Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Thinking about the next kid

I went and looked at the photo-listings for my state.

I do that sometimes. I look at the teenagers and notice a couple of faces that were there when I looked last, usually months ago. I wonder how many of them will find adoptive homes and how many will end up in permanent foster care. The eleven-year-olds have a chance. Odds are not good for the older teens.

I had been thinking about our "next kid" as though he (it could be a she, but that is less likely) does not quite exist yet. Possibly as early as November, but maybe much later, we will get a phone call. "There's a kid we want you to meet, would you like to come down and look at the file?" For me that is where the story starts. I had been wondering who that teenager will be.

Suddenly I realized the obvious, that young person already exists. He or she is living in a home right now that is not going to last. It is possible, but unlikely, that he is living with birth family. It is much more likely that he is living in a foster home, or a pre-adoptive home that is not working out, or is in the teen shelter. Right now, today, the child who will be next in my home is living some place that is not working.

It is a troubling thought; one I could easily get obsessed by. Why is the home not working? Is it because the adults are homophobic? Or is there some other reason?

It is easier to think about the next part of the story. The youth's social worker will know the he or she is queer. They will consider putting the youth on the photo listings. The youth, being at least 12, may refuse to go through that again. Or they may try it, be trying it right now, and nothing comes of it. The social worker will sit down and talk to the youth about the private permanency foster care program. She (almost all the social workers are women) will explain that if she can get the youth in, he will have the best transitional services available in the state when he is ready to emancipate. He will consider it and agree. His social worker will warn him that it is a long process and that there is a waiting list. The social worker will warn him that it can take a long time from applying to being placed. She may tell him that many foster families join the program with their kids, just because those families want to keep the kids. But then again, if she is telling a kid that, then that kid is probably not my kid.

But maybe in his paper work it will say that he (or she) is queer. The file will be presented along with many others to the committee who picks kids for the waiting list. Someone will notice and say, "Did you say that young man/woman is gay? Let me see the file. We may be able to get him into a family very quickly."

All the social workers will think that that is wonderful. They will think that the youth is so lucky.

They will tell the youth about us.

The youth will not feel lucky, nor should he. If anything he will feel resentful that the social workers think he should be grateful that there is a family that won't treat him like garbage. He will be tired. He will have moved before. He will have heard the promises before. He will agree to hear more about us, but he will not be enthusiastic or grateful.

They will tell him a little about us: how many kids we have had before; how we have had three gay boys all of whom emancipated from our house and still like us; how we have two bioboys; that we go to an open and affirming church, but do not try to push the kids to share our religious beliefs; that we are educators.

And after the youth has heard all there is to know about us he will say, "They live where? Oh no. I said I wanted to stay in The City. You aren't going to make me move out there are you?"

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