Law enforcement’s role is to serve and protect. Most of our men and women out there do a WONDERFUL job, and we are GRATEFUL for them. Many go above and beyond to help wherever they can do so. However, it is very disturbing to learn that local authorities in a few counties surrounding at least one residential treatment program for children dealing with trauma and mental illness have repeatedly let those youth, the community, the children’s families, and other law enforcement officers down.
In some states, the residential treatment facilities cannot be locked (a broken link in the treatment process.) It is normal that a child may run. This is part of the “fight or flight response” that may be easily triggered or operate in overdrive for those affected by trauma. Staff must then notify local authorities that assistance is needed for an endangered youth (due to being in the program and it being EXPECTED that the child may somehow do something that could hurt himself/herself, another person, or property.) An agency that is protecting and serving will try to get the child to safety BEFORE anyone can be hurt or a crime can be committed. If the child is resistant (part of that “fight or flight” response some have needed earlier in life to survive,) they are supposed to go to crisis assessment.
At that point (also a broken link in some states,) the crisis assessor SHOULD admit the child to acute psychiatric hospitalization to help stablize the child. Sometimes kids run during mood swings before they have even had opportunity to meet with a psychiatrist for temporary medications to assist in working through the trauma.
It is NOT acceptable for authorities to just watch and wait for children in this situation, knowing that they are are high risk, until they can throw the book at that them for some type of crime!
This puts the child AND the community at risk. It is NOT supporting the treatment program. It is in a way continuing to victimize victims. It is offensive and disheartening to the children’s families who are told local that law enforcement is aware and helping. This is hurtful. In fact, it more closely resembles entrapment than protecting and serving.
Yes, the children, as part of their learning accountability and their treatment, will need to make amends for anything that hurt someone or property. However, when authorities sit back and wait for triggered behavior to escalate until potential crimes occur, they are as much at fault. Actions as part of “monitored,” triggered behaviors in this situation certainly should not become part of a juvenile record. Perhaps an audit of the involved law enforcement protocol and implementation would be more beneficial. These preventable cases should not be clogging up our court system or feeding into the already crowded “pipeline to prison.”
Can you imagine being a parent trying to seek help for your child (already triggered and emotionally unstable,) TRUSTING the local authorities to do their part in keeping your child safe while in their community then finding out they failed to do so? Failed Miserably. Then can you imagine finding out they not only failed to protect your child and their community, their county wants to file some sort of charges against the child? Seriously? They fail, and now your family and your child have to deal with court–all stemming from their county mishandling runaway, unstable, endangered youth ALREADY in a treatment program. THIS MUST CHANGE.