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Is There Hope for Disadvantaged Teenagers?

If there is no childhood intervention for those with complex trauma and behaviours, is it too late for them when they become teenagers?

One of my old co-workers said to me that they stopped working with teenagers with complex trauma and behaviours because they felt like “it was too late”. They said they felt there was no hope for change at that age, and the patterns had been set. They preferred to work with children as they felt they could make more of a difference in their lives that would carry them through into their teenage years.

I found this interesting, did people really believe there was no hope for disadvantaged teenagers? I often thought about this having worked in a residential care setting with teenagers who had experienced complex trauma, some who had alcohol and substance abuse issues. It was a cycle that seemed hard to get out of, even harder when parents or siblings are living the same life. The evidence shows that if children don’t form secure attachment with one or both parents, it can affect them as they get older.

They say that it takes one person to change someone’s life. I wondered if this were true for some, or would they just revert back to the habits they’ve always know and grown up if these role models left their lives?

Currently, I work with disadvantaged teenagers in a school setting supporting teens with wellbeing needs. I asked my co-worker, a wellbeing worker, who helps out in a classroom for young moms, what she thought about there being no hope for teenagers. She said “that’s bullshit!” I asked her if she thought early intervention was better than when they became teenagers, and did she feel there was hope for teens who had experienced trauma and disadvantage?

She said “I couldn’t do my job if I didn’t have hope for them”. She felt that people can’t survive without hope. The classroom teacher chimed in and said that she felt if there is a strengths based approach taken with the students, there is always something someone can work on, and make a career from. She went on to say “they need a slight spark to give them the hope that they can do it.”

The young mother’s bring their children to class with them, and they are just gorgeous kids. I can see that their mom’s are really trying to get back and finish their schooling. There is a real sense of community in the classroom, and it made me wonder, what will happen when these young mom’s leave school? Will their kids have a good future without the support there every day?

I asked my co-workers if they felt the kids would fall into a similar predicament after the girls left school, as we know that disadvantage can be a cycle in families. My co-worker said “their hope is to be good role models for their children”. The teacher added “you can’t shape children without shaping their parents first.” She said that the young mother’s want to show their children that you can make a mistake and it’s ok. If their parents have a will to want to change, they see an enormous impact working with these young moms, which helps their kids.

These two women I work with, who have been doing their job in this setting for 15+ years, they told me that they’ve seen these young mother’s in terrible times, at their lowest point. They said that some of the girls find their way very slowly, some come back years later with a career or a degree.

“There is hope.”

I type words on a keyboard.

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