Derrick Thompson (a fictitious name) was a revolving client. He entered treatment at Emberwood Center at age 16, and was back several times, working with various counselors. Adolescent Counselor Bryan wondered if anything he was saying to Derrick was “sinking in.” His situation matched the very typical profile of many of our clients … impoverished, not in school, limited or minimal structure at home, spending time on the streets, and committing crimes … in other words, disenfranchised.
By age 17, when Derrick returned again, Bryan discovered that his efforts had indeed had a positive effect. In addition, Emberwood Center now had a Case Aide, Andrew, whose role was to engage clients in the community. Andrew stepped in and was able to give Derrick something foreign to his nature: time and support. When Bryan started working with Derrick, his screens indicated he was using marijuana. Gradually, the screens were improving, until, finally, they showed all drug use had stopped. While in treatment, the house Derrick was living in with his mother burned down. With no money and nowhere to stay, his mother was forced to move to Tennessee. Derrick wanted to remain in Indianapolis and stay in treatment, as his counselor had talked with him about a plan to get a job. He stayed with an aunt, briefly, while Andrew was able to secure him a spot in a nearby agency for homeless teenagers. Says Andrew, “I fell in love with his struggle.” Derrick expressed a need to advance – he constantly identified his triggers (situations that cause individuals to relapse) as 1) not having any money, 2) being bored, and 3) peer pressure to use – all conditions for which employment would be the perfect solution. Together with Derrick, Bryan and Andrew developed a plan for him to pursue Job Corps. Andrew was able to connect him with an admissions counselor. And, together, they surmounted numerous hurdles, such as having to get Derrick a photo ID card, a social security card, his birth certificate, school transcripts, and run a criminal background check. Andrew accompanied Derrick to all the necessary places. Once these items were secured, they went to see the admissions counselor. Andrew coached Derrick to prepare him for the interview, teaching him how to interact respectfully, what to say, and how to sell himself. He was careful not to try to change Derrick. According to Andrew, “Derrick’s struggles had caused him to develop the ability to absorb massive amounts of pressure and stress. I wanted to help him see how that quality could be put to positive use.” Andrew was able to get Derrick to truly think about why he wanted a chance at this opportunity. What would he do if he got this opportunity? How would his life be different? With program funds, Bryan bought Derrick the appropriate clothing. Andrew also took Derrick to a shopping outlet to buy wardrobe basics he would need while living independently. Needless to say, Derrick aced the interview and was invited to enroll in the residential program. The big moving day arrived.
After graduating from EmberWood Center’s 16-week “Street Alternatives” program, Derrick had eventually gone down to Tennessee to live with his mother, and showed tremendous dedication by taking the bus back up to Indianapolis to transition to his new life in Job Corps (Emberwood Center had sent him a Greyhound ticket). Andrew met him at the bus station, and various Emberwood staff donated more clothes for him to wear while at Camp Atterbury. Before his departure, Andrew took him out to lunch and then to the bus station. Derrick has been enrolled in Job Corps a little over a month now, in a welding program. He is in school and has tutors for math and reading. Derrick reports that … to his amazement, he loves being in a daily routine, and he says he likes welding. He gets up at 6 AM, has school until 3 o’clock, goes to welding workshop until 8 PM, and then plays basketball and lifts weights. When Andrew asked Derrick how he felt, mentally, he said he feels more ambitious. He takes pride in what he does. Derrick is a changed young man, but actions speak louder than words: He not only visited Emberwood Center staff on his holiday break, but he chose to return from break early to Camp Atterbury, saying there was nothing for him in the streets anymore. He’s no longer wasting time.