If you have, as a new foster parent, decided that you want to be a home for teenagers – God Bless you. Teenagers in general still are pretty scary to me! As are tweens… They know way too much! And they THINK they know even MORE! 🙂
In our Pride class, one of the topics was run aways. It happens. The thing is positioning yourself as the child’s ally, not their sworn enemy.
One of the things that was suggested is that if a kid (I like that word for some reason – kid) says or makes threats to runaway, make a Run Plan (AKA Safety plan) with them.
If you are just leaving a parental visit and the child is upset (ala one of the videos we watched that started conversation) they might make some statements that they want to run away and they hate you, etc. They don’t really hate YOU – something happened. They are having a reaction to the situation they are in and they are just mad. And that’s ok and it’s understandable. Don’t take it personal.
Tell them that you can see that they are pissed off. Give them a bit of space. Don’t smother. And tell them that if they are going to run, that you want to come up with a run plan. That you can’t stop them from going, but you want to help keep them safe.
Remind them that maybe at home they will need their cell phone charger, their iPod, an extra change of clothes, some snacks, etc. And maybe a good meal. Remind them that you will not stop them from leaving – but that you don’t want them to go. And that if they do run, that as long as you have an open bed, they are welcome back there.
Ask what their plan is – money? Food? Housing? Don’t threaten them with these questions. You are there to listen. To be their ally…(Pete and Repeat were on a boat)
Make their favorite meal. Then maybe let them know that it would probably be good to get a good night’s sleep before they go. That you won’t stop them, but you want them to be well fed and well rested.
Remind them that while you will not stop them, that you need them to know that it is still your responsibility to call their social worker and the police that you have run. It’s not to be mean, but because you yourself don’t want to get in trouble.
This cycle can go on…they may not REALLY want to run. They want the freedom and their choices. But they may not want to go.
The ones that want to go WILL GO. And you won’t be helping by trying to keep them from doing so. But stating facts and trying to help create a plan may show that you do care. Even when they feel that no one does.
It’s sad to think how scared, upset, angry, pissed, sad, guilty (some cases)…these kids feel. Kids of ANY age shouldn’t have to feel all of this so profoundly.
So by creating a run plan with the kid may end up just buying enough time for them to process through their hurts and not leave. But don’t make a HUGE deal about that either. Just continue on…make them feel welcome. Secure. Wanted.
Things that are so absent from their life.