The role of youth leader is very important at Pomegranate. “This is a meaningful position where a person has the opportunity to directly make a major difference in the life of a teen, as an advocate. The youth leader position is like an older brother/sister/mentor and also like a life coach in a sense, in a team environment. There are several youth workers on each team in a ratio of 4-5 teens per worker with an overall leader. Each core group functions like a family unit, and the team leader sees to it that the integrative schedule is followed,” says Michael, HR Director.
The Pomegranate facility is set up as individual campuses or units, each with its own milieu. Male and female units are kept separate in residential treatment. There are specific meal times for each campus to visit the dining room. The entire day is planned with classroom time, projects, group sessions, individual sessions, meals, recreation, games, movies, gymnasium, courtyard, or even outings to specialist doctor/dentist visits, haircuts, trips to pizza buffet, Clippers games, and more. The Pomegranate Youth leader helps to make holidays brighter, helps residents decorate the unit for special themes or events, and discusses music, shows and projects. He or she functions like an RA (resident advisor) in a college dorm might, in a sense.
Teens don’t always like a structured environment. For the adolescent used to sleeping-in, playing video games, watching TV, texting friends, or surfing the net and staying up and out all hours of the night, coming to a secure environment for treatment is not always a welcome thing. Adolescents who live on packaged cookies, candy and fried food might not appreciate chicken salad wraps with fruit. Kids with a bedroom full of E-toys, or a set of friends with a negative influence and ready access to drugs or alcohol might not find the dorm-like ambiance to their liking.
For teens who have experienced trauma, it’s important to avoid re-traumatizing the adolescent. Some diagnoses (like oppositional defiant disorder) include anger management issues, (bi-polar disorder) rapid mood swings, a depressed or argumentative attitude and behaviors that are not easy to work with. A teen with borderline personality disorder might attempt to be manipulative of staff. There is ongoing education about mental and behavioral illness for Pomegranate’s team members.
Youth leaders receive training in CPI which is a solid conflict resolution skill set. This is important as teens do experience ‘bad hair days’. Youth leaders interact with therapists, nurses, families and patients alike. Their input on a child’s progress, response to medication and interaction with peers is valuable. Youth leaders help each teen track their points for accomplishing daily goals. Certain levels are rewarded. It is a strength-based system, and an evidence-based system that works. Youth leaders and youth workers are the backbone of the care team. Walking, talking, listening to a teen offers a solid presence in that child’s life they may not have experienced before, and the role is objective -unlike that of families and friends, who might be too close to a challenging situation. The youth leader is a life coach.
“Somewhere, there is a young adult, engaged in a career and living successfully on his or her own because of the care they received at Pomegranate Health Systems . . . ‘ says Maurice, Youth Leader. Maurice enjoys his work because, ‘I was fortunate to enjoy sports and building a sense of teamwork. This allows me to both coach and mentor kids, and make a difference.’ Leader Bobby said working with youth is ‘invigorating’ and always provides a fresh perspective. He feels his experience playing basketball and working as a high school coach coupled with university coursework in education make a good background for the youth leader position.
“We look for qualities in a youth leader such as empathy. We look for a youth leader to be someone who truly enjoys working with children and has the desire to work in an intensive care environment. We appreciate someone who has many things to offer a child. That could be because they come from a diverse background, may have been in similar situations to the residents we serve, or just want to make a difference in a child’s future, who may have not had a particularly pleasant life up to this point,” adds Tiffany T, Director of Residential Units.
When a teen leaves, the youth leader is at the discharge ceremony and reception, as yet another adolescent paints his or her handprint on the wall of success. Another proud moment is when certificates of achievement are given. Its a feeling of ‘mission accomplished’. These can be touching, gratifying times.
[Photo credit: young African man next to school lockers by Blend Images/Superstock 1589R-29979]