by Mark Freado
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.” ~Goethe
Imagine you arrive at work today to find your office locked and all of your things stuffed in big black garbage bags and maybe a cardboard box or two. You discover, without warning, your office will now be located somewhere else because someone thought it would be best. That would be quite unsettling! You might feel violated, disrespected, or diminished. You might feel waves of emotion begin to well up inside. You might wonder how this happened and may be concerned about what may transpire next. Imagining this scenario can elicit significant discomfort in any of us. If you have actually had a similar experience, you remember all too well your emotional and even physical distress. When this type of situation happens to adults, difficult as it may be, we can go home. Even before going home, there is very likely a network of family and friends on whom we can call for comfort and support. We can express ourselves and be understood. The relationships in our lives provide protection. Our drive and need for belonging is well met. We turn naturally to them and know what to expect.
The experience described above takes place even more dramatically to thousands of young people in our systems of care every year. Abrupt, unplanned placement changes occur--quite likely due to some combination of their behavior that is considered too extreme and the lack of capacity in programs to adapt and meet their needs. When this happens to children and youth, it isn’t just a significant loss in one area of their lives. It may be a total disruption spanning nearly every part of their existence. Besides having no home to go to, they are without networks of family and friends to offer comfort and support. The cost of these disruptions can be very high.