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Posted: Mar 23, 2004 10:20

Dispelling the “Thug” Myth

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Jessica Pelletier
Right Direction Adolescent Services

Recently, much of the focus within the At-Risk Adolescent Industry revolves around healthy interventions, transitions, and the continual forward momentum of children to and between programs. However, it is rare for articles or seminars regarding transition to mention “transport companies.” When in fact, THIS IS EXACTLY THE ROLE a reputable “transport company” performs in the therapeutic process. Transport companies were once the answer to the question, of “how are we going to get our child to the program?” In recent years, most companies evolved beyond the concept of a glorified taxi service. These agencies now have much higher expectations for their employees, with self-imposed responsibilities, which are greater than simply a safe pick up and timely arrival. Today’s transport companies specialize in the delicate art of transitioning children smoothly and sensitively, but it is disheartening that we have to continue dispelling the “thug” myth. Transport companies are waiting for the therapeutic community to acknowledge the invaluable service they provide.

In the past, a transport company might have considered an individual with an imposing, authoritative, militaristic nature as a perfect candidate for hire. Now, the progressive companies look for individuals who have a true passion for helping struggling youth. They are parents, coaches, and counselors who bring a wealth of experience into working with at-risk adolescents. They are compassionate professionals who are trained and experienced in conflict resolution and crisis intervention. The responsibility of a qualified “adolescent escort” is no longer to simply “transport” the youth, like a package from point A to point B without incident. The actual goal is to treat each child as an individual with respect, concern and trust.

Intake Coordinators for reputable transport companies, deeply invest themselves in talking to parents. They help parents understand the intervention process by discussing how the transition is accomplished safely without the use of physical force, and they help to reduce the parents’ anxiety over logistical issues such as travel arrangements. Coordinators often reassure and counsel parents through tears, anxiety and guilt. They also obtain a detailed history of the child to determine which of their transport staff are best suited to work with the child’s individual needs.

“Transport agents” initially meet with the parents to explain every step of the transport process. They also prepare and coach the parents on how to introduce the agents and say goodbye to their child. Agents then, enter an unpredictable situation with the child, who often possesses a history of oppositional defiance, sometimes aggressive and violent behavior. The child is awakened in the early morning hours and informed of their parents’ decision to place them in a program. A skilled “adolescent escort” will quickly mediate and de-escalate the situation, ultimately transitioning the child to focus their energy onto their destination and the opportunities awaiting them. Not only do “transport agents” mediate and transition, but they often prepare and educate the child concerning the specific program’s philosophies and expectations. Some say, “a child who is escorted by a reputable transport company, arrives at the program a week ahead of a child who wasn’t.” A successful transport can produce open-minded integration and easier acceptance of a program’s model.

Thankfully, the negative image of “adolescent escorts” as thugs with handcuffs abducting children in the night is slowly changing. In an effort to hasten the awareness, Right Direction Adolescent Services is taking a proactive approach in redefining the titles: “transport agent” and “adolescent escort”. These terms are too callous and vague to define the actual job of transitioning children safely, sensitively and respectfully. The words Transition (passage from one place to another) and Mediator (an intermediary to settle differences) were carefully selected to clearly identify the positions, responsibilities and objectives. The use of Transition Mediators will hopefully inspire professionals to raise their expectations and reconsider the vital role we play in steering youth in the right direction.

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