Thursday, July 08, 2010
Blog Party: Meet Amy, My Virtual Counselor
Amy probably doesn't even realize how many things she's said to me over the last few months that have really hit home with me. A while back I hit a rough patch in the road and she was the first person who said, "If you wanna talk about it I'm here." Amy gets me. She has seen a side of me that a lot of people in my community haven't seen (not that I hide this side of myself, it's just not a side that surfaces often)... and she's still just as supportive as the day I "met" her online. I love Amy. Amy is great! And she's tough. Amy makes me want to kick butt. She's definitely being the change she wants to see in the world. Here's her "WHY":
My name is Amy and I am a Probation Officer in Texas. Megan was looking for guest bloggers and I volunteered, thinking I might have something insightful to add! The question to answer is why I do what I do.
I was living in California several years ago, working at a locked psychiatric unit for adolescents. It was the highest level of care in the state and the kids were deemed the “worst of the worst.” These kids were mentally ill, juvenile delinquents and most, if not all, had abuse in their past. I fell in love with the kids and the job. I am not a therapist but I would spend hours talking to these kids about their lives. They offered up the information and I tried to do what I could to listen and maybe help. You really grow to bond with them and I think I miss that the most. I had very little insight into my own past and why I was able to understand these kids so well. I ended up back in Texas for a number of reasons in 2006. When I got here, I ended up with my current job as a Probation Officer. Less than one year into it, I was moved into the Mental Health Caseload. I went from 160 misdemeanors to 40 special needs felons. The reduced caseload is definitely needed, due to the how time consuming these people can be. In the two years I have had this case load, I have realized that these offenders have broken pasts. They were abused in all ways imaginable, which contributed to their mental illness. They are very similar to the kids I worked with, except older and I’m expected to put them in jail if they violate their probation. None of them want to be on probation and most of them shouldn’t be on probation but I hope that I can make a difference in at least one person’s life. I am not their counselor but I do what I can to refer them to the right place and hope they leave my office with better insight than when they first committed their offense. On the down side, many of my offenders don’t make it long term. They are constantly in and out of the system because we have no long term treatment for them. I have realized how broken our system is. Prison and jail do not help these people. The county that I work for has very little in the way of mental health funding. It’s one of the richer counties in the area and it’s believed that just because the socioeconomic status is higher, we don’t have mentally ill people. All of us know how stupid this is but no one with any power will do anything about it. I have talked to my director, county Commissioners and various Judges to make a point but I haven’t gotten very far. I have attended healthcare meetings to give the criminal justice system a voice. Unfortunately, I have learned that the system is designed to protect the rich and that is exactly what happens. I would like to fix this but I struggle with what one person can do with no back up. I want to see this through and stay with this job until there is a change in procedures for people like this. I want to be a part of that change.