Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I used to work in an agency that did foster placements, and it was amazing the number of times one of the social workers would find a foster parent whaling the hell out of a kid in the burger joint just outside the offices, often on the way to an appointment. This would call for taking the kid away right away and making emergency accomodations - even if that meant housing the kid at their place for a bit. Though I worked in administration, a couple requirements for us all were that we be trained in crisis intervention and that we do some field work. As a result, we'd often end up keeping an eye on stray kids.

For some reason, one little boy would find himself in our office regularly. He was small for his age (around eight), had huge eyes, and was very, very grave in demeanor. Whenever my one colleague (a tall, handsome Cape Verdean man who usually got boys left with him - great male role model, loved kids. The case workers loved him to bits.) wasn't around, I'd help out. I think that initially he was a little mistrustful of me, since I was another Big White Person, and they seemed to be the ones jerking him around a lot. Eventually, though, for a variety of reasons (Butcher paper and the big box of crayons. My really awesome tattoo. The fact that I took french fry breaks instead of coffee breaks, among other things), he warmed up to me.

We used to have some great conversations about what he liked (tattoos - wanted one on his arm like I had. Only in Chinese. When I asked him what he wanted the tattoo to say, he said that he didn't know, because he didn't speak Chinese and wouldn't understand it.) and disliked (sitting around in offices - he had plenty of experience in this), what he wanted to be when he'd grow up, places he'd like to visit. I learned that he liked roller coasters, but was too small to go on one yet. Also - he liked cheese pizza, but didn't care for egg rolls. Since he acted so mature for his age, I'd sometimes forget that he was a little kid and start asking him too many questions, giving him too many choices, treating him like he was older than he could handle. This was when he'd start getting a bit irritable, his body language would change, and he'd get this look in his eyes that said "hey, lay off. You're the big person, I'm the little person. Why don't you act your part so that I can act mine?" After a few experiences with this, figured out how to stop myself and let him be a kid again.

Eventually, he got placed with a good family whose intention was to eventually adopt (they had a history with us; it was cool.) him, so that was the end of the visits. All for the best, though. Two jobs and several years later, though, I still think about him. He'd be in high school now. How's he doing? Did he ever get adopted? Does he still want to be a police man? Has he ever gotten to ride a roller coaster? I also think a lot about the look he'd get when he wanted an adult to make the decisions. I hope that his new family picked up on it.

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