These darn kids. They worm their lying, cussing, angry, defiant, sweet, funny, lonely, little-selves right into your heart.
Working in a group home is the pits. Living there must be two-thousand times worse…three thousand.
There are up to eight different personalities at any one time where I work: These kids have to room together, eat together, watch tv together, ride in a big red van together; fight for hierarchy. They hate each other; they bond. They become “bro’s”. For awhile. Then the new-kid comes along; the old friend is now low-man on the totem pole. Or somebody rats someone out. Or they run away.
When our kiddos turn 18, we turn them loose. Not “us” per se; the state does this. We are a non-profit agency and give these children shelter, food, routine, activities, school, love.
We simply follow the rules that the guardian (state) gives us.
These youngsters can’t wait to leave us. We are “mean;” we have rules: They have bedtimes and study hour; they have to ask every time they want to go to their room, a lot of structure. I agree some of it is too strict, but I also agree it has to be this way or the cute little monkeys would run the circus. THAT…would be…well, I can’t even describe what would happen! Lol
Oh, they can’t wait to turn 18! They can smoke without getting cited. They don’t have to ask if they can take a piss. They are out of the system! They’re FREE!
And then it happens. Their new-found freedom lasts only for a few hours. Then they are hungry. Then they need to sleep somewhere. They want more pot, more pills, whatever…so they can numb themselves again from whence they came. What I mean by that is, you can show/teach/guide these kids in different directions, but they always go back to what they know. It is their script. As I like to say: “You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.”
Parents: It all boils down to how you love your children as babies. I mean it. If you don’t fire those neurons in the brain when they are infants…they DO NOT wire. It’s over. True: Your brain is always able to re-learn; fire and re-wire, but there are less than few that have the patience to do that. Those children will test you BEYOND your limits. When they push and push, and push you some more, that is what is EXPECTED. It’s normal and part of the process; it is SUPPOSED to happen. And that is when YOU are supposed to hold on to them tighter.
And the “holding on tighter?” That happens…never?
Shortly after dischage, we start getting phone calls at the group home. “Hey, it’s me. How are ya? So…I’m having a baby. Do you and Annie still work on Sunday’s? Ya? Maybe I’ll stop by.”
For those of us (staff) who sneak our cell phone numbers to some of these kids when the are discharged, we receive calls, texts…even years after they’ve left us. It might be midnight when the calls start rolling in: “My cat got killed by our dog,” cries one little soul who lived with us for years. All of that time…the only thing that child longed for was to have a cat again.
“My dad passed away,” says another young adult.
It simply breaks my heart that WE, the “mean staff” from the group home, are the people these “adults” call; call first, and quite frankly, probably the ONLY people they have to call when their cat dies, or they gave birth to a child, etc. Well, it breaks my heart yet makes me feel good at the same time: To me, it means I’ve done my job if these kids know I genuinely care about them. That is one HARD concept for most of them to grasp: Someone cares. Truly.
“I’ve just been getting fucked up. I’m so sick of everything…I just wanna get fucked up and pass on.” Those are obviously the most difficult calls. It’s absolutely heart wrenching.
It is simply impossible to “leave your job at work.” I thought I had learned not to “bring it home with me” a long time ago. Nope. It always sneaks back in. I know this is a struggle for most people in any line of work.
I have both literally and figuratively brought my work home. My husband and I fostered a youngster for one year. That is a whole other story, however. And a long one at that. In fact, it’s turning into a book on my computer.
What does “The System” do for these children? We pass them around from group home, to foster care, to therapeutic group home, to residential treatment, to foster home, to group home, to detention, to hospitalization, to group home. Then they turn 18.
Truly…this is the most vicious cycle I have ever seen. From every “important” meeting I attend, TREATMENT TEAM MEETINGS, CHILD-CENTERED MEETINGS, FOSTER CARE REVIEWS, you name it: They are all pretend! PRETEND! They say the same thing in every meeting, everyone types up fancy words; Here are the “stages” of so-and-so’s anger and what to do and how to handle each stage.
Here is a quote from one kiddos psychological anger profile: Stage one: “Turns red in the face and yells.”
OH, thank you!!! I get it! It’s rocket science! Oh my gosh! THANK GOODNESS all of these professionals with their degrees have all gathered together for the “sake of the child” to give us a heads-up! I would have never figured that out on my own! WOW! WE WILL BE ABLE TO HANDLE THESE SITUATIONS SO MUCH BETTER NOW THAT WE KNOW THE SIGNS OF ANGER!
ALL of these meetings are like this. “Oh…yes, we are working on getting the siblings some visits together.” (These specific abused and neglected children are now in 2 separate foster homes 3 miles apart, needless to say, they only ONCE had a sibling visit. One foster home REFUSED to let the child at the other foster home even phone their sibling! There was NO reason for this other than “control.” Control for what? The FOSTER PARENTS MENTAL ISSUES. The child didn’t, or shall I say, “wouldn’t” have any emotional issues if it were not for adults like this doing very bad things to that child for their whole life.)
The meetings go the EXACT same way MONTH AFTER MONTH. “Oh yes, we are working on a sibling visit.” They say it the next month, and the following month, and the next and the next and the next and the next. At this point I am not attending as staff, but as a VERY upset and ANGRY Mama-Bear for our foster child! No one will do ANYTHING and my hands are completely tied. My 15 year old baby wrote snail-mail letter to the 3-miles-away siblings, tried PHONING them to say hello. (Which I actually got in trouble for?? There were NO rules about these poor children not being able to speak to each other!!) I later found out the the well, ASSHOLE foster “parents” threw away every letter that my baby wrote to them. The siblings at the assholes house were not allowed to check the mail or answer the phone.
I have now been on the receiving ends as “staff” representing the child, and “mother” of foster child. NEITHER end works BECAUSE of the fake system. Hence; that manuscript I need to pick back up.
OH HOW MY BLOOD BOILS for the hundreds of children that we adored and that had passed through our doors…
HOW? How can we break this multifaceted and vicious cycle?