Sunday, December 24, 2006

The rest of the story

The post that I wrote the other day, about the kids not asking to be in care, came after reading several blogs. I read them, and not currently having to deal with a ornery, ungrateful, irritating teenager myself, I started wondering why they so often behave that way. I started wondering how I would have behaved if I had been a foster kid.

It is not that it would have been impossible. If anything had happened to my mother and my sister and I lived with my father... Well, it could have happened.

I find that if I can back away from the situation far enough, I can have so much sympathy with the kids. Miss E is a current favorite example. This girl has experienced real pain. She has had an adoption terminated. The adoption was terminated in part because she made abuse allegations against her parents, which could never be substantiated in any way, and Miss E threatened to commit suicide or run away (again) if she were made to go back. Everyone believed her. I believed her. She was here the week of the hearing when that decision was made. It was clear to me that it no longer mattered what the parents had or had not done. Miss E was determined to end the relationship. Shortly after the parents agreed to the termination, Miss E started being angry at them for not fighting for her. She knew they never loved her. If they had REALLY loved her they would not have done that.

Miss E cannot stand to be touched. I'm a hugger and with kids who don't like to be hugged I just hold out my hand when I am feeling the urge to huge them. Almost all of them will take my hand and squeeze it. Miss E will sometimes lay her hand on mine, touching me only with her finger tips and then take her hand away. More often she will look at my hand and say, "That's okay. I'm fine" and not touch me at all.

Miss E would like to move back to the teen shelter. It is run by a professional staff and no one tries to form emotional attachments. She is in the permanency placement program though and they require her to live with a family. She is sticking it out because the program offers her post-high school education and training benefits unlike anything any other program in the country.

But she is pissed. She is furious that she has to live in a family in order to later get adequate money to go to college. She hates that she has to live with a younger girl who has the problems that girl does. She hates that she has to lock her room, that the pantry is kept locked, that her fm is so busy that Miss E has to call me for rides.

I also know that the woman she is living with is one of the best. She is a good, kind, patient woman. She is dedicated to teenage girls. She has cared for pregnant teens and young mothers. Her girls stay in touch with her long after they leave. If this woman has locked the pantry it is because it is the only way she can figure out to keep the girls healthy and be certain that there will be food in the house when she comes home. And she only takes two girls at a time so there is only one other person for Miss E to deal with. I know that there is nowhere Miss E could be, except maybe the shelter, that she would hate less.

So I think about Miss E and I am so sympathetic. She has had a difficult life and she is mad as hell. She has reason to be angry.

And then I get in the car with her. One morning she spends informing of what a sh*t hole the college I work at is. I am torn between bemusement and anger. Miss E knows I work there. She is telling me how bad the college is, what they make students do, and she is wrong on every count. I mean, she has her basic facts wrong and she in informing me, the person who has worked there for 14 years, about my school and how crappy it is. I wonder if she has forgotten that I work there. I wonder if she wants to pick a fight, but she doesn't seem to be. She just seems to be talking. I choose bemusement and drop her off and drive away.

I have had her here for a weekend or more. She is a constant source of negativity. Her cheerful moods involve being gleeful as she reports bad news. Taking pleasure in informing me that people are dying from spinach is as good as it gets with her.

So though from a distance I have this river of sympathy for her, I just can't spend much time with her. When she has respite here Hubby and I agree in advance about a schedule where each of us gets to leave for a while.

I don't know what the point is, except that this situation can be difficult for everyone. The children have lived through things that no one should ever have to live with. They are angry and they have good reason. Of course they are.

On the other hand, living with them can be a b*tch.

Next on Miss E

1 comment:

  1. In one of the training sessions I attended they talked about bad vs. good and familiar vs. unfamiliar. They said that as adults we look at bad vs. good (though things are rarely that black and white). For example, home with a birth parent that involved neglect, drug addiction, abuse, and lots of chaos = bad. Foster/adoptive home with security and calm and love = good.

    But for the kids it's not like that. Bad or not-so-bad the home they came from is what is familiar. Even if it was abusive or chaotic it was familiar and therefore comforting. The unfamiliar, however good it may be, it stressful and unsettling.

    I've never been a person who expects my child to run into my arms and to be thrilled about being adopted. That's a movie-notion, not a reality. But I had never thought of it in terms of familiar vs. unfamiliar. That will an important thing for me to remember.


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