YOUNG MAN WITH A PLAN
by Caryl Harvey
(with apologies to Dr. Seuss)
I do not like this place I see
This place where they have taken me.
And I would rather stay at home
At home where I can stay alone
Watch TV and stay up late.
I won’t live here. This “here”
I do not like this mom and dad
They are not mine, they both smell bad.
And I don’t like the things they
Their vegetables and roasted meat
I want to go to Mickey D’s
I want to go there right now, please.
Okay, this place is not so bad
And I am safe but I’m still sad.
I cry for my brother, yes, I do
My cars and my Play Station Two
If I am good, and not so bad,
Can I go to the jail to see my dad?
I like it here. I do. I do.
I like the food and new clothes, too.
I like my shoes. I like my room.
I’m sick of mean. I’m tired
I’m sick and tired of feeling bad.
But can we go to the jail and see my dad?
My dad is free. He’s free to see
They’re coming to get me as quick
as can be.
And in a month, a month or four
He’ll get a house and a car for sure.
We’ll be together. I’m glad!
They’re coming to get me to visit
My dad couldn’t make it. My dad didn’t
I’m mad. And I want everybody to
I’ll kick at the kitten. I’ll
be bad as I can!
I’ll throw out my vegetables, say
“crap” and “damn”
And I’ll make them hate me, I’ll
make them feel bad.
As bad as I feel ‘cause I can’t
see my dad.
They told me they loved me. I’m glad
that I’m here.
They understand kids and they know about
I guess I’ll just stay here until
I go home.
I’ll put up with rules and toothbrushes
I’ll try to be good, though I’m
sure that I’ll fail,
Cause my dad might come see me. He got
out of jail.
They’re coming this morning. This
morning they’ll come
To take me away to a new foster home.
I must be just awful…worth nothing
Does my mom know I’m going? Can my
daddy still call?
I know what I’ll do. What I’ll
do, here’s the plan:
I’ll never love anyone, ever again.
THREE KIDS---THREE VIEWS
By Caryl Harvey
I saw his mother in the WalMart pharmacy aisle.
"You know they moved Marvin." she tells me. "He's in Denver."
"Yes," I say.
"I haven't seen him since they took him there."
"Good," I think. I say nothing.
Marvin hasn't been in my home for a year...since they sent him back to his mother for the fourth time. She likes
his Social Security checks. She's told a lot of people about them. But she gets tired of Marvin, I think, and decides he isn't
worth the effort. So she calls DSS and tells them to take him. Then, a few months later, she decides she wants him again
and all hell breaks loose at the foster home. Eventually, he's disrupted.
He's a troubled little kid. He hates his mother. He hates the system. He hates his foster parents. Mostly, though, he
"Why doesn't anyone want me?" he asks his caseworker as she drives him away from yet another placement. She cries.
We've all cried for Marvin. And as troubled as he is, as much as his mother has messed with his love, his only remaining
option is an RTC ( a residential treatment center) That may be a good thing.
Because unless something changes for Marvin soon, someday he will be the rapist at the other end of the knife. The
robber with a stolen gun.
Dennis says he's an alien. He says at night his cheeks glow green. And they may...we haven't checked.
He says aliens eat toothbrushes. We tend to believe him...after all, he's gone through five this week. They
Dennis told the kids at school that we have a spaceship launcher in our backyard. They want to see it.
"It's invisible," he tells them. "You can only see it if you are an alien."
Dennis claims to come from Mars, but his worst fear is the red moon of Pluto. It's a world not unlike ours, except everyone
here has an evil twin there.
Makes sense to us. After all, how else would you explain the two people you love the most, your parents. acting in such
a way as to get you placed in foster care?
It has to be their evil twins. Somehow they've been unleashed on earth. And on him.
He's a cutie. Eight years old and full of mischief. But he's a good kid. He does everything we ask him to. I think he's
afraid not to. Afraid that if he does something too wrong, other evil twins will show up. They'll move him again. Maybe this
time to a planet on the other side of the universe where his mother can't visit.
Marina is fourteen, and she's pregnant. The baby will come while she's in foster care. That's good, she thinks, because
it will be paid for.
And there will be food and clothes for the baby, too. That way, she can spend the money she makes at Safeway on clothes
and nice shoes for herself. She loves shoes.
We tell her she should put something away in savings to take care of her and the baby when they are out of the system.
She says there is plenty of time for that. Right now she's just a kid in foster care and it's our job to buy her stuff she
needs. She's going to spend her money on things she wants. Someday she won't be able to do that.
Not as much anyway.
But then again, she says, she can always get food stamps.
Which one sees the system clearly? They all do.
Marvin's right, of course. No one wants him. He's too damaged by a system that demands he be sent back to
a mother who holds him ransom for his disability checks. Someone should stop that. The bouncing, I mean.
I think Marvin could deal with an emotionless, selfish mother. I think he could deal with placement...with a new home and
new caretakers and new expectations.
It's the bouncing back and forth that ruins him. It's the false feeling of power that comes
over him when his mother calls, and he rages at his foster parents until they dispair of helping him and have him removed.
And the feelings of helplessness when he's driven up to another house in another city and meets another waiting
family. To Marvin, the system is a faceless, looming monster who punishes kids like him. A monster who ties him to his mother
with a rubber cord, then pulls him and pulls him-- away from her. He lives in fear of the day when the monster lets go of
him and he snaps back to her. It always does.
And Dennis is right. The system is full of evil twins. There are lots of us who aren't evil,
but we aren't especially powerful either. We can't stop parents from fighting. We can't get drugs off the street, or make
moms leave them alone. Good doesn't always triumph over evil. Love doesn't necessarily overcome hate. It's better
to be an alien. At least you don't have to take responsibility for the way things turn out here. And if you're really quiet,
if you don't make any noise at all, if you curl up in the tiniest of balls and stay there, the system won't know where you
But perhaps Marina sees foster care the most clearly. It's a self-perpetuating organism.
If you've been in for a while, you learn. Go with the flow.
If you do poorly in school, it's the system that's to blame. They take you out of class to do UA's and get
counseling. The court says you have to visit with your mom twice a week. You can't do homework on those nights, It's expecting
too much. So the system sees to it you get an IEP and the school modifies your classes.
And there's always money. Someone will pay. After all, the system owes you for removing you in the first place.
You're a victim, right? Of course right.
Three kids. Three views of the same animal. The system isn't perfect. We aren't either. But we're all that
stands between these kids and the things that are wrong. We can't always change the way the system acts, but we can show kids
the human side of it. We can provide a soft place for the bouncing child to land. We can find a way to give just a bit of
power back to a visiting alien, and we can help stop kids from becoming people-users by not being enablers ourselves. By holding
We are not evil twins. WE ARE WHAT'S RIGHT WITH THE SYSTEM.
"Turn that down," my mother yelled one afternoon. I was watching cartoons, trying to drown out the teen voices by raising
the volume higher and higher.
"I said, turn that down!"
"Well, if you would shut the hell up, I could hear the damn TV," I said.
My mother and her friends burst out laughing.
That's a quote from a book by a former foster child interviewed on Good Morning America. Her book is called "Three Little
Words," and recounts the horrors of her life in foster care. She was in 14 different homes. One of them was abusive.
That's all it took. It was FOSTER CARE HELL.
Okay, maybe she should have never been taken from her teenaged mother. But she admits there was no adult supervision. She
recalls falling out of her mother's car because she wasn't belted in and being beaten by her mother's boyfriend. And mom was
a good cook...of dope, that is.
I read today about twelve kids in Colorado who died because DSS didn't respond to complaints and never removed these
children from their abusive parents. So which is it? Should they err on the side of caution, or on the side of parental and
Children see things differently than adults. They hear them differently, too.
We say "You may have no more than half an hour of video games a night."
They hear, "You are guaranteed 30 minutes of uninterrupted video game playing come hell or high water...every night. "
So is it any wonder that kids have a skewed version of foster care?
That they make false allegations?
That they see everyone BESIDES their parents as the enemy?
But the parents know better.
And so would the public if it would take the time to research foster care. If they would pay less attention to the sensationalists...the
Maybe the foster care system is broken. It certainly is not perfect. BUT DO YOU HAVE A BETTER SOLUTION?
There are currently about 550,000 kids in foster care. Kids who have been removed from unsafe conditions. Kids who--if
left in their own homes---might not survive until next year. Where would you put them?