I had my first taste of being a Mom just after I was married. My husband and I were leading the Youth Group at our church and there was one little girl I found especially irritating. I love children, but for some reason, she didn't want to be there any more than I wanted her to be there. She was argumentative, lied a lot, and manipulated the smartest of adults. I wasn't going to let her have the upper hand with me. On those Sunday mornings, I would punish her when she was disrespectful. The first time we went head-to-head, she was mad and surprised that someone was trying to make her behave.
Over the months, she discovered that I wasn't the enemy and I wasn't going to let her ruin the lessons that my husband and I had prepared. She became tolerable - even likable. We became involved with her life. We went to her volleyball games, met (and gave a hard time to) her little boyfriends, and I even IM'd her while I was at work. I grew especially attached to this young lady.
Later, she confided in me that she had been molested by her step-father. I asked her if her mother knew, and she said yes - that her mother had told her that she'd just have to deal with it because she was not able to financially raise her on her own. It blows my mind that people are capable of hurting children and that a mother is incapable of protecting her child.
After getting officials involved, she came to stay with us for the weekend while her step-father found some place else to stay. The next week, she went home, but we were still a big part of her life. I found out that she had began cutting her wrists in an effort to control the pain that she felt because her mother refused to get rid of her husband for reasons that made sense only to her. She told the girl that she still loved him and what happened was between the child and the husband - that it had nothing to do with her. The cutting got pretty bad and the young lady ended up in the psychiatric ward at the hospital. From her hospital room window, she watched her mother kiss and embrace her step-father in the parking lot. On her very first visit with Children Services, she indicated that she'd like to stay with us and we agreed. I went from Youth Group Leader to Pseudo Mom very quickly.
Her life had changed while she lived with us. She went from failing to getting straight A's. She was tolerable because she was rested and not on the internet all hours of the night. She acted very much like a kid instead of an adult - because she could - at our house. She was my girl and even told me that she loved me. Truth is, I loved her too. Still do.
Meanwhile, her step-father went to trial, was found guilty, and sent to prison for several years. She stayed with us for several months after that because of the explosive relationship she had with her mother. We were asked and we were prepared to adopt this 13-year-old when it came down to it. However, she was placed back with her mother at the end of the 6 months. They made the 13-year-old choose. They made her choose! What 13-year-old girl would not choose her mother? Would not want the relationship with her mother - even the worst kind - to work? She tearfully packed up her stuff and we took her to her mom. Later that evening she called and said that she knew she had made the wrong choice. Unfortunately, I couldn't do anything to change the situation.
Through all of this, her mother came to dislike us - especially me. I was the enemy. I ruined her facade of a happy family. I was even called into a therapy session with her in an effort to strengthen our communication. I would not state that I understood her point-of-view and went on to say that her reaction to the situation was inappropriate - that anger, confusion, frustration, and hurt were all acceptable, but hers - as a mother - was not. This didn't go over well with the therapist or the mother.
I knew that in order for her to go home and live a peaceful life that she wanted with her mom, I had to withdraw a bit from her life. I knew that when she left our house that last time, things had to be different between us. She's still angry with me about this because she doesn't understand what I had to do. She thinks I abandoned her. She still calls every now and then - mainly when life is really stressful and she needs someone safe to argue with. I know that I should just be happy with the fact that it's me that she calls because she knows I won't turn my back on her if she lashes out. But I still miss the little girl that was mine for a little bit.
Not only did this teach me about being a parent, but it taught me that I am not a fan of Children Services. Please don't hear that this organization never does any good. It does. I know full well that they do, given my current job. However, I have learned that they always work to put a child back with his/her parents because their philosophy that a child's best place is always with the parents. I disagree with this completely. I think they made the wrong decision by allowing a child to decide what was best for her, plain and simple. I have no desire to work with Children Services on a personal level ever again.