Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for December, 2009

Parents Want to Return Adopted Child

Posted by Marcia on December 24, 2009

It’s a shocking story: Tony and Melissa Wescott of Oklahoma want to change the laws to allow them to return their adopted child. The boy was unnamed in the article, but let’s call him “John”.

John, an 11-year-old, has been diagnosed with several severe mental health issues and this family is living in fear of him. They’ve found several knives under his mattress and he had set a trash can in his room on fire.

John had been in foster care, and when they adopted their son, documents disclosed by law from the Department of Human Services indicated that the boy “has no difficulty with attachments and he knows right from wrong …. He does not demonstrate any significant behavioral problems which would be considered abnormal for a child his age.

“(The child) has not received counseling services and these services have not been indicated as a need for him at this time. (The child) is developmentally appropriate.”

“We were told he was a normal boy who would have the normal adjustment issues any child in foster care would have,” Melissa Wescott said. “We have been his biggest advocates and strongest fighters. But we are scared of him, and that hurts us.”

Problems arose shortly after the adoption. Doctors diagnosed John with reactive detachment disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, major depressive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.

The Westcotts sent him to a psychiatric hospital and he is to be released next month, but the family wants him to be returned to the Department of Human Services so John can get additional help. This family cannot afford the kind of help John needs.

The family joined a group that is lobbying the state to allow adoptive parents to return custody of foster children to the state in special circumstances. Advocates say adoptive parents should not be punished if children have major disabilities that were not known or disclosed prior to adoption.

The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) indicates that when one adopts from the public foster care system, kids can have “…a multitude of significant, lifelong problems including: reactive attachment disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome and/or effect, learning disabilities, sexual aggression, and mental health diagnoses. Most adoptions are successful; however research shows that three to ten percent of all older child adoptions will end in dissolution.”

Sometimes it’s in the child’s best interests to be removed from the home and provided with residential treatment or therapeutic foster care, and there are times that one must have a legal dissolution of the adoption placement.

People who adopt via the foster care system depend on honest and accurate reports from the Department of Human Services, and when the DHS does not provide an accurate picture, they should be held responsible.

That’s the story, and here’s my input.

I’m an adoptive mom and have been in touch with a lot of people over the years and asked about this topic. When I was writing my book, several people contacted me about various issues they were facing and I did a lot of research. Many adopted kids seem to adjust well and not have major issues, but some have some very deep problems that can’t be predicted.

Our adoption was from birth and our son only knew our home and our family. Whatever happened after that, well, it’s our responsibility. People who adopt assume certain risks. When you adopt, you have to take the birthmother’s word for it that she did not drink, do drugs or engage in other dangerous behavior while pregnant. You hope the birthmother is honest about her medical history and, if you’re lucky, you learn the birthfather’s medical history, too.

Two families have been in touch with me regarding their adoptions. One family has two children adopted at birth from different birthmothers. The older child has some minor issues, but the younger one is already a danger and he is 6 years old. He has extreme tantrums and has tried to harm each member of the family. The parents have hidden whatever they feel may be dangerous and locked up kitchen knives. They lock him in his room at night and lock their own doors against him so they can sleep, but they worry about what may happen if there’s a fire or other hazard. They’re living in fear of this child and the last few years have included visits to all kinds of experts to diagnose and treat him.

The second family has a 12-year-old son who was adopted at 8 from the foster care system and another child who was 2 when adopted, is 10 now. They turned to this option as it seemed a financially viable way to build a family and they are good-hearted people. The younger child has needed a lot of therapy but seems to be on a good path, but the 12-year-old may be returned to the state. Like the family in the story, this family was told the boy had some issues but treatment would help him. They later discovered that both parents were addicted to drugs and alcohol; he’d been placed in 12 homes in a 4 year period and had already been through 2 failed adoptions. The past 4 years have been a nightmare for this family. He has threatened them and pulled knives on them – when they locked up the knives he used forks. Almost anything can be a weapon, and they are more fearful the older he gets and the bigger he becomes. They are terrified of him and living with fear and regret. This is destroying their family. Isn’t the DHS responsible for this mess by intentionally withholding information that would have altered the decision to adopt?

What is your opinion?


Posted in Troubled teens | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Sue Scheff’s Blog for Parents of Troubled Teens

Posted by Marcia on December 20, 2009

You can find a few good blogs via trial and error, but I’d like to save you some time and direct you to some sites with great information. I’ll occasionally highlight a blog for you and hope you have the time to review and possibly subscribe.

I’ve been reading Sue Scheff’s blog and highly recommend her site. She has short articles that are useful and insightful. Her work is born of personal difficulties with her own daughter.

If you’ve found this resource useful or have another you’d like to spotlight, please comment below.

Posted in Troubled teens | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Was on Dr. Joel Wade’s Radio Show, KSCO AM 1080

Posted by Marcia on December 17, 2009

Last night I was a guest on Dr. Joel Wade’s radio show. He has experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Los Gatos and uses those skills as a Life Coach and author.

I called in early to be sure my sound was okay, and I had a chance to talk with Joel about his work and his radio show. He was very nice and it was easy to see how well he listened and how carefully he chose his questions. He had already read most of the book, so his questions during the show were completely on target and he cited specific examples from the book. We had a general discussion about parenting skills and teens, and it was interesting to learn from his style of interviewing. It was a pleasure speaking with him.

Joel’s website is, and at some time in the future, he hopes to have downloads of his shows. I hope he gets that running soon! Meanwhile, check out his book, etraining, ezine and other products on his website.

After the show, I wrote and thanked Joel for being such a gracious host. He wrote, “It was a lot of fun, and a very interesting conversation. You were a fantastic guest, and I think people listening got a lot out of what you had to say. I hope that a lot of listeners visit your site and read your book – it really is an excellent book, and a great resource for parents dealing with tough kids.”

This was a wonderful experience, and if you know of someplace I can speak in person, over the radio or on TV, please contact me.

Posted in changing parent's behavior, compliment your child, confidence, entitled, estranged, family difficulties, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Teen in Trouble Calls After Bust

Posted by Marcia on December 13, 2009

It was his usual Saturday night: hanging out with friends, going out to eat, going somewhere and getting stoned. His parents knew all about this routine but felt helpless to stop it. They’d tell their son they disapproved and worried about him, but nothing seemed to register.

And then came the call.

The 17-year-old and his friend were being rowdy in a store, and as they were leaving, the friend took a bottle of liquor. They didn’t get far. The security guard held them till the police came, and the security system confirmed what happened.

Now the parents are waiting to hear their son’s fate. At a time when they’d love to enjoy family time at the holidays, they’re unsure of what will happen. Maybe he’ll have to attend a drug counseling program, maybe he’ll be in jail. Their state is no lenient with kids in trouble, so there are a lot of possible penalities to consider.

Where’d they go wrong as parents? What’ll happen to their son? Will he have a record? Will he learn from this experience? These are all questions that have been swirling around this couple. Please hold them in your thoughts, and if you’ve had a similar experience and can share some insights, please post a response.

Posted in family difficulties, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Parents Sending Teen to Therapeutic School

Posted by Marcia on December 5, 2009

I received an email from a parent of a 16-year-old son. They’d had enough of his lying, stealing, mouthing off, disrespect, trouble-making at home and at school, his drug and alcohol use. They found a therapeutic school via an educational consultant, and this boy will be picked up tonight by escorts who will take him to the school.

The parents had to reach a point where they were desperate to turn their son’s life around and they needed to protect themselves, too. This is a difficult decision, filled with fear, concern, anger and resignation. There’s a certain relief they feel that they know where he’ll be, but they’re very anxious about the upcoming scene when he’s taken and the words they’re sure to hear.

This family isn’t wealthy and they’re using savings and family loans to get their son on a better path. Please keep them in your thoughts.

If you have had a similar experience, you can share anonymously here.

Posted in family difficulties, out of control teens, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Parents and Common Frustrations

Posted by Marcia on December 1, 2009

It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? We are decent human beings, we have children because we want them, we do the best that we can do for them, and some of them, well…

People are born with personalities and inclinations. When a person is inclined to misbehave, sometimes get into very serious trouble, they’ll have to fight a lot of internal demons to stop themselves. Some can do it, some can’t. Some mature and grow out of it, some don’t.

Criminals had parents, too. Sometimes the parents were terrible and sometimes they were parents who did their best. It’s a boat we’re in as parents: you teach them good values and morals, you talk about society and the law, you coach them and try to get it through their heads they are harming themselves and sometimes others. And then it’s their decision to do whatever it is they’re doing.

I saw a news story about a woman whose kids had harmed another, and she was crying and apologizing.  She was devastated to know that her kids were capable of seriously hurting another person.  Her own family was torn apart in a public manner. I wonder if there were some troubles at home, too.  Displays of anger, drug use, whatever it was.  Or were the kids very good at hiding what they were really like?  Were the parents in denial?  Did they feel they had no control over the situation?  Were they seeking help, reading whatever they could, asking friends, family, counselors?

It makes me crazy when a teen or young adult does something inappropriate or illegal and some people ask, “Where are the parents?” The truth is that by the time they reach these ages, you have to hope that they do know better as they’re out of your sight/control for most of their waking hours.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in changing parent's behavior, estranged, family difficulties, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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