Saturday, January 12, 2008

Failing Frankie

I'm having trouble writing to Frankie. I'm not certain that I should, or just what to say. Oh, I can write any particular letter. I can tell him some funny anecdote, put in a puzzle. That is fine. But Roland and Brian really don't want me to invite him back into our lives. They don't want him to come to the house at all. They might reluctantly agree to one visit, if I really thought it would be helpful to him and me, but that is all. And Brian says he wants to know in advance so that he can leave the house. Roland is afraid that if I stay too closely in contact he will show up here in young adulthood wanting more from us that we can provide.

They don't want to be his family.

And I don't think that I can get Frankie to understand. Frankie has a very difficult time understanding how things appear from other people's perspective. It was one of the reasons people wondered if he has Asperger's, although it wasn't just that.

I was told a month ago that he wanted to visit with us, and I explain that I would like to visit with him. I could spend a day in The City with him perhaps. I said that no, I couldn't bring him home for the whole weekend, and even if I did it wouldn't be a regular thing. I haven't heard anything back about that.

I spoke with Evan about it a while ago. I told him that I did not want to lead Frankie on, give him expectations that I could not satisfy, and I did not want to abandon him. Evan said, "You have to do one or the other." Then he wanted to take it back. He said that I should keep writing to him, that it was so difficult in foster care to keep loosing people. I could maintain a relationship with him even if he couldn't live here. Just keep writing to him.

I did with Anne. I just knew that I could with Anne, you know? I was careful not to make promises. At one point she suggested that she did really well here, and I thought she was hinting that maybe she might come back. I told her that she might not have realized how difficult things really were, that she and Andrew were too close in age, and that I thought the two of them were not really good for each other. I told her, simply, that I wanted her to know that I loved her and always wanted to be her aunt, but that she couldn't live here again.

And she was disappointed and she accepted it.

I don't think that Frankie would. Thinking back, I realize (and I have written about this before), that I think everything seemed different from Frankie's perspective. When he first visited he thought he was being offered the chance to come to the agency I work for and that we were part of the package. He thought it was all his choice. He did not understand that we were deciding whether we could take him. When he left it was the same. He had been announcing that he wanted out of that school and if leaving our home and moving far away was what it took, he would do it. When he left he was angry that we all pulled a fast one on him and sent him someplace he didn't want to go, but he still thought he was leaving because he didn't like the school and had demanded a change. And it is not as simple with him as telling him that that is not the case. What does not fit into his world-view does not stick in his head. He continues to believe what he believes.

And so I sit here, wondering whether to write to him. If I do, will I create the impression that he is welcome to come back?

I am, in short, worried about being able to have the relationship that I want, with the boundaries I want and my family demands, without hurting him. To disappear from his life feels so wrong. I have a commitment to not doing that. Writing to him is risky.

There is a very strong, clear voice in me that insists that writing to Frankie is the best thing. He has lost so many people, so many relationships. He gets moved, people drop out of his life. He is owed more than that. I don't need to protect him from the disappointment of being told that he can't come back here. He is very experienced with disappointment. If he does not want the limited relationship that I can offer, he will reject it. I do not need to protect him.

And there is a cowardly voice in me that just wants to close that painful chapter in my life and move on. I liked him SO much. I really did. He was exhausting to be around, and I think he needs something I can't give him, but being with him, getting letters from him hurts. It makes me happy, but it also makes me sad. I know it is not him that I want to protect, or even Brian, it is me. I don't want to keep breaking my heart. I want to let him go. Never write to him. Not know what happens.

Because I am afraid to watch what will happen to him. I cannot believe that he will accept help once he is 18. He seems so young, so childlike, but he has only two more years before he can walk away and no one will be there. Oh dear Lord, two years, just two more years and that child, that little boy, will walk into the world and try to take care of himself. I see him living his father's life: cycling between stability, homelessness, and involuntary commitment. I don't want to watch that happen. I don't want to get phone calls from him when he is going through that. I tell myself that I don't have to. He does, after all, have aunts whom he can call.

I'm just the a foster mother he spent 10 weeks with. Ten Weeks. I have no long-term obligation to him. Most foster parents don't work to stay in touch with kids who have moved on. Why should I have feel obligated to keep writing to him, keep inviting this pain? I don't want to watch what happens next. I want someone to tell me that it is best for Frankie if I don't write to him, that a clean break will be less painful for him. I want to believe that.

And the strong voice in me listens to this drivel and says, "Coward. Write the d*mn letter."


  1. this isn't any useful comment,
    but just to say that i still read your blog;
    and that this is one of those posts that people five years from now studying the blogging phenomenon could point to and say "see? see what complex and important human situations that blogging was able to tease out and present?" It's easy to see foster care etc as nice little academic boxes, but posts like this really show the more human level of it all.

    sorry that i can't give you anything useful in this comment.. i'm just saying that your writing can really be something significant sometimes. blogs can do that for us, can't they..?

    keep on writin'.. .

  2. Write the d*mn letter.

    And remember, as my grandma always used to say: God is big.

    There are more possibilites out there that you can ever imagine.

    Your fears and the difficulties you envision are all perfectly reasonable, and you have every reason to think that things will turn out this way or worse, and yet -- they might not. Unexpected good things do happen. Frankie might grow out of some of his naivety, if not in two years, at some point. Somebody else in his life might step up and take care of him. He might not misunderstand everything you say as badly as you think he will. Perhaps some of the people who are working with him will manage to find a way to get through to him about the way things are. Etc etc.

    Don't do it for Frankie, do it for yourself: for doing what your heart wants you to do and for living up to your conscience.

    And now I will butt out again!

  3. Cathy6:56 PM

    A very large part of me wants to to say to you, "let it go, put it out of your mind and forget him. Take care of your heart, it's ok." The only problem with that is I don't think you can just do that right now. If you could the decision wouldn't be tearing you up so much. So, write the d@mn letter, do what your heart tells you for as long as you heart tells you to do it. As Daisy said, he might get better. Or as time goes a long the connection you feel may disappear on both sides. I find that listening to that 'little voice' is usually a wise move. Keep writing for now, give it some more time. In other ways two years is a long time, a lot can happen. Not enough time has passed yet to make any really hard choices.

  4. Wow, this is a tough one. Can you do something other than write a letter? For instance, how about postcards? Or a package--now, that might seem like more than a letter, but if it's impersonal, toiletries and some snacks, say, and that would work for Frankie? Or a funny card with just a couple lines on it.

  5. Write the boy. New to you, but in summary, was a CPS worker for 7 years and am now foster parent. So I know a bit about this, mostly from seeing the effects of things for so many years on so many kids.

    I have seen a lot of teens take on this you owe me attitude. In my opinion (for whatever it's worth), it's a kind of defense mechanism. Saying they want to leave and pushing you to the limit is a way or hurting before you get hurt.
    So although you CANNOT take him into your home for the sake of your own family, letting him know you love him and care for his well being will be a benefit in the long-run. Most likely not now, but later in his life.

    To make this an even longer comment, I'll throw out an example~
    I had a 15 year old girl with a similar attitude and issues. She and I had great rapport, I even had her over to my house for Thanksgiving. She met my family, then decided she was going to live with me. I politely told her although I thought she was a wonderful girl and I hoped we always remained friends, it would not happen. I wrote her a letter telling her all the things I loved about her, and that she was going to be a wonderful adult if she stayed clean and focused and all that.
    She went AWOL shortly after.
    2 years later, this being a few months ago, I got a call from her sister in another state. The teen had found her way to her, and they were working on getting her back into counseling. Sister told me teen still had my number, written on the back of the letter I wrote. Teen said she read the letter when she wanted to use then chose not to.

    Take it for what you will, but your gut that these kids get lost in the system and loose any person who ever cared about them is correct. You set your boundaries, but you throw as much love as you can over the top of them.

  6. You're definitely going to have to maintain boundaries and that's not going to be easy. My guess is that more than once you're going to have the uncomfortable job of telling him that he can't come to your house. And he's going to be hurt. But the letters and contact will let him know that he's important to you even if he can't be in your family.

  7. I have been thinking about this all day, and after hours of thought, I still don't have any kind of advice to give you. I can see both ways, writing and not writing as being ultimately, acts of kindness and love. Tell you what. You do what you think is best, and I will write something completely supportive of your decision.

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  9. I think the letters would help both you and Frankie - you because you want to write the letter despite what it may or may not cause and he because he needs to know that someone (even the foster mom he "only" spent 10 weeks with) cares.

    I can completely understand the desire to not write though and I think that sometimes we have to do what we have to do to take care of us.

    As you've already said there are pros and cons to both actions. I hope whatever you decide you begin to feel more at peace with it.


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