I received the following as an email this morning. I've made one short reply, and now have permission to post this for your response. Please give any support/thought you can.
In subsequent emails, the writer asked for a list of appropriate reading materials she could get for the young woman.
Thank you from her and me!
Hello, I've been reading your blog for quite a while. I'm a foster mom and had something happen this past weekend that I need some advice on how to handle.
My husband and I have been fostering a teenage girl for the past 1-1/2 years. She has been in and out of residential a couple of times during that time because of some pretty severe behavior issues but we are currently having her home on weekends and working toward bringing her back home soon. K is 17 years old but emotionally much younger. She has suffered severe neglect during her childhood and has severe abandonment issues. She is parentified, having had to care for three younger siblings over the course of a couple of years while mom was drinking. At one time before she was in our care, she disclosed being sexually abused but then retracted stating she said it for revenge purposes. Recently she said she thought it was real for a long time but now thinks it was just a dream.
This past weekend, she was home, using our computer and my husband found that she had searched on YouTube for "girls kissing and grinding." He asked her about it and she said one of the other girls in residential had told her to look it up. He simply told her it was not appropriate to use our computers to look for sexually explicit videos. About 5 minutes later she came to us and told us that she wanted to explain. She said she has been confused about her sexuality but she thinks maybe it is because she has been so confined and has lived with so many other girls for so long. She admitted to "experimenting" and then quickly added that she was "over it now." She was obviously scared and teary eyed when telling us all of this and admitted being afraid we would hate her. We assured her that we loved her no matter what but that she wasn't allowed to search out sexually explicit material on the computer. She came to me alone later and again said she was worried what we thought about her. I assured her that I was more concerned about her mis-use of the computer than I was about her sexuality. We talked at length about her confusion and I encouraged her to talk to her therapist about it but she was very hesitant to do that. She said she thinks it is just something that happens to girls when they are so confined with other girls. She suggested that a couple of the girls she lives with have made sexual advances toward her and she went along with it. I tried to validate her feelings and assured her I would be supportive of her either way. But this is new territory for me and I really wasn't sure what to say. There were tears and hugs and then it was over. It wasn't brought up again the rest of the weekend.
We have never suspected K of being lesbian. She has always shown an interest in boys. So this was a shock to us. We feel like we handled it pretty good. I hope. My question is where to go from here. Should I let her therapist or caseworker know what she told us? Should the residential staff know what's going on with the girls? Or should I leave it up to K to tell? Something about just leaving it up to her doesn't feel right because I don't really think she'll tell anyone else.
Thank you for any suggestions you can give me. I appreciate your blog and how open you are about sharing all the emotional ups and downs in foster parenting. Now I appreciate you even more because I really need support in handling this new little twist in our fostering experience!
Daughter, sister, wife, mother, foster-parent blog writer, philosophy professor ... I am and have been many things. These days my identities as a teacher of bioethics and the daughter of a woman with Parkinson's and dementia lead me to agree with Peter Singer, "It's different when it's your mother."