‘I’m sorry, but I’m afraid Elijah can’t come back to daycare. We tried everything we could. It’s just not going to work.’ I was crushed.’: Single mom adopts son with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder from foster care

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“As I sat in my living room, holding my 7-month-old foster child, I half-listened to the psychologist as she explained the risks I was taking by adopting him. She went through his biological parents’ alcohol and drug history, and I vaguely heard the words ‘Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.’

She was trying to let me know what my life could possibly be like should I choose to go through with the adoption. But I didn’t really pay attention. I bounced this precious little boy on my lap who giggled softly on top of my knees and my focus was on the family I had dreamed of having my whole life. Whatever this counselor was saying, it didn’t matter. God was giving me my very own family.

At that time, I was in my 50s and had an older foster son who is now my adopted son. But still, he was not my very own child yet; we didn’t share the same last name.

My whole life, I never lived with a family who shared my last name. I never really felt like I wholly belonged anywhere. This affected me even into adulthood. I just couldn’t seem to fit in with anybody. Ever.

So, when my life didn’t seem to be going in the typical direction it does for most folks i.e., marriage and children, I decided I wanted to do something to help children, and maybe, at the same time, I would eventually get a family of my own. This is really frowned upon in the foster care community because foster care is about helping bring biological families back together. Not about building your own family with someone else’s children. I am seeing that more and more now. But when I first started, this was my hope.

So, I really didn’t care what the counselor was trying to tell me. And I still don’t. The day I said yes to this little boy, and then my two other children were the best thing that ever happened to me. However, it was not without its challenges.

As my son was a baby, I noticed a few things I thought were different and would maybe present a challenge as he grew. But I decided not to worry about it and just focus on each day.

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I noticed at 6 months of age, he seemed to have a lot of anger when he wanted his bottle. He just could not wait for me to get it and put it in his mouth. In his crib, he would lift his whole abdomen up off the mattress and slam his legs down while screaming at the top of his lungs until that bottle was placed between his lips. ‘Boy, are you going to be a handful when you grow up,’ I would say to him as I rocked and fed him in my rocking chair. Little did I know this would happen sooner than I thought.

Later, as he grew and started walking, I noticed whenever he could not have something he wanted, he became aggressive. He would throw things or hit furniture and people, and he would have a meltdown that lasted maybe 20 minutes. Now his meltdowns can last over an hour! By the time he turned two, the incident reports started piling up from the daycare. ‘E hit a child for no reason,’ one said. ‘E knocked over a bookshelf, and all the toys that were on top tumbled onto a group of kids sitting on the other side,’ said another. I found it hard to believe he was doing all of these things unprovoked because, though I saw his anger at home, there was usually a cause. Like, his brother had something he wanted.

So, I engaged a therapist and took him to the doctor to see what he thought. ‘Oh, this is normal,’ his pediatrician chimed as my son sat on the floor in the corner of the doctor’s office, his face beet red as he screamed bloody murder. ‘He’ll grow out of it. You’ll see.’ I thought to myself, ‘What? This is not normal. Can’t you see that? Something is wrong. He is so upset it looks like something inside his brain is hurting him.’ Unfortunately, he would not listen and so we eventually changed pediatricians.

The counselor who came to my home a few times a week to counsel my foster daughter and my other adopted son, who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, thought the daycare was crazy. All she saw was the sweet child my son was and would often say this. That is until she went to visit him at the daycare. Then she saw another side of him I had yet to witness.

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‘He’s a totally different kid there,’ she said to me after observing him at daycare through a webcam. ‘That is not the same sweet E I see here.’ Eventually, the one thing I feared finally came to pass. I showed up at the daycare and was handed a bunch of incident reports and told my son could not return. I was crushed. Devastated. I had four kids, two adopted boys, one foster son that was soon to be adopted, and a foster daughter. With E kicked out of daycare, eventually, I lost my job.

Courtesy of Teaching Wounded Angels to Fly

The daycare was right, though, in making him leave. He was pretty aggressive, and people were getting hurt. But why? We saw a psychiatrist who gave him her diagnosis. Some of it seemed to fit but not entirely. We discovered he had a Sensory Processing Disorder and began occupational therapy twice a week to help him with these difficulties. For about four months, this went very well until something snapped, and he suddenly turned on his therapist. After spending three sessions in a row beating up the therapist and demolishing the room, he was dismissed from occupational therapy. There was nothing they could do to help him if he was aggressive for an entire session. And he was still just two years old!

My stress level did not help matters at all. Having no income without work, I had to have my foster daughter move to another home. I had a small group of friends who faithfully sent in financial support to help me raise this family God had given me, but after a year with no daycare or school willing to give my child a chance, that slowly started to dwindle.

I earnestly held on to the fact that God answered a dream of mine. He brought these children to me, gave us a home, and made us a family. The Bible says what He starts He is faithful to see to completion. I still hold on to this faith, though it has been tried for so long that I am very weary. But the one thing that still stands true is that I love my family, and I love God, and I am in it for the long haul.

So, what does life look like now? E is about to turn 4. He was accepted into a program at the public school for special needs kids and attends it from 8:00 to 2:30. I am still unable to find work out of the home that will enable me to get my kids after school, and he does not qualify for any aftercare for children with his needs. At least not yet. Maybe when he is older. But he loves this school! He is thriving with his teacher and other children whom he calls ‘friends!’

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He still has his meltdowns and can get aggressive when his emotions rise, or he is in sensory overload. However, these teachers are trained in how to work with children like him. I’m sure it can get exhausting, but when he comes home, he tells me all the wonderful things his teacher does with him, so I know he is happy.

In the meantime, at home, we have to stay away from a lot of activities and events where there will be a lot of people, noise, and stimulation. It inevitably causes a meltdown. This is very hard on my other kids. We have had to leave so many events early, including the movies, because he just can’t take it and will start to scream.

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My middle son often prays for God to bring us a daddy so I can stay home with E and his daddy can take him to the movies or to a game, or just…anything.

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We try to pick events that are outdoors, and there is a lot of space. We practically live at the skatepark, where all three of my boys are excelling in skateboarding and trick scootering. Even E was riding down these huge ramps at just 2 years old. Now everybody laughs at the skateboarding toddler who is still in diapers. Yet he is even attempting to drop in the mini ramp on his skateboard.

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E loves his brothers so much, and despite all the problems and public embarrassment, they love him too. This is the family God built. We all have come from some brokenness, and yet God is weaving something good out of what He has put together. I just know it.

I can’t wait to see what that will be.”

Courtesy of Teaching Wounded Angels to Fly

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alexandra of Teaching Wounded Angels to Fly. You can follow her family journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories from single adoptive parents here:

‘At 11, his adoptive parents abandoned him at a hospital, never to return. ‘Mr. Peter, can I call you my Dad?’ I began to cry uncontrollably.’: Single dad adopts 11-year-old boy from foster care after biological, adoptive family abandon him

‘My principal said, ‘I’m adding a boy to your class. He’s from foster care and has Down syndrome.’ I felt this tug on my heart. ‘I want to take him home.’: Single mom, kindergarten teacher adopts down syndrome student

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