thursday's hearing comes a week after federal health officials notified state child welfare leaders they will have to provide more details about how they control the medications for foster kids starting next year.
A federal law passed in 2008 lays out oversight provisions required by law, but many states aren't following them.
In most states, child welfare workers don't have access to the Medicaid database to identify which medications their child is taking and the Medicaid database can't identify which patients are foster kids.