Monday, October 23, 2006

Why the emancipation panic

There are a lot of really interesting comment on my post Supporting them into adulthood. A couple should be their own posts. If you haven't read them, I recommend them to you. People bring up a lot of good points. Several point out that we need to be more straight-up honest with the kids. I agree, and I wonder to what extent I have not done that well.

For the kids with whom I work though I don't think that is the fundamental problem. At least Carl and Evan did not get hurt because they were told they were going to get support or help that they didn't or weren't going to get. They walked away from assistance they weren't ready for.

Hope4future wonders if they are afraid they won't succeed (I'm paraphrasing). I think that is part of it.

Right now I think the fundamental problem, for many of the kids I work with, though has been this: though they are legally adults, they are developmentally somewhere around 13. They need more time to grow up. The rub is that they don't want to be parented. They don't want to be accountable to social workers. They want to live as adults.

In other words, they don't want what they need and no one can force them to be take it. On my most discouraged days I don't think it is possible for offer the kids what they need in a package they will accept.

I am still driving Miss E to school. She is a junior who turns 18 in the summer. Because she is in a private agency with the funds, she is doing on-line classes with the goal of being done with high school before she turns 18. She is willing to stay in the home a little past her 18th birthday if she must in order to finish high school, but not one second longer. She is one of the brightest kids in the system. She says she admires Evan for staying longer. She knows that it is the smart thing to do, but she doesn't see how she could make herself stay. She wants out. She wants to be on her own.

So many foster kids are in systems in which they are not offered appropriate transitional services.

The state kids around here all seem to believe that they are required to leave foster care on their 18th birthday. That is not in fact true. They have the right to stay until they are 19, if they are still in high school. It is not clear to me if they do not know that because they have been unwilling to consider it, or if it is because the powers that be would just as soon they don't. There are not enough places in foster homes and then there is there is the legal liability issue (all legal adults living in foster homes must pass a criminal background check).

What frustrates me is that when I tell the kids state kids they have the right to stay their response is, "Really? No one told me that. But I'm out of here anyway. There is no way I'm going to stay."

There is a disconnect. There is a documentary that was on PBS a year or more ago, Aging Out. Three kids were followed. One was a boy with an anger management problem who needed help and wouldn't take it. One was a girl who went to college and was struggling and not getting the support she needed. The third was a young woman with a baby whose father was also in care. They had the were able to stay in care until they were 21, but not together.

Not one of those kids got what the help they needed. Two of them, for very different reasons, rejected the help that was available to them. One desperately needed more than she was offered, and her story was the most tragic.

These kids have needs, but they are not needs that are easy to meet.

What Carl found and Evan is looking for is the best model that I know of. A place without parents, where they get room, board and maybe even spending money in return for work. Maybe that is what the kids need, so that they can finish growing up.

1 comment:

  1. independentsw4:18 PM

    I don't 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...


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