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.

Advertisements

March 8, 2008

Case Managers

   If you are considering becoming a case manager for youth in foster care there are a few things you should know first…

1. If you consider your 9-5 just that, maybe this isn’t the job for you. Your kids will need your time and attention, just like if they were your own.

2. If you get annoyed easily, then this isn’t the job for you. Working in this field requires patience with your clients as abuse and/or neglect hey have suffered as skewed their reality and they perceive the world around them in a much different way.

3. If you’re in ut to change the world, just sign up for peace corp or become a legislature. This is a thankless, underpaid job and the youth that you work with aren’t necessarily going like you let alone appreciate you.

4. Know that bureaucracies and red tape are a part of this system. A person going into this field should expect that if you are trying to get something done, it’s often about who you know and what you can offer back. Anyone brand new to the feild will have a hard time getting things done, especially of any of their ideas are innovative and actually make sense.

5. Salaried means just that – if your job demands more than 40 hours of your time, then make sure you cn give more than 40 hours of your time, otherwise you could be leaving an  at-risk youth at-risk.

6. There are foster parents that are in it for the money.

7. Sometimes you need to believe the kids.

8. You’ll need to have a firm command on the school system and the way it functions in order to properly serve your clients.

These are just a few things that come to mind right away. I’m sure I’ll add more eventually.

February 17, 2008

In preparation

I’m writing this in response to the comment I copied below:

“What were your main concerns were after leaving the foster care system? I work with kids in the FCS, and am interested on how best to prepare them for emancipation.”

I think there is a lot of information about preparing youth for independent living that social service organizations are putting to pretty good use. Those skills such as finding and keeping a job, using public transportation, budgeting and being resourceful are all very important.

The biggest problem with all this, in my opinion, is that a lot of the youth needing to learn these skills are more interested in their friends and social life. All the rest is secondary to them, especially youth in foster care. Since they often do not have a family structure as a support system, they rely on their friends for this, which of course is typical for a teenager, but this is a little more to the extreme.

Even when I after emancipation, I was still pretty immature, so putting my ILP skills to youth was still not as important. What I did was find a group of peers that were also considered “social misfits”and we all worked together (in a family structure) to survive, not always through legal means I might add.

Being in foster care gave me two very important survival skills for this time period in my life, 1.I was used to and comfortable with relying on other that I barely knew for help and resources, yet had good instinct about who was and was not trustworthy and 2.The knowledge that I could skip out on this group of “friends” anytime I needed to, ie. wasn’t getting  my needs met, felt uncomfortable or thought there was something better out there (the grass is always greener).

If any adult working with young people in foster care think back to their young adulthood, try to remember the moments you called your folks for help with bills, ride, food, laundry, anything. Create a foster youth canon text for your foster youth aging out, make sure they have the telephone number of every library, neighborhood center, youth outreach program, employment search out there. If you are the type of adult that gets really involved, give them numbers to reach you. You might get a phone call two years down the road from an emancipated foster youth needing a ride to a job interview and they can;t take the bus cause it’s raining, or help trying to understand how to buy a car or whatever.

There are certain thing we can prepare any young person for, but it’s not until they are there themselves that they’ll truly understand what the point of all that training was for and it’s about that time that they’ll realize they don’t actually know everything.

In each of these foster youth canon texts, along with community resources include their birth certificate, social security cards, family health history, transcripts, court document proving that they are independent  persons, immunization records, old tax documents, street guides (teach them how to use it), the name all the the free health clinics, a copy of their most important medical records…anything you can think of that they might/will need as a young adult in this society.

Teaching them to organize themselves is important, but a small plastic file folder/separator thing that they can throw their bills into. I know that I wasn’t nor did I care to be organized until I was in my mid 20’s.

These are just a few things that would have been good for me to have around, but really, even in all my rebellion, knowing that someone would still be there for me no matter what was what I needed…all the material thing I mentioned sure would have helped a lot too, might’ve even kept me out of come trouble. Hope that helps someone.

November 7, 2007

Kansas State Student Database

It is not uncommon for children and teens in foster care to move placements several times in one year, which also means new schools. Often times the previous school will take longer than necessary to send transcripts to the current school thereby delaying the students enrollment and/or placement in appropriate classes and educational support.

For example, I know a young man that required a full day of self contained classes and was developmentally delayed. The school had not yet received the students IEP and transcripts and so this young man was placed in all regular classes with the rest of the student population. As if moving to a new foster home wasn’t stressful enough, having to go through several school days without proper support made the transition a traumatic experience.

A personal example: I lived in a residential treatment center and went to the local public school. It was determined that I was ready to live in a transitional living group home in a new school district. In the RTC, one of my school books turned up missing (not unusual in these types of placements) and that school refused to release my transcripts to the new school until someone had paid for the book. Well after running away several more times and changing to two more school before the end of the school year, my transcripts still did not follow me. Several years later, when I was on my own, I had to prove to the college I was enrolling in that I had taken a college level algebra course in high school and had no way to do this, because alas, my transcripts were still being held hostage. And of course, I did not have the money to pay for that one book.

So finally, one state was brave enough to try something new, to identify a problem and come up with a solution, something that I find amazing seeing as how it is part of the whole, ya know, “system”.

The state of Kansas created a student database, with a focus on foster youth, that school will be able to access the most current up-to-date records for the youth no matter how often they move or where they move in the state.
The organization I work for will be going to the state capital soon talk to legislatures about this awesome database and how much it could help foster youth.

Click here if yo’dlike to read more about the Kansas student database.

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 15, 2007

When Foster Care Ends

An article restating the facts about Aging Out Foster Youth and what they face. It is pretty clear that the symptom of the problem is becoming clear, but still no one addresses the issue of the young age at which foster youth are emancipated.

What happens when foster care ends?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
September 12, 2004
Author: STEVE WEINBERG
Special to the Post-Dispatch

Estimated printed pages: 3

“On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System” By Martha Shirk and Gary Stangler Published by Westview, 307 pages, $24.95 For most members of conventional society, foster children are out of sight, out of mind, even though there are hundreds of thousands of them across the nation. Almost without exception, foster children attain that status through no fault of their own, having been abused or neglected by their parents. Most foster children end up being moved again and again until they reach the age of majority — 18 in most states, 21 in a few. When reaching that age, foster children tend to be ill-prepared to live independently. They lack a loving support network, are usually without money, and many suffer from learning disabilities, mental illness or disorders leading to violent behavior. Martha Shirk is a journalist who has specialized in children and family issues for a couple of decades, much of it at the Post-Dispatch. Gary Stangler is former director of the Missouri Social Services Department, which exercises responsibility for foster children, and now executive director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, headquartered in Clayton. Together, Shirk and Stangler have written a searing book about one aspect of the foster-care mess — the older teenagers who age out of the system meant to protect their welfare. The bulk of the book is devoted to eight case studies, including the death by drowning of one-time foster child Reggie Kelsey at age 18 three years ago in Des Moines, Iowa. The child-welfare system had served Kelsey more or less well, given his learning disabilities and mental illness. But any semblance of effective service halted when Kelsey turned 18, despite his inability to negotiate life on his own. The other case studies are set in Lawrence, Kan.; Boston; Brooklyn; San Antonio, Texas; San Francisco; and Pembroke Pines, Fla. Those diverse locales show the national scope of the problem. Foster children end up in all sorts of situations after they age out, even when from the same family. Shirk and Stangler chronicle the story of Jermaine, Jeffrey and Lamar Williams, close-knit brothers from Brooklyn. After they were sent to a home for abused and neglected children, Lamar, the youngest, adjusted well. Jermaine and Jeffrey rebelled. Jermaine ended up dead at age 28 because of an accident related to a drug deal. Jeffrey ended up in prison for armed robbery. Lamar graduated from college, found a good-paying job, married and lives on Long Island. Casey-Jack Kitos of Lawrence, Kan., after aging out of the system, joined the military, but ended up with a medical discharge. He found a job at a service station paying just above minimum wage. He decided to save for a college education, but then backed away from that course. A municipal water department hired him, but a few weeks later fired him. He quit or lost other jobs quickly. As his chapter ends, Kitos is 21, holding a part-time job, trying college after all, but unsure whether he will graduate. Shirk and Stangler, assisted by a foreword from former President Jimmy Carter, suggest reforms in this book, which is part solid journalism, part advocacy. The only way to bring about true reform, however, is for many currently unengaged adults to open their hearts and their homes to children in need of assistance. All the money in the world devoted to social-service agencies (which, in the real world, are perpetually underfunded) cannot make much of a dent otherwise. ===================== Martha Shirk, Gary Stangler When: 7 p.m. Monday Where: Left Bank Books, 399 North Euclid Avenue How much: Free More info: 314-367-6731 or http://www.left-bank.com

Caption:
Photo – “On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System”

Caption:
photo

Memo: Steve Weinberg is a freelance journalist in Columbia, Mo.

Edition: Five Star Lift
Section: A&E
Page: D10

Index Terms: book review

Copyright (c) 2004 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Record Number: 1000089873

OpenURL Article Bookmark (right click, and copy the link location):

What happens when foster care ends?

http://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.new

sbank.com:NewsBank:SLDB&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=105

13D5AE576E478&svc_dat=InfoWeb:aggregated4&req_dat=0ECC86DE7A4704AD

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.