Think:Kids was horrified to learn about the crushing of a 13 year old autistic boy by an employee of the NY State
Institution, The Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center. This article highlights the chaos of the New York system of caring for kids whose parents are unable to care for them at home. It seems that the issues boil down to 3 crucial points.
First, is the tremendous cost the state devotes to these children. Examined by the NYT’s reporter, the financial break down results in and “allocation of nearly $430,000 per person.” Yet with this huge cost for approximately 135,000 developmentally disabled cared for by the state the system allows multiple abuses and in the case of Jonathon Carey, a death. So lack of money is not an excuse for poor care.
Second, another horrifying element of this case is the inadequate response to reports of maltreatment and abuse at the highest of levels. There is no chain of command at these state site that meaningfully allows for criticism and review of employee behavior. On numerous occasions employees have reported seeing abuses done to residents by staff with no impact. This lack of leadership creates a fearful, demoralized group of employees and residents in any system. A sense of might over right prevails.
And third, it was clear that many state workers were wither not well selected (former criminal records) and /or trained to cope with the often
stressful work of caring for the developmentally disabled. This is where Think:Kids could offer a solution.
Our approach, if embraced by New York State could help train and support the staff in a system of care that is humane and compassionate AND
effective. The Think:Kids approach has a proven track record in multiple sites of decreasing medical and physical restraints as well as time spent in seclusion. Our model focuses on the lagging thinking skills all of the Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center youth possess. Without critical thinking skills, youth are often inflexible, easily frustrated and poor at problem solving. Think:Kids offers implementation packages to systems that provide initial intensive staff training about the reasons for challenging behavior in youth. Then we provide ongoing weekly support to apply this understanding in day to day interactions with the residents. With proper understanding of why the kids are challenging and then specific steps to change that behavior, the climate of abuse would be bound to change. There are many people to blame as to why things went so wrong and led to the tragic death of Jonathan Carry, but we offer a viable, cost effective solution. The state of Oregon and the city of Ottawa are examples of successful wide-ranging application of the Think:Kids model. It doesn’t come easy but it is high time that our systems treat kids like Jonathan with the care, compassion, humanity and effective approaches they desperately deserve.