Emergence From Pandemic Raises Concerns

Let me introduce you to Andre. He’s a 12-year-old boy whose parents called me one memorable evening. They left a curious message on my voice mail. I noticed the call after charging up my old stand-by flip phone. Clear as could be, their message was heard. I returned the call and a male voice answered. Andre’s dad, Sol, took several minutes to explain his purpose for calling. He and his wife, May, needed guidance. We arranged a session for the following week.

On this warm day, Sol and May arrived on time for their initial session. I had requested that Andre not come to allow for history and concerns to be addressed. Sol looked all of 66-years-old, a bit hunched over from years of hard labor in the construction trade. His arms and hands were strong and his face spoke of years in the sun. He was clean shaven, wore slacks, a short-sleeved iron-pressed white shirt, and sneakers. May, age 65, had a look of an athlete; lithe, slender, and powerful arms. She wore a long cotton dress with sandals. She wore little make-up. Each wore a friendly smile, yet with taut skin. Both appeared worried by wrinkles on their forehead. If appearance could talk — well, I suppose I’ll find out.

What brings you both here? What’s Andre up to? Sol spoke first.

“We’re struggling with our son, Andre. He’s basically a good kid. This summer, we’ve quarantined the three of us. We only went out for exercise. Food from supermarkets was delivered. We tried to keep busy. We watched television, listened to music, played some games, ate food, and slept. AndrÈ adjusted well in the beginning of the pandemic. He went online to connect with his friends. He spoke by telephone to friends, also. Life in the home went OK until recently. May, you tell him please.”

“All right. Once we came to an understanding of being able to go out, Andre refused to go out. At first Sol figured he wasn’t ready. Then, Andre began to have nightmares about going outdoors. He questioned our safety. What he heard and tuned into from others was a belief not to go out. The pandemic was still a factor. He has a friend in Florida who, too, refused to go out. He gets really upset when Sol and I go outdoors. We’ve now been purchasing our own food, in addition to other essential shopping. Andre won’t go. He won’t walk with us. He’ll exercise at home. He loves ice cream; yet, he refuses to go out to buy an ice cream cone. The nightmares occur more frequently. He’s afraid to sleep and drags through the day. What can we do?”

Conducting some higher math problem in my mind, I asked about age. Did Sol and May procreate Andre? Sol laughed at the absurdity of my inquiry.

“No, Andre is our foster son. Sorry, I didn’t let you know right away. We’re his second foster parents. The first set relocated and weren’t able to take Andre. A friend of ours works for Social Services and happened to share some of her concerns with us. I’m a former case worker. We tell and don’t break privacy. She’s Andre’s case worker. Foster homes are in short supply with high demands. Our two sons are on their own. Sol and I decided to become foster parents. Andre has been with us two years. He adjusted well in the beginning. We provided wholesome food, clothing, and a warm environment.”

“Our children live on their own. I guess we experienced the proverbial empty nest syndrome. We were alone together,” said May. “We took trips, which were enjoyable. We connected with our kids at their respective homes. We were loving life after working hard for years. Sol, in fact, one day said that our home is too quiet. Eventually, we entered into classes to become certified as a foster home. We had three children prior to Andre’s entry into our lives. Social Services shared information on Andre’s biological family. That helps us understand one’s particular personality with a young man like Andre.”

What stood out for you with Andre’s history? Anything you read or learned from his case worker send out red flags?

“As a matter of fact, we brought our copy of the social services psychological evaluation including history, testing, educational, and behavior assessments. We can let you keep it to read. Maybe it can help you, sir.”

May handed me the packet, which I’d read at a later time.

So for now, Sol and May, I want to know how Andre’s problems you reference affect the two of you. Let’s look at basic daily functioning. I realize that your family has been impacted by the coronavirus. Rather than shop independently, you had food delivered. You quarantined at home along with Andre. What more can you enlighten me about a so-called norm that you adapted to during these months, Sol?

“We’ve enjoyed occasional outings with Andre. I’m not sure if he went on car rides with adults in his past. He took well to it. Even in winter, he’d laugh while opening his window in the back seat. His hair would blow. We’d stop to eat at a restaurant. He was open to trying foods unfamiliar to him such as fresh sea food. We eat fish and other sea food at home. It’s not the same fun. We’ve not been able to visit our two sons; both live out of state. They readily accepted Andre, who messed around with their school-aged children. Of course, we miss them. We used to take Andre to the library and he got interested in books on various subjects. He once only read online. Hard-back or paperback books are our mainstay for pleasurable reading. We now send for books. It’s not the same as a library trip or a brick and mortar book store. We’ve watched too much television. We seem to get tired easily. Maybe we’re guilty of breathing the same air. Gladly, we’ve ventured out and the walks help our sleep. Andre used to go for walks and skate board sometimes with friends. Can’t skate board in our home; he doesn’t see the friends he’s made.”

Folks, you’ve done a good job today describing concerns about Andre. Your family routine during the earlier days of COVID-19 essentially was quarantining. The three of you survived. You adhered to safe protocols. You established a healthy safety net. Now, you’ve ventured out of your home. You’ve become less dependent upon others. However, while the two of you, Sol and May, have ventured out of your home, your foster son, Andre, remains in the bubble. His refusal to go out has you wondering what to do. He struggles with sleep. Do you think Andre would see me? I wonder if you’d agree to a home visit. I’ll wear a mask and sit at a safe distance. Please think this over and then call me. I’m open to any other ideas. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today