Through our crisis stabilization team, Turning Leaf helps individuals with intellectual challenges, such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder who are in conflict with the law. These services can include creating a ‘release plan’ for people in custody, helping them and their families navigate the legal system or helping them get to meetings with probation or parole officers. Most importantly, our crisis stabilization team will work with them every step of the way to assist them in making good decisions and avoid future trouble with the law.
Unfortunately, in order to accurately represent the work that we do at Turning Leaf, we also need to share stories that don’t end with success. This doesn’t mean that we are not successful in the long run, but there are participants that our crisis stabilization team will work with who require more than one try. And that’s okay because we won’t give up.
Crisis Stabilization After 101 Foster Homes
Bobby came to us at the age of 18 after ‘aging out’ of foster care. No plan had been created for what would happen to him once he became an adult. Unfortunately, this happens frequently.
Bobby lived in 101 foster homes prior to Turning Leaf. We are not sure what age he was when he entered the foster care system but if we calculate 101 foster homes over 18 years, that works out to 5.6 foster homes per year, or a new foster home every 2.4 months.
Can you imagine moving into a new stranger’s home every couple of months during your entire childhood? Even for an adult, this would be unsettling.
As a result of such an unstable history in the foster care system, Bobby did not trust anyone, including the staff from Turning Leaf. Would you?
Turning Leaf Residential Support Program
We placed Bobby into our Residential support program, which is designed to provide 24 hour/day in-home person-centered treatment and supports to adults (or individuals transitioning to adulthood) who are living with intellectual challenge and/or mental illness. This is where we work with participants to gain a sense of their personal goals, support wishes, and personal preferences. We tailor a treatment program and the environment to each individual’s unique needs with the goal of helping them develop the skills they will need for a healthy and successful independent living situation.
The first four months of Bobby’s participation in the Turning Leaf residential support program were quite successful. During this ‘honeymoon period’, he was eager to make a success of himself and was really trying, but he still didn’t fully trust the support staff.
History of Gangs & Crime
“Many youth who are released from the child-welfare system do not complete high school and end up vulnerable to drugs, gang violence, and the sex trade.”
– Billie Schibler, Manitoba’s Children’s Advocate, 2005 – 2010
Like many young adults living with intellectual challenges, Bobby had a history of being in trouble with the law. He had been exploited by gangs, had a substantial criminal record which resulted in a Probation Order. Because of his intellectual challenge, Bobby had difficulty understanding and remembering the Probation Order’s expectations (the “rules” he needed to live by to stay out of trouble).
The Residential support staff worked with his probation officer and did their best to help Bobby avoid breaching his Probation Order’s conditions while living in the community. If Bobby was late for curfew, staff would encourage him to contact them so they could locate him or have him meet them somewhere and bring him back to the residence to avoid further trouble with the authorities. This worked for a while and allowed support staff to build trust with him and show him that they were willing to do whatever possible to keep him safe and out of jail.
Back In Custody With No Funding
Despite our best efforts, Bobby became increasingly frustrated and started making some bad decisions. He began associating with his old gang-affiliated friends and ended up back in custody where 20% of the prison population, like Bobby, suffer from intellectual challenges. These people require the person-centred treatment approach that Turning Leaf develops for each of our participants. However, like many people who are released from prison after a lengthy sentence, Bobby had lost his government funding that pays for the services he needs. These people are placed on a waiting list for our pro-bono services or until we can find the funding to care for them.
Bobby is Out There Somewhere
Bobby is not currently associated with Turning Leaf but his Case Manager recently received a voicemail from him asking to help him when he was released from custody. But he didn’t connect and he is out there somewhere on his own. We still worry about him and are hoping that we can try to help him again. If he’s willing, we will work with him to get his funding back in place and hopefully get him back into our residential support program. In the meantime, his file remains with us and staff will continue to keep an eye out for him.
Turning Leaf Never Gives Up On Anyone
Turning Leaf never gives up on any person. We will continue to try to help Bobby as much as he allows us. In the meantime, his younger brother has been referred to us. Hopefully, we can get Bobby back and we can help them both.
We think that everybody, no matter if they have an intellectual challenge or mental illness, have the capacity for change. Moreover, if people argue the point that these people have the capacity for change we firmly believe that they have the right to be engaged the exact same way. We are not trying to change their brain chemistry or their IQ. We want them to change their circumstances around them so they can live safely, live independently, and have the same rights that we do in the community.
If someone you know is living with an intellectual challenge or mental illness, contact us at Turning Leaf and we will do what we can to help.
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