6 year old boy with bulimia?
We have been approached about fostering two boys (ages 5 and 4), and the oldest has problems with throwing up/bulimia. Today, we were part of a panel of foster parents who spoke with those who are completing IMPACT foster parent training. One of the other panel members just got two boys, and one of them has bulimia. When we arrived, they were having a lunch, and the boys were shoving a lot of food in their mouths very quickly. My partner and I went out in the hallway area to let the kids play a bit, and the oldest was sitting on a couch eating a cupcake. He stuffed so much in his mouth! As I was telling him to slow down and be careful not to choke, his gag reflex set in. He ran to the bathroom and threw up in the toilet. He kept throwing up until there was nothing left. Apparently, this is is quite common. I stood there with him, and he kept saying, "mommy be here in a minute?" It was pitiful. It seems like both children have had to eat as much as they could as quickly as they could in the household from which they were taken. I wonder if he has Pradder Willie syndrome or some food allergy. Certainly, they could do a genetic test for P.W. Also, the oldest has never been to school! The 4 year old can't talk yet.

Their foster parent's grand-daughter told us that he will drink something and make his stomach flex in a way that causes him to throw up. Has anyone else dealt with this? Do you have any idea what might be the cause (is it physiological or psychological)?

Thank you for your replies. Smile
Adoption said...

(is it physiological or psychological)?

Thank you for your replies. Smile

I could be one or the other, or both. It is very common for children in care to eat more than their stomachs can handle therefore either causing involuntary vomiting, or having to induce vomiting to relieve discomfort.

If he is getting attention when he vomits, that could be additional cause for the reaction.

With children who were deprived food, or didn't know when/where their next meal would be, they usually eat to the point of sickness to feel full. It takes a lot of time and structure to curb those tendencies. These are the same kids that sleep in front of the fridge and open cabinets and fridges to the point of obsession to check for food.

Are you looking to adopt these children or were you part of the panel choosing their family? Or are we talking two completely different boys here? Sorry my brain isn't functioning, too much sun today!
This could be a potential adoption match. It definitely seemed like a behavioral issue to me, and he does not seem to have Prader-Willi symptoms (after doing a bit of research). I anticipate that we'll receive more information.

We were part of a panel of foster parents who were asked to speak to others who are training to be foster parents.

Thank you!
Every child we have had, came with food issues. The stuffing food is normal for most foster kids. Even the one that was only mildly neglected has issues. This develops because they come from homes where food is not there on a regular basis and the body learns to gorge when there is food. In other words, the brain is saying "eat all you can now because you don't know when there will be food again". It can take a long time to relearn how to eat without stuffing and making themselves sick.

Our DD, who has been here 14 months is just now learning to take bites of things like cookies and bread instead of shoving it all in. She was 18 months old when she came to us and was 9 months old when she was first taken into care. She learned by the age of 9 months to eat like this.

I think almost every foster parent on these forums can say the same thing. it's just what happens when the kids are neglected;food is a huge issue.
My son who came to us from an international adoption at age 6 came with an eating disorder. His had several roots, the biggest being RAD.
There are a couple of things he gets out of it. The first would be attention. I noticed you said the little boy mentioned "mommy be here in a minute?" when he was throwing up. It may be that when he threw up his mother paid attention to him, or if he was left with various caregivers, they sent him back to his mother when he started throwing up. My son had learned that throwing up was an easy way to get out of any unpleasant or boring task as well as a way to get attention. Sometimes he uses huge bites as a means of throwing up, but not often since he has learned to do it at will.
My son's biggest issue is that his identity is wrapped up in being small and cute. He has taught himself to ignore hunger and thirst in his quest to stay small. He now is maintaining his weight and may have even gained a pound according to his aid. However, I still see signs of his obesession with small in his language. When he asks for something he wants he will always start out calling it "That Li'l thing", then he will remember it's real name. But he always calls it Little first, regardless of the size, he equates little with good. So we are working on that.
Although he might meet enough of the necessary criteria to be officially diagnosed as bulimic I don't think for a child this age it's appropriate to approach this problem that way.

What you described with the other boy being fostered by friends sounds like classic "stuffing." The vomiting is just an after effect of feeling the need to do that. I personally would refuse to let someone call that bulimia. It sort of is, but really isn't. Purging implies intent. That doesn't seem to be what the goal of the child was at all. He was into whatever the stuffing was giving him (which usually revolves around fear or anxiety). In that case, his desire to do that needs to be resolved and consequently the rest will too. The chances that he's dealing with PW are astronomical. Just in what you've wrote I'd be confident in saying that is so not what's going on there at all.

There are no details on the boys you've been approached to take, but again, I'm not sure I buy into the belief that bulimia, and what it actually represents, can exist in a 5 year old. More than likely he's got attachment or anxiety disorders that are manifesting themselves via the vomiting.

On a personal note, when I was a child if I drank soda I vomited. I had an extremely sensitive gag reflex and just a bit of a burp bubbling up would cause me to toss everything I'd eaten in the last three weeks lol. Didn't stop me from drinking soda, especially if there were other kids doing it. I didn't want to be excluded and I liked the way it tasted. That didn't make me a bulimic. As an adult suffering from generalized anxiety disorder simply stepping into a restaurant was/sometimes still is enough to make me vomit. Not because I want to, but because the chemicals in my brain go into overdrive thinking about the social situations I'm about to undertake and it's a side effect of that. That doesn't make me a bulimic either. Just like a child stuffing and consequently vomiting doesn't make them bulimic. Unless the entire intent IS to vomit, and that can be confirmed, I cannot stress enough that the problem can NOT be approached from that angle. Approaching it as the actual problem instead of merely a secondary symptom of something much larger isn't going to get the child anywhere.

An EI evaluation would likely set things straight and get the kiddo on the right track to overcoming this issue and the root causes of it.
I appreciate each of your responses. I think the cw used the term bulimia as a descriptive term for "stuffing" (and the resulting vomiting) that certainly must result from neglect, etc. She was giving us an "overview" of the children's issues when she used that term.

What I witnessed yesterday after meeting the children sounds exactly what you all describe regarding food issues that many foster children have.

I'll let you all know if the cw calls us regarding fostering this sibling group. Smile
I had a 10 month old foster child who WOULD NOT STOP eating...he did not seem to be deprived of food when he arrived because he weighed just 1 pound less than my 2 year old son...but, this baby would eat and eat and eat. At first, I kept giving him food, thinking that he would stop when he was full. But, he never stopped!

Like CaddoRose said, lots of kids come with food issues. I was suprised, though, that they started so young!
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