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Shirlee Smith | Troublesome Teenagers

Published on Friday, August 19, 2016 | 1:43 pm


One foster parent complained that the teenager she was in charge of didn’t come back home some nights.

“Just stayed out like she thought she was grown,” was the follow-up grumble after announcing the young lady’s wayward behavior.

So, what were the consequences?

What kind of conversation took place regarding rules of the home, the expectations, and the all-important discussion of consequences?

Parents, and foster parents in particular, all too often determine that rules don’t matter enough to discuss them, which is the lead mechanism for enforcing them.,

Foster parents are known to complain that the kids in their care have been allowed at another placement to do whatever they want. These kids, the conversation goes, don’t listen to anybody.

Well, if you don’t say something there’s nothing for them to hear, that means nothing for them to listen to!

The excuse that former placements were lax is all the more reason for the current placement people need to step up to the plate. That is, the foster parents have a much bigger duty to let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that there are rules in their home and that everyone is expected to adhere to them.

What kind of rules for foster kids? Why not the same kind of rules that would be put into place for our own kids because we want them all to be safe, smart and successful.

Household rules:

1) Parent has to meet kid’s friends. They are welcome to come to visit and when they do, the parent gets introduced to them

2) When kids are leaving the house, Parent will have to know where they are going and who they are going with. A time is established when the kid is to return, AND if there are any changes in plans, the kid must call and let parent know.

3) Parent will know how much money the kid is carrying.

4) Parent will be given the contact information of the parents of the people the kid is on an outing with

5) Parent has absolute authority to approve or cancel any and all outings

6) If the outing includes riding in a car, Parent will have to see the driver’s license and the person’s proof of insurance.

Rules aren’t worth anything if they aren’t enforced. Natural-birth parents often want to be their kid’s friend, so when it comes to enforcement they shy away from doing the hard stuff.

Foster parents, and I know because they’ve told me, just don’t feel it is worth “the trouble.”

Raising kids, whether foster or birth, can be a troublesome adventure, and the troubles increase the more parents avoid doing their job.

Staying out all night probably isn’t an isolated unacceptable behavior and if some adult doesn’t address the problem, then what?

Staying out overnight and getting away with it leads to staying out several more nights and showing up back home whenever it’s convenient.

Since the troublesome word about foster parents is that most are in it for the check, I’ll bet if the check only covered the actual nights Ms Teeny-Bopper were in the foster home and in bed, this not coming home would not be tolerated.

Ah, the good old dollar so often changes the way people think and behave.


Shirlee Smith is a former Pasadena Star-News Opinion Columnist. She is a Los Angeles Press Club first place awardee and author of They’re Your Kids, Not Your Friends and the Spanish edition, “Son Tus Hijos, No Tus Amigos.” Smith can be reached by email at




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