Sunday, August 02, 2009

Another Permanency Hearing

They happen just like clockwork, every six months. We had one in December and so of course there is one mid-August. The state worker, whom everyone finds annoying, is coming to visit Gary on Friday to talk to him about whether he still wants what he says he wants. What he says he wants is to live here, not be a "burden" to us, and ignore his father. He doesn't want his father's parental rights terminated because it would just get his dad worked up and he might make promises that he wouldn't keep and it would be just awful. (Or, you know, his dad might just agree and sign the papers and that would be ever so much worse.)

Gary also doesn't want to be in foster care, however when he weighs that against being a financial burden, he comes down on the side of staying in care.

It makes me very uncomfortable that he feels this way, although I understand it. Whenever it has come up I have told him that he would never be a burden. He nods.

He is more resistant than any of the other kids to the thought that I might be spending money on him. The other boys were certainly pleased that the agency bought things that they could suspect that they wouldn't get otherwise, but they were pleased if they thought I was paying for something. That I would pay for it was for them an indication that I really cared for them. So we would have conversations like this:

"Sure, you can have that."
"Will [the agency] pay you back for it?"
"I don't know, but don't worry, I think I can spring for it."
Then they would grin and put it in the cart.

Gary on the other hand is more likely to insist he doesn't need something. He is taking guitar at school this year. I asked him if he knows what kind of guitar he will need. He says he won't need one at all. He will just use one of the schools. I mention that the school doesn't have instruments for band, we will probably need to get him a guitar. "You know that is okay, right? We bought Andrew a trumpet and we have rented Brian a bunch of different instruments. We will get you the guitar."

"I don't want you guys to do that. I will figure something out."

And then I am in this awkward place. It's the whole not being a burden thing. He will allow his grades to suffer while he determinedly figures things out, even if there really isn't anyway to figure this out. A guitar isn't the sort of thing that I would want to just buy for him. He needs to pick it out.

So I told him that the agency would pay for it.

They probably will. In the past I have had a social worker tell me that they wouldn't support a kid doing music because said kid needed to concentrate on something else -- like finding a job. I don't think that will happen in this case because Gary is working so hard in so many ways -- and because he is going to a high school for the arts. However, if the social worker did say they wouldn't pay for it, I would just do it anyway.

I've fallen into a perhaps unhealthy pattern of letting Gary believe that the agency reimburses me for expenses that they don't reimburse me for. I don't quite lie. Okay, sometimes I lie.

In the short run it always seems to be the right decision. The kid needs the safety equipment for MMA. I'm buying the same stuff for Brian. Gary refuses to acknowledge that he needs it until I tell him the agency will reimburse me, then he is suddenly happy and admits that he really does need it. So I buy it and I don't mail in the receipt.

In the long run, maybe it isn't a good thing. It does get in the way of him accepting that he has a right to expect help from us.

He is a little more relaxed than he was a year ago. For instance, he didn't feel try to order the least expensive things when we traveled. When we did fast food he even ordered double portions a couple of times. When we stopped at a convenience store and I told the kids to pick out two drinks he picked out the drinks I know are his favorites, and they were significantly more expensive than the sodas. I didn't say anything, but I looked at them there on the counter and smiled. It shows he is relaxing with us.

I hope this doesn't sound like I am determined to demonstrate love by buying things. That isn't it.

Anyway, there was a point to this post, what was it? Oh yeah, he has to talk to his social worker on Friday about his case plan. I wish he believed, deep in his heart, that he wasn't a burden to us and that he could tell the social worker whatever it is that he wanted without worrying it.


  1. So at what point did he develop the burden complex? Is this from the step-mom's programming or something else? Its pretty unusual for a teen to honestly give a flip about this type of thing, imho. Does the SW or counselor have any advice on how to overcome it with him? He's going to have a hard time in later life with a spouse if he cannot or will not believe that he is worthy of investment (emotional or financial) or help, don't you think?

  2. Stacie,
    I can think of lots of ways the message could have been communicated to him. Probably most clearly when he was living with his aunt. She was given legal guardianship. That was before he was in foster care. He was certainly TOLD he was a burden then.

    I don't think there is a solution to this other than what we have been doing...loving him and parenting him and trying to communicate in small ways over and over that he is worthy of love and all sorts of investments. He is getting better.

    It comes back with big things like this though.

  3. Baby steps in the dark. Just keep loving on him and assuring him he is love-worthy.

  4. I haven't been where you are, nor have I been a kid in Gary's place, so this is just a thought...

    Is Gary (or any of the other kids) aware of the financial issues you and your husband were having several months ago? What I mean, I guess, is do you think he might be concerned that y'all really can't afford some of these things? (As opposed to it just being an issue of his deserving these things.)

  5. r,
    I don't THINK so. We certainly tried to keep it all very low key with them. On the other hand, they definitely knew when we were able to pay off the debts. I tried to be vague about how bad it was, but I was open about the fact that I was happy to be debt-free.

    In the past six months Gary has seen us decide the house needed to be re-wired and replace the frig. Neither of those was done with any financial hand-wringing. That may have played a part in him being more relaxed about ordinary things.

    I really don't know.

  6. Sometimes that behavior is taught at a very young age and it's hard to get over it. If you grow up poor or your parents are always explaining the cost of food or items that you need it makes an everlasting impression and you will always be concious of it. It is a hard habit to break. Even as an adult that can go to a restaurant and order the best steak I have a hard time doing so because of how that was approached in my childhood.

    I think you are doing the right thing by giving him the impression that you will be reimbursed for it.


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