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Washington's Waiting Children
Dachai is doing amazingly well in his new therapeutic foster home where he has lived since April 2013. He is very responsive to this new environment which he finds to be very calm and nurturing with very consistent expectations and limits. Knowing what is expected of him every day is essential to Dachai doing well. On a recent visit his social worker was pleased to find him to be very calm and well mannered. His foster mom makes sure that she is firm, yet loving, when talking with Dachai, and that she maintains eye contact with him. Dachai is having fun helping his foster dad outside with gardening and other projects. Two huge changes in behavior which are most welcome are that Dachai has not physically acted out at all, and he has not been verbally aggressive to his foster parents.
Dachai, who is a loving and affectionate boy, is most responsive to 1:1 attention, praise, and encouragement from adults, which can be effective reinforcements and motivators for him.. Dachai has a good sense of humor and can be charming and articulate. There are times, too, when he can be very insightful. In addition to helping his foster family around the house, he likes to help his teacher in the classroom. Dachai is an empathetic individual who, despite his anxieties, often steps outside of himself to think about others. Some of his favorite pastimes are skateboarding, shooting hoops, dancing, playing video games, and watching wrestling on TV. Dachai has also enjoyed participating in a therapeutic horse camp. Dachai has a healthy appetite and enjoys food.
In his classroom, Dachai has behavioral and academic supports he needs. While some of his behavioral issues are due to his early environment, others are biological and are likely due to prenatal exposure to alcohol. The impact of that exposure on his neurological development has left him learning issues and receptive language challenges,and resulted in difficulty focusing and being attentive. Although Dachai is able to make progress academically, he tends to shut down when he has difficulty grasping concepts. For support, his teacher encourages him to stick with a problem by giving him additional time to process his work. She also uses humor to encourage and praise.
Due to Dachai’s difficulty reading body language, it is important to be direct and clear with him. When he feels especially overwhelmed by social and behavioral challenges in the classroom, he is often able to put himself in the time-out room and to ask his teacher for help. It is important for him in building social skills to have the significant adults in his life model healthy interpersonal relationships and boundaries. It is also important for the adults at home and at school to be willing and able to patiently and calmly redirect him as needed, encourage and praise his efforts, and provide him with rewards for good efforts and jobs well done. While Dachai loves being around other kids, he needs lots of social skill building resources. One such resource is having a caring adult to coach him.
Multiple placements in his birth family throughout his early childhood and then in foster care have exacerbated Dachai’s special needs. Due to his fear of failure, it can take some prodding to get Dachai to get involved in activities and hobbies. He is anxious, and typically when anxious, he gets hyperactive. Thus meeting new people and trying new things can cause him to act out behaviorally. Because of Dachai’s attachment concerns he can be very overwhelming at times and thus boundaries need to continue to be worked on. Careful planning and transition will be very important for Dachai in moving to an adoptive home. Being willing to participate with him in counseling during his transition into his adoptive home could be an important way for his adoptive folks to show their love and commitment to him.
His current therapist is working out a treatment plan for Dachai to include using behavioral techniques to help him develop tools and strategies to increase his ability to self-monitor his behavior and be more accountable for his actions and choices His counseling will also include talk therapy to help him deal with the residual effects of past trauma and difficulty trusting. Dachai is very confused about his life and is experiencing a significant amount of grief and loss regarding birth family and former foster parents.
Dachai’s social worker wants to hear from couples who have experience with children who have special needs and who have a good grasp of how instability, neglect, and abuse can impact a child’s sense of safety and his emotional and behavioral development. His adoptive folks must also have a good understanding of (or the willingness to learn about) the kinds of educational and behavioral resources that can help a child meet challenges related to fetal alcohol exposure. Couples who already have a good repertoire of behavioral tools and techniques for parenting will be ahead of the game. Of course, it will be important for the adoptive parents to take pride in Dachai’s biracial African American-Caucasian heritage and to provide cultural and community opportunities for him to learn about his roots and to become truly comfortable in his own skin.
Photos by Bill Purcell.
These are "profiles" only and are not intended to provide the detailed information that a family worker and family require in order to make a placement decision.