Insight From Our Clinical Director: Part 5
Interviewer : Does Bonnie Brae ever turn anybody away?
Jamie: No, Bonnie Brae has a “no eject, no reject” policy and that is a contractual issue. We are successful because we take this work very seriously and are fortunate enough to have really compassionate, ethical, hardworking people that do this work. We turn away less than 1% of the young people that we interview. You know if you ask the adults here, I am often most beloved or most despised because I am the last resort person, forever challenging our staff to find the one thing we haven’t done with a particular young person.We have a young person here by the name of Dan and, over the last year or so he has presented multiple challenges in school and in the living units, and just about everywhere that you could think of. Staff has asked multiple times to release him and because I’ve been unwilling to do so he has done well. We have a program called “Adventure Based Counseling,” which really means challenge by choice and getting yourself to that level of discomfort where you will take one step over that line. And it’s that one step over the line where the change happens. When we think about Maslow’s Hierarchy, very few of us are actualized, meaning that we change because we know it’s the right thing to do and we can do that independently…everybody needs some motivation. Other programs use a point system, a level system, a series of consequences and we have none of that. What we believe is that change is a function of relationship building and that giving young people that opportunity to experience anxiety and intensity in a different way and to then recover from it and go beyond it facilitates growth and change. The problem with systems that come from a consequential perspective is that those boys who need the most help are always the ones who are in trouble. And so to teach the staff that by allowing kids different opportunities, they’re not getting one over on you, they’re just learning different skills.
Our job is not to dole out consequences, our job is to build relationships, to make connections, to generalize those connections to other people, and to teach skills. Therapy, in large part, is really skill building and we help young people heal from traumatic events, but this takes a lifetime. And so, although we have a significant impact, there is still work that will need to be continued beyond us. Our job is to help young people work through and get passed the symptoms that preclude them from being at home, in the community, and in their schools. Our goal is to work with someone until completion of their treatment. Not every young person makes it. I think the current discharge data is between 85% and 90%, so, almost nine out of every ten that we accept, leave here in a positive planned way. What’s significant about that is that of those ten, probably eight have had multiple failed placements.
Again, what we are doing is something that no one else has been able to do in the entire state of New Jersey. When there is a need, the state comes to us, so I would love to be able to have this new family center where we could start this work that really is groundbreaking, in a brand new facility that would reflect all of the stuff you don’t see: the hard work, the dedication, and the compassion that it takes to be effective. To be able to do this in a space that’s adequate both for the staff and the mission is really something that I’ve advocated for the last 20 years. This project is one that is going to make a huge difference. It’s going to make a difference in the young peoples’ lives, in the families’ lives, and in the lives and the working quality of the people that are here. We have no work without the people and to be able to give our staff the opportunity to work in a state-of-the art family center, where they’d be happy to come to work every day and there’s adequate space for the work… to me, I think is the least that we can do for the people that do this hard work.
This is really an investment in the future. Again, the beauty of the work is that it is exponential: when we change a family, they go back into a community and engender change, and that change ultimately gets paid forward. If you want to look at this from a strictly financial perspective, this is really an investment in all of our futures. So, I really hope people can come to see the value of this and find the passion about this that I’ve had for so many years.