Wednesday, March 21, 2012

See Saw! See Saw Wobble!

I keep going back and forth as to what sort of posts I want to write. Sometimes, I go on a long day-to-day stint. As you can tell from the posts immediately before this, I go for the cafe rat motif: all poetry, all the time. Today, I got home from work and collapsed onto my couch (after doing the dishes of course, because I'm a freak and can't sit down until I know the sink is clean), and I just thought, "Ah. I wish other people knew how it feels to do this job."


Then splat.

"Wait. Don't a lot of people write about things like that? A day in the life of sort of thing? I'm not a young artist, I'm not some wonderfully interesting person. I take care of kids and adults who sometimes want to hit me... But can be really cute."

Then I went through about twenty minutes of berating myself for saying it that simply. It's not that simple.

Textbook version: I work in a residential treatment facility for emotionally disturbed and developmentally disabled "kids" 13-21 years old. It's shaped sort of like a U, with one side housing the kids (girls' unit is first floor, boys' unit is second) and the school is on the other side of the U, along with the kitchen. Clinical offices are in the middle. In the direct care position I was originally hired for, I help them manage behavior issues and participate in daily activities and routines. I also complete paperwork (DYFS incident reports and client charts, et al). We have a set Level and Points system to promote good behavior (earn 20 points a day during set point hours, earn levels by how many points you earn - if you're above Level 3, you can go off-grounds. There are 5 Levels, 5 being the highest.)

I have to be certified in CPR, First Aid, and be trained in Safe Crisis Management verbal de-escalation and physical restraint techniques to prevent and/or handle consumer conflicts and crises. I was promoted to being in-charge of my shift, meaning I trained and mentored staff, handled incoming phone calls in accordance to procedure, checked all reports written, and kept track of all unit activity (in addition to everything else already mentioned). I then moved to the education wing in our building, doing all of the same basic things except on the school side, and without being in charge. (It was a better schedule. And, I thought, better pay.)

Real-world version: I work with kids whose behavior doesn't match their age. They can be 13 and be taller than you. These are the kids that, sometimes, everyone else gave up helping. Sometimes they're kids that don't have anywhere else to go. Sometimes they're the kids the court shoved here (when they thought they were going to DisneyLand - yes, a parent did in fact say that). They can be really violent, but they can also be absolutely wonderful. I have to write up the times when they do really bad things, and I have to make sure I don't do it wrong or else I'll be seeing the wrong end of the door. I still try to help other people working on the living unit sometimes, because it's really hard to see a very violent kid climbing all over a dresser holding a hair pick, and knowing when you tell them to get down (because it's a Level Loss) it's just about certain that they're going to attack you. (Yes, this is what happened today, and yes, I walked around in circles trying to make sure that one of my co-workers didn't get shanked with a hair pick.) I also have to write up when a kid breaks down and admits they're just scared they're going to stay in out-of-home placements forever, and that's why they tore down the artwork on the wall.

Just writing about it makes me remember every reason why I love it and why I sometimes just feel like sitting at a desk and pushing papers. I love working with them and I love getting to the point where maybe I did some good, but it's terrifying to know that every single day you go in could be the day you end up in the land of Misfit Toys (as in, some kid hit the wrong place on your back or bit just hard enough to break skin and happened to have something nasty). It's also really hard to know that there are some kids, I hate to say, that are so stubborn and stuck in their head, that our particular program... Just won't help.

Just give me a taser and a magic wand; I could heal the world.