Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rules, rules, rules

Ruth commented on the previous post, "Why are you punishing him for a rule you think is stupid." That is of course an excellent question.

I would like to say that technically I am punishing him for lying to me. He said he was staying after school and would take the next bus home. In reality he did who knows what and got a ride home with his girlfriend. The whole situation is complicated because the reason he lied was that he didn't want to announce that he was breaking the state's rule.

I freely admit that the situation is absurd on mulitiple levels.

In one way being a foster parent is sort of what I imagine being a step-parent to be like. There are multiple adults involved with different levels of authority. If we are going to parent effectively we have to back each other up, agree on the basic rules, and give the kid some consistency. Sometimes that means finding yourself in a position in which you have to deal with stupid rules.

It is different of course because I could theoretically lose my license if I don't enforce the state's rules.

This is extreme, but imagine that I thought it was absurd that teenagers weren't allowed to drink, that there would be less teenage alcohol abuse if they were allowed to drink beer or wine with their family. Even if I really, really believed that, I could still be arrested for serving alcohol to a minor. If we were talking about foster kid and he was drinking after school every day, I would be expected to tell the social worker. If I didn't because I thought it was a stupid rule, I would lose my license.

Now I sincerely beieve that the driving rule is stupid and it isn't anything like the law against under-age drinking. I wrote an email to the social worker and gave her some suggestions about how she wants me to handle it.

The one I hope she picks is modeled after the way I am supposed to handle probation rules. I can't give him permission to break them, but I am also not expected to monitor him. I can use my judgement as to whether I report him if I do know he has violated them. So, for instance, he is supposed to give the name of everyone with whom he "associates" to his probation officer so that she can check to see if they are also on probation (in which case they may no longer "associate"). I would be surprised if he was 100% compliant on that rule, however I have never checked up on it, reminded him, or asked him if he did it. I would call the probation officer if I thought one of his associates was dangerous, but otherwise, I just don't think about it. If he gets caught with someone he shouldn't be with, that is between him and his PO.

On that model, I would insist that he tell me where he is and who he is with. I also would not question him about how he got home after school. If in the course of normal parenting I learn that he is breaking the driving rule, I will report it to the social worker (assuming she wants me to). However, whatever consequences there are for that are between them.

The other model Ioffered was the other extreme. I told her that I could pay Verizon to track his phone and check it every afternoon, meet the bus to make sure he got off on it, and even enlist Brian as a snitch.

She may suggest something in the middle.


  1. I guess to me it seems like a somewhat but not entirely stupid rule. I think it's pretty well established that younger drivers who have just gotten their licenses are at higher risk for accidents. I know in some states the law says that non one can you have any non-related passengers for a year or so after they are first licensed. So I can imagine that if Gary's girlfriend got in an accident and the state had to defend to his father that they were taking good care of him, that might be difficult.

    On the other hand, if that isn't the law in your state or at Gary's age, than that does seem like a significant limitation to the agencies desire to help Gary function as much like an average teenager as possible. I guess it's like the sleepover issue - I can see both sides, but it does seem like a real problem that Gary and all of his friends have to be constantly reminded that he is not like the other kids.

  2. I see the point of it too. I also get frustrated by the absence of flexibility for parents to make decisions. The girlfriend is sixteen and has been through the day-time only period and the no-passengers under 18 period.

    And I get the part about being concerned about liability.

  3. Oh don't rat the kid out to his worker. My god.

  4. Be lucky you live where you do. Our agency and state has so many runaways that we are required to stand with our child at the bus stop, have the bus driver sign that she/he is accepting custody of said child, and again same routine in the afternoon. If child isn't on the bus in the afternoon, we have 30 minutes to get it reported and police report filed as a runaway.

    NOT KIDDING. How ridiculous is that?


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.