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Discussion Guide
Foster and Adopted Teens/Parents

RETURNABLE GIRL DISCUSSION GUIDE

DESCRIPTION. Ambivalence about permanency and loyalty issues frequently come up for foster and adopted teens. This guide will encourage discussion and supportive feedback from their peers on these and other relevant topics.

Introduction: (Optional) Play song (Unwanted) Avril Lavigne.
Participants can read or act out parts of scene, or read silently during group, or book can be read in advance and discussion follows. We have found it helpful to have girls select questions they feel comfortable with/​and or can relate to rather than having group leader ask questions.
A. In this first scene we are introduced to Ronnie Harman, a foster teen who has been “returned” from over nine foster placements. She is living with Alison, her foster mom. They are arguing about whether or not Ronnie has taken money from Alison, since Ronnie has problems with lying and stealing. Ronnie considers Alison just one more foster placement.
B. Ronnie has been abandoned by her mother and brothers when they left her for Alaska. She writes her life story on a computer disk which she keeps in a trash bag in her room.
QUESTIONS/​ DISCUSSION:
What about your life might be similar to what Ronnie is going through?
a. Tell about a time your behavior may have caused issues for you in a foster/​adoptive placement.
OR
b. Tell about a time you may have had trouble trusting that your foster or adopted parent would keep you.

Play song (I always get what I want) Avril Lavigne
C. In this scene, Ronnie and Alison have been together for some time. Alison has a growing desire to have Ronnie as a part of her life, while Ronnie is ambivalent, wanting to return to her birth family. Alison discovers that Ronnie has stolen a bracelet from her and lied about it.
QUESTIONS/​DISCUSSION
Share about a time you may have misbehaved/​acted out when angry or confused/​
Have you ever felt like it was your fault that you were given up? Can you tell us more about that?
Have you ever had feelings of wanting to be with your birth family, yet caring about your foster/​adoptive family too? How did you handle those feelings?

Play song (I’m with you) Avril Lavigne
D. It is Christmas, and Alison tells Ronnie that she wants to adopt her. Ronnie is surprised, and has mixed feelings of excitement but also fear.
QUESTIONS/​DISCUSSION
Are holidays and special occasions difficult for any of you? Why or why not?
How have you learned to deal with these feelings?

Play song (Nobody’s home) Avril Lavigne
E. As Alison announces that the judge has granted her custody, Ronnie experiences doubts about whether this is the right step for her.
F. Ronnie’s mother has come back into her life, and is trying for reunification. Although this is something Ronnie has wanted all along, she wonders if her mother is recovered from her drug addiction and able to take care of her.
QUESTIONS/​DISCUSSION
How are you dealing/​or have you dealt with your birth parents being unable to keep you? Have you ever had concerns about how it would affect your birth family if you became adopted? What ways have you learned to deal with these issues?
Reprise (I’m with you) Avril Lavigne
G. Alison has adopted Ronnie. Ronnie is leaving for Alaska to visit her mother and brothers. Alison worries that Ronnie won’t come back. Ronnie finds a way to reassure her.
QUESTIONS/​DISCUSSION
When does it seem difficult to talk about your birth family with your foster or adopted family? Why do you think that is?
Does it seem possible that you could love both your birth parents and your adopted/​foster parents without being disloyal to either? Tell about a time this may have been a conflict for you.
For those of you who have brothers or sisters can you relate to Ronnie wanting to visit her birth family?
How can you approach your foster or adoptive parents about these issues in productive and supportive ways?

CONCLUSION: Final Questions/​Comments/​Concerns

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Teens
Teens will gain a deeper understanding about the normalcy of ambivalence and loyalty issues as a foster/​adoptee. They will have the opportunity share with other teens some of their experiences, and come away with at least one new tool for dealing with ambivalence or loyalty issues.