Family group therapy works in Sioux City
A 13-year-old Iowa boy is found truant from school because he hates his teacher.
After speaking with juvenile officers and police, he is released. The truancy pattern continues, and a probation officer tries to deal with the boy.
But the pattern persists, resulting in a summons for a court hearing and subsequent placement on probation. Again the boy is found truant and is placed into either a treatment facility or a foster home.
If the child continues to break the law, he will be committed to the stale and labeled a juvenile delinquent. Juveniles then may be placed in one of a variety of settings.
Personnel in Iowa’s youth services are currently working policies and programs that will change the negativism associated with these juveniles to that of a positive approach.
The definition of delinquency is a classic in Iowa. The Iowa code uses such words as wayward and incorrigible — but what it comes down to is anything the state says and those points enumerated by adults.
The problem remains in the interpretation of the code. If a child is adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent, he is stuck with the derogatory label it imposes. Kids are placed in homes only if they are staled as juvenile delinquents. He would like to remedy this by changing the boy’s training school at Eldora and the girl’s training school at Mitchellville from correctional institutions to therapeutic.
They are moving in that direction, but the greater community sees the training school as a place to send bad kids and beat them with sticks.
Right now we’re in a sociological flux. Some experts say that institutions are crime mills; if you build them, you fill them.
State juvenile homes are designed to handle youths that are neglected and cannot work in-group homes.
Eldora is a good program and it has a progressive, good staff, but one area that Mitchellville is lacking in and really needs is vocational training for the girls.
A fourth home, the Annie Wittenmyer home in Davenport, was closed which originally was a home for orphans of the Civil war. The program changed to one of care for minimally retarded children with severe behavioral problems.
Several other alternatives are available to the placement of juveniles besides state institutions.
Mason City, Waterloo (Le Mars) and Ames have group home settings. These facilities treat and care for six to eight youths.
Cedar Rapids is using revenue sharing money to implement local shelter care — which is the temporary care of children in unrestricted facilities — and a detention center which provides temporary care for children who need secure custody for their own protection or the protection of the community.
Shelter care centers are used while juveniles await court decisions.
One relatively new area, that of family group therapy, is working extremely well in Sioux City, according to personnel in youth services.
The team consists of two people who are trained and considered skilled in handling family affairs and work directly and regularly with the family. When a crisis arises, the team comes to the home, but the main emphasis is on preventive measures — working out would-be problem areas before they occur.
The Ottumwa family group therapy service modeled after Sioux City will work in close cooperation with courts and juvenile probation staffs.
Similar to the family group therapy program are parent support groups working out of Indianola.
This cooperative effort begun four months ago urges parents of problem children to meet and discuss problems and solutions and Irwin tell of some other problems that must be overcome in dealing with juveniles.
One major complaint seems to be in the area of staff ratio to children.
“The staff consists of 35-47 juvenile workers on the grass root level to take care of 1,400 kids throughout the state.
There is a definite need to implement local community resources to serve kids..
Polk County, for example, has four workers for 200 kids – a 1-50 ratio.
Because of the shortage of staff, personnel have been working 50-60 hours a week and have had to turn to purchasing services from large private agencies.
These private agencies work in conjunction with state agencies on a one to one basis with the children.
When a kid is committed to a bureau he is assigned to one worker through the entire system.
We try very hard to keep that child with that worker because that may be his one constant element in life.
Irwin places great emphasis on effective parenting for the future.
I would like to generate enough staff to do one of two things; either work with that family so effective parenting can work within the home or if that does not work, set up alternative adoptions to foster care or group care.
I worry about these kids that have no solid experience in family care and grow up with families of their own not knowing the first thing about happy family life.