I'm a foster/adoptive parent of three kids. We rarely join with our local meeting, as the kid First Day activities are not alluring to my child with the biggest problems (attachment disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, PTSD, and accompanying severe rages) and he's a very effective roadblock. I am considering meeting with another church to better meet his needs. (Our meeting is very small, and although they do a good job with the kids, the quietness of Quakers is not appealing to him.)

This kiddo went from homeless, violent chaos, to a fundamentalist Christian home, to another home, back to the Christian home, and then to me. He attended a Christ the King church with the first family and the hype and bright colors of the Sunday school there really appealed to him. He is a rather black and white sort of kid, and I have serious fears that if I do not choose to engage him in some version of black and white philosophy/spirituality, he will choose his own brand, and I might not like it (gang activity, etc.). I know he will never be fed such hard and fast thinking in First Day school, and for that I am thankful. However, he really seems to need something without so much grey.

All this is complicated a bit by the fact that I am a lesbian, and many churches in town are rather uncomfortable with that. The patriarchal language and belief in scriptural authority in most Christian churches makes me wince. Due to personal history, I have a hard time listening to biblical scripture, though it is very familiar. Attending a local Christian church would mean a spiritual resignation of sorts for me... a sacrifice made for my child. In a way, it would also feel like a sacrifice of my other two children, who don't seem to need such rigid boundaries.

The son about which I am so concerned is eight years old. He is a bit too young to be dropped off at another church while I attend meeting with my other children... nor do I wish to divide our family that way. Because my son always longs for what he can't have or used to have, I really need to make a decision before I take my kids anywhere (if we visit and I decide not to return, he'll decide that's the one place he wants to be).

I welcome any thoughts and questions on this situation. My son is in counseling, and is also enrolled in a program for severely at-risk kids which provides a year of 24 hour support (by phone or in person) and local emergency respite. I am not really looking for advice about his situation in general at this time.

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Dear Kristen, I'm thinking of you.

I have a few ideas, not sure whether any of them will seem useful to your situation. I hope you won't have to give up on Quakers. I sincerely hope that Quakers can work with you to include your son!

1) Can you collect up a care group for your son from local Quakers? I'm thinking then there would be four of you working on how to involve your son in Quakers rather than just you. Or enrol anyone else who's willing, useful and kindly inclined even, if you're short of people who know about Quakers there at the moment. Meet once a month to discern, pray, plan, review together, I guess either with or without your son depending on what you know is going to work best.

2) Do service stuff together with other Quakers as Quakers, either on First Day or another time in the week - you probably know Quakers locally who cook for or serve soup kitchens or clear up public space or do laundry or the gardens of folks who are ill or frail, that kind of thing? That way there is plenty to do for everyone, not so much waiting around, which might make it easier for your son to join in? The sessions could be framed with a couple of minutes waiting worship, a bit of scripture or prayer for you all to think about whilst working together if you can manage it, and there's plenty of opportunity to introduce why we feel impelled towards overcoming injustices and serving the weak and needy.

3) Experimental worship groups? Are there Quakers around who would like to sing together or do creative arts that you could all do together, painting or quilting? I'm thinking about just making sure your whole family get to do something that you can enjoy and that nourishes you and keeps you all together. If you could just find a couple of other Quaker types to help you anchor the group in inclusive-God-centredness then maybe collect up other non-homophobic folks from the neighbourhood as well?

I just phoned Beverlie who works for Quaker Life in London at the Resources Room, they have lots of expertise and resources and suggestions for including all kinds of kids in Quaker stuff, so when she gets back to me I will post again if she has specific suggestions for resources.

Best wishes with it, I'm looking forward to hearing more.

There is a Unitarian church, and they do have good programs. However, I don't think the Unitarian Church will serve him much better than the Quakers (again, no black and white). I think that we would likely end up at the local United Methodist Church, though I am still checking out their kid population and programs. I had another congregation in mind, but decided after reading the pastor's blog (and he is a personal friend) that it would be more than I'm willing to bear/engage.

Alice, I am Quaker. I won't be giving that up, but rather choosing to quietly be Quaker in a different church body, if that makes sense. Thanks for your words and research.
Hi Kristen,

I also have an 8-year old son whom I typically don't take to meeting with me. I share joint custody with his dad, so on the weeks I have my son we go to a church that he has friends at. The structure has been good for him. I do hope that someday I will be able to have him involved with Friends' Meeting. he has ADHD and anxiety issues, so the way First Day school is done isn't the best format for him either. However, I've somewhat come to terms with the fact that I need to take him to a different church for now...

I hope is helps somehow to know that you are not alone!

The black and white term is one I use for thinking that is rather absolute. I think T (my son) really feels the need for there to always be rules and certain ways of doing things. I see him as a kid who will grab onto a group with very clear, narrow beliefs and boundaries, such as a more conservative church or a gang (sorry for any implied comparison... I've known dear people in both groups). He would likely be happiest in a church that preached salvation by Christ alone and believed in a fairly serious literal scriptural translation. He wants there to be one answer for each situation (unless it doesn't match his desires, of course), and although I hope he can grow past that eventually, I think it will more likely be in his 20s or 30s than his teen years.
I had a chat on the phone with Chris Nickolay who's one of the Youth Workers employed by Quakers in my country. I've certainly started learning more about how to approach work with children and young people around Meeting. I'm going to write about some of the things you suggest here because even if they're not appropriate for your situation others might like to know more.

He recommended Godly Play, there's a big network, Quakers use them in the UK and there's a huge network in the States.

The umbrella body of Quakers you belong to might have employees with expertise in youth work to help your Meeting include your eldest son. Your local Meeting is likely to belong to a 'Yearly Meeting', or there might be one geographically appropriate, if you're in the U.S.A. maybe they are along state lines? Your Yearly Meeting might well have or know of other Quaker organisations with Youth Workers who could help. He knows people in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for example.

There are some resources on the website he and his team work on:

"What about the children in our Meeting?" is a resource to run three sessions for a Meeting to work together.

Journeys in the Spirit is an email newsletter, archives here, subscribe for more details.

I understand where you are coming from due to I am also an adoptive parent. My older child has autism, RAD, PTSD, and I can go on and on.

I actually attend meetings alone as he can not participate. I would love it if they could, but they cant. So I had to make some allowances.

However, I thought it was important for him to have some sense of God and brought the boys to the 'United Church of Christ'. Its an extrememly liberal church and you probably would find a 'rainbow flag' attached to their signs. The kids go down to Sunday school, I go with them, and the lessons are uplifting and supportive of everyone.

In fact, the pastor is a lesbian in the one I bring my kids.

I understand and know how hard it is. One thing I had to accept is that my son had limitations and I had to make some kind of allowances for me. If I cant get the message to him through the front door, I have to get it to him through the back door.

I actually tried a UU church, but for us, I wanted more for him. That seemed to fit the bill.

If there is a way you can do both, or switch every other Sunday, that may be something you can try.

Again, I know how hard it is, my thoughts are with you.

I'm sure if none of these ideas work for you, I have faith that you will figure this all out and what is best for you and your family.
I am fostering too and I understand. I think you should continue to bring him to meeting though. As a foster parent sometimes we forget that ALL kids are not perfect. We start to think everyone else's kids are perfect but ours are not--especially the Quaker kids, they're so nice and quiet and then there's my kid...

But ...

The kids will learn to adjust and how to socialize (or not socialize) with your child. They will get your kids quirks and may even translate what they learn from your child to other children they come in contact with in their lives. All the children will be enriched.

Plus, sending him to another place for First Day or Sunday School will not guarantee a better situation. Having said all of that, I DO send my daughter to a pentacostal church on Tuesdays to participate in Praise Dancing. She likes movement and its a way for her to express spirituality in addition to worshiping in silence. We attend their church service only a couple of Sundays a month so she can "perform" with those she's practiced with.

I hope some of this helps. Do you mind being a guest blogger on my site at www.mezclados.wordpress.com?


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