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A Human Canvas-in the darkness of childhood abuse and neglect-Volume 6-"Traumatic Teen Turbulence"
A Social Worker's Journal
For those of us who have experienced teen hood, we can relate to the ups and downs and sometimes the bottom-outs, of the relationships with our parents. We can also remember those close calls at parties we shouldn't have been at, but went to anyway, because we just couldn't miss it. All the "cool" kids would be there, and so would we. Some of us may even have experienced some unpleasant incidents where friends argued, boys and girls broke up, and alcohol and drugs filled the scene. But how many of us can say that we ended up in foster care because of it? I guess I'd call it the misfortune of sequential events, and that's what it was. Unfortunate.
One of my fifteen year old teens had shared that she and her mother had a history of arguing. They admittedly loved one another, but liking each other was not meant to be during these turbulent teen years.
Caitlyn's mother was a single mom. She only ever spoke badly of Caitlyn's father, and of course, never failed to tell Caitlyn how much she was like her father, especially when they argued. Well, one evening, one of those familiar dialogues turned into a bitter battle of words, and out the door, Caitlyn flew. She was on her way, with a friend, to a party that her mother had banned her from. Drugs and alcohol were on the menu for the night, along with a crime that would be buried until a teen girl found the strength to pull herself out of her living nightmare.
Caitlyn had found herself in a back room in the house the party took place in. She had taken some pills she'd been given by the host of the party, and washed it down with whatever hard liquor was available. She remembered feeling sick and throwing up, but she must have passed out, because the next thing she knew, a guy she barely knew was on top of her. She remembered screaming "no", and for him to get off of her. She tried to push him off, but she didn't have the strength. Caitlyn, still drugged and drunk, felt sick, and now she just had to get through this crime. That's what she told herself.
Caitlyn was a statistic now. A victim. After it was over, she remembered throwing up again and stumbling to the living room looking for her friend. She was alone. A few people were passed out and lying around. She just wanted to get out of there. Caitlyn walked home and entered her kitchen where she found a note from her mom, stating that she was working overtime. A note she had read too many times before. Her mom tried, but she was never around, because she had to work. It was just the two of them, like it had always been. But, Caitlyn needed her now more than ever, and she wasn't there. Caitlyn showered the party's memory away and tried to go on. Feelings were buried over time and she became angrier and angrier. She became more out of control. She broke curfew on a regular basis, argued constantly with her mom, and skipped school.
The breaking point was the fist fight. Her mom had come home from work late one night, and Caitlyn wasn't there. Friends were called, as well as, the police. No Caitlyn. In the morning when she finally stumbled through the kitchen door, she was met by an irate, worried mother, who was late for work, and hadn't slept.
Then, it all started. Yelling-a push-a push back, then a fist in the face. That afternoon, Caitlyn's mother called for help. Caitlyn was being voluntarily placed in foster care on a PINS (Person In Need of Supervision), so she could get the help she needed. Would she though? Time would prove that only more heartache would follow this family.
As her assigned caseworker, I immediately sensed her anger and bitterness. She already hated me for being a representative of the "system", so getting through to her, if ever, would take time. Caitlyn was placed in a few different foster homes. Some worked for a while, but she had lost all control over her life and her feelings, and she acted it out for all to see. So, on to the next home, hoping she'd do better there. Caitlyn escalated to the point of in-patient hospitalization. She remained at that level of care for three months. A residential program had been found for her, and it had been decided that she would go there until she received the help she needed.
Caitlyn still called me, and we kept in touch for several weeks. Sometimes I felt she was doing better and other times I could hear the fear in her voice. Something wasn't right. I found out in time, that during her stay at the residential facility, Caitlyn had been sexually abused by a staff member. I was afraid and angry for her as much as I felt the guilt of having supported her placement there. How could we have known this could or would happen? I asked myself this question over and over again. What have we all done to this child? We should have known. So many adults in her life had let her down. We should have helped Caitlyn and her mom, long before it got to this point.
Charges were brought against her abusers at the facility, the program was shut down because other girls had also stepped forward to say that they had been victimized, as well, and so, Caitlyn was placed back in foster care. Maybe it could work this time? It didn't. Caitlyn ended up in juvenile detention for a while, and in time, was released back into her mother's custody. Her high school years had taken hits both developmentally and academically. Caitlyn was returned home, but a scarred-for-life-child. Our child. How could this situation have spiraled so out of control. I mean, so many of us have experienced those parties, argued with our parents, and even skipped school on occasion, when we were Caitlyn's age. Why did this child's life take the horrible turn that it did? We will never have those answers. We have to learn from this family's misfortune, and fix what we can, with what went wrong, for the next Caitlyn. There will be others, and we need to be responsible and accountable for decisions made on their behalf, as well. We better have learned something, for all that it cost Caitlyn. We owe her that much. Her pain-our shame.
Caitlyn now lives with her mom and boyfriend, with one baby and another one on the way. She still goes to family counseling, and her relationship with her mother has mended. Will she ever forget all the wrongs that she had laid in her path though? We can only hope.
Caitlyn, forgive us for failing you, time and time again.
Fifteen, blond, a pretty face.
Party plans became a "case".
Police arrived, her mom had known.
She should have listened, not have groaned.
It's too late now
to say 'could haves'.
She's been hurt,
it's now 'should haves'.
The ER team knows all about
the drugs, the drink, the news is out.
She and mom had been at odds.
Now she prayed, why me? Oh, God.
Her body ached, she laid in pain.
She'd never trust a man again.
One had left her. One had raped.
Her heart, a wound-left all agape.
Kim Diaz 2012