(Image Source: Angie/Angela's Images)
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 arrest, Keyoncé 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.