Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sarsmile asks:

You are a college professor and Roland is a teacher, so I am assuming you
believe strongly in the value of education. How has that worked out with foster
kids who may not share that value?What about kids who just aren't destined to go
to college, whether it's lack of ability or interest or preparation? Is that
hard for you to accept? Do they worry about living up to expectations, real or
not? About not fitting in with your family? What if they are interested in
college but at a lower caliber school than the ones you teach at/went to?

Honey, if any of them went to any school at all I would be pleased as punch.

The short version is that none of the boys grew up expecting to go to college or with the self-discipline to do well. All have performed below their ability, which has caused me some frustration. David never finished high school. Carl finished but never did what he needed to go to apply to college. Evan applied, but failed most or all of his classes the one semester he was there. Gary has a hard time making himself do what he doesn't want to do and at this point I don't have strong expectations for college for him.

We always try to talk to kids about their grades individually. I found myself telling Andrew that there was no reason at all for getting a B in band, and then telling David that I knew he could get a C in this course if he applied himself. We continue to try to talk to each kid about their own goals for themselves and whether what they are doing will get them there. I try to keep on that path, encouraging each of them to pursue their own goals.

And I know that I treat the bioboys differently, and I don't know which group of kids I am the better parent to. I am invested in Andrew and Brian achieving success as I understand it. If either of them made the decisions that Carl or David have I would not be able to accept it. I don't know what I could do about it, but it would upset me. I would not be able to sigh and think, "if only they had had the encouragement they needed from the time they were young." No. I would be thinking, "what did I do wrong?"

There don't seem to be major tensions between the boys regarding academics. Brian a year ahead in math and doing well; Gary is a year behind and struggling. That doesn't seem to be interesting or important to either of them. I don't know if there will be new tensions now that Andrew is in college. If there is I think it will have more to do with the fact that we continue to support him financially when we haven't the other boys.

Now one reason for the difference is that the foster boys are part of a very well-funded agency which is prepared to spend at least as much money on them as I have been spending on Andrew. In order to get that money they have been asked to do things that I did not ask Andrew to do.

It is difficult to know what the right call is. When Evan stayed here for a couple of months last year he did not pay rent or even help with the groceries like he said he would. He got free room and board and I did not give him any grief about it. I knew he was saving every penny he could to pay his own bills when he moved out and I was happy to help him do that. On the other hand, I have refused to help David and Carl when I thought that helping them wasn't really helping. I have done very little for David, and he has not asked for anything. Carl I have helped a few times, sending money, buying bus and once a plane ticket, and offering to pay an optometrist if he goes to get new glasses. (He didn't. I don't know if he didn't get around to it or if the request was really a failed attempt to get me to send him a lot of cash.) These acts have been occasional.

Andrew on the other hand is still very much my dependent. If he needs something, I pay for it. When summer comes I will not ask him for rent. Currently he is off at college, where his only job is college, and I send him an allowance of $50/month. When Evan was at a college he was expect by the agency to work 20 hours a week. He kept taking more hours and ended up failing his courses. $50/month would not have been enough to let Evan not work. He was caught up in that circle where you have to have a car to go to work and need to go to work to afford to have your car. He made pretty decent money, and $50/month would not have gone far, but maybe I should have sent it anyway.

When Evan went off to school my perception was that he didn't need money from me, though he did need someone to talk to about the challenges of school and a place to go for holidays. So I gave him that.

So, I seem to be wandering off the track of the original question, but maybe that is an answer to the question. My perception is that whether they go to college is not an issue. I suspect their perceptions of the degree to which I have been fair to them might.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the response - very interesting. I hadn't really thought about it in terms of fairness, in part because I don't have any bio kids. It certainly makes sense, though. My parents, as much as they were all about doing well in school, were very careful to discourage competition between my sister and I, so at least I'll have that to build on.

    I guess my concerns are more about whether a kid would feel like a failure, or even just feel like they don't fit in, in a family that is college-focused if that's not where they are headed. I wonder if in part your boys coming as teens played a role in that - by the time they got to you some of those expectations had already been set and they weren't really trying to 'fit in' in that sense. Seems that could be more of an issue with younger kids.

    Obviously that question had more to do with me than with you. Thanks for making me think, and for letting me ramble :)


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