My Daughter the Shoplifter
“This is not the first time you have shoplifted. If it was the first time, I might have found this;” the security officer said to Janet as he picked up an eyebrow pencil. “I would not have found this (he picks up a bottle of nail polish), or this (he touches a bottle of foundation), or this (a tube of mascara).” Janet is weeping, swearing that this is the first time in her life she has ever stolen anything. A store employee enters the security office and hands the officer a Polaroid camera. “Oh God, you are not going to take my picture?” She gulps, sniffs, and wails; then she wipes the streaks of mascara from under her eyes. “Young lady, we are taking your picture and putting it on our wall so our staff knows what you look like because you are not allowed in our store anymore.” Janet had separated from me at our local grocery store to “read magazines” and the next thing I knew, a store employee was dispatched to find me. This is a new experience for me.
In California, stores are able to assess civil penalties for shoplifting without going to court. We were assessed $75.00 and Janet was banned from the store. As her parent, I was liable for the $75.00. The fact that I was her foster parent did not matter. Janet did get an allowance and was given some extra opportunities to earn money. We agreed that by me paying the money; I had, effectively paid her that much allowance in advance and I had her sign a statement to that effect. The next day, while Janet was in school, I went through her room.
In Janet’s room, I found: 3 water bottles filled with liquor, my spare remote for the car door, and my spare remote for the garage door opener. Kids will go up and down streets clicking remotes and sooner or later will get lucky opening a car or garage. I took my remotes and the water bottles and closed the door. I never said a word to Janet and she never said anything to me. My liquor cupboard was empty and it stayed that way as long as Janet and I lived together.
The next time I visited Alisa, I took Janet and Ivy with me. The girls seemed glad to see each other and Alisa was allowed to leave the group home site to go to dinner and see a movie with us. We stopped at a Wal-Mart with the understanding that we would all stay together. The girls were making a purchase and I stood back about 20 ft watching them. I noticed a slight swelling of Janet’s ribcage, a very subtle change.
My first thought about her body was: When did she do it? How did I miss this? It cannot be. Within the next few days, I made an effort to have a private conversation with Janet. I could only say what I thought. I told her that certain things about her body looked as if she might be pregnant. I barely finished the “pregnant” word and Janet flipped into her “loud, weepy and deny” mode. I was just quiet. Pregnancy is not something you can deny for very long. I did, within the next few days, call our agency social worker and share my concerns. We discussed possible plans of action. This was a situation where I was sure that no child would ever be placed in my home again. They get into too much trouble.
Before I said or did anything about Janet’s condition, I received a call from our worker about an eleven year old girl; my Lea. Lea’s worker was trying to find a home for Lea in the next few months, not right away. We agreed to meet in our home within the next few days.