11.06.2007

Lucky...

A nine-year-old came up to me this morning in tears. We distributed progress reports a few weeks ago and she still didn't have hers signed and returned to me, which meant a loss of game time during home room.

She told me about how her family is now living in a hotel room. They had been staying with some friends, but a neighbor reported that there were too many people residing there, so they had to leave. Her mother and mom's boyfriend and their combined four kids are now staying in a single hotel room.

This nine-year-old explained to me how her mother spends her father's child support payments on rent and cigarettes, but they never have money for new clothes. The last new shoes that she had were bought by her paternal grandmother. She told me that she thinks that she would be more responsible with the child support payments than her mom is.

She is concerned about her five-year-old sister's teeth. She said that her mom doesn't make her sister brush her teeth and she thinks they might be decaying from all the juice boxes. Her mom only buys mint-flavored toothpaste and her little sis doesn't like that kind, so her teeth go unbrushed.

The baby sister has asthma, but that doesn't stop mom and boyfriend from smoking in the house. Now, the whole crew is in a single room. Not a lot of circulation for that cigarette smoke.

She's already decided that when she turns 14, she is going to move in with her dad. She told dad that they are staying in a hotel room and he is going to talk to an attorney... He talked to the attorney the last time they were homeless, but, for some reason, was unable to do anything about it. Her mom's boyfriend has said that he will live in a paper box before he lets her and her sister move in with their dad.

It broke my heart to hear her story. I think about how lucky Dave and I are... No matter what happens between us, our child will never have to go without new clothing or a place to call home.

I'm going to stop at Walgreens this afternoon to pick up some bubblegum flavored toothpaste. I'm not really quite sure what else there is to do.

18 comments:

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

And there are those who claim there's something wrong with being a single mom. Nerve!

Paula said...

That's so sad. Makes me want to give Ella a big hug....

Tug said...

Oh...that poor girl. Growing up WAY too soon, and not even being able to be a kid. Can you, as a teacher (right?) report this to social services, or would that just cause more problems?

Caroline Bender said...

You went to the same place I did, which was to buy the toothpaste. Not only do you solve the problem you can solve, but you show your student that you understand her problems are real, and that she can trust you to hear them. I agree with Tug, too, that there must be some resource levers you can pull, but today, show the kid her dignity. Keep teaching.

Fantastagirl said...

I would go for the toothpaste too. Keep listening to her - she needs an adult she can trust and you are it.

Good luck.

Fantastagirl said...

Okay - so this whole thing is bugging me (it's the mom in me)... and I knew I read something in our schools handbook - so copying directly from their book -

Have you ever heard of the McKinney-Venton Homeless Education Assistance Act?

"They can help families - that are living in the following situations - Shelter, motel, vehicle, campground, or street, in an abandoned building, trailer, or other inadequate accommodation: Doubled up with friends, relatives etc. Because you can not find or afford housing, then your preschool or school-age children have certain rights and protections under that act. Perhaps you have a liaison for homeless education in your schools admin office".... or maybe that is just in my state?

Mishka said...

It is sad that she has to be the grown up and not the kid....obviously her parents don't care enough about her to want her to be a kid...

Chris Johnson said...

How awful! I feel so bad for this child. What is sad is that there are so many kids who take what they have for granted. Mine included! I am going to have my kids read this post today.

Franki said...

That's the saddest story I've read in a long time.

Diana said...

Very sad. I hate to hear stories like that. Like you said, it reminds me of just how lucky we are.

Jen, Fred, Jennifer or Mom said...

OH......oh.......I would be buying toothpaste too. That is just awful....I don't even know what to say.......I wish there were something tangible I could do to help.......

Ari said...

I always say I learn as much from these kids as they learn from me, and the instant I start to think my life is bad, I try to remember the needless crap these babies have to endure, and then try to learn (and pass state tests) besides just surviving.

rosemary said...

My son and DIL are both teachers and I have heard stories like this over the years. They both teach in low income districts. All you can do is realize the circumstances that surround your kids and make adjustments. Should the child suffer because her parents are jerks? You have to stop and think what the dynamic will be when she brings a tube of toothpaste....sad situations.

Summer said...

I just happened upon your blog and your student's story is indeed a nightmere. How sad for her and mature she is for a 9 yr old. You grow up fast in that kind of situation.

Amandarama said...

Wow. That is so sad. When we get stories like that here at the high school, we're supposed to inform the guidance department who, in turn, may need to inform the local chapter of the Department of Social Services (we call it "filing a 51-A for obvious neglect"). Does your school have any protocols around that?

mckay said...

amandarama...exactly what i was thinking. the mom needs to be reported to child protective services. smoking isn't a crime (yet!). but in one small room with a asthmatic....? shameful.

thank you, violet, for buying the toothpaste. this small gesture will have a profound affect on your student, i'm sure.

Violet said...

Thank you all for the concern. I know what you are saying. There are some other interventions that are taking place, but I didn't want to go into all those on the blog, with confidentiality and all that. :O)

She's doing well, still in the hotel, but is excited to visit her dad over the holiday weekend. I am amazed by her maturity.

Amandarama said...

That's great to hear, violet! She's so lucky to have you in her life!