Sunday, February 11, 2007


Not so long ago, one of my young adolescent clients received some devastating news. His mother had failed to live up to the terms of her parole. She was being sent back to prison. For this particular young man, it was just another in a series of disappointments in his life, whether it was one in a string of relapses on drugs or alcohol, his mother's choice of abusive boyfriends...and now this.

One of the reasons that I hate such situations is that, like it or not, I have to talk to them about their hopes for their parent, about whether they're realistic. I'm very careful not to suggest that they abandon all hope for their parent "turning things around," but I do feel like I need to have them face the possibility that their parent is going to keep doing things like this.

I try not to talk about this in terms of giving up hope. I try to talk about it in terms of creating hopes and plans for himself based on several possibilities -- that his parent turns things around, that she doesn't and he stays in foster-care, etc.

But part of me wonders just who I'm trying to fool here. I'm being forced to ask this kid to question his hopes for his parent. No matter how necessary the cause for this, it's still got to be devastating for him.

I know I'm not the cause of this, exactly, I'm just trying to help him through it. You could even argue that his relationship with me might become one of the few sources of stability in his life. I hope that's the case. But I still remember the pained, angry look on his face when he got the news about his Mom, and the look of resignation on his face as we began to talk about his hopes.


Liz said...

As a teacher I have had students whose lives were like soap operas - bad soap operas. Kids whose lives were real dramas, and that was normal to them. My white bread and mayonaisse upbringing never pre-pared me for that. What to do? These kids need a touchstone of normalcy and acceptance. Steve, that is what you have offered that boy, and that is the gift of hope.

Magdalene6127 said...

What a hard job you have Steve. And you do it with great integrity and gentleness. This young person is fortunat to have you as a touchstone in such a painful time.



steve said...


Thank you for your very kind words. I hope very much that I can offer something of value to clients like him. At times such as the one I described, its hard not to feel a bit helpless. Which, I would imagine, is part of what he feels as well.


Thank you, Mags. Reading your and liz's words has helped me to refocus on how I can respond -- rather than feeling helpless in the face of what this young man is going through.