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by Abigail Van Buren

Teen Wants Social Worker to Accentuate the Positive

DEAR ABBY: I am 16 years old and a ward of the court. I have a horrible social worker who never looks at any of the positive things I do. I have good grades and barely ever do anything wrong. Recently I have been doing things that they call "acting out." I am not acting out!

At our last court appearance, her report stated that I'm a juvenile delinquent who is in need of serious help. I am consistently told by the people at the group home where I live that I am none of those things.

How do I tell my social worker that she needs to see the positive things I am doing and not just look at the negative? Please help me. I am going nuts. I need to know if it is me or her. -- CONFUSED IN REDWOOD CITY, CALIF.

DEAR CONFUSED: It's possible that the problem isn't all yours or all hers, but a combination of both. The caseload social workers must manage these days is overwhelming, which means that, much as they might wish otherwise, they are often unable to give each client a lot of personal attention.

"Acting out" is misbehaving and expressing angry feelings in inappropriate ways. When a child is separated from home, school, family and friends, that's a good reason to be angry. However, if you and the people at your group home feel that the social worker is mistaken, then the administrator should write a letter to the court explaining that fact. I'm sure the judge would take it into consideration. (I know I would.)

P.S. If the social worker thinks you need "serious help" -- which I assume to mean psychological counseling -- go for it. Almost everyone can benefit from having a trained person listen to his or her concerns, pains and problems. It is considered to be a huge benefit, not a punishment.

DEAR ABBY: What is the rule of etiquette concerning guest lists that include both friends and co-workers? Does one have to invite all co-workers to a private/personal function, or can a select handful of co-workers be invited? -- NEEDS ADVICE, LATHAM, N.Y.

DEAR NEEDS ADVICE: Much depends upon the size of your office, how many co-workers you plan to ask, and what percentage will be excluded. If you invite only a few co-workers, it's important that you not offend the rest. This can be accomplished by keeping the invitation private, separate from work, and confidential. However, if you plan to invite the majority and exclude only a few, there are bound to be hurt feelings and you could create unnecessary tensions, so I advise against it.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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