Monday, October 19, 2009

A Response -- Who am I?

If you don't mind, I had a few questions. How old are you? What do you do for a living? You said you worked with teens, but in what capacity? You say "we" — are you married?

Crayon -- I don't mind you asking questions, but, my answers may not be too satisfactory.

Although I enjoy interacting with people online and have had friends in my life whom I've initially met in the strangest places (on a Subway platform in a large city, on a bus in a foreign country, etc.), I can be very reserved about the sharing of specific details.

So, I am old enough that I could have had my own 15 yr old and young enough that I still dream of possibly succeeding in my quest for bio-kids.

I am married and we said to each other numerous times this weekend that we didn't know how single parents could survive. There were two of us and we involved outside emergency personnel as well but we're still absolutely exhausted. I am thankful for my partner on a daily basis -- I'd just about given up on love when I finally found it right in front of me.

I work with teens in a variety of contexts. I've gathered significant work experience with kids aged grade 6 - 12 and limited experience with kids in grades 1 - 5 and undergraduates. Right now I work predominantly with (about 100) 11-17 year olds.

Thank You

I appreciate the sentiments. We do seem to be getting the same message from everyone we talk to. So, logically, I believe that I did everything I could. But, it's still emotionally very challenging. I get it...a 15 yr old who doesn't want to be somewhere can really do a lot of damage and cannot really be forced to stay.

I was surprised by how calm I managed to be within the midst of it all -- I would have expected myself to react more. But, somehow I just kept saying, "I will not be the next person to reject this hurt child." Sadly, in the end, not being rejected was something she couldn't handle.

Thank you for the additional support.

Working with teens is always hard, but, fostering them is apparently going to require a new level of expertise. Hopefully, our next placement will go better.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Did I Fail?

I have so much to say and so little I probably can say in this forum.

The crux is that A asked to leave after discovering that she couldn't convince us to kick her out with escalating behaviour.

So, on the one hand, I feel like I did well because I passed the tests and didn't reject her despite some pretty extreme attempts to force us to. On the other hand, I feel like I failed because she's gone and it appears that the behavioural escalation wasn't really a test, but, rather an illogical approach to getting what she wanted.

I also can't help but feel that it was a tip of the iceberg scream for help and I don't know if she's going to get that help now that she's gone back to a place where they invest less direct energy into caring specifically for her.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oh God!

So many things to say and so lacking in a way to say them.

In short:
- I totally get why people like to start with infants and why it's hard to find foster homes for teens.
- I feel rather lied to about A's history and completely not supported by the system that told us we were getting into a shared parenting experience.
- We've said (many, many times) that we will NOT kick her out, but, she can choose to ask to leave. But, my goodness it's challenging to keep saying the same thing and just keep absorbing more and more problematic behaviours.
- So many bad decisions in such a short period of time and such extreme behaviour that I'm completely out of my depth.
- Exhausted because we decided that we couldn't allow ourselves to both be asleep at the same time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feeling Better Today

I think there are still issues and I don't really feel like we've solved anything. But, I'm feeling better and more confident today.

I hate confrontation and getting started with it all felt really hard. But, the reality is that we are expressing concern, telling her we care, etc.

She responded to things by doing more homework last night than I'd seen in a week. Let's hope my confidence lasts through the next issue/test.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Longer than a comment should have been...became a post

Thanks for the response.

Sadly, in our jurisdiction, truancy is now ENTIRELY the parents' problem. The schools are required to have a certain number of teaching hours, but, the students are not required to attend. However, if they don't attend, they don't pass and the parents have failed to fulfill their responsibility of getting them there. (I.e. I can't pass it back to the school and truancy officers.) I can email the social worker (whom I believe wouldn't appreciate a skip-day) and try to make her get involved. There are also supposed to be people she can refer us fact we were told that the referral had been made, but, we haven't heard from anyone.

I do agree with you about the control issue, though. We've tried very hard to give her lots of control over things, but, she's having a hard time seeing it. I think if I were to do it all again (which I'm sure I will someday) I'd start with more rules so that it would be easier to relax them. Instead, I feel like we have to pull them in...after all, when we said that she could be in control of things we qualified that she had to make sure school happened.

I do like the idea of thinking of chores as something to earn though.

And, I think that the planned skip day (perhaps with my DW since my work would not appreciate it) would likely scare her into wanting to go to school. (She's not such a big fan of spending time with us -- she'd like to ignore our presence.)

She says she likes the cat, but, she's been ignoring him tonight too.

Info In

Two missed classes -- an entire afternoon skipped.

Me: Why weren't you in school?
Me: Where were you?
A: Around.

I said more while she avoided looking at me and tried to ignore that I was talking.

Is anybody reading? What do I do? How do I make someone (who says that they like school) go to school?

How much can we hope to accomplish at a time?

She skipped at least one class today -- waiting to find out about others.

She didn't get up in time to eat breakfast, make lunch, etc.

She's not cleaning up after herself, leaving lights on, etc.

She's not doing any chores.

I kind of get it. Nobody's ever really pushed her on these issues before AND they are clearly good ways to push us to prove that we're willing to keep at it. BUT, can we really try to make it all happen at once, or, is that just piling on the "punishment". (I don't really think it's punishment to be expected to eat breakfast and lunch, but, she thinks it is.)

I also don't get how to deal with the dichotomy between "I like school" and regular skipping. Why does she skip if she likes it? Is it a test for long will you keep caring; will you really consequence me if I fail? Or, is it a test for the you care enough about me to follow up on a skip? Or, is it a test for the social worker...will you send me back to a group home if I screw up in the foster home? Or, is it just that she's coming apart at the seams and needs someone to catch her as she falls. (Or, is she just a teenager making stupid decisions?) So many possibilities!

How do I know what to do?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sometimes School Assignments are Thoughtless

Why would you tell teens that they are likely to have a job similar to that of their parents? I mean, I've worked with enough kids who felt like they'd be failures if they didn't become doctors/lawyers like their parents -- I'm talking here about kids who I knew would never get there -- but, it's suddenly even worse when you're looking at a smart kid who comes from a family with issues.

We need to do a better job of thinking about where our kids may be coming from!

Getting There

A actually asked for a lift today and is willing to be picked up. It still seems a bit like we're taking her somewhere I'm not convinced is a perfect "hang-out" place, but, at least we're being allowed to know where it is without it being told it's a crazy request.

I have my moments where I think we're going to be able to do this well and she'll ultimately be truly part of our family (as in she'll consider us family as well) and other moments where I think we'll continue to be foster parents and to take teens and pressure them in ways they don't like, but, they'll still move out as soon as the social workers let them.

We did talk about the fact that she's allowed to stay in care until she's 22 and that the fact she CAN walk away at 16 doesn't mean that she should. Ah well!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Feeling a bit better now....

We ended up having a good day -- except of course for the point when she said that she was walking out the moment she turns 16 (which is the day she no longer HAS to do what the social workers want). So, at some point in the next few months I'm really going to have to hope we bond enough to be able to convince her that it's worthwhile to be in a family that cares about you. (It makes me wonder what our society was thinking when they decided that 16 year olds are mature enough to be on their own.) But, I probably can't worry about that issue yet.
A-15 moved in last week. She's balking a LOT at the fact that we want to spend time with her and want to know what's going on in her life.

We're trying hard to pull back and not ask much and to give her lots of space. But, we're just not okay with the idea of her "going out" and us not knowing where, with whom, etc.

On the one hand, I completely get that this isn't what she's used to and she has no reason to want to spend time with us. On the other hand, I'm not willing to be the kind of parent that she was removed from and isn't allowed to live with. It's a tough balance!

I'm spending a lot of time wondering why I WANTED to do this. I take a lot of deep breaths and remind myself that I CAN do this, but, why did I WANT to?

I know how to choose to treat someone with love regardless of how they respond to me and I don't expect her to suddenly like me. But, she wanted a family over a group home and we told her what that meant to us and now she seems shocked by it all. I really hope it's just adjusting and that things will improve. (If this is a "honeymoon" then I'm worried about the crash.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can I do this?

A-15 joined our family a couple of days ago. On the one hand, she seems like a pretty good kid and like a really good fit for us. On the other hand, she's lying to us about things and seems to think we're not able to figure it out.

I deal with this kind of thing all the time with teens during my work hours and I know what I'd do about it there. But, we're trying to build relationship here and engender trust. So, I want her to believe that I trust her and I want her to choose honesty herself.

The thing is, her lies are all about making herself look good. She's been given a pretty clear message that she needs to make this family work or she'll have to go to a group home. So, she's trying to make herself look better than she actually is. I know it's asking a lot for someone to trust me with their true self, but, pretty soon I'm going to have to tell her that I know the truth about some of these things--teacher interviews are in a week.

I can do this, right?