Wednesday, July 21, 2010
When Doves Cry
Who are the girls in a juvenile detention facility?
One girl was filled with rage, striking out at the world. It was because she was watching her big brother get lost in drugs and felt helpless to save him and angry that no one seemed to care.
Many of the girls were runaways… from people who had hurt them, ignored them, hit them, violated them, taken advantage of them. Some raised their siblings and yes, some of them had their own children.
All of them shared the common bond that somewhere along the way they were let down by the people who were supposed to love and protect them.
My first visit to the DOVE Juvenile Detention Facility was both better and worse than I thought. It was clear that there was a committed and caring staff that put all of their resources together to make a safe and nurturing place for these girls. The cafeteria was painted in a beautiful yellow and tables were covered in bright, cheerful tablecloths. The library was a wonderful room with books and movies and a large television. There were pictures and artwork everywhere testifying to bonds that these girls have formed with their caregivers. One picture in the main hallway stopped me in my tracks. It was a young teen hugging a little girl, with the concrete glistening below and behind them. You couldn’t see either face, as they were buried in each other. But the pain and longing was so clear in their stances. It was taken on a family visitation day and the two sisters clung to each other.
There was ample evidence of all the normal things that you would see with any girl between the age of 15-18, but there were plenty of locked doors and stark reminders that would remind you that this was not an ordinary place. Somehow these girls went too far down the wrong path and were required to “do their time.” The hope, though, is that they would find new, brighter paths, self-confidence and caring adults who will lead them to better lives than the ones that had been laid out before them.
There are a lot of people fighting for their futures, but the reality is painful. As I was leaving one office, a co-worker brought in a card to be signed. One of the past residents of DOVE was getting a sympathy card from the staff, full of loving messages. Her brother had been murdered. I wondered how many other cards this girl would receive… how many people who notice the life that had ended and the girl who was so affected from it?
This is where I want to spend more time, which will be hard since it is a two-hour drive from my home. I want to know the girls and their stories. I want to find more mentors for them and open them up to new possibilities in the world. I want to bring them the yarn so that they can continue to make the beautiful blankets that they donate to vets in wheelchairs. I want to get sheets and pillowcases and blankets for all the girls who have the cold, stark beds.
Some of these girls have never played before. They’ve never had a chance to simply be a child. And because that was robbed from them, they found other ways to try to survive in this world. But how do you give someone a childhood? How do you go back and help them reinvent themselves and be open to love and kindness when it was so alien to their existence?
I don’t have the answers. I am learning about the models, the psychology and all the reality. In the meantime, I shall look for the resources. The soft blankets, the kind mentor, all the things- large and small- that will help them to imagine a world where people care.