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Reports
 

 

Voices from the Maine Youth Center

Who We Are and Who We Are Becoming

Adolescent Girls' Health Issues

Cultivating Hardiness Zones for Adolescent Girls

Girls' Health: An Action Plan for Maine

 

 

Listening to Girls:
VOICES FROM THE MAINE YOUTH CENTER

Amended Final Report
Commissioned By

The Juvenile Justice Advisory Group
Augusta, Maine
March 14, 2000

Mainely Girls
Rockport, Maine
Mary Orear B.A., M.A.
Executive Director
Beth O'Connor B.A., M.S.W.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Mission Statement and Project Team
Overview
Project Background
Surveys' Goals
Survey's Design and Methodology
Executive Summary
Profile of MYC Girls and Prevention Services
Rehabilitation Needs of MYC Girls
Conclusion
Listening to Girls' Voices: The Profile of Incarcerated Girls Interviews and Survey Results
Appendix: Bibliography


Mission Statement

Mainely Girls, a non-profit organization, was developed from a personal research project on girls' developmental issues begun by Mary Orear eight years ago. After five years of pursuing this interest while teaching full-time at the middle and high school levels, Ms. Orear formed Mainely Girls in the summer of 1996 as a full-time effort to galvanize communities to identify and address girls' unmet needs. In addition to working with and for girls in local communities, Mainely Girls assumes a public education role on behalf of girls in schools, legislative bodies, and businesses. At the moment we are concluding work on a two-year survey of Maine girls in grades seven and eleven.

Project Team

Ms. Orear has had twenty-three years of teaching experience at the elementary, middle and high school level. She founded WITH Girls (Women's Initiate to Help Girls) in Camden, Maine nine years ago and has continued as committee chair while serving as organizer of their annual girls' conferences and film festivals. In July of 1996 she left teaching to establish Mainely Girls, a non-profit organization dedicated to working with women in local communities to identify and address girls' unmet needs. As executive director Mary helps provide educational opportunities for young people, parents, teachers and other community members who wish to focus on girls and young women in our society. She earned a B.A. from the University of Washington, an M.A. from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury, Vermont, and has completed a three year women's leadership training program, "The Practice of Female Authority." Ms Orear received a Maine Women's Fund Award in 1995.

Ms. O'Connor brings to this work over fifteen years of working with youth in education and human service settings. In 1997 she was a Vista volunteer with the Maine Children's Cabinet where she was involved with the Children's Policy Committee. She has an M.S.W. in Social Work Administration from the University of California at Berkeley where she collaborated on a research project investigating the inequity of the sentencing of female prostitutes in San Francisco. She has worked with both AFDC families and teenagers in foster care in Maine. She has also been involved in designing the Jump Start Programs in Lincoln County and is currently training to work with youth on probation in Knox County.

Overview

This was a six month research project conducted from July 1 - December 31, 1999. It was funded by the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group to provide data for the development of a three year plan for juvenile justice in Maine. The focus of this research is to provide gender equity in services provided to girls at the Maine Youth Center. The project consisted of five phases. (I) The first phase was reviewing existing research around incarcerated girls both at the Maine Youth Center and nationally, and then designing our interview instruments. (See Appendix for Bibliography) (II) The second phase was meeting with the Maine Youth Center staff to introduce the project and solicit their cooperation. (III) The third phase was interviewing girls at the Maine Youth Center and in Aftercare, (girls who had completed their sentences and were still on probation). (IV) The fourth phase was analyzing data and developing a list of recommendations. (V) The fifth phase was holding a focus group with girls interviewed at the MYC about our findings and talking with several adults at the MYC about our findings.

Background

In 1976 the Stevens School for girls in Hallowell was closed and the incarcerated girls in Maine were moved to the boys' facility in South Portland, which was renamed the Maine Youth Center. Throughout the ensuing years, the population of girls to boys has remained very small; there were on September 1st twelve girls to one hundred ninety boys. Considering that the girls were brought into an all male facility, and constitute such small numbers, (around 6%), the issue arises as to whether gender equity exists for girls at the Maine Youth Center.

The most recent research on girls' development indicates that many of adolescent girls' developmental needs are quite different from boys. In light of this, "gender equity" is used in this study as meeting the specific needs of girls, rather than having equal access to the same programs etc. as boys.

Note: Our charge was to investigate girls' needs, and we spent no time accessing the boys' situation at the MYC. As a result, none of our findings reference boys, though some of our findings and recommendations may also be true for them. We are not denying that the MYC has much more that it can do to meet boys' needs.

The Surveys' Goals

The purpose of the surveys is to gather information from the girls themselves about the behaviors and circumstances that result in the incarceration of Maine girls. This, in turn, leads us to an understanding of their service needs.

Survey Design and Methodology

Two groups of girls were invited to participate: girls currently in residence at the MYC and girls in Aftercare who had been in the MYC at some time during 1999.

We met with all committed girls at the MYC in September, 1999 to present our project and invite them to volunteer their participation. Girls who agreed signed an informed consent document, as did their parents or guardians.

Girls in Aftercare were contacted by their Juvenile Community Corrections Officers and invited to participate. Those who chose to also signed informed consent documents. There were no Juvenile Community Corrections Officers in the northern part of the state, so no referrals came from that area.

The girls who were living at the MYC were interviewed there; girls in Aftercare were interviewed in their homes, group homes, or foster homes.

During the two hour interview sessions, each girl first completed a written survey called "Who We Are and Who We Are Becoming," a Mainely Girls survey funded by The Lillian Berliawsky Charitable Trust and The Bingham Foundation. During this time the interviewer remained in the room to answer questions or offer encouragement. The survey was written in 1997 by four women who have extensive experience working with adolescent girls. Similar surveys produced by Women's Funds in Colorado and Minnesota were referenced. Upon completion, the first draft received input from adolescent health care workers, domestic abuse counselors, psychologists, etc. After several revisions, the survey was piloted with 30 high school and middle school girls in the midcoast area. Further changes were made before the survey was sent out to schools where it was taken by 500 7th and 11th grade girls throughout the state. The girls answered 95 questions in several categories including family demographics, the social, emotional and educational aspects of girls' lives, and future plans. Responses were "fill in the blank" or "multiple choice." In the Profile some comparisons are made between data received from the survey of the 500 and our 17 girls.

After the written survey was completed, the remaining 90 minutes involved a taped conversation with each girl. We named the interview instrument, "Listening to Girls: Voices from the Maine Youth Center." The questions used in the taped conversation were developed after a review of existing literature on girls and women in American justice systems, including research already done on girls incarcerated in Maine. (See Appendix for Bibliography). Questions about seven different subject areas were grouped on seven separate cards. To make this feel less like a clinical evaluation and more like an informal conversation, we presented each girl with the rainbow of brightly colored cards and invited her to lead our conversation, discussing anything on the cards she wished. When we had discussed as much as she could or wanted to about questions on one card, we moved onto the next. The subject areas included the girl's family life and early history; her strengths, talents and accomplishments; what led to her going to the Maine Youth Center; mental and physical health issues, and risk behaviors; relationships; and future hopes and plans. At the end of the interview, each girl was invited to comment on the survey as a whole and to share any other thoughts she wished to.

The interviews were set up in an informal, comfortable and confidential space, either at the Maine Youth Center or at the girl's Aftercare placement (her family's home, her foster home, or her group home). The intent was for us to develop a relationship with each girl, however brief-- for each girl to feel we were taking time to listen to her share as much of her whole story as she was willing to, so that we could get to know/see her as a whole person - see who she was, not just what she had done wrong.

All girls completed the interviews. Afterward each girl was given a $25 honorarium which was deposited to her canteen account, if she were at the MYC, or a check was sent to her if she were in Aftercare.

On December 28th we met for 2 hours with a group of 9 girls we had interviewed at the MYC. Each was presented with a draft of this report, and we discussed the Executive Summary, the Recommendations for girls currently in the MYC, and parts of the Profile. Their collective comments have helped shape our report. Several MYC adults were also shown the draft and asked for their feedback, which was incorporated in the final report, submitted December 30, 1999.

Note: Throughout this study we noticed frequent contradictions between what the administrative staff, and sometimes the cottage staff, said were current procedures, and what the girls' said actually takes place. For instance, the administration says that the girls' one electric razor is dipped into a sterilizing solution between uses; the girls report this doesn't happen. This disconnect makes for a chaotic environment where the administration sometimes doesn't know what is actually going on, and the girls aren't clear about what they should be able to expect, what their rights are, and how to ask for what they require. Because of this ignorance, the girls passively accept substandard treatment and unsafe conditions.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

"You've got to have something to eat
and a little love in your life
before you can hold still
for any damn body's sermon on how to behave."
                                              - Billie Holiday

"The Youth Center is what it is, and it's been this way for years and years and years and years.... My formative years were spent right here. Those are years that girls use to find themselves, and be themselves, and put pieces together on who they want to be. All of who I am, everything that I am, has been made up from the abusive home life I had and my being here....

"What could have made my time here better and more productive? It could have been better if there were more supportive people working here, and it could have been better if there was more to do while I was here. Nicer people. Some of the people who work here aren't very nice. That's all there is to it. That's why I kinda laugh and stuff when they talk about how they're going to build this new building and give us all new programs. That's not what's wrong with the Maine Youth Center; that's not what is eating away at the Maine Youth Center. Lack of programs. It's lack of people who really care that they're working here. And so it makes me laugh when they talk about how they're gonna do this and do that because it doesn't matter. They're still going to have the same people working here who make it miserable.

"There are some really great people working here! In cottage staff. There's one working here right now who's great - she's great! She's nice - she cares. She makes us follow the rules but she knows its boring here. And she knows that there's nothing for us to do, and when we're idle, we get in trouble. So she does stuff with us. She bakes us cookies. She's out there baking us pumpkin bread right now. She does little things that just make it better to be here. She's nice. She's not a mean person. So there are nice people here that balance out the bad people.

"That's what kind of made me sad is I was sitting here a few months ago and I was thinking, 'You know, I spent a long time in here and I didn't do anything with it. I mean by now I could be speaking a foreign language and know how to play the cello and do all this stuff...you know." A Young Woman at the Maine Youth Center 1999

When we talk about rehabilitation, we're talking about the spirit. There is little at the MYC that can touch a girl's spirit...much less provide the nourishment that it didn't receive when growing up, or help it heal from wounds it has experienced, or strengthen it for its next journey out into the world.

What do the girls who end up at the MYC need? They need to feel safe, because only when they feel physically and psychologically safe will they have the emotional energy and space to do the rehabilitative work they are at the MYC to do. Unfortunately, the very fact that such a small number of girls are being held in the same facility with 20 times the number of boys creates certain problems, which are not being addressed. For instance, girls are exposed to a lot of sexual behavior by boys in the classroom i.e., open masturbation, ejaculation on the walls, sexual conversation among the boys, which the girls over-hear, etc. Some teachers appear not to notice or ignore the boys' inappropriate behaviors. The girls are forced to share classrooms with "rapists," as the girls call them, and their only form of protection is to choose to sit away from these boys. We were struck that girls' seemed to accept these conditions as "normal."

They need to heal and become whole and strong - emotionally, physically and intellectually. And they need to grow into womanhood, being nurtured into their adult selves so that when they leave the MYC, they will have their dreams and goals and make positive choices to attain them.

What have we done for these girls during the last 10 years? You decide. Many of the same recommendations made for girls in a 1991 Maine report were cited again in a 1997 report. And here we are, still putting them on our list at the end of 1999. A decade has elapsed without most of these important and necessary changes being implemented.

In fact, in many significant ways, the girls at the MYC are worse off today than they were 10 years ago. At least in the early 90's they had two cottages: Cottage 8 was for hold for courts, new admissions, girls experiencing difficulty adjusting, girls with emotional or psychiatric disorders, and girls serving county jail sentences of 30 days of less. These girls could be separated from the girls who had adjusted well to the MYC and who were working hard to earn their way out. In 1991 "only" having 2 cottages for the girls was considered a hardship. Today the girls are all together in one cottage, to no one's benefit. Conversely, boys hold for courts are not housed at the MYC and thus have no contact with the committed boys at any time.

Another problem with having this one cottage for girls is that their ICU is within the cottage. Both the girls' day room activities and their sleep time are often interrupted by the screams and shouted obscenities coming from the ICU area. This is upsetting and as many of the girls experienced domestic violence in their homes, these outbursts can re traumatize them.

In addition, we know that girls are highly relational and require close personal relationships in order to grow and thrive. The constant coming and going of the hold for court girls prevents the incarcerated girls from forming a close and cohesive group. A strong group identity would enable girls to support each other in making the necessary personal changes. The support of close, personal group members would allow girls to earn their credits more quickly, proceed more rapidly through the MYC program, and return to their families and their communities.

Another extremely disturbing fact is that as long ago as 1991, one of the girls' cottages, Cottage 8, was located right next to Cottage 9 which is for male violent sexual offenders. Despite a recommendation in the 1997 report that this be remedied immediately, (many of the MYC girls have been sexually molested and so are particularly upset by the proximity of this particular cottage), the girls and their one and only cottage were not moved until August of 1999 - and that came about only because building construction made the move necessary. However, when the girls finally were moved into their present cottage in August of 1999, they had to spend a week cleaning the walls and floor of feces, urine, and cum - which the departing boys had left. Staff used their own money to purchase extra cleaning supplies for the girls to use. No one seemed to question why the departing boys were not made to leave the cottage clean for the new tenants. No one that we heard of advocated for these girls, nor voiced a concern about such demeaning treatment. Such neglect of girls' needs to feel safe and respected is really abuse.

As early as 1991 the report noted that the infirmary at the MYC served both boys and girls. In the infirmary, the girls had one bed partitioned off for them, and girls had to walk by the boys' beds to get to the toilet they had to share. As a result of such limited space and such difficult conditions, sick girls often returned to the cottage rather than staying at the infirmary, thus infecting others with germs. We can report that at the end of 1999 nothing has changed, and there is no separate infirmary for girls, as was recommended 9 years ago, and girls continue to remain at the cottage when they are sick or injured. We can only hope that the new facility will address this issue in a way that will meet girls' medical needs and not make them feel like second class citizens.

Girls are also concerned that the procedure required to receive health care causes a delay of sometimes as much as 48 hours. The girls characterized nurses as making arbitrary decisions about whether to see the girls based on the nurses' moods.

Perhaps in 1991 we had less reason to be concerned about girls being HIV positive. Today, however, with women being the most rapidly growing population of those testing positive to HIV and AIDS, it is particularly alarming to hear a young woman at the MYC explain that six months ago, upon first being admitted to the MYC, she requested to be tested for HIV, and she still hasn't been tested. It is even more alarming then to hear another girl complain that everyone in the girls' cottage must share the same electric shaver.

As stated in the 1991 report, and as we found in 1999, a high percentage of the girls at the MYC are victims of verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Most have a history of drug and alcohol involvement. Almost all struggle with depression. Many come from families with a history of criminal behavior. Counseling needs for these girls are extensive and extremely serious; unfortunately, what is offered is minimal and often mediocre in terms of quantity and quality, and sometimes nothing is offered. Many of the girls we interviewed had requested counseling and had already waited 2 or 3 months, and were still waiting to be assigned someone. We were amazed that the girls didn't even know the difference between a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a counselor, and a mentor - in some cases thinking that a mentor was a counselor and could be used as a therapist. Though several of the girls are extremely disturbed, not one girl mentioned meeting with a psychiatrist on a regular basis. We wonder whether the psychiatrist, the psychologists and counselors employed at the MYC have a specialty in adolescent mental health needs. The girls' needs should be met through a wide variety of counseling offerings: group counseling, arts therapies, team building adventures, and female group process work, to name only a few. The little that is offered lacks variety and creativity in approach.

In one case, a girl spent her teen years at the MYC without ever having been given a psychological evaluation as a basis for treatment, despite problems indicated by the nature of her crime. Six months before her release date, she received a psychological evaluation which diagnosed her with psychological personality problems that she had, of course, never been treated for. Such negligence is unpardonable. The lack of psychiatric and psychological services provided for these girls mocks the claim that the MYC is making a serious rehabilitative effort where deeply disturbed girls are concerned.

How do you meet the MYC girls' needs? You have to know that girls need nourishment for their spirit. You have to recognize and provide for their sense of whimsy and lightheartedness and laughter, for color and music and movement, for their creative urges. These are deep needs in even the most difficult, especially the most difficult, girls. The MYC is the least girl-friendly

environment I've ever been in. The institutional, poorly lit, uncarpeted cottage with its metal tables resembles an ill-kept schoolroom from the early 50's. It totally ignores the girls' need to create a home-like environment. Little effort is made to reach girls or heal girls through the creative arts, which have proven to be so effective. The sterile room is nearly devoid of art and craft supplies, interesting reading material including newspapers and magazines, musical instruments, and computers, yet girls must spend almost all of their out-of-school hours sitting in this room, at these tables. Girls who are "on the desk" because of infractions must sit at these tables for 55 minutes of every hour, without communicating with anyone. Their activities are limited to reading and writing.

The resulting boredom and depression must frequently reach the level of despair for many of these girls. Little wonder that many girls said that they create peer conflict just to relieve the monotony. Hundred of hours, thousands of hours of wasted time - no growth, no development, no rehabilitation...just punishment. And wasting some of the most important hours, days and years of these girls lives. We are responsible for incarcerating these girls; we must also accept the responsibility to do our very best for them.

Is the MYC doing anything right where girls are concerned? Yes, it is. Clearly there is an effective system in place, a system well understood and respected by the girls, which enables girls who follow the rules to earn credits and thus be released from the MYC sooner rather than later. By controlling their own behavior, girls show they have the knowledge, self-control, attitude and skills necessary to be released. This system employs group meetings where other girls and adults discuss an individual girl's behavior. A girl is offered praise, or suggestions or encouragement for improvement, during these very open and honest exchanges. The girls expressed that they find "group" helpful, think it benefits them, and wish it were offered on a regularly scheduled basis that they could count on.

Girls also name certain cottage staff, correctional officers*, teachers, mentors, trackers and health care workers as being understanding, caring, supportive and really able to connect with the girls. (Unfortunately, the few named were cited as being the exception rather than the rule.)

* Correctional officers at the MYC are known as training school counselors.

PROFILE OF GIRLS IN THE MAINE YOUTH CENTER

1. Parents' Educational Background: The girls at the Maine Youth Center have mothers who have a significantly higher rate of only completing some high school and a significantly lower rate of college and post graduate degrees than the girls in the general population. Many of these girls are raised in homes where their same-sex parent models low educational attainment.

  MYC Mothers 500 Mothers
Some high school 40% 2%
High school/GED degree 27% 32%
Some college 13% 15%
College/post grad degree 20% 51%

Prevention Services: Programs that encourage the mothers of young girls to return to school and complete their education.

________________________________________________________________________

2. Family Marital Status: Most of the girls at the Maine Youth Center were born into a two parent family. By the time they got to the Center, only 3 of the 17 girls were still living with both parents.

Prevention Services: Programs that address issues that are raised by girls who experience the death, separation, divorce or desertion of a parent.

______________________________________________________

3. Identification with Relatives: The girls at the Maine Youth Center have strong emotional attachments to their mothers, their grandmothers and their sisters.

12 out of 17 said they love their mothers.

2 of the 16 indicated a lack of warmth or closeness with their mothers.

Prevention Services: Programs which strengthen relationships between girls, their mothers, grandmothers, and sisters.

 

4. Family History With Youth Center, Jail, or Prison: Many girls at the Maine Youth Center were raised in families where incarceration was a norm.

12 girls (70%) reported they had relatives who had gone to MYC, jail, or prison:

  • 12 parents
  • 2 siblings
  • 1 cousin
  • 3 aunts/ uncles
  • Prevention Services: Programs for girls who have relatives who have been incarcerated.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    5. Early Abuse: Many girls at the Maine Youth Center have been victims of abuse.

    In the written survey:

    76% reported verbal abuse

    (51% of the 500 Girls Survey Response)

    47 % physical abuse

    (25% of the 500 Girls)

    24% sexual abuse

    (15% of the 500)

    In the focus group, girls at the MYC told us they under-reported sexual abuse to us in both the interview and the written survey.

     

    Prevention Services: Adequate funding to agencies which investigate child abuse and offer services to families where abuse is discovered.

    ______________________________________________________

    6. Homeless and Running Away: Many girls at the Maine Youth Center have a history of running away repeatedly or being kicked out of their homes.

    5 or 29% reported that they had left or were kicked out of their homes:

    • 2 of these 5 stated they were 14 years old when they left
    • 1 said her mother had signed her into a shelter

    12 girls or 70% said they have run away:

    • 7 went to friends' homes
    • 3 were running away from abuse at home
    • 5 returned on their own or moved in with a relative
    • 3 were forced to return home
    • 3 gave no specifics

     

    Prevention Services: A girls' runaway response system which would assess of the underlying needs of girls who run away, and address the problems.

     

    7. School: Most girls at the Maine Youth Center reported not liking school, and not being academically successful. In addition, they did not feel socially comfortable and accepted, by staff, and in some cases, by peers.

    Half the girls said they had been chronically in trouble or truant in grade school.

    13 of 17 had considered, or had already, dropped out of school.

     

    Prevention Services: A training program for all school staff to help them to understand the developmental needs of girls, and to identify and address the needs of at risk girls.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    8. Racial Demographics: 11% of girls at the Maine Youth Center identified themselves as minorities. This is a larger representation than minorities comprise in the general state population.

    Prevention Services: A program to increase awareness of different risks minority girls face, and the discrimination against them inherent in our culture.

    ________________________________________________________________

    9. Socialization: Most girls at the Maine Youth Center are extroverts and seek a great amount of social interaction, often seeing themselves as leaders among their peers. Most of their social interaction is with peers, not with adults or adult-supervised peers.

    Most girls (88%) did not spend a lot of time alone and did not feel lonely before coming to MYC.

    87% saw themselves as leaders.

    Only 6 girls were involved in any sort of adult supervised activity , all being sports.

    12 listed negative or no group affiliations.

    Prevention Services: Programs which build on girls' needs as highly relational individuals. These programs should including leadership training, and healthy, adult role models.

     

    10. Sexual Activity: Most girls at the Maine Youth Center have been sexually active, and their answers showed that they were receiving pressure from many sources to become sexually active.

    15 of the 17 had been sexually active. (88%)

    All the girls had their first sexual experiences between the ages of 11 and 16.

    12 of the 15 had their first sexual experience between the ages of 12 and 14.

    2 of the 15 said that their first sexual experience had not been voluntary.

    8 of the girls' 1st experience was with partners within 2 years of their age.

    7 of the girls' 1st experience was with partners 3 - 6 years older.

    8 of the girls have not felt pressured to have sex.

    7 of the girls have felt pressured.

    6 girls said they were OK with the age they 1st had sex.

    9 girls said they wished they had waited until they were older.

    14 felt they had enough information on pregnancy prevention, STD's etc. to know what they were doing; 2 did not.

    4 girls said they always use birth control, 5 usually, 2 sometimes, 2 never, 1 abstains.

    4 girls say they always practice "safe sex," 4 usually do, 5 sometimes do, 1 abstains.

    Only 1 girl answered that she had been raped; the other 16 girls didn't answer the question.

    Prevention Services: Training for girls in healthy teen female sexuality and the right to sexual autonomy.

    _______________________________________________________________________

    11. Pregnancies: The girls at the Maine Youth Center have a much higher rate of teen pregnancy than the general teen population - almost three times as high. The teen pregnancy rate in Maine is less than 11.8%.

    12 girls reported no pregnancies.

    5 girls reported that they have been pregnant. (29%)

    • (3 ended in miscarriages, 1 brought about by a violent incident.)
    • (2 girls had babies and were keeping them.)

    None of the girls reported having had an abortion.

    Prevention Services: Training for girls in healthy teen female sexuality and the right to sexual autonomy.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    12. Sexual Orientation: 11% of girls at the Maine Youth Center self-identified as bi-sexual. This is a much larger representation than the 2% who self-identified as bi-sexual in the survey of the 500 girls distributed through Mainely Girls.

    Prevention Services: A program to increase awareness of different risks bi-sexual girls face, and the discrimination against them inherent in our culture.

     

    13. Depression and Suicide: Most of the girls at the Maine Youth Center are depressed and have considered suicide or attempted it.

    10 of 17 girls, 58%, report other family members with depression, 9 of whom are female.

    6 of the 17 girls self-identified as being almost always depressed. (35%)

    12 of the 17 girls are on medication for depression.

    Between 9 and 11 of the girls are receiving counseling for depression.

    Between 10 and 13 of the girls said they have been suicidal at some point.

    • 1 said she was frequently suicidal; 1 said she considers suicide daily.

    Roughly 75% of the MYC girls said they have been suicidal at some point, compared to 38% of the 500 Maine girls who took a similar survey.

    Prevention Services: Programs which educate girls about depression, help them identify it, and provide them with opportunities to get the kinds of help they need. And, programs that educate professionals who work with girls about effective methods of intervention and treatment of depression in girls.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    14. Family Mental Illness: Only 3 girls at the Maine Youth Center reported diagnosed mental illness of at least one other family member, the fact that 6 didn't answer the question leads to the possibility that this was under-reported or that the girls are not clear about what constitutes mental illness.

    6 of 17 didn't answer the question.

    8 of 17 said there was no other diagnosed mental illness in the family.

    3 of 17 said other family members had been diagnosed with mental illness.

    2 of the 17 girls had fathers hospitalized for alcohol-related reasons.

    1 girl believes her mother has an undiagnosed mental illness.

    Prevention Services: An understanding about how mental illness in a family effects the girls in that family, and educational programs for professionals that address the issues that arise in families with mental illness.

    _____________________________________________________

    15. Stress and Anger: All girls at the Maine Youth Center reported that stress and anger are significant problems in their lives, and nearly half of them see these as chronic problems.

    9 girls said they feel stressed once in a while

    7 girls said they almost always feel stressed

    1 girl said she always feel stressed

    Violence: 76% of girls at the Maine Youth Center act out using violence.

    • 1 didn't answer whether she had ever been violent
    • 3 said they had never been violent

    13 or 76% said they had been violent

    • 11 had hurt someone physically
    • 5 said they had used a weapon (knives)
    • 4 said they had carried a weapon (4 knives/1gun)

    Prevention Services: Stress reduction and anger management classes for girls, as well assertiveness training on how to get their voices listened to.

    ______________________________________________________

    16. Risky Behaviors: A much greater percentage of girls at the Maine Youth Center are involved in risky behaviors than girls in the general population. Of the 9 girls who answered about their families, most reported that their families were involved in risky behaviors.

      MYC 500 girls
    smoking 65% 21%
    drugs 53% 12%
    drinking 47% 21%
    depression 41% 17%
    stealing 41% 10%
    self-mutilation 29% 5%
    eating disorders 12% 8%
    gangs 12% 3%

     

    8 didn't answer if their family members engaged in risky behaviors

    7 said immediate family members do engage in risky behaviors:

    • parents: alcohol, drugs, smoking
    • dad: alcohol and drugs
    • dad: alcohol (2)
    • mom: alcohol
    • mom: drugs (2)
    • brother: drugs (2)

    Prevention Services: Girls need to learn to value themselves and be encouraged to make healthy choices. In addition, a prevention model needs to be developed which recognizes and addresses the reasons why girls participate in specific risky behaviors, and provides gender-specific programs to help them stop.

     

    17. The Maine Youth Center: Several girls at the Center said they couldn't stop themselves from their negative behaviors, and no one and nothing they came in contact with was effective in helping them stop.

    What was/is helpful for you at the MYC that you didn't/couldn't get on the outside?

    Individual girls stated the following about the Maine Youth Center:

    • "It made me stop drinking and drugging."
    • "Discipline. I have to obey the rules if I want to get out."
    • "I'm learning to take responsibility for my actions."
    • "It made me stop what I was doing and look at where my life was going."

    Prevention Services: In order to keep girls from being incarcerated, there would have to be the development of local programming which provides similar restraints on girls' behavior, such as incarceration provides.

    REHABILITATION NEEDS OF MYC GIRLS

    (Dates indicate years in which other reports made the same recommendations. )

    HOLD FOR COURT GIRLS

    1. It is imperative that the Hold for Court girls be held separately from the committed girls.

    2. Every effort should be made to expedite the judicial process so hold for court girls are not held for many months on end without final case dispositions being made.

     

    HEALTH RELATED NEEDS

    1. A separate infirmary should be provided for girls. (1991)

    2. Girls should have complete physicals when arriving at the MYC.

    3. Girls should receive anonymous HIV testing upon entering the MYC if they request it, and at any other time when they express the need for testing.

    4. The girls should have easily available, 24 hour access to medical care at the Maine Youth Center. (1991)

    5. The girls should receive dental check ups and follow-up care twice a year and all necessary orthodontic services, including braces.

    6. Girls at the MYC should be given a diet which meets both caloric and other nutritional guidelines for girls their age and which features a wider variety of menus and increases the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables currently being made available to them. (1991)

    7. We recommend that a required exercise program be implemented for girls including :

    • access to organized outdoor exercise on a daily basis, weather permitting.
    • organized indoor and outdoor exercise on a regular basis at least 3 times a week.
    • team sports.

    (1991; 1997; 1998)

    8. We recommend that the girls be given clothing in which they can participate in exercise comfortably, even in very hot weather, i.e. dark t-shirts to wear when playing basketball.

     

    COUNSELING NEEDS

    1. An Intensive Care Unit for girls must be established apart from the cottage.

    2. A psychiatrist specializing in adolescent behavior should examine every girl at the time of her commitment to the MYC, and if she is diagnosed with mental illness, the psychiatrist should over-see her ongoing treatment regimen, including medication and counseling. (1991)

    3. A psychiatrist should oversee a comprehensive program to treat depression in MYC girls; the program would include elements of diet, exercise, and counseling.

    4. A variety of counseling offers should be available to girls: group counseling, arts therapies, team building adventures and female group process work, to name only a few.

    5. The MYC should provide girls with ample counseling around their sexual, physical, verbal and emotional abuse issues and provide family counseling, as needed, to address domestic abuse, substance abuse in the family, unhealthy family dynamics and family secrets. (1991; 1997)

    6. Girls should be given comprehensive substance abuse counseling which fits their needs. The current 8 weeks of group counseling, with individual counseling continuing in some cases, is insufficient. (1991; 1997)

    7. Girls at the Maine Youth Center should be provided with on-going, whole group counseling on female sexuality and homophobia. This would include sex education, birth control information, and the facts about STD's, especially HIV/AIDS. (1998)

    8. Girls should be given anger management training that is relevant to them, and should be permitted to practice the anger management skills and techniques they are taught. (1997)

    9. Girls should be given counseling regarding their criminal behaviors, including their motivation for their original behaviors, their risk of re-offending, and ways to deal with the triggers that lead them into criminal actions. (1997)

    10. The requirement that girls must participate regularly in written "reflections" should be reviewed, as many girls do not see the benefit of doing this exercise repeatedly, as often as three times a week. (Girls see the "open channel" and "cottage issues" aspects of reflections useful; they think the repetitive writing about short and long term goals is a waste of time.)

     

    RIGHTS and PROCESS

    1. Girls must be informed and kept informed of their rights at the MYC, the process they must go through to get help when they need it, and encouraged to speak up for themselves when their needs are not met.

     

    RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES

    1. Girls should be allowed to attend all religious services offered at the MYC.

     

    GENDER SPECIFIC ENRICHMENT OPPORTUNITIES

    1. A program should be developed which provides girls who have earned the privilege access to community events, such as sporting events, cultural events and workshops on topics of interest.

    (Note, as of December 21st, staff was informed that they could no longer volunteer their personal time to accompany any residents off campus, even if they are in an upper group and allowed to be taken off campus. Staff was told that they could only take residents off campus during the staff's paid work time. However, staff was also informed that no money had been allocated to pay for this activity; therefore, this opportunity no longer exists for residents who have earned it.)

    2. A program should be developed which brings speakers and events to the girls at the MYC.

    3. Girls at the MYC should be provided with arts, crafts and musical instruments, books, magazines, newspapers etc. as appropriate for their interest level, ability level and needs.

    4. The MYC should develop more activities for girls throughout the year, (such as horseback riding, sailing and hiking,) which would result in personal growth, self-confidence and team-building.

    5. A part-time program development person should be hired to develop the programming mentioned above and organize the activities for the girls.

    6. A girls' leadership program should be created which would involve the mentoring of girls by business women and community leaders who model successful personal and business skills.

     

    VOCATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

    1. The MYC should offer a strong college prep curriculum, including physics and chemistry labs, for girls planning to go to college and should offer girls guidance on how to research and apply to colleges and for financial aid. (1998)

    2. The MYC should provide good vocational-technical work training programs for girls

    that help them recognize their individual, marketable strengths, learn how to develop them, and allow them to take the small steps that will become the stepping stones to advance them toward chosen careers. The MYC should provide guidance in how to locate vocational-technical schools and how to apply for admission and financial aid. (1991; 1997;1998)

    3. For older girls who have been at the MYC for a long period of time there should be training in independent living skills, i.e.. how to find and rent an apartment; how to manage a checking and savings account; how to prepare and cook their own meals, etc. They MYC should also work with girls and their families around issues regarding their re-entrance into the community. (1991; 1998)

     

    EDUCATION OF STAFF MEMBERS

    1. Staff must be trained to recognize and protect girls from all inappropriate behavior on the part of boys.

    2. All staff at the MYC who work with the girls in any capacity should receive on-going training in girls' developmental issues and gender specific issues for girls. (1991; 1997)

    3. Based on a need stated by female administrators at the MYC, there should be a facilitated, ongoing women's support group that meets regularly, at least bi-weekly, to help female administrators and staff consolidate and make the female voice heard in the decision-making process at the MYC.

     

    ON-GOING DATA COLLECTION

    1. The data collection about girls who are committed to the MYC should be on-going, and the data should be reviewed at least biennially to ensure programs continue to serve the needs of these girls. (1998)

    CONCLUSION

    The very small number of girls incarcerated at any one time at the MYC can be viewed either as an incredible opportunity or an overwhelming burden. Regardless, institutions legally mandated to provide services to these girls must provide a safe, nurturing environment as well as programming which enables these girls to develop to their fullest potential.

    Our data demonstrates that most of these girls see themselves as leaders, are interested in following academic pursuits, and want to work--many in the professions. In addition, all but one of these girls plan to marry and have children. Whether these girls grow up to continue to drain resources from our society or to put resources back into our society depends on how we respond to their needs today.

    Our chief fear is that this report, like others written in 1991, 1997, and 1998, will be shelved rather than acted upon. On December 29th we obtained a copy of the February 1999 report produced by Loughran and Associates the Board of Visitors of the MYC and the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections. We noted that many of our observations and recommendations were made by Loughran and Associates earlier this year, and that the Department of Corrections has a written plan to address Loughran's Recommendations, which includes budget recommendations.

    We hope to see this trend of responsiveness on the part of the Department of Corrections continue, especially for those needs specific to Maine Youth Center girls, and that all of our recommendations will be taken under immediate and serious consideration and will lead to action on behalf of Maine girls.

     

    LISTENING TO GIRLS' VOICES

    The Profile of Girls Incarcerated at MYC 1999

    The Summary of Interviews and Survey Results

     

    The following summary is based on data gathered from a written survey and 90 minute interviews given individually to girls between September and November, 1999.

    Total Sample: 17 ( 11 girls at the MYC & 6 girls in Aftercare)

    Total population of committed girls at the MYC on September 1, 1999 = 12

     

    To distinguish which data is from which source, the following system is used:

        • Data from the interviews is in regular type.
        • Data from the written surveys is in italics.
        • Direct statements made by girls during the interviews are listed in "Candid Comments" sections.

     

    I.

    BACKGROUND--THE EARLY YEARS

    Questions asked about girls' lives prior to coming to the Maine Youth Center (MYC).

     

    Place Of Birth, Residence, Race/Ethnicity, And Current Age.

    12 (71%) of the mothers and 9 (53%) of the fathers are from Maine.

     

    13 of the 17 girls were born in Maine:

    • Southern Maine (11) and Northern Maine (2).
    • almost half were born in urban areas (7) and half in rural (6).

     

    5 of the 17 girls have lived a large portion of their lives (7 to 13 years) out of Maine.

     

    Despite the fact that 12 of the 17 girls lived in the Southern, more urban area of the state, 9 of the 17 girls lived in rural areas.*

    *Since the six Aftercare respondents all lived in the southern part of the state, which contains four of the five urban areas of Maine, our urban representation may be high.

    8 of the 17 girls had moved more than 3 times.

     

    15 girls identified themselves as Caucasian, one as Native American/Caucasian and one as Native American/Black.

     

    The girls ranged in age from 14 to 20, with the following break-down:

    • 3 girls were 14 years old.
    • 3 girls were 15 years old.
    • 4 girls were 16 years old.
    • 4 girls were 17 years old.
    • 1 girl was 18 years old.
    • 2 girls were 20 years old.

    Observations: A large group of girls at the MYC are from rural Maine. A noteworthy number of girls who are at the MYC spent a large portion of their lives living out of state. Over 50% of the girls moved more than 3 times, prior to going to the MYC; these girls have experienced some disruption due to moving. 2 of 17 girls (11.7%) identified themselves as minorities, which is a high percentage when compared to the racial makeup of the general Maine population. 14 of the 17 girls were under the age of 18.

     

    Early Family Life

    12 of 17 girls (70%) lived with both birth parents and one or more siblings when young.

    16 of 17 girls (94%) lived with at least one birth parent and sibling(s) when young.

    1 of 17 girls lived with adoptive parents and siblings from birth on.

    7 of 17 girls (40%) lived with extended family nearby.

    Observations: These girls were born into intact, two-parent families, implying a strong attachment to their birth families and extended family nearby.

    9 of 17 girls (over 50%) lost their fathers due to divorce.

    2 of the girls never knew their fathers.

    1 girl lost her father to death.

    2 of the 17 girls lost their mothers when the girls were 7 or younger.

     

    Only 3 of 17 girls (18%) ended up with an intact, two parent family.

    • Today: 3 girls live with both parents.
    • 6 girls live with Mom.
    • 1 girl lives with Dad.
    • 1 girl lives with another relative.
    • 4 girls live with foster families.
    • 1 girl lives in a group home.
    • 1 girl lives on her own.

    Observations: 12 of the 17 or almost 65% of the girls experienced the loss of a father before coming to the MYC. 14 of 17 girls, almost 82%, experienced the loss of a parent through desertion, divorce or death. Most of this loss occurred when the girls were of elementary school age. National statistics show that a large number of incarcerated young people have experienced the death of a parent. In this case we hypothesize that the absence of the parent affects the girl as a death might. This may be a significant variable.

     

    Religious Background

    7 of 14 girls or 50% of respondents to the question about religious background said they were involved in church or religion on a weekly, or almost weekly basis when children.

     

    School

    Girls described their early educational experience in the following ways:

    • I did well for awhile and then poorly (7)
    • I did poorly for awhile and then well (3)

    + -

    I was a high achiever(3); I did O.K.(2) I never did very well(2)
    I tried really hard(2) I didn't care (2)
    I loved school (1) I hated school (1)

    Half the girls stated the grade they were in when they changed academically from a good to a failing student. 5th, 6th, and 8th grades were mentioned the most.

    Observations: Most of the girls have had some academic success, and several have excelled. Only two felt that they have never done well. An academic decline occurred for many when they reached middle school, indicating that they have had solid elementary educations but may need remedial work beginning at the 6th or 7th grade level.

     

    Early Social Life

    12 of the 17 girls (70%) reported that they had some or many friends during childhood. (30%) said they had no real friends. No one reported being a loner.

    Observations: The girls have strong relational needs and meet them through friendships with others. The girls are not self-reporting as loners. Several girls volunteered that during their 6th grade year, they changed the kind of friends they had. Their new friends were involved in activities that were somewhat risky.

     

    Early Behavior at School

    8 of 14 (56%) who responded to this question, reported they were always in trouble.

    6 out of 14 (43%) said they never got into trouble or were generally pretty good.

     

    Of the 12 girls who answered a question on truancy:

    • 6 of 12 girls answering the question (50%) reported being frequently truant.
    • 6 or said they were never truant.
    • 5 of the girls didn't answer.

    Observations: Clearly girls who are chronically in trouble are at greater risk for being committed to the MYC, but interestingly, a large percentage (43%) of girls who are at the MYC did not considered themselves trouble makers in school. At least 1/3 of the girls interviewed had refused to fulfill their obligation to attend school regularly before coming to the MYC.

     

    Who Was Important In Your Early Years

    18 of the 23 girls or (78%) identified family members as being important to them in their early years, with 10 of the girls mentioning parents.

    Observations: Family relationships were important to these girls in their early years.

     

    Early Security and Love

    8 out of 14 girls (57%) said they felt very secure when growing up.

    9 out of 13 girls (69%) said their needs were usually met.

    11 out of 15 girls (73%)said they were always taken care of.

    1 stated she was taken care of most of the time.

    16 out of 17 (94%) said they were given a reasonable amount of responsibility at home.

     

    3 out of 14 girls said they rarely felt loved valued and safe.

    3 our of 13 girls said they rarely or never had their needs paid attention to or met.

    3 out of 15 girls said they were only sometimes, or never taken care of.

    An average of 3 out of 14 girls, (21%) reported being neglected.

    79% reported not being neglected.

     

    Observations: 57% of the girls said they felt very secure; 69% of said their needs were usually met; and 73% said they were always taken care of. That is, almost 3/4 of these girls report they were not neglected and over half report that they felt very secure. Most of these girls do not appear to be in the high-risk group of neglected children.

     

    Early Abuse

    7 out of 17 (41%)) reported verbal abuse ...........3 didn't answer

    13 out of 17 (76%) reported verbal abuse ..........4 didn't answer

    [7 or the 13 say the abuser was a relative and/or living at the girls' home.]

    verbal abuse .......35%*

    (51% of the 500 7th and 11th grade Maine girls that took this survey reported verbal abuse.)

     

    7 out of 17 (41%) reported emotional abuse.......... 3 didn't answer

    5 out of 17 (29%) reported physical abuse............ 3 didn't answer

    8 out of 17 (47%) reported physical abuse ...........9 said no

    [4 of the 8 abusers were relatives and/or living at the girl's home]

    physical abuse 24%

    (25% of the 500 7th and 11th grade Maine girls that took this survey reported physical abuse.)

     

    1 out of 17 (6%) reported sexual abuse ..............7 didn't answer

    4 out of 17 (24%) reported sexual abuse ..........13 said no

    [1 of the 4 abusers was a relative and/or living at the girl's home.]

    sexual abuse 24%

    (15% of the 500 7th and 11th grade Maine girls that took this survey reported sexual abuse.)

     

    *Some of these questions were asked two ways in the written survey, and both answer percentages are given here.

    A father was named twice as abuser; mothers were named three times; step-father once. Twice girls indicated verbal abuse by non-family members.

     

    Girls also cited other areas where they have been victims:

    • date rape 6%-- (1 girl) as compared to 2% of the 500
    • gang violence 6% - (1 girl) as compared to 2% of the 500
    • other violence 18% - (3 girls) as compared to 3% of the 500

    Observations: The differences in answers for the same question is both confusing and interesting.

    We believe written answers to be more accurate, and girls under-reported when talking to us.

     

    Early Abuse of Other Family Members

    4 out of 9 (over 44%) reported verbal abuse............... 8 didn't answer

    4 out of 9 (over 44%) reported emo. abuse ................8 didn't answer

    4 out of 10 (40%) reported physical abuse .................7 didn't answer

    1 out of 7 (12%) reported sexual abuse ...................10 didn't answer

    A brother and a sister were specified as being abused, and twice girls mentioned parents who abused each other.

     

    Observations: Only 41% to 58% of the girls taking this survey answered these questions about

    other family members being abused. This low rate of response may be due to the keeping of

    family secrets, to denial, or to lack of awareness of the abuse.

     

    The Death Of Someone Close To You

    1 out of 15 reported the death of a parent.

    There were no sibling deaths reported.

    8 out of 15 reported the death of one or more relatives.

    2 out of 15 reported the death of one or more friends.

     

    Seven girls specifically mentioned grandmothers or great-grandmothers, and one uncle and two cousins were mentioned. Most deaths were due to illness, with one drug overdose. All the friends' were caused by accidents: car, drug overdose, drowning or alcohol abuse.

     

    Observations: Nationwide, an inordinately high number of incarcerated youth have experienced the death of a parent. This was not the case with the girls we interviewed.

     

    Have You Or Your Family Ever Been Homeless?

    11 girls (65%) said that they had never been homeless.

    6 girls (35%) said they or their family had been homeless at one time

    5 of those 6 girls (29%) left or were kicked out of their homes.

    (2 stated that they were 14 years old when they left.)

    (1 stated that her mother had signed her into a shelter.)

     

    1 (5.8%) girl was homeless in terms of her family not having a place to live.

     

    Observations: 2/3 of the girls have remained living in their homes. 1/3 have, for various reasons, left their homes, and two were quite young when they left.

     

    II.

    CURRENTLY

    In an effort to understand what the girls see as their strengths, we asked them to state the most important things we should know about them, positive things about themselves, and things they were proud of doing in the last year.

     

    Girls' Sources of Pride

    • Some girls prided themselves in being loyal and caring people,

    • easy to get along with,
    • nice, funny, and pleasant.

    • Others mentioned making efforts to improve their social interactions with others, i.e. working hard on relationships with parents or boyfriends,

    • reaching out to others,
    • reducing their aggressive behavior with peers.

    • Their intellectual abilities,

    • Their academic successes,

    • making the honor roll,
    • getting their GED,

    • Starting school again,

    • Working hard in school, sometimes even if they don't like the program.

     

    Hobbies or Activities Girls Are Passionate About

    Several mentioned volunteer work.

    • 20 cited athletics,
    • 8 socializing with friends,
    • 7 the arts.

    .

    Successes At The Maine Youth Center

    • Girls are now drug and alcohol free.

    • They are now better decision makers.

    • They are doing well and moving up in group.

    • They are setting and accomplishing goals, and are changed for the better.

     

    Six girls mentioned ethical strengths, such as:

    • honesty,
    • drug abstinence,
    • admitting to having problems.

     

    Groups Girls Identified With

    Girls gave 22 answers:

    • 5 girls felt no identification with any group,
    • 5 identified with drinking and drugging friends,
    • 1 girl specified her relationship with a gang.

    Observations: 10 of the 22 mentioned identifying with a positive group. 6 mentioned negative group identification. 6 identified no one or gave no response. As 12 listed negative or no group affiliations, we are concerned that there will be an absence of support or negative support given to many of these girls when they leave the MYC.

    8 didn't respond to the question asking how much these groups impact your life. This implies that the girls are unaware of the degree to which they are influenced by their group associations, and the importance of having positive group support once they leave the MYC.

     

    Leaders or Followers

    10 out of 16 questions respondents considered themselves a leader.

    1 out of 16 " " " " a follower.

    4 out of 16 " " " " both.

    1 out of 16 respondents considered herself to be her own person.

    Observations: 62% of the respondents considered themselves always as leaders. Only 7% considered themselves followers and never leaders. The majority of these girls, over 87%, see themselves as influential leaders, though not always leading for good. The challenge here is to work with girls to channel their leadership abilities in positive directions that will result in benefits to themselves and their communities.

     

     

    III.

    HERE AT THE MAINE YOUTH CENTER

     

    Family History With A Youth Center, Jail Or Prison.

    3 out of 17 girls were from families who had never been incarcerated.

    2 out of 17 girls didn't answer the question.

    12 out of 17, 70%, reported relatives having gone to MYC, jail or prison . 12 parents

    2 siblings

    1 cousin

    3 aunts/uncles

    Observations: Many of the girls have negative adult role models among their family members. Nearly 1/3 have a parent who has been incarcerated.

     

    Friends' History With A Youth Center, Jail Or Prison.

    2 out of 17 girls said they had no friends who had been incarcerated.

    2 out of 17 didn't answer.

    13 out of 17 reported having friends who have been incarcerated.*

    Observations: *This number reflects friends girls had prior to coming to the MYC as well as friends made at the MYC while the girls were themselves incarcerated.

     

    How Do You Feel About Being At The MYC?

    1 of 17 girls didn't answer.

    4 girls gave positive answers.

    12 girls gave negative answers. (i.e. "I hate it.")

    Observations: Though one would look at these numbers and immediately draw a negative conclusion, this question seemed to allow girls to vent an immediate, surface response. However, the answers to the following question belied the numbers given above.

     

    Benefits of Being At The Maine Youth Center

    Girls' Positive Candid Comments About the MYC

    • I'm attached to this place. I've grown up here and I like it here.
    • Help is available here for me. I'm getting along better here. I like it and I'm proud of myself. I'm getting commendations for being positive and good.
    • I've had years to think. It has taught me how to shut up.
    • I can get help. This program is supposed to help me. Discipline. I have to obey the rules if I want to get out. I didn't think I needed it until I got here.
    • GED. Stopped drugs and drinking. Made me feel better about myself. The staff here- my tracker and Day One counselor have really helped me a lot...my self-respect.
    • I've stopped using. I got my health back.
    • Some of the staff are pretty cool. They try their best for the girls because they know that the guys have a lot more options of things to do at the MYC.
    • I'm away from drugs and alcohol. It's a place to get my act together.
    • I'm learning to take responsibility for my actions. It made me stop drinking and drugging.
    • It made me stop what I was doing and look at where my life was going.

    Observations: 10 of 17 girls had something positive to say. The answers show that some of the girls perceive the MYC as providing help that they need, and the time they spend there forces them to stop their negative behaviors and find positive alternatives.

    Academics at the MYC:

    12 girls think of themselves as smart; 2 don't; 1 was undecided.

    • 6 get A's and B's.
    • 1 gets B's.
    • 4 get B's and C's.
    • 1 gets C's and D's.
    • 1 gets D's.
    • 1 gets B's - D's.

    Favorite class/subject:

    • 4 said science.
    • 2 said math.
    • 2 said English.
    • 2 said biology.

    Least favorite class/subject:

    • 6 said math.
    • 4 said English.
    • 2 said social studies.

    Are you good at math?

    • 6 said yes.
    • 6 said no.
    • 4 said not great but not bad.

    Are you good at science?

    • 10 said yes.
    • 6 said not great but not bad.

    Are you good with computers?

    • 7 said yes.
    • 1 said no.
    • 8 said not great but not bad.

    How would you rate your reading ability?

    • 12 said they were good readers.
    • 4 said they were good readers but slow.

    13 said they have thought of dropping out of school.

    • 4 mentioned the lure of drugs.
    • 3 cited boredom.
    • 2 said they hated school.

    Sexual harassment at school (not at the MYC school) was only experienced by 3 girls, and they took action to end it.

    Girls' Candid Comments About Academics at the MYC:

    • The school is tolerable. It would good to have some computers in the cottage to write letters and do research. People signed up for and then were chosen for the Lego Lab. Not many girls signed up because of the name. I know one girl who is part of the Lego Lab. I'm in a graphic arts computer course.

    • The teachers are great, but they don't push the kids to know what they can do. School's a joke here. Some kids can't read or write. They're given 8 weeks to do a book report on a 150 page book. No term papers. I need a tutor or someone to work with me at my level. The work I do here to get A's and B's, you'd fail in a public school. They only offer biology, no chemistry, physics, or calculus. MYC needs to meet my academic needs.

    • Education here is o.k. It could be harder and more interesting. There is some homework - always math.

    • There's no sex education at the MYC.

    • I haven't learned anything, really. Not a thing. I don't think you know what a person that age should know (when you get out). The education is not the level it should be.

    • We don't have health* and we don't have music class. The gym class is not co-ed so it's very small. And what can you do with three people? Most of the time we go down to the pool hall and listen to music and play pool. I mean, there's no exercise. They have science but no lab. No foreign languages.** They have an art class, but it isn't really much. And no computer class. *** And they don't give the classes we need like managing your checkbook and doing all that stuff that you'll need for your adult life when you turn eighteen. And they don't help you find a college and your career and stuff like that. You just have the basics.

    * There is a health class at the MYC.

    ** There is a French class.

    *** The computer class is only for high school juniors or seniors.

    • I heard that they were trying to extend the school hours at the Youth Center. What good's it gonna do? They don't do anything in the classes now as it is. In my health class we sit there every single day and watch a movie. Once in a while we'll take out the books....

    • I'd been having problems academically because I hadn't been in junior high. I didn't go through 6,th 7th and 8th grade. When I was at the MYC, I was diagnosed as learning disabled and put in special ed classes. After I left MYC, I found out I wasn't learning disabled. Now in public school I'm doing good in my classes--really good--better than I did before. I have a guided study where I can get help if I need it, and I can have somebody sit down and help me. I'm getting A's and B's. There were special ed classes at the MYC but we didn't really do much. Movies, that's what we did in special ed classes. There weren't tutors.

    • There are some good teachers. The geography teacher is real good.

    • The school for Hold For Court girls is so completely incompetent.* They give them third grade worksheets. Some of those girls are really smart. And some have little schooling because they dropped out. We used to say about Hold for Court School, “It's time to go to coloring class.”

    *Since this comment, a new teacher has been hired who is reportedly doing an excellent job.

    • You can get a high school diploma at MYC, but it's not a good high school diploma. They need more classes there.

    • When you first get to the MYC, it takes a few days, sometimes as long as a few weeks, before you actually go to classes. They wait for your records from your public school and give you tests.

     

    Boredom

    Girls' Candid Comments On Boredom At The MYC:

    • We just sit in the room and stare at the staff.
    • Boredom and not being taken outside cause a lot of the problem here: energy and anger build up.
    • The tension a week ago was just for excitement, just to do it - threw a razor. It was all spontaneous, not planned. Everyone got involved. Several were locked up.
    • I have to break the monotony myself, which gets me in trouble. I can't remember huge parts of being here. I'm so bored with the routine sameness. Looking at the future, I find that I can't think in more than a week.
    • In the summer, we're made to go outside in even hot weather. Last summer there were no trees, so there was no shade. 30 some girls had to sit under two picnic tables. They made us sit out there all day. At least one girl got severely sunburned.

     

    Nutrition and Exercise

    Girls' Candid Comments on Their Nutrition and Exercise at the MYC:

    • We get the same kinds of food, the same menu every week. We need more variety and more fresh foods: fruits and vegetables. Often the fruits and vegetables we do get are half rotten. We are being served a 3500 calorie diet every day, even without taking seconds.
    • I've gained a lot of weight in here. (One girl said 30 pounds.)
    • We need an increase in exercise time.
    • One interviewer sat in on a group meeting and heard several girls complain that the cottage hadn't been taken outside for any exercise in three days, despite beautiful autumn weather. The staff responded that any time someone was in lock-up, all three staff needed to be in the cottage, so no one was free to take them outside.
    • Yard time is divided. Hayden (a boys' cottage) is for young kids, and girls can't be out at the same time. Girls asked, "Couldn't a fence be put up so we could be out more often?"
    • The basketball court is really tiny.
    • We have gym classes every other day. And we walk to school.
    • I think the girls are taken outside enough...we walk to and from school. Campus could be a lot worse.

     

    Clothing

    Girls' Candid Comments on Clothing at the MYC:

    • Boys get to wear their short-sleeved white t-shirts without a top shirt whenever they want to, and we girls aren't allowed to, even when playing basketball outside when it's hot. We're told the reason is because, "The boys can see your bra lines."
    • We wear white t-shirts underneath with gray heavy long-sleeved or short-sleeved t-shirts over it. We don't want to take the gray top off when outside because the boys' sexual offenders' cottage is right next door,* and because of prior sexual abuse, we don't feel safe.

    * The cottages were moved in mid-August.

     

    Special Activities

    Girls' Candid Comments on Special Activities at the MYC

    • We never do anything outside the MYC, even if we're in the upper group and are allowed to. The staff can take us out if we're in an upper group, but not many staff want to do it.

    (Note, as of December 21, 1999 staff was informed that they could no longer volunteer their personal time to accompany any residents off campus, even if they are in an upper group and allowed to be taken off campus. Staff was told that they could only take residents off campus during the staff's paid work time. However, staff was also informed that no money had been allocated to pay for this activity; therefore, this opportunity no longer exists for residents who have earned it.)

    • When special activities are occasionally offered, a lot of girls don't participate saying they don't want to look "stupid." We need to be encouraged to try new things.
    • Also, there is no playing music*, no forms of meditation, etc.

    *There is a little opportunity to listen to music, which is so important to adolescents. There appears to be little or no provision for girls to practice playing their own music.

    • There are guitars at the MYC which I am allowed to play some times.
    • We need better reading material, teen magazines, etc.
    • We need more to do, like art and music related activities.
    • Sometimes I don't get to do things that are offered because I am too young. They need to make sure there are activities for younger girls like me.

     

    Hold for Court Girls

    Girls' Candid Comments on the Hold for Court Girls at the MYC:

    (Though not asked, girls spoke about being in the same cottage with the hold for court girls.)

    • Lots of the peer conflicts come from the "hold for court" girls. They think they are cooler, based on clothes, appearances, friends, haircut. This is not so true for the committed ones, because they get to know who they are. Hold for court girls shouldn't be part of the regular group; it makes the mood so unsettled; someone snaps and it all goes. They try hard with peer counseling here- they want us to be positive and not get sucked into the negativity. But hold for courts come in with chips on shoulders - thinking they're cool.
    • Hold for courts cause 90% of the peer conflicts with their snooty attitudes. Then the committed girls get dropped down.
    • The hold for court girls...the guys don't have the hold for courts in their cottages with the committed guys. It makes for a lot of peer conflict.
    • Hold for courts girls sometimes help get committed girls in trouble.
    • The hold for court girls have to share underwear, bras, socks. I think that is humiliating and unsanitary.
    • The hold for court girls don't have to do "reflections" - which we committed girls have to write a couple times a week. I don't like the double standard when we're all in here together.

    Number of Times at the MYC

    Have you been to the MYC before?

    • 1 out of 17 gave no answer.
    • 4 out 17 said no.
    • 10 of the 17 girls, were there previously as "hold for court."
    • 2 of the 17 had been sentenced more than once to the MYC.

    Observations: There is a 12% recidivism rate, based on our sample.

    Cause for Arrest

    What were you arrested for?

    • All 17 of the girls we interviewed had been arrested for a felony.

    In 7 of those 17 cases, 41%, the girls were originally sentenced to probation for committing a misdemeanor. They then violated the conditions for their probation, so they were committed to the MYC.

    Motivation

    Why were you involved in illegal activity?

    • 10 girls chose not to answer this question.
    • 3 girls indicated they were high at the time.
    • 1 said she didn't know it was illegal.
    • 1 said it was an accident.
    • 1 cited having witnessed so much violence in her home.
    • 1 said she still didn't know why she did it.

    Observations: We were struck that so many girls shied away from considering this question during our conversations, and we wonder what that indicated. Some of the girls who did respond gave answers that revealed some reflection, insight and assumption of responsibility. We were most disturbed by the girl who honestly answered that after much reflection, and though she still had a sincere desire to know, that she still didn't know why she had committed her felony; she had spent considerable time at the MYC.

    Accomplices

    Was anyone else involved?

    • 3 girls didn't answer the question.
    • 4 girls said that they acted alone.
    • 10 of 17 (58%) reported that someone else was involved.

    (11 friends and 1 relative were named as accomplices.)

    (7 of those 12 were also arrested.)

    IV.

    IN THE MOMENT

    When describing a particular day in their lives prior to coming to the MYC, the girls' answers revealed little involvement in any organized activities or steady part-time or full-time employment. They lacked focus and goals.

    When answering what they did for fun, only 6 girls were involved in any adult supervised activities - all of these being sports.

    7 girls said they play sports.

    When telling about after school group they have participated in, girls mentioned: Odyssey of the Mind, a church group, a theatre group, the YMCA and 4-H.

    Observations: The answers to A, B and C suggest that these girls tend not to be involved with adult organized, out of school, constructive group activities.

     

    Religious Beliefs

    Belief in God or a Higher Power

    • 2 of 17 did not give an answer.
    • 5 of 17 said no, they did not believe.

    10 out of 17, 58%, said they believe in a God or higher power.

    Describing personal spirituality:

    • 5 girls responded that they know there is something, but not just what it is.
    • Most of them attend church at the MYC regularly and enjoy it.
    • Some read the Bible regularly and see religion as a means of help.
    • At least 1 was experiencing conflict about how a compassionate God could seemingly abandon her to this fate.
    • 1 goes to church services to see her boyfriend.
    • 1 girl suggested that many of the girls go to see boys.

    Responding on the written survey to the question, "Are you a member of or do you attend church regularly?" 3 girls said yes, and 14 said no.

    Girls' Candid Comments About Church Services At The MYC:

    13 out of 15 said yes, they had worked for pay.

    • 8 out of 17 said they baby-sat.
    • 8 out of 17 worked in food services.

    Salaries ranged from $0.63 - $10 per hour, with the average being $4.86 per hour.

    Observations: Over 88% have already worked for pay. These girls appear to be workers, not girls who want as adults to live off welfare or expect others to financially support them. Though there was little enthusiasm expressed for the jobs they did, the girls seemed pleased to report that they had worked for pay. In response to a later question about future plans, the girls reported their worst fears as having no money to support themselves adequately, and no ability to earn that money.

     

    Work at Home

    When answering who typically did the work around their homes, 47% said housework was shared among adults and children in their home. 29% said Mom or Dad did it.

    Observations: This data supports the girls' earlier responses indicating that mosES

     

    • 5 girls responded that they know there is something, but not just what it is.
    • Most of them attend church at the MYC regularly and enjoy it.
    • Some read the Bible regularly and see religion as a means of help.
    • At least 1 was experiencing conflict about how a compassionate God could seemingly abandon her to this fate.
    • 1 goes to church services to see her boyfriend.
    • 1 girl suggested that many of the girls go to see boys.

    Responding on the written survey to the question, "Are you a member of or do you attend church regularly?" 3 girls said yes, and 14 said no.

    Girls' Candid Comments About Church Services At The MYC:

    Observations: These girls involve themselves in religious services at the MYC for a variety of reasons.

     

    Work for Pay

    Have you ever had any kind of a job that you got paid for?

    • 1 out of 17 had no answer.
    • 1 out of 17 said she had never worked for pay.
    • 15 out of 17 said they had worked for pay.

    13 out of 15 said yes, they had worked for pay.

    • 8 out of 17 said they baby-sat.
    • 8 out of 17 worked in food services.

    Salaries ranged from $0.63 - $10 per hour, with the average being $4.86 per hour.

    Observations: Over 88% have already worked for pay. These girls appear to be workers, not girls who want as adults to live off welfare or expect others to financially support them. Though there was little enthusiasm expressed for the jobs they did, the girls seemed pleased to report that they had worked for pay. In response to a later question about future plans, the girls reported their worst fears as having no money to support themselves adequately, and no ability to earn that money.

     

    Work at Home

    When answering who typically did the work around their homes, 47% said housework was shared among adults and children in their home. 29% said Mom or Dad did it.

    Observations: This data supports the girls' earlier responses indicating that mosEXECUT~1.DOCڝ0DITTEXTdosa.XECUT~1DOCREPORT~1.DOC0DITTEXTdosaĵrEPORT~1DOCROUGH.DOC0DITTEXTdosaOUGH DOCTITLEP~1.DOC0DITTEXTdosa ITLEP~1DOCMYC Final reptE] 0DIWDBNMSWDrMYCFINALREAnnSAMQUI~11 "1\&2\&EPTEXTdosa#|ANN Erin's Zip!XPH@ܵ&?Erin's ZiQuickTime Folder`/ 4@mʥ O:QUICKT~1  Resume ErinDESKa TEXTdosaRESUME~1 1UpdatersFOLDER"p&m&TEXTdosa@`aUPDATERS 0 ZOEY FACES` / ҈@ĵ 滵 BO:ZOEYFA~1  !OPENFOL.DER`L `@TEXTdosaA`y!OPENFOLDERL Erin's Zip!E@#BpTEXTdosa`:NVH _Apple.ComGQ> 4 girls said they felt safe at home .

    • 4 specified that they felt safe at the MYC.
    • 4 said they felt safe everywhere.

    When asked directly, 14 girls said they feel physically safe in school, and 14 girls said they feels safe to be who they really are while in school.

    (This does not refer to the MYC school where they specifically mentioned not feeling good about being in classes with rapists.)

    • "I feel fine; I've gone there all my life."
    • "There's no violence in my school."
    • "I am not scared."
    • "I am fine because everyone likes me; some look up to me."
    • "I'm very popular." (2)
    • "Because everyone/most people like me."
    • "I'm able to hold my own; others don't frighten me."
    • "I don't care what others think; it's what I think."
    • "Everyone looks up to me."
    • "Constant fights - but I'm home schooled now."

    Observations: The girls didn't seem to relate to the question, seeming to consider their safety as immaterial. Others felt safe because they knew how to defend themselves.

     

    Running Away from Home

    Have you ever run away?

    Of the 12 (70%) who answered yes to running away:

    • 7 went to friends' homes.
    • 3 were running away from abuse at home.
    • 5 returned on their own or moved in with a relative.
    • 3 were forced to return home.
    • 3 gave no answer.

    Observations: 11 of these girls have repeatedly run away.

     

    Responding to Difficulty

    How do you respond to a problem, serious disagreement or crisis?

    Everyone said she thinks, talks and works it through; in addition, girls named other specific methods they use - some positive, and some negative.

    Observations: The girls showed a high level of self-awareness when answering this question, leading us to think that girls might be working on conflict resolution issues at the MYC.

     

    Family Stability

    What's going on in your family right now?

    • 11 of the 17 girls (65%) said their families were stable or strengthening.
    • 5 said their families were not very stable.
    • 1 didn't answer

    Observations: Previous points made by girls in these conversations have underscored the importance of family to these girls. The 5 girls (29%) whose families were not very stable are at higher risk, both in the MYC and when they get out.

     

    School Status

    What's going on in school right now?

    • Most girls felt they were progressing and achieving.
    • Only 2 considered themselves below grade level.

     

    VI.

    WOMANHOOD

    Sexual Development

    Questions around sexual maturation.

    • 4 of 17 girls indicated that they felt angry or confused, and that maturing into a young woman was not an exciting or positive experience for them.
    • 5 reported that it presented challenges for them.
    • 12 of the 17 had the support of an adult woman; 2 did not. (3 didn't answer.)

    Observations: Answers showed that most girls took their sexual maturation in stride.

     

    Love

    5 girls said they have never been in love

    12 girls said they have been in love.

     

    Sex

    Regarding sexual intercourse:

    • 1 didn't answer.
    • 2 girls haven't had sex.
    • 14 girls have been sexually active.
    • 12 girls' first sexual experience was voluntary.
    • 2 girls' experience was not.

    2 haven't had sex.

    15 girls have been sexually active.

    88% of the MYC girls have been sexually active

     

    All the girls had their first sexual experiences between the ages of 11 and 16;

    12 out of 15 had their first sexual experience between the ages of 12 and 14.

     

    8 girls' 1st experience was with partners within 2 yrs of their age.

    7 girls' 1st experience was with partners 3-6 yrs. older.

     

    8 girls have not felt pressured to have sex.

    7 girls have felt pressured.

     

    6 girls said they were ok with the age they 1st had sex.

    9 girls said they wished they had waited until they were older.

     

    14 girls felt they had had enough information on pregnancy prevention, STD's etc. to know what they were doing when they first had sex. 2 said they didn't have enough information, or only a little.

    • 4 girls said they always use birth control. (The girls interpret "birth control" to mean the birth control pill.)
    • 5 said usually.
    • 2 said sometimes.
    • 2 said never.
    • 1 said she abstains from having sex.
    • 4 girls say they always practice "safe sex" (use a condom, etc.)
    • 4 girls say they usually do.
    • 5 girls say they sometimes do.
    • 1 practices safe sex by abstaining from sexual intercourse.

    Observations: Most of the girls at the MYC have been sexually active from their middle school years. Many first had their first sexual experience with boys/men much older than themselves, many have felt pressured to have sex, and many wish they had waited until they were older. They believe they have enough information to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, though two stressed there was no sex education at the MYC.

     

    Rape or Sexual Abuse

    Only 1 girl answered that she had been sexually molested or raped.

    The other 16 did not answer the question.

    Observation: Based on statistics both of the general population, and those of incarcerated female youths, and some of the data we reported earlier, this appears to be under-reported. In addition, there was extremely high avoidance of this question altogether. (During the focus group girls agreed that there were many more MYC girls who had been raped.)

     

    Pregnancy

    Regarding pregnancies:

    • 12 girls reported no pregnancies.
    • 5 girls reported that they have been pregnant.

    (3 pregnancies ended in miscarriages, 1 brought about by a violent episode.)

    (2 girls had babies and were keeping them.)

    10 girls said they have never been pregnant.

    5 girls said they have been pregnant.

    (3 girls reported having miscarriages.)

    (2 girls reported having babies and keeping them.)

    None of the sexually active group of 15 girls has had an abortion.

    Observations: This seems to be a very high rate of miscarriage.

     

    Sexual Orientation

    16 girls self-identified as heterosexual; 1 girl self-identified as bi-sexual.

    15 girls self-identified as heterosexual; 2 girls as bi-sexual.

    Note: Several girls mentioned tension caused in the girls' cottage around girls who identify themselves as bi-sexual; one girl said there was no tension in the cottage around this issue.

    Girls' Candid Comments on Sexual Orientation at the MYC:

    • I feel girls at the MYC accept my bi-sexuality, but I also hate being bi-sexual.
    • People should just keep it (their lesbian feelings) to themselves. When girls talk about all this gross stuff, I get MAD. I want to punch them.
    • Some girls are bi-sexual. It's more acceptable to be lesbian, but some girls comment.
    • One girl expressed dislike of girls several times, "I don't like girls." "More people trust me than I trust - esp. girls: they're vindictive. "

    Observation: I heard girls express concern at one of their group meetings that girls are being stared at in the shower; this appears to be brought up frequently and never dealt with adequately to prevent the problem from reoccurring. Bi-sexuality is a concern for girls at the MYC. Homophobia needs to be addressed so that all girls can feel at ease in the cottage.

     

    VII

    HEALTH

     

    Medical Attention

    15 girls said they are able to receive medical care when they need it.

    3 girls said they are not able to, stating as reasons,

    • "I'm in the MYC"
    • "Because the nurses here don't care."
    • "Sometimes I don't need it."

     

    Birth Control

    14 girls said they receive birth control assistance when needed;

    3 girls indicated that either they don't believe in birth control, their mom is against it, or they are at the MYC. (Does this imply a lack of need or a lack of availability of contraceptives for girls at the MYC?)*

    **We were told that the MYC policy is that if girls have been taking birth control shots before coming to the MYC, they will continue to receive them while at the Center. They are also allowed to continue taking the pill, if they request it, though many girls were unaware of this.

     

    Dental Care

    14 girls said they receive dental care when needed.

    1 girl said she only avails herself of it sometimes because, "I hate the MYC dentist/hygienist"

    2 girls said they don't receive the dental care they need because:

    • "I'm not sure usually, but now I'm in here so, no, because they won't help me with my braces."
    • "I am supposed to get braces in Portland but the dentist or anyone here won't do anything."

     

    Girls' Candid Comments About the Medical Attention at the MYC:

    • I don't feel I get adequate medical attention when I need it. I don't like the nursing station and I didn't receive the medical attention I needed after injuring myself.
    • The infirmary is for the boys, not the girls. Even if girls need to stay there, we often aren't allowed. If a girl does get to stay there, she is in with all the other boys, with only a partition boxing off a corner of the room, around the bed, for privacy. She has to walk by the boys' beds to get to the bathroom.
    • The bathroom in the infirmary is disgusting. We had to clean it a couple weeks ago.
    • Accessibility to nurses is limited by the process we must go through to seek their assistance; sometimes we have to wait a couple of days just to see someone.
    • You can go to the infirmary and get medicine once in a blue moon.
    • There is one nice nurse.
    • I'm concerned about a busted razor and only one electric razor that works, so we have to shave out in the middle of the day room, in front of other girls, and sometimes in front of male staff.
    • I asked for an AIDS test when I came in, but I still haven't had one.

     

    Depression

    Marking as many phrases as apply to them,:

    11 girls responded to"I am generally happy;

    3 girls said they usually see the bright side of things;

    This was 1 response (18%) of MYC girls vs. the 50% of the 500 girls who said they usually see the bright side of things.

    2 said they were often unhappy;

    8 said things easily got them down;

    This was 44% of the MYC girls Vs the 28% of the 500 girls who said that things easily got them down.

    6 said they were often bored.

    (8 of the girls marked more than one phrase, and in

    3 cases they marked contradictory statements.)

    15 of 17 girls (88%) identified themselves as having been depressed sometimes in their lives. (In the written survey, 100% said they have experienced depression at least once in a while and/or all the time.)

    9 of the 17 girls experienced depression at least some of the time, almost all, or all of the time. (In the written survey, 6 marked that they are almost always depressed. )

    That means 35% of the MYC girls feel that way Vs 10% of the 500 girls who took the same survey.

    11 girls answered that they were depressed at least once in a while.

    Causes for depression were listed as:

    • 4 family issues
    • 2 arguments with friends
    • 2 relationships or ending relationships
    • 2 being away from family
    • 2 being at MYC
    • individual girls said, "no control over my life; my entire life;
    • nothing in particular - it just comes once in a while; l miss
    • little things; missing things while in the MYC.

     

    Suicide

    10 of the 17 girls said they have felt suicidal at some point.

    • 13 of 17 said they have been suicidal at some point,
    • 5 clarifying with, "I did, but not any more."
    • 1 said she was frequently suicidal.
    • 1 said she considered suicide daily.

    6 of these 10 girls have been hospitalized for suicide attempts in Jackson Brooke Institute, Devereau, Portsmouth Pavilion,

    Seton and Thayer.

    76% of the MYC girls said they have been suicidal at some point.

    38% of the 500 Maine girls said they, too, have been suicidal.

     

    Medication and Counseling

    12 of the 17 girls are on medication for depression.

    (9 of the 11 girls at the MYC are on medication for depression.)

    9 of 17 girls said they got counseling for depression and/ or suicidal thoughts or attempts.

    11 of the 17 girls are receiving counseling for depression.

    6 girls said they are not able to receive or are not receiving counseling, citing the following reasons:

    • "because there are not enough people"
    • "because I don't want it"
    • "it's not available here"
    • "I'm in the MYC"
    • "because I only feel like going sometimes"

     

    Counseling

    Girls' Candid Comments about Counseling at the MYC:

    • I asked for counseling when I was evaluated, but I'm not getting any counseling at MYC. I would really like to have my old counselor from Brunswick continue working with me here. I want as much help as I can get for drugs, alcohol and anger. Alateen has really helped my cousin. I'm getting anger control counseling.
    • Drug counseling at MYC is not effective. Day One is stupid, repetitive, and not doing a good job. The anger management class I am taking is very effective. He's good.
    • In Day One, the lady tries to get family issues dealt with; it's the only family work done at the MYC.
    • I have a former teacher as my mentor at the MYC. I meet with her and a counselor weekly, who are good!
    • Despite having quite a bit of counseling before coming to the MYC, and feeling I've benefited from it, I'm not getting counseling at the MYC. None has been offered, nor have I asked for any. I do have a weekly mentor who comes in for 90 minutes on Saturday to hang out with and talk to me. My mentor is quite helpful.
    • Little drug counseling provided here. Alcoholics Anonymous weekly; Narcotics Anonymous once a month, which some of us are not required to attend. Day One's 8 week program is 3 times a week, but no other girls fit into the "intensive" category, so my help is cut down to once a week. I was diagnosed with some problems through a psych evaluation and in counseling before I came here. I don't know what they mean so I can't deal with them here. I don't know how to solve the issues I have. Taking anti-depressants is not a solution. I want someone to talk to every day. Coaches are and have been so helpful to me.

    (Day One used to have a counselor housed in the girls' cottage. The program has been cut back and doesn't seem to be meeting girls' stated needs.)

    • I hate counseling - see it as boring and not doing anything good for me. I am not receiving on-going help. I think group counseling is fun...trust walks, ropes courses, team building physical activities would be a good way to provide counseling. NA and AA can help you IF you have the desire to stop. Otherwise they just make you want it more.
    • I am getting the attention and support and help I need at the MYC. I hate counseling, and don't see one. I don't want to think some of the awful things I think. I don't know why I think those things. I never used to think like that. I need people behind me to direct and support me. A lot of people here are like that. It may have been a good thing for me to come here. I think I'm going to learn to be positive and how to be a good person because I see how other people are changing. I'm going to learn it in here, and I'm going to take it out. This is an opportunity.
    • I don't like that everyone is forced to go to AA and NA.
    • AA and NA are for people who choose to stop drinking and drugging. We're forced to stop. So the program doesn't fit us.
    • I would rather see a different counselor. And I only get to see someone once a month.
    • I 've been in here for a long time. For the last 2/3 of that time I've seen a therapist. The MYC waited until this year to give me a psych evaluation, and then they found out that I have had certain psychological problems all this time, and they hadn't done anything about this ...wasting my time. After that I began a new mental health treatment but I'm out of here soon - and I still don't know why I committed my crime.
    • There's no sex education at MYC.
    • Volunteer mentors from outside are good. There are some good people here, such as Ms Lyons. But more supportive people are needed. There's a lack of people who really care that they're working here. We need nicer people vs miserable and mean people.
    • There's no family therapy here, even if you're working on going home.
    • We don't have any counseling if we have been sexually assaulted before we came here. Only the male sexual offenders get that kind of counseling.
    • We should have more counseling for our crimes. We only have a drug counselor at MYC, and that doesn't do much.
    • Once in a while there is an anger management group, but the things they recommend that we do, we aren't allowed to do at MYC. They tell us to talk it out with somebody but if we talk it out with somebody while we're mad, they're going to go open on us (go tell staff), and we're going get in trouble. They tell us to write it down, but they can do locker searches and find it. We can't hit a pillow or anything because if we do, we get locked up. There's no outlet for our anger. We need to have one. There's a lot of angry people in here obviously, or we wouldn't be doing the stuff we're doing.

    Observations: Depression has been/is a major, on-going problem in the lives of girls who are at the MYC. Again, the primary cause of the depression centers on relationship issues. If the MYC is trying to rehabilitate girls, not just punish them, then the girls should be receiving as much counseling as they need from the best psychiatrists and psychologists in the area. What is being offered them appears to be inadequate to meet the girls' considerable needs in the areas of drug and alcohol abuse, personal abuse, anger management, family as well as severe depression.

     

    Family Depression

    10 of 17 girls, or 58%, report other family members with depression, 9 of whom are female.

    Observations: Depression appears to run in many of these girls' families, especially with the female members.

     

    Family Members' Mental Illnesses.

    6 of 17 didn't answer the question.

    8 of 17 said there was no other diagnosed mental illness in the family.

    3 of 17 said other family members were diagnosed with manic- depression, schizophrenia, PTSD, ADD/ADHD and alcoholism.

    2 of the 17 girls had fathers hospitalized for alcohol-related reasons.

    1 girl believes her mother has an undiagnosed mental illness.

    Observations: 6 of the 17 girls have family members with some form of mental illness other than depression.

     

    Stress - Anger - Violence

    9 girls said they feel stressed once in a while.

    7 girls said they almost always feel stressed.

    1 girl said she always feels stressed.

    (When asked what causes the stress, 4 girls said school, 2 arguments with family; and 2 "people."

    3 girls didn't answer whether they get angry frequently.

    4 girls said no, they didn't.

    10 girls said yes, they did.

     

    Girls listed 24 ways they deal with stress and anger.

    Some behaviors were constructive: 11

    Some were neutral: 2

    Some were destructive: 11

    Verbally

    Physically against others

    Against inanimate objects

    Some were self-abusive: (3)

    1 didn't answer whether she had ever been violent.

    3 said they had never been violent.

    13 (76%) said they had been violent.

    11 had hurt someone physically.

    4 said they had carried a weapon (4 knives/1 gun);

    5 said they had used a weapon (knives).

    Girls' Candid Comments:

    • Once in a while there is an anger management group, but the things they recommend that we do, we aren't allowed to do at MYC. They tell us to talk it out with somebody, but if we talk it out with somebody while we're mad, they're going to go open on us (go tell staff), and we're going to get in trouble. They tell us to write it down, but they can do locker searches and find it. We can't hit a pillow or anything because if we do, we get locked up. There's no outlet for our anger. We need to have one. There's a lot of angry people in here obviously, or we wouldn't be doing the stuff we're doing. (This comment was printed under the girls' counseling comments, but it is purposefully included here as relevant.)

    Observations: Stress and anger are big problems for these girls, and often result in acting out physically and verbally. Though they know and sometimes use constructive behaviors to deal with stress and anger, at other times they are destructive to themselves and others. Anger management classes do not seem to be providing girls with realistic options for controlling their anger, giving the behavioral guidelines they must follow.

     

    Risky Behavior

    What do you consider to be risky behaviors?

    • 7 said drugs
    • 5 said alcohol
    • 5 said tobacco
    • 5 said unprotected sex
    • 2 said stealing
    • 2 said being w/ people who may harm you or get you into trouble
    • 1 said being physically aggressive or threatening
    • 1 said dealing drugs
    • 3 didn't answer whether they do risky behaviors
    • 3 said they don't do risky behaviors

    11 or 68% said they do risky behaviors

     

    % of girls who reported participating in the following risky behaviors:

      MYC 500 girls
    eating disorders 12% 8%
    self-mutilation 29% 5%
    depression 41% 17%
    stealing 41% 10%
    smoking 65% 18%
    drinking 47% 21%
    drugs 53% 12%
    gangs 12% 3%

     

    % of girls who know one or more girls involved in risky-behaviors:

      MYC 500 girls
    eating disorders 89% 68%
    self-mutilation 100% 49%
    depression 100% 73%
    stealing 100% 68%
    smoking 100% 82%
    drinking 100% 75%
    drugs 100% 70%
    gangs 65% 27%

     

    % of girls knowing one of more girls who are victims of abuse:

      MYC 500 girls
    sexual abuse 76% 47%
    verbal abuse 100% 61%
    physical abuse 71% 47%
    date rape 35% 19%
    gang violence 35% 11%
    other violence 47% 31%

     

    33% reported domestic violence being a problem in their homes

    • 8 didn't answer if their family members engage in risky behaviors
    • 7 said immediate family members do engage in risky behaviors:

    parents: alcohol, drugs, smoking

    • dad: alcohol and drugs
    • dad: alcohol (2)
    • mom: alcohol
    • mom: drugs (2)
    • brother: drugs (2)

    Observations: What the girls name as risky behaviors are being done in the homes by some parents. It seems noteworthy that 8 girls chose not to answer the question.

     

    VIII.

    YOUR FUTURE

    The socio-economic background of these girls is as follows:

    • 6 mothers and 3 fathers didn't complete high school.
    • 1 mother and 1 father had a GED.
    • 3 mothers and 4 fathers were high school graduates.
    • 2 mothers and 3 fathers had some college.
    • 2 mothers and 2 fathers were college graduates.
    • 1 mother and 1 father had a masters or doctorate.
    • 1 father is attending college right now.

    Note: Across the board, MYC girls' mothers had notably less education than the mothers of 500 Maine girls who took the same survey. Fathers of MYC girls had similar educations to fathers of the 500 girls, except far fewer MYC fathers graduated from college or received post graduate degrees.

      MYC Mothers 500 Mothers
    Some high school 40% 2%
    High school/ GED degree 27% 32%
    Some college 13% 15%
    College/post grad. degree 20% 51%

     

      MYC Fathers 500 Fathers
    Some high school 20% 15%
    High school/GED degree 33% 30%
    Some college 27% 12%
    College/post grad. degree 20% 41%

    13 mothers had jobs, 3 did not, and 1 girl didn't know.

    Mother's jobs included body shop owner, musician, switchboard operator, food services

    (3), construction, and nursing home worker.

     

    9 fathers had jobs, 2 did not, 2 are retired, and 4 girls didn't answer.

    Fathers' jobs included transportation, college worker, maintenance man (3), drywaller, musician, and manager.

     

    1 girl felt her family had more than enough financially.

    13 girls felt her family had enough.

    2 girls felt their families didn't have enough financially.

    1 girl didn't answer.

     

    The life that would make them happy right now:

    • 7 said to be back with their families.
    • 7 said to be out on their own.
    • 4 said parties, drugs, sex and hanging out with friends.

     

    What is preventing you from having the good life you want?

    • 13 cited organizations or individuals in authority.
    • 2 cited bad decisions on their part.
    • 2 said repercussions from their former misbehavior.
    • 1 said money.
    • 1 blamed others.

     

    What is your vision of a good future for yourself?

    The girls chose a variety of professions:

    • Want to work with horses 2
    • Want to be R.N.'s 2
    • Want to be marine biologist 1
    • Want to be a professional singer 1
    • Want to be interior decorator 1
    • College w/ career in computers 1
    • College w/o specifying field of study 3
    • Job w/o specifying what the job 2

    11 girls listed professions they wanted to train for.

     

    The girls considered family life:

    • Want to marry, have children 7
    • Want to live with their mothers 2
    • Want to be independent 1
    • Want to travel 2
    • Want to move to another country 1

     

    What are your future plans?

    • 13 plan to attend college.
    • 13 plan to get married.

    [Most girls want to get married in their 20's]

    • 12 plan to have children.

    {Most girls want to have their first child by age 27.]

    [The girls want to have between 1 and 3 children.]

    • 14 plan to work; 1 plans to get a boyfriend.

    Note: Without exception, their answer to this question was the same as their answer to another question we asked first: What is your greatest, wildest fantasy for your future?

    Observations: The girls understand the concept of goals and have set some goals for their futures which they view as realistic and attainable. They expressed optimism and hope about their futures during our conversations, and they don't appear to be focusing on unrealistic fantasies. Most plan to work; many plan to marry and have children.

    Because so many of these girls come from troubled families which they felt the need to leave, many will need education and guidance on how to build strong families of their own.

     

    What is your "worst case" scenario for your future?

    The answers were very specific and fell into five categories:

    Economic and living condition:

    • trailer trash working at MacDonalds
    • stuck in a shack living on welfare
    • homeless/unemployed (4)
    • going nowhere in life and always be living with/ mooching off my family
    • not getting into or succeeding in college

    Addiction:

    • sitting on top of a mountain smoking weed
    • get back into drinking

    Death and loss:

    • my mother would die
    • dying
    • my vision for my future would die

    Further incarceration:

    • prison
    • a lifetime in jail

    Relationship:

    • no husband or children

     

    What could get in the way of you having the kind of life you want?

    • 3 said they don't know.
    • 3 said drugs and alcohol.
    • 2 said rules, laws, and their consequences.
    • 1 said making the wrong choices.
    • 1 said getting arrested.
    • 1 said dropping out of school.
    • 1 said not going to college.
    • 1 said not learning more to get a job.

    Who supports your dreams for the future?

    • 7 said Mother.
    • 4 said Dad.
    • 4 said their families.
    • 3 said their foster parents.
    • 2 said their sisters.
    • 2 said their friends.
    • 2 said everyone.

    (Other single answers were given )

    16 of 17 have 1 or more adults who listens to and supports them.

    27 of these were family members; only 4 were not.

    Observations: The girls are very clear about how they don't want to end up. Some of this they already have experienced first hand and know they want to avoid in the future. The largest number of responses focused on lack of economic viability, suggesting that one way to really help these girls while they are at the MYC is to provide them with the education, skills and training that would allow them to go back out into the world and create a financially stable environment for themselves. 21 family members were mentioned as supporting the girls' dreams for the future Vs 8 non-family - again stressing the importance of the family in these girls' lives.

     

    Responses to Participating in this Survey and Interview

    Girls' Candid Comments:

    • This interview showed me that I can express my feelings to people.
    • It was cool to answer all these questions, to go back to when I was little. It helped me to think of everything again. I'll probably be thinking about this all day.
    • I enjoyed doing this interview, I guess.
    • It helped. It brought everything out - like it's not stuck back there.
    • Today, this is the first time I've ever let this come out of me; before that, I've held it all inside.

    APPENDIX

    BIBLIOGRAPHY

    Female Offenders - An Afterthought: Report Of The Task Force On Female Offenders Jan. 1991

    REPORTS TO THE JUSTICE FOR GIRLS TASK FORCE:

    1. Assessing Juvenile Justice in Maine: Perceptions of Girls in the System 1997

    2. Girls In Maine: A Sociodemographic Profile Of Juveniles In And Outside Of The Juvenile Justice System 1997

    3. Assessing Juvenile Justice In Maine: Perceptions Of Justice System Personnel 1997

    4. Programs That Work: A Review Of Promising Practices In Female Juvenile Justice 1997

    Justice For Girls Task Force: Findings And Recommendations For Correcting Gender Imbalances In Maine's Juvenile Justice System - Final Report February 1998

    Risk, Resiliency, and Resistance: Current Research on Adolescent Girls

    Ms. Foundation for Women 1991

    Raising Competent Girls: An Exploratory Study Of Diversity In Girls' Views Of Liking One's Self

    Center For Research On Women 1995

    Report From the Front Lines: The Impact of Violence on Poor Women

    Now Legal Defense and Education Fund 1996

    March 1995: Reframing the Needs of Women in Prison: A Relational and Diversity Perspective-Women in Prison Pilot Project: The Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies of Wellesley College

    Chesney-Lind, Meda. Girls, Delinquency, and Juvenile Justice. Belmont, Ca.: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1998.

    Chesney-Lind, Meda. The Female Offender: Girls, Women, and Crime. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, Inc. 1997.

    Herman, First Lady Mary J., Project Director with Women's Health Equity Campaign, Maine Department of Human Services, Bureau of Health, Division of Community and Family Health, Maine Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services. Women's Health: A Maine Profile. Augusta, Maine: Medical Care Development, Inc. 1998.

    Rimm, Dr. Sylvia. See Jane Win: The Rimm Report on How 1,000 Girls Became Successful Women. New York, New York. Crown Publishers. 1999

    Watterson, Kathryn. Women in Prison: Inside the Concrete Womb (Revised Edition). Boston, Mass: Northeast University Press. 1997

    Female Offenders - An Afterthought

    Report Of The Task Force On Female Offenders January 1991