For the 6 months we tried to get the siblings into our home, while they lived in a shelter, Evan was always held as the reason why they didn't want to rush anything. He struggled significantly at the shelter and in other locations where CPS saw him. He was aggressive during visits. He tried to run away from visits. He tried to run away after visits, at the shelter. He screamed and yelled and raged. CPS (and CASA) seriously questioned whether it was the best option to add 3 kids to our home, making the total kid count 6, given one of them had these more serious behavior challenges. There were times people would talk and say "he can only go with them IF he stays at a basic level", meaning there was serious talk that they would move him to a moderate level of care due to his behavior.
Evan is the one we all said "didn't have any more moves". There was serious talk about needing to place him in a residential facility at some point. He was 5 at the time.
Nothing meant more to me than to have all of my kids together under one roof and to pursue adopting them if reunification couldn't occur. That being said, honestly, I was scared they would put the kids with us. I'd faced two RADlets in the past and I knew it was a possibility Evan would face a Reactive Attachment Disorder in the future. And we'd have 5 other kids to raise, young ones. I saw the possibility that we'd see all of the things that a kid with RAD could bring in a large family, chaos and harm. I knew I didn't want to go down that path again. I knew, especially after visits and overnights and weekends that adding RAD would possibly be the straw that broke the camels back. We pursued anyway for the sake of all the kids, but I was really nervous.
I also considered what would happen if we didn't fight for them to stay together in our home. The argument CPS made was "How are you going to handle HIM when you have 6 kids"? My argument back was "How is a parent with no experience going to handle HIM and 3 others (assuming they didn't have any other kids, therefore no experience) or how is an older parent (whose kids are grown, therefore experience but no other kids) going to be able to have the energy to parent HIM and 3 other young siblings? In reality, other than separating the kids, there wasn't a great option and we knew we were at least in the running for best chance for everyone. We had experience. We were young. We had resources. If anyone could do this, we could.
Granted, this is all before Summer began having challenges like she does today.
He was a challenge, but the more time went on the more we realized his aggression and instability was less about chemical imbalance or biological causes and more about the trauma he'd experienced in his young life. He'd never had a stable environment, learned to act out to get any attention, took the antithetical approach to his sister's need for perfection, and had very little trust that adults would stick around to love him through it. He missed the familiarity of the chaos he'd had in his former life so he did his best to create it at our home. He missed his father and cousins and didn't know how to identify that emotion or what to do with it. Any type of correction sent him into a rage with horrible screaming and flailing. He'd hurt himself (unintentionally) during the rages and then say stuff indicating we'd hurt him, even if we weren't anywhere around. He was wild and out-of-control.
Except he wasn't. He could sometimes control himself, with help. As we learned more about what he was dealing with inside, we learned we could help him avoid the rage by reassuring him we love him and that we're not going to hurt him. We did our best to show him we weren't going to leave him or stop loving him when he does something wrong but we weren't going to tolerate it either. We had a therapist come work with him for a long while.
Slowly but surely he began to turn the corners. He began to learn to control his emotions a little more like his age should, rather than like a child significantly younger. They sometimes say a child can get developmentally stuck, especially emotionally, in the age of their trauma and that was true for Evan. He was 5, then 6 but emotionally he was 3. Evan was on Risperidone, an anti-psychotic sometimes used to control aggression, when he first came to live with us. About 8 weeks after coming to live with us we took him off. He didn't need it. He needed love, consistency, firmness, and a resolute approach to parenting that said we were here for the long haul and we aren't leaving.
God continues working on him (and us). He had very challenging behavior in the classroom in Kindergarten. Some hitting and "kicking under the table" but more not listening or paying attention, goofing off and being a bit of the class clown. He'd do irritating stuff all the time, like intentionally cutting his uniforms or lying about his lunch to get a different one. In 1st grade though, a year after being with us, his behavior was completely different. He still struggled academically in the classroom but he wasn't a behavior problem at all, except some of those irritating things like lying about his lunch. He was recently diagnosed with ADD and medication was added. It's worked wonders for him. It's also opened a door to a wonderful friendship and bond with Logan. Logan never tolerated his bad behavior. Where Evan was emotionally 3, Logan is well advanced for his age and just couldn't handle the "weird" stuff Evan did. This summer though it's different. They're friends. They're separated right now (one in CA visiting family) and you can tell how much they miss hanging out with each other. Logan even cried before leaving "because he was going to miss Evan".
Evan, we love you so much. You're a survivor. You've pushed through so much and you're so brave even though you don't really know it yet. You're incredibly strong and a gifted athlete. You are silly and have learned to entertain yourself in so many interesting ways! You love your family and desperately want them to love you back. I pray that as you grow you FEEL the love everyone has for you, that you become comfortable in your own skin, proud of who God has made you to be. You have your own unique talents, gifts, and abilities with a great purpose. You're loved just for who you are, not only by mie but by your dad and your Heavenly Father as well. Life is not going to be easy. Keep trying. Keep pushing. You've made such great progress these past 2 years and I'm excited to watch as your journey continues.