Q. My 13-year old stepdaughter has been in and out of hospitals and residential facilities since July 2006. She was adopted at birth; nothing is known of her genetic background; her adoptive mother died 6 years ago of colon cancer; adoptive father traveled alot when children were young; some suspicion of neglect on adoptive mother’s part. I have been her step-mother for 4 years.

When I first got to know her, she was 8 years old, would soil herself and not notice or care, didn’t know how or wouldn’t shower or bathe, could not pick out her own clothes, couldn’t dress herself correctly (clothes inside out, shoes on wrong feet, etc.), and would have what I thought were extreme temper tantrums over nothing. Have since found out that she had rage, behavior, sleeping problems since an infant. Father in a lot of denial.

Her symptoms became more frequent, more violent, more intense. Been tested by psychologists, neurologists, and neurophsychologists. Cognitive therapy impaired; overall I.Q. of 84. Diagnosed as BP or MDNOS or O/D…depending on who is seing her. Current residential facility does not consider my input and when she is in “manic” cycle everyone — including her dad — say “she’s better” or “she’s being good”.

How can I make them wake up??? How can professionals not see the cycles that she goes through? How can they not see that just because she’s feeling higher than a kite and talking a mile a minute doesn’t mean she’s “better”? Why doesn’t anyone get that when they say “she’s being good” that implies that prior to that she was bad? She’s not bad; she’s a child that’s not well. Perhaps this is the wrong forum to send these questions, but we need help. This little girl needs real help. There’s not even enough room here to tell the whole story. Please someone help us.

A. It sounds like a very trying time for and your family. It seems like you have been trying to communicate important knowledge and facts regarding your stepdaughter’s care to the residential facility staff and they are just not listening. It’s difficult to fathom just how frustrating and stressful this situation must be for you and your family.

I am unclear about why they do not want to gather information from you about your experiences with your stepdaughter. This is confusing to me but I am sure there is more to the story, as you mentioned that I do not know. Without knowing more, I can only guess as to why this situation is occurring. It’s possible that they are utilizing a new or alternative strategy to treat her and they are not offering a good explanation to you as to what that strategy is. There could be a communication breakdown between you and the staff. I also wonder whether you are her primary guardian? If not, maybe they are taking information or recommendations from her primary guardian or other members of the family. I am sure there are plenty of other possibilities in addition to the ones that I mentioned that would explain why this situation is occurring.

To try to get your message or information to her treatment team, maybe you can try one of following suggestions. Maybe you can try writing them a certified letter, to either them (her treatment team or one doctor in particular) or their bosses. Explain in the letter what information about your stepdaughter that you want them to have. If you send a letter to their bosses, make sure to include something about the fact that you are not being responded to by the staff. This is important.

You could also consider finding another residential treatment facility for your stepdaughter that you find more satisfactory but be cautious of doing this unless you believe it is absolutely necessary. A rapid shift in treatment facilities could be very traumatic for her.

The last suggestion that you could try is to consult a lawyer and have the lawyer contact them. Maybe a lawyer talking on your behalf would get their attention. Again, I do not know the whole story and I do hope my suggestions will be helpful to you. I wish you luck in this tough situation.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Nov 2007

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2007). 13-Year Old Stepdaughter in Residential-Not happy with care. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/11/20/13-year-old-stepdaughter-in-residential-not-happy-with-care/