"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Monday, March 23, 2009

God Bless America

I never did get a chance to practice my longarming, last weekend. We did taxes, instead. Blah! And today, it was back to work with multiple fires to put out. I've been so stressed about a slew of my kids, recently, that husband is urging me to retire from GAL work. Perhaps it is the downturn in the economy - dunno - but I've been getting a lot of kids in situations that leave me feeling helpless. With less money for services, I am frustrated that so many of them aren't getting the help they need. Moreover, with the hoops we have to jump through for funding (which I understand), a lot of the kids are languishing in detention or out of court placements for weeks (months) waiting to be accepted into residential programs.

In addition, due to some political maneuvering in my area, the group homes we relied upon to do a bang up job with high risk kids were shut down and all the county work is being sent to an organization that, in my opinion, just isn't up to the job. Kids that we used to get into the group home in a matter of days are now routinely being sent off for several weeks/months to be "diagnosed" or "evaluated" and then recommendations are made as to where to send them, next. It is better than having them sit in detention for weeks waiting for a placement but certainly less beneficial than what we had, before.

I just don't feel like I am doing much good. I can still help in custody/visitation cases because that amounts, many times, to being able to work with the parents and if that doesn't help, being strong enough to stand up in court and face them down. But my kids-in-need-of-services and delinquency kids are suffering.

I scheduled a home visit, today, with a young mother who is an illegal from El Salvador. The house is in a very bad part of town and she doesn't speak English. She works as a maid. Turns out, neither of her children, ages 4 and 5 speak English, either - and both were born in this country. The father is also from El Salvador but in the country, legally, I believe. He can speak English.

The Mother has a "typical" history of many young women in her situation and it isn't attractive. I confess, I dreaded going to the home and made the appointment well in advance. If there is a remote possibility that I will walk in on gang members, a drug deal or a home where there are drugs sitting out, I could be in danger. So even though the parents generally have enough sense to clean up the place when they know I am coming, I don't make surprise visits. It may be that I could "catch" them if they didn't know I was coming but the downside is not worth it. And you can usually tell when a home has been spiffed up, anyway.

I knew that the boyfriend was going to be there (he is also a latino and helps to interpret). The house was actually in a basement and I felt a bit claustrophobic going down the stairs. Into the dark. I didn't know what I would be walking into. I always call husband before these types of visits to let him know exactly where I am but, really, that is just a speeded up way to identify the body or know where to start searching. You think about stuff like that.

I was pleasantly surprised. It was a walk out basement and there was a lot of light coming in. Three little boys and the daughter were there, all clean and nicely dressed, playing with educational toys. In the first glance around, I noticed three lap top computers set up and being used. The kids had shelves of books and bins with art supplies and age appropriate toys.

During the meeting, the mother fetched paperwork I asked for from two satchels that were tabbed and organized. She had the closet door open and I could see where the clothes were hung up neatly with dry cleaner bags over the nicer clothes. Her sister lives with her and was cleaning up the kitchen after their lunch. She knew what she was doing.

The children were polite and friendly, and clearly enjoyed each other's company. There was no running and screaming and they played nicely. The boy who was about to go to kindergarten had his own bin with coloring books and the boyfriend had been teaching him his colors. I was touched to see that he had created worksheets for the boy and had him carefully print out his name and the names of his family members about 15 times per page. He also had him writing out his alphabet and other simple words. They explained that they knew the boy's language was going to be a problem so they were trying to prepare him as best they could so he wouldn't be so far behind when he started school. A couple of the words they had him writing were misspelled (by the boyfriend!) but it was an earnest attempt and I appreciated the effort.

"You can do anything in America if you work hard and do your best!" the boyfriend told me. The mother nodded, serenely. Where they are from, the government corruption, he explained, makes it impossible to get ahead. People work so hard that they don't have time for education.

"Not like in America."

I am very troubled by illegal immigration but that doesn't mean that I don't recognize a wonderful attitude when I see it.

I left after about an hour feeling a lot better about the situation. It always makes me more comfortable when I see adults stressing the importance of education. The cynic in me worries at the time the boyfriend is spending with the children but I am giving him the benefit of my jaded doubts that he just wants to do right by the kids. I have the same kind of doubts whenever I see adult males going out of their way to spend time with kids, particularly kids that aren't their own. I wonder if I will ever revert to thinking that is just so sweet?

So after afternoon court, I went home and played with the girls. Evelyn has been my shadow since I got back from my classes and I got a picture of her snoozing next to my chair as close as she could get.

She missed me.

I looked on the samoyed message board and someone had posted a picture of a handsome pup who is 5 - 6 weeks older than Pearl and weighs 12 more pounds. He looks like a Samoyed! Pearl looks like a mutant. She is at the awkward age. Her teeth are coming in and she weights 23 pounds.

Her ruff looks dirty and stiff because Evelyn had been chewing her up while they played.

She really has the monkey face going. But there never was a better puppy.


Anonymous said...

Times are tough all over now, and I'm sorry they're contributing to what must already be a high level of stress. Luckily you have an understanding husband and those cute Samoyeds to come home to.

I hope you get more time to play with the longarm - quilting always relaxes me.


katie z said...

Sounds like you need a quilting & puppy retreat free from stress. Good luck! (And it will get better, eventually.)

Anonymous said...

Scary but interesting post. Take care!

Pearl and Evelyn, gotta love 'em!