Last winter, a group of Browndale staff and children
moved from the semi-institutional setting of Port Sydney, Muskoka, into ordinary houses in the community at Midland. A few months after the move, John Brown met with senior
resource staff to discuss with them reactions of staff and children to the move and the new living environment.
Brown: What I'd like to do today is hear about how you experienced the move from the traditional, staid old
institution of Muskoka into the individual house family units in residential areas in Midland. When did you start
planning for it?
Brown: In the spring. My biggest fear was bringing children into the community when the community was really still upset about
it. Which kids should come?
It was like having to apologize for the kids, apologize for who we were working with.
There was a lot of anxiety around the schools, too; how the children would be received by the schools.
B: In terms of the kids fitting in?
John Y: That would
come out around the looseness in the family home compared with Muskoka. You didn't feel as if you had as much control over
the kids' behavior, how they would do. We had to turn over a lot more responsibility
to the house staff.
B: How much did the anxiety have to do with your own attitudes about what
you were doing in Muskoka? And how it would measure up in terms of expectations in the community?
Y: We always felt responsible for what the kids did in Muskoka. We felt that we were the ones that made the difference
between the kids being O.K. and not being O.K. and if they were
off we were right there. We could handle it quickly before it built up into something too difficult.
Verna Dronyk: There
have been a lot of changes. When staff first came into Midland there was a lot of looseness in the family groups because everyone wanted to be exactly like the house
next door. But since we've been here, every week
there have been changes in terms of more structure around specific areas. I don't
mean trying to make it institutionalized, but knowing that the kids need structure.
Because if they didn't have structure, there would be big crises. Food purchasing and preparation which worried us have
been fine. At first the houses experimented with all kinds of different foods,
elaborate Italian foods, for example, but now it's levelling off to more basic foods.
They are doing very well on their family budgets.
Gibney: Clothing and food were so institutionalized in Muskoka. You got a requisition for a shirt and you didn't give
a damn about that shirt because it was a requisition shirt. The staff acted
out around it just as much as the kids. But since I've been here in Midland the kids take care of their things. There isn't nearly as much pressure for clothing as there was in
Muskoka nor as much abuse of it.
Another thing is to sit with our children at a meal now is so pleasurable most of the time - if the children are having
a hard time it's different. But in that dining hall in Muskoka there was no way
things could go on at those big tables like they do here, around a family-sized table.
B: Part of it was the bigness? Contamination from other groups?
Yes. Another thing we are finding is that children who we thought were relating, or who had been in the program for a long
time, are just now starting to become related. They
are finding difficult times around areas in the house — not so much school
— but just in being a member of a family in a house. In each house, right across the board, we can pick out
children who are having trouble being a member of a family unit who looked ready
for family living in Muskoka.
B: What is the problem that these kids are experiencing?
can't evade relationships as they could in a large setting like Muskoka.
B: So how are they reacting? They are trying to resist belonging, being
part of the family unit?
by being defiant around normal duties in the house, following family rules in the house,
fighting against family structure and living in all directions.
B: What is the purpose of the behavior as far as the child is concerned?
Do you see a pattern in that?
A denial of the family, of a family living together.
B: Is it different for kids who have their own families and kids
who are orphans?
No, it's pretty well the same for all.
B: Are just the kids resisting it? Or are the staff resisting it too?
Y: The first couple of weeks the staff were really scared. The people
who came to work for a cause find it much more
difficult to feel as if they are working for a cause in a house with five kids. Now the only cause is to be a poppa or momma.
John B: Well it
certainly narrows your scope for acting with and through others. You can't dissipate
your energies as easily. You are right there with four walls and five kids.
My house was the first to move down. The biggest thing I felt was, I had worked in Muskoka where there was a common institutionalized
kitchen, where there was no garage, all these things around our house in Midland that were never really there in Muskoka. When I came into our house it was like a whole new re-learning of what
Anchor points* seemed so unnecessary. I brought them in and tried
to use them in the house and they just didn't work. It was like finding a settling point. It was like changing everything
I had learned about structure, but learning to keep enough within the house to make the children feel that they had a
consistency and structure.
B: Changing routines? Why was that difficult? Why would just moving into a house on a street make that much of a difference?
Well, in Muskoka there were some very basic every day life things that you missed
with your children because of the fact that there was a common institutionalized dining hall or if you wanted to go somewhere by car,
you had to check it out with the car pool. A big difference in Midland lies in the responsibility
for meeting all the children's needs and not having somebody else there in between doing it for you.
B: What does that mean in practical terms? Does that mean that your staff aren't goofing off in the same way? They have the responsibility
and they take it and they can't pass it on?
Y: I think it is defining the kids differently. If you have a disturbed
child in a centre he is one thing; if he is living
in a house he needs something different. He needs less special handling, more natural handling. For example, when somebody comes into
one of these houses and slams the door, somebody
looks up or says something, or does something. In Muskoka you don't. So right there is something that you do with the kid
here that you don't do in the centre.
B: You set more normal community standards for the kids?
John Y: Yes, and
the kids do themselves. There hasn't been a kid in Midland that I've heard about that wouldn't meet a standard, like a dress standard or a "how you look going
out" standard. The kids come back to the house and say how nervous they are downtown. That people look at them and see them as different, but I don't know of any house that has had any real problem around that. The
children don't want to go out looking sloppier
or any less cared for than anyone else.
Verna:The fads like maxi coats and hairstyles are very important here. You are in contact with these kinds of things much more in Midland. In Muskoka you bump into it periodically but here very much because the children go out to schools in the community
and they want to look like the other kids. Some of our kids are going through
such painful stuff, struggling to be a teenager like other teenagers.
John Y:In some ways I think
away some treatment aspects of working with kids during the move. Everybody was strung up, everybody was tight and it
wasn't as easy to let them express themselves as individuals in the house or out in the community. I think in the house there was a
fear that if a child behaved in a certain way in the house, they would behave
that way in the local store. So there was a cutting down of tolerance, not really tolerance because that gets into
permissiveness and I don't mean permissiveness, I mean . ..
John Y:Yes. There was a fear
kid might blow if you gave him hell. I felt it myself coming in and out of the houses: When I was out on the porch I was very aware of people. I think it has to do with moving into a new community.
Verna:People were very aware of us and
they were watching very closely and we did have incidents, like a petition, that did make us very anxious.
John Y:In terms of the move
together very, very tightly and everybody
was going to look good, so there was a lessening acceptance of individual needs from staff, from kids, from everybody. Staff were reluctant to have hard times when they first came down. They had plenty of them two weeks later. They could
then start talking again about leaving, about not knowing if they wanted to be here, about not knowing how long they were going to
be here. But for the first two or three weeks, they wouldn't dare mention anything like that. They were scared of anything that might threaten the whole
Verna: We are allowing the
kids to be "off"
more comfortably now. We are finding out staff don't want to give kids room to have chances to sort themselves out as much here. They know there is a problem and they want to handle it immediately
want it done with and put away. For example, staff call me and they say, "What do I do with so and so?" and you say, "Well, what do you want? What are you expecting from the kid?" "Well, I want
it cleared up" and you say, "Give
him time. Tell him, leave it with him and go and do something else and see
what he does with it." This is very much what we have been doing in the last week.
Leave it with the kid and see what he will come up with and then go back to him. Staff are doing that a little more.
are really open.
Verna:It has been a very exciting week. A lot of things
have been happening. Things don't feel out of control, I don't feel anxious about it, but I feel that everybody is entering into something different.
It's loosening up!
John Y:We moved a month before
Christmas, some groups not even that early and everyone was on guard — getting nice for Christmas because when you are going to have a holiday
there is reason for people to be
good, to make it a nice situation just in terms
of the Christmas holiday spirit.
Verna:I think we made a mistake when we took all the
children and staff who had been with us longer and were more experienced to Midland, and we left Muskoka with very new
and new groups. We could have split more equally between the two areas, had new and old, and they would have balanced each other better.
John Y:Now we are bringing
kids in one
at a time and putting them in different houses.
Feel healthier here
Carol:Thebiggestchangehere — I have felt it myself and I've felt it with other people I have worked with -was feeling healthy because you were here: Being here and
finding yourself in the doctor's office with kids, for example. You find that you can wait patiently with your kids for an hour, but the lady beside you is shaking hers. You recognize
what good parents you are.
This has led a lot of the staff to demand a lot more from their children. In Muskoka I felt
I could never give them enough; I could never make up for what they didn't have. And when they came home after school I didn't need to cook; I would be in this
little tiny house with seven kids, all in a downstairs area smaller than this one. I would go out and out and out for them. When they
came here they'd sit and watch television and say, "Get me a drink of milk" and at first I'd start to go and get it. But then I decided the child should go and get
drink of milk, or join me in the kitchen and drink it there.
We are all learning how to give to kids in different ways
and feeling that we are giving them enough by what we are doing and can demand much more of kids than we ever did in Muskoka in the way of more normal
Verna:It's making them a part of a house. For example,
teenage girls who don't help do dishes every night and you wonder how in heaven's name could we say that is all right? All this is coming out now.
John B:You're beginning to
duties to them?
Verna: Yes. But most of the girls have the
biggest hang ups and we are realizing that the women staff aren't strong enough in the houses. They don't have a voice.
And they themselves are to blame. They don't voice their opinions. They just go along. In Muskoka the female role was so
different. Our teenage girls are the hardest ones for our male staff to cope
with. They will pick the biggest boys up and demand that they do things but with
the girls they just stay in the background.
John Y: We had better look
at what happens to a girl in a treatment centre like that - in terms of their identity. Because every girl who comes into treatment would have liked to have been a boy. In terms
of holdings and in terms of all the kinds of things that staff have to do because the kids are aggressive — how much do we do to girls as girls and
to boys as boys?
John B:You're suggesting it
has more to
do with the fact that a woman can't do
her role because everything is laid on in Muskoka?
Verna: Possibly, but we had
our family units in Muskoka and they were very much females . . .
John B:But in terms of function?
Verna: Yes, but then they come here and they have a kitchen and they end up staying in the kitchen although they have other
functions. It's hard for them to recognize that they could be useful in other areas besides the kitchen. They see things around kids but they don't go and say, "Look, this
needs to be happening." They wait for the
man to come and retreat to the kitchen here.
John Y: It's the sort of thing
man is the treatment person and the woman the caring person. It's separated out fhis way here in Midlandwhile in Muskoka both staff were
Carol: There are some women
the whole afternoon in the kitchen.
John Y: But if the kid's "off",
the male house head, "This kid was 'off while you were out, do something about it." Some of it feels nice to poppa; he's been promoted like hell!
Verna: But my feeling is that the women aren't used that much. Most have been around a long
time. The men
go off with the group and leave two kids behind and they are anxious about leaving them. But in Muskoka the woman staff would have been left with 5 kids and she would have been all right.
Karl: I think all staff are feeling that the roles are very, very different in the house in the community
in Midland to what they were in Muskoka —
for the female staff.
John B:How are the kids responding to that? Are they clued
into these role changes?
Karl: Not enough, but more now; we are covering it more on an individual basis
and getting a lot of resistance from the older children. A lot of it goes back to the old Muskoka role where a 16-year-old
says "Put my socks on" — not only when he is having a hard time but
as a regular thing.
John B: And that is beginning to change?
Karl: It isn't changing as much with the older kids as I would like.
Set own standards
Verna: The older kids are getting out more and more and are measuring themselves against how other teenagers are treated at home. They are
getting into other people's homes, seeing how parents and children act and they
are coming back and asking less inappropriate care themselves from the female staff. They are setting their own
Carol: It's fascinating with the women staff. They were/eally anxious about going to the store to
buy food, anxious about meeting their neighbors. One of them didn't even want to go out her door because she said, "How will they know I'm the woman of the house. I look like a
young girl. How will they see me
as a young mother of all these kids? How do I look to other people?"
They are much more comfortable now. They know by comparison what
they have to offer. They are also
settling down in terms of their own lives and
themselves — getting to know people and doing more things outside the job as well as different things in the job.
John B: You think they are leading more natural lives now?
Carol: Well, they are beginning to.
John B: What about this problem of young parents with older kids, how big a problem
John Y:I don't think there is much.
Verna: No, not now they are becoming more comfortable. There is some discomfort around
the teenage boys.
I think of Jane when I say that — an attractive young woman staff who has teenage boys. She had anxiety about her mothering role, but in talking
to her about it she fits her role to the circumstances.
John B: Do you think the young staff can handle a parenting role in a community?
John Y: Their first weeks they were talking about not liking being in the community as parents. They were talking in
terms of "I want to go and meet young men" and they thought that all the
young men were already taken. They were saying "I want to get a job outside and I don't want to take care of kids all my life."
Carol: But it was a very real thing. Why am I putting myself out through all of this? What more
am I getting for putting myself through all this than the young people around the corner who have their own family? And they had to live it for a while. It was more real than in Muskoka.
They had to give up the way they dressed. But that is just an outward thing.
John B: It's an important thing though.
Karl: It was a negative thing in Muskoka — around dress, around behavior.
Verna: The staff are more aware of each other. They are more able to pick up each other and say,
"Why are you doing
that?" I think we did most of that before.
John Y: I think there is a magnifying, fay being in the community, of all areas of ourselves.
The staff are more defined about what it is that they get scared about. In Muskoka'you can go longer but I don't think you can get away more easily. I think you are more involved as staff
with staff in Muskoka. It's a heavier
job. And then you get into Midland
and you are magnified — yourself as a total person. There is not as much of a group. I think people felt that, too.
But you get something out of both of those things and
the way people are involved with each other here in Midland has a lot to do with the time they spent together in Muskoka before coming here. They were a very tight group - especially all those male staff who
had been in Muskoka a long time.
We had our first home visit from Midland to Muskoka. It was one of the lightest,
most enjoyable, fun things. How were they when they came back to Midland?
Verna: There wasn't a lot of feedback. The weather was bad so people were glad to be back.
I think kids were delighted; it
was a nice, fine time.
John Y: I thought there was something of a recognition of what Muskoka meant to people.
Carol: Especially to some of the kids. They really had the actions of "going back to the womb" but it didn't last. They all got turned back to their
family on the way home.
Verna: It was fun. The kids enjoyed meeting their old friends. They had a nice time and then they
came back. For
some kids it was more than that — the kids that weren't really tied in to their families yet. The reality just hit them.
John B:What was it exactly?
John Y: There was a Winter Games day at Muskoka. We had the Midlandfamilies for lunch. There were about 60 kids and staff on the hill for about 3 hours and they left to come back
to Midland at . And it was all right. Very few staff had come
visited Muskoka since coming to Midland. Kids had wanted to come down to Midland for anniversaries for
who had left Muskoka, to see the houses and many staff had come down with them. But not many Midland staff had been back up to Muskoka. I wondered if there was some kind of resistance to what
the place had meant to them, what
the differences were. I felt that the staff didn't
come up because it was a dependent time for them when they were in Muskoka. It was very good and very necessary in some respects
but you are almost afraid to go back into places like that because you have moved along. The staff are more independent
in Midland and to go back to Muskoka was threatening.
Carol: I felt that and there was no way I could go back there.
John B: There was the worry that you might go back into the role you had in Muskoka?
Carol:There was the tendency . . .
John B: You wanted the protective setting?
Carol: Yes. When I think of training staff and staff growth, I wonder how we can get into the training program some of the things
we did have at Muskoka
simply because we were together. Some of this growth is the reason why these people are where they are today, especially the men. They saw what other staff were doing. They bumped into each other. They don't bump
into each other
now. They can go for a whole day in the house, even living next door, and not even talk to one another.
John B: Let's get back to the move and what the anxieties were. What are some of the realities
and differences between living in Muskoka and here?
Verna: I go to Muskoka one day a week and I like going there. It's very important
to go back there. It's like home. I know my place there and I know what I can
do there and I'm very, very comfortable. And even though the people are new I still feel that I have very much of a place. It's somehow
hard to leave here to go there and then it's hard to leave there to come back here. I like it both places. I like
it here, I like my own personal life, I like having a place of my own where I can set up my own things. And you have more interaction with
the community here — as much as you want to do that's available. In Muskoka
it isn't available.
John Y: Is there something about the dedication thing, the commitment thing that people go
through to give up some of these
things you want for yourselves? Staff live in Muskoka with two to a room and it is basically
all right with people while they are doing it. I wonder how much energy
gets put into working with kids and what happens when you get to Midland and people are living and working in another kind of way. I
think you lose some energy. Are you really caring for the kids — emotionally caring? For example, if a kid is having a hard time how much is a staff person willing to live it through with the kid? In
Muskoka you don't have any trouble doing
that because there is a certain giving up of things anyway. I wonder if there is a difference in the intensity of a person's
involvement in the treatment house in the community, in Midland?
Karl:I don't really think so.
Verna: I think the staff feel the responsibility for the children very much and
they are very intent on helping them, yet some energy goes into their own selves. They do demand more things for themselves,
here in Midland. They want privacy, they want a place of their own to live in, they want friends. I find that if I want things for myself I can say, let them wait awhile. You
get more realistic. The same with the kids' demands. You say, they can wait a little
John Y: How do you take care of crises?
Verna:We don't have very many.
John B:But what if you did?
Karl: Well, I don't feel there would be any difference.
Carol: Well, I don't know. This was what I was going to ask before. I felt that some staff were
more openly hostile and resentful at having to take on a particular kid in a crisis and called me in to take over — to relieve them of
John Y: This is the "fat cat" feeling I get about Midland staff.
Verna: Well, the move sort of shook the applecart. Things were nice
at Muskoka. Take a group like Dennis'. He had 5 kids, he knew where these were at. He's asked to add another kid and he really doesn't know. This new kid is a shit-disturber, Dennis knows that, and he thinks
it may shake
his group up. But what happened? Dennis and his staff were very receptive, the other children in his group extended themselves. They wanted another kid in the house. The staff
showed more readiness than ever before!
John Y: Yes, I know the kids were ready. But there is a kind of definition of what kind of kid
will make the family
look nice, be nice.
Verna: Yes, but there are kids in Muskoka, whom I would have a really hard time accepting in an open setting
if you told me you were going to move them into Midland.
John B: So there are kids that we could take at Muskoka but not take in Midland?
Karl: I don't think it's a matter of not taking them.
Carol: When you came to Midland, John, and talked about the changes from Muskoka groups
to family units I felt that if the staff had been in Muskoka and heard it they would have felt quite differently than they did here in Midland.
When a woman gets in the house, and in the kitchen,
and goes through the domestic things, and the real mothering things, it gets very
difficult to separate the job from the domestic things a mother does in a house — and you feel so much like mothering some of those children — and then define it as a job and think of kids moving out. A new kid would make a difference. I feel that staff are really sluggish
around aiming to make goals for themselves. Maybe it comes around changes in the living situations.
John Y: Yes, that's what I mean. You get a tough, acting out kid in treatment and you need 15
people around him
for the first month. In Muskoka, you
would have those many people around, here you don't. But I would be willing to push the staff in Midlandinto taking a tough kid and getting emotionally more involved with him
to manage him in this open setting.
Verna: I can feel the effect that living in a therapeutic family
unit has on the staff. Dennis, for example, struggles with structure, with how he should run a family.
John Y: That's something you don't get in Muskoka. Another example
is Richard who is pretending that
it is his house and family and he is making a fine
little home out of that house. You get that more immediately in a planned
house. There is an identity of the person with the house.
Carol: There is so much feeling like a parent here. Then intake
staff from outside
his therapeutic family pushes a staff to take in another child. The reaction is very much a natural family reaction — the head of the house needs time and some choice.
John B:Ireally wonderhowmuch this boils down to sloppiness generally, around defining to your staff
what their function is, both in Muskoka and Midland: That, essentially, we ask them to be like parents but to remember
always that they are not. This is something we tend to forget. But can staff do
that? What we are asking is a highly civilized role from staff: To be a parent to a child who isn't his own; doing all the things a parent would
do for this child, all the time remembering that he is someone else's kid. That's a very high order of civilized
Carol: We are getting lots of support; so many people come
over. I never had so many people in my house until I moved to Midland. We were supported well when we first came down. Karl
every other day.
Karl: We moved down staff with experience. In the first
five houses the staff had all been with us two years, so they were obviously people who could work in the community houses. Then there was the reaction that we had sent to Midland everyone who could
units. So we had to depend more on stabilizing people and pull back more with experienced people in Muskoka. We had a good solid group of people in houses in Midland. In some of the Midland houses, people are ready to do another job. They can supervise another family unit besides their own.
I think most of the decision on who came to Midland was based on getting superior house
John B: Would you do it differently now?
Karl: Well, I feel it was right the way we did it.
Verna: I would have one experienced and one new staff person I think.
We don't give people enough credit for the things they have to offer. In the small houses there is room for people to do
their own thing. Staff don't need to learn the big heavy handling techniques.
People have hard times, "mothers" and "fathers" even have hard times in their homes, and kids have to cope with them.
House staff handle more
John Y: In Muskoka, we, the resource bank people, were therapeutic
parents for all the kids. Now, in Midland, the house staff handle things. Sometimes I get scared because I find out house staff have handled
thousands of things; they come and talk about it after they have done it. The kids are related to their house staff and they have to cope with where the staff are at. I have come to realize that
the individual staff should take over more responsibilities.
Verna: I feel much more responsible for the houses here in Midland than in Muskoka. The children
in the houses in Midland have two people to relate to and we, the resource people, have to be much more responsible for how that is going to
work out. In Muskoka, the children could always find a staff who met their needs,
and they don't have such a large number of staff to select from in Midland.
John B: Well, do they or don't they? The Browndale therapeutic family
a nuclear family but an extended family. There should be people to fill the roles of aunts and uncles and cousins.
Karl: I think they do use the extended family model.
Carol: The night staff are quite good in that way but it still doesn't
make up for
poppa being compensated by momma.
John B: Let's get into that a bit more. Have you plans for training staff? You can't always look to Mother Muskoka to supply your
kids with staff. You'll have to start hiring your own and bringing them in and
training them. How do you feel about that, can you do it?
Karl: I think we can. We haven't started it yet.
John B: We've introduced the idea of a mother house in some of the
regions where all the new kids
and all the new staff will come. Then a child and a staff go out to another house.
Karl: The only trouble with that idea is you've got to have a really super
John B: What is your expectation of staff turnover?
John Y:There will be a big turnover.
John B: There may be a complete turnover every two years.
Carol: I've been here three years and I haven't seen that many people move.
John B: What about the community standards? You were anxious about
you came and you got down here and were right in the middle of the controversy and everybody was watching; how did it go? Did
you stand out much?
Verna: Some situations came up. One of the neighbor's children was hurt
of our children but it worked out all
right. The parents had never visited our houses before. Norval, the house head, had not been aware enough of his kids and had not followed through with what had
happened. It was carelessness; it could have been avoided. I feltvery anxious about our children.
Carol: After a certain time, I found my children coming home telling me about other children
and I found myself very mixed up; I didn't know whether to phone the parents. I had two families that were asking me for advice about their teenagers. We didn't have one incident. People
sent us things - home-pickled cucumbers,
John Y: People in the community found it rather strange because in our families poppa was home
all day. It was
O.K. for momma to be home but for poppa to be home was strange.
John B: It was a bit difficult for the male staff. Are they using the time usefully?
John Y: They are the teachers for the children who don't go to the community schools.
Carol: Let me move into another area. I was very anxious about all the hostility.
People were driving past looking at us, coming to the door, threatening us. But
I didn't take people on. I just relaxed and I was outside when the kids were; not playing with them like a peer, but just there as a responsible adult.
Verna: We have very favorable school reports. The children are doing
very well scholastically.
John Y: One of the differences between Muskoka and Midland is the expectation to be in
school. The kids expect to be involved in public school in Midland.
In the schools, the first thing the principals or the teachers
ask is who would
we call and there is a different name for every kid if they are in different houses. The principals pressure us for the name of a person they can call who would be responsible
happened to that kid in school.
Carol: One of the principals phones staff when the kids are late. He calls
and asks the house head why is
a certain child not in school that day and it's right back where it should be. I don't have to get in the middle of it, staff feel
the responsibility as parents and it's good. At first, staff weren't ready for this. But it is a very real thing for
John B: What about home and school associations? Any chance for staff to join
Verna: Staff asked to go but there was something else happening that night. The staff have gone for student evaluation.
John B: It means so much to the children. What has happened
to the opposition to your opening in Midland?
Karl:It's all undercover now.
Carol:I don't feel it anywhere at all.
John B: What's your feeling about the extent you can go out into the community and participate
in community affairs?
Karl: I think we can but there is the staff problem too. There aren't enough staff, and children are pushing the staff. They want to join boy scouts
and they are saying to the staff why aren't
you joining and the staff are holding off. They are acting as if they like each
other a lot more than they do and are avoiding making contacts the way an ordinary family which had just moved into a new community would
for awhile. It's very hard - that's one thing that we have made no allowances for - for the staff to do things in the
community. Their hours aren't made for that. What can you do after ?
John B:How about the business community — what reaction
do you get from them?
Verna: Those are the people we get the most static from. We get much more static from them than the local women on the street. The biggest thing they objected to is the concentration of houses. They couldn't understand why we built so many together. And they hear we get $33 a day for a child and they don't know anything about what it costs to rehabilitate
a child so they
want to know who's making a fortune out of all these children.
John B: Have any of you extended yourselves to the business and professional community? Would
there be any value at all in that?
Karl: There could be ...
Verna: I've joined the -Nurses' Alumni and I've had telephone calls from people. There are a lot of
have lived here for some time; they are very open people.
The way to meet the people in this town is through the
churches. The Ladies'
Auxiliary in the churches are the wives of all the people who have the power and they are very close to the surface — the town is
I went to three bazaars and I met more women in that way, in a nice kind of way, and they offered all sorts of help. They knew who we were and they were interested in helping.
John Y: The librarian asked right away what she could do to help.
Verna: The people who gave us the hardest time were the high school teachers
and the businessmen and the people who thought the value of their property would go down because of our presence.
John B: Do your family units have babysitters come in so that the staff can go out
to community events in the evening?
Karl: In Midland they don't. The children's bedtimes have become so important to the staff; more than to the kids, I think.
Verna: That's because at Muskoka the ways in which we gave to kids was very defined; and they had a half-an-hour bedtime and it was a very good time. Staff don't know they can give
a child a quarter of an hour and a child can
be well served in that time.
John B: It's a good feeling on the part of the child to know that he can manage. So much depends on the child's freedom to trust.
Verna: We are, in fact, asking for that from our staff.
Carol: It's painful having more time off. You have to learn to give to yourself. You have to plant
people so you have somewhere to
go and someone to be with.
John B: When I talk about being active in the community, I don't mean you go out and work
at it, but go out and enjoy yourself and participate in what other people do. A by-product is that people in the community come to know you and accept
you. There has always been a problem around hours and most people won't take the time and get babysitters.
Verna: There are staff who declare the situation in their house is such that they can't leave, I can't leave my children with the relief staff,
they say. There is something wrong with these staff if they can't leave and these
are the people that don't get out and meet people in the community.
John B: How do you deal with the business community?
Verna: They wanted meetings and information on where all the children
were from and the holding company. So I gave them the number of the office to call and gave them the names of the agencies the children were from. It was as if they had
to make somebody the meanie: And they couldn't do it to the kids, then they met the staff and discovered we were human and they couldn't do it to us, so they had to find a third
John B: I think it is important in Ontario that you refer people
kinds of inquiries to someone experienced who can give them the reality of the situation and give you a chance to talk to them about the costs and the problems
of maintaining this kind of program.
Karl: That's true because all they talk about is the cost per day per child.
John Y: It's hard because we would have liked everyone to have known that we were
coming to Midland and to have been out waving flags for us.
Verna: I wish we could have had something set up, not for the big anxieties but
to make us more familiar to the people in the community. We needed a way to handle questions other than having people come to our houses to ask questions.
The one big goof was not having an office in the area right away.
John Y: People would say "Where do we call" and we didn't really know whether or not to refer
them to the Oak
Carol:In one house, we had "thirty thousand people" in there and
the kids were
fantastic but.. .
Verna: I think an office is a first priority.
John B: It depends; there is a real value in having that
energy dispersed between the houses.
John Y: Yes, perhaps that's true; but we didn't have a plan in the beginning. We couldn't tell people
inquiring that Karl will be here on such a day and Verna is living here for the time being and there will be a number and I'll be here
two days a week.
Carol: This business of meeting the people in the community personally
had a real impact on them. It is really a hell of a spot to be in, though. I was so furious, so mad, sometimes. I just wished there had been an office or . some place to handle
John B: We have to prepare our staff for this when they go into the community. We have to
prepare them to accept the facts — that this is the real world that they are living in, that people in the community have emotional problems,
too, and sometimes we have to handle irrational pressures from people in the community, just as we have to manage the irrational
behavior of our children. When we go into the community with our children
we extend the sphere of our therapeutic
orientation to includethe community and its various and varied responses.