Saturday, March 21, 2015


If you get a chance to have a look at a couple of comments on the "WHEN AM I GOING HOME' post you'll see why the business of personal responsibility has been in my mind for a couple of days.

It coincides with a TV documentary by Louis Theroux about a detention centre in the USA for people who are deemed 'NGRI'.

NGRI stands for "Not Guilty for Reasons of Insanity". 

There are people locked up for, in the case of one man, murdering his father by stabbing him several times while not reponsible for his actions, in other words seriously mentally unwell. I haven't seen the programme, just read a preview in the internet, apparently the living conditions in the centre are a good bit better than prison.

Luckily we foster carers don't have to deal with serious crime or severe mental illness, but the business of personal responsibilty is never far away, even if it is pretty tame by comparison.

Foster children often say that whatever they did wrong it wasn't their fault.

I've had more than one child smart enough to blame (mild) bad behaviour on the fact that they've had a hard childhood -  and can you blame them,? After all they're 99% right!

When they are very little it's no good picking them up on every little thing, one of the first things you learn on the job is that zero tolerance may work for a small town police force in Alabama, but if you try it with some foster children before they can self-regulate you've got a big job on your hands.

'Self-regulate'. That's another nice term you pick up in fostering, as in when someone knows the difference between right and wrong and does the right thing, either because it's right or because there will be consequences. Obviously far better if they do the right thing because it's the right thing.

I had one child who wouldn't tidy up after herself, at all. Not in the slightest. She'd scatter stacks of toys and books and pencils everywhere, make dens out of all the sofa cushions, colonise the entire downstairs with her stuff, take over the house with clutter in less than an hour, then refuse to lend a hand at the end of the day to put it away.

Some deep dark cause, never got to the bottom of it.

The other frustrating habit she had was to laugh long and hard at anyone else's discomfort. Fall over the hoover wire, snag your cardie on a doorknob, she'd shreik with laughter. We used to point out it was wrong, but what're you going to do, especially when we were sitting around laughing at Basil Fawlty when the moose head falls on him.

Then, one day, she collared me to do some painting/drawing. I got things set up on the kitchen table, but knocked over the mug of pens and pencils and about 20 of them clattered to the kitchen lino.

She started a big laugh. Then throttled it.

Then she bent down and started picking them up.

This might seem like a big nothing to some people, but if you foster you are always on the lookout for fresh green shoots of good behaviour.

I bent down to help, and together we got the mug filled up again.

I said nothing, because the change in her wasn't anything conscious or the result of us going on about not laughing at people's mishaps and helping tidy up.

What happened was personal resonsibility kicked in. She got it, acquired it. Only in small measure at first, but it blossomed.

God knows how or where from, maybe God literally knows.

It kicked in as part of growing up, developing. Just like second teeth or armpit hair, it arrived.

Some people think that a lack of personal responsibility in adults can be caused by abuse in childhood and of course that's possible.

I think there might also be a case for it being in the genes. Or absent as the case may be.

Whatever, it's a Holy Grail in fostering, to coax personal responsibility in young people who've been raised in a climate of personal irresponsibility.


Post a Comment