Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Hug Restriction

Therapists are the real power brokers at Brooklawn. Their signatures rule the day, placing kids under our more stringent restrictions and going as far as the dismissal of staff.

One restriction is known as "The Hug Restriction." Should a therapist determine that a boy doesn't recognize appropriate physical boundaries (and let's be honest, most of ours don't), and that he can't learn them via our routine redirections and reductions, the therapist can restrict all of his physical contact...basically, he's not allowed to touch anyone, and no one's allowed to touch him, even, say, to give him a hug.

Ms. Emma, a good friend and fellow intern, had a boy on her unit on hug restrictions. They'd grown close over the summer, and she wanted to give him a hug goodbye. She figured that his therapist wouldn't object if she asked. It would be an example of appropriate physical contact, and after all, it was farewell forever.

The therapist said no. No physical contact, no exceptions.

This situation pretty much sums up one of my frustration with Brooklawn: the therapists seem out-of-touch with the boys and the staff, and yet have most of the regulatory power. Yes, they're trained professionals, and I do respect them and their education, and of course they care about their boys.

That being said, they aren't on the front line. They don't see these boys 40 hours a week. They don't work with them when their interacting with their peers and staff. For the most part, they see their boys one-on-one once or twice a week for about 30 minutes or an hour. One-on-one, our boys are usually on their best behavior; the personal attention makes the difference, but it's not a difference that can be consistently replicated in the units, where the staff-to-resident ratio is about five-to-one (at least, is one in mine; some of the more critical cases are in units with a three-to-one ratio). Yes, there are group therapy sessions for This problem and That issue, and therapists could see some peer interaction there, but those sessions are once a week, if not two weeks, for about one hour. Plus, those sessions are very much controlled, and the boys are not themselves.

In short, I'm a bit jaded about the whole child services shindig. On top of the administrative frustrations, the boys really fried me, and I'm damn glad to be done.

That being said, I have nothing but the highest respect and love for my unit and school staff. They love their boys, and they work shitty hours at a thankless, difficult job with little pay for them. Mad props.

And I love my boys. I'd adopt any of them in an instant...maybe with reservations... They really are good kids. They're just angry that Mom was too busy snorting crack to love them, or Dad was too busy drinking to know that hitting his son wouldn't make all his problems disappear. My boys just need some personal attention and love, and I hope they can find it.


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