Saturday, December 25, 2010

A very special Christmas greeting

All over the world children are right now not together with their parents on Christmas Eve. Removed from their parents and placed in residential programs for so-called treatment, they are robbed off their freedom. Very often not because they have committed any crime, very often just because they live on terms with the youth culture of 2010 parented by parents who base their values on the values from their own childhood, which were between 1960 and 1980.

Back then there was no Internet. The cold war had a deep impact on how we lived our lives. In general we had little knowledge of how other people lived their lives.

Today every teenager knows that the very people who make their music, their movies have problems on their own. They learn of the arrests, the drug use even before it is published in the newspapers we as parents buy down at the shop. They also learn of earth quakes, hunger, war and other cruel events on humanity minutes, sometime even seconds after such news happen.

Are they allowed to be worried? Are they allowed to show their frustration – to hit the wall or shout out their grief, show their anger?

No, because we have made some new moral standards where life is not allowed to hurt!
Here is our message to our children:

If life becomes too hard for you then there is a pill for it. If that pill does not work, we have a secluded place for you with a simple version of the normal life you so obvious cannot cope with.

So these children suddenly find themselves isolated from family and friends and they are not even given a trial so they can step up and explain their behavior.

Is it odd that some of them try to run away? That they find themselves in a so awful situation that an escape seems to be the only answer?

Of course not!

But the awful about such a situation is that it very easy becomes a criminal act where people – staff, neighbors or police officers - risk being victim of actions occurring during their escape.

Many parents tend to choose to place their children at a correctional boarding school as a pre-emptive choice so they can prevent their children from a life in crime - a choice which is easy to understand if the law looks at crime done by minors in the same way as a crime done by adult. If a society chooses to punish every day activity as drinking a beer with friends, then parents get scared. They recognize a juvenile court system not targeting helping the teenagers. The stories about horrible juvenile prisons and group homes with abuse are known. Cases where judges are paid off by owners of juvenile prisons are also known.

So the parents often turn to professionals which they believe would do a better job. However they are not aware how a certain recommendation is given. It is given based on a referral fee. Thousands of dollars changes owner and then a child is removed from the home.

When the children are locked away in residential treatment centers where the mix of staff is 1-40 when it comes to professional treatment specials compared to people earning minimum salary with an experience a few months out of the high school, they are very fast to adapt a subculture based on negative peer group experiences. It doesn’t matter how strict the rules are or how friendly the names of the teams and dorms sound. Sub-cultures will always form and the children will learn how to navigate in this system. Basically they will try to survive as any human being placed in an unfamiliar and hostile environment.

So when the residential treatment center shuts down for the day and leave a lonely night staff to supervise dozen of teenagers all over the treatment center, some of the children could choose to run. If they are discovered then they could choose to fight. When they are discovered by neighbors or the police they could choose to steal cars and run.

It was what did happen in Lumpkin County in Georgia where two girls named Daniella Albegiani and Julieann Vaughn fought a single staff member, took a car and tried to drive away from the police. They are now in jail and will spend their Christmas away from their family. The bond is low, but still they have not been picked up by their family. Why the parents are not present in the lives of their daughters? We can only guess how the parental responsibility is non-existing in this case.

These girls choose to do the crime because they were already doing the time. We cannot know whether the conditions in the local jail is better than at the correctional boarding school they attended, but research done on the internet tell a story which seem to indicate that their situation is basically the same with the difference that they now will get a criminal record due to their escape.

We must remember that while teenagers like these girls may not worsen their situation by going to jail instead of living in a wilderness program, private boot camp or a correctional boarding school, they did risk the health of the neighbors and police officers.

That’s why we as owners of private properties always have to ask questions when a private so-called treatment center wants to establish themselves next door. The police should ask that laws order the residential treatment centers to report every single incident of restraint and runaways. Only when the full extent of the operation is known to the public then the local community can know what they need to handle every time some of the children try to run.

Georgia needs to make new legislation. The staff member was hurt but the management of this correctional boarding school had to intend to report this act of violence before the police began their investigation. It was only when the police entered the boarding school that they learned the full story. It is wrong!

What also is wrong is that some states allow children in residential care when a correctional boarding school chooses to name their place something else. In South Carolina a correctional boarding school named Carolina Springs Academy was shut after a similar escape took place. Now they are trying to reopen as a Christian boarding school which demands no regulation. Why we have to ask? The risk for the neighbors is the same despite the name of the school.

We can only send a plea to the government of South Carolina to update the laws so a residential solution for minors shall answer to the same minimum standards despite what they choose to call their facility.

As for Miss Albegiani and Miss Vaughn we can only urge their parents to act like parents instead of being such of name only.

It is impossible to understand why the parents did choose to break up their family, but please reunite it in the name of humanity.

We must hope that 2011 will prove that residential placement of minors is a thing of the past. Problems start in the local community. They need to be fixed in the local community. If you doubt this please ask Miss Albegiani and Miss Vaughn. They are not worse off in the local prison compared to the school, but they would properly prefer not to have chosen to commit a crime suiting them doing the time.

Dear Albegiani and Vaughn

Merry Christmas to you and anybody else in that awful situation. We don't support your actions, but understand how you came to taking them. May you find your way to freedom and home in the end.


Inmate locator - Lumpkin County sheriff
Students charged with assault, robbery of teacher, The Dahlonega Nugget
Datasheet about Ridge Creek School on Fornits Wiki
School of Troubles: Another chance for abandoned boarding school, Independent Mail
Datasheet about Magnolia Hills Christian School
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