I received a phone call today from a gentleman I don’t know and have never met, but he found my website and wanted to share his story with me. He was a resident of a children’s home several decades ago. He shared with me several stories about the things that happened to him, using very colorful language at times. He told me how the staff at the home would use severe consequences when dealing with what they determined to be inappropriate behavior. He said that he and other children were often referred to as losers and worthless. How he felt the staff allowed the youth to invoke prison yard justice on other youth and how they were expected to work long hours everyday on the farm in the name of therapy.
Very early in the conversation I realized there wasn’t much I could do to help him with his situation other than offer a compassionate ear and try to share some words of encouragement. I tried to tell him that childcare has changed significantly over the decades since he was in placement. That any abuse he received was wrong and that facilities that have staff that abuse children today usually remove them rather quickly. Also facilities that allow abuse are usually quickly closed by the state. That facilities are much more closely supervised by the state than they were 30 years ago.
After spending nearly 30 minutes on the phone with him, the greatest impression I received from our conversation is how bad this man was hurting decades after his placement. However, amongst his pain he also told me a story about a set of houseparents that made a positive impact on his life. How they were the only ones at this facility that he was able to build a relationship with and how they were the only ones he felt he could trust.
The point of telling you about this conversation is this: As you go about your day as a houseparent, or other youth worker, keep in mind that the things you do today could impact those children for the rest of their lives. Be the staff member that they remember as the one: