Every second of the day a child is born. Some are lucky enough to belong to good families that provide love and care but unfortunately there are some children that are brought into dysfunctional and unloving families. As a child grows up, hopefully they are taught right from wrong but for some they are not. Every child needs a place that they can call home but for some, home is where they would rather not be. Thankfully there are better places that children can go and one of them is Brookwood Florida.
Brookwood Florida, a young women’s residence was established in 1927 as the Florence Crittenton Home which was a confidential care service for over five thousand unwed mothers. In 1976 the name and goal of the organization was changed into what the community needed; which was a residence that provides housing, therapy, life skills coaching and much more to girls that have been abused, abandoned, neglected, or involved in a family crisis.
Brookwood offers housing and care to almost fifty girls at one time and with the growing need for more space and easier traveling situations, another location was added in Coral Springs which houses at the moment fourteen girls. The staff at Brookwood works very hard to get each girl to finish school, get and keep a job, learn how to manage their money, work together in solo and group environments and for some of the girls, to help reunite them with their families. Brookwood Florida is a qualified and licensed therapeutic group home for fifty adolescent girls (ages range from eleven to twenty-one years old).
Girls are placed at Brookwood by the Department of Children and Families after they have been taken away from home where they were abused or neglected. They may also be placed privately by parents experiencing stressful parent-child relationships. Brookwood’s goals are focused on helping the girls get independent living preparation such as through education programs, learning skills that will make them employable, and teaching them money management and personal problem solving. They also provide mental health counseling. Brookwood is staffed with professionals at all times.
Brookwood’s treatment philosophy is based on a combination of “cognitive, behavioral, and reality treatment” according to the facility’s website. Most of the girls at Brookwood have received inconsistent parenting and were rarely praised for positive behavior. The staff at Brookwood works with them to recognize inappropriate behavior and to learn what appropriate behavior patterns are by teaching the girls logical decision making and praising them when they behave appropriately. The Brookwood staff also teaches the girls the importance of motivation and independence.
The girls need to learn how to take care of themselves so that they can make it on their own in society. The staff accomplishes this by showing the girls positive choices that are available to them, and outcomes and consequences of decisions. These girls learn the importance of setting goals and are given guidance to help reach them. The atmosphere at Brookwood is a positive one. This helps the girls achieve individual growth, and it helps them to improve communication with their families and others. Each resident at Brookwood gets at least two hours per week of individual counseling.
She also gets one hour per day in groups and/or family counseling. Attending school is one of the most important rules at Brookwood. All the girls that live at Brookwood are enrolled at various schools or programs in the area. I was told that they have a few girls that attend St. Petersburg College. Brookwood runs with a “Level System” in place. This system rewards the residents more privileges in return for more responsible behavior. Residents learn that privileges are directly related to responsibilities. This also teaches the girls how to become independent and prepares them for living on their own.
The Level System is a source that gives structured direction to residents and the staff on how individuals advance in Brookwood’s program. It lays out exactly what behaviors are expected of the residents. The Level System has eight levels. Residents move up a level when they understand and master the level’s “required responsible behaviors”. A resident moves up or down levels depending on her behavior. Irresponsible behavior and breaking rules of the house means movement down a level until appropriate behaviors can be maintained.
On the other hand, consistent responsible behavior over a certain amount of time will move a resident up a level. A break down of the levels are: The Intake Level is the level for new residents entering the program and is an orientation or introduction level. Levels four through six are the discharge levels and are for residents who show that they are very responsible and are striving for independent living. (The discharge levels don’t mean the girls are leaving Brookwood right away, but that they are on the right track to being able to live on their own. D” level is the lowest level and is the disciplinary level that’s assigned to those exhibiting extreme irresponsibility and/or who break the first nine rules on the rule sheet. Each level has a minimum time period of how long they can be in it before they move on to the next level. Each level has its own rules, responsibilities and privileges. As a girl progresses on to a new level they get extra privileges and responsibilities. Some of the privileges a resident can receive are longer phone calls, longer outings, later curfews and for girls fifteen and older dates.
The girls ages sixteen and older are responsible for getting part time jobs. Brookwood does their part in helping them by taking them to job fairs and working to get them ready for interviews. Part of getting a job is teaching them how to manage their money. With each paycheck a girl receives seventy-five percent of what they make goes into a savings account. Brookwood strives to make sure that each girl will be able to handle the responsibilities of being a working adult in society. The treatment and therapy that Brookwood offers their residents benefits them and their families and the community.
Some of the girls have come to Brookwood after problems at home with either their biological family or foster family. For some girls though, they either can’t go to their family or they choose not to. Treatment is meant to help each girl deal with problems that are recent or ones that happened in their childhood. Parents can either play a large or small role in their daughter’s progress at Brookwood. If the parents are still involved, then they are contacted periodically to observe progress and to encourage communication. This can help keep potential problems from happening.
The average length of stay at Brookwood varies. The resident’s age at time of arrival and the family’s success in treatment are both factors that contribute to the length of stay. Brookwood would like ideally to be able to reunite families. They try to accomplish this through the use of extensive therapy and home visits. The treatment plan for each girl also includes plans for discharge. All treatment plans are frequently reviewed by the clinical staff. Even after a resident leaves the facility, she is still thought of as a member of the Brookwood family and can still receive treatment if she needs it.
Yearly, two-hundred former residents or more are helped through the aftercare program. This care includes phone calls, letters, and in personal get togethers. Following up on a past resident can last as long as the individual girl has a need for it. Contact with graduates is kept through occasional invitations to lunch, home visits or visits at the places where they work. This is on top of the phone calls and letters. If needed, former residents can also receive financial help to pursue education beyond program completion. Brookwood provides individual and group therapy.
They actually require up to two hours daily with licensed, experienced counselors. Counseling includes anger management, self-esteem enhancement and appropriate peer interaction skills, as well as family counseling and parenting skills. Brookwood’s main goal is to eventually reunite or create harmony with each girl’s family if possible. I was told that in the holiday season, especially for Thanksgiving and Christmas, they try to send as many girls as they can to their families’ homes. Brookwood does not really have any set programs. In a way, it is a program itself.
What they offer to residents is constant support and therapy which is geared toward resolving issues that the girls have been dealing with (for some) their whole lives. The services that Brookwood provides are geared to helping the girls deal with traumatic situations or issues that each girl has faced in their past. All therapy sessions focus on the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, bipolar or other kinds of mental disorders. Through treatment, each girl is helped with learning to work through or cope with their ailments or disorders.
When I visited Brookwood, I met with the program coordinator Dee Monje and she informed me that all the girls suffer from some kind of mental health disorder whether it is bipolar, PTSD, or anxiety, and that most of the girls have had some form of sexual abuse. Talking with the program coordinator was a great experience and she informed me of what exactly goes on at Brookwood. She told me that her job is very gratifying and that she’s happy to be able to make a difference in so many young girls’ lives. For 3 years of my life I passed Brookwood every day on my way to middle school.
I always wondered what went on behind their large doors and I’m so glad that I was able to hear and see what goes on, on the inside. Brookwood sits on about 3 acres of land and is very cozy and comfortable. The staff at Brookwood really does do a great job in working with all the girls. From what I could see each girl that interacted with the staff there seemed to have a decent relationship. The stability and structure that Brookwood provides is evident in their rules and responsibilities that are given to each girl. Brookwood provides these girls with the reality of what is out in the real world.
By giving the girls chores and teaching them how to plan out things for the future, they are giving the girls life-long lessons that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. I believe that what Brookwood offers to its residence and to the community is very effective. The level system is very structured and realistic and the girls all seem to respond to it well. Brookwood’s biggest goal is to show its residence what the reality of the world is and I think that that is very important. They want every resident to succeed and do well for themselves.
You can tell that it is a loving place and that it offers a lot of stability that I believe can be very hard to find at times. I was able to meet a few of the girls and they all seemed very nice and respectable. You can tell that while Brookwood is extremely structured, it is because they care about every resident and they want them to succeed and be happy. All the staff seemed very approachable and kind and you can tell that they really enjoy their job. Of course, they have had conflicts with some residents, and sometimes the program does not work well in some cases.
But for the most part, the program coordinator said that the treatment offered is very effective and they have many success stories. In the news letter that goes out from Brookwood there are stories about former residents that are leading great lives. Some just finished getting a degree; others were promoted or have gotten married. It’s really impressive to see how well the staff has done in improving so many people’s lives. Hopefully the success stories will continue to thrive at Brookwood and more and more girls’ wounds can be healed.