Yesterday I told a kid that his only living parent, his mother, died. I have been working with this individual for a year and a half, he’s one of few kids that I have known and worked closely with for my entire involvement in the criminal justice system. I met him when he was 13. I’ve spent time with him in juvenile detention, at school, at behavioral health treatment centers, in his home, at bookstores, applied for jobs, went to the gym, and, of course, have had countless conversations and visits with his mom.

I put my hand on his shoulder as I watched his face go from happiness that I was visiting from out of town, to confusion, to sorrow when a member of his support team told him his mother had passed. I had my hand on his shoulder while he wept as he spoke with a relative on the phone who was weeping as they consoled him from afar. We listened to music, played video games, and went on a walk where I told him about grief. I explained to him how people may try to say comforting things that actually come across as painful and hurtful, how people may look at him funny, or talk weird to him because they are avoiding making anyone feel uncomfortable, and how people may not talk about his mom without him talking about her first. We shared memories about his mom, he processed despair that both of his biological parents are now dead, and I checked if he was going to try and hurt himself throughout this process. He shrugged.

See, this kid has survived watching his parents drink themselves to death. He himself has survived hospitalization for suicide attempts. Yup, plural. Three, to be exact. He does not believe in a higher power, he does not have a source of hope for his future, and he feels disconnected from everyone except… His mom. He found motivation to do well in looking to his mom. He found comfort in talking to his mom. His mom told him that she loved him. He was working (successfully) on his sobriety for his mom. And she’s gone. I am terrified that soon he will be, too. You see, each day – scratch that – each hour this kid is still alive is an answer to prayer.

I don’t have a happy ending to this one, folks. He’s still alive, and that’s solace enough for me tonight.

Daily Grind

It’s been four months of my personal experience being a community supervisor for the sake of child rehabilitation and community safety. It feels like it has been much, much longer. I have definitely underutilized this wonderful resource of writing to cope with the trauma, relapses, and dysfunction that has become my “daily grind”. Poetry seems to be my favorite outlet, so here it goes:

One of my kiddos is preparing to go to college this month

Yesterday I taught him how to type, go online, and check his email

He is concerned and unsure, his impoverished childhood had no computers

You would have thought I was trying to teach him braille

One of my kiddos just had surgery for birth control

I took her to the doctor – she was relieved and freed

From the pressure she feels daily under her mother and friends

As they compare her to all those around her who succeed

One of my kiddos  was ordered to inpatient treatment

He just turned thirteen – his biggest threats are his mother and brother

He hasn’t been sober since he was seven

Being raised by a frail grandmother

One of my kiddos is homeless with a child

His mom’s car was repossessed, so he lost his employment

He failed all his classes when his parents were evicted

Yet we applaud for his 3 month sobriety – such accomplishment

These are my people, this is my caseload

I am witness to success, trial, fear, and life plans slowed

Some days I feel as though I could implode

Yet how beautiful a gift I have been bestowed

To walk with these kids down their tough and trying roads.