How do we help a 17 year old kicked out of the house?
September 14, 2007 4:35 PM   Subscribe

How do we help a 17 year old kicked out of the house get his property and identification?

The story:

He was born to a family with two older siblings. The birth mother gave the two youngest up for adoption. The adopted mother raised them until her death. The oldest of the adopted kids adopted all of the others and basically assumed the 'mother' role. She and her husband raised all of the kids. The couple used the two brothers Social Security survivor benefits to help raise the kids.

At the age of 18, each of the kids is kicked out of the house, only those under 18 remain. Almost two years ago, his older brother passed away, leaving him without a known blood relative.

Our friend was kicked out two month's shy of his 18th birthday. He was told to never come back. He only has the clothes on his back. They will not even accept a phone call from him now. The property has a new gate and lock on it.

In his bedroom is all of his identification and personal property.

If we involve the Police, this can get messy. Would he be taken back home where they don't want him? Foster care? Left to decide for self? Who knows... But we need the Police involved to at least get his ID. They couple has started throwing away and donating all of the possessions he left behind. If we wait until he is 18, there may no be anything left.

Among the possessions are photographs of his dead brother. If we wait, they may be gone too...

There is also a birth certificate in the room of the person with the "mother" role. He has never seen it, does not know if it contains birth parent info, or not. Among the photographs is a photo of the oldest sibling with the two that where given up for adoption, a sister, from his real mother. A sister. This photo was taken before the adoption took place.

Most of the clothes, music, etc can be replaced. ID and photographs are the only real items in question. The other property doesn't matter much.

Any advice on how we can help him?
posted by Leenie to Human Relations (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I would go straight to the police on this. If it is only 2 months until his 18th birthday, then whats the worst that happens? He goes to a home/foster home for 2 months? I think that is more important to obtain this lost information than worry about the next two months.
posted by wile e at 4:41 PM on September 14, 2007

I know that people have (valid) reasons to be leery of the system, but:

If you go to whatever Child Services is called in your area and explain this situation, what could possibly happen that's so much worse than the situation he's in now? As a minor child, he has services and benefits available to him that he should take advantage of. And he needs to talk to a social worker to help him sort out his options. Because things are not necessarily going to get easier for him once he hits 18 and the state is no longer responsible for his welfare. So I would urge you guys to reach out and ask for the help that he has a right to.

My best wishes to you guys.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:42 PM on September 14, 2007 [3 favorites]

The eldest sibling adopted her younger siblings, and then kicks them out on their 18th birthday? How weirdly cold. Like, movie-of-the-week cold.

The police should definitely be called. At the very least, he'll get his ID. At best, the "parents" will get what they have coming. I don't think your friend is in any danger.

As for how you could help your friend in the long term, I guess the most obvious way would be to take him into your home, if you can.
posted by mpls2 at 4:46 PM on September 14, 2007

you need to involve the police. a police report will allow him to replace his identification more easily (including his birth certificate, which can be reissued). also, it's probably the only way he'll get his irreplaceable photos back.

besides, this horrible woman and her husband have committed a crime against him.

if he was kicked out, he won't be sent back. i wouldn't worry too much about him going into foster care--if you are willing to take him, i think the state will be more than happy to let you. he may have to go into the system for a day or a week so they can make sure you aren't drug dealers living in squalor, but even if he does have to go somewhere for two months, it's only two months.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:49 PM on September 14, 2007

thehmsbeagle said exactly what I would have if I was capable of answering this question without screaming profanities about people that would act that cruelly towards a kid.
posted by bunnycup at 6:17 PM on September 14, 2007

If we involve the Police, this can get messy. Would he be taken back home where they don't want him? Foster care? Left to decide for self? Who knows...

He needs the police and Child Protective Services (or whatever it is called where he is located) to intervene. Remember, even if you and he are leery of "the system," it is only a couple months until he ages out of it.

What happens after you contact the authorities depends on where he is located and what is the law and procedure in that state and the effectiveness of the services those authorities provide. I'm assuming it's in the US, since that's what your profile says.

Just my uninformed guess, it seems extremely unlikely he would be returned to a place where he had been kicked out. Your other questions, again, it all depends. First thing is to get someone with authority to step in.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:25 PM on September 14, 2007

also, at his age, he can probably just apply for emancipation anyway, and be considered an adult.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:43 PM on September 14, 2007

At his age, he may not even have to apply for emancipation.
posted by onhazier at 8:06 PM on September 14, 2007

I lost about 5 years of my life due to being that kid, no home, no ID, everything I owned in a backpack. Living on the street you have different priorities, and then suddenly it becomes important that you have things like identification and all your survival skills count for nothing in the face of this overwhelming bureaucracy. It took me years to establish a legal identity, years that could have been made immensely easier by simply having a birth certificate, social security card, and picture ID in hand, but the messed-up realities of my life didn't allow for such luxuries and I had to take the long way around.

This is a far more common circumstance than people realize. I'm not shocked to read about it here, I'm only shocked I don't read about it more often. Someone who can't even establish their own identification can't start the process of emancipation or sue the people who kicked him out... I'm sure such advice is well-meant but it is usually light-years away from the realities at hand.

From personal experience: if you simply can't get the point across to the responsible 'adults' that some tiny amount of aid on their part can prevent tremendous hardship later on, don't mess around with them. Police and lawyers probably aren't worth much right now; by the time you can get anything done the 17-year old will be an 18-year old and all the rules change. Just focus on getting the 'kid' on their feet.

He needs:

* a birth certificate. I ordered a copy of mine from the hospital where I was born, I just had to provide all the info I could remember about my parents birth locations and such.

* a social security card. I already had one from when my mother was on welfare, but I had no copy of it. I had to take my birth certificate and a yearbook borrowed from a friend I went to junior-high with to establish identity.

* a state ID and/or a driver's license. At this point I had enough ID to do things like cash checks, rent apartments, and sign up for classes. All that was left was to get the rest of my life together.

* People that care about him. You can't (and shouldn't) live his life for him, but even knowing that there is someone out there that considers you to be human can be a big help.

Of course it is possible that a calmly-worded letter to the people who kicked him out might resolve this issue... but they haven't shown any particular talent for compassion and forward-thinking. A show of legal force might get a different result, but at great cost and difficulty.

Be clear in your head about what you are trying to do and why you are trying to do it. It is more painful to have an offer of help rescinded when the reality of the situation kicks in than it is to never have received the offer at all.

Best of luck to everyone involved... this sucks.
posted by foobario at 8:18 PM on September 14, 2007 [5 favorites]

Have you tried threatening these people with pressing child neglect/abuse charges? I mean they kicked a minor out on the streets with nothing, might give you a little leverage to get the stuff back.
posted by whoaali at 9:40 PM on September 14, 2007

Start doing what foobario said. All the legal documents are replaceable. Better to do that than try to deal with the scumbags.

Do call the police, though, if only to put the embarrassment pressure on them to get his pictures and sentimental stuff back. Maybe a newspaper would be interested, as well.
posted by ctmf at 10:15 PM on September 14, 2007

Furthermore, report them for identity theft. They have his legal documents without his permission. Sure, they haven't used them for nefarious purposes. Still, it's close enough to what identity theft means to most people that it'll give them some trouble for a while. Maybe they'll find it easier to just give up the goods.
posted by ctmf at 10:19 PM on September 14, 2007

Also, you may want to call a shelter for teenage runaways or a similar organization. I'm guessing there will be people there who have dealt with this situation before and can give you good advice.
posted by whoaali at 10:28 PM on September 14, 2007

Minor upside -- if CPS does want to put him in foster care for the 2 months until he's 18, he may qualify for tuition assistance/free college, depending on which state you're in. I think he can probably stay out of foster care if he tries, but it might have its benefits to put up with it for 2 months.
posted by katemonster at 6:44 AM on September 15, 2007

It wouldn't hurt to check with his school to see if they have copies of any of his documents on file. You could probably get a birth certificate out of it and from there possibly a driver's license or state ID.

And talk to any agency you can about the situation: the Police, DCS, school counselors, the media, child advocates, lawyers, the Social Security Association. It sounds to me like the adopted sibling was harvesting the various state and government payouts for raising foster children, along with the SS survivor benefits, and I wouldn't put it past them to adopt new children for the same reasons. This would certainly explain the whole 18-year-olds-out rule. Reporting them will keep them from trying to pull the same thing in the future.
posted by Benjy at 7:54 AM on September 15, 2007

Social services aren't the boogeymen. Helping kids in distress is what social workers are there for. They routinely help kids who've been kicked out onto the streets. They can hook him up with assistance programs and subsidized housing, offer him classes in independent living skills, establish his eligibility for foster/orphan financial aid programs to carry him through college, etc. If you or anyone else he knows is willing to serve as foster parents, they'll almost certainly approve that arrangement if the kid agrees. Foster parents get a monthly stipend, while the kid will get guaranteed health insurance and an annual clothing allowance (not to mention the security of a home and the opportunity to be with people who give a damn about his welfare). In some states it's possible to request extension of foster/supportive service a couple years beyond the 18th birthday, so don't assume this is just for 2 month.

I would call social service right away. You can always discuss it as a hypothetical if you're really worried about what they'll do. "What if there were a 17 kid who is currently safe and un-abused but who has no home, no money, no ID, etc. What would you be able to do to help such a kid? What's the worst that could happen if the dept got involved? Are there other resources that could help him?"
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:18 PM on September 15, 2007

(By the way, if CPS did get involved he'd automatically be given a lawyer. At state expense. Keep that in mind.)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:23 PM on September 15, 2007

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