Not deferential enough: Letter to a child in jail

Posted Friday, May 6, 2016 in Opinion

Not deferential enough: Letter to a child in jail

by Gina Hamilton

As many of you know, we work with children whom society has given up on. The reason society gives up is that it is often sick of the child's crap. It's understandable, on a day like today, when a former foster son is now in jail for a number of minor offenses, which became more major offenses when he didn't take responsibility for them.

So now, the kid is likely to be in jail for six months. And when his girlfriend called me to ask me to stand bail for him, I said no.

She knows why; I encouraged her not to do so either. She readily agreed.

I won't use the child's real name, but understand that he is no longer a technical child, although he is likely to remain childlike because his repeated incarcerations have kept him from growing up, the way his girlfriend did, or our biological son did, or our nieces and nephews did. Let's call him 'Mark'.

Dear Mark,

I still love you. I still consider myself the mother you should have had as a toddler, when you badly needed one, the mother you should have had as a young school-ager, when I could have helped you find your path in life, the mother you should have had when you were a young teen and just beginning to make serious mistakes in life.

But I won't bail you out of this. You believe that this is an error. It might well be. I know I didn't get any documentation about court dates for the time period in question, and you were using my address as your mailing address. If your lawyer asks me about it on the stand, I will tell him so.

But I won't bail you out. Even if you didn't knowingly skip this court date, there were others that you did miss and didn't get caught for. There were numerous fines you didn't pay, or make any arrangement or attempt to pay. There was a trail of broken relationships, with girls, boys, adult people who wanted and tried to help you, jobs that you walked away from because you didn't want to work, police who gave you the benefit of the doubt when you deserved none, friends who were used way too often, as though they deserved to be treated like your personal servants.

Mark, you made adult contracts and broke them, stole and lied and sold things that weren't yours to sell to get money for drugs, sold Christmas gifts and birthday presents, so you could stay high and not have to work for the pleasure. You stole a small sum of money from us, and a larger sum from your girlfriend, who also still loves you, but needs to work through this on her own. You took a small television from us that, had you asked, we would have likely told you to keep, but you didn't trust us enough to ask us. If you were able to sell it, it's probably long gone, along with the game system you didn't return to the rental place.

You claimed you were an adult and should be treated that way, while you lived rent free or near as damn it with us. You haven't yet filed a motion to explain why you shouldn't have to forfeit the last $500 someone gave you to bail you out of jail. It wasn't me, it wasn't your girlfriend, but that's on track to be another broken relationship that you used while it was useful, and were willing to toss on the debris pile of your life when the person became no longer a useful patsy.

We offered you a lot. We were willing to help you go to college, help you get started in life in your own apartment, be the place where you went for Thanksgiving, and the home where a birthday cake or pecan pie was always made for you, with bright, shining candles.

Our crime was not taking you in as a baby, and not because we wouldn't have, but because we didn't know about you.

By the time you came to us, you were in deep trouble, but we did our best.

What we can't do any more is live with the insecurity of you.

Mark, we care.

I don't know if jail is the best place to get what you need, but that place is damn sure not on the streets. You need the security of a place where they tell you what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and perhaps help you get off drugs and learn new skills.

I am hoping that after your stint in jail, they'll find a secure place for you to address some of the mental health issues I know you still face, and keep you from abusing drugs again. We can't be that secure home for you.

You're still welcome for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'll still make you a cake for your birthday. But you need more than what we can give.

I wish you the best. I truly do. I hope your lawyer can help you, and that the jail can help you, and I hope that you learn to deal with the real adult world, no matter how annoying it is. Let's face it, Mark, you're a terrible criminal. You keep getting caught.

Love,

Mom

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