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Profoundly stupid ideas 2

2014

I just read the article on three profoundly stupid ideas and I loved it! See: http://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/cyconline-aug2010-gharabaghi.html

I manage a group home at Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, a group home for youth 17 years and older preparing to leave care to live on their own. Just this past week, I had a conversation with a youth who had just thrown a chair at the wall in the privacy of his bedroom. I told him I really appreciated that he did not throw the chair at anyone, that I thought this showed good self control, and that I could only imagine how angry he must feel given what I know about his life and family situation. I did not punish him. Instead, I spent 2 hours talking with him (not to him), about his struggles. At the end of our talk, he offered to repair the damage he had done if we could get him the proper material. By connecting with him, rather than reprimanding him, by clarifying the pain behind his behavior, we then were able to restore by responding to his need for generosity (offering to repair the damage).

I saw the situation (unwanted behavior) as an opportunity to make it a teaching moment.... As far as profoundly stupid ideas, I would like to share one. Many of our living units for youth at Batshaw have this thing called "quiet hour". What is that? What is the logic behind this? Who's needs are being met with "quiet hour"? In my forever mission of normalizing the lives of youth in care, I can't help but ask who in the professionals who work with these youth call a daily "quiet hour" in their home with their 17 year olds?? These youth, like all of us, have relational needs. Why not spend an hour in the day playing a board game, searching something on the net with them, talking, making a dessert with them, anything but telling them to be quiet!!! Youth have so much to say! Let's give them a voice, not make them quiet... "

Thanks.

Marie-Josee Roy
The GivenGain Team
...


5 brilliant actions on your part:

Joined with
Crisis as opportunity
Hurt kids hurt others...and walls. It is the needs not the behaviour that is the issue.
Repair
Restore.

All best CYW Practices and as well Restorative values.
Rick Kelly
...

I am not defending anything or anyone.

I would like to say that it is great that you were able to spend 2 hours talking to one person. With many other facilities there are 16: 3 ratio. So if you were gone talking to one of the 16 that leaves 15:2 with the rest of the staff. So in my opinion I think quiet hour is not for residents but for the staff to get the required paperwork, doctor appointments, calls to parents, bosses, etc. finished because they were as you say playing a board game and interacting with the youth under their care.

One more comment have you ever noticed that at bed time the youth remember they need to have something finished that was not accomplished during that day and realize it when they are calm and alone. Maybe that time in the room for a few minutes (not an hour) will have them remember before bed time.

Just some thoughts,

Donna Wilson
...

Hi guys,

Loved your article Kiaras. You echo many of my reflections on my time in RCC.

I would like to add the practice of making everyone in the group suffer for the actions of one individual. This often revolves around the calling off of a group activity that everyone is looking forward to on a Friday night.

I have seen a number of versions of this that can be linked into your critique of contracts. Sometimes there is a collective as well as individual contract that all have to work towards to ensure that the outing takes place. I guess part of the logic is that positive peer pressure will ‘encourage’ individuals to conform. Practice tells us that some yp really struggle with group activities especially if based on activities (bowling, skating) at which they feel they may be opened up to ridicule. For them it is actually easier to sabotage the activity and face the wrath of peers than be exposed to the stress of participating.

A further complicating factor in my experience is the abuse of power by staff who also have a fear/dislike of taking yp on outings, who I have known to speak out very strongly for the group sanction approach and also work at provoking yp to misbehave sufficiently to bring about the sanction!

Obviously these are extreme examples but it took a long time to bring the whole group, staff and residents, round to a relational approach that built on strengths and created a culture of promoting new experiences for youth without conditions.

Peace
Jeremy Millar


Wow, this is timely for me as a YCW. The other day we had a youth in distress. She had been experiencing bullying at school that had been going un-noticed (of course) and had just escalated. She had also just been caught shoplifting. Her parents are still together and in her life but only supervised contact is permitted. She was desperately trying to cobble a few bucks in change together for something ( probably unhealthy to regulate herself but that's another issue) She screamed, she cried, she broke part of a door. When calmer she cried softly: "I just want to go home" Meanwhile I was preparing to take another youth out for a "fun" program, a movie. That youth was 'following through' so we could take her out, spend a bit of money and do something that wasn't particularly educational. My co-worker and I had similar feelings. We wanted to include this girl. For a number of reasons. She would probably be safer with us, feel included, she needed to feel something positive to do with where she was at. Having done this work for a number of years, we had experienced so many girls who had no interest in anything we could offer. Those girls often had distractions that were not very safe, to say the least. Another reason this just felt...wrong. We knew that the long standing practices in our program didn't really support taking her along. It might be said that we had somehow "rewarded" the behaviour, that there was no learning opportunity or consequence, we were maybe encouraging a sense of entitlement. etc. As I write this I realize I feel like the "stupid" YCW for not going with what I believed, facing whatever controversy and making a case how the decision arguably fits with where we seem to be going with trauma informed care. I don't want to be this "stupid" again.

Thanks for sharing the article and thanks to those sharing their thoughts on the issue.

Michelle
...

Not to forget the 'putting on of pyjamas during the day and the hiding of shoes' to deter absconding malarkey....

Steven Pitcaithly
...

Hi Marie-Josee,

 First of all my compliments on the response you chose. I believe it could be used as a model for thoughtful Child and Youth Care work. It was relational, strengths focused, mutual and put him "back together" emotionally. Moreover you deposited what I have always referred to as relational "Money in the Bank" with him that should benefit you in relationship building and future situations, as well as benefit him as he continues to build trust in others in life.
 
I loved Kiaris' article in so many ways and regularly use it in Child Care trainings that I do. I also now use it Leadership trainings for more senior people in organizations as a way to have them reflect on some of the "profoundly stupid ideas" that might be lurking about in even the best of programs. It is often amazing to consider how many of these I hear about, have seen, and (sadly) probably have done in my career working with children. Some of the classics are:
 
**Taking away the "privilege" of playing in the evening basketball game from a star player because they misbehaved in school that day (When the basketball game is probably exactly what would add enough self-esteem for that child to have a better day in school tomorrow!)
 
**Early bed times for kids who create issues at bed time
 
**Having kids who "AWOL" (the term itself seems profoundly stupid) get consequences immediately upon return to the program rather than congratulating them for the good judgement to come back safely. I once suggested that perhaps a party with cake and cookies should place when a kid returns to say "Welcome back" celebrate and was told THAT was a profoundly stupid idea
 
**Every aspect of "point systems"
 
I could go on and on but suffice it to say we all should be consistently aware of the tendencies for these ideas to happen and work to suggest better ones. This would be especially since the structure of many residential programs are laden with these ideas. For instance, I am sure very few would disagree that one of the most crucial components for a child to grow positively is rooted in relationships that are formed in the program. Yes, as soon as a child is "getting better" what is the first thing talked  about?...moving them on to a lower level of care and severing those relationships! Many talk of the crucial value of "consistency" for a child, yet most programs have shift changes 20 times a week....and others have someone different there to wake a child up than the person that put them to bed. Many times these inconsistencies cannot be avoided but we should at least be aware they are there and work to counter the impact.
 
Frank Delano,
New York, USA...

Just read the article... Loved it. Here's some of the stupidest things I have seen in a group home setting...
 
Staff locking themselves in the office when a child is upset instead of being there to connect and support. 
 
No debriefing for staff
 
Hiring staff that are not educated in our field
 
Punishments and consequences - they are living in a group home - isn't that punishment enough?  We should be teaching connection, respect and responsibility  not punishments and consequences. This stuff drives me crazy. 
 
And the all time stupidest rule I have seen in a group home setting is no hugging rule - I always break this one as I truly believe so much healing happens through touch and connection... 
 
Just my rant for the morning. I sometimes wish that I still worked in residential so I could make the changes  needed so the kids felt safe... 
 
Marie-Josee what an amazing impact you must have made on that youth!  Keep up the great work!
 
Universal human need is connection!

Tara S.
...

Rant away! Love it.
Lorraine
...

When I look back 20 odd years to when I started working with young people in residential care I shake my head at some of the things we used to do, things that YCWs today would never, for a second, consider appropriate. We should always be evaluating our practice based on our own professional growth and on the latest research/information available. As one talk show host is fond of saying "When we know better, we do better." Following are some of the stupid ideas I would love to be able to refer to as "things we used to do before we knew better".

Taking away all or part of a kid's allowance because they did something we don't like.

Refusing to let a child eat a meal that was prepared because they are late or didn't return at mealtime. Along the same lines - assigning values to food and having to "earn' certain foods. For example, "You can't have the stew that was prepared for supper because you were late but you can have a peanut butter sandwich, bowl of cereal, toast..."

Food based reward systems.

Not allowing a young person to enjoy an outing/activity with a YCW/other youth because they have not been compliant with program expectations or letting them go but making sure they aren't "rewarded" in any way with "fun" things like a donut or Ice Cap.

Basing the effectiveness of our practice or our program on compliance (leads to YCWs who are very rule oriented and consequence focused).

Kim Nicolaou
HomeBridge Youth Society

I have been following this discussion with interest—I too recall the stupid things done, and in some cases still being done, in the name of treatment. We have come a long way, but I have no doubt that someday some years from now, CYC workers will be shaking their heads and muttering, "What were they thinking?" while discussing some of our current "state of art" practices. I always remind myself that we do the best we can with what we know at the time, and that, luckily, positive intention does count for something. I agree, as learning and research continue, CYC practice will continue to evolve and improve but to benefit, we must remain open to change and growth.

Donna Jamieson…

Influencing others to act out, when the young person is unhappy with the rules, is not good I agree. However have we considered the validity of the rule in the work we do in context? The manner in which I was excluded from the child care team in residential care for young people in conflict with the law, as I continued to contest against "isolation "of so called "influential" young people, left much to be desired. A profoundly stupid idea !!! Why should I be viewed negatively when I raise my concerns and make some suggestions? Why did the team choose to ignore my viewpoints and decide to outcast and label me? Different young people are valued by other youth based on their personal strengths and competence. Although groups will tend to have leaders and followers, this does not have to be a rigid structure. Some young leaders may show their strengths in some form not acceptable in the eyes of adults, yet if one thinks of connecting with such a young person, leadership may come out. My argument, back then, was that instead of "isolating" and locking the child away into what we used to call "isolation rooms ", an adult (I always made myself available) would choose to connect and engage fully with the so called "influential child" in order to see if the young person could become a leader in the group. In most cases I used to succeed, because I believed in what I was doing, even though staff would turn against me, referring to me as a "spoiler". The article by Kiaras makes me think and, as Kim indicated, makes me shake my head when looking back on historical life in a residential care facility.

 Barrington Makunga
...

Donna well said and I fully agree that the second we believe we have stopped doing stupid things we have just done a stupid thing.

Janet
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