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|September 10, 2010
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Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Probation Officer Susan Maguire Helps Adopted
Children and Their Families Navigate the Rocky Terrain of Adolescence
A photo of Susan Maguire, Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court Probation Officer
Several years ago, Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court Probation Officer Susan Maguire noticed a “reoccurring theme” among the parents who came into her court to file a CHINS (Child In Need of Services) petition for their troubled teens, she said. Each of the parents had adopted their children - who were acting out, running away, and getting arrested.
As more parents turned to Maguire for help with their children, “they found they had a common thread in that they were all working with me,” Maguire recalled. The Probation Officer quickly recognized the need for resources for the children and their families. Maguire and the parents formed an informal support network where she meets monthly with them to help the families navigate the rocky terrain of adolescence in addition to the bigger issues and challenges faced by the children who endured abuse and/or abandonment by their birth parents. The majority of the children had been adopted through the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The other children were adopted from foreign countries.
“The only place to access services for these children was through DCF and this was very difficult for the children who had lived in foster care before being placed with their families. One young girl lived in five different foster homes before being placed with her adoptive family at age five,” Maguire said. “When the children are adopted at birth or a young age, they are cute and adorable but sometimes once they become teens, they are acting out and exhibiting delinquent behavior.”
While it is the role of Probation Officers to supervise offenders in the community and enforce the orders of the court, Probation Officers like Maguire are playing an integral role in the community by helping offenders and court-involved individuals lead productive lives. Maguire provides the families with information on counseling and mental health services, educational programs, and serves as a helpful guide to navigating the juvenile and district court systems.
Maguire meets once a month with the parents group to help them find ways to address their children’s problems. There was the teen girl who often ran away. Another child - a toddler born in Chile when his professor parents adopted him - grew into a moody teenager who suffered with abandonment issues, substance abuse, and often ran away. He pondered “living the “thug-life.”
“Another child’s behavior almost became physically assaultive. She was certainly verbally abusive. Her parents were able to get the support through the group to help their daughter change her behavior. She graduated from high school and is attending college,” Maguire said.
Not all stories have happy endings, according to Maguire. The group explored options for a teen girl who is now pregnant and dealing with the abusive father of her child.
The Parents of Teens Group begins each meeting by introducing new families and what has brought them to the meeting. Then, each family takes turns talking about the issues their child is facing and any updates from previous discussions. Maguire offers guidance and information on resources and services for the children.
Nancy, a mother of three adopted children and four foster and step children, is one of the founding members of the group.
An experienced parent, this mother said Maguire’s assistance and contributions to the group are invaluable.
“I had a 15-year-old who baffled me. She was running away a lot, not following rules. She was very emotionally distraught. She had temper tantrums every night the first year we had her. She was later diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Susan has years, and years and years of experience of dealing with kids like ours. She has more expertise than anyone I have met."
Meredith, a mother of five-including two adopted children, described the group this way: “It is a place where we can go to talk about the latest disasters and hear people talk about
their disasters while getting distance and perspective. It gives us - for a couple of hours - a chance to laugh about things that are devastating normally. There is nothing like talking to people who are going through similar things.”
She said of Maguire, “She has this kind of essence. Susan is coming at this experience from a very different perspective. She is really good at seeing what’s good in children even when they are at their worst. She has also shown that things get better as you move forward and that giving up is not an option.”
Meredith added, “She sees kids in a way that parents and teachers don’t. She offers reassurance that even when children get involved with the Criminal Justice system that it is not the end of the world.