I have been swallowed up by a blog as though it was a novel. In a way I'm happy - I've been really stressed about original writing lately, and couldn't find a TV show or a fic to take my mind off, and here suddenly, 6 years worth of blog posts I simply can't put down.
The blog is What Now?: A Candid Account Of My Experience With Foster/Adopting A Teenager in Los Angeles
. It's written by a woman who, along with her husband, decided to adopt an older teenager from the foster care system (so, basically a lot like The Fosters
minus the lesbians). The blog starts when she first enters the system, in 2008, through meeting and adopting her son (and then adopting his brother), and was last updated this May. Her eldest son is now 21.
I... can't really explain why I love this blog so much - it's certainly well written, but I've been reading it with the urgency and addiction of really, really excellent fic - except that, you all know my weakness for narratives about psychology and troubled teenagers, and well. There's so, so, so much packed into this blog, it's so honest and so introspective. It's teenagers getting over substance abuse and trauma and PTSD and sexual abuse and complicated relationships with their biological relatives mediated by extreme poverty and drug addiction. It's the author, who, while she enters this with her eyes open and relatively well prepared, slowly undergoes a process of... if not relinquishing her privilege then slowly having her world view shifted as she understands realities middle class white women like her don't get to experience.
I'm currently up to the point where her eldest son is nearing 18 (yes, I've read every entry because I CANNOT QUIT READING THIS BLOG), and over the course of seeing her son's life disrupted over and over and over again, at extremely high cost (imagine putting a kid who's trying to kick drugs and has a host of mental disorders in an overcrowded jail for a week for no reason), largely due to systemic racism, her understanding of right and wrong, her faith of the overall justice and balance of the criminal system, slowly waivers. She says at one point that she and her husband have trouble reconciling their son's petty crime habit - theft, mostly - while they have no fundamental, moral qualms about his drinking or drug use - because they grew up seeing the issue as very clear cut. Over time her perception, her understanding of the appeal of petty crime to marginalized teenagers, changes.
It's also very clear, at the point where I'm at, that her son was headed for the school-to-prison pipeline, and if it hadn't been for his adoptive parents would have quickly ended up in jail. Despite living with his white, middle class parents for years, he's still arrested in an exaggerated, humiliating way, taken to prison, denied medication for days, sentenced to house arrest for a month and not provided with legal counsel, despite having clear-cut, irrefutable evidence, provided to the system within days of his arrest, that he couldn't have committed the crime he's charged with.
I found particularly striking the odd trajectory that emerges over the years - this boy becomes slowly ever more hopeful, optimistic, joyful, as every time the system or his demons knock him down, his parents are there to help him get up again. When terrible things befall him his parents are shocked to find him in much better spirits than they expect, where despair is replaced by hopefulness and cheer, because each time they come for him, and that signifies a fundamental improvement in his relationship with the universe.
The parents, on the other hand, go from optimistic, hopeful and trusting of the system (even after the hellish bureaucracy of Children's Services reveals itself) to ever more cynical and jaded. This is a journey down for them, on the scale of privilege. They're exposed first-hand (despite knowing all this in theory beforehand) to what being poor and Black means in their country/city, and the realizations take their toll. It's just sort of amazing to me, when you realize a few years, their son has become a kind of guide for them, who tells them to cheer up every time he ends up in custody or booted out of somewhere for purely racist reasons. He doesn't really understand why they're so upset by the simple facts of life.
It's impossible to summarize what I love about this blog - partially because I'm barely half done reading it - because there's just so much
. I mean, I binge watched World's Strictest Parents
, I think you get the picture. I think it's also interesting that when reading, I saw some of myself and a lot of the people I grew up with in the traumatized teenager, and I liked the author (or wouldn't have kept up with the blog), but the moment I had the strongest reaction to was probably when he has his first serious breakdown, a real, complete crisis, and the parents manage to call in an emergency team of psychiatrists to evaluate him/help resolve the situation.( spoilers )