Foster Culture

April 4, 2008

Dysfunctional

That’s how I have to describe this children’s services system.

I thought I hated it when I was a client of it, when I was born and raised in foster homes, residential, career and behavioral – I think now that I see the other side, as an adult – an advocate for youth – I hate it even more now.

It would be incorrect for me to generalize the system too much, I have had the pleasure of meeting case managers and therapists and program managers that are very dedicated to the cause of serving youth in foster care. However, those that turn their nose, that don’t call back, that make a fuss – they are the ones that make the system unsuccessful.

There are times that I feel the need to put my job on the line and stand up and let these ass holes know the effect they have on their coworkers, team members and most importantly, the youth.

Yeah, the kids…

Keandre Jackson.  Does anyone remember her? Shouldn’t she be the lesson?

If you where once a foster youth scorned by the system, please check back soon…I’m going to put together a letter or petition or something and send it to Jeff City or somewhere, demanding that some new policies be put in place. I’ll figure it out.

October 23, 2007

Emancipation at 21

So here’s the thing…people who are under the age of 21 should not be emancipated from the foster care system. I don’t care if they think they are ready, I don’t care if they hate the programs, if they are on the run or anything. The fact is, people that age are jsut not ready to be out in the world completely alone.

Here’s an example of why, true story:

A young couple came to my work today seeking shelter, claiming that they were homeless. They were both 18 years old and did not have a place to sleep that night. Someone in my office sat them down with a resource book to call shelters around the area. There was nothing available to them that evening. The young man’s boss finally agreed to let them stay with him, but reluctantly so. I doubt when this young man asked to be emancipated that he had any clue that he would be homeless. Of course he thought he was going to have a place to stay. To make it worse, the girl that was with him mentioned that together they had 2 children and that both of them were deceased. WTF, who in their right mind thought that this was a person ready to be released into the world?

That kid had no idea that he was part of that 50% statistic.

October 16, 2007

Foster Culture, wah?

Foster Culture, wah?

I was in the foster care system for 18 years of my life before I was emancipated by a judge on my eighteenth birthday. In that 18 years, I lived in countless foster homes, residential facilities, group homes, transitional living programs, hospitals and even juvenile detention. Running away was just part of who I was a teenager and demanding to be moved for little or no reason was standard.

I am now an adult and work with older foster youth. There are many things that have come to light through this job. The dysfunction of the foster care system, the subculture of foster youth and even the grave statistics that they face when entering adulthood.

Through this blog, I will retell my own stories and those of people I lived with while in care, enter injustices as I see them, statistical facts and mostly, information about the subculture of foster youth. The last for the important reason that it is a subject I have never been able to read about and one that I am very much a part of. People that have lived in foster care think differently, relate to others differently and survive differently.

I will say this, I am not a writer by nature. I am going to put it down in the most real way that I can and hope that it all makes sense.  Word.

Run

 

In a panic, S ran to the sliding door balcony of her bedroom. She went out onto the porch and looked down. The porch was on the second story and she knew that her only way out was to jump. It was the only way at that point and once she jumped she couldn’t turn back. The rock collection she loved so much was spread out all over the porch, rocks that she’d been collecting for years. Some were just pretty, but some reminded her of other places and people. They were her only photographs and the only way she had to remember everyone and everything.

I can make it, she thought ot herself. She swung one foot over and straddled the rail. Shit, I forgot to close the door, they’ll know how I got out if I left it open. She swung her leg back over and slid the door shut. Back over the rail. Hold on tight. Squat down, hang on, just hang on. Her feet were dangling now from the balcony; she figured her feet were only about ten feet off the ground. This isn’t far; I’ve jumped further from trees. And S let go. She landed on her feet in a squatting position and her head flung forward and her hands landed in front of her keeping her head from banging into the ground. Crack. She knew here neck was messed up, but it was OK for now.

She looked in both directions and stood up close to the house. Siding, blue house siding. Luckily this house was in the middle of the woods, so there were no neighbors to see her in action, to see the dramatic display. She stood tight with the house inching her way along and listening for anyone that might be looking for her, so far no one. As soon as she made her way around to the front of the house there was no way to go but down the driveway to the road. But no one can see me, no one can know that I’m even gone yet. I want them to just find me gone in a few hours, I want them to worry and I want them to feel bad about how they treated me.

S made a run for it, down the driveway as fast as she could. Her neck felt weird, but it was OK for now. She was fine. She looked back at the house through her mad run, no, no one’s looking out yet, I can make it, I got this. Finally, the winding driveway opened up to the road. It was just about dusk and S straitened herself up and looked both ways down the road. What now?

That was always the question. Well, just start walking. This was not the city. If someone was walking along the side of the road in these parts it looked weird or suspicious. There were no sidewalks or crosswalks. If you saw someone on the side of the road, it usually meant their car was broken down. Or maybe that no one liked them enough to give them a ride to go where they needed to go, or worse, they were so poor that they just couldn’t afford a car. You couldn’t survive without a car in this country hick place.

S walked for a little while and noticed the next door neighbors drive heading up a hill, it was less than a quarter of a mile down the road from Patty and Carl’s house. Well, it’s not like I can forever sleep in the woods, I might as well go up and ask to use their phone. The thought of wiping her ass with leaves grossed her out a little and she was convinced to take a chance.

She started up the steep winding driveway towards the house. There were a few lights on and an old pick up truck in the driveway. Shingles were at the edge of the roof of the garage, just waiting for wind to hit em from the right direction ot free them up enough to fall to the ground. It was kind of a dump, but S didn’t care, hopefully they’d help her and not call the police or worse Patty and Carl. At this point a night in jail was tolerable, but going back to that house was out of the question.

Paint was falling off the door and she could smell weed. Even though she’d never smoked pot, she knew its flavor. She knocked lightly and immediately heard rustling around inside and whispering.

“Who is it”, a voice from inside demanded. It was a woman’s voice.

“Um, it’s your neighbor, my name is S”

“Who”

“S, my name is S. I’m your neighbor”

The door flung opened, “Can I help you”. A middle aged woman stood at the door. Looking a little drunk and suspicious. She wore a house robe and slippers and was obviously not happy about the unannounced visit.

“I’m sorry to bother you, I just was wondering if I could use your phone really fast”, S said. She couldn’t offer too many details, since she was now an official runaway, but at the same time was asking to go inside someone’s house that didn’t know her. Really she should’ve been more scared, but she wasn’t.

“Where’d you say you lived?” said the woman.

Just down the road a little bit, we moved in down the road about 6 months ago, in the spring.” S wasn’t sure if she was gonna buy that and was worried that the woman was gonna start asking more questions.

The woman squinted at the thin, pale girl that stood in front of her, she was pretty, but her eyes were sorta red, like she’d been crying. She noticed scraps on the girl’s palms.

“My name is Shirley; you can come in for a minute, just to use the phone.”

“Thanks”

S made her way in the door and could still see the left over smoke from the weed. It scared her a little, that she was in someone’s house that she didn’t know, that did illegal drugs. Shrew it, I’m a runaway, this is just gonna be the life I have to live from now on, rolling with other criminals, that’s just how it works.

Shirley led her into the front room where the furniture was still wrapped in the plastic that it originally came in, but it looked out of date. Stains covered the ugly green carpet and beyond the marijuana funk, a nursing home dog cat type smell invaded her senses. Her eyes welled up she gagged. She knew if she made a face that would seem rude so she played it off nicely by explaining that she’s had a little bit of a cough that’s she’s trying to get over, but don’t’; worry, it’s not contagious. What a nasty ass smell she thought. Gross. Funny enough, there were no animals in sight.

Shirley took the girl down the hall from the living room into the kitchen where there were two men sitting at a brown fake wood kitchen table. Playing cards, empty beer cans, half eaten ship bags cluttered the table.

“Mike, Alan, this is S, she’s our neighbor, she’s come to use the phone, she said she’ll only be a minute.”

“Neighbor, we’d ne’er had a neighbor visit us ‘fore have we, Shirls” Said the fatter one with the camouflage cap on his head and mostly red plaid shirt. He smiled at he strange girl and she could see his teeth were yellow and his very front tooth was sticking out.

Yuck, more rednecks.

“No we haven’t, that one is Mike he’s my husband, and that one is Alan, he just never leaves,” Shirley said in a half joking voice.

S walked over and picked up the phone. 555-4857, she always could remember phone numbers, it was a gift.

“Hello”

“Hey, Sam, it’s S. Can you come get me?”

“Where the hell are you” said the voice over the phone.

“I’m at my neighbor’s house, you know, Patty found out about us sneaking out and tried to ground me from ever having fun so I left. Can you come get me? Maybe your mom will come.”

“She’s not gonna come get you, she told me I can’t hang out with you anymore. I guess Trina’s mom found out we all snuck out and called my mom and Patty. So they all said we can’t hang out with you, they think you’re trouble.”

‘Me, it wasn’t even my idea. It was Trina’s big freakin plan; did you tell your mom that? I didn’t even want to go,” the tears in S eyes were about to burst.

“Well, Trina’s been my best friend forever, I couldn’t get grounded from hanging out with her, plus her sisters gonna have her license soon and will be able to drive us around and I’ll get to hang out with Scott more often.”

Her hanging out with Scott also meant that she was gonna get to hang out with Derrick. Derrick had been S’s boyfriend since they snuck out almost a week ago. Derrick was in the 8th grade and he was the cutest kid in school. He was a skater boy and always wore long baggy pants and had short hair with long bangs. That night they kissed, it wasn’t her first kiss, but it was the first one where she didn’t feel as scared.

S was defeated; she had no one else to call. All she could do now was make sure that Sam heard it in her voice. “Ok, that’s fine. Well chances are, I won’t be seeing you at school tomorrow, and I’m not going back there.”

“Well then where are you going?”

“I don’t know, I’ll disappear from Cedar Hill Middle school just as easily as I appeared. I gotta go, it was nice knowing you”

Click. She hung up knowing she made the impression that she wanted to make. She knew she wasn’t going to ever see Sam again.

She turned around and realized that her conversation wasn’t private. All three of the rednecks were not hiding the fact they were listening in to every detail.

Mike sniffed, adjusted his hideous hat and took a swig of beer. “Well honey, it sounds like you’re in some trouble, huh? Wanna beer?”

“No thanks.”

“So you’re one of those girls that live at Patty and Carls huh? They’re some high fallutin type of folks aren’t they, They own that furniture store in town and all,” Shirley sounded kind of bitter. S wondered if these rednecks were gonna be her allies.

“Yeah, they do and their daughter owns the beauty shop in town too, although she hardly works there that much, she mostly stays home to take care of her kids and just checks in at the shop a few times a week. Are you guys gonna call the police?

“Do you really think we want the police here? Shit no. And if those folks you live with think you’re over here you better get on, we can’t have anyone disturbin’ us up here.” This was the first S heard Alan speak. He’d been quiet, not even to say hi, but S could feel his eyes all over her, she couldn’t tell if it was curiosity, suspicion or lust. A man’s lust was sorta a new thing for her, men, older men, started paying more attention to her lately. She’d come to despise them. If she felt or heard anything other than a fatherly tone of voice and smile, she hated them.

“Sorry, are you gonna call Patty?”

“You really just need to leave and find somewhere else to go, what exactly happened over there anyway, did that stuck up crab ass hit ya or something?”, Shirley asked. S could tell she wanted details, she wanted drama, she wanted Jerry Springer. If she gave it em, they’d help her.

“Now Shirls, leave the girl alone, you come over here, Katie and sit down, sure you don’t want a beer,” Mike’s honey darling sweetheart voice bothered her. She didn’t bother to correct him on the name thing.

S walked over to the table and tried to choose a smart seat, a get-a-way if necessary seat, or a seat that wouldn’t imply anything. All these types of things, the things that aren’t spoken with words, the ones that are spoken with your body are the most important. S was nervous enough that she knew she had to be careful of her actions, especially when it came to the rednecks, especially redneck men. Alan was trying not to look at her, and so she made sure not to look in his direction. She focused on Shirley as much as possible. The kitchen felt dark; there were chickens on the walls. The wallpaper was full of chickens pecking and chickens clucking, the metal relief decorations were chicken, the potholders were chicken, and it kinda smelled like chicken. Chickens were dirty animals. “I like all your chicken stuff, Shirley. It feels cozy, like a place that would be nice to have a thanksgiving meal.”

Shirley squinted her eyes again when she replied, “I’ve been collecting chicken stuff for 10 years, if you look on top of the cabinets above the stove, Mike had a real chicken stuffed for me about 2 years ago. I think it kinda completes my collection.” She proudly gazed aound the room, her kitchen, her joy.

Gross. Tacky. “Well I think you should keep collecting your chicken stuff. You still have more wall space over there in between those hen and rooster pictures and you can still fit some stuff above the cabinets. And do you have chicken plates? What about chicken dish towels?”

Shirley just stared at her for a minute, her cheeks were hollowed in and eyes were half open, like sunlight was getting in them. S didn’t know if she’d gone too far with the schmoozing or if maybe Shirley could hear the subtle sarcasm in her voice. Either way, she wanted her to hurry and say something. Shirley looked at Mike and back at S and back at Mike and said,” Well Jesus Mike, that’s a good idea, don’t you think, I could get chicken dishes. Where do you think I could find something like that?” she asked in S’s direction.

“Jesus, that’s why you can’t put ideas in this woman’s head, then she wants to do stuff, like decorate.” He chuckled at his joke, “let’s figure out what the hell we’re going to do with this little girl first before ya’ll start talking decorations and shit.”

Alan looked up from his beer bottle, Bush, and perked up when it came to the topic of S’s interest. Say something little girlish, say something little girlish.

“I’ve been collecting rocks since I was really young and I just always keep my eye out for a good rock, as long as I’m always alert, I find one when I’m least expecting it. I have a great rock collection.”

“I figure if I took her over to my house, she could sleep in Alex’s room and tomorrow she could stay with Jen and the kids and figure out where she’s gonna go from there”. S wasn’t expecting Alan to speak up so suddenly, she wasn’t sure how to react. Please don’t make me go with him, he looks at me funny, don’t you see it, he’s all gross and he looks at me funny.

“That’s nice and everything, but who’s Jen?”

“Oh, that’s Alan’s wife and they have 3 kids. 1, 2 and 3, all boys. Alex is the youngest; he still wakes up at night. That’s a great idea, she could help out Jen with all them boys tomorrow, damn, she needs a break. I’d go over there more but those kids get on my damn nerves, no offense Alan.” Shirley said.

“No shit”, Mike concurred.

How does this shit happen to me?

“It really would be OK; Jen’s a real nice lady.”

“Well OK, I guess that alright”

Mike could tell S was reluctant, “You know we’d have ya stay here except this is probably one of the first places they’ll come to look for ya.”

“Yeah, I know.”

I’m a leaf, I blow in the freakin wind.

Run

G had lived at Kids House, a group home for girls, for almost 2 years. She had run away a total of 5 times from there already. She wasn’t leaving this time because she got beat up again by another resident, or because she had gotten in trouble. She was running this time cause Rachel, a girl only two years older than her promised her the big city, a place to stay, food to eat and a job. How could she refuse. Afterall, that’s where Rachel lived before she came to Kids House. Kids House was in Jefferson County, Pevely Missouri to be exact. It was lame. There were trees everywhere and hoosiers, lots of them. No creativity, no real fun, no diversity. Every other time she ran away from the Home she hadn’t really gone anywhere or done anything exciting. Had her friends pick her up at the bottom of the hill from where Kids House stood out, embarrassing is what it was.

Everyone at the local high school knew when one of the foster girls was living at the house, there was no way to even pretend, pretend to be normal, pretend to fit in. G tried to be normal, she even joined the basketball team. Towards the end of the basketball season, the coach announced that one of the team had witnessed another team member buying weed from the known dealer at school. G was perplexed, what the hell, they better not be talking about me G thought. Sure enough, as the coach drove her home, like she did after every practice and game, G was kicked off the team. They lied about her, G hadn’t even smoked pot at this point, she knew those chicks had it in for her. Whatever.

Rachel had been trying to convince G to take off with her. It was the being a part of the team that was keeping her around, but since she was no longer part of that, she had no reason to stay. A week later they were hitchhiking on 55 north towards st louis city, the big city.

“You girls want a ride.”

G normally would’ve been scared to death of doing this, but Rachel was well versed in the art of hitchhiking.

“Sure, were going all the way to the city, how far are you going”, said Rachel confidently, not a hint of unsurety in her voice. Rachel was white, although she wore her hair in stacks like all the black girls they lived with at Kids House, she even talked sorta like the black girls, but G thought she sounded more like the rednecks.

They got in, G sat in back while Rachel and Al chatted up front. G watched as all the familiar bluffs and exit ramps flew by, McDonald’s at every exit. Al had a bit of suspicion in his voice, but he was more interested in our ages, G thought, she knew his tone of voice. Rachel wasn’t shy about being feminine with the balding middle age man. He kept looking in the rear view mirror, sizing her up, trying to make small talk. G wasn’t having it, uninterested in what a man picking up a couple of teenage girls hitchhiking on the highway had to say.

“Why ya so quiet back there darlin?”, asked the pervert. No answer.

“Oh, she’s just quiet sometimes, she just can’t wait to get back home to the city. My car broke down back there in Festus and she’s sorta mad that I made her come down here all the way to the country.” That was Rachel’s story, practiced and perfect before they left.

The next 30 minutes seemed long, drawn out. Finally Rachel instructed Al to get off at the Bates street exit, which he did. “Are you girls gonna be Okay, I just live on on the other side of the [Mississippi] river.”

“Yeah, we’re good, my momma’d be bad if she knew we caught a ride, so I’m just gonna tell her my boyfriend in Festus loaned me money for a cab, I don’t want her seeing someone else droppin us off. Thanks though.”

“How could you talk to him like that, he thought you wanted him, he’s so gross,” G made a face.

“Whatever, he wasn’t gonna do anything to me, of course he wanted me though, he wouldn’t have picked us up if he didn’t think I was fine as hell, so it was my fine ass that got us a ride up here in the first place, you should be thanking me.”

“Well where are we going?,” G asked. What was the plan, where were they sleeping tonight, was happens next. Had they stayed in the country, G would’ve had someone to call, but this time there was no one.

“We’re gong to my friend’s house, it’s just around they corner.” They started walking, through south st louis, at night.

Cars rolled by, pumpin bass, tinted windows, loud. G almost didn’t care, she had that nothing can happen to me attitude, it felt true. She’d run away a total of 13 times from various foster homes and group homes, so far, nothing had happened to her.

Finally they were there, a warm meal, a place to stay. They approached the door of the two family flat. The building next door had tons of people hangin out on the porch…bottles in paper bags, children playing, loud laughter, crips, bloods, this was the day.

Knocking. No answer. Great. What now. Wonderful plan.

“Didn’t you tell them we were coming”, said G, frustrated, regretful.

“Yeah, of course I did, don’t mess with me girl, I’ll ditch you if you become all smartass on me.”

Trust gone. G knew she couldn’t depend on Rachel, she can’t say stuff like that. G decided to deal with this herself. She hopped off the side of the porch, the neighbors all stopped talking for a minute and stared at them. What the hell are you looking at, G thought as she entered the gangway of the building. She opened and walked through the rusted gate and into the back yard. Junk, everywhere, it seemed to G that there were actually rednecks in the city as well. You can’t get away from them, they follow you.

She walked up the stairs to the back doors. “It’s the door to the right”, said Rachel.

G knocked, no she banged, hard. “What the hell are you doing, if they’re in there, you’re gonna piss them off.”

“I don’t care, what’s it matter anyway, if they don’t answer, we don’t have anywhere to go anyway.”

They heard movement, Rachel jumped up on the front porch in front of G, G preferred to step back and be the shadow, afterall, this was Rachel’s game.

A tiny thin Asian man opened the door with a look of surprise when he saw Rachel. “What awe you doing hewe, I thought you move?”

“Yeah, I did, but I’m back, what’s goin on, are you gonna let us in or what?”

“I don’ know, who this giwl you brought, is she for Phong?”

Rachel gave him a look of annoyance, a side glance that told him to shut the hell up, that he jsut said something he wasn’t supposed to say. G felt uneasy, she knew Rachel wasn’t telling her something and from the look of acknowledgement on the little guys face, she was right. She knew Rachel’s story, or at least she thought she did, it was the same old story of all the kids in foster care…abused by the natural parents, put in foster homes with foster parents that either wanted to save them (Jesus style) or that wanted the money from the state, but maybe there was more, maybe Rachel was hiding something darker, darker than mere abuse. Mere abuse, sounds nonchalant, but again, after a lifetime of hearing the stories, they all begin to feel normal after a while.

“Huy, this is G, G this is Huy, there now you know eachother, can we come in or what?”

Come in, come in, Phong not home yet, but he will be soon. You hungry, I made noodles, you can have some.”

The apartment was dark, brooding, posters hung on the wall with tape, holes in the wall, dirty floors. The livingroom was a bedroom/kitchen/hangout mess. Plates of food everywhere. Immediately, Rachel began picking up and then ladi down on the bed. All G could do was sit there and watch the nothing T.v, surreal. They ate, watched more t.v., it got later and Rachel and Huy started cuddling, which made G very uncomfortable. She thought to try to break up the gross couple with conversation.

“So where are you from?”, she said directing the question at Huy.

“Vietnam, my bwotha and I been here now for 7 yeaws, he wooks all the time. He’s gonna like you. Let’s go in hewe Wachel, I want to show you something fo a minute, we gonna be back in a minute, okay.”

“Whatever.” G knew they were gonna do it. She was still a virgin, but she wasn’t stupid.

g sat there by herself for a while before Phong came home, walk in the front door, throw keys on the floor with everything else, scratch at his balls and stopped short when he saww G.

“Who awe you, what you doing in my house? Huy!” He then proceeded to yell in a foreign language across the apartment. From the back room, Huy answered back in the same language and after a second, Phong’s face lightened.

He introduced himself and his honey sugar darling baby was about the same as any redneck she’d ever met. He sat down by her and asked her name, how old she was and where she lived. G answered reluctantly.

He finally left the room for a minute and G decided to find Rachel. She found her way to where Huy’s voice seemed to be coming from and knocked on the door. “Rachel, are you in there?”

“Dammit, I’ll be out in a minute, damn, why you always got ta be in my business.” That was her answer, G knew she was in there doing it with the little guy.

Back in the livingroom, Phong was eating noodles, slop running down his chin, greasy hair, noodles hanging out his mouth as he smiled at G. There was no where to sit except the bed, so G had no choice but to sit in too close of proximity to him, everything would’ve been too close at this point. He finished and put the bowl on the floor, with everything else and scooted closer to G and laid back on the bed.

“You lay back with me, you can get comfowtable, it’s okay, you tired?”

“No, I’m not tired, I’m jsut waiting for Rachel to come back out.”

“Come on girl, it’s okay, you lay down now, okay.”

“No thank you,” G tried to pretend to be watching the television, she wanted to keep it on, it was the only light in the room. She got up to turn up the volume, taking her time to sit back down. As soon as she did he inched closer to the tiny corner of the bed where she was sitting. G tried to play cool, but she was losing, he kept inching closer and now she could smell him. He touched her and she jumped up.

“What the hell are you doing!”, she yelled, hoping Rachel heard her.

“Calm down, honey, come hewe and sit down, it’s okay, I’m not doin anyting to you now, just bein nice.”

He stood up and put his hand on her shoulder, come on, sit down now.

“Don’t freakin touch me you loser idiot!”, G jumped back. He threw himself forward at her and grabbed her hard and started shoving his face into her neck. G was only fourteen and very petite, but she’d had her ass kicked by girls in group homes that were twice his size, she knew she could take him. She pushed him back and punched him in the stomach.

Unaffected, he reached up and punched her across the face, threw her down and pushed himself on top of her in one swoop. G underestimated him. He shoved his face into her neck and chest again and G looked over and saw a steak knife from a plate that had been left on the floor. She grabbed it and stabbed him in the arm. He screamed out and G jumped up and ran for the room Rachel was in and ran threw open the door.

“Hurry up, we gotta go now!” Rachel was half naked and didn’t question the urgency in G’s voice. She pulled herself up and began sifting through the bedroom rubble for her clothes. G ran back to the livingroom, grabbed the keys Phong threw on the floor and towards the front door, Phong wasn’t in there, drops of blood trailed out of the room toward the back of the apartment. G was out the door and started frantically looking for which car belonged to the set of keys she had just stolen. Rachel ran out of the door with a naked Huy yelling after her. G didn’t know what she was saying in less than a minute she had almost gotten raped, stabbed some guy, stolen his car keys and was about to steal his car, oh shit, she forgot she couldn’t drive.

“Which car is his.”

“It’s the little one over there.” They rushed over, G shoved the keys at Rachel. It seemed to take forever for Rachel to unlock the door through the Huy’s yells and then Phong came out came out holding a dirty towel over his arm in disbelief.

They got in the car and Rachel started the engine.

“Oh shit, G, I don’t know how to drive!” she yelled as she threw the car into gear, bump the car in front, bump the car in back, pull out, head straight down the street towards the dead end and crash into a building at the end of the street, whoops. They frantically jumped out of the car and took off running with all of their belongings. This sucked, it really, really sucked. No way were they gonna have the police called on them though, they were teenagers, what were a couple of runaway teenagers doing with two thirty something men.

Diversity. Excitment. Life. Fact or Fiction?

An email I’m sending out to retrieve information on foster youth

I’m concerned about the number of youth that refuse to “work the programs” and are emancipated at 18 because of that. I see them as being emotionally immature because of traumas in their life, disabilities and normal teenage rebellion. Isn’t their some sort of studies that have been conducted on the psychology of foster youth that will keep judges for emancipating an unruly foster teen? If we just let them all remain in care until the age of 21 regardless of their behavior, my feeling is that they will begin the mature and take advantage of the resources available to them.

Can you direct me to studies or documents that investigates this specific issue?

October 13, 2007

Emancipation

Although emancipation is the widely used term when describing a youth that will no longer be in states custody, a judge is technically lifting state jurisdiction of that child’s custody. Meaning that at 18 years old, a kid can be on their own without a guardian or supervision.

Imagine!!! 18! Without a guardian??? What gives? This is something about the system that NEEDS to be changed…take a look at some of those statistic in the margins. 50% of people that have been in foster care find themselves homeless at some point in their life. Visualize homeless, what comes to mind? For a lot of people that will look something like this: Dirty, dumpster diving, sleeping in parks, etc. Does this sound familiar? In truth, homeless people are also those that find themselves couch hopping, without a permanent address to put on a foodstamp application, having to sacrifice their personal safety and boundaries in order to make sure they have a place to rest their head. Maybe this sounds better than the image of the homeless living on skid row…but this is the first step, now imagine being 18 or 19 and this is the path your on. What hope does this person have? How does a kid climb their way out of the inevitable?

Now, I need to add one more factor into the mix. Teenage development. There sorta are 3 stages to teenage development, I say sorta cause everyone is different. The beginning, physically the body is beginning to show signs of puberty in girls, these signs are not as obvious in boys at first. Of course we know that at this point, social relationships are very important. The middle years when, we the adults, are just stupid, not just stupid, but the question of how we made it to adulthood in the first place may arise. Like, we are really dumb. Their friends are very important, in fact, sometimes this is their main motivation. It’s usually during the last stage that teens are beginning to realize that the adults in their life are not AS stupid as they originally thought, steps to maturity.

I believe it’s a well known fact that traumatic events that occur in one’s life during childhood will often delay the natural progression of mental development. This may be caused by abuse, witnessing abuse, drug or alcohol use, being moved into an uncomfortable unfamiliar environment, etc. All things that foster youth deal with. It only seems obvious to me that a possible delay in maturity should be considered when making the life altering decision of whether or not to release state jurisdiction over a youth in foster care.

Scenario:

R is 17 years old and has been “on the run” for 4 months. He has contacted his Childcare Manager and says that he will only come back into custody if he can go back to an old foster home. He is referring to a home that he lived in 4 years ago and was moved from because of behavioral challenges that the foster mother felt like she could not handle. His case manager explains that that is not an option, but if he works a program at a residential treatment center, he will probably qualify to go into an Independent Living Home. He says that he doesn’t want to work “a program” that this is his life and he doesn’t deserve to be an inmate or some strangers project.

This is a typical scenario among older foster youth. They want things their way, right away. This attitude is also typical of an adolescent in middle development…but of course, we are not talking about typical teens either. First of all, although this kid is about 171/2, developmentally he is really like that of a 14 or 15 year old. He is rebelling typical of his development age and rebelling typically like that of a person who has suffered great traumatic events in life.

It is about the age of 19 or 20 that people begin to realize that they do not know EVERYTHING and maybe it would be good to take some advise or let an adult help.

But for the kid that was “emancipated” at the age of 18, it will be too late before they surpass these important life milestones

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