A New Home
From On Their Own By Martha Shirk and Gary Stangler
The following story is taken from the book On Their Own, a new book that tells the story of what happens to kids when they age out of the foster care system. This is part of the story of Casey-Jack, who spent 5 years in the foster care system. Over the next year, Casey-Jack (age 15) lived in an emergency shelter, four different group homes, and a family foster home. He was also in and out of psychiatric hospitals because of suicide threats. The frequent moves meant frequent school changes as well (he attended eighth grade in three different schools). And the distance between his hometown and some of his placements- as much as 200 miles meant that he rarely saw his siblings, who by this time were also in foster care.
In October of his freshman year in high school, Casey-Jack was offered a spot in a group home outside of Lawrence, which would permit more frequent contact with his siblings and his mother, with whom he had supervised visits."It seemed better than the place I was in in Pittsburg, so I said yes." O'Connell Youth Ranch is a ranch-based group home that sprawls across 300 acres on the outskirts of Lawrence... The ranch houses twenty four boys, ages eight through eighteen, in three separate homes, each staffed by a married couple referred to as "teaching parents". Casey Jack liked the couple that ran the house to which he was assigned. "They seemed really cool," he says. "J.D. was an ex-navy guy, a little scrawny guy about the same size as me, with lots of tattoos and an earring. And his wife, Alex, was real nice." Even so, Casey-Jack seemed to do his best to torpedo the placement. Every new resident starts out with limited privileges and earns more through good behavior. But within days of arriving, Casey-Jack had lost even the entry-level privileges because of bad behavior. In addition, he was suspended from high school for being disrespectful to a teachers. "Casey-Jack was very argumentative," says J.D. Kerr, one of the ranch's teaching parents. "He always had to be right, because for somebody else to be right would mean that he was wrong, which he couldn't stand. Failure is something that Casey-Jack couldn't tolerate."
After so many unhappy placements in foster care and finally he's in a place he likes, why do you think Casey-Jack seemed to do his best to screw up his placement at the ranch?