In the name of being cost effective, our county government is acting recklessly and potentially endangering the lives of your children.
Parenting, on a good day, can be a nightmare. They have computer programs for almost every human adventure but parenting. You date, you fall in love, you marry and then you decide to start a family. The children are born by design four years apart.
Fast forward! Now your little cherubs are teenagers and the nightmare has begun. When you got married, no parenting courses were required and no parenting manual was distributed. For many of us, it was trial and error or what Dr. Spock advocated or the opposite of everything we endured from our parents growing up.
Teenage hood has arrived! You panic! Your teenagers are so different from when you were a teenager meandering through. It isn't just about makeup, short skirts, piercings and/or tattoos. It is about dating, birth control, appropriate social parameters at home, sex and what's okay or not okay to do on the first series of dates. The real blood pressure elevator is that these questions are not coming from your seventeen year old, but rather from your thirteen-year-old son who is way beyond his years. You cannot believe you are even having this kind of conversation with one of your teenage children.
What do you do? Where do you go for guidance and direction? That question oftentimes frustrates the average parent. You need guidance and direction that is grounded in common sense, balanced moral values, but also some practical experience and training in teenage behavior.
Teenagers are facing social challenges and decisions that many of us did not have to face until we were college graduates. As parents who have learned to parent by doing, I think we need to pick our battles. How our children dress on their time, what color their hair is and if they can afford to pierce their bodies are battles we don't need to wage when our fourteen year olds are talking about dealing drugs, smoking pot, drinking and having sex with a girlfriend.
Those issues are potentially more lethal because they could change your son or daughter's life forever, and not in positive ways. Hair color changes, body piercings close up and life goes on.
If you get HIV or Hepatitis C or kill someone in a drinking accident, life does not go on. You cannot fix those circumstances, if and when they happen.
Where do parents turn? Unfortunately, most of us have pathetic insurance coverage when it comes to teenage mental health. The few public agencies are being cut from the budget or are being dramatically reduced. Many not-for-profit entities are going out of business.
Contrary to what the bureaucrats say, we are desperate for mental health services for young people. The average middle class family does not have the cash to lay out for this need. And the poor have nothing.
So parents confronted with this concern either turn their backs and pretend these issues don't exist or they try but get overwhelmed because there is little or nothing to reach for. If they happen to know a resource that has a positive reputation, it might take months before an appointment is available.
As a parent who cares, you struggle to do your best but your guilt clouds your decision-making. Too often you don't hold your son or daughter accountable for his or her recklessness. You pray it is a phase that he or she will pass through. You pray that it is fast.
Time is marching on and this out of control fifteen year old is getting more and more out of control every day. He refuses counseling. He refuses to come in by curfew. He uses your credit cards at will to party with his friends. His last adventure was taking the car out in the middle of the night. When confronted, he vehemently denied it. He suggested that you are nuts and that you need help.
Bordering on despair, someone suggests you file a PINS petition against him. You go to Probation Intake. They are overwhelmed with referrals. The worker you speak to tries to discourage you from taking action. He urges you to go home and think about it.
Your son lays the guilt on you. He tries to convince you that you have created all the problems. He says if you only gave him a little more space, he would be fine.
The next day he was hanging out with friends in a car. They were pulled over because they ran a stop sign. They were all in possession of weed. Additionally, there was a mallet on the back seat. No one would claim ownership of it. All four were arrested and charged.
That night, when the father got the call that his son has been arrested, he inquired about the bail. He did not have the cash for bail, so his fifteen year old stayed in custody until he was arraigned the next day.
His father went to court and sat for hours. Once his son was called and bail was posted, he thought he would find a remorseful, frightened teenager. Instead, he encountered an arrogant, put out teenager. He said outside the court that he would see his Dad and Mom at dinner. Dinner came and went. He was a no show. He ran away and called many hours later to tell his parents he needed a break. He said he would probably be home in a few days.
Needless to say, his parents were shocked, overwhelmed and frightened. Most likely, when all is said and done, this teenager will probably get a slap on the wrist and community service, if he is lucky. There are no programs to place him in and not many probation officers to work with him. The few that are left are overburdened and on the sure track to burn out.
What if this teenager needs a drug rehab or a therapeutic community? Where does he go? Who will monitor this and insure its' effectiveness?
In the name of being cost effective, the County Executive is short circuiting the few vital resources we have left and setting our out of control teenagers up for failure. In the name of so-called prudent, good government, it will ultimately cost the county double what it could cost to do it right. Even more tragically, we are destroying misguided teenagers who could be redeemed and become productive citizens.