Today began the first official day with our new batch of girls. The past week was focused on preparing and establishing the rules that will govern the house. After a transitioning weekend for the two new girls, we were finally able to get down to the daily routine and begin to implementing our behavior management ideas. Because many of our past failures could have been prevented with a solid behavior management plan, the creation of said plan became our major focus in preparation for more girls. After days of research, multiple reports and emails, and hours of staff discussion, we finally have a working document which should get us on the same page when dealing with the girls. At this point, if I read one more behavior management protocol or group home direct care plan, I may gouge my eyes out.
It definitely helped having my parents come and visit for the weekend. They are still in Costa Rica, hopefully enjoying the beach, but while they were here they spent hours talking about group homes, behavior plans, and cognitive behavioral therapy. After I could not take any more, they took me up to Monteverde to get some R and R away from the stresses of the safe house. As much fun as it was to hike and zip line, I am pretty stoked to be back in the safe house ready to try out all the new tools that we have developed.
The new girls are very different from our last set. They come from different backgrounds, with different personalities, and one of the biggest changes is the fact that they are about five years younger. I was interested to see how our new tools would work on them, especially on the 13 year old who decided very quickly that she did not want to participate in any group activity. Like a master puppeteer, it was amazing to see our new behavior management plan taking full control of the girl’s behavior. It was so fun to watch as even the most obstinate girl would move from noncompliance to full participation time and time again. A combination of giving choices and planned ignoring was enough empowerment, yet isolation allowing the staff full control of each situation at hand.
The next big step is creating an education plan. I have taken over the role of teacher in the house and I am in charge of all lesson plans. We are starting with only focusing on Math, Spanish, and English as a remediation period is important to catch the girls back up to speed. Sadly one girl is very behind and extremely insecure which makes learning basic reading and writing skills very slow. It is an interesting change from teaching motivated boys upper level science to teaching timid girls how to read and write.
With a combination of fun girls, good friends, and a new game plan, the house has been peaceful and smooth. Each day is becoming easier and we all hope that as more girls arrive we can maintain the current dynamic within the house. This week is a very important week to set the tone for the rest of the house's future and hopefully a relaxed and productive week can help maintain the sanity of all the volunteers including myself.