Jan 19, 2014

“These kids are no different than my own”

BY BOB ROBINSON
ASSOC. EDITOR

GREENVILLE – “Every resident has violated probation; has been determined by the staff – and ultimately the judge – to need removal from the home. The (Darke County Juvenile) court runs the facility.”

Scott Lind, director of Michael’s Resource and Treatment Center, commonly referred to as Michael’s Home, said there are two things common with every resident… “They come from a single-parent home and have a mom, dad, sibling or close relative who has been incarcerated.”

He added most have been into drugs or alcohol by the time they’re 10 or 11 years old. “There is not a lot of structure… usually none… in their home environment.” The facility’s number one challenge: “Take a boy with NO structure, no one looking after him, no rules… and bring him into our structured environment…

“It’s overwhelming to the kid.”

Michael’s is a community-based 10-bed treatment facility for boys 11 to 17. It allows residents to stay in Darke County so they can continue to receive help locally. The facility works with Darke County Recovery, Darke County Mental Health, Darke County Children’s Services, Gateway Youth Services and local schools.

“The beauty of this,” Lind said, “is being able to keep residents local. They have ties to their schools, community, therapist.” Parents can visit on weekends… residents get to make a phone call every night. Phone calls and visitations are monitored.

Michael’s follows the Choice Theory Program. “The only person’s behavior you can control is your own.”

Residents are graded every hour on a scale of one to five, with five excellent. He goes to school with a sheet and has to have it signed. While the rules are numerous they are broken down into five general areas: behavior, industry (task completion), safety, authority response and peer/social interaction. Residents have to clean up their areas, make their beds. They clean up after dinner; each resident has his own chores.

“If they do what they’re supposed to do they get privileges,” Lind said. There is a recreation area downstairs. Using it is a privilege. The boys go to the YMCA daily. If they’ve behaved, they get choices like weights, basketball and other options. If they haven’t they have to walk around the track the entire time. Swimming in the summer is an option, but only if the privilege has been earned.

Lind said they work on a Level System: A through E. “Everyone starts out at Level A for four weeks. The first week is the easiest at 87 percent compliance.” Expectation increases to 97 percent at Level E.

The facility currently has eight residents. A staff of nine – Michael’s is staffed 24 hours a day seven days a week – will typically work with about 20 residents a year. Average length of time for a resident is about seven months.

Success rate? Success on what basis? They have two specific goals.

“The first is our younger residents – 11 to 14 – our goal is reunification. We work with whatever parent shows up… The goal is to get them functioning in the home and community.” Lind said they are successful in that specific goal about 90 percent of the time.

The second is the 15-17 age group. “We prepare them for independent living. Graduate from high school, adult life. If they get a diploma that’s half the battle.” Lind estimated about 85 percent. The other 15 percent typically end up being placed in another facility.

Lind said parental involvement is key to success. “A lot of the time parents ‘want’ their kids to get better. They can see the misbehavior. They just don’t initially connect that to their own behavior.

“The kids come here. They do well. They start returning home – weekend visits – start acting up again.” If parents let them, staff can assist them so their child can succeed. Sadly, Lind added, sometimes it just doesn’t fit the parent’s lifestyle.

He noted kids are insightful… they feel they can’t do anything right… nobody wants them… they are a burden…

“These kids are no different than my own,” Lind said. “They just need to be given an opportunity to succeed. A lot of what you see on the outside isn’t their fault.”

Lind said privacy issues won’t allow him to give specifics on some of their success stories… the examples were impressive. The same privacy issues won’t allow more specifics on some handprints he pointed out among many on the wall downstairs: all dead, two by drug overdose.

Michael’s Home is funded by Title 4E federal funds for those eligible (which is most), the Darke County Commissioners and the Darke County Juvenile Court. Lind has been fulltime director of the home since 2010.

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