Friday afternoon, like so many afternoons since I’ve had children, all my plans were derailed by the needs of a kid. This one, whom I’ll call “D,” is my friend’s former foster son.
D is a charming, brilliant 19-year-old, one of those smart people who never quite clicks with school. D was my friend’s student at a local high school and he was staying at a group home because of problems at his mom’s house. My friend took him in as a foster son and tried to give him some stability so he could focus on school.
One of the realities of foster care is that at age 18 the child “ages out” of the program. Towards his 18th birthday and this looming transition, D started getting into trouble. He stopped doing his work at school, and then he stopped going to school altogether. D entered a transitional program for foster children that helped him get an apartment and taught him some independent living skills, while requiring him to get a job that would pay at least half of his expenses. The job he got was a seasonal one and when it ended D quietly slipped out of the program and out of town.
When he came back a couple months ago, we reconnected and I started in on those mom questions: When are you getting your GED? Have you taken your driver license tests? Where are you going to live?
On Friday, D let me know why some of these questions have been so hard to answer: He’d been robbed in June and all his identification was gone — his state ID, his birth certificate, his Social Security card. He can’t get a driver license without some ID with his signature and photo. He can’t get a birth certificate without his Social Security card or photo ID. But he also needs photo ID to get his Social Security card replaced. D was caught in a vicious cycle.
After tortuous and lengthy interactions with the Vital Records office down at the courthouse, D should be getting a copy of his birth certificate in a few days. Then we’ll work on the photo ID and maybe he can finally move forward.
D’s situation made me realize how easy it is for a kid to get lost. What would have happened if he hadn’t stopped by on Friday? How much longer would he have hung out, directionless and anonymous to the very systems he needs to get his life back on track?
And how many more kids are there like him?