Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where is your family?

I have been visiting a group home for the last three weeks, ostensibly to provide therapy for several of the teenage boys who live there. I came away sad, angry, and amazed. These boys are some of the four thousand children currently in foster care in San Diego County. They are dependents of the court. But unlike seventy-five percent of the rest of those children who will likely be reunited with their parents, these boys spend the rest of their growing up years in the system. Except, they will not because when they turn eighteen they will be turned out on their own with a lot more growing up to do. Like many system children they have lived in many foster homes before the families gave up on them, they gave up on family life, or their own families gave up on them. To be sure, they have mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, siblings and grandparents out there. Sometimes they have contact and know where they are, and sometimes they do not. But no one is really trying to get these boys back home. The court calls it a permanent plan, but for these children reunification, adoption, and guardianship were not permanent. They live in limbo. Sometimes their parents do not want them back. The boys find it easier to live in a "home" with staff instead of parents. They have reason not to trust any adults, including a new therapist, let alone teachers, employers, or partners. And yet, these boys learn to live with one another, some making plans for college while others lose hope and drift. They are all but forgotten except that we will meet them again as the parents of children we will remove and attempt to raise in the future in the village in which you are really on your own.