Friday, April 30, 2010


So, what do you do when you get a call from your boys’ friend:

“Hey, Doug, this is Ethan and Topher’s friend Johne.  I’ve known Topher for years, and have really seen the change in him since he’s moved in with you.  I’ve really got to get out of my house.  Would you be willing to take in another foster son?”

UMM … UMM … Wow!

That call came in Monday afternoon.  I was home from work to take care of Topher, who had banged his knee on my brickwork and I needed to take him to the Dr.  This call hit me totally out of the blue.

I went and sat at McDonald’s with Johne for about an hour and a half.  He talked.  I listened.  He confessed a lot to me.  What he told me made me want to cry.

Without going into detail:  His older sister and he are constantly at odds.  His parents are constantly at odds.  He feels responsible in part for, and caught in the middle of, both situations.  It’s driving him into a depression that he has no clue how to control.  He had heard that Topher was cutting himself to relieve stress and decided to try it himself.  Having seen his chest I fear he’ll have permanent scars from his first attempt.  The end result, though, is that he didn’t find release in cutting.  It didn’t help…

…so he reached out to me.

He spent the rest of the day at my house, and then I took him down to meet with his dad.  His dad and I talked.  More importantly, I talked, he listened.

Here are some of the decisions that he and I made together:
  • Neither of us is comfortable with Johne being at home without his dad anymore.  Rather than have that happen for longer than a couple hours, Johne is going to start coming to my house when he doesn’t feel up to dealing with home.  He’s been given blanket permission to just show up, both by his dad and by my wife and I, whenever he needs to.
  • Johne’s dad is going to try to deal with the family situation at their house.  Johne is staying the weekend while his dad tries to start this process.  I wish him luck.  I’m not overly confident it’s going to go well at all.
  • Johne is going to join some activities with my boys, likely Scouts and Church.  Not only will this give him someplace to be, but it will extend his support network to include the people in those groups, making him stronger in the end.
  • Johne is going to seek counseling.  In Oregon he can do this without his parents because he’s 14.  I’ve already forewarned Topher’s counselor to expect him, and I will be making arrangements to get him in ASAP.
  • I’m not going to be calling DHS … yet.  Until and unless I have something more concrete, I’m going to leave that decision up to his counselor.
  • Johne is not moving in with us.  Our family is still adjusting to having a troubled teenager move in with us, and will be for some time.  Another would tip the balance more towards chaos, and I’m not sure we can handle it.  When the situation with Topher settles down, and life returns to “normal” (whatever the hell that is), we may revisit this, but by that time I expect his family situation to have either improved or imploded making this a moot point.
I’m glad that my family, and especially 14 year old boys, can inspire other kids to reach out for the help they need and deserve.  Getting help when you’re in a bad situation is the best way to survive it.

Prayers appreciated … for all involved.

        aka: goofdad


amy said...

We have had teenagers and young adults living in our house for the last 10+ years. I think your decisions in this situation are wise.

It is a wonderful thing to open your house and your family up to a young person. Sometimes that means them moving in, other times it means that they know they have love and family outside of their own home. Either way, it's a big job for you!

Kali Suzanne said...

You guys are wonderful people! Sometimes the littlest thing that you can do, is the biggest thing in anothers eyes.
my brother helped me and took me under his wing. i had been molested by two of my friends and thats when my depression had started.
what you guys are doing is so amazing to see. it brings tears to my eyes that you can open your life up to help someone else out.