It was never really about the files. (hope_addict) wrote in its_what_i_do,
It was never really about the files.
hope_addict
its_what_i_do

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What's the opposite of a skeleton crew?



Hello folks. Transmissions from Space Station Zebra. So, I roll up to work on thrusday night, and my line crew meets me with worried faces and hushed conversation. Come to find out that friday is the day that they get a new client. Not just your average sized 10-12 year old SED (Severely Emotionally Disabled) client, but a developmentally disabled client, with a very recent history of assaulting staff and peers. On top of which, they say he's a big dude, size matched against another client in our program at a different house. I get the impression that he's about 5 foot, 5 foot 6, somewhere around 160 on the scale. Not too big of a thing, I think. I've done the Locked Facility Tour with adults back in '94, then again with the Level Fourteen adolescents back in '98...

[Sure, line staff is kind of new to the game, but I've got faith in them, and their skills. We have a good team after all...]

Friday afternoon. Wake up, call beeper to make sure they're not on some old funny shit where I get 'floated' to another house for support. New client at our house, assaultive...I want the support for OUR team tonight. No go. Beeper calls back says I'm at another house, and my thursday night co-worker is by herself. "-But we've got that new client..." I start in, and get cut off by a reassuring "-Yes, and if the situation looks iffy, **** B. will come down for support."

[in the fifteen minute ride that it would take for **** B. to get down to this house, there could be enough broken necks for four kids and one female staff member. I'm not Okay.]

Hung up. Called my co-worker. Told her the deal. Said "When you get in there tonight, five after ten, or ten after ten, call Beeper, tell them you feel uncomfortable about the situation, tell them you won't feel safe by yourself, tell them you need the regular floater sent down before line staff clears out." She thanks me for the heads up, I knock back out for an hour or so.

Beeper calls me again, about two hours later. "Actually, you'll be at your regular house, with your regular thursday night co-worker." Good. Plus, she's cool, so tonight ought to be alright. Perhaps we'll practice her up on some P.A.R.T. techniques like baskets or two-person containments.

I get on shift, and the house manager's there. "Fuck no," he says. "I'll make sure you guys are staffed." Fucking Eh, Big ******. Good looking out. He tells us that there's a THRID overnight staff riding in from the C****** site for extra support. I've never heard of a third staff at night in this company. Good. Line staff says the fourteen year old we got in is bigger than I am. Jesus, I think for a sec. Five-nine, husky two-fifty...I'm reminded of the six foot three hundred pound seventeen year old I worked closely with back in the last locked facility. Dude was solid, and containments were an honest-to-god Motherfucker, where it wasn't uncommon for one staff to go home injured. (and for those of you familiar with the industry, you'll back me up: to merit going home, you can't just have a little scratch or a stingy belted nose, you've got to really be kind of fucked up) I do rounds, kid looks more chunky than husky, but big arms carry big leverage, regardless. Big ****** takes us downstairs and gives us the lowdown. Says he wants one of us upstairs at any given time, says he doesn't have a good feel for the guy in the milieu, like he might try to creep at night. We've got this client for the next 22 days. And he's already testing. Told Big ****** to 'shut up'. True to form, our house manager set limits in his own special way- "I don't know who you're talking to, but that kind of disrespect isn't gonna work out here." (I.E. Intimidation tactics aren't going to work with this team.) Apparently, one of the house managers from a different house swung a deal to get one of their clients into the C****** program, and like any deal, the favor was called in; an out-of-state facility wants to transition this fourteen year old to C******, but we get him for layover till C******'s ready for him.

[Motherfucking deal-swinging. Make a bargin with the devil and you can be GODDAMNED sure that he'll call the chips in, and hold your balls in his firey fist until you come through good on your part.]

5:07 am. I'm upstairs on the machine. Stirring from room behind me. Yup. Feet on floor. He doesn't know the intracacies of the Call-Out system. Head peeks out of the doorway, and asks "Bathroom?" Yup. "Exit?" Exit. "Enter?" Enter. Yeah, he obviously got acquianted with the announcement policy this afternoon, for sure, but for safety's sake, he needs to know that he can't get off the bed without calling out, at night. He comes out of the bathroom, I introduce myself and greet him, as well as size him up. Yeah, more chunky than husky, but more organic than developmentally disabled, if you can nitpick enough. Hell, he doesn't even seem that out of it. Rather kind of cognizant if you ask me. Doesn't have that feel you initially get. He's got that affect that reads like he'll have full blown schizophrenia by seventeen, and he's also on a steep med regime... Staff Affect: Cordial, friendly, supportive, warm -I explain to him how it's done, consequences given for leaving bed without a call-out. "Look forward to seeing you in the morning," I tell him. And I am. Want to see how he performs in the milieu. "Goodnight. Get good rest." I mean every word.

We'll see how it goes. I'm swinging cables to see if I can't be stationed at my regular house nightly, until we can transition this guy out. Bolster line-crew, encourage smaller staff to practice containments on our largest staff members, and for myself, hit weights harder this week, and get good rest.

Recognition of antecedants, solid treatment plan, early theraputic interventions and de-escalation techniques will be our saving grace. I start to mention these things to our house manager and he's nodding, always one step ahead of us in matters of safety "I'm gonna call around, find out what's up with this muthafucka." he informs us in his veteran line-staff dialect we're all so familiar with. As an afterthought he tells us "I think he's gonna show his ass tomorrow. In fact I'm sure of it." This means Big ****** will be here to call him on time-outs for the shift. He'll probably blow out and swing at Big ******.

It ain't pretty, and most folks who don't work the industry will shun our methodology, but until they've worked line under worst case scenario settings, with assaultive clients in all the available restraint beds, AND your next line of heavy hitters assaulting staff and clients on the units, just sit down and listen and know that we wouldn't work this industry if we didn't fucking care so much. We sure as fuck don't do it for the pay they trickle down to us...

We're rasing other people's kids; kids who were physically, sexually, emotionally abused by their parents, or neglected, or kids that were just too violent or unmanagable for the parents to contain and raise. We care, and we're goddamned concerned. By the time we all have kids, these guys will be in their twenties and thirties, and our children will be walking to and from school with these guys on the streets, on the outs. We're doing our goddamnedest to shape their minds into safe, healthy futures for thier sake, and the sake of those who will meet them in the future.

We'll see how this goes. Hope the crew's ready for it. Wish us luck, out there in Internetland...
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  • 4 comments
g'luck!
Thank you!
People often assume we are being too harsh on the clients, however, you're right - if you've never worked in this field then you just don't know. I work with people who are adults, they have been shipped around from place to place all their lives and we are considered the end of the road. There is nowhere else. I go to work with people who have been in prison, who have bitten off a staff member's breast, who have broken staff's arms/toes/teeth. I have scars all over from interventions. I am harsh because I have to be. It's tough love you know. We see things at work that most people can't even imagine. We get attacked and we go back every day. We are the clients' caretakers, parents, siblings, friends and disciplinarians. We are all they have, and we do our best each day. And whenever someone implies that they think our methods are too harsh I ask them if they want to trade places with me for a day. I'll go sit at a desk and answer a phone or type on a computer and relax for 8 hours because I know that I am not going to have to defend myself against a 47-year-old male schizophrenic who targets me because I remind him of someone who used to beat him in an institution. I would love to see how most people would act if they had to do our job for a day.

Sorry, that was just me venting a bit.
I have so much respect for people in your line of work. My mother did it for less than 6 months and after 2 cracked ribs she couldn't do it anymore. I wish I had the patience to do what you do.