Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Downward Spiral

Here is my latest update on Jose. I wish I had better news to share.

The morning of our trip to Philly, the school leaders surprised me by not allowing Jose to join us. He was crushed. He worked hard through his entire suspension just to be able to go on to Philly and stay a part of our group. He felt betrayed by the school leaders, and ended up flipping over desks in an emotional outburst, and declaring “I’m through with this school!”

As Jose’s social worker, I understood the context of his extreme reaction and the anger he felt. This is a kid who is on the brink of failure in school and isolation from mainstream society. Success in school is truly his key to a better life. He made some missteps this year, but, remained focused academically. To be, in his view, betrayed despite his efforts, was too much to bear emotionally.

Jose’s world is also tied indelibly to the streets. He has had exposure to gangs, and according to their “rules”, betraying the gang results in being killed. It’s a purely black and white scenario, with no room for moderation. Once a person betrays you, he no longer exists in your world. In that vein, the school was “dead” to Jose.

What he did next however was not something I would have predicted. The weekend following his outburst at school, he and a friend robbed a man and were arrested. Jose's actions signified a rebellious disavowal of everything school stands for and a lack of hope for his future.

I ask myself if I could have done more. I don’t know the answer. I am his social worker but not his parent or guardian, and those are the people he really needs to help make the right decisions for him, especially when he is outside of school.

I’ve obviously scaled back my expectations for Jose, but, I have not written him off. My focus now is on getting him back into school and into our group, and to try to rebuild his trust for the school leaders, myself and my team of social workers.

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