Monday, February 21, 2011

Oh sweetheart

Part of why Odessa is in care is because her father passed away and then mom was just unable/unwilling to care for her. We had a very rough night chez Foster Ima and I learned the following things:

1. No one told Odessa that her dad was sick and dying. (She was about 11 at the time.) So she didn't get to say goodbye, didn't get a last time for her dad to tell her he loved her, was lied to by everyone in her family.

2. Perhaps her dad could have been helped by a kidney transplant? Odessa kept saying through her crying "I would have given you a kidney."

3. She is really angry at her dad for dying (as is completely understandable) because he is the only person she could ever count on and then he left her too and so she is in this cruddy situation.

I should add that this is all MY fault. (Not really ALL my fault. There are many times before I got involved that other people did crappy things to Odessa.) I could have said no to the placement because I'm not at a place in my life to make a life-long commitment to a teenager (or anyone). I could have suggested at our meeting on Friday that the social worker didn't need to request a new placement. But I did say yes to the "one month" placement and really should have known better! And I didn't stop the team from agreeing to request a new placement (I also didn't encourage that part of the conversation). So Odessa is feeling abandoned yet again, this time by me.

As an aside: she was two hours and 40 minutes late for curfew, including a visit by the police to take a missing persons report. So there will be consequences. (Curfew 2 hrs and 40 minutes early all week with the only exception being if she stays at night school because she can't get home by 7:20 if she's at night school, and something additional that I haven't decided on yet because she was late intentionally to piss me off. Any ideas?)

Plus there are consequences for the lack of communication with me, and that is that I get her phone while she is in her bedroom. (This so that she cannot hide out from me on the phone. She can have privacy while she talks on the phone if she would like it, but she can't say at 6:45 "I'm going to bed" and then talk and text until 3 in the morning. I'm hoping this will have the side benefit of her getting more sleep.)

Poor girl also confessed to lying about homework, so we're a little bit consequence-heavy around these parts.

(Oh, and there's a consequence for me. I was carrying around my camera for no good reason and I broke it, so now I have to buy a new one. If you have any recommendations, send them my way!)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A transcription

What follows is a word-for-word transcription of my last texts with Odessa. Elaboration to follow.

2/19, 6:43 pm: Me: Sweetheart, I'm disappointed that you ignored me this afternoon when you left. Please text me to tell me where you are and when you'll be home.
2/19, 8:21 pm: Me: I'm concerned because you haven't responded to my text. Please text me to tell me you're alive and safe, where you are, and when you'll be home.
2/20, 12:16 pm: Me: Hi sweetie, have a good afternoon. Do you expect to be home for dinner?

2/20, 3:44 pm: Me: I am trying to figure out my evening. Are you planning to be home for dinner?
2/20, 3:45 pm: Odessa: No bye
2/20, 3:48 pm: Me: Thank you for letting me know. Be safe and I'll see you by 10.
2/20, 3:50 pm: Odessa: Im comin in when i feel like it
2/20, 3:52 pm: Me: No. You have been disrespectful for the last 24 hours. You will be home by 10, no arguments. There will be consequences in you are late and they will be more than just an earlier curfew for the week.
2/20, 3:55 pm: Odessa: I dont give a fuck u can do whatever the fuck u feel like im not bout to deal with that shyt do what u want...

If you look closely, you will see that I sent Odessa four text messages before she responded to any.

Yesterday she asked for her allowance. She gets her allowance on Sunday, and while I'm not averse to some flexibility, I cannot handle money on Shabbat, and she got $500 from her brother just this past Sunday. I was not unsympathetic to her desire to get her hair done, but trying to impart some real world lessons. I don't always have the money on hand for her allowance until Sunday morning, and in the real world, her pay day will be her pay day, and she won't be able to go to her boss and say "I need to get my hair done today because the girl can't do it tomorrow or Monday." Maybe the conversation could have gone better on my end, but after Odessa spent a few minutes cursing at me, she opted to put on her coat and storm out of the apartment without responding to my questions or even to my saying goodbye.

I texted her after Shabbat, the first text above.

She came home before her curfew but didn't speak to me at all. At one point I said to her that I was going to the laundry room to get my laundry, she'd had 10 hours to be mad at me, and when I got back upstairs I expected her attitude to be better.

No such luck.

This morning I left while she was still in bed. I knocked on her door, put her allowance next to her on her bed, told her I was going out and would be back later.

After I got to my car I realized I'd forgotten something, so I went back inside, at which point Odessa was awake and talking on the phone. I went back to her room and tried to get her attention (I think it's rude to interrupt someone on the phone, but would never have the opportunity to speak to Odessa if I didn't)...I mentioned her allowance, I said again that I was going out, I told her to text me if she needed me, I asked her to talk to me...nothing.

Then was the no response text early this afternoon, and then finally, after more than 24 hours, the first acknowledgement Odessa gave that I'm alive.

After the unpleasant exchange, she called her lawyer, who then called me. She told me that if Odessa isn't home by her curfew, I should call the police and tell them that I'm a foster parent and my foster daughter isn't home by curfew and to ask to file a missing persons report. I hate the idea of doing this, hate the notion of "criminalizing" being late for curfew, hate involving the police especially with these kids who think that the police are going to be called any time they do anything wrong, and wouldn't do it EXCEPT that Odessa's attorney is the only person who has been constant in her life since she's been in care, is a really great, caring attorney, shares a lot of my values, and even so she is the one who suggested this as a response.

So I'm keeping it in my back pocket as an option.

(I should add that last night there was a teenage female who was shot and killed in one of the neighborhoods where I suspect Odessa hangs out. She was home by the time I learned about this, but this is part of why I don't like it when she doesn't tell me where she is.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Woah, you're actually interested in fostering?

I caught the attention of someone on the subway today when I got snippy about the HUGE CROWD OF PEOPLE right by the door when there were many many open seats. People should realize that sitting is sometimes a good-thing-to-do, just as standing for someone who needs a seat is a good-thing-to-do. So I barely was able to get on the train, then stepped on a guy's bag nearly falling into the crowd of people, and then said a little louder than I meant to "there are seats, why is everyone crowded by the door?"

It turned out that I actually know the person whose attention I caught. Well, let me rephrase.

She knows me. Her boyfriend lives in my building but more to the point, I've met her at shul. Apparently. Still haven't a clue but we had a great conversation about how she's having 17 people over for Shabbat dinner tonight and I'm having a 17 year old over for Shabbat dinner tonight. (If she comes home. Last week she didn't get home until after I left at 6:30; I thought she'd be home by now, but she's not.)

Well, after she expressed shock that I have a 17 year old (in casual conversation I call her "my 17 year old" as opposed to "my foster daughter"--if I can avoid the fawning over how wonderful I am, I'm a happier girl), and I explained that she's my foster daughter, and she did the requisite fawning, she said that she wants to be a foster parent!

Her mother died when she was 16, she didn't have a relationship with her father, and until the last minute no one in her family was willing to step up, so she almost ended up in foster care. It turns out that the relative who did finally step up stole her social security* so she thinks she would have been better off if she had been in the system. And now she wants to be a foster parent, too. If I ever figure out her name, I'll have to keep an eye open for a two bedroom apartment for her.

* As I type this, I wonder if the relative used that money to pay for the added expenses of raising a teenager. But probably not, given how the story went.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Meme

I don't normally do the meme thing. Especially since they extremely very much often have nothing to do with the subject of this blog.

But hey, "7 deadly sins"? Talk about NOTHING to do with the blog. I've heard that the 7 deadly sins have something to do with one of those branches of Christianity. Or maybe all of them? Dunno.

Anyway, this looks particularly self-absorption-inducing and I love me some self-absorption.

I think it's "supposed" to be one sin per day, but let's just throw them all out at once:

Day 1: Pride - 7 Great Things about Yourself
  1. Me? I've got mad skillz at hating myself.
  2. I am the world's worst granddaughter. I could win a prize. Really.
  3. According to the people I know in real life, I am the world's greatest humanitarian, single-handedly saving the world for all the poor kids with sucky parents.
  4. I sleep very well.
  5. I get lots of great ideas. It's the follow-through that's the problem.
  6. I make a killer lime cheesecake.
  7. I'm very good at data entry.
Day 2: Envy - 7 Things You Lack or Covet
  1. Yarn. I mean, I have some. But I want it all.
  2. Good friendships. Or the ability to have good friendships.
  3. Self-confidence. Or was that not obvious already?
  4. A house. (As in, I want to own a house. With a sunroom with tiled floor, and with a yard.)
  5. Goals.
  6. Athletic inclination.
  7. Clothes that fit.
Day 3: Wrath - 7 Things that Piss You Off
  1. People who stand by the door of the subway at rush hour when there are seats available
  2. People who are obviously walking slower than me who cut me off in crosswalks having caught up to me at the light.
  3. Needing to go to work.
  4. People at work who call multiple times with the same question.
  5. Not enough hours in the day. I need more hours, people!
  6. When my coworkers don't answer the phone and I have to.
  7. Stupid people.
Day 4: Sloth - 7 Things You Neglect to Do
  1. Dishes.
  2. Vacuum.
  3. Wash the kitchen floor.
  4. Change my car's oil.
  5. Review my credit report every year.
  6. Go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  7. Invite people for Shabbat meals.
Day 5: Greed - 7 Worldly Material Desires
  1. Shoes. If I go to the mall, I will undoubtedly come home with shoes that I didn't intend to buy. (I went yesterday for a specific pair/function of shoes; came home with those and another pair. Not my fault, though--Odessa made me go to the extra shoe store!)
  2. Yarn.
  3. Books.
  4. DVDs of my favorite TV shows.
  5. Earrings and necklaces.
  6. Craft supplies.
  7. I need a new mattress and I love to sleep; can I count a mattress as a "worldly material desire"?
Day 6: Gluttony - 7 Guilty Pleasures
  1. Cola. I don't actually have a brand preference though I gravitate towards the one whose initials are CC. This is reason number 1 why my clothes don't fit.
  2. Dunkin Donuts coffee with cream and sugar. This is reason number 2 why my clothes don't fit.
  3. Grey's Anatomy and West Wing. And Glee. And Private Practice (a season and a half behind, no spoilers please).
  4. Twitter.
  5. French fries. Or spaghetti. Not together.
  6. Cheese.
  7. Anything made with ground beef. (Have you noticed that most of my guilty pleasures involve calories?)
Day 7: Lust - 7 Love Secrets
  1. See: April Kempner from Grey's Anatomy. Though I guess that while this is a secret, it isn't so much a sin.
  2. Oh dear G-d I have to come up with 6 more?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Race and Consequences

Odessa is now quiet after about thirty minutes of very loud cursing and then a phone call with one of the many adults in her life who care about her. She had the phone on speaker for the phone call so with some effort I eavesdropped. The best line from the woman she was talking to was "cable is not a life or death thing. When you're paying your own bills, you can have cable."

[That I don't have cable is a huge thing in our house. Apparently, there is nothing in life if one doesn't have cable. I hear quite frequently when Odessa is on the phone with friends that there is nothing to do here because we don't have cable.]

Okay, so here's what happened.

Odessa had a great day at school today and I ruined it. She did not get suspended for fighting (a relief) but in my adult, parental-role opinion, I thought we needed to talk about problem solving and not punching people. I brought it up over dinner, where I learned some new vocabulary ("popping off" is swinging at someone, "I stole her" is "I punched her") and explained that I understood why she felt that she needed to preserve her dignity after her (now former) friend swung at her, but that punching someone isn't the answer. I addressed her safety and the consequences that she could potentially face if she punched someone out of a school context.

And she said "look, we're not like you. White people are calm and s***. I ain't racist but we ain't like that."

To which I responded, "It sounds to me like you're saying that black people solve their problems by hitting each other."

Yep, that's what she thinks. So from you, my loyal readers/friends: how do I respond? How do I recognize and acknowledge and celebrate differences in our backgrounds while not allowing her to think that violence is acceptable?

I know that one thing I should do is to make sure that I socialize with Odessa in situations where there are African Americans who are as calm as I am. This is a problem as we don't go anywhere together and I don't have friends over ever.

Other advice, please?

Anyway, after the part of the conversation above, I told Odessa that there were going to be consequences for fighting. I said that I was proud of her for telling me what happened and for telling me the truth, and because of that the consequences are going to be less than what they might have been. Before I was able to tell her the consequence, however, she started yelling about how "I didn't even get f***ing suspended" and "I'm done talking about this" and she stormed off to her room where she did just what I do when I'm really upset, which is to curse. Very loud.

Lots of f*** this and bit** that.

Then she called a friend and kept up the cursing. It was a lot less stressful for me with her in her room cursing. My favorite line of that first phone call was "
What the fuck you gonna consequence ME for? I didn't even get fucking suspended, bitch!" Still not sure why she raised her voice and directed to me "You can call the police if you f***ing want, I ain't do nothin' man!"

So this was our evening.

(The consequence, by the way, is an evening without getting to use my/the computer. ONE evening. But not until she lets me tell her what the consequence is, so she extended it a day by not letting me tell her what it is.)


This morning Odessa knocked on my door (while I was being my typical adolescent hitting-snooze-and-fighting-waking-up self) to explain why she was in a nasty mood last night (more on that later, perhaps):

"I might be suspended."

Why? "My friend stole the money I was going to use to buy my bus pass out of my purse so I had to fight her, so I might be suspended but I haven't gotten the papers yet."

"Well, we'll talk about fighting later [keep in mind I was just waking up] but do you have enough money to get to school?"

So I gave her the money I had in my wallet (meaning that including the advances on her allowance that I gave her last week so that she could get to school*, I've given her $100 so far this week). It's not her fault that her friend stole her money and I'm not going to penalize her for it, though I do think that she would have had better luck getting the money returned if she hadn't responded by fighting. (The only conversation I can imagine in my head now is "I shouldn't have fought but she started it by stealing my money and she should have to pay me back.")

If she does get suspended, she's coming to work with me. I can find lots of scanning she can do for me so she isn't bored--and also isn't on facebook all day.

*Regarding why it sounds like she needs to use her allowance to pay for her transportation to school: where we live, there is a student transit subsidy. If she gets the card, she can pay $30/month to get to and from school. I give her that $30 at the beginning of the month. (This is the money that was stolen, though since I didn't have any $10 bills, I actually gave her $40.) If she chooses not to get the student card to buy the student pass, her transportation to and from school totals about $7/day ($35/wk vs $30/month) which comes from her allowance. She then complains about not having money from the FORTY DOLLARS PER WEEK that I give her to do things like get her hair and nails done, though we worked out her allowance together, and the $40/week was supposed to cover things like hair and nails if she used the money responsibly.