At Domus we find and love young people who are shut out, unwanted, unloved, and afraid…the young people society has failed and discarded and, without our intervention, would drop out of their schools and their communities and be incarcerated, homeless, or dead. Because our young people have been chronically exposed to adverse childhood experiences, and because they have reacted to this trauma by harming or threatening to harm themselves or others, they are feared and shunned.
We walk alongside these young people, regardless of their behavior and regardless of how long it takes. We don’t give up on kids, and we don’t give in to the prevailing philosophy of “three strikes and you’re out.” We don’t kick young people out of our programs, even when faced with very challenging behaviors such as aggressive and/or assaultive behaviors, criminal activity, arrests, or non-compliance with program rules. We understand that hurt people hurt people, and we understand that we are the last stop for these children and that there is no way they are going to openly embrace our help. A young person’s unwillingness to engage in our model does not deter our commitment to working with them. In fact, we see this resistance as an appropriate reaction: They have been rejected and discarded for their entire lives and are reluctant to trust and be hurt yet again.
Our goal for young people in our programs is to create the conditions necessary for them to get on a path toward health and opportunity so they can engage and succeed in school and ultimately have satisfying and productive lives.
It took years for these young people to get to where they are—hurt, scared, lacking basic skills—and it will take a long time for them to heal. Addressing the challenges facing these youth is not a quick fix, but investing in their recovery is our only option: If we’re their last stop, but we kick them out, where will they go?
Helping young people get on the path to a productive, happy adulthood is not only a moral imperative but an economic one too: Communities that are economically strong need employable, emotionally healthy adults who can be contributing citizens. If we fail to help them now, we will pay later in far more expensive interventions, including lost tax revenue, lost productivity, and more. Investing in solutions to ensure struggling youth can be those citizens will help our communities thrive now and in the future.