Sunday, July 31, 2011

Palate Cleanser #153

The Happy.

Koala, Australia

Photograph by Gary Brown, Your Shot
This Month in Photo of the Day: Animal Pictures
This little miracle was saved from its dead mother. Taken at The Australian Reptile Park in Australia NSW. The amazing staff hand raised this little fella and against all the odds he is surviving and is just immensely cute!!!

visual palate cleanser concept © Bright Nepenthe, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Heart Broke Today at 2:01 PM

(Image Source: Angie/Angela's Images)

It's been quite a while since I've posted. I've been totally down in the dumps, between stuff with my Mom's health (think autoimmune clusterfuck, excuse my offensive epithet), what it means (quite selfishly) for my possible health, worries about friends, including the friend who has been hovering on the edge of suicide, evoking really and seriously bad memories of 1997 for me. I've been quite busy with GAL cases. Like there's the case with the almost 17 year old with the driver's license in his former name that keeps really getting my hackles up. I remember that time that one of my former GAL kids got tazed for arguing with the police officer while African-American, and, (yes, you really read that right) keep thinking of what could happen if this young man got stopped by the police for any reason and that license of his came into question. Even if you're totally cleared of any wrong doing, so much can go wrong in juvenile detention, before you get to that judge in my state, that it is just plain scary. 

Of course there's also been other GAL stuff going on. Just this week for instance, there's been S.'s disappearing step-father, who said he wanted contact, raising this child's hopes, and then once again evaporating so that neither I nor her case manager can find him. And of course, no one has told the child so I got to tell the child because she asked me to come talk to her in her room and the only thing she wanted to know was when her 'Daddy' would get to come visit her. At age 12 but with the IQ of a 6 year old, it's very hard to explain big complicated things like someone not being reliable even if they were, for a time, well-intended and part of your life. Frankly, I'm not so sure that any child anywhere in foster care is ready to absorb yet another loss of someone they cared about. And then there was Sandra's QSI appointment with APD and trying to get the APD worker to understand that her answers were wholly unreliable, tangential and not relevant to her overall care needs. Plus, there was the confusion over T.'s reason for leaving her Special Olympics camp and explaining to the Court about how Certified Behavioral Analyst services both work and are contracted with APD Group Homeowner/Service Provider. I was also very worried most of the week because Marina was hospitalized with pneumonia. She hadn't been well since last week and her dedicated caregiver in her group home was concerned enough to have her taken to her heinous GP, who pronounced her just fine last Friday, except she got worse than fine and on Monday night was hospitalized with pneumonia in both lungs. (To say that everyone now hates her GP and that he is goner than gone from her care group is a mild understatement... who the hell doesn't hear rales in the lungs of someone who has pneumonia in both lungs? Did he even bother to listen?) The Group Home staff kept her home from weekend outings and watched her over the weekend and just knew there was something really wrong when she didn't want to eat and attacked a staff person she normally likes. Of course, Marina is autistic and nonverbal, and she communicates as best she can. Sadly, her admitting doctor was almost as indifferent as her GP. She was finally discharged yesterday on oral antibiotics and then today I was on the phone twice with the pharmacist because the stoooopid pharmacy used by APD hadn't delivered her antibiotic and she was going on 24+ hours since discharge with pneumonia in both lungs and no fricking antibiotic! She finally got it today shortly before 6 pm. Anyway, I've taken Marina's parents to see her in the hospital twice this week and then today I took them to her group home, so they could spend a bit of time with her. They have no transportation other than public transportation and waiting in the sun for a bus when the heat index is above 100 F is really just not an option, especially for her mom, who has fairly serious diabetes and kidney problems. 

But none of these many, many things is why my heart is broken. That came just a short while after I dropped Marina's parents back at their house on 83rd Terrace. When we returned, I had to turn a block earlier, because of the median, on 84th, and I passed the house where one of my former GAL kids, who used to go by the nickname Keyoncé, has been hanging out at times. I felt wistful, as I drove by, then turned down the side street and onto 83rd to drop off Marina's parents. Lo and behold, Keyoncé called me just as they exited the car. He's just seen my car, he says, and wants me to come and see him. We'd had tentative plans to meet on Wednesday at a Starbucks, so he could ask me something. With a sigh, I looked at the clock and said, "Sure", and drove one block back to see him.

Keyoncé is without a doubt, one of the most poignant youths for whom I have served as GAL. He was in foster care from birth, because his mother was incarcerated. (For one of her many assault or felony charges, as I recall) When I met him, I'd already been his younger sister's GAL for two years. My wonderful supervisor Marj asked me if I'd consider taking his case, because he was reported to be bipolar and I sort of specialize in MH cases. Keyoncé came back into the system after being on runaway status for some two years. He was a tall, skinny, wary youth of 16, who gave me guarded answers and who seemed distrustful because, as he honestly told me, not too many white ladies had ever done anything to help him, in fact, none had, really. I gave him a photo of his sister, who he barely remembered, and somehow, over the course of a number of subsequent runaways, arrests, and commitments for his severe bipolar disorder, he came to trust me. Keyoncé is gay, and given to cross-dressing. I found this out the first time he was arrested for soliciting when he was on runaway after I was his GAL. He was brought in, in women's clothing and shoes and was to stand before his judge in courtroom full of people. I made them give him an orange jumpsuit, like that which they give any delinquent youth in detention, rather than have him go into court in a dress and heels, because he was so embarrassed. When he asked me why I fought (and let me tell you I fought, people) to get him that jumpsuit and got a friend in the GAL program to go get him a pair of sneakers from a free clothing for foster kids program called Neat Stuff, I told him that I thought we needed to have a fashion intervention because his shoes looked tacky with that dress and they weren't even the right size for his feet. He was amazed that while quite a few people around us were incredibly and unprofessionally nasty to him (not the wonderful policewoman, who was as kind to him as could be- we're talking child welfare people) that at least a few of us were going to attempt to preserve his fragile sense of dignity. Several months following that arrestKeyoncé was sent for a yearlong stay in a mental health facility and, perilously close to his aging out, tried several different APD group homes. But after years of living on the streets and having no rules, it was too hard for him to adjust to the structure. He ultimately ran away, went off his meds, and was lost, for a time. Keyoncé is now almost 21 and has lived, for the past three years, an existence that is both sad and occasionally, as when he was stabbed multiple times and hospitalized for three weeks last year, truly harrowing. With no home, no family, no educational consistency, let alone progress, not even a mailing address, he lost his federal Road to Independence funds, has lapsed Medicaid, SSI Disability and food stamps and has returned to earning money for food and shelter as he has since he was a young teenager, in a manner that is incredibly sad and dangerous. As I have with many of my GAL kids, I managed to stay in touch with him. He knows my cell phone number from memory and calls me, mostly when things are bad, sometimes even if he knows I'll be mad or stern with him. When he was almost Baker Acted in May, I got him to 'fess up that he'd been taking club drugs. He'd refused to tell anyone at the clinic that he'd been at. Today, he's worried he's caught an STD and he shyly asked me if I could find a place to get him tested and treated and most of all, if I'd go with him because he was scared of being tested and "treated bad". He also said he's tired of living this way and wished he could get a real job and wonders if he could live in an APD home, after all. While my mind spun with thoughts about how I might be able to help with his Medicaid and food stamps, and whether he could get re-qualified for SSI disability and APD services with his old evaluations because he had been foster care, I reaffirmed our plan to meet again on Wednesday and promised news on going to get tested. 

It was so very hard for him to get out of my car. He kept stalling, and I told myself that maybe part of it was the A/C, since it was early afternoon and so hot today. That little house he was crashed in had all the windows open and the front door open with only a screened door, and this isn't the kind of neighborhood where you blithely leave everything open, even in broad daylight. Eventually, he hugged me and told me he'd see me on Wednesday. (I thought to myself that I was giving it a 50/50 chance of happening, because he's been pretty unreliable about meeting in the last year.) I drove away shortly before 2 pm, thinking about public health department testing for STDs.

And then came the moment that has truly broken my heart. I was 2 minutes down the road, on 22nd Ave, when the phone rang. It was Keyoncé. Had he forgotten something? I asked, glancing around the passenger seat and footwell.

"I wanted to ask you- could you be my guardian ad litem again, Marzie?"

I slowly glided to a stop at the red light just before State Road 112 and caught my breath. I felt a stab through my heart and still do writing this. I have known this young man for five long years. He is miserable and obviously so very alone. 

"No, honey. I can't. That's only for kids younger than 18. But I'm your friend, and I'll try to help you."

After a few more words, we hung up. I cried as I drove home. And I as write this, too.

Welcome to foster care in America.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Comtesse-Related Palate Cleanser

Peonies, oil painting by Thomas Darnell

Meezie Kittens, attribution unknown

Corgi Puppies,

Miranda by J. W. Waterhouse

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011