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Skids and Step Extended Family

completely overwhelmed's picture

We’re getting ready for SD to come back home sometime next week. DH is still trying to figure out when he can get off work and the logistics. The other decision is then he needs to decide on a step-down facility for her so it’s another group of therapists and doctors getting involved in the treatment. I know I need to worry less about them judging us, but I can’t help it. I want to be a good stepmom, but I know I’m not. But I don’t want anyone blaming me for SD being the way she is.

The new program SD probably will be placed in talks a lot about being “family-centered” in their brochure. Family members and even friends are supposed to be involved in therapy sessions. At her current facility DH ended up refusing to the video family therapy and there’s no way he can get to this place during work hours. So who’s SD’s family? Me? My mom? Her 4 year old half-sister? She’s never had friends. Many of her therapists talk about support networks, but she only has DH and some people like me, my extended family and her teachers that tolerate her. At school, her special ed aide actually demanded a transfer because she couldn't stand being around SD all day. So not even at school do people actually want anything to do with her.

Quick summary: SD is almost 16, suffers from anxiety, depression, ADHD, ODD and developmental delays. DH has full custody and BM currently is in jail. In May, DH decided to send SD to a residential treatment center/ therapeutic boarding school out of state that he’d found online. It didn’t work out and needed a higher level of care after a suicide attempt. She’s been inpatient psychiatric facility for 1.5 months now.

SH is having a lot of conflicts with the other psychiatric patients and we’ve heard there’s been very mean and racist comments directed at her. So she’s being kept off by herself now and not interacting at all with any other patients and it’s probably not the best environment.

DH had hoped she might be able make friends and meet girls going through similar problems at the therapeutic boarding school. But every time she is at inpatient facilities like this, there are conflicts between her and other patients who are much more severely mentally ill. SD can’t get along with anyone and annoys people to no end.

SD will probably be enrolled in an outpatient partial hospitalization program when she gets back. She would be here at night but 9:00 to 3:30 would be a mental health facility that’s about 45 minutes from where we live.

My mom has offered to help drive her. I’ll probably have to drop her off but my mom will need to pick her up because there’s no possible way DH can leave work in the afternoons. The program says it has a “family-centered approach” and I’m worried my mom will get drug into this. My mom will be no different than hiring an Uber to take her but I don't think these places are used to dealing with parents who work and essentially single dads.

My mom is a very involved grandma and absolutely adores my 4 year old daughter. They are very close. On the other hand, my mom is nice to SD but they certainly aren’t close. My daughter is very cuddly and cheerful and SD is very standoffish. She’s been incredibly rude to my mom in the past and my mom has gotten the impression that SD doesn’t want anything to do with her.

My mom could help with SD since she already babysits DD but both SD and DD could be so awkward. DD loves her Nana. SD doesn't act out a lot, but when she does it tends to be when her half-sister is getting a lot of attention.

SD doesn’t have any grandparents actively involved in her life (DH’s mom lives in another state and she’s an immigrant from a very different culture and she’s never going to interact with SD the way my mom and my daughter interact). I don't know if SD has even met BM's parents or if they are alive.

I think SD is much more jealous of the attention DD gets from her grandparents, aunts, cousins and other extended family than the gifts. But SD has burned so many bridges with my family by acting like a jerk and has never event attempted to be nice to them or get to know them or even talk to them except for being rude.

Here’s an example. My sister’s home has a great pool and deck and they have cookouts frequently on the weekend. We go over there and hang out and the kids can use the pool. My sister's kids are 5 and 7. In the past SD has complained about this because she doesn’t like swimming. Pretty much its constant complaints – it’s too hot, there’s nothing to do, someone splashed her, etc etc. She has pushed their son (he was 6) into the pool because he splashed her. We can’t allow her into their home by herself because she was snooping around before.

My brother in law has asked us not to bring SD to their home, but there’s no option to not bring her. We can’t leave SD alone at home. Getting a babysitter may be difficult (home health aide companies aren’t an option because they won’t risk the liability if SD attempted suicide while they are watching her). DH staying home with SD while I take DD to the pool party would be an option, but it means DD spends less time her daddy and SD already takes so much of DH’s time.

SD loves making us sound as terrible to her as possible to her therapists and of course she would complain if she was left behind even if she didn't want to go in the 1st place. Her support network is never going to include my middle sister and her husband or their kids. They aren’t going to ever like her after the way she has acted towards them and I don’t see that changing.

Why I liked the idea of sending SD away to the boarding school was that it avoided all of this. It is awkward and uncomfortable and unfortunately the reality. I don’t think SD is ever going to understand she caused this herself by how she acted towards other people and she doesn’t act like she even wants to be around other people. She’s not going to have a support network outside of DH but I’m not sure how therapists deal with those types of people. This whole family-centric thing sounds all warm & fuzzy but it's going to be a waste of time.


Harry's picture

You can only do so much. SD will be different but will not get any better. You are screwing up your DD life and SD will not care.
You are giving up your DD childhood. Giving up taking her places, doing family things and having fun with DD the few years you have of her childhood.
Then you making your Mother part of the zoo. Give up on SD, put her in a place, if you can find one, to deal with her.
It's just unfortunate that our MD,S cant do anything. Except drug the patient
Unfortunately for us, who had to deal with this, we know the outcome

completely overwhelmed's picture

Finding a place for her was the goal of putting her in the boarding school but that didn't work out and was ungodly expensive. Her mental illness is not severe enough that she needs to be put in an institution. The main problem is she doesn't have a parent who can care for her full time.

DH looked into foster care but he makes too much money. To place her in state foster care would require essentially child support payment of close to $1k a month plus he would still need to pay for health insurance.

Only if we both quit our jobs and sold our house would we get free foster care and health care.

My mom wants to help and she's worried that if SD does end up succeeding in taking her own life she will regret not trying to do more. I wish there wasn't that type of heavy burden being placed on my family.

stepmomfromhell's picture

completely over,
So her mother is in prison, does sd have any aunts, uncles or other relatives on that side of her family? and does dh have any family that is willing to help out?
This sd sounds like a loner and doesn't want much to do with society, lots of people are like this, maybe she is best off with a one on one social contact with people. Some people find a classroom of people to much mentally a distraction, causing anxiety.

If she wants to get her education done and over it would be best for her to have a hired tutor at home. Cut back on the crowds of people contact, if you have a party planned have someone take her into their home for snacks and a good DVD movie.

If she's a loner you will find out it's very easy to please her, she would enjoy doing needlework, pottery and other such crafts.

completely overwhelmed's picture

SD isn't in contact with anyone from her mom's family. DH is an only child. His mom lives out of state. He has some aunts and uncles but they are not native English speakers and would be appalled by SD's behavior.

We have looked into online schools but not in home tutors. I'll have to look into that. It sounds expensive but at this point if we could get someone else to deal with her it would be worth it. The conflicts with other kids at school and the bullying are one of the major issues. The way SD acts sets her up to be bullied and the schools can't stop it.

completely overwhelmed's picture

DH's relatives would smack her across the face if she acted the way she normally does with them. But that's mainly a cultural thing. They live in the US but are not very Americanized. They think of mental illness as a personal flaw. They wouldn't be a warm and supportive group to help DH with SD. My MIL is very blunt and critical and the way she speaks English makes her sound even more harsh than she means.

But my main point about the language is more cultural. They see SD as being disrespectful not ill. And the language barrier has made SD feel like an outsider the handful of times she has met DH's extended family - mainly because she has visited with them when family from overseas are visiting for big family reunions.

SD is developmentally delayed and in special ed classes. She reads English at a 4th grade level. Learning her dads native language would be next to impossible for her.