So many foster parents in counties across Wisconsin are caring for sibling groups. More than 70% of foster children at CCR are in care with at least one sibling. We recently received a referral for a sibling group of three. After spending four weeks in a county foster home, their foster parents gave notice for removal stating the siblings were more than they could manage. After careful exploration and consideration, we placed all three children in a loving, flexible foster home that could meet their higher needs. Here is a bit of their history.
Dominick will be four years old in February. He and his two sisters suffer from prolonged neglect. As a result, each has heightened behaviors and emotions that prove too much for Basic Level Foster Parents. Not because the foster parents didn't have big hearts or best intentions but rather because they were not equipped with the necessary training or support. To successfully care for children with severe trauma, foster parents need more. Likewise, to heal and grow, foster kids need more.
Caring for three kids under age 6 with heightened behaviors is challenging, even for the most seasoned foster parents. Trauma-informed parenting is essential to helping kids heal and promoting successful outcomes. Unfortunately, even the best foster parents can struggle to manage the behaviors and emotions of young children without the necessary training and support services.
The challenge is TRAUMA. In Dominick's case, more than basic parenting skills and minimal support from an agency was needed.
Dominick and his sisters, Mariah, 2, and Marissa, 6, without a doubt, needed foster parents who would utilize trauma-informed parenting skills while readily available to meet their higher needs. In addition, a successful foster home would require a parent available at all times, as daycare was unsuccessful in the previous placement.
He and his sisters were removed from the home after Mariah suffered significant burns on her stomach and chest from the kitchen oven. Mom was home when the incident occurred. She has a history of drug and alcohol abuse and has an on-again, off-again relationship with Mariah's father. Her parental rights have been terminated for six older children.
At nearly four, Dominick is not potty trained, is speech delayed, and struggles with anger, heightened emotions, and behaviors. In addition, he struggles to play or interact appropriately with his sisters,
Dominick went to daycare with Mariah 3 days a week. However, the two were separated due to Dominick's aggressive behavior toward his sister. The staff contacted the foster mom several times concerning his behavior and reported that most days were spent redirecting or separating Dominick from other children.
The previous foster mom reported that Dominick has difficulty sleeping at night and wakes others in the house with screaming and wall kicking. In addition, he and his older sister fight for attention constantly. Hitting, kicking, biting, and pushing were common occurrences, and increased supervision was required when the children were in the same room.
He communicates his needs and wants somewhat effectively and figures out quickly how things work. He requires direct, line-of-sight supervision and 1:1 attention, which he does well with. He can count to 5 and knows some of his colors. He is easily triggered when he does not get the attention he seeks. On the other hand, he can be a very sweet, affectionate boy.
It was recommended that Dominick be placed in a new foster home without pets as he had taken his frustrations out on the family dog several times, but he was never hurt. In addition, it was noted that Dominick must be separated from his sisters when dressing due to the use of inappropriate language in the presence of his sisters.
Dominick loves music, which helps keep him focused and calm during diaper changes, teeth brushing, and bathing. He loves putting on his shoes and rides very well in his car seat, if not within reach of Marissa. He washes his hands well and will often help clear his place after meals. He does well with positive affirmations and loves a loud "great job." However, he is easily upset if his sisters get positive attention and will push Mariah or throw toys or objects at both girls.
The previous foster mom stated the kids could grow and heal if they are in the right environment and get needed services. However, a 30-day notice was given by the family because the three kids together were too much to handle. The foster mom worked three days a week, and her husband worked Monday-Friday, often returning home at 6 pm. Along with their biological children, 9 and 12, managing everybody was more than they anticipated.
There has been a noticeable change in the siblings in the six weeks spent in their current CCR foster home. Most notably, Dominick responds very well to being at home with their foster mom vs. going to daycare. The 1:1 attention and heightened supervision needed made it difficult for him to succeed at daycare. It is not uncommon for kids with significant trauma to struggle in a daycare environment.
Mealtime continues to be a struggle, particularly for Marissa and Dominick, but the kids are trying more foods and learning about healthy eating. Bedtime and bath routines are very lengthy but overall successful. Meltdowns are still common with Mariah and Dominick but using Trauma-Informed parenting tools helps, as well as the 24/7 support of their Clinical Case Manager.
All three children visit with their mom once per week. Mariah also visits with her father. In addition, the assigned CCR Clinical Case Manager visits the home each week for approximately 2.5 hours. Weekly support visits are provided to all CCR foster families.
"There is a lot of history there that needs to be unpacked and explored." noted their previous foster mom. "Dominick's violent tendencies can be frightening, but at the same time, he is a loveable little boy."
This sibling group is the second placement for the CCR foster family. They do not have other children living at home or pets, which seems helpful to all three kids. The foster mom works part-time, two evenings each week, and her husband works full-time days, arriving home by 4:30. They are supported by friends and local family and are taking things one day at a time with the kids. Both are hopeful that all three kids will continue to thrive in their home.
Understanding trauma and using trauma-informed parenting are crucial to helping kids heal. Therefore, all CCR foster parents are trained to use trauma-informed tools and receive great support from our highly trained staff. As a result, kids like Dominick and his sisters can heal with proper treatment. Together, our staff and foster parents have witnessed hundreds of kids with significant trauma heal and grow in our 33 years of providing treatment foster care.