Need help - housing an at risk teen and don't know where to turn


New Member
I have changed the names in the following text for privacy reasons. I have a neighbor kid who is now my roommate, and he is in need of some serious help. As a 24 year old recent graduate, I don't have the experiences or resources to help him. I have exhausted practically every Google search, and I'm not sure where else to go. If you can help or know who could, please contact me. Below is his story - sorry it's so long:

Many of the details about Josh’s life are not incredibly concrete to me; specific dates, ages, and even information regarding the duration of doctors’ care are estimates based on the general timelines I have come to understand from conversations with him and others. However, I do know situational and personal information and know it to be quite true. Josh was born heroin-addicted to an unwed couple. He has never met his mother, and to anyone’s knowledge, she is most likely in Georgia and possibly in and out of jail for cocaine use. Upon his birth, his grandmother immediately took him in to raise him where he had infrequent contact with his father. She raised him in rural Louisiana near Baton Rouge. Initially, she refused to place him in school until truancy officers forced her to do so, placing him a year behind in school.

When his grandmother was admitted to a nursing home when he was approximately 10 years old, his Aunt Ruth took him in and moved with him to Searcy, Arkansas. It is important to note some details about Ruth. To begin, she claims to be blind and currently collects government disability, welfare, and food stamps to pay for her living expenses. As a result, Josh has observed an “entitlement” attitude toward some aspects of life since he has grown up with the idea of “free money.” Also, Ruth has also told numerous stories of her experiences in New Orleans, including her dabbling in witchcraft. She has stated without hesitation that she believes herself to be a witch. Josh has also told stories of supernatural experiences that have occurred in the household including times which Ruth has held séances and where he has observed presences in his room.

In Searcy, Ruth moved in with a physically-abusive boyfriend. After about a year in this situation, Ruth left her boyfriend and admitted herself to a local battered women’s shelter. Upon her release, she developed an alcoholism problem as a coping mechanism. While she was an occasional drinker and smoker previously, she increased her intake considerably since this incident.

When Josh was about 12 years old, he suggested he and his friend Matt go swimming n a local creek. While swimming, Josh lost his footing and began to drown. Matt dove in, saved him, and ended up drowning in front of Josh as a result. Shortly thereafter, Ruth and Josh moved to Northwest Arkansas. Since moving, he has not seen his father. Once in Arkansas, he was admitted to Vista Therapeutic Day Treatment, a psychological/therapy facility, in order to help him cope with having watched his friend drown. Although he spent a year in care (and consequently fell another year behind in school), he still battles frequent nightmares and guilt over suggesting the outing and being the one to survive. He has had several depressive episodes and has previously attempted to take his life; however, with care, medication, and therapy, he has at least been able to move forward without inflicting further self-harm upon himself.

With the availability of alcohol and cigarettes in the house, Josh turned to substances to battle his struggles, and his aunt (who was becoming hard of sight) hardly noticed the disappearance of alcohol from her large bottles of whiskey. Eventually, Josh experimented with other substances such as marijuana, heroin, and even LSD. Thankfully, he never developed an addition for these substances nor did he ever come into trouble with the authorities.

I moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2009 to begin graduate school at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and moved next door to Josh and Ruth in the adjoining apartment. I met Josh when he had just turned 16 and quickly got to know the basis of his situation. He had little to no ambition in his life, and he saw high school as merely a required roadblock before living a life of dead-end jobs, government money, and having just enough to go paycheck to paycheck to purchase beer and cigarettes. This, of course, was the only pattern he ever saw from his father, uncles, and Ruth who subsisted on the government for her entire income. As I started to spend more and more time with him, he began to realize that my roommates and I had futures and potential careers ahead of our hard work in school. He became interested and developed a desire to attend college upon completion of high school. This interest was heightened when, upon my graduation and securing of a job with Walmart headquarters, I took Josh to work with me and arranged to give him a tour of the facilities. He was inspired by the potential in life as a result of hard work and education.

As a suggestion from his psychiatrist, Josh got a pet dog, Brutus, as a coping mechanism. While this was occasionally helpful for him, he simply lacked the patience for training a new puppy, and he was often very harsh to even abusive of Brutus. This frustration was compounded when Ruth’s boyfriend, John, moved in and brought with him a large dog that soon gave birth to a litter of puppies, one of which they kept. John, a recovering alcoholic, was initially very good for Josh as a father figure, but he quickly slipped back into alcoholism in the presence of Ruth. Therefore, with a drunken man and a drunken, partially blind woman in the house, it was generally left to Josh to tend to the dogs.

Conditions in the house became deplorable. The abundance of liquor bottles and cigarette butts grew, and standing piles of dog droppings and urine stains became common-place. As a teenager with depression, obsessive-compulsive tendencies for cleanliness, and mood swings associated with his borderline personality disorder, this became understandably overwhelming for him. In the first week of October, he woke to find dog droppings on the floor outside his bedroom and in the middle of the stairs as well as torn up phonebooks throughout the living room. In a moment of anger, he struck the six month old puppy, breaking its rear femur in several places. While I do not in any way wish to excuse his actions, I personally understand why he acted the way he did given the circumstances, and honestly, I might very well have acted the in the same manner were I in his position. However, his actions were still quite wrong, a fact that he quite clearly understands given by his subsequent guilt and remorse.

Following the incident with the puppy, Josh moved into my apartment next door. The puppy was operated on and has recovered, and no legal action will be taken against Josh. However, we still reside next door to Ruth and John, and it is a toxic situation. While Josh’s attitude has improved and it has not been a problem living with him, I still understand that even if we were to relocate, I lack the time, training, education, and experience to sufficiently care for Josh’s mental, emotional, and psychological needs. It would not be in his best interest if he were to continue to live with me, and as someone who sincerely cares about him and his future, I would be doing him a disservice if I did not seek to find him a more suitable, safe, and caring situation.

Therefore, I have begun looking for places that would allow Josh to complete high school while also helping care for the issues he has and helping him move forward to adulthood. As an 18 year old in high school, he is truly more of a 16 year old with regards to his maturity, and he cannot yet live alone as an adult. He needs a place that can provide him with the attention and care that he quite strongly yearns for, and preferably a place with a Christian or similar values that would not ignore or neglect him.

My initial search started with Cal Farley's in Texas since my parents are familiar with them and they don't require much funding (if any). However, they only take youth up to age 18, and he is therefore too old for the program. They suggested I look at places like Youth Reach and Omaha Home for Boys. With all other programs, I keep running into one of three problems. Since he is 18, most programs for people his age are for drug or alcohol rehab - not really what he needs. Also, the majority of the non-profit/no tuition programs I have found like Youth Reach require him to stop taking his medication, and this isn't a very wise option. Thirdly, since he doesn't have funding, other programs would be willing to take his Medicaid only if he is referred by a physician or government agency. This leaves me in a bind, and my search has come to yet another wall.

To summarize, I just want to state that Josh is not a “problem child” – he’s really more of a child that has a lot of problems. He has had a very complicated and rough upbringing that lacked stability, values, and unconditional love. Given all he has experienced, I am truly amazed that he is as “normal” as he is, and because I see that he does have a potential for a future, I have done all I can to help make a difference in his life. I want the best for him and want to do what I can to help him move beyond that which is keeping him from moving forward.

Thank you for your time and for your consideration of Josh and his situation. If you have any questions regarding him, feel free to contact me at any time. Additionally, if you cannot help him but are aware of other organizations that might be able to, I would be most grateful for your suggestions.

Sincerely and God Bless,


Roll With It
Arthur, first of all, and I know this may be odd to you, THANK YOU for caring so much. You are right, you don't have the skills/resources to really help him. WHile this really stinks, I am not sure there is anyone who does. Most of us don't start wth teens, we get there long after we have become attached, whether to our children, stepkids, adopted kids, etc....

Josh is really lucky to have you. I don't know of resources. We don't mention names of facilites and groups in the open forums, those are usually kept in the private messages, so don't be alarmed if a moderator edits them out.

I don't know of any resources. I am assuming you are still in Arkansas and I think it is amazing and wonderful that you and Josh are friends. I do suggest you start making phone calls with this sort of script:

"Hi, my name is X and I need help. I have a teen, J, who is looking for help, needs to be on medications, and is a couple years behind so he isn't ready to face the world and needs mroe than I can help with. Can you help? No? Who would you suggest I call to ask for help? Do you have contact info for them?" Explain as much as you can (briefly) to each call, and you want help OR the name of someone with a group who can help.

I am going to send you a PM now too.


One immediate thought (maybe a little off the wall, but that's kinda how I am): your local CASA chapter might be a place to start. It's a volunteer agency that works with kids who are in the foster care system, and you're in a different situation. But I think you'll find like-minded local people who know a lot of resources available to at-risk kids, including those who are aging out. They may have ideas or even be willing to help guide you through the system. See

Our thoughts are with you - you're doing a good an courageous thing. Your mama raised you right! :)


New Member
You can contact your local Mental Health & Mental Retardation office or Social services. The local shelters might also have a list of resorces that are available.


Active Member
You are an amazing person. I would accompany him to the local mental health dept for counseling - really, just to get their advice on available options, as well as social services and even the walk-in crisis center. It's not that I necessaril;y think these places have 'the answer', but they will know of resources in the area and should be able to point you in the right direction. Here, we have a Community Services Board that helps fund various programs for young adults and people of all ages with special needs. It's a shame that his guardians didn't try to get something established, in the way of help for independent living, prior to this. But kuddos to you for being there for him and doing your best to help him instead of taking advantage of him.


New Member
You need to go and enable private messages before I can send you the info I want to send. thanks!

I can't figure out how to enable PMs, only visitor messages (which are enabled). You could always look me up on Facebook, perhaps - I'm Arthur Summers, and my profile picture is of me and my dog. I'd give you my email address . . . but not on a public forum :\


Well-Known Member
When you first register, PM is not an option. The moderators need to make sure first that you really are "one of us" - dealing with a difficult child (challenging "child" - even when they are adult).

I don't remember how many days before it gets turned on... Check your profile daily.