Agency DiscontentAnybody who has ever done any foster care at all must have at some point wondered whether they were working with complete doorknobs. We are no exception. This was an expected "feature" of existence in the foster world, at least for us. We knew there would be good social workers and bad, good administrators and bad as well as good kids and bad.
But lately, it seems to us that the agency we have been working through has been really slipping. They don't seem to have been interested in our opinions on issues regarding the various kids we've had, they seem very out-of-touch with what we go through, and there's a certain amount of...distraction there. They're not focused.
This was highlighted this last weekend. Last week was a bad one for "Jake". The previous weekend, he had had a friend over. He apparently showed her or told her that he had "a gun" and some "drug paraphernalia" hidden in our house. Rule #1: if you're going to do stuff wrong, make sure you can trust people to keep their mouth shut before you show or tell them anything. Anyway, she goes to the same day-treatment school he does and she told one of her counselors, and the jig was up.
The cops came over and rifled his room, finding a bb gun and a pot pipe, which The Wife seemed to think was clean enough that it had never been used. "Jake" was taken to the hospital. Twice. Apparently they decided he was a risk to himself and others, at least briefly. There was general upset, and while he didn't have much to say about the whole episode, I think it was unsettling for "Jake".
You see, I've gotten to know this kid, and my gut tells me he is a decent person and can be trusted with most things (being alone with a girl he finds attractive NOT being one of them). I would personally feel comfortable sitting with him behind me holding a knife OR a gun. Let's face it, people. When you're dealing with troubled kids (or people in general) you're placing a certain amount of faith in God. If they really decide that they want to kill you, they're going to find a way to do it. A gun just makes it easier. And there's a far, far, FAR greater chance they'll do it to themselves before they'll do it to you or your family. And they'll find a way to do that too if they're serious, gun or no gun.
But "Jake" has been mistreated by the system, from what I can see. How else to describe the circumstances of a kid who's spent like 11 years in the system and been juggled around to well over 20 placements? They say he's RAD. I would be, too. So would you, if over 20 homes didn't want to hang on to you. At some point it stops being a disorder and starts being a rational response to how the world seems to be treating you, I would think.
Now...the professional mental health people have fully evaluated this kid, and some of them (people I trust) have raised concerns about him. They see something in him that isn't quite right...and I respect that. The kid does have problems. My issue is, have some of the things that have been done to "help" him caused those problems to be lesser or greater? There is now a dedicated husband-and-wife team who have gone to the trouble of learning to know this kid, who like him, who have at least some talent in working with these kinds of kids, and who desperately want to help him. Shouldn't such people be incorporated into attacking the problem and finding solutions? Apparently not.
The agency's response to last week's brouhaha? Friday night, at about 9:30pm, they called us and said they'd "feel more comfortable" if we would ship him to a town about 1.5 hours away for the weekend, to a group home he'd stayed at before. Immediately. No, they wouldn't provide transportation. Either way. Arg.
Mom and Dad happened to be over that night and were going home, and while grossly out of their way, it wasn't as out of the way for them as it would have been for me to drive all the way there and back again, so they volunteered to drive. Bless their hearts. For the 10,000th time.
I had the happy job of telling "Jake" that he would be going, and he had about 10 minutes to get his stuff ready. I made sure he understood that this was most definitely NOT my idea or The Wife's.
I am seriously considering whether we wouldn't be better off jumping ship from our current agency and just joing the local county's stable of foster homes. The reimbursement would probably be lower and the cases wouldn't be quite so..."Interesting". But then, we'd have an easier time raising a stink when something didn't seem right, and the cases would be much less..."Interesting". Heh. "Interesting" is very much a double-edged sword.
I think there's a lot of fostering left in us, and that seems to be rare. Not many people are built to take the abuse from kids, government bureaucracies and so forth that are sometimes required of foster parents. Cops have a similar requirement...they take a lot of crap they don't deserve from people who have no right to be dealing out crap, too. I admire them. I would be a horrible cop.
But we may need to make a change at some point. For now, I think The Wife is leaning toward trying to work this through, and she's probably right. She usually is, and I'm usually too eager to jump ship on things, so I'll follow her lead on this for now. But there IS a limit on what we can really accept, too.
And then there's "Jake". That poor kid has really been a stellar performer since he came here. By far the easiest kid to live with that we've had in most ways. I think we may have started to build some trust with him. He's got nobody else in the world except a sister that we haven't heard from since he's been here. He contributes as a family member, and loves the pets and Amanda. We've set up a nice little suite for him downstairs where he has better access to the 50" TV than we do. He cleans the basement without being asked, and does most other chores with only one asking. He pitches in on special home improvement projects, he cooks dinner once a week or so, he has an ironic sense of humor I love, and he is comfortable enough to give me an unending stream of guff about the state of my 1996 tracker that, shall we say, has seen better times, particularly since it was totaled hitting a deer and was resurrected to play the role of "old beater" for the rest of its days.
We can't let him go. He's only got a year of school left, and we could actually make a difference with this one. He's the kind that could decide to adopt us as his unofficial, or even official, family for the rest of his adult days. And we would welcome that, if it was what he wanted. I'd love it if he came back to visit for the occasional weekend and we went out and fished. That's the stuff life is made of, especially when I get on in years and fishing starts to look like a better and better way to spend my time.
This post feels a little disjointed...but then again, I guess that's how I'm feeling overall right now.