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The "what-if" Game...

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The "what-if" Game...

Postby Warpigs » Mon Aug 08, 2005 5:46 pm

I'm in an interesting situation and just wanted to talk some about it to a neutral party (in this case, several hundred neutral parties ;-D )

As many may know here, I work with troubled teens in a group home setting in central PA. My wife and I are talking about potentially adopting one of the guys -- a 15 year old who's biological family disappeared on him almost a decade ago. He has no real connections out of the placement system and we know we could provide a family for him that would be very good overall. He's a very active kid, loves fishing and sports and will really fit into the lifestyle here (lots of outdoors activities, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, etc.) overall. While it may seem peachy on the top, I do have some reservations...

First, he does have some firesetting issues in his past. Now, these are from years ago when he was really struggling with abandonment issues from his bio family. While there is no indication that it will ever occur again, I still get a little nervous wondering about the "what-ifs". He also had some spells of physical aggression towards people. Again, these came when he was really confused/disturbed about some of the crappy cards he's been dealt. I won't go into specifics here to preserve confidentiality, but the basics are here. It would be silly to never expect him to get upset or grumpy while living with us, and we may have to deal with some variation of the issues listed above.

Now, the real catalyst for my concerns is that we have a now nine-and-one-half year old daughter. She is our first and our pride and joy. While I never would expect problems (the kid in question here was over for a weekend visit and seemed to interact well with her). However, what if he was with her for a few minutes and she started screaming her head off and he didn't know what to do. What if he gets upset over something else and it ultimately affects her?

The protective father side has me questioning this somewhat. There are a ton of "what-ifs" on both sides of the equation. With his age, I don't realistically expect him to be adopted by anyone else. He'll wind up in foster care, which will provide some support to age 18, but not much after. An adopted family, like ours would be, would give him something to rely on for life.

I know I'll forever be questioning myself if we say no to this opportunity -- wondering "what-if", especially if we learn later that he has relapsed and something bad has happened (like could we have helped him avoid this?). However, if we do jump on this opportunity, I know I'll always be a little anxious and could never forgive myself if something bad happens.

Overall, I'd love some general feedback on this. I don't plan on making any rash decisions based on anyone's feedback here, but would love to hear from people who aren't as close to this situation.

Overall, I think we'll go for it, but I still wonder....
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Postby Calyxes » Mon Aug 08, 2005 7:13 pm

I am not a father but that is a tough choice to make. I do however have some experience in that area, I was a teacher for two years in a middle school EI room. Most off my students came to this room because of anger problems for similar reason as the ones you stated in your writing. I don not think that you can never guarantee that nothing will happen. The other side of this question also depends on how well you know this kid. How long have you worked with him? Has me made notable improvments over the time since you have worked with him? Don't ansewr this one but what kind of violent crimes has he committed? Is he voilent against animals? There are a ton more questions that you need answers for to but I am sure you have thought that part out. Given the right circumstances I believe that any child can succeed. If this child does come to your home another question is how will your daughter respond? Does she understand that you and your wife will need to spend alot of time helping the new member of the family? I know there is not an easy answer but I think you are doing an honorable thing. I think that by asking here at the football site your mind is already made up that this kid could have potential. Follow your gut and give the boy a home. ;-D

P.S. There would not be any chance that this kid is going to be a stud footbal player in the future is there? :-?
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Postby hastur » Mon Aug 08, 2005 7:15 pm

Well, this isn't your ordinary "Look at what this schmuck did" or "Dick Clarke pooped his pants--here's the pics" thread...

When he was 5, his family quit on him. He has had 10 years to grow resentful of all 'parent' types. Right now, I think he's looking at you as a counceler, a 'big-brother' figure. His perception of you will ultimatly change once you adopt him. You will go from talking to him and guiding him through tough life-decisions to setting his curfew and telling him he's not allowed to go to X concert. All children(for all intents and purposes, I will refer to him as a child) seek limits and boundries, I understand this. But his dynamic with you will change.

I think it really depends on his family life before the abandonment. Was he already a fire-setter and rough-neck before his family left? Were they the low-income, welfare type(I don't wish to piss off anyone here with those questions. His surroundings while in the first 5 years of life determines his decision making abilities and resilency towards negative circumstances). For instance, were his bio parents smokers? Tatoo'd bikers? Or middle class types who just couldn't handle the mental stress of bringing up a teenager in this day and age? If the father figure was a hells angel who was in and out of jail and the mother who drank are two parents who would instill certain values and morals in this child as opposed to a white collar dad and stay at home mom. The situation, I know, is not this clear cut. His life before the abandonment I think is key.

If a problem comes up where you repremand him or dicipline him for something, he might not do something rash right away, but watch out when you and the missus leave for an evening.

I also would be nervous(the biggest understatment of the century) about having him and a 'new', unrelated 9 year old girl in the same house.

You, Warpig, do this for a living. I do not. I buy books. You councel troubled teens. Take what I advise with a grain of salt.

I wish you and your soon to be growing family the best.
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Postby Lushcrush » Mon Aug 08, 2005 7:25 pm

I know what you mean. I've worked with kids and tried to do extra stuff whenever I could ....
The record on that stuff is about even. Some work out ... some don't.
Adopting is huge ... why not just do what you can for the guy in your official capacity (whatever that is).
That might sound cold ... but it allows you some seperation between you life and your job.
Generally, thats what I would say.
Good luck.
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Postby VHawk15 » Mon Aug 08, 2005 7:56 pm

I think that the first logical step is to ask your daughter what she thinks about it. At 9 1/2, she'd surely have a legit opinion herself on the issue, based on the time she has spent with him.
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Postby Warpigs » Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:14 pm

VHawk15 wrote:I think that the first logical step is to ask your daughter what she thinks about it. At 9 1/2, she'd surely have a legit opinion herself on the issue, based on the time she has spent with him.



Sorry all for not specifying this better, but our daughter is 9 1/2 MONTHS old. She doesn't say much and we can't go to her for her input. When she's old enough to start giving feedback, this boy will be 18 and possibly in the armed forces, college or trade school.
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Postby Warpigs » Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:33 pm

Lushcrush wrote:I know what you mean. I've worked with kids and tried to do extra stuff whenever I could ....
The record on that stuff is about even. Some work out ... some don't.
Adopting is huge ... why not just do what you can for the guy in your official capacity (whatever that is).
That might sound cold ... but it allows you some seperation between you life and your job.
Generally, thats what I would say.
Good luck.



I hear you on this, but wonder how many other adoptive families had similar thoughts to what I have and luckily didn't let them sidetrack their feelings. I'm sure that there have been more adoptive families with second thoughts that ultimately went through with the experience and were success stories than there have been families with second thoughts who were sorry they went ahead with the adoptive process. I also have the luxury of knowing the kid about a year now through the group home program -- and while he's made a ton of progress, he's also not perfect (who is?). He struggles with disappointment -- but then again I really got pissed when I was his age when campouts were rained out, when football games were postponed, etc.

I guess it's a tough call no matter what. Fear of the unknown (here specifically of the negative "what-ifs") can be a very strong defense system -- However in this field I've also seen Fear of the Unknown be a very destructive paralyzing factor. I remember recently being at a local town meeting where the local yocals were all up in arms about a girls group home going into our little community. They made outrageous claims of all the druggies from inner cities being sent out here and poisoning our community. They had little to no knowledge of how a true group home operates or what kind of kids wind up there. These kids many times aren't much different than you and me, they just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Fear of the unknown in this case (the girls group home) paralyzed the community people and made them pretty frantic against the group home going in until I stood up and intervened between several people talking about leaving their chainsaws out unlocked and how group home kids would become some sort of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I pointed out that I've worked with these kids in group home situations and I wasn't about to move or protest the group home coming in even though we have an infant daughter. Yes, I've seen first-hand that some kids will run away and may break into homes, but that only happens in a very small fraction of the situations. Much more of the time, the kids make improvements for the better thanks to the staff not giving up on them. I asked the people in the room what kind of message they were sending their own children if we turned our back to the chance to welcome in troubled kids and help them improve their lives. I asked them how that would affect the values of this little community we all love.

Now I think this adoptive case is somewhat similar, except I'm the person paralyzed by fear. Again, fear can be an important defense system, but it also can un-necessarily paralyze people. Only, in my current case, things are hitting a little more close to home (like actually in the home).

I just wish there was a more clear-cut answer to this all..
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Postby Calyxes » Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:34 pm

Sorry all for not specifying this better, but our daughter is 9 1/2 MONTHS old



If you can get your daughter to talk at 9 1/2 months old than you should bring home every kid that you work with ;-D LOL
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Postby Pete123444 » Mon Aug 08, 2005 10:51 pm

You and your wife's first and utmost priority is your daughter. If and only if you know for 100% sure that this in no way will effect your daughter's life at all, then go for it.
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Postby Homeless » Mon Aug 08, 2005 11:55 pm

This is extremely tough. I have two kids and I would have to think very very hard about bringing a teenager who was essentially a stranger into my home.

As much as I would like to help the kid out, I would end up on the side of caution and not take the step to adopting him.

That opinion is of course based on the very limited knowledge you have given us. If I spent a lot of time with the boy, getting to know him, seeing how he interacts with my family over a year or so, then it could definitely sway my opinion towards adopting him.

Very tough spot you are in. I would have to say, trust your gut, its usually right.
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