In Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts on February 13, 2016 at 8:59 am

I read through the eight-page document with him, line by line. Checked, from time to time, if he understood a word or an expression. Until now, he’s been the least talkative of the four. Yesterday, he nodded when he understood, said “no” when he didn’t. Nodded twice when I explained the meaning of the words inadaptés, inefficaces et indignes (unsuitable, ineffective and shameful).*

Others who were present in the room read the document signed by France’s Défenseur des Droits. Discussion moved on to the unacceptable conditions under which the young man was expelled from a Home in December. Suddenly, he started talking. About conditions at the Home. About the Director’s attitude.

Whether the document submitted by his lawyer to the Court of Appeal will lead to his recognition as a minor with a number of legally-prescribed rights? The answer is still downstream for him and the others. Whatever the outcome, the document stands, and will serve its purpose for those who play fast and loose with the laws of their own country. Whether they’ll change their ways is another matter. But vindication, if only by one authority, makes a huge difference in a person’s outlook and self-esteem. I don’t expect this young man to become a huge talker in front of adults; he wasn’t raised that way. But he talked freely last night – and that’s pretty cool.

Earlier, at the monthly Friday morning meeting of social workers, psychologists et al, we’d searched for ways to help a twelve year old boy manage another tough moment in his tough life. Divided loyalties – to his jailed father who, among other distinguishing criminal activities, beats on his wife and children. Divided loyalties – to his stressed out, overwrought mother who counts on him for help with the younger children. There’s not much room in his life for being just a growing boy figuring out his own likes and dislikes.

When I came home last night, quiet prevailed upstairs. Everyone had gone out. It’s now fifteen minutes to eight am and not one footstep, howl or other signal to be heard. No, I’m not complaining. I’m not convinced they’ve all gone to a massive reconciliation session – although one can always dream. These days, a few hours of peace in my home environment, and a document like the one produced by Monsieur Jacques Toubon on behalf of the rights of unaccompanied minors on French soil? Make for a pretty good day.

And if I manage to push the proto draft along a few extra paragraphs too? Not as satisfying as gliding down a pleasant stream with a few paddle strokes here and there. These days, progress is more of the kind you get when transporting a canoe over land from one lake to another. Think slow but steady going through the underbrush.

* In reference to x-rays of the left wrist used to invalidate the age stated on a birth certificate proven to be authentic.



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