When Love Isn’t Enough

Posted on August 19, 2022

When Love Isn’t Enough

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Tika was just seven weeks old when she first met Tracy, Caleb and Millie Hinkkanen. The family was providing foster care; Tika and her siblings were their first placement.

“She was in and out of our care—had eight or nine different placements and every kind of trauma imaginable,” says Tracy. “She was three when we got her back for good.”

The Hinkkanens had always wanted to adopt Tika. But their counselor cautioned the family. “Due to Tika’s extreme trauma, the counselor was concerned. She advised us to hold off before finalizing the adoption until we knew she could attach.”

Unmanageable behaviors

Tika’s unresolved trauma did turn out to be a problem. “She'd be the sweetest, most cuddly thing in the world and then she'd be angry and ripping down posters and throwing chairs,” says Tracy. “She could not stand when we would give our other children attention. It always had to be about her.”

“There was no room for our son Micah, who was two. Our older daughter, who was 11 at the time, hated Tika. She never wanted to be around her because Tika was always whining, crying, yelling and screaming. I think both of our biological kids felt like we didn't have time for them because we were constantly dealing with Tika's behavior.”

“As a mom to all three of them, I couldn't go forward with adoption because we always said we would never do anything with foster care that would be detrimental to our biological kids. And as much as we loved Tika, I realized we couldn’t ruin their childhood.”

The final straw occurred after Tracy’s parents had gotten a puppy. Tika loved the puppy. “But my mom found her with a chair cushion over the puppy, trying to smother it.” That’s when the family began the process of getting Tika into residential treatment at Children’s Home Society (CHS).

Insights from residential care

In a Facebook post, Tracy wrote about bringing Tika to CHS. “We could not heal our little girl’s heart with love alone; she needed treatment—intense, inpatient treatment. Despite trusting those who were advising us on Tika’s need to go to CHS, it was a painful decision. So many tears were shed leading up to and after dropping her off.”

Admission Coordinator Joan Sim helped Tracy process her conflicted feelings. “I don't know if I could have gone through with it if Joan hadn't coached me in the beginning,” says Tracy. “Just the time that she took on the phone and her compassion and understanding of what I was enduring.”

“I didn't want to visit Tika initially. Joan told me that was normal. I don't think everybody looks at it that way, but when you love this child unconditionally and they're abusing you because they've been abused, it's hard on your mom heart. Then, you have all the mom guilt. And to hear her tell me, that's okay. you're not the only parent that doesn't immediately want to come visit. I'm just so thankful for Joan.”

In the beginning, due to COVID-19, the Hinkkanens visited Tika outside. But as the pandemic worsened, visitors were not allowed on campus. They tried video visits, but this proved difficult because of Tika’s short attention span.

Visible progress

Tika’s first home visit was over Christmas. She had been in residential treatment for about six months.

“We noticed she was a lot calmer,” Tracy says. “They put her on medication for ADHD and gave her sleep medication. Previously at night she would sit on the floor—she didn’t like to stay in the bed—and bang her head on the floor. She had done it ever since she was little, it was a self-soothing thing, one of her behaviors.”

The Hinkkanens didn’t know how little she was sleeping because they needed sleep themselves. But at CHS, residential youth counselors discovered that Tika was only getting two to three hours of sleep every night.

“After trying several, they finally found a sleep medication that worked,” says Tracy. “It was a game changer. Think how hard it would be to behave and think straight if you were only getting two to three hours of sleep for years.”

“That was huge. It felt like a family again instead of the Tika show.”

And as Tika began visiting home on a regular basis, the Hinkkanens saw more improvements.

“We had a birthday party for her in April,” says Tracy. “She’d never even had a real birthday party because she couldn't handle it.”

The party went on without incident. “Then, we were opening gifts and this little girl wanted to open a gift. My mom said, ‘No, it's Tika's party. We need to let Tika open the gifts.’ Then Tika said, ‘It’s okay. She can open one,’ and handed her a gift and sat back and let her
open it.”

Tracy and her mom were dumbstruck. “My mom said, 'Tracy, are you seeing this? Do you even recognize how much she has changed?’ Because for her to even get through a party without a meltdown would have been considered miraculous a year ago, let alone sharing the spotlight with somebody else! I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, it's really happening. She's going to be okay.’”

Returning home

Tika was discharged from CHS and now attends Journey Elementary School in Harrisburg, SD. “She’s doing really well, and we haven’t had a single note from the teacher.” The family is part of the Post-Adoption Therapy program offered at CHS.

The end of Tracy’s Facebook post shows how much residential treatment helped Tika. “This child is so much happier and healthier than we ever imagined possible one year ago,”
Tracy wrote.

“Does it break my heart that my love wasn’t enough to do that healing? Initially it did, but the realization that she got the help she needed and has the best possible chance of a healthy life
eventually overpowered my self-doubt.”

“If she needed medical treatments to save her life, I wouldn’t be mad that I couldn’t perform those. I would just get her to a doctor ASAP. I know now all that matters is that Tika got the emotional and mental help she needed to live her best possible life,” Tracy wrote.

The happy ending to this story is that Tika’s adoption was finalized on November 5, 2021.

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