Bear has to have an assessment by his MHMR caseworker every 90 days to keep his services. He had one yesterday. It was all the usual questions... how much (none, once or twice, several times, often, always) has the child ____________ (used drugs or alcohol, self-harmed, thought about or attempted suicide, skipped class, bad grades, got in a fight, argued...) how much (never, some, quite a bit, extreme) does problems with ______________ (not completing projects, relationships with friends, relationships with family, not being able to sit still, need of supervision...) interfere with his life?
I was a little concerned that we'd lose some services because he'd been under such strict supervision all Summer that he hadn't had much chance to get into trouble. Turned out most of the questions were such that I could still honestly answer that his issues were effecting his life to an extreme.
After Bear left the room, I took some time to talk to the caseworker about who could help us as we start to figure out what our options are with Bear when he turns 18 (or finishes this year of school since I don't think he'll wait until the end of July before he leaves us).
I've got to admit, we are sorely tempted to just let him go, but we have a moral obligation to do what's best for him. His current plan is to go to live with his bio-grandfather in Oklahoma the minute he turns 18 and finish his last year of high school there.
The way I see it, we have a few choices:
1. Continue with status quo, and not help him (enable him?) with making any alternative plans for leaving. Enabling him seems like it would be counter-productive to trying to convince him to stay and at least finish high school. Continue to subtly discourage him about leaving. Possibly sabotage his plans to live with Grandfather (think the guy knows that Bear is in special ed, on meds that will most likely cost over $2,000/mo, that Bear is psychotic when he is off his meds...? Bear will of course find out I did this and blame me.) Making sure Bear knows we want him to stay. Will this even work? It hasn't up to now.
What happens if it doesn't and we've just dumped a totally unprepared Bear into a world he cannot handle?
2. Let him fail/ Legal guardianship- he claims he doesn't need the supervision and medications, then maybe we should let him try life without them while he's still living with us. (Obviously this would be under the supervision of the psychiatrist, because he's on major meds and cannot go cold turkey). Then when he fails, we can use that to try to convince him that he needs us. and/or as evidence for become his legal guardians when he turns 18. Police records, psychiatric hospitalizations, and the special school, in addition to his claims that he'll drop his meds (or at least proof that he's not capable of getting them on his own) should be enough to convince a GAL that he's not competent.
Even though we would have proof that he needs it, this is still going to create a very angry Bear. He is in complete denial of his diagnoses - how could he possibly accept that he's going to have to trust us to take care of him for ... the rest of his life? at least a few more years? On the flip side this may give him the excuse he needs to surrender control and finally trust us (right now he feels he's got to mentally/emotionally brace himself for being on his own so he has to push us away so it won't hurt when we "abandon" him).
3. Assist him with moving in with bio-grandfather - talking to Grandfather (finding out if Grandfather even has a clue as to what's going on), possibly visiting him (I'm not sure Grandfather will talk to me as he gets all his info about us from Bear so this way we could meet face to face and he can see I'm not a controlling kidnapper and this way he might get an idea of what Bear is really like since he hasn't seen the kid in 10 years), then, assuming Grandfather really wants him - help Bear locate and set up services - especially getting the psychiatric services and medications and getting school services set up.
By enabling this are we sending the message we approve? By making it easy for him, will he feel we are trying to get rid of him? If he's really leaving can I do any less than everything I can to try to make sure he succeeds?
I think at this point I'm really leaning toward Option #2. So there are lots of considerations that go with that. For one thing, what is our legal liability? Can we get in trouble for allowing him to do this if/when he becomes psychotic?
How far do we go in giving Bear a "normal life?"
• Do we let him get a job?
• Do we help him get a job?
• Do we let him stop seeing his therapist?
• Do we let him get a driver's license?
• Do we help him get a driver's license?
• Do we let him go to friend's houses without checking up on him?
• Do we let him wander the neighborhood?
• Do we start teaching him how to apply for Medicaid?
• Do we start teaching him what his meds do and how they work or do we just let him drop them (under the supervision of his psychiatrist)?
• Do we make him pay for everything? (clothes, utilities, food...).
• Do we require him to prove that he can do stuff (like locate, apply for and arrange to attend: psychiatric services, MHMR services, job, Medicaid, college/trade school applications, driver's ed...)
• Do we pretend to treat him like an adult or do we treat him like a high school student?
• If we treat him like a high school student do we treat him like a "normal" high school student or does he have to continue to follow my admittedly over protective rules? In other words does he still have to be RRHAFTBA? Does he have to check in with me before he goes to a party so I can make sure there will be parents there? Is he allowed to say "naughty words" when there are no littles present?
• If/when he breaks the rules - what kind of punishment/discipline should he get? Should he go in the FAIR Club?
• When he starts treating the family badly what should the consequences be?
• If he gets violent or is caught with drugs or alcohol there is no question that the police would be called, but how involved should we be in his court dates or with the school (if it happens at school)?
• At what point do we consider the "experiment" to be over?
• At the end, do we go straight back to the level of supervision he's at now, or will he be held accountable for his actions during the "experiment."