Friday, December 12, 2008

Deep Sadness -- and Helplessness

I just came out of a meeting with a sweet and spunky 16 year old. She should be a sophomore but she failed too many classes last year and is still classified as a freshman. She's always been fun to work with but this year she's really turned herself around. She's passing everything she's previously failed, and though she came to us with a rep for fighting anybody at the drop of a hat, this year she hasn't had one fight or even the hint of one.

The past month I've gotten hints that things were going wrong in her life but I didn't push her for information. She got a new coat over Thanksgiving and was so proud of it. She's sailing along in World History where I tutor her and she's passing English 1. She's even making great progress with algebra benchmarks. But yesterday she asked me to fill out her parental questionnaire on Romeo and Juliet and sign as her mother. I asked what name she wanted me to use and she was fine that I used my own name. In other words, I was the surrogate mother.

Today she came in to tell me that last night had been hard and she'd been crying most of the night. I asked why and the flood gates opened.

She's not living at home but with a girlfriend of her older brother -- there are 9 children in the home. She only goes home to see the little ones on Saturdays. Social Services was notified of the mother's failure to parent the little ones by the elementary school this week. Now she's afraid they will all end up in foster care.

The mother was "sent away" for drug addiction when she was 12. She lived with her father for a while but the new family didn't really "like her." Now the mother has new boyfriend. He was once homeless and he beats the mother so she won't stay in the house. This is why she's living with the girlfriend of her older brother. The girl she lives with is 25.

A week from Monday the girlfriend is taking off to visit her family. My student is staying in her apartment all alone. Christmas dinner will be Maruchan noodles -- that soup in a cup thing. We're off for two full weeks and during that time she will be completely alone. No presents. No holiday dinners. No decorations. No carols. Just a cabinet of noodles and an empty apartment.

I have no idea how to help. We visited with the psychologist and we're going to try and get her an official paper to stay with the brother. We're putting the social worker onto the case to help counsel her.

But what a dreary, lonely Christmas.

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