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Opinion & Essays - Oct, 1997 Issue #48

Transporting or Escorting
by: Richard Armstrong
Boundarylines Inc.
Moyie Springs, Idaho

Transporting and Escorting are Professional services that have generated considerable controversy over the last few years. To understand what, if any, differences there are between these services and Interventions, I would like to share my experiences and observations about this intense and highly rewarding work. 

As one who has done both Interventions and offered Interim care for adolescents, I have been in the situation of engaging with kids both at the pick-up stage as well as the receiver stage of kids worked with by Transport and Escort Agents. I have also been in situations of engaging with kids immediately after completing Wilderness Programs. The most glaring disservices in these situations are the techniques used to get these kids to their destinations. 

Recently, I moved two young ladies on two separate occasions from their completion of a wilderness program. They both had positive things to say about their experiences. Yet, they still had a lingering resentment because of the deception used to get them there. They were not told by their parents why the decision was made to enroll them, and they were lied to by the “Transport Agents” as to what was going to be expected of them at the program. “Oh, you’ll get to go camp-out for a week or so and you’ll have lots of fun” was what both these young ladies were told. They both expressed the view that if they had been told up-front about what was going to happen, they would have had a better attitude starting the program. A better attitude might have helped them to rise more to the challenges and perhaps, ultimately, enriched themselves further. 

Do these kids distort the truth? Of course! Do all of them, all the time? No! I’ve found them to be very candid and refreshingly honest when they can get clear and focused. With these kids, there is not always a hidden agenda. 

There is another concern I have. This is the specific techniques of some “Transport/Escort agencies” and their attitudes to “oppositional kids.” There seems to be an attitude with some of these Agencies that their only responsibility, when it comes to interacting with these kids, is either blind obedience to the parents, or, to just get the child from Point A to Point B in the most expedient fashion. They seem to give no thought to what the state of mind the child might have upon arrival. 

If we expect and demand that children get honest with their lives, then what is the message we teach when they are lied to at the first step of what is supposed to be a new beginning? Sometimes parents are fearful of what their child might do, and fear they might lose again in a confrontation. They know there is a problem! They have seen him/her at their worst! And, they just want “the problem” fixed! I can understand the parent’s fear and frustration, but when the Transport or Escort person responds to the parent’s fear of confrontation and does not insist on the parents honestly communicating with their child, and when the Transport or Escort person does not communicate honestly with the child, the problem simply gets moved to a different location, and the healing process is delayed, if not side-tracked. 

One other technique of “picking up” kids I seriously question is based on fear of the kids themselves. Sometimes the parents feel their child is threatening and intimidating them. Some children may even have become physical toward their parents and/or others. When the parents communicate this and it is not properly evaluated and filtered by the professionals involved, there is a danger of unnecessarily escalating the situation. 

In one situation I know of the Agents burst into a young man’s room at 5 a.m., and woke him up by putting handcuffs on him. Of course the child struggled and resisted with all his strength. In the struggle to get him outside into the car, the parents’ heirloom grandfather clock at the bottom of the stairs was destroyed, and of course the parents were devastated by the sight of their son being manhandled. Perhaps the Agents had the best of intentions, but lacking the expertise, they guaranteed it would not be a positive experience, but helped create more anger and resentment. 

In my experience, most “problem” kids can be helped to understand that, in most cases, they have created this predicament by the choices they have made. But, when “Agents,” as opposed to real caring professionals, take the short, expedient method, they end up, ultimately adding to the kids baggage instead of helping to lighten their load. 

The Intervention process is dramatically different from “Transport” or “Escort.” The Webster dictionary defines Intervene as to 1. Come or occur between. 2. Mediate. This is how I see our role with the services we provide. We come to the home or school or a variety of other situations and come between what the adolescent is doing, and start the process of accountability. We mediate the situation where the kid is treated with as much respect and dignity as they will allow. We engage with them to the point where they either willingly agree to go, or start to posture or become more negative in acting out. They then see the direct consequences, and boundaries are established. In almost all cases, with the exception of a child being heavily on drugs, we have been able to move children out of their existing situations to the next step without having a blow-out. 

They know by the look in our eyes, and the tone in our voice, that we are being honest to them about what is going on. We also insist and encourage the Parents to be the ones to tell their child what decisions they have come to and why. We are there to support the Family. This is not to point fingers or lay blame, but to assist in the process of healing and being a catalyst for change. I have learned that when the kids finally realize they cannot manipulate their Parents, and when the parents set their differences aside to do what is best for their children, the child cannot help but to start understanding they are loved unconditionally, but their behavior is not. 

When families need specialized Intervention services, success is more likely when it is remembered that a positive process is crucial. Be aware of the techniques that will likely be used. Be comfortable with the likely techniques. Talk with the person who will be intervening with your child, and be satisfied they will treat your child as positive as your child will allow them to. Ultimately, that process can have a very beneficial result in bringing Families back together again as a final result. And, a well done process can pave the way for the defiant teenager to take that next step into adulthood and become the responsible and caring person that we believe is hiding in there somewhere. 

Copyright © 1997, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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