Thursday, March 22, 2012

Better to Go Away

“ACS took Damien this weekend.” My co-teacher told me this yesterday morning. ACS is the Administration for Child Services, and they are responsible for making sure that children are provided for in their homes. ACS is the organization that is responsible for removing children from homes that are deemed unfit, and placed into the foster care system.

Damien is an adorable boy, with big, bright eyes and tight poodle curls covering his head. He has a wide smile, and an innocent nature. He is fascinated by Alex Rodriguez, covering his desk with pictures of him, memorizing and reciting all of his stats.

“Don’t talk about the past, talk about the future. This year he is going to break the home-run record.” Other kids walk away frustrated, because he refuses to give in to logic. You can’t reason with him.

Damien has a sweet, childish voice, that lilts playfully no matter what he is saying. He tilts his head to the side, and widens his enormous brown eyes when he asks you a question. He is one of the lowest level kids in my class, and seems to have developmental issues of some sort – he struggles to grasp concepts, and, once he has been taught something, rarely retains the information for more than a couple of hours. He reads books that have drawings with veracity, but if I give him a book with just words, he’ll hold it upside down and study it seriously, looking at me with mock seriousness when I correct him, before his face explodes into a mischievous grin.

He likes to talk. He writes love poems about talking, and about A-Rod, and is unapologetic about his devotion to both. He’ll linger after class, talking, even when he has no audience, until someone’s patience reaches its end and he is sent away.

Damien has an attendance problem – only showing up at school three times a week – if that. He gets behind, but doesn’t stress about it. His parent is impossible to get a hold of, and no one has ever been in to meet us, or pick up a report card, or respond to a concerned phone call.

Apparently, he was taken out of his home due to the fact that his attendance at school was spotty, and his elementary school age sister had missed the entire school year. Obviously, these things happen. Kids are removed from homes, one day things are normal, and the next they are not. The only predictable thing about life in this community seems to be its unpredictability.

As a teacher, there is nothing that you can do, or expected to do about a situation like this. I am not even in a position to judge whether it is a good or a bad thing, not knowing the full story of what went on in his home. As a rule, it seems that being taken from their family is something that kids don’t recover well from. But I’ve also seen kids who are victims of traumatic abuse, who are tortured by their guilt of wanting to stay away from that parent who hurt them, but who they still love. The truth hurts those kids – the truth that sometimes it is better to be taken away than to stay.

I feel sad that Damien is gone – sad that he may not return to our school, and that we may never know what becomes of him. But it’s a part of the job, I suppose, that some kids are lost mid year, and all of them are lost at the end. What this really brings up, for me, is the reality of how temporarily these kids are in our lives, and we in theirs. For a year, they are the whole world – you think of them despite yourself, at home, in your dreams and nightmares, on the weekends. And then like a flash they are gone, as they are supposed to be. Growing up. And although it hurt s sometimes, the loss of a kid you invested yourself in fully, it’s the way that it is supposed to be. It’s better for them to grow up, and go away, than to stay.


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