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The Impact of Family Separation on Young Jacob Romano and His Struggles

Background Information

Angela and Frank Romano argued constantly through the 10 years of their difficult marriage relationship. On many occasions Mrs. Romano – Angela left her husband Frank, and three sons Warren now aged 15, Joel age 10 and Jacob age 6, but she always returns in a week or two. Warren is Angela’s son from a previous relationship, while Joel and Jacob are biological sons of Angela and Frank. Joel, appeared to be the most affected by his mother’s frequent absences as when younger he would cry and scream for hours each time his mother left. Joel’s step brother Warren tried to comfort Joel telling him “Don’t worry Joel. She’ll come back. She always does.”

Two months ago however it was Frank who, after a very intense fight with Angela decided he had had enough. He issued an ultimatum to Angela telling her “You can either stay or try to work out our problems … maybe get some help or something … or you can leave and let the rest of us get on with our lives.” After this fight Angela decided to move out permanently.

Angela seems to have moved in with a former boyfriend in a difficult neighbourhood. She was not employed competitively outside the home prior to the break up, but did free-lance sewing and alterations and contributed a few hundred dollars each month to the family income to maintain the mortgage. Without Frank’s income however she is now struggling financially and is dependent on her boyfriend for basic living expenses. Frank seems to be constantly tired. He has taken on extra shifts at work to make up for the loss of Angela’s income. Frank is worried about his ability to meet the needs of his growing family of boys. Over the past few weeks he turned to stimulants to ‘keep going’ through afternoon and night shifts. In an effort to support the family Frank’s sister “Aunt Julie” has offered to stop in to the house every few days to make meals and do some light house cleaning. The boys were never close to Aunt Julie, and although this is convenient it is also an intrusion.

Angela left the Romano family home in a hurry. She did not tell her children as she felt this would be ‘too difficult’ for them all. She called Warren a week after leaving, telling him she wants to take Warren with her but does not want to get into custody battle over Joel and Jacob.

Factors Contributing to Jacob's Struggles

She has neither the money nor the time for a legal battle, and now just wants to ‘get on with her own life.” Angela has told Warren he is to stay with Frank until she can ‘work something out.’ Warren however wants no part of this arrangement and had told his brothers he does not want to go with his mother. Joel on the other hand does not seem to know what to do. Some days he waits for his mother, hoping to see her stop by the school yard, while on other days he is Warren’s shadow, taking part in open criticism of his mother. Jacob as the youngest appears to be the least affected by these events as he remains fully engaged with his friends and school activities. He and Dad, Frank in fact seem to be closer than before; but lately to the observant eye Jacob’s behavior has changed. He has started to tell his friends and teachers every morning that his mom ‘always leaves, but she comes back every time.” Indeed, the past three months have been difficult for the family.

Jacob is a very talkative six year old. He has grown up knowing arguments and uncertainty, but always seems to find joy in what he does. Jacob enjoys school and has a very large group of friends. He is often invited to birthday parties, and seems to always be in the centre of attention. Jacob loves to play hockey, and climb on the playground equipment both at school and at the community centre. Although he has heard his parent’s arguing into the night, and known about his mom leaving home, Jacob has been heard to say “She always comes back because she lives here.” Jacob loves to play with his Dad, Frank. The two of them enjoy playing road hockey and ‘play wrestling’ almost every night. Jacob likes it when his Dad reads a story before bed, and often falls asleep with Frank cuddling him while reading. Jacob is very busy with school at the moment, as he has been chosen to be a lead in the school play. He is also on a hockey team at the community centre and has been ‘called up’ to the local rep team for a few games. Jacob looks up to his brothers and loves to play with Joel in the playground at school. In the past Joel was not too happy to be seen playing with Jacob and the grade one kids, but since their mother has left home, this has changed. Jacob waits patiently every day for his older brother Warren to pick him up and walk him home from school. He likes to play fight and pretend to push his big brother around, but lately Warren had not wanted to play this game.

Jacob likes Aunt Julie being in the house. Aunt Julie gave him a present, and makes pretty good meals. It is not the same as when his mom is at home, but to Jacob, it is better than when Warren cooks. Jacob misses his Dad when his Dad is on over nights, or afternoons and cannot read a story or go to his hockey games. Warren is pretty good at this though, and Jacob thinks it is cool that he has a big brother who goes to his games. None of the other kids’ brothers ever come to their games or play with them in the playground or at the community centre. Jacob can hardly wait for hockey play offs, or for the school play as he is sure his mom will come to see him and then she will have to move back home. Jacob checks the things his Mom left behind every day, and lately has been telling his brothers that Mom will have to come home soon to get her winter coat, and he has made point to tell his teacher every morning that “today will be the day” his mom comes home. Last week Jacob could not stop crying after his hockey team lost, and he has become increasingly disinterested in learning his lines for the school play.

Yesterday after he took off his coat at school he started to cry refusing to come out of the coat room. He told his in class CYC that he had been frightened by nightmares last night because Warren ‘never came home’ till breakfast.

Please answer the following questions. For the first 2, answer from the perspective of this week’s philosophy.

1. How would someone working from this perspective view the young person in your scenario?

2. What have been the key events or factors that have affected them and contributed to their struggles?

3. How do these factors affect them?

4. Are there positive or resilience factors evident?

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