Even in our little bitty school (population 75 or so), we hear heart-breaking stories far too often from kids who have been "kicked out" of their houses by their parents.
Every time I hear a student say he or she has been "kicked out" of the house, I put that phrase in quotation marks even in my mind. Because as a parent, I simply cannot conceive of the idea of telling my child, no matter how horrid (and my child was FAR from horrid, thank you God again today), to hit the streets.
I realize we are talking about different cultures, so to speak. Family values (or lack thereof) these days are foreign to those I grew up with. With which I grew up. Whatever. I didn't have a white picket fence upbringing, and I rode the school bus to visit my brother in jail after school some days, but I was certain I would always have a home to return to at the end of the day. I could count on my mother coming home from her job, even if she DID happen to be in a bad mood. (I learned over the years that the lipstick was the telltale sign. If her lipstick was gone, I should give her a wide berth, and the house had BETTER be cleaned up. If she had on fresh lipstick, it was safe to approach.) I knew my mother wasn't on drugs and wouldn't be in jail when I needed money for a prom dress. She might raise hell when I asked for the money, but I don't remember ever going without something I needed. Or a lot I wanted. In fact, she made me a dress for one particular prom, and I had been SUSPENDED FROM SCHOOL for two days that week. Maybe she SHOULD have kicked me to the curb. Too late now, Mom.
One of our students this year is a bright girl, other than the fact that she has a baby. I don't hold that against her; that's another difference in the culture. She is trying to do right by her baby, and she has had a mountain of things stacked against her. According to our school social worker, the doctors messed this girl up BADLY when she gave birth. In her words, she doesn't "even know if anything is in the right place." We're talking anatomy here folks. Anyway, "Autumn," we'll call her, has been a joy to have in our school. She's hard-working, and she truly wants to LEARN, as opposed to those who just want to GET IT DONE.
Autumn disappeared about midway through the semester. Apparently there were child care issues. We made the decision to allow her to work from home, as long as she progressed, and she vowed to continue working on childcare for her baby girl. She HAS worked, and she has mostly stayed in touch with her advisor. Then we heard from another student that she had been "kicked out" of her house, and she had also had surgery. We contacted the social worker, who called the mother, and the mother verified that she had indeed kicked her daughter -- and granddaughter -- out of the house. A daughter who is not yet 18 years old, and a baby girl who is 13 months old. How do you DO that? I realize there are problems of which I am blissfully ignorant, and I don't know how much hell this daughter has likely put her mother through. I only know the sweet side of the girl. But still. I keep picturing that 13-month-old baby girl, bouncing with her mother between the homes of two friends, either of whom could decide on a whim that it isn't convenient for Autumn to stay there either.
The mother then went and brought her daughter and granddaughter home yesterday. Perhaps she was shamed by the social worker's call? I know I would have been.
Finally, I'm getting around to the point of this post.
If I had a whole bunch of money, I would buy a house just for students like these. The girls with babies who don't have anywhere to go. The ones who have been kicked out of their houses but still want to pursue their educations. Even the young men who are trying to work full-time jobs and earn those last few units toward their diplomas. I would buy a house with four or five bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. The requirements to live in the house would be that they had to assist with the upkeep of the house by doing chores, and they would have to attend school unless they were genuinely sick. I might have someone live there and act as a house mother, perhaps even someone qualified to keep the babies while the mamas go to school. Students who graduated and moved on to a job, college, or the military could return and serve as mentors for new crops of students. Any activities involving drugs or alcohol would result in removal from the house (I guess I would "kick them out" too?), as would any criminal activity. I wouldn't want to be a parent to them, though. I would want them to live independently, and I would hope they would take pride in their living quarters and take care of them. I would help them learn how to manage a household (they could learn right along with me, I guess) and other life skills that school doesn't really teach that well.
That's my pipe dream for today.