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WRITE TEAM: It's a detention home, not a center

RODNEY VERDINE ... The Write Team
RODNEY VERDINE ... The Write Team

Previously I wrote about what the kids in the La Salle County Detention Home are like. So, I thought I would also tell you a little about the people who work with those kids and about what we face in our jobs. I won’t give out any deep dark secrets, or at least I don’t think I will. Our staff have a record check before they start, so I doubt there are any such secrets, at least criminal ones.

Our staff are required to have a bachelor’s of science or arts, preferably in a helping or counseling field (criminal justice, psychology, sociology, etc.) At least one of our staff (probably more) has a master's, and several have worked elsewhere before coming to us (both inside the criminal justice field and out.)

Several of our staff have teachers in their family (parent or spouse), and connections to the medical field are not uncommon either. As you can see, people who work here are often connected to other helping professions. Yes, I said other helping professions. Unlike what you may think, the main idea in our facility is, as the juvenile judge often says, to get juveniles back on the right path. That usually isn’t accomplished by punishment. As a teen, I would have considered just going to a detention home punishment.

I call the place I work a detention home, not a detention center, as facilities like us are named. That is important to me. My own home looks nothing like this, but just calling my workplace a home helps create a more nurturing picture in my mind and I’m sure to others. Many jails now are called detention centers probably for a similar reason as I prefer home.

The home atmosphere could be why one of our staff works here, since that person’s father also worked at the old detention home, as did I. He worked there a few years before me, though.

Many more of our current staff have children than any staff I can remember in the past. This can be either good or bad. For those who can picture our residents as being like their own children, it can help promote a more caring environment and a genuine desire for our residents to succeed.

On the other hand for the staff member who never thinks their child could behave like the juveniles we work with, this can create an unhealthy distance between the two of them, and even some looking down on our residents. If there is anywhere kids can pick up on this and even amplify this, it is the children we work with.

Our staff can work with a resident and see that boy or girl change from a very angry young person to a very caring individual, sometimes in a matter of a week. A part of this is because the youth is thrust into a world where he knows no one, and is facing possibly some dire consequences. This takes tough skin, determination and a great deal of understanding. I’m proud to say this adequately describes the vast majority of my staff.
 
RODNEY VERDINE, of Ottawa, is a husband, assistant director at the La Salle County Detention Home, and is living the Cubbie dream. He can be reached by emailing stephanies@mywebtimes.com.

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