Then we ended up at the computer next to him. Then he spent the next half an hour asking me random questions about how to spell words, how to friend request and block people on facebook, and whether I thought that a cut on his hand was infected. He also borrowed my phone to call his mom. By this time, I had figured out that he had a a special need of some sort. My guess would be that he has a combination of Autism and ADHD. Hard to say. Either way, I have to admit, it was getting tiresome. And, of course, a bit unprofessional for me since I was supposed to be focusing on my client. Around the time that I was becoming officially weary of the interruptions, he referenced his mom, but then clarified, "Well, foster mom."
Oh crap, now I'm involved.
For the record, this story does not end with me saying that I have a teenager asleep on my couch. Although, I'd be lying if I were to say that it didn't cross my mind. Brian would be lying if Brian said that he was completely joking when he texted me back to say that he could sleep on the couch until we could turn the dining room into a room. But, the fact that he's in foster care didn't mean that I could just take him home, of course. Nor are we in a position to take that on, anyway. But, it sure was a painful reminder that there are kids out there in foster care, right now. As he sat there, talking to me, It occurred to me that I hadn't actually ever met a foster child who didn't eventually become mine or that my friends' weren't fostering/trying to adopt. I hadn't run into 1 of the 250,000 kids that enter the system each year. Until this day. Here he was, loitering at the library and driving me bonkers.
As I sat there, philosophizing on how much the whole thing sucked; he suddenly said that he had forgotten about a meeting that he had scheduled with his case worker and he was soon borrowing my phone again.
I listened to him argue with his worker and refuse to tell her who he had been hanging out with last night and saying that he was going to leave if she was coming to the library and denying that he was high. (That was when I started looking hard at his eyes to try to figure out if he was, but who am I kidding, I had no idea.)
When he gave me the phone back, he started talking about how he and his case worker argue, but they always make up. He asked me if that's just how life is and I said "sometimes." He asked if my son and I argue and I told him that we do. Then, I decided to go ahead and butt into his life. I was pretty sure by this point, I had earned the right. :) I started with reminding him that his case worker was on his side and that he probably shouldn't keep secrets from her. He kind of ignored that and brought up that he wasn't high and that he only smokes cigarettes.
Me - "How old are you?"
Him, with the unmistakable eye flicker of someone who is trying to lie -"I'm 18."
Me, with a smile -"You're lying to me. I can tell, I'm a mom."
He laughed - "Ok, I'm 17! But, I'll be 18 in six months!"
My mind raced with worries of what would become of him and whether he was going to be set up with an independent living program, stay in foster care or try to do it on his own; as he rambled about when his birthday is and exactly how far away it is.
After a few minutes, he said that he was going to wait outside for his case worker. He promised me that he wouldn't leave before she got there.
Then, a few minutes after that, when my client and I left, I anxiously looked around and saw that he was gone.
So, of course, I called his case worker.
I explained that I was with him at the library and that I was worried about whether he had ditched her. Much to my relief, she told me that his foster mom had picked him up.
Hoping that my call would make a little more sense, I explained that I had adopted so I kind of understood his situation. She asked me to save her number and call her if I ever see him around again. I told her that I would, of course. I mentioned that he clearly had a lot going on his head and she agreed, emphatically. "Yes, that's a very good way to put it. He definitely has a lot going on in his head."
I don't know what my purpose in writing this is. I don't really have an anecdote to go with it or a life lesson. Except, maybe this. This kid shouldn't exist. Not in this way, anyway.
He should have a home, a permanent one. He shouldn't have a close relationship with a case worker because he's been on her case load for 3 years. He should be fighting with his parents and asking them if his hand is infected, not a stranger at the library. No matter how awesome she might be. ;)
But, that's not how it is. And, it makes me sad. Really, really sad.
I wish that I could get this kid out of my head. But, that's not the answer, either, of course. Ignoring the problem solves nothing. Either way, I guess, for now, I'm going to have to trust the universe on this one.
All I know is that when I got home, I was really glad to see my kids. I'm really glad that no matter what struggles we go through as a family, they will know that they have a family. Every child deserves that.