It’s a kind of cliché saying, but the youth is our future. They will soon grow up and occupy the jobs that we once had and their decisions will affect the outcome of our lives later on. With more and more U.S. children entering “the system” it is important to examine this niche in our population. From the outside, the system (which mainly consists of group homes) seems like a place that betters our adolescents. However, more often than not our youth become worse off.
Lets start with the psychotropic medications that are administered. 20/20 did an excellent job on uncovering the issues within this realm. Too often are these foster children prescribed high dosages of medications and have adverse affects within various aspects of their lives. I was reminded of this last night while I was working at a group home based in San Diego. One of the clients went into a hysterical cry as she sprawled out on the floor, shaking. I was at a loss for the cause of this reaction when I realized that she had made a fast switch over from Depakote to Lithium. The administrators of such homes tend to have too much going on to notice (or maybe even care) that an overuse of psychotropics has occurred.
Drugs are not the only main factor in keeping our youth and future at-risk, there’s also environment. Stable schooling and people are needed in their lives. However, with under paid childcare workers constantly opting to switch jobs it’s nearly impossible to meet that standard. Then, if it’s not the workers milling in and out then it is the movement of the child from one facility to another, which most likely gives way to halting their education and switching schools as well. The goal is to make a group home replicate a healthily functioning family home as much as possible, but you tell me what normal home closes your bed after running away for a couple of days? This happened to a 15-year-old last month and she came home to find out she had no home. Granted, there is supposed to be some type of discipline so that the child learns that such behavior isn’t acceptable, but what “normal” home would detach from the child so quickly?
Then there is the ethic. There is this unwritten rule that has been established within the home that the workers aren’t supposed to bond (or “get too close”) with the “clients”. I thought the whole purpose was to develop trust and connections while maintaining boundaries. On my first day working at a group home, I walked in the room and asked them about the music they were listening to. I noticed that my co-worker eyed me warily and the next day my boss let it be known that we are to keep our distance- as if they are some type of dangerous species. I do know that if you develop a relationship where the person sees you as a friend then there can be issues. It is always important to know the cut-off of your relationship with the adolescents.
What also needs to be taken into consideration is putting individuals with unhealthy lifestyles together. Habits of one person may rub off on another and vice-versa. The staff and counselors are to act as role-models too, however I don’t believe our influence equally balances out the bad influence.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not some self-badgering individual who hates her job. I am not blaming the faults on the shoulders of the group home, administration or government policy alone. I have tried my way of doing things (that conforms to the rules too) as well as the official way and I’ve seen the difference. When you give a piece of your personal self to these children it establishes a trust within the relationship. Most just want to be heard and to be recognized as an individual. County therapists and mentors have noticed that the youth gravitate towards me and acknowledge that I truly care. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a rough childhood and can relate. Maybe not. I think it truly does take a village to raise a child, but that village (the staff, administrators, government, etc.) must learn to work together.
(Which means you can share and repost this as long as you attribute it to muah! ;D)