Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Warehousing Kids

A decision has been in the works about one of our sons for the past few weeks which has brought up some interesting conversations in my life. It has also resulted in a lot of frustration for me and others.

Our son, who is now seventeen and a half has spent the last 3.5 years in group homes, detention centers, psychiatric hospitals and shelter homes. He has spent a few months in our home, unsuccessfully, and even fewer months in three different "very skilled" foster homes. Every time he was placed in a residential treatment he was promised that if he did well, he would go back to foster care or back home or into a family setting. I blogged about the whole cycle over a year ago.

Our county has a policy that, in principle, I agree with. It involves the not "warehousing kids." They believe that kids should be in the "least restrictive environment." And so, after a designated period of time and the kids are doing well, they "deserve to be given a chance."

I could not agree more with the principle. But at what point in time do we conclude that certain children cannot function without more supervision? At what point in time do we determine that there are some kids who not only need a more restrictive environment as children, but as adults as well? Maybe setting up a setting to transition kids with mental illness from a supervised setting as juveniles to a supervised setting as adults would be more preferable than letting them be free at 18 and be forced to seek a restrictive environment for themselves (jail)?

I don't have answers. I just have a lot of questions. But in theory I must admit that I agree that kids should be given a chance. I consistently attempt to seek families willing to commit to kids who are in residential treatment with a plan to attempt to let them move into their family setting.

But after a child has proven time and time again that a family setting is impossible for them, then is it really fair to the kid to set them up for a perceived failure time and time again?

I hope and pray that this time my son proves me wrong. I hope he is extremely successful. I pray that he can hold it together and do as well as everyone dreams he might. And I will be thrilled to report, in this situation, that I was wrong, and that he was ready for this transition.

But until then I will fear for him, for the safety of those with whom he comes in contact with, for his younger siblings who are affected by his behavior, and for his older sibling who might lead him down a wrong path.

And until then I will know that there are those who believe that my pessimism will determine a negative outcome. But history has shown that my optimism or pessimism has not changed behavior. It is what it is.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

I totally agree with you and I think that unless one has lived in our shoes, one shouldn't criticize. Living with a mentally ill person is scary, frustrating, and dangerous both to them and to others.