Archive for June, 2016

Fathers according to kids

Question: Why is Father’s Day six weeks after Mother’s Day?

Answer: Some guys were shooting the bull about a month after the first Mother’s Day when one of them said, “Hey! Wait a minute!”

Father’s Day is a convenient time to poke some fun at the men who brought us into the world and, according to Bill Cosby, could have taken us out of it.

“Dad,” read the card from my kids last year, “When God made you, he made the world a much better place…a little weirder, maybe, but much better.”

If you want the truth, you ask kids. Their frontal lobes and filters simply aren’t fully developed. Even one’s physical appearance is not off limits.

After looking at the back of my head recently, my five-year-old son said, “Dad, you have a Bob spot.” His twin sister was no less observant a few days later. “Daddy, did you know you can cut your eyebrows? They’re so big! They’re like a monster!”

Fortunately, their nine-year-old brother has more accurate awareness. When asked on a Father’s Day questionnaire why he is proud of his dad, he responded, “He has a six pack.” His share of the estate went up that day.

He was also asked, “What was your dad like as a child?” “Handsome,” he wrote. Evidently, he sees himself in me.

The Father’s Day questionnaires are particularly revealing. All my kids filled one out at church last year.

There seems to be some confusion among my children about their dad’s favorite food. The younger kids said broccoli, while the older ones said pizza.

The discrepancy may or may not highlight the difficulty I may or may not have with aligning words and actions. Do as I say, kids, not as I do!

According to the surveys, I am as big as a soldier and thirty years old. My kids love me because I make cupcakes and because I am so pleasant. In my free time, I like to go to a hotel. And if I were a cartoon character, I would be Bugs Bunny.

When asked, “What is something your Dad always says to you?” one of them responded with “This is unacceptable.”

Well, of course! My kids are never going to be a pleasant and ripped, formerly handsome soldier of a man if they eat pizza all the time! What’s up, Doc!?!

On second thought, it would have been nice if the first thing he thought of was more like, “I love you, son. I am really happy with you.” Something a little more consistent with what our Heavenly Father thinks about us.

There are certainly times to pronounce an act unacceptable. But the person of the child is and will always be profoundly acceptable. To convince children of their innate value and uniqueness, this is the great point of parenting.

A silver lining: kids live neither in the future nor in the past. Everything is present tense. Therefore, the past is not indelible. Kindness and care today can cover yesterday’s frustration and negativity.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

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Update on a fine(d) canine

A few months back, I wrote of an outlaw canine who retrieved an unlicensed dog notice for his owner. It was news to me. I couldn’t believe anyone would effectively tax a man’s best friend. “Un-Texan! Un-American!” I called it.

As I began planning civil disobedience against the city’s $4.00 annual pet licensing “fee,” a hand-addressed envelope arrived.

Inside: a green carbon copy of a City of Boerne Code Enforcement citation. “Code Enforcement” was scribbled out. “Animal Control” was written in. It read like a traffic ticket:

Violator: Thompson
Color: Tan
Year Model: “Hank”
Make: Lab/X
Violation(s): 6605 Unlicensed Dog

The summons ordered me to appear at Boerne Municipal Court on or before May 4, 2016. I chuckled and put it in my stack of stuff, wondering how it would fit into my civil disobedience plan.

As May 4 approached, I modified my plan to include a stop at animal control. Hank would sniff, chew and mark territory above reproach, I decided.

KT: “Hi. I need to get a dog license, please.”
Animal Control Officer: “Come around to the building in the back.”

As I entered the back building, an orange feline with fur shaved like a lion greeted me.

“Are cats licensed, too?” I inquired. Several acquaintances had asked me this question since Hank’s story broke earlier this year.

“Yes, sir. And if you have more than four cats or dogs, you’ll need a permit. They are $100 a year.”

The officer briefed me on the specifics of a dog license, and I wrote a $4.00 check to legalize Hank. The officer kindly matched his license expiration with his next rabies shot. No reason to space out pet expenses.

As I stepped toward the door, I could tell the officer’s wheels were turning.

“So, do you have a cat?”

After quickly consulting my civil disobedience plan, I prepared to say no. Besides, he’s not mine. He’s the person’s who left him at the Alamo Springs Café in far north Kendall County where he rubbed his soft kitten fur against the left leg of a 5 year old.

“Yes.” I told truthfully remembering Mother’s Day was Sunday.

Another four dollars later, I headed to municipal court ready to waive all my new pet licenses and have all charges dropped.

Not so fast. According to the city attorney, the canine’s file had already wandered too far. I would be assessed both a fine and court costs. There is upside, she told me cheerfully: Deferment.

If Hank stays on good behavior for ninety days, the citation would stay off my record. My record?!? What about his!?!

Dumbfounded, I asked the judge if community service were an option. Hank would do well at a nursing home or a pre-school, I told him. He wouldn’t hurt a flea, unless it’s on his belly.

Unconvinced, the judge passed me to the clerk who passed me to the cashier. She passed me back my debit card back after running it for more than I ever thought I’d spend on that sorry dog.

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Challenges at every turn

An acquaintance described life with his four-year-old foster child:

“Early on, she would throw violent fits every single week. They would last an hour. She would roll on the floor and literally foam at the mouth. If we were at a party, our other kids knew we’d have to take her home.”

It makes sense, the anger that abused and neglected children experience both consciously and un. They have endured sordid mixes of depravity complete with drugs, violence, chaos and need.

The foster dad continued, “We’re almost a year in. Things are better. The rages only come around every once in a while.”

Stories of progress and redemption do happen, such as the decorated military officer who recently addressed supporters of Meadowland, a residential treatment facility in Boerne. He had been in foster care there two decades ago.

But such stories are few and far between. The foster care system in Texas faces challenges at every turn. Getting a child out of abuse and neglect is often just the start of a painful and damaging process.

With both the average Child Protective Services caseworker and the average foster family lasting about 2 years, the cards are stacked.

“Some foster/adopt agencies don’t screen or support their families well,” said Jennifer Smith, Vice President of 4 Kids of South Texas, a San Antonio foster/adopt agency.

“They just take the money from the state and rarely follow up. Some foster families seem to be in it for the money, too.”

“We recruit, verify, train and equip our families. We make sure they have adequate support and sufficient respite care for when they need a break. Most of the kids placed in our homes don’t move around.”

In contrast, most children in the foster care system move several times among single family homes, group homes, shelters and treatment facilities.

Exacerbating the problem, the state often fails to meet its requirement to place each child in a permanent situation within twelve months in the system.

“They’ve found loopholes,” Smith added. “They put a child in what is called a ‘permanent managing conservatorship,’ but they don’t terminate the parental rights of people who show no effort to change. Meanwhile, the child remains in limbo.”

Even those who mean well can’t win for losing. Late last year, a federal judge ruled Texas’ foster care system unconstitutionally lacking. The court cited child-on-child abuse in group homes. It subsequently capped the total number of children in any foster home at 6.

But since the cap number includes a family’s biological and adopted children, the supply of foster slots has diminished. Hence, the stories you hear of foster kids sleeping in CPS offices.

Close to home, Boerne’s Heartland Children’s Home cares for foster children with acute medical needs. Though it can serve many more, the center is limited to six children currently.

Last month, the federal judge appointed two “special masters” to review and improve the system. Things certainly can’t get worse. Nine-hundred kids in metro San Antonio await “forever families.”

Of the males who “age out” at 18, 30% will be incarcerated by age 19. Females are twice as likely to become pregnant by age 20. Many will wander the streets: 30% of Texas’ homeless population was once in foster care.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


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