Monday, February 19, 2018

Two Programs Dealing with At-Risk Violent Children

Nadene Goldfoot                                                 
My husband and I were driving from Oregon to Orlando, Florida to visit his parents.  Since we were both teachers with Danny teaching high school and I teaching elementary school children, we thought we'd check out teaching possibilities along the way.  His sister lived in Dallas, Texas.
We checked out an interesting position as House Parents for the Police Department who ran a ranch for boys who could live on this ranch  rather than go to jail.  They were under 18 years of age.  We were asked to stay for a few days to see what the program was like.
They had about 20 boys in a house, and a planned supervised program.  Now this took place about 45 years ago, and I think it was in Florida, with my first problem being that I could hardly understand what the boys were saying!  They spoke in strong southern accents.  For me it was listening to a foreign language.  Really!  It was much stronger and harder to understand than what you hear in movies. 
The boys attended school and the mother's job was to have cakes or cookies home baked for when they came home.  That was fine.  I'm a great cook.  Then the boys had chores on the ranch.  They had lots of cattle.  The catch came when we found out they didn't get beef for dinner, but had a lot of pork, and we were conservative Jews.  We gave up on this idea.  I remember that the boys were well behaved and most polite.  All disturbed boys should be this nice.  I'm sure they had been on their best behavior and that the program must have been working for them.
The next experience I had was much later in life when I lived in Montana, and instead of a teaching position, which was all taken by Montana graduates freshly out of college, I found  position as child care worker in a Residential Treatment Center in Helena, Montana.  These children ranged from 6 to under 19.  I got a position mostly with the younger children, but sometimes worked with the older as well.  I think it was actually safer with the older ones.

We were trained to handle older children by the police department as we had to do many take-downs.  We learned a modified way to do is as we were handling people under 19.  I know other centers in Oregon do this sort of thing as well.  We did it with 3 staff members to take down one teen-ager. Our staff was  a mixture of men and women.

These children had all been sexually molested.  They were adjudicated there by the court system; it was the last resort before prison for the older ones.  They lived there and attended school right in the same building.  I worked as part of the nurses staff.  The boss was a head nurse and also on call right there was her boss, a psychologist or two.
My position, a 7am to 4pm one, called for waking up the children in my ward, being with them  in the living room, reading them all  a story as they gathered together, and then walking to the cafeteria and sitting with them through breakfast.  Then we walked to class where I judged their behavior by keeping score of the points they were working for by exhibiting good behavior.  Too many disruptive acts, and I had to take the child to the Quiet Room, which was a padded cell  which was locked-down and notify the psychologist.  There they continued their tantrum without hurting themselves as it was all padded leather on the walls.

I had to be careful when handling the very young children, as they would act out by kicking my shins.  The program lost people because of physical injuries that were just too many.  My shins were black and blue for a long long time afterward, and hurt even when a normal color again for some time.
At the end of the week, points were counted up and enough of them granted them the week's reward; something like going skating with the group with ice cream treats lastly-something they liked and looked forward to.  Children failing in points stayed in their rooms.

Besides all this general living with behavior checked and changed, they all had group counseling and individual counseling.  We had some Indian children from the reservation and I remember being with these special children in a wonderful class conducted by an Indian  teacher peer of mine who taught us all about their Indian culture.  That was SO interesting to me and the children.  It was personal and about their history.

These are two examples of interaction with children who were damaged and failing in society.  Florida's Nikolas Cruz, the most recent shooter of high school students, was already 19 years old.  He had been exhibiting signs of disturbed behavior for  a long time.  It''s too late for him now.

Two of our 50 states had programs to deal with such students to either alter their behaviors or at the least to protect the public.  Why didn't something like these programs get offered to the Cruz parents?  Why doesn't every state in our union hear of such programs.  I think the Ranch idea probably didn't cost a penny to the state as it was a ranch really raising cattle by the Police
Department.  It could have even been in the Black making money for the Police!

Update: 11:26am
My memory from 1972 till now, almost past 45 years


  1. thanks for sharing your experiences, nadene.
    people need to care about troubled young people and try to head off as many behavioral problems for them early as possible. the earlier the better, of course. sometimes you can see trouble brewing early on in children but sometimes not, so this is a big topic with lots of angles, lots of methods to try to understand and apply.
    so many families experienced breakups after divorce became common. has gone on a long time but was not real common until the 60's which seemed to kick it into overdrive. alcohol and drugs became much more an issue too. like everything just went full out and full open--as though a flood gate had opened. guilt parenting or abandonment or other broken family factors became issues, and here we are today.
    it's all so sad...heartbreaking.

    1. Thanks, Andre. So many children are not leading a good family life, and have had to adjust to life in broken homes.
      I guess it's happened in every generation for one reason or another. Kudos to those who managed and came out of it so well. I can't help but wonder how many who don't had used alcohol or drugs to help ease their pain and wind up really making a mess of their life and that of others as well.