Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Righteous Indignation

Counseling is a crucial part of the support we offer our youth, and with limited resources, we are always excited at the prospect of working with other agencies who can provide these important services. So, last week two of YMC’s finest and I went to check out one of these agencies. It had great promise – on paper… Individual counseling, pick up and drop off, group work… everything we could possibly want! The location is a bit far away, but hey, they provide transportation so it’s all good! Filled with anticipation, we walk up the stairs to the front door, step inside and are greeted by an empty chair in the reception area. While we waited for the receptionist, I started to look around to get a feel for this oasis of well being. The first thing that caught my eye was a poster for the Marines. “Hmph,” I thought. Not exactly a message I am interested in passing on to my kids – “Hey, have issues? Run! And join the marines!” But OK, I will suspend judgment, and see what else they have to offer. Right next to the few, and the proud propaganda, was a poster warning against the effects of heroin. A message I can agree with, but I couldn’t get past the graphic carnage it not so subtly visibly displayed. As a needle hung from a young girls arm, it showed the internal destruction this drug caused, from the brain to her bowels… charming!
Finally, a young lady asked us how she could help us, and we told her we had an appointment to see Frank. A moment later, Frank was at the door inviting us to his office. But first he had to grab some chairs for us, he was only expecting one visitor. Apologetically he squeezes past the chairs to his desk and sits facing us with a smile. Leslie begins by explaining how we heard about this program and…. This is where it all gets a little hazy for me. I was transfixed by yet another poster that was folded in half taped crookedly to the corner of the office – you know where the two walls meet – and this time it was about the harmful effects of marijuana as represented by a 3 year old???????? Cut out pictures of the plant, sloppily stuck on a cardboard with some illegible markings in what I could swear were done in crayons. Focus, Juliana, focus!!! It’s not about what is on the walls, it’s about the quality of service! “So do you have psychologists that would be working with our youth on a one on one basis?” I ask. “Well, not exactly” Frank replies. “We do group work mainly”. “But you advertise individual counseling”… And as if I hadn’t said anything, Frank proceeds to ask if they would be picking up the kids in one place.
Apparently I had had enough, because the next thing I know, I am asking to see the rest of the facility as part of my exit strategy. We stumble out of Frank’s office and he leads us to the first of 3 or 4 group counseling rooms. Again, I was slapped with the state of deterioration of this facility. These tiny rooms were barren and cold, with stained broken chairs, tightly packed up against the wall, with more inspiring posters of how uncle sam wants you, and dissected teens with crack pipes and needles hanging off of them. The next thing I know Frank is leading us straight into the largest of the rooms where there was a group session being held… I was done.
As we left the building all I could say was “if I wasn’t suicidal before I went in, I certainly am now!” And I was angry. Angry that the people who worked there didn’t care enough to change their environment. Angry that anyone would accept the state of this facility as good enough. Angry that this is all too common place in under-served communities.
How can we expect our youth to want to ask for help, when the help that is being offered is insulting to their spirit? When it assaults them with messages of hopelessness? I know kids who would rather die than ask for help, so when they do, you can be sure I am going to make sure they get the BEST.
I am not sure what I am going to do about this… It is easy to rage with righteous indignation and preach from my soapbox. The truth of the matter is that at least this organization is doing something for the people in the community, so I will say thank you, and continue our search for a place to help heal our kids.


1 comment:

MRCarter said...

I think it's right that you want to improve upon what we already have. It can be done!