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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: A year ago I was placed in an emergency shelter for seven months, until I graduated from high school. I turned 18 three weeks ago. Because of state guidelines, I was forced to leave the shelter and went to a foster home for a week.

The shelter has a policy that there be no contact between the staff and clients for 18 months, but I was allowed to call there. Last week, I got a call from the director of the shelter, saying I "needed to stop calling and move on with my life." My problem is, before I went there I had no positive support or role models, and now, when something good happens, I want to call and talk to one of them because I got real close to them.

Do you have any advice on how to move on with my life? -- LOST IN ALABAMA

DEAR LOST: It is unconscionable that children are dumped from the system with no skills, no one to confide in, and no one to mentor them.

Contact the foster youth program in your state. Ask to speak to a social worker and inquire about transitional counseling and support. You should also contact the YWCA and see if they provide mentoring. You have reached a point where you must decide where you want to go in life. Have you considered a vocational school or college? Their financial offices can provide suggestions about part-time employment while you're completing your education. Once you're enrolled, you'll meet other young people with positive goals and make friends.

DEAR ABBY: I am being married in the fall and have asked my niece to be the only musician and play her violin in my wedding. She agreed to do it as a gift to me.

I want her to purchase a bridesmaid's dress and shoes (together about $220) so she'll match the bridesmaids, as she'll be in the front of the church. Her family refuses to buy the dress or shoes. This has upset me and my family and caused a lot of tension.

It is my wedding, and I feel they should accommodate my wishes. Don't you agree? -- HURT IN KENTUCKY

DEAR HURT: Not necessarily. Two hundred and twenty dollars may not seem like much to you, but it may be to your niece. So be prepared to pony up the money and pay for her outfit if you're determined that she match the bridesmaids.

Look at it this way: You're getting a live musician at no cost. Consider the costume your gift to HER for participating in your dream wedding.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 16-year-old high school student. My friend "Denise" has an almost insane crush on a friend of ours. Denise is so obsessed with him that she has hysterical fits of crying and rage if he pays attention to another girl. She talks about suicide if she can't be with him.

I know this is not normal, but I don't know what to do. I'm concerned Denise will hurt herself or someone else. -- CONCERNED FRIEND IN CALGARY

DEAR CONCERNED: Tell your parents, a teacher, or a counselor at school about her behavior, her threats and your concerns. Your friend has gone off the deep end and may need to be psychologically evaluated.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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