Residential: It will never be home

boy listening to musicResidential was four years of my life. It was a place where I had to lay my head at night. It’s not a home and it’s not my home. It’s a place I had to be to get some help. They called it treatment. But I called it help. I was 12 years old when I walked in there and 17 years old when it ended. The hardest part for me was feeling like I lost my family.

It was not easy living in a place that had strict rules given to you by multiple staff. Some gave you the rules stronger and some safer than others. It was hard getting to know all the roommates, the clinicians, teachers, doctors, staff and new house mates. It was hard getting to know the other “clients.” That’s what they called us: the “clients.” I hated being called that.

They told me that I was going home to visit. I really hated that. Home is not a place you visit – it is your home. There were things that over time I figured how to teach them to change. You have to understand I was one of the only kids that had a parent that came to visit me again and again. Others had social workers, probation, or agency people. I was different. I had a parent.

You get the hang of it when you live there long enough. You learn which staff like you, what teachers believe in you and which ones drive you nuts. Everybody thinks that going to a residential is a bad thing. Personally, it was what helped me get help. I was able to deal with my emotions, deal with my trauma and deal with my parent. I learned how to connect. We both learned to be honest with each other. We both had to work hard, but we needed people that would work with us too.

I had a ton of hospitalizations before residential. I had run-ins with the police. Residential was much better than getting locked up. I needed residential. I was angry at first for sure. I was lonely, scared and felt alone. One important thing that I learned was how to talk about my experience with others such as clinicians and staff so that they could learn how to help other kids and families. I feel there were a few things that made it work for me. These are the top six.

1. My parent could visit anytime.
2. My psychiatrist listened to me about what I thought I needed.
3. I was given outside walks and time to move when I needed it.
4. My siblings were treated with support. They could come visit me anytime too.
5. There were no specific times for phone calls — when I needed to make one I got the chance.
6. I had the same clinician at the residential, at my home and with my siblings.

If you are a professional working with kids, remember that you are their support for a bit. But you are not their family.

If you are a parent, don’t give up on your kids. Keep trying and be sure to visit and call often.

If you are a kid that needs help, remember you can do it. Just take care of you and you will make it. I didn’t think I was going to make it but I did and so can you.

Our guest blogger is a young adult who experienced residential treatment and wanted to share that experience anonymously with others.

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5 thoughts on “Residential: It will never be home

  1. Thank you for sharing this story! I think this information is extremely useful to others who experience similar life trials and adults who work with kids who live in group homes. Life is difficult for everyone but extraordinarily difficult for young ones who live in residential care. It’s encouraging to hear that this individual “made it!”

  2. Everyone talks about “community” placements in residential settings/group living environments, especially with Adults. I never felt like I was in the real community, it always felt like I was in a hospital with 8 beds, rather than one with 50+. Living in a town that someone else decides you should live in, in a “house” and neighborhood you don’t want to be in, with a roomate you never chose, was not my idea of “community”

    I am so happy you weren’t a permanent resident, and you learned skills to make it. I hope you are the not an exception, and that everyone will be as successful as you!

  3. I’m glad this residential program worked for this young man. However, it did not for our daughter. That environment made her feel worse about herself. She only got one hour a week of individual therapy. She could not take timeout in her bedroom to relax when she needed to get away from the chaos of the other residents. Unfortunately, the majority of these state funded programs are one size fits all with both DMH and DCF clients. It is all about risk management for agencies and not a particularly nurturing environment for those with emotional needs. It was all about rules, compliance and constraint. We also were one of the few parents who visited our child regularly and through the process, witnessed the deficits in the programming not to mention the run down facilities. She ran away from there twice and we pulled her out after a month and found a more targeted residential program for her needs. Unfortunately, we had to pay for it ourself! Fortunately, she only needed to be away in residential for three months. Not everyone can afford that and all children should have access to better and more targeted care.

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience. I think your list great and hope people who support young people will pay attention to it.

  5. Great writing by the author of this blog. Truly from the heart. Let’s hope he continues to express himself through his writing. Maybe even write a weekly blog documenting his world and inspiring his readers.

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