Mission Number One – Accomplished

January 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Personal Development

( Part of an ongoing series from work to the world of volunteering)

A relationship develops

With the downturn in the economy, and especially in journalism, I came to a crossroads a while back, a stalled out career and my last child leaving for college. So I decided to take on another job, of sorts. I became an advocate for a child wending her way through the foster care system.

In my last entry, I had finished my training and had been assigned to an eight-year old girl. I was anticipating meeting the child, who is in a group care situation. Meet her, I did and it’s been quite a whirlwind since. I have met her several times and we have celebrated her birthday and Christmas. The first time I met J., was in a group meeting with her therapist, her group leader and her social worker. She was subdued and every once on a while she would put her head back and tune out. I had already heard from the staff and read in her file that she can be selectively mute if she chooses not to talk. But this seemed medication-induced. She seemed as if she was talking to me through a veil.

She didn’t appear like the girl I had read about, impulsive and aggressive, but like a sweet, eight-year-old girl who had been through years of who knows what kind of treatment in her home.. Before we all met, the staff talked about her “obsessions,” as one of the reasons why she was so drugged (five psychotropic medications). She showed “an obsession” our group meeting. We had been put in a room that stored the extra candy from Halloween and she kept asking for a piece, just one piece. Obsession, or healthy eight-year-old reaction to being in a room with candy?

Another reason for all the medications , besides the fact that J. gets angry and kicks people, is that she has an imaginary friend who tells her to do bad things. And because of this, the psychiatrist has said that she may be on the way to psychosis. But is an imaginary friend in a child of eight, who everyone agrees is more like three to five emotionally, psychosis?

After the group meeting, J. and I met alone. She asked me to write some math problems for her to do, we read a Junie B. Jones book and one about children around the world. She was interested and engaging. And then she got up and walked out of the room. “Uh oh, “ I thought. Here as the impulsiveness. But J. is smart. When everyone else was gone, she knew that the one woman behind the desk would give her the piece of candy she sought, and so went out that and got what she wanted.

After our initial meeting, I found out that many people, including me, were concerned about J.’s medication. So many drugs in such a young, and small body. So I met with her psychiatrist. While, she agreed that the medication regimen was extreme, she thought all of these medications were justified. But not only was I looking over her shoulder, so was the court. When I met with J. the next time, for about an hour, she was extremely lethargic… really out of it. I asked her why she was so tired and she said, “It’s the meds, and I am drooling.” My heart sank. Here was an eight-year-old aware, and embarrassed that her medications were making her drool. I was determined, right then and there, to make sure that her medications were adjusted.

This turned out to be easier than I thought. A psychiatric social worker from the court , who looks at all the drugs ordered for foster care kids became involved. We talked, she went to see J. and convinced the psychiatrist to cut the medications dramatically.

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