Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fictional Friday: Carlton

Carlton was expelled from high school his senior year after a series of altercations with other students. He is a magnet for trouble, seemingly to always attract the wrong people into his life. Carlton is now twenty years old, and currently resides in the local county jail.

About a year ago, Carlton's aunt brought him to my agency to inquire about services. Carlton's aunt explained that Carlton's father had passed away when he was only three. His biological mother lives in a large metropolitan city in an adjacent state, and dropped Carlton and his sister off with the aunt when they were nine and ten years old, respectively. This was supposedly a temporary arrangement (a few weeks) so their mother could get her 'life straightened out.' In the meanwhile, Carlton's mother's phone was disconnected, and had moved from the public housing apartment in which they had lived. Carlton's aunt eventually filed for guardianship when the mother failed to return for them after several months and couldn't be located.

Carlton has a moderate intellectual disability. He has significant difficulties with basic math, reading and writing. Carlton had struggled through school, exhibiting learning and emotional difficulties. And there was the occasional anger outbursts that would sometimes result in aggression towards his sister and students in the classroom setting. Carlton has difficulty with impulse control, possesses a low frustration threshold and has limited coping skills.  His aunt hinted that Carlton's mother had used street drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. She explained that she tried her best to keep on top of Carlton's issues, but during his adolescent years he become increasingly difficult to manage. It is important for Carlton to fit in and find acceptance. Carlton seemed to gravitate towards older boys who would often exploit him. Carlton naively thought of them as genuine friends, and often failed to see he was being taken advantage.

After expulsion from high school, Carlton rebelled and would often leave his aunt's home for hours or even a couple of days at a time after an argument. He was over the age of eighteen, and police advised his aunt she had limited options unless she pursed legal guardianship. They had limited financial resources, but his aunt began the process of obtaining guardianship.

We assisted Carlton with applying for the Medicaid waiver, but since he failed to complete high school he is ineligible for a priority waiver. Carlton will not be targeted to receive services for a few years. He would  have obviously benefited from being in a structured setting with positive mentors, supports and services.

In the meanwhile, Carlton was 'befriended' by a couple of young men. Carlton desperately sought their approval and friendship. A few weeks later, on a summer morning in a rough part of town, Carlton was found in an abandoned house, duck-taped to a chair. He had been beaten and burned with cigarette butts. The details are still somewhat murky, but as best as can be determined, Carlton was involved in delivering illegal substances for his new friends but he had failed to secure the entire 'payment.' Carlton's new friends had tortured him, figuring he had betrayed them or had perhaps taken their money. He was hospitalized and later released, and he eventually healed and recuperated from his injuries. Carlton refused to name his attackers.

Carlton is like a lot of young men with disabilities: he has limitations that may or may not be readily apparent, but his street smarts are just enough to get himself into trouble.  Recently, Carlton was in a passenger in a vehicle (with 'friends') that was pulled over by police. Carlton had prescription pain medication in his pocket for which he did not have a prescription. Perhaps conjecture on my part, but it seems to be a forgone conclusion that the authorities will fully prosecute Carlton, his limitations and vulnerabilities notwithstanding. He sits in jail, awaiting his court appearance. Carlton's aunt does not have the money to bail him out, and worries about his future. He obviously has difficulties making sound and wise choices. If services and supports were available, Carlton might have had a different outcome. Hopefully, someday, Carlton will connect with the right kinds of people. At worse, maybe he can survive his bad decisions.  


Note:   Carlton is a fictional character, based on a composite of real individuals. Composite characters who appear in my "Fictional Friday" posts are based on people with real stories, with particular details, names, and certain specific circumstances changed so as to protect privacy.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post David. All to often The Arc receives calls from desperate family members whose sons have fallen into similar circumstances.


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I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
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