PJ is seventeen. He dropped out of high school in late April. He was in eleventh grade. He did not formally withdraw, he just stopped going. His school did nothing about that.
After he dropped out of school, his parents told him he needed to find a full time, forty hour a week job to continue to live in their house. He "yesed" them to death, but did little to find full time employment.
When PJ's parents discovered that their son was not attending school, they went ballistic. He would leave each morning on time to catch the bus. He would take the bus to the high school campus and then split. This went on for two solid weeks without any contact from the school notifying them that he was not attending class.
These parents were overwhelmed. They tried talking to their son but got nowhere. He told them repeatedly that school was a waste of time, that it did nothing for him. His bottom line was "there is nothing you can do to make me attend."
Unfortunately, the reality of his situation is that at the end of April there was little that his parents could do. If his school was more attentive, they could have filed a PINS petition, since he only turned seventeen in March. By law, he could not drop out of school until June.
A parents support group encouraged PJ's parents to file a PINS petition. In our county the PINS age has been extended to eighteen. However, this family was very reluctant to get the system involved. They had heard such mixed reviews on the effectiveness of PINS, PINS Diversion and the Family Court.
As the weeks passed, PJ became more oppositional and defiant. He did not find employment. He was becoming more violent. His parents attempted to set a curfew, asked that during the week he be home for dinner and abstain from illegal behaviors like drinking and smoking pot. His response to all of that was he would do as he pleased and that there was little they could do to stop him.
The recklessness was becoming very frightening. PJ would sleep till two in the afternoon and then stay out until 3:00am. He would come home drunk, stoned and loud. On a few occasions, after coming home he attempted to provoke a fight with his Dad. Instead of punching his father, he punched holes in the walls and smashed a few lamps.
After the last violent episode, his parents finally weakened and with much reluctance went to Probation intake to file a PINS. When these parents explained everything and mentioned PJ's age, the worker discouraged them from getting involved. She indicated that he would probably age out of the system before the process could be helpful.
Needless to say, they were devastated. However, upon further investigation it turns out that they really sugarcoated the seriousness of their circumstance and did not give the intake worker an accurate picture of how volatile and out of control their son really was.
The violence and destruction continued. Finally, after PJ wrecked the family room in one of his violent rages. PJ's father called the police. Within minutes the police arrived and were prepared to arrest PJ for his physical destruction and for his alleged threats to hurt his parents.
To prevent his arrest, PJ's parents asked that he just leave. The police gave PJ that option. He left without incidence. The responding officer urged them to get an order of protection. The parents were hesitant. They could not bear to see their son in jail.
A few weeks passed. They began to panic. They had not seen or heard from their son. They knew there was a teenage underground, where local teenagers snuck other teenagers who were living in the street, into their homes, oftentimes without permission, to feed and shower them.
Finally, after a month, there was a PJ sighting in the neighborhood. He was hanging out with a group of his neighborhood friends. He looked horrible and totally ignored his mother's gesture to talk.
Another week passed and a local mother called very concerned about PJ. She began the conversation with PJ's mother very aggressively. She accused her of being an unfit and neglectful mother. She could not believe how she could just kick her son out of the house and not care.
After this mother went on for twenty minutes, PJ's mother interrupted her and asked if she had been harboring her son for the past month. There was an exaggerated pause, and then she said yes. PJ's mother was shocked. She asked this mother why she did not call them immediately to see what the real circumstances were. She asked her if she would want someone harboring her son without any communication. She went on to tell her what a nightmare it had been not knowing where her son was, especially because of the behaviors he had been engaging in.
This neighborhood Mom asked what kind of behaviors. PJ's Mom told her. "He dropped out of school against our wishes. He was asked to get a job. He refused. He started staying out all night, drinking, smoking pot and coming home violent and provocative.
The night he was asked by the police to leave our home, was after he came home stoned, loud and provocative at 3:00am. He tried to pick a fight with my husband. After threatening to kill us, he smashed up the family room. For months we have been trying to get him help. For months he has refused and families like yours have rescued him and enabled his dangerous behavior to continue."
The neighborhood Mom was speechless. She was shocked. She didn't know any of the circumstances. She apologized. PJ is back on the run. There are a lot of PJ's out there. As parents, we need to support each other for the sake of our children!
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