Tuesday was a rough day. We currently do not have any girls in the house. Our second girl left Tuesday night after a long day followed by a violent episode. Neither Monday nor Tuesday was very peaceful and tension was building. It is difficult to be trapped in a house with a bunch of Gringo, unable to leave, and struggling to adapt to rules and schedules. The straw that broke the camels back was the fact that she could not have a cookie. For snack, we were having some fruit, but she wanted a cookie. There has been a small war against sugar inside the house. Healthy diets are really critical for these girls and for girls who have struggled with drugs; sugar can often act as a substitute for their addiction. At this point, she decided she would not follow any rules. She was being a normal angry teenager, and decided to rip up several photos at the dinner table. After a she created photo confetti, she began yelling that she wanted her phone to call her mom or sister. Sadly, we are not allowed to give her the phone (Pani rule, due to the fact that her family abandoned her, she was not allowed to contact them while in a foster home). We ignored her as she repeatedly shouted for her phone.
Because we were ignoring her, she decided the best way to get everyone's attention was by smashing a glass on the ground. She picked one of the volunteer’s nice coffee cups which we were all sad to see destroyed on the ground. At this point after another glass, she went to try to open the safe for her phone. Things escalated quickly as the director of the program stepped in. They began to tussle and there was some brief biting, hair pulling, and some super weak girl punches (which surprised me from such as tough girl). It is important that we all work on conflict resolution as this situation did not exactly go as we would have wanted.
During the event, the police were called. They did not come for over four hours and needed a reminder. They said that domestic disputes were not high on their priority list. We had actually calmed the situation and had a discussion as a group around the table, but our resident after another major mood swing said that she wanted to leave.
The police were useless. Even after an assault and battery case, they can not do anything with out a mandate from a judge. The officers explained to us that even if she was in the process of stabbing everyone in the house and the police arrive they could not arrest her until we had talked to a judge. The only thing that they could do would be to take her and Maria to make a statement and then send her back to sleep at the house for the rest of the night. The fact that she was a minor also meant that the police could not do anything. The police were there for several hours mainly because they did not know what to do with her.
My favorite moment was how they handled the conflict resolution. When they learned that it had all started over a cookie, the male cop knew exactly what to do. Out of his pocket, he pulled out a cookie and allowed here to eat it on the couch (Perfect, Thanks, Problem Solved). They told us in the future if we had a violent episode we should use (and have the right to use) handcuffs. When she is acting out we can use a tranquilizer and then handcuff her to the bed. (Interesting fact: in Spanish, Handcuffs = esposas, also Wife = esposa)
The whole system is wack. What ended up happening is that they could hold her for 6 hours and then they would have to send her back here. After two hours of phone calls they found that they could take her instead to a different albergue (foster home) tomorrow morning in a different town. They ended up taking her to the police station for 6 hours then transferred her to a different home in the morning.
Anyway, now the house is super quiet. We have lost all of our girls. There are two that will be arriving soon, but we don’t know when. Right now we are working hard to develop a better protocol for behavior management and creating new ideas to help the house run smoothly.
Current ideas include:
Emotion Chart- girls put name over how they are feeling in the morning
Star Chart- earn stars for good behavior and meeting goals
Mailboxes- to send positive messages to girls and a mailbox to send complaints to the house
A chore chart- vary up the chores and who does what during group cleaning
Personal schedules in the front of their personal journals
We need to do a better job preparing for the next batch of girls. It is definitely a learning process. Sadly in most albergue, 70% of the girls will return to the street, so we can’t get discouraged, we can only try to better prepare and be a more cohesive group working to help these girls.
We will see how things go.