Tuesday, May 02, 2006

End of the Line (For Now)

Well. Just like that, "Josie" is gone.

I'm not even sure I understand exactly what specifically happened, but I believe I know some of the real causes. Apparently she issued a threat to one of the para-teachers when they were on their way to equine therapy. "Josie" apparently was confused about it herself, claiming to her counselor "I just lost it." Indeed.

"Something" happened later, The Wife wasn't exactly sure what it was, but some other type of incident, and it landed her at the sheriff's office. The Wife was contacted and told that it was her choice: if she thought we could control the situation, "Josie" could come home with us tonight and they'd figure out what (if anything) to do tomorrow. If not, she'd head straight to the juvenile detention center (in a largish town you've maybe heard of but probably never been to) an hour and a half away.

That's not a fair thing to ask, especially when she didn't have a chance to consult with me...but she made the right call. "Josie" is, as I type this, probably settling into bed after maybe having gotten to know her cellmate(s) a little.

This county, and now that I learn more it sounds like one particular social worker, has made such a balls-up of her case that I can't begin to understand where their heads are at. Do these people really do this for a full-time living? How are we supposed to be able to help or even control this bipolar girl when they keep her away from us more than half the time, and during the time she's not with us there is nobody making sure she is taking her meds?

How do they expect us to establish any kind of trust or rapport with her when they keep hyping her up about going home "soon"? How can we have any kind of leverage to get her to do the things she needs to be doing when we can't keep her from home visits and it's so easy to wait one or two days and she's out of the house again anyway?

How can we have any effect whatsoever when her mother is not only a drunk but a complete pushover?

Due to my technical wizardry and "Josie's" lack of care in chatting and emailing, we now know that she has pierced one of her nipples. In front of a boy. A boy she has claimed not only not to like, but to be annoyed with. I mentioned earlier the infamous tongue-piercing. Some of her chat sessions are downright slutty. Most of the clothes she wears by choice likewise.

She was doing very well from the time she got here until that damned SW got involved, and it's been downhill since, and now it's picking up speed. We can do nothing for this girl under these circumstances except visit her when we have the chance and bring her a Subway sandwich (her favorite).

The only--the only--good thing that has come out of this is that when we went to bring in her meds to the cop shop and say goodbye, she hugged me. I've wanted that to happen since she first got here the day after Christmas, and when I finally get it, it's under such gut-wrenching circumstances that I'd just as soon forget it ever happened.

Except not really. Because, like an alcoholic who finally hits their personal bottom, maybe this is the thing that, while rude and uncomfortable and lots of other nasty things, finally gets her to realize that she's got to change something in her life, with or without us.

Her PO made an pertinent observation that began to change my impression of him; he noted that she is so focused on being with her friends and so "in the now" that she's not working on herself and her own future at all. Another thing Mom mentioned tonight about "Josie"...as I sit here and try to remember, I can't recall a single instance when I gave her a ride or bought her something nice or The Wife took her shopping or anything where she simply thanked us. That's got to be the description of some disorder or other.

The other thing Mom (veteran of nearly 30 years of the foster wars) mentioned that sort of floored me is that "Josie" was a more difficult kid to have in our house than one of her last kids, who was one of her worst ones ever and who Mom is still working on from time to time with no visible effect. Wow.

Now. All that said, we are prepared to welcome "Josie" back into our house. If you recall, I foresaw this part of the opera, and the show isn't over by a long ways. "Josie" still has well over two years of foster home elligibility, and I'm betting she finds a way to get herself landed in one again...and we'll be the first ones they call.


This county WILL give us a written agreement--signed by anybody official who might conceivably have anything to do with "Josie" and probably their spouses and next-of-kin--that will stipulate that we WILL have the power to curtail home visits in the event of misbehavior, visits having a bad effect on her, etc. Their SWs, POs and whoever will NOT pump her up about going home. We WILL be given a minimum timeframe in which to try to do any good for her. "Josie" will NOT know that timeframe, but WILL be told it's "a long time". It WILL be a fairly long time, 6 months at LEAST. We, in consultation with the PATH social worker, her counselor at school and her teachers and other people that actually know her WILL have input (unlike now) on when she will be judged to be ready to start going home.

Or we won't do it. We refuse to be a party to institutionalized child abuse, and that's what this smells like to me. Take it or leave it.

What I would say to "Josie" right now if only I could: I love you, you little snot. Even if you're a snot, you're our snot. We'll keep doing the best we can by you. When you get older you'll probably realize what pieces of crap the adults handling your case really were. When that day comes, if you need someone to hold them down while you beat the shit out of them I am definitely in. I hope you make it through this stuff and have a good life, girl. Call us sometimes. We already miss you.


At 9:12 PM , Blogger FosterAbba said...

Sorry to hear that things have gone this way with "Josie." I wish I had something really brilliant to say that would make it better, but I have no suggestions. :(

At 8:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having a foster child leave under those circumstances are never good. I wish I could give some words of advice, too, but right now I don't think words are even enough. I do know your frustration with the system. It is hard to even attempt to make a difference in a child's life when you're reguarded as nothing more then a long term babysitter. Your family as well as "Josie" is in our prayers. May God touch her life with his guiding hand and your family be embraced with a comforting arm. No matter how you may feel right now, you did make an impact on "Josie" by just being there. Take care!

At 6:14 PM , Blogger Heather said...

I think you live in Minnesota? You may be interested in a little feel-good piece about your state in Time magazine today. It discusses how the focus in foster care/social work is getting kids back to their families ASAP, and how that is so wonderful. Having read about Josie, I certainly took the whole thing with a grain of salt.

Best of luck! Sounds like Angel is doing well.


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