Crossposted from the SA forums.
I work as a facility manager in a group home for juvenile delinquents on probation.
Each house has up to six boys in at at any one time. It’s rare to have the same group for long periods of time since boys are always getting transferred, terminated, graduating, or going AWOL. The boys are aged 12-18, and are in for crimes like gang involvement, car theft, drug dealing, sex offenses, robbery, and assault. All of them have spent time in Juvenile Hall (Hereafter: “The hall”). My company runs 6 or 7 houses at a time with one house containing teenage girls who I have never worked with (thank God).
The boys are by far the most interesting part of the job. You have to get to know them fairly well before you realize how alien a lot of their thought patterns are to normal law abiding people. I’ll try to elaborate more on this as people ask questions since the topic is so broad, and I can post some stories that show how obsessed they are with machismo, a lack of responsibility amounting to obliviousness, and a sometimes shocking lack of empathy.
The homes are ordinary suburban homes, and while they tend to front busy streets, you would never be able to pick them out from any other home. The houses tend to be old 1 story 4 bedroom homes. The boys shack up 2 to a room and I have a private office/bedroom. All the cleaning and cooking is done by the boys. There is cable TV and a computer with no internet in the living room. The houses have a thousand and one rules that the boys need to obey, and if we enforced every rule no’one would finish the program. This ranges from obvious things like no smoking to things like: no opening the fridge without permission.
Almost all the boys go to school, although they are CONSTANTLY being suspended, transferred, or “out sick”. For the most part they like to go to school since they’re not under my thumb and they can see girls. Having every boy in your house out and in school without having to go to a PO meeting, or having to sit someone from another house is the sweetest thing in the world. This is when I catch up on paperwork or do intense room checks in places like inside lights, matresses, or under the carpet.
The job is a live in position. I work my house with 1 other staffer and we each take 3.5 days a week. This is the worst part of the job, I work 16 hour days and then get 8 hours off to sleep where I cannot leave the house. The 8 hours of sleep is usually more like 5-6 since I need to do paperwork at night or am getting woken up by night watch to solve some crisis, usually an AWOL. Not being able to see anyone but these kids and other staff for 3.5 days straight (No internet is tough for a junkie like me too) is a big stresser.
Company policy allows one 20 minute break every 16 hour shift, but due to the hassle of getting another staffer down to cover my house, and the constant unexpected minor emergencies that arise I usually average one 45 minute break every 3.5 day shift.
Each house is in theory supposed to have one facility manager (Me) and one relief staff to assist in running the house. In practice? No. Relief staff just ends up being any new staffers that are being trained who don’t have an open house to take over yet. The only time I’ve had a relief staff was the last two shifts, and he ended up being borrowed by another house for 75% of the time. I have a supervisor who is always on call and in and out of the houses, and a facility manager in the emancipation house (Very well behaved house where the kids are always out working) who is a very sweet older woman who is always helping me out.
I am a college educated white male, and a skinny guy so the kids tend to try intimidation with me rather than trying to challenge me like some of the larger staffers. I tend to take a more brotherly approach with the kids, I try to connect with them by joking around with them, not getting upset when they mock me but also setting limits. Or doing things like playing cards or bullshitting.
I tend to keep my work very straight edge since I know these kids will rat me out in a second to save their own hides for all their talk about detesting snitches. What I mean by straight edge is mainly two things, don’t break the house rules when the kids request it “Hey man can we go to McDonalds, no’one is gonna know”; and secondly, I record everything in writing. This covers my own ass later. For example, many of the kids smoke, I’m not unsympathetic to this and I don’t want to write them up for smoking everytime and get them terminated because they have a million incident reports, but on the other hand if I ignore it then it comes out and I get in trouble. What I would do in this case is record it on a type of document that I know no’one is probably going to look at and assign the most minor punishment set by policy so that when the times comes I can point to that.