Background: I mentor 2 young ladies, each 14 years of age. My girls currently live in a children’s center for foster youth and children who have behaviorial issues. I’ve been paired with my girls for two plus years.
Today, I called to speak with the girls. Both of my girls are extremely smart, but extremely different. When I called, I first asked to speak to S, because she loves talking on the phone, while P can be reserved at times. The staff who picked up the phone informed me that S was on “restriction” and not allowed to talk on the phone. I found it rather odd, to restrict a youth from talking to her mentor, but I just spoke to P instead.
My conversation with P was very short, because she’s not a “phone” person. P recently moved to the center two weeks prior, so we talked about her recent transition and how she felt about it. Her response to most of my questions were “I’m okay.” But when I asked about why they moved her, Ms. P perked up. Her response, “According to the staff there, I have anger issues. So, if I have anger issues,why not get me anger counseling, you just don’t send me away”
I couldn’t agree with P more. And it was very heartbreaking to hear. In her few words, I can tell P was hurt by the recent move. Why is it easier to displace a child, move and transfer her school, than it is to get her counseling. I would not say this if P was violent and she was capable of harming others. But knowing her for the past two years, she’s mostly quiet, at times she can get mouthy, especially if she doesn’t get what she wants or feels mistreated. But I think all these things should be expected and normal for a teenage girl. It saddens me and its just another thing that gets added to the list of issues I have with the foster care system.
Ok, so after my talk with P, I receive a phone call from S. Like most of our conversations, S often complains about the center and normally refers to it as “jail.” In a sense, it is jail for her, she’s not allowed to leave the center unless an approved adult like her social worker or mentor (me) comes and sign her out. Due to recent behavior changes, S is no longer allowed to attend high school off campus, instead she is tutored by the center’s staff with other students. She complains because she said that the class is remedial and really is intended for students with learning disabilities, but they lump the behavior students in the class as well. She is promised, that if her behavior improves, she’ll be able to return to school after Spring Break. (sidenote: how do you expect a student to perform when you constantly take her in and out of school. That’s another post)
So, I asked S, how is she able to call me, because when I called earlier, the staff mentioned she was not to be on the phone. Her response, “You called me today?!?” I can tell she’s even more frustrated, S really hates missing our phone calls. So she politely asks me to hold on. This is what I hear in the background:
S: “Excuse me, my mentor called me today, and she was told she couldn’t speak to me”
Staff: “Yes, that’s because she’s not a blood relative. When you’re on restriction, the only exception for phone calls are for blood relatives”
S: “How many blood relatives do I have on my contact list?”
Staff: “Um, none”
S: “Well does it make sense to limit my phone use to only blood relatives, when I don’t have any on my contact list?”
S: “This is my mentor, not a friend. She’s an adult, and it makes no sense for you to refuse her call, when she’s all I have”
Staff: *more silence*
S returns back to the phone and says to me “I really hate this place and the stupid staff!”
Needless to say, S was not allowed to stay on the phone longer, especially after calling the staff stupid within hearing distance. But once again, my 14 y/o is demonstrating more sense than the people left in charge of her. And yes, I am still working on S and the appropriate way to talk to adults, but its hard when she’s often put in a difficult situation, and she’s had to be her own protector for most of her life.
Today was another stack in my heap of issues with the foster care system. It often leaves me frustrated. But realistically, how can you expect a state or county agency to raise a child.
If you are looking for ways help the hundreds of thousands of youth in foster care, there are many ways to help. Consider adoption or becoming a foster parent. Other options also include becoming a CASA or mentor. Contact your local youth services agency to find out how you can help.