Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More on emancipation

Independentsw writes:

I don't know...it seems like something is missing in this "best model." I'm not
sure what, though. What causes them to finish growing up? Simply time? Or do
they have enough maturing experiences in these situations (Radical Faeries,
Scotland program) to finish growing? If you could offer Evan a longer-term
placement in your home, would it be possible for him to finish growing up there?
Why doesn't Job Corps work for so many kids--it also offers room, board, and
money in exchange for work? As you can tell, I don't have any answers, only
questions! I am wondering also if part of the attraction of the Scotland program
for Evan is a chance to work on/resolve his own family issues? Just a thought...
I don't have answers either. Just thoughts.

Part of the struggle in imagining solutions is that they solutions always have to be prefaced with "given that."

  • Given that people who aren't yet ready to parent will continue to have children...
  • Given that we live in a society in which we fail to support families in crisis...
  • Given that our foster care system is over-burdened in every way...
You get the idea.

So I don't know how to answer this question, "If you could offer Evan a longer-term placement in your home, would it be possible for him to finish growing up there?"

I don't know.

I know if I were to say to Evan right now, "You could live here indefinitely if you don't go to Scotland." He would reject the idea. I did offer him the opportunity to stay here for the upcoming spring for his first semester of college and he did reject that.

I don't know what might have been the case had when he moved in I said to him, "You can stay here as long as you are working or going to school, until you are ready to live on your own." Instead of, "You can stay here as long as you are going to school, and for a couple months after you graduate. Your social worker will help you come up with a plan after that. Don't worry, we won't be in any big hurry to push you out. You will have time to figure out a plan."

Would he be staying now? Perhaps had that been the model in his head he would not have felt compelled to find someplace like the house in Scotland to live. Perhaps he would have just stayed here. He would have continued to work minimum wage jobs. I think he would almost certainly continue to loose them for a while. Would it have ended because we got tired of him spending so much time hanging around the house in between jobs? Or because we would not let him have the sexual freedom in the house that he wanted? Or would he have grown up, saved money, and moved out of the house into true, self-sufficent adulthood? I haven't a clue.

Now I can't answer the questions that independentsw asks for foster kids in general. I see only a particular group of them. In the post that inspired her question, I considered that maybe what Evan and Carl needed was what they were getting from places like the Radical Faerie sanctuary and the Scotland house. They get free room and board in exchange for work. In Evan's case he will also get allowance.

The reason that I think that is the best sort of option for many kids is the same reason that I think Job Corps does not work for so many kids. It is another "given that."

Given that so many of the kids emancipating from foster care are not ready to take care of themselves and are unwilling to accept parenting or any other sort of close supervision from adults, given that they believe they are capable adults when they are not, we need more places where they are given as much support as possible on terms they are willing to accept.

But there will, of course, not be any solution that works for all the kids. For some kids there might not be any solution. These are kids who don't trust adults. Adults have failed them. They have had to scramble and take care of themselves in a variety of ways. They believe they can take care of themselves, and that the rules adults impose are unjustified acts of power.

These are not easy kids to help.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know what the 'right' answer is either - and I have a feeling it might differ by individual, anyway. But it seems to me that the most personal change comes from a pressure point in life, or a catalyst, that FORCES change. Some changes come slowly, over time...but the big changes seem to come all at once.

    I'm not sure that offering a couch for as long as a kid needs it (and I know that's not exactly what you're proposing), will bring about the pressure to change. How's the saying go...nothing prepares you for marriage, like marriage. I think you can use that same saying and substitute parenting or life. Some things have to be hard in order to appreciate them, and in order to grow.


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