Monday, February 21, 2011

No Child Left Behind?

This is a  long post.  It has no pictures.  But I have to share this story because it is very near to my heart:

Many of you know Katherine, my 9 year old charge.  (And those of you who do know her and will see her again, I ask that you treat the information in this posting respectfully.)  Her mother came to me at the beginning of the summer 2 years ago.  Katherine had not passed the 2nd grade and her mother and her father were not doing well together and her mom was looking for a safe place for Katherine to stay and go to school.  I have known Katherine since she was born, so I said, sure, she can stay with us and we can enroll her in the school that is right behind our house.  So we did just that and Katherine came to our house every day at 7:00AM and stayed all day with us often until 6PM or later, and sometimes spending the night here.  

That summer, Katherine and I got to know each other again since we had been out of touch for a few years, and when school started and she was enrolled in the 2nd grade at her new school, I went to meet her teacher and we worked on her reading and comprehension and together Katherine, her teacher and I pulled Katherine up from where she was to a passing level.  Katherine's mother does not speak English, so it was a struggle for Katherine to learn to read and then to catch up on all the vocabulary that she was missing, but she made huge strides during her first year here with us.  We kept the TV off, went to the library often and checked her homework every day.  She also went with us to church on Wednesday nights where she met with other kids and learned how to memorize Bible verses, which is a very good learning tool, too.  Not only because of the verses she was learning, but also because it helped her learn to study.

Also, Katherine was...shall we say...a bit un-athletic.  So, that first fall, we enrolled her in soccer, then in basketball for the winter season, soccer again for the spring and got her on the swim team for the summer.  Now THAT was a feat!  Our swimming team is VERY competitive, and Katherine could not put her head under the water let alone swim the length of the pool to pass the swim test.  So, a month before swim team started, we got her lessons from a friend and she went every week and learned to manage herself in the water.  I prayed so hard that she would get on the team, and by a miracle, she did!  We were so excited, and so was she!

During this time, her mom and dad were in and out of their relationship, and Katherine's mother found out that she was pregnant in April of 2010.  The baby was due in December.  But Katherine was still doing well.  She started school again in the fall and was passed to the 3rd grade!  She is still not fully up to speed, but we kept working with her and her teacher and kept her in books and checking homework, and she was slowly inching her way up the reading ladder.  Her teacher said that there was a slight concern that Katherine might have a learning disability, but that with continued effort on all of our parts, she should be able to catch up and stay on course.

Then her little sister was born right after Christmas.  So, Katherine's mom took maternity leave and started taking Katherine to school and picking her up instead of Katherine coming here to our house.  This was great for Katherine to have some quality time with her mom and new sister, but unfortunately, her mother has Maryland tags on her car. 

Last Thursday, as Katherine was getting out of her mother's car at school, the drop off line attendant asked Katherine who dropped her off.  Katherine said that it was her mom who brought her to school that day.  Then the lady asked if she came across a bridge to get to school, so Katherine said that yes, she did.  Later that day, they pulled Katherine out of school and took her to the office to quiz her more.  They asked her where she lived and she said that she lived in Maryland.

So, the school called Katherine's mom and told her that she needed to take Katherine out of school and that Friday would be Katherine's last day in that school.  Katherine's mom called me crying to try to fix it.  I called in to see what was going on and said that Katherine stayed with us and had been for 2 years but that her mother had just had a baby and that Katherine was staying with her for the maternity leave and that the following Monday, Katherine would be back with us.  They said it didn't matter.  We needed to adopt Katherine in order to keep her in the school or her mother needed to live here and that they would send the police to our house today to check to see if her mother lived with us if we persisted in sending Katherine to school.

Then, I got a call from Elizabeth's elementary school from last year saying that I was being investigated concerning fraud and allowing other people to use my address to attend schools in the area.  So basically, if I push this, I will be in a lot of trouble.  My hands are tied.

So, Katherine, who is an at risk student in so many ways, both in her home life and her school life, is being yanked from her school and from the safe environment that is our house.   She will be put into another school in the middle of the year.  She will end up staying with her aunt who has learning disabilities and does not speak English and did not finish high school.  She will probably not play sports any more since she is being moved out of this district, and she will probably not be able to participate in swimming, either, since her school is now far away from us and the pool and swim starts before the school year is over. 

How is this really fair?  Because of tax dollars, a 9 year old child's entire school career and very possibly her life's direction is completely changed.  This child stays with us every day.  We take care of her.  We are involved in her education.  We are trying to help her be her best and yet, while there are whole other families who just come directly from over the bridge and dump their children off at school, Katherine has been picked out to be pushed out. 

I sad and disappointed.  I feel like the dreams and goals that Katherine and I were building together have been dashed to the ground.  She and I often talked about how she could be the first one in her family to go to college.  How she wanted to play the trumpet and how she was so excited with every reading level she passed.

I know that changing a school does not make all these things disappear.  But I also know that without a strong advocate, she is very likely to get lost and just be another name and number in the crowd of kids.

I also know that I can go to her new school and be involved there, but do I have the time to do that?  How much of my own family can I sacrifice for this?  It will not be the same.

Maybe this will be a good thing.  Maybe it will push her father to be more active in her life.  Maybe I can still pick her up on Wednesdays for church, and maybe her cousins can come, too.  There can be good things that come out of this, but honestly, I can say that I am just disappointed.

I am disappointed in a system that looks so much at the 'rules' without looking at the heart of the matter.

And I am sad for Katherine, a child who is being left behind.


  1. My heart goes out to this poor child. You should not have to adopt her but simply become her legal guardian. If the parents agree to let you become her legal guardian then she can live with you and attend the same school. Just a thought!


  2. Thanks for your comment, Hannah. I have been keeping up with Katherine and her progress in getting enrolled in another school. I have good news on that front so far. I just hope that we can petition to the school board for her to stay in that school for next year, too, so she won't have to move again. I'm going to blog the update on that situation on Monday after I talk to the principal of her new school. I have definitely been able to see God's hand in this!