Christopher A. Bogle, a young person in care
When I got back to my group home one Friday night, a staff member named Robert was giving out the allowances. Ms. Torres, the supervisor of the group home, usually makes out the allowance sheet, but that Friday she wasn't there because of some family difficulties.
Ms. Torres is a fair person who always gave me what I deserved. Since she wasn't there, I was worried I wasn't going to get the right amount of allowance for the chores I completed because other staff members sometimes gave the residents less than they deserved. That week I completed over 20 chores and each chore is worth $2.
As I expected, Robert didn't know what he was doing. He said each chore was worth $1.20. When I signed for my allowance, I was pissed off because I was being jerked. When I tried to explain to Robert that I deserved more money, he kept on making excuses. I was getting even more mad, because I felt he wasn't taking me seriously.
I was trying to save so I could buy a jacket for the winter. I was short $5. I needed a jacket badly, because the one I had didn't keep me warm. I decided that I wanted to cash a savings bond that I had won in a spelling bee so I could buy the jacket. When I asked Robert for the savings bond, he refused to give it to me because he thought it was in my best interest to save it for my college education.
I kept on repeating that I wanted to cash the savings bond, but Robert still refused to give it to me. The bond was in my folder in the filing cabinet where the staff kept the important papers. I was so mad that I put my arm in the filing cabinet when Robert opened it. When I refused to remove my arm, he closed the drawer on my hand and hurt me. He told me to get out of the office, but I refused.
Then Robert grabbed me and tried to push me out of the office. I was ready to swing at him. My mother always told me not to let nobody put their hands on me. But if I hit Robert, I would probably have gotten arrested for assaulting him. The police would never have believed that it was self-defense.
The supervisor on duty had gone out of the house while this incident was taking place. When he came back and saw me using profanity at Robert, he tried to calm me down. When I explained what happened, the supervisor told me to keep my head and said he'd take care of the problem. I maintained my temper and just chilled.
The supervisor came out of the office and gave me my savings bond and explained that the situation had been taken care of. But in my mind the situation was not resolved because I felt I was the victim of wrongful doing.
That same night my cousin Eric called me. Eric always looked out for me and, when I explained to him what happened, he got so mad that he was about to jump in his car and drive down to see Robert. I told him not to come down because Robert was off duty at 6 p.m. and he'd be wasting his time.
When Eric came to the group home a few weeks later to drive me home for the Christmas vacation, he wanted to see Robert. I tried to convince him to forget about it, but my cousin still wanted to see him. Robert was in the office talking on the phone. Eric walked in the office and introduced himself and Robert did the same. My cousin started asking him about how the problem started.
Robert closed the office door. I got scared because I did not want to see my cousin get himself in trouble. I was scared my cousin was going to punch Robert in his face. I knew my cousin sometimes had a temper. I was listening at the door. I was relieved when I heard them talking, not fighting.
When my cousin came out of the office, he said goodbye to Robert and we left.
When we got in the car, my cousin told me everything was taken care of. He told Robert never to put his hands on me again, and if he had a problem with me to call him and he would take care of everything.
I had gotten very mad when Robert refused to give me my savings bond, but I should have handled myself better. Ms. Torres, the supervisor of the group home, was coming in on Sunday. I should have been patient and waited for her to come in to handle the dispute. If I had to do it over, I would never have gone inside the office and disrespected Robert.
But I also feel Robert was more at fault than I was. He tried to hurt me by closing the file cabinet on my hand. Robert is a staff member and I'm a minor in foster care. He should have handled the situation in a better way by calling Ms. Torres and asking her if he could have permission to give me my savings bond. Looking back, in a way I'm sorry I cashed it, but it was also my right to cash it if I wanted to.
The way my cousin Eric handled the situation had a very big impact on me. When I used to get mad, I never talked about my problem or to the person I was mad at. I held it inside until I exploded in a negative way. Watching how my cousin talked it out with Robert showed me how to express myself better and say what's on my mind instead of keeping it inside.
You can solve problems without using violence. You have to be smart and willing to work things out. The first thing I would try in the future is to talk.
I still get angry because I haven't learned how to control my anger that good, but since the incident with Robert I feel I calmed down a little. I don't get mad as fast as I used to. I still have a problem controlling my temper, but I try my best to avoid a situation when I know I'm going to get mad.
To anybody who ends up in a situation like this, please think before you react, because you might do something you will later regret. If you happen to get mad, call someone to talk to. Also, get out of the house and go for a walk to calm down, and then come back. When I get mad now, I isolate myself from everybody until I calm down.
This feature, used with permission of youthcomm.org, is an extract from the book The Struggle to Be Strong: True Stories by Teens About Overcoming Tough Times