“It’s only psychological.”

Last night Josefina asked if I could adopt her. She was kidding, yes, but maybe only half way. Things with her mother have not much improved. Each day she looks a little more ground down, a little less like the Josefina I met in the spring. While I respect her decision not to pursue emancipation, I’m not sure it’s really the best choice for her.

I am glad to hear that the scared-the-crap-out-of-me pimping threat seems to have been phased out. Josefina says now that it was surely just a threat, that it would never have gone beyond the talk. I wish I felt so sure.

The real-or-“only”-threatened pimping has given way to a full court press on Josefina’s money. Last week Josefina discovered that her bank account had been emptied by her mother. Her mother insists that she has a right to any money Josefina earns, says that Josefina ‘owes’ her for all the money spent for her care and feeding from birth until now, Yes. Parental reparations.

I have no ready answers. No answers at all. I’d like to help her find a way to keep her Summer Youth money safe, and I’ll see what info I can find for her that might help her see her options more clearly. “Encourage, don’t push” is the plan. If it’s just about money, I think Josefina will take action.

She won’t, however, take any steps to free herself of her mother entirely. She doesn’t want Children’s Services or the police to get involved, but I can’t tell who she’s protecting. Once she found out that Children’s Services could (and most likely would) become involved in the emancipation process, she backed off the idea entirely. And now that she’s backed off, she has resigned herself to staying with her mother another year, until she’s 18. (Her birthday was at the end of last week, spent sleeping on a friend’s couch because her mother changed the lock on the apartment and wouldn’t let her in. [sigh])

Last night we talked about money. Tonight we reviewed her safety plan — were her two friends’ houses still viable options on the nights when she found herself locked out? And then we talked about how untenable her situation seems.

“Don’t worry, Miss Stacie,” she said. “There’s no physical abuse or anything like that. Everything she does, it’s only psychological.”

Only?”

“It’s nothing I haven’t lived with for years already.”

Um, yeah. Could I ever have sounded so old at seventeen?

Encourage, don’t push. Encourage, don’t push. This will have to be my mantra. I’ll have to keep reminding myself. She’s taking it one day at a time, and I have to figure out how to do the same.

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5 thoughts on ““It’s only psychological.”

  1. Being a teacher is such a hard job. I so appreciate your sharing your experiences and struggles. It makes it easier for me to deal with my struggle to separate my instinct to mother students with the more appropriate teacher/support role. Josefina is lucky to have you to turn to — it may help her avoid some truly dreadful decisions.

  2. It’s horrible what this girl is going through. There are some options available to keep her money safe. She should check with her bank about opening her own account or maybe she can put the money in a prepaid credit card for her use. I know as a teacher it’s not advisable to get too involved but she’s lucky to have you to turn to.

  3. This is heartbreaking.

    Every time she has the chance to speak with you & knows that you care, the fact that she sees it’s possible to grow up & be like you, you’re making an impression that will last in her mind forever. I’m positive about this because I remember every teacher like you from my childhood.

  4. Thanks, everyone. Yeah, Josefina’s situation is pretty awful. And I feel terrible that there really isn’t much I can do for her. Our youth counselor is on top of it — meeting with her regularly, pulling together various resources, being another supportive, listening ear. But what else is there?

    As for separating my mother/teacher selves … well, maybe I’ll get that one down one day! I know I shouldn’t get overly involved, and I really don’t, but that doesn’t keep my heart from getting all tangled up with them [sigh]. I love what you said, Pam, about how you remember all the really strong, caring teachers you had growing up. I remember mine, too … but I thought that was just because there were so few of them.

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