Saturday, January 12, 2013

Looking back on the last few years

It all started with Brat Camp being broadcasted on Danish Television. It all was so wonderful. Teenagers were going down the wrong track and some helpful people took the teenagers out in the wilderness or to a ranch where they guided the teenagers back on the right track.

But something alarmed me. I live in Denmark where we also have so-called troubled teenagers. But the criterion’s labeling who is troubled or who is not were entirely different in our two cultures. Drinking alcohol in Denmark does not make a troubled teenager. In fact when I was a child there was no lower purchase limit. Today it is 16 for alcohol with a percentage below the safe limit of 16.5 but back then there was no limit.

In fact the young adults I as a CIO in a larger publishing company would have difficulties to hire would be those who restrain from drinking alcohol because the human resource tools we have at our disposal is a beer or a glass of wine Friday after work and 5 minutes development conversation every 18 month. If I don't learn my employee to know Friday after work what would I have to talk about when we sit down and I dictates the employee’s career? Nothing and when times get rough guess I would have to let go first. Second what about the relationship between this individual and the colleagues? This individual would be isolated and I would not dare to offer such a work environment to anyone.

A troubled teenager in Denmark is a teenager who isolates her or himself. I know that because I have suffered a personal tragedy in my own family. I have a child who is not living at home because the authorities was concerned about her life staying at home after school instead of hanging out in the alleys behind the public run youth clubs where the youth learn to drink alcohol and socialize.

So when I saw Brat Camp I started a research about the subject. I met people online on Fornits back when sick people didn't try to destroy its reputation by posting porn and intentionally insult people just to scare them away from the board.

I was not interesting in starting a fight. I saw a problem. Private companies and various religious organizations did actually pay for results which could scare parents to lock their children up and politicians to make laws which criminalized the entire rite of passage for every teenager becoming an adult.

So together with the founder of Fornits, we created Fornits Wiki, where we gathered all the news from the industry on a worldwide basis. Today there are articles about behavior modification from 41 countries.

Times have changed. Many of the teenagers who were locked up at youth facilities in the 1990's are now adults and the internet has helped them to understand that they were not subjected to isolated incident when they were raped, beaten, humiliated and subjected to other inhumane so-called treatment methods. There were no laws protecting them. Troubled teenagers are not recognized as equals when they end up as victims in courts.

In fact they still are not in Denmark. What kind of punishment should a counselor get when he force a teenager to oral sex? I can state that a Danish court gave such a counselor suspended sentence 60 days in prison to serve if he ever repeated his actions once again. And this incident was caught on tape because the teenager taped the counselor on a hidden mobile phone when he took advantage of her. It is not fair but given the state of the laws which should protect children placed in care, the court did nothing wrong. They just could not punish him further even if they gave him a punishment to the full extent of the law.

But while we still have a distance to go in Denmark there are positive news from the States. Today the activism has moved from an isolated message board to Facebook and to 100 of websites. The former teenagers are no longer silent. They have created national wide network where they monitor the group homes, wilderness programs and boot camps. They are in the process of changing the general view on troubled teenagers.

In New York Post there is a story about the new “Teen Trouble” show. A self-taught counselor has sold the concept of a show to Lifetime – a major television network in the States. In every episode the counselor approach a so-called troubled teenager, put the teenager through some situation like jail and arrest to show what would happen if the path the teenager has chosen would continue. In the end the teenager ends up in a residential facility which has chosen to sponsor the show.

It is not a new concept. There have been dozen of such shows like Dr. Phil, Jenny Jones, Maury and Wilkos. There are many private “treatment” facilities which are willing to sponsor such shows because they don’t care whether the teenager is suited for their treatment approach or not. They don’t care about the problem. They care about how many they can house for the least expenses.

I who have been a professional businessman for more than 20 years have often wondered why they don’t care about who they serve because I know that a satisfied customer is a returning customer. I have come to the conclusion that they don’t realize who their customer is. They believe that their customer is the person who pays them the money, so they care about the parent. It is short-lived business. It would fail once the teenager exits the program because the next generation of this family would certainly not use this business again.

If I should run a youth home I would first entire that I have a qualified staff because I recognize the limitations I have. I am not a certified counselor. In Denmark there are a number of titles I could take which don’t require certification which would make me look like a counselor and when I look at the homepages of Danish group home I can see a lot of un-licensed employees who have taken these titles. It would be a scam if I tried this and I have to ask why parents put up with this?

In Denmark there are few if not no parents who seek out of the home placement on a voluntary basis. My child is not living outside my home at my choice but my mother has non-Danish origin so I was already rated low as a parent when the social worker first saw our case. Second we have been hit hard by a life-treating illness among us adults, so we accepted the “offer” given to us. It is generally a horse head placed in your bed. If you say no, we will find an unqualified group home or a foster family only caring about the money. If you say yes, you can better a better place for your child and visit it more frequently.

Because of the ordeal my child has to go through I cannot involve myself with Danish group homes and foster families. If I engaged in any activism my child could suffer if the authorities took revenge on us as a family. It has happened before here so I have remained focused on running and updating Fornits Wiki.

But my investment has paid up because others have picked up the axe and using the same tools developed by organizations like CAFETY and HEAL-online, they are charting the Danish group homes and foster families. It has led to a number of cases in Danish courts. The television channels have broadcasted documentaries about the most abusive facilities and legislation has been introduced in our parliament to ensure a safer environment for children in placement. Group homes have been closed; employees have been punished for their wrongdoings.

Today the most active organizations in Denmark are Domestic Prisoners of Consience (US-based) and Minors in residential placement research center (Sweden). As I have stated above I have to stay out their work in Denmark, but it does not mean that I cannot praise their excellent work.

My webpage was started in 2006. Many years have passed. Results have been reached by the timeless efforts of many volunteers. I want to thank them because I am a happy man today even given the fact that my child is not at home because I know that there is caring persons around my child because many of the people in business who were only present due to the money have been put out of work.

Thank you very much.

We are however not finished. There is a lot of work ahead of us. I hope to contribute for many years to come.

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