Youth come to Nexus–Onarga Family Healing with very little to their names and histories rich with trauma. Our direct care staff patiently address the unique traumas each of our youth face and help them heal. Michele Schroeder, Clinical Supervisor, recalls one child, whose unique situation sparked a promise to every future child who would walk through our doors.
Alex* came to Nexus-Onarga with a long history of gang involvement and failed residential placement elsewhere before returning to the Department of Juvenile Justice for the second time. When Alex arrived, he did everything possible to create chaos at bedtime, which exhausted the nighttime direct care staff. They were frustrated by his unwillingness to go to bed quietly and were determined to figure out the cause. Staff quickly noticed that Alex would calm down when they spent the night near his door, suggesting that he may be afraid of the dark.
Creating a Safe Space
The first step was to give Alex a nightlight to soothe his nighttime anxiety. The staff also talked to him about nighttime and what that meant to him. He was also encouraged to fill his room with items that made it a comfortable place – items like plants and a fish tank. This once-scary space became his own.
What started with a simple nightlight turned into an opportunity for all our youth here at Nexus–Onarga to personalize their rooms and make them home. When Alex was successfully discharged from his program, he asked to borrow a duffle bag to pack his belongings. He had no luggage and was going to use a garbage bag. From that point forward, another promise to our youth was made. Every child who leaves Nexus–Onarga will do so with their own luggage.
*Name and some details have been changed to protect privacy.