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Julian's Story


Richard Norway

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I've always tried to keep you all up to date with what is happening with our foster boys, but Julian has been difficult so I have held off until I could try to put it all together. He came to us on Halloween morning at around 10:30 am.

Julian was removed from our home this morning.

I guess that needs some explanation.

Julian is 15 years old now and this is the 23rd home that he has been in since he was 2 years old. He has no concept of what family is all about. We tried to show him that, but he never connected...until lately. I don't feel that I should go into his behaviors, but I will say that the sheriff has been involved numerous times. What I do see is a kid that needs guidance, but at his age, he's reluctant. Hell, in his mind, every adult in his life has abandoned him, so it's been a struggle.

It was the state's decision to remove him because they felt that he needed a higher level of care. He tried to commit suicide a few weeks ago. Don't try to tell me that that wasn't traumatic on David and I. We've gotten to love this kid.

I took him to a psychiatrist after that incident, and the psychiatrists recommendation was also for a higher level of care. He is depressed. My partner, David, has been taking meds for depression for years and is well aware of the symptoms. But Julian refuses to take any meds because his appointed attorney has told him that as he's over 14, he can refuse..which he does.

We saw an opening in Julian that his case worker and probation office never saw. They assumed that he was a bad kid and treated him as such. We saw something different. Their approach was to give him consequences for his behavior...only. They wanted to see outcome from Julian based on fear. We believe in a nurturing approach where the out come is based on not fear of doing something wrong but to instill in him that the outcome is what he wants to do, not out of fear. We saw a breaking of his shell over the last month or so. He cried for the first time in front of me this morning when he realized that he had to leave.

I fear for him now. The group home or shelter home that he's going to now will destroy everything that David and I have built over the last 7 months. They're going to dictate his schedule without giving him the chance to be a kid and learn how to dictate himself.

I must agree, however, that he needs a higher level of care. We'd take him back when he's released.

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My heart goes out to Julian, and David, and you, and all presently involved in Julian's care. One of the greatest desires of any fifteen- year-old is to be independent of his family, and that motivation is ideally what drives the development of maturity and understanding and the assumption of responsibility for oneself. But how can that work well when there has never been the buy-in to the concept of family in the first place? It's a tragic situation, and I can't conceive of any way that seven months with you could have repaired the destruction wrought by the preceding fourteen and a half years of Julian's life.

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I just now saw this, I'm sorry.

What would I really know about a young guy like him? I had a very loving family, in nearly every way. The only big issues, I've come to realize, had to do with over-protection and the lack of almost anything regarding sex and nudity, homosexuality even more so. But in nearly every other way, I had good parents and grandparents, a good "church family," and so on. (But that over-protectiveness combined with my handicap meant I grew up with very few friends outside of classes at school.)

So I can't claim to really quite understand where a boy like him is coming from, without any grounding in what it means to have family or friends, a stable home life, people to rely on, emotional support, normal friendly/family physical affection, the guidelines and boundaries and the freedoms too that go with those.

OK, except that the things I did go through growing up, teasing and bullying and exclusion and over-protection, and a natural loner tendency, all added up to two opposing things: I have a tendency to be careful and cynical about people, even friends, and to keep some things inside my shell. It may seem like I'll say anything and everything private, from my forum posts, emails, or messaging. But that is something I have had to learn to do. Also, it's connected to the other point, the polar opposite: I also have a big need for belonging, companionship, friendship, love, the whole thing, because I always felt like an outsider. I tend to only show the real me, or all of me, to my closest friends only. (I am not sure why I show as much as I do online.)

I feel like everything good, with other people, relationships, life generally, comes from being willing to love, to open up. Fear and consequences may get obedience, but they do not get willingness, the desire to follow, faith, loyalty, compassion, friendship, or love. Only being loving does that. It is fine to have requirements, guidelines, even rules to follow, if those are reasonable and fair. But those must also include love, friendliness, lovingkindness (an old-fashioned word), and another old-fashioned word, fellowship, and companionability. If no one wants to listen, just be there for you, how on earth are you ever going to want to open up, to stretch out, and try to be more?

I know the system works to that expectation of rules and consequences. I know why it does. But it just isn't enough. The whole idea behind family and child and senior welfare ought to be love and stability and restoring wholeness, or I think it's missing the whole point. The justice system, certainly for youth and families, has to be there to restore that wholeness too, to make what went wrong into what can go right again. Or again, it misses the point. (That was my objection to the recent flap over a judge's decision regarding a high school honors student who was deemed truant, because she was working to support her brothers and sisters. The judge followed the letter of the law, but his decision did nothing to consider or to restore what was broken in the girl's and family's case, and yet the court was empowered (and expected) to do so, in justice.)

I hope Julian can be with people who will heal what's happened in his life, so he can learn to find the love and trust and relationships that will heal what needs healing in his life. If not with you and David, then maybe with another family. I'd hope he'd get the chance to keep in contact with you if he wants to, now or later. Being 15 (or 18 or 21) is not too late to change in life. It's for dang sure change happens when we don't want it. But it can also happen when we want to change, when we choose to change and stick with it. At least, I want that to be true too.

Best wishes for him and for you both and other foster youth with you guys.

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