Some of you may know that I am a licensed foster parent. In the past month, I've hosted six foster kiddos, ranging from 3 to 13 years old, and learned A TON about kids, myself, and why I'm on this journey.
Because I am licensed through a therapeutic foster care agency, the children I care for are considered "clinical," that is, they have more advanced physical, emotional, or behavioral health complexities, and are therefore provided with more wraparound services to help them meet their needs. I was trained for three months on what that could look like, but in all honesty, I wasn't truly prepared for what I've seen, heard, and smelled these last few weeks (is anyone, ever?). Reflecting on each traumatic episode I've encountered has been an emotional dive back into my naturopathic education, my spiritual evolution, and my trauma-informed training, and the life lessons keep coming. Let me illuminate.
I'll start with one particularly passionate three-year-old, who was obsessed with being right. She'd pass the blame for accidentally peeing on herself and all over the bathroom floor ("Something is wrong with your toilet!") and would become so angry at herself and the world when it was nap time (because she is "not a baby anymore!"), that she would rage and start hitting herself, hard. Obviously there are dozens of trauma-informed counseling techniques that come to mind to manage this behavior, and I certainly used a few, but my homeopathic brain immediately went to the remedy Nux vomica. Consider this passage from Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms by Roger Morrison, MD (page 273):
"The Nux Vomica child...is extremely competitive about his grades and sports. He is a terrible loser. The parents may say that the child can under no circumstances admit that he is at fault or that he has made a mistake."
There were several other keynotes that matched this kiddo's picture, including a tremendous fear of the dark (she refused to fall sleep without two lights on) and also of humiliation, and I wished I would have had the clinical authority to administer the remedy to her. [Note: Although Connecticut is a naturopathic licensed state, it is still unclear to DCF and our agency what the ethical implications are for "treating" children under my foster care license. Therefore, while it's technically legal for me to treat the child as a physician, I really don't want to put my "licensability" for foster care or naturopathic medicine at risk right now, so I am refraining. Sigh.] Instead, I gave her a small tumbled tiger's eye to hold, in order to help energetically ground her while she raged, and also to address her solar plexus chakra, which I felt might be the cause of her insecurities. It took some time and some breathing exercises, but eventually the stone (and everything else!) got the job done.
Next, consider my most recent respite, one of the most confusing people I have ever met. This particular thirteen-year-old had the shortest attention span I've ever seen, combined with a remarkably slow reaction time and cloudiness of mind. I found out on day five of our time together that he is on the medication Lamictal, which is primarily used to manage bipolar disorder. The contradictory picture made perfect sense to me then: sure, the medication dulls his senses in order to prevent the mania which comes from his diagnosis, but the tendency toward inattention and hyperactivity will always be his natural state, if left unaddressed. I wonder: would he respond nicely to a protocol designed to both nourish his brain and calm it? Is low-dose lithium orotate a viable option? What might change with a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids (found in oils like fish or flax seed) each day? Could a high fat, low carb (aka ketogenic) diet be a cost-effective, non-invasive complement to his prescription medications? What about Craniosacral Therapy or other bodywork? And the naturopathic gears keep turning...
The American Academy of Pediatrics fully acknowledges the ongoing trauma that living in foster care can cause, and most children enter into child welfare services with at least one pre-existing physical health condition in the first place. With the state of our nation's healthcare system in the crosshairs of politics and business, the responsibility to care for our children lies directly on each practitioner, and I believe that licensed naturopathic physicians have a unique and valuable place on the healthcare team. Nationwide licensure would help to ensure that healthcare consumers have access to a myriad of complementary therapies, and would hold all licensed physicians to a high standard of care. Even better, it would allow for insurance coverage of naturopathic visits, granting access to this care to those at a socioeconomic disadvantage. Shouldn't state Medicare and Medicaid recipients (like kids in foster care) be given the option of high quality integrative medicine, too? #steppingoffthesoapboxnow #thanksforindulgingme
I wish I could say that all this rumination has led me to finally open a nonprofit naturopathic clinic here in CT, but between the confusion of our adoption disruption and my own health challenges, it seems that my master plan is stuck somewhere between the dreamtime and reality. So, I am waiting patiently, helping the foster system on a day-to-day, one (or two!)-kid(s)-at-a-time basis. I'm figuring out who I am as a parent and as a person...and if slow and steady does indeed win the race, I can't wait to see what's at the finish line ahead.
About the Author
Sarah Ouano is a naturopathic doctor and writer. A fierce advocate for health equity and rights of the marginalized, she frequently writes about the intersection of naturopathic medicine and public health, throwing in personal anecdotes and tasty (and practical) recipes along the way.