My name is Imani and I am the single parent of five children from the ages of two to twelve. Steven was my oldest and I had just moved into the projects. He started hanging out with the project youth. One day, I got a call that he had been locked up for breaking into Kmart and he was being held in the Philadelphia Youth Study Center. A few weeks later, he called to tell me he saw a boy being raped. Shortly after that, he had a court hearing, and I made a very hard decision to send him away.
He was sent to a residential treatment facility inaccessible to me by public transportation. The lawyer did not want him to go away since he had never been in trouble before. I was concerned about his safety, and I did not want him hanging with his project pals. He spent a year at a residential treatment center and finished the eighth grade. After a year, he was released without my knowledge, and I was dismayed that I was not alerted about him returning home.
I met with a social worker a few times and, during the holidays, they dropped of some gifts for my other children. I should have had a meeting with her first, before he was released. She could have given me some guidance towards a successful transition from the residential treatment facility (RTF) to home.
Shortly after that, he restarted the same behavior I sent him away for. I could have benefitted greatly from some family organization offering help. In my opinion, what should have happened did not. I should have been told my son was getting out.
Instead, I was left on my own with no guidance. He came back home to just get back in trouble again. Sadly, this happens a lot and parents are left bewildered and dismayed. The court and the RTF should have offered some type of help and support to me.
When youth are returning home, I believe the parent should be notified first. The court and the RTF can do a needs assessment on the family. It is my belief that supportive services should be offered to ensure a successful outcome for the child returning home. An action plan that included a family Peer Support Specialist and youth counselor could have really benefitted me. I would not have felt so all alone in dealing with my son’s teenage challenges if the above was taking place.
In closing, I believe when youth are released from the RTF, guidance should be offered to the parent. My son was killed at twenty-two and I still wonder: if I had a solid plan in place, would he still be living today?