I made a decision last night. My foster care license expires sometime in September (ish). Odessa ought to have moved to some other situation by then, and I want to buy a house. I can't buy a house where I am now because I can't afford the houses in neighborhoods that are in walking distance to synagogues. I've done a grand total of 4 hours of my mandatory 30 hours of training. So I am going to let my license lapse, work on moving, work on my mental health and attachment issues, and then get licensed in a new state after I'm settled in my new home. I'm still here. Just announcing my intentions to the world. :-)
I'm looking for advice about parenting teenagers. This is framed within the specific context of eating dinner as a family but probably this is just a symptom of my broader not-knowing-what-I'm-doing-ness.
I don't (think I) have that many expectations, but one of the expectations that I have is that Odessa and I eat dinner together as a family. I stated this the first night Odessa lived with me and have brought it up at intervals (usually when I'm disappointed that Odessa hasn't come home for dinner) since then.
It is hard to model this as "this is what a healthy family does" because besides Odessa, it's just me. And it is important to me that we eat together because 1. I need to make sure she's eating something healthy (and that she's eating at all), 2. it's when I talk to her about school and her friends and her plans, and 3. that's what a healthy family tries to do.
Two weeks ago Odessa complained about this expectation because it's not what she's used to and she thinks I'm "forcing" her to come home, and also when it get's nicer out, she's "not going to want to come inside." I told her I would think about it, but then I didn't say anything until she brought it up again. When she brought it up again last week, I offered her a compromise, that we could make a schedule of two nights a week that she could eat somewhere else. She didn't respond, and explicitly opted not to respond when I brought up the compromise the following day. I stated then that because she didn't respond, I would expect her to come home for dinner every night until she chooses to respond.
She was at her brother's for the weekend, came home yesterday and ate before I got home, and today went to her bedroom while I was cooking and told me she wasn't going to come out when I knocked on her door to let her know that dinner was ready.
I don't want to "punish" Odessa for not eating with me. I know that partly I need to adjust my expectations. But at the same time, I am frustrated because I come home to a television that is very loud, Odessa doesn't say hello to me, she (very teenagerly) responds to questions with at most one syllable... but she turns the TV off for dinner. I'm terrible at getting anything out of her about school (more than 2 questions and she snaps at me) and have almost no clue what's going on in her life; if I don't have 15 minutes at dinner I have nothing.
Anyone know of jurisdictions that extend the one family-one worker model beyond child welfare to include kids involved in the juvenile justice system, food stamps and income assistance, other government programs??
My jurisdiction has (I think!) a one family-one worker model for child welfare, so a kid's parents have the same worker as the kid. But the kid might cycle through workers: one when first removed from the home, then another for her first bit of time in care, then maybe another when her goal changes to adoption (I'm just guessing, as I've not had a kid in that situation) or she ages into teenager-hood... not to mention all of the times her worker might leave the agency or get promoted. And then there are all the extra people at the agency that the kid has to deal with--the educational specialist who helps with her FAFSA and college applications, and others. Now, I understand why it helps to have workers who have specialized knowledge of different stages of the process. But it doesn't seem good for the kid. Do any of you know if there are jurisdictions that keep one worker with one kid/sibling group throughout the kid's time in care?
I meant to do laundry earlier today, but Odessa (who last night said she was coming home from her brother's--where she was spending the weekend--tonight at curfew and today called me around 12:45 asking if I could pick her up) and I got home at the same time (I wasn't able to pick her up when she called, as I was out shopping) and pretty much the first thing she said to me was that she was going to do laundry. There went that plan.
So I'm in the laundry room (4 loads!) with all of my neighbors. I knew I'd have to wait at some point in the process so I brought the computer and my phone and my knitting. Odessa laughed at me when I told her I was going to "hang out" down here, but it works.
Plus I'm having a "you're driving me crazy but it's really my own problem" weekend so it's better for me to be away from Odessa. (Though I'd like to be cleaning more in the apartment and my bedroom. Later, I suppose.)
As I mentioned, Odessa spent the weekend at her brother's house. She went Thursday night because there wasn't school on Friday. Friday morning I woke up only to discover that she was home, in her bed, sound asleep. We texted a bit during the day and then about 20 minutes before Shabbat, she called me to tell me that she "needs to take some papers to the building." I kid you not. Still not sure what she was talking about but it did become clear that she didn't expect me to do anything about it. Glad she communicates but really, if all she does is confuse me, it stresses me out.
Friday night as I went to bed I noticed that my phone's screen was on. I was careful to turn it off after I plugged it in, so curiosity got the better of me and I looked to see what I had missed. It was a text message from O and all I could see of it was "please answer t". So then I spent the rest of Shabbat wondering what she wanted. It turned out...
She has a UTI and she wanted me to take her to the ER. She ultimately called her therapist who took her, but of course I feel overwhelmed by guilt that I wasn't there for her. She called me right before Shabbat ended so I called her back and she said "I just got home from the hospital and I need you to get my prescriptions for me." Okay, there went my timed-to-the-minute plan for Purim. Stressful, and I don't know why O's brother couldn't get her prescriptions filled (or, for that matter, why the ER doesn't send people discharged after 7 home with 1 day of medicine so you don't have to find a 24 hour pharmacy), but of course I'll get her her prescriptions. But I checked online and the pharmacies by her brother close at 9 on Saturday nights and it was already 8:30 so I wouldn't have been able to get there. So then I'm stressed plus feeling guilty about not being there for Odessa when she went to the ER plus feeling guilty about not getting her prescriptions filled. (But I was able to make the treats I needed to make for Purim, go to shpiel, go to the late megillah reading, come home and put my mishloach manot together though I couldn't find my stapler, and go to bed by 2:30.)
When I called Odessa back to tell her that I wouldn't be able to get her prescriptions because of when the pharmacies closed, I asked when she was planning to come home and she said by curfew tonight (10 pm). I made my mental schedule for today: megillah reading, shopping for a new suit, quick stop at the craft store for materials for a baby present, come home, laundry, dishes, make a shopping list, go grocery shopping.
I got to the mall at around 12:45 and discovered that Odessa had called three times in the preceding 10 minutes. (No message.) I called her back and she asked if I could pick her up. And we are now back to the beginning of this post, where you can see that my plans for today did not work out as I'd hoped.
Odessa planned to spend this weekend at her brother's girlfriend's house. She didn't have school today, so she left last night to head over there. This morning I woke up and discovered that the laptop was not where I left it. Confused, I checked Odessa's room, and there she was, fast asleep.
Now, I slept with my bedroom door open last night. So how did I 1. not hear her come in, and 2. not hear her watch TV (the remotes were also not where I left them)? And what are her plans for the rest of the weekend? I did grocery shopping last night for the next few days, but for only myself. Someone from the Agency is supposed to pick her up today to go to the Social Security office to get her her social security card, but I don't know who it is, and that person expects Odessa to be at her "sister"'s house.
Okay y'all, I need your advice. First, let me say that obviously any decisions will have to involve the rest of my family and Odessa. Nevertheless, let me tell you what the background is and then what the options are, and then I really really really want your feedback.
Background: we booked a family vacation way back in September. Sabrina was with me then but we knew she wouldn't be staying, and of course I had no clue of Odessa's existence, or that there was even the remotest possibility that I would end up with a teenager in my home. We are going on a cruise leaving from thousands of miles away from our Big City, from a Big City2 that I've never been to. My aunt and I are to share a stateroom on the cruise, and I intend to spend a few extra days after the cruise wandering Big City2 and the BigCity3 that is a few hours away.
The question now is: do we bring Odessa on the cruise, or does she stay somewhere else for two weeks?
1. If she comes on the cruise, I can't extend the vacation. This is for cost reasons (I'm assuming that I can find enough couches to surf for a few days that I won't have to pay for a hotel. Can't do that with a teenager.)--though we'd also have to change up my ideas about what we would do for those few days, and that just seems stressful to me. (Plus her summer job will start the day after the cruise ends.)
2. Stateroom options if she comes: a. She shares the stateroom with my aunt and me. Total cost (outside of airfare) for the extra person: $580. b. She shares the stateroom with me that I was going to share with my aunt, and my aunt gets her own stateroom in the same (expensive) category. Total cost (outside of airfare): $4100-some. c. My aunt and I share our stateroom, Odessa brings a friend and they share an interior cabin. Total cost (outside of airfare): $2489. (Note: I didn't ask about Odessa having her own interior cabin, my guess is that would be about $2200; I'm not sure I like the idea of a 17 year old with her own cabin, though I traveled with my parents and had my own hotel rooms. In fact, we went to England when I was 9 and my sister 14, and we shared a room that wasn't always adjacent to my parents'.)
Airfare at the moment is about $450 per person round trip. I hate spending money but I think I would be okay paying for a friend to come with her, since it would be only a few extra hundred dollars plus airfare.
3. I'm really just bummed that I wouldn't be able to extend the vacation.
4. I promised Odessa that we could go somewhere by plane so we either do this (which will give her all sorts of new experiences) or I have to plan another trip to somewhere that would end up costing about $1000 anyway. (Yes, $1000 is very different from $3500. Nevertheless...)
5. If she doesn't come, I will feel guilty for going on a family vacation and not treating her as part of the family. Even though we didn't know her when the trip was planned.
6. All this time, my expectations were for a responsibility-free vacation. I don't want to have to shift my expectations.
7. I don't know how the rest of the family would feel about the addition of a 17 year old and an 18 year old to our group. (I'm making assumptions about which friend Odessa would choose to bring.)
8. I'm cheap. Over $6000 for a vacation seems steep to me, even if it would be for three people. (I think that the $2500 I have to pay for myself seems steep, but I'd gotten used to it.)
It's a good thing that this blog is anonymous, not because of protecting my dear children's privacy (well, that too) but because I am going to say this:
It is just past 11 this morning. I've just finished my coffee (love ya Dunkin Donuts!) and have done maybe 20 minutes of work so far. Yes, I've been here for 2 hours. I have plenty to do, and none of it difficult, but feel like catching you all up on the last few weeks chez Foster Ima.
Odessa is still with me. I had a visit from my support worker a few weeks ago which is relevant to Odessa still being with me in the following way: my support worker clearly doesn't care about the kids in my care.
Now, this isn't entirely fair, as she did ask if I'd been in touch in Sabrina and how is she doing at dad's. But her lack of concern for Odessa's well-being as a 17 and a half year old in care was shocking and dismaying.
You all know that I agreed to Odessa coming to live with me without much thought or soul-searching on my part because it was supposed to be an "emergency" placement for "about a month." I can't say no to a teenager being without a place to live, and I could handle a month. Obviously it's been about three and a half months at this point, and while Odessa's social worker submitted a request for a new placement (see my last post for more details about how well that went over, my guilt over the situation, etc), MY worker says that the placement office won't do anything unless they feel a sense of urgency. (A lot of good that sense of urgency did when Odessa's LAWYER was the one who found her the placement at my house because the placement office wasn't acting with any sense of purpose.)
So if I want Odessa to move, I need to give 30 days notice. Of course, that could very well mean that in 30 days she moves to an emergency home and then to another foster home like mine where the foster parent(s) hasn't thought about making a long-term commitment to a teenager, and she just gets bounced around and around. I don't want that to happen. But my worker had no problem at all with the possibility of this happening and told me at least four times that I should give my 30 days notice.
I am happy for Odessa to stay with me until a reasonable longer-term placement is found. I have come to accept that probably she will be with me indefinitely. She is likely to go to community college here in the fall, instead of going away, and I anticipate that she will still be with me.
We got cable yesterday. Odessa and I met together with her therapist a week ago and discussed what each of our top priorities are. Mine was that Odessa communicate with me. (As in, you may not give me the silent treatment.) Hers was cable. So I got cable in exchange for her not giving me the silent treatment. I should have gotten cable earlier (she LIKES watching the news--what teenager wants to watch the news?) but I was a little stubborn :-( At least I am getting something out of it now!
Now we just need to work on the concept of "turn the TV off when you leave for school."
Passover. Passover is coming much too quickly. However, I discovered the advantage to living somewhere where the school system is so tied to the Christian calendar that spring break is still the week after Easter instead of being in the middle of March to break up the spring semester: Passover falls during spring break. Again. I assume that Odessa is going to visit her godmother out of state over her spring break, so I will only have to worry about the last day or two of Passover with her. That is a huge load of stress removed from my shoulders.
*** Stay tuned for a post soliciting advice about vacations.