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Interview with: Hector Ayala,
Interview by: Louis J. Marchiafava
Date: April 14, 1975
LM: 00:18 Perhaps we could begin by getting
some background information on you. Are you a native of
HA: No, I have been here only a short time. I’ve been here since October. Originally—I guess you could say that I come from Mexico City, although I was born in Virginia. I went to elementary school in Mexico. I went to high school in New Jersey, and I went back for college at the University of Mexico. I then returned to the United States to the University of Kansas to do my graduate work where I obtained my PhD last May.
LM: In what area did you do your graduate degree?
HA: My graduate work was in developmental child psychology. My areas of concentration were two things. One of them was to develop teacher-training models for schools with economically deprived children. We are primarily working and training teachers in the ghetto schools of Kansas City, Kansas. The first year of my graduate training was involved with that and doing some research in the classrooms. The second part of my graduate training, which was actually 3 years, was involved in developing models for rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents. I’ve been involved in what’s called the “Teaching Community Model” which is a model that has developed in Kansas for the past 8 years. The model advocates the establishment of the community-based, small, residential treatment facilities for juvenile delinquents. The whole thing was started around 8 years ago in Kansas. It has been supported by successive grants from the NIMH. Specifically, the center studies primary delinquency. I was involved in 2 levels. I was involved as a researcher, and I was involved in a practical way too. I was one of the, what you might call, “teaching parent” which is a professional, trained, childcare worker. I was in charge with my wife with running one of the group homes. One of the group homes was the Achievement Place for Girls. We dealt with a population up to 6 court-adjudicated, delinquent girls in our custody in the home. So, I worked within the program and outside the program as a researcher too. I spent 2 years as a teaching parent while at the same time finishing my degree at that time. Of the many people who come and visit Kansas, there was a group here in Houston. They were interested in developing an Achievement Place, or Teaching-Family, group homes. They were also really interested in also developing research and a training center. So, by one way or the other they secured some funds. We were able to come down here and set up the first homes and develop some community support and some community involvement in developing community-based treatment facilities for juvenile delinquents.
LM: How are you funded now?
4:18 Houston Achievement Place is the organization
that I work for. It is a non-profit corporation. It is decided
primarily to the development and establishment of
community-based treatment alternatives for juvenile delinquents. Our funding is mixed. We receive some portion of our funding from a consortium of agencies which is TRIAD. It is juvenile probation, MHMRA, and child welfare. That is part of our funding. Another part of the funding comes from the University of Houston, specifically the Graduate School of Social Work. Another part of the funding comes from Hope Center, and some of it from donations and private funds. Let me describe a little bit what Achievement Place’s goals and commitments are. Our basic goal here in Texas is to develop two demonstration programs—a home for boys and a home for girls. We also want to develop an outpatient training program. What we’re gonna be doing is using those two faculties to develop a training program so that other agencies in the community that have group homes that are working or involved in community-based treatment can send their staff to be trained at Houston Achievement Place. The Houston Achievement Place will be providing the technological know-how in the training, in the staffing, and in the evaluation of both facilities. We’re not really trying to develop more and more homes directly on their own but rather to support some of the training, know-how, and evaluation know-how to other facilities and agencies. Therefore, part of our funding which has not yet been obtained is for the training program. We, of course, try to tap into different funding sources within the state of Texas as well as some federal funding. We will know within this year as to how that looks. The funding that we are presently receiving is just for the operation of the group homes, and some of it is for the administrative overhead, my salary, and some of the other people working with us.
LM: Let me clarify your position in the project.
LM: What is your official position?
HA: 6:48 I am the executive director of the Houston Achievement Place. Usually, the Achievement Place is run by a board of directors which is composed of people from the community protection and people interested in the general area. I am the executive director. I am directly responsible for the board. Then there are people who are directly involved in training. There are people who run the group homes. There are a group of students from the University of Houston who were assigned here to do their field practicum. What we are doing by that is we’re developing an outpatient service to serve the parents and children who are having problems in school. They are called the
“pre-delinquent population.” These are kids who have not really committed severe offenses to warrant institutional or residential placement. So we try to hit the area of delinquency from two aspects—prevention and ongoing treatment.
LM: So primarily then you deal with pre-delinquents?
HA: In the outpatient service we are. In the residential homes, there are what we call “hardcore delinquent youths” which are the youth that have been committed a number of offenses. They have failed more traditional points of interventions such as probation or foster placement. They have committed a sufficient number of offenses to be termed or judged a delinquent youth. Usually it is in the last stage before they are sent to a state school or to Gainsville or Gatesville, whatever it is. Those kids are given another opportunity to work within the community, and they are usually placed in Achievement Place. Our facilities and group homes are small, community-based, family-style group homes. What I mean is they are older homes that are renovated with staff consisting of a husband and wife team who are professionally trained. They are graduates students who are earning their master’s degree in communicative development or child development. They are the primary staff at the facilities. They live with a group of anywhere from 6 to 8 delinquent youths. It would take me awhile to describe the entire program. Basically what happens is the kids come in, and the whole program is geared towards getting the kids back into the community with their natural parents, if possible, or with their foster parents. We try to get them back into their natural community again as soon as possible. It’s not a custodial program; it’s a treatment program. It’s geared towards release of the youth as soon as possible. It’s not a long-term commitment but rather a short-term commitment. The average length is, say, from somewhere between 9 months to one year.
LM: Is this program similar to the one operated by the Hope Center?
HA: No. It is similar in certain aspects. The whole philosophy of treatment is different. It is a behavioral program. The basis of the approach with behavior modification is a completely different discipline from one that Hope Center uses which is not behavioral but more of a guided-group interaction. It is more of a dynamic approach than ours is. As I said, our model is based on the Kansas experiments and the Kansas model. By the way, the Kansas model has been replicated with over 55-60 group homes across the United States in 14 different states. As I said, there is the Kansas part which is the original, central training center. There is another training center within North Carolina. There is the Houston one which has been established. There will be one in Las Vegas. These centers will be sort of providing other training in developing community-based treatment.
LM: How long have these others center been operational?
HA: 11:10 North Carolina has been in operation for 2½ years. Houston has just started; it has been here for 6 months. Las Vegas hasn’t even opened up. People have been hired, and they are going to be starting soon. Kansas, as I said, has been in operation for 8 years. What is happening? First it was believed that we could do all of the training in Kansas. It became very clear that there was more of a demand than what was actually staffed. What we have done is broken up into small sub R&D centers in different parts of the country.
LM: How successful have these other centers been?
HA: Very successful. For instance, North Carolina has set up 11 group homes in the state of North Carolina. Houston has set up 2 homes. They are in the process of setting up and running a third home. Kansas has most of them. I want to say that 35 homes have been established and trained by staff from Kansas for the Achievement Place Project which is a part of the University of Kansas. We talked a lot about training and juvenile delinquency. Another thing makes Achievement Place as a Teaching-Family model kind of different from other models is that we’re deeply committed to evaluation, following up, and gathering statistics about effectiveness of a program versus other programs particularly from institutional care. Some of the recent statistics show, for instance, that one of the most important measures in treatment of juvenile delinquents or criminal offenders is recidivism. When the youth come into the program, how many of them return? What is the rate of return? What is the number of police offenses before and after the program? What we did was we selected random a group of kids who went to Achievement Place and compared them to a random group of kids who went to a state school in Kansas. The statistics showed that the rate of return for kids at an institution is somewhere between 55-65%. The rate of return for kids in an Achievement Place style home is somewhere between 17-22%. So as you can see, there is marked reduction in recidivism rate. Not only that, but looking at it in a more positive way since recidivism tells you how much failure you are having, it could be that the other 83% of those 17% that went back are not doing anything. So now the measurement that we look at is what is happening to those kids who are making and what are they doing. It looks like 90% of our kids are still remaining in school versus comparing that to state schools where 2% or 3% of the kids who’ve made it from state institutions are in school. So again, there’s some indication that not only do we have less failure but the kids are staying in school and doing something more productive. We incorporate that sort of measuring procedure in all of our group homes. We have federal funding to carry out that sort of evaluation. Of course, that takes awhile to gather data because that means it needs a 3- to 4-year followup on these kids. For instance, we will not have a followup data on our homes here in Houston until 1 or 2 years from now. It is really pointing out and looking at what the effectiveness is. However, we do other sorts of evaluations which we have found to be extremely interesting. It is called “consumer evaluation” and consumer satisfaction measures. We do them in half-month intervals. We send out questionnaires to the parents and to the referring agencies like Juvenile Probational, child welfare, judges, or juvenile probation officers. We interview the kids themselves. We ask them to evaluate at satisfaction levels how effective, cooperative, and fair the program is. We have
semi-annual feedback on how the program is doing, and how much it is satisfying the consumers. This allows us to get more feedback, and it allows us to correct our programs in order to fulfill the needs of our consumers better. Followup, or what we call the outcome evaluation, takes awhile to even really generate it back to us and give us some feedback.
15:47 I’m interested about the specific treatment that
you mentioned. How do you change their behavior?
HA: Basically, our philosophy is that kids that come into the program have developed a repertoire of inappropriate behavior. Inappropriate behavior or any sort of behavior is a learned behavior. It is not really our goal to change their behavior but rather to teach them an alternative repertoire. Let’s say there is a kid who is an aggressive kid; we never take that behavior away. He will still have that and have that available. We teach them an alternative way of reacting to, let’s say, a stress situation by being a pacifier for instance. For instance, a kid in school normally reacts to being teased by aggression or fighting with another kid. We might teach them other ways to handle that situation. For instance, they could go to the principal, moving out of the situation, or not reacting to that certain situation. That kid came in and only had one way of reacting to a stress situation. We are trying to do is enrich his repertoire so he has other different ways to do that. Here’s a more simple case. One of the characteristics of a juvenile delinquent is that his social repertoire is very limited. He doesn’t know how to interact or react with adults or adult figures. When the kid gets in trouble in school or with the police, his first reaction will be cussing him out and telling him to go to hell, etc. What we try to do with the kid is teach him in another way to relate to that. Maybe if they try it another way like giving them eye contact, or you smile and say “Yes, sir” or “No, sir.” The possibilities that you will get in trouble are much less than if you react very violently. You probably won’t get suspended, or you probably won’t get incarcerated. It is very interesting because there are some studies now showing that the behavior of the youth at the time of being detained or stopped by police determines they are detained or incarcerated or not. For instance, if the kid reacts violently to police stopping him, there is a greater likelihood that he’ll be detained. If the kid has a nice approach socially, he’ll be able to stay away from detention. So in fact, we’re teaching them those skills that all kids, such as middleclass kids who don’t get in trouble, usually have. They know how to discriminate, when to be disruptive and inappropriate, and when not to. This really is basically what’s happening. What we do then is to try to develop in three areas of skills in them. The first are social skills by relating to authority or adults and expanding their repertoire. The second area is self-care and maintenance skills. Most of these kids don’t know how to keep themselves clean. They don’t how to keep their clothes together or keep their rooms clean. If those kids are gonna be out in the world by themselves, they better learn how to cook for themselves, etc. We also do a lot of intensive, academic remediation. Most of the kids that come in are three or four years behind. We work directly with the regular schools, and we do a lot of academic tutoring and remedial teaching with them.
LM: 19:25 Where do you get the tutors? Excuse me.
HA: The tutors are usually volunteers or some of the teaching parents do it directly, but we do have some volunteers from the university or from volunteer organizations in town. Some of the kids are—. The problems in school are not academic. Many times they are failing because their behavior is so inappropriate, and all you really need to do is turn the behavior around and teach them another way to interact. As a result, their school performance will go up. If you just change his behavior, he will start getting Cs instead of Ds. It tells you a little bit about our school system. It’s not really academic performance that really makes a difference but if they are respectful to their teacher or not. One of the areas that we really like about our program, which really differentiates our program from many other programs, is what we call the “self-government system.” As the kids get involved and become part of the program, they take more and more of the responsibility for the program itself to operate. They, in fact, have the authority to change rules and modify the program to fit their needs. They have what they call “self-government system” where they are able to decide the sanctions, rewards, or punishments for their peers. So there’s a true pure government. The staff and teaching parents function as consultants in their decision making. Of course, it doesn’t happen right away. You have to develop that pure culture. You have to train them how to be fair, how to give positive criticism and more constructive criticism versus just trying to destroy somebody verbally about something they did wrong. So we spend a lot of time getting the kids involved and training them to be managers and supervisors. They’re the ones that check whether the jobs were done. If a kid violates a rule, they bring it up in a sort of semi-trial procedure. The kids themselves become the jurors of the kid. They decide the consequences of what’s gonna happen. It’s a very powerful peer government. It’s sort of like the Gorky colonies in Russia, but a little bit more liberal in the sense that we have less and less control as they get more and more sophisticated. We find this to be tremendously important part of the program. The peers have more power of influence to control the kids behavior than the teaching parents or adults would have. If you train the kids so the kids are sold to the program and like it, they are going to be very instrumental in shaping up kids who come in and teaching them the right way to do things. They will teach them how to avoid a fight. It’s more believable if a kid who has a reputation for being a real big bully in school is now in Achievement Place and is successful. If he tells the new kids that come in how to avoid a fight versus a staff person who tells them the same thing. We found that the use of peers as tutors and instructors is probably one of the most important parts of our program.
LM: 22:52 You’ve answered part of my next question. I’d like to go into a little more detail as to how you actually teach them these alternatives. You mentioned, of course, these peers. But are there any other ways that—?
HA: We have one called an “incentive system,” a point system, which is part of the token economy. All of the rewards and privileges are earned through proper behavior. Let’s say, for instance, that getting up in the morning earns so many points or going to school earns so many points, etc. By engaging in the appropriate behaviors, they earn so many points and so forth. They lose points for inappropriate behavior. What we do is we reward appropriate behavior, and we punish inappropriate behavior. Our punishment is, of course, the loss of points. Our more severe punishment is social extinction or just having the kid lose points. There’s no physical punishment or isolation, etc. What we do is—. The basic training comes about this way. If you have a kid who engages in inappropriate behavior, it’s then the responsibility of the teaching parent or staff person to tell the kid what he did that was wrong. We call this the “teaching instruction.” We tell him that what he did was wrong, what would be the correct way to do it, have him practice or role play the appropriate way of interacting, and either consequate by losing points for doing it wrong and then giving him points back for doing it right. It is this continuation of giving him points for doing it appropriately and taking points away for doing it inappropriately. It’s basically a reward and punishment system, but it’s very systematic and closely engineered system. The kid knows exactly what he needs to do to graduate from the program, to get in trouble, and what he needs to do to get out of trouble. It always depends on his behavior. He knows exactly what he needs to do and how many points he needs and how many points he loses for each of those things. As they become more and more proficient in this level, they are taken off the points system and come into what we call a “merit system” in which there are no more points anymore. The only interaction or controls are those they usually encounter in natural or social sanctions or criticism [25:18 Unintelligible] or by the staff.
LM: I’m sorry.
HA: No, go ahead.
LM: 25:25 Why is it important for them to want to gain or lose points? What’s in it for them?
HA: Okay. In order to have television, snacks, going out on the weekends, going out to see their girlfriend, watching a late movie, etc, they have to have points. All of the privileges and all of the good things in life now cost. They cost in terms of their behavior. For everything that they do, they earn points. So if you lose points, you also lose the opportunity of engaging in those privileges. One of the privileges that the kids earn is most of the kids go home on the weekend. That’s one of their privileges. If they engage in inappropriate behavior during the week in sufficient amounts or a sufficient number of times, they will have to stay in the group home with nobody else but themselves working and working to earn those points. It becomes fairly clear to them in the first or second day that everything is based on points and that they better start caring about points and that points really do mean a lot. It’s their exchange system. It’s the money for them to buy those things. They know exactly what points are and how much they cost and what sort of exchange they need. They know how much they get for doing a job, for going to school, for being polite, for babysitting, for doing yard work, for studying their assignments in school, etc. So it’s a very easy way to earn points. But it’s also very easy to lose points. They lose points for interrupting when they aren’t supposed to interrupt. They lose points for not being polite, for skipping school, not doing their homework, or not cleaning their bedroom to the appropriate level that they or that the kids themselves decided. Again, that’s the situation. The interesting thing is as the peer government develops, the kids themselves become semi-teaching parents. They themselves have the authority later on as managers to take away or give points to their peers.
LM: How many children and youth are in the program?
HA: 27:48 The average number is usually from 6 to 8 but no more than 8. It ranges from about 6-7.
LM: Now what about the outpatient?
HA: Well the outpatient service is run separately. We have from somewhere from 20 to 30 kids. That’s run also in a behavioral program, but what we do there is contract specifically for behavior. For instance, we have a kid who is truant from school. What we do is we work with the parents to set up all his rewards on a contract basis. When the kid hasn’t gone to school for a couple of months, we contract him. If he goes for 2 days out of the next week, he will get X-and-X things. When the kid compromises and signs the contract. The contract is, of course, enforced by the kid and by the parent. What we do is teach the parents and the kids to negotiate in the contract for certain goals and certain behaviors.
LM: How are the children referred to you?
HA: Through the outpatient service, I’m referred from the school districts and from juvenile probation. From the residential program, they come from juvenile probation and child welfare. They are different kids. The ones in the outpatient are primarily pre-delinquent kids who are starting to have problems and haven’t had really severe kind of problems. The ones in the residential program are what you call “hardcore” or the delinquent youth.
LM: What are some of the offenses in the hardcore group?
HA: Breaking and entering, drugs, or assault with a deadly weapon. Our exclusion criteria used to be that we didn’t take anybody who had a violent offense such as rape or assault but that has changed over the last couple of months. We have been forced now to take those sort of kids into our group homes. Most of our kids have an extremely high runaway history. They have run away 16 or 17 times from home or from other institutions. A lot of them are into really heavy drug usage. They have stolen things, assaulted other people, or shoplifted.
LM: What is the duration of their stay with you?
HA: It averages from 9 months to a year. Some kids may stay longer or some may graduate 4 or 5 months. It depends on them, because they know exactly what they need to do graduate.
LM: 30:31 What is the ethnic composition of the children?
HA: Well, in Houston—Let’s say that out of the majority 75% is either black or brown. We do have some white children, but the majority is minority children.
LM: Are there any particular problems that are unique to each ethnic group? Are there certain cultural traits which make them more vulnerable say to a particular mode of behavior?
HA: I don’t think so. There are some cultural things that are going to change the way the parents perceive their inappropriate behavior. They’re basically doing the same things as white kids or middleclass kids. The difference is the working with our Chicano families. They are not so preoccupied in, for instance, the truancy of their kids. From our experience, they seem to be able to tolerate it more. They seem to be less worried than say, for instance, a white parent or a black parent of them missing school. Some part of it is because those parents have usually have either had very poor experiences in school or had some language problems. They probably didn’t go to school at all, so they don’t see a great deal of need for school. I think the difference primarily relates to parental practices and values on things like school or what’s appropriate in the community, etc. So there might be some differences there. There’s no difference in the way their behavior is or the way that they react to discipline. It’s basically a different spirit since the parents come from one parent family or from low socioeconomic to high socioeconomic families.
LM: Have you been able to observe any differences in stability in the families from one group to another?
HA: I don’t think we have that much data. That would be a very casual observation, but I would say that the majority of our kids come from broken families. It’s rare for kids to come from whole, integrated families. Usually, it’s the mother or the parents that aren’t there, no longer present, divorced, or deserted the house. I don’t see any difference between the cultures. In Kansas, for instance, where I worked before I came here, the majority of the kids were white and really poor. Again, most of the kids were from broken families. There were problems in how they perceived the importance of school. It probably was perceived more important than some of the families here in Houston, but then again, they probably didn’t have the experiences of failure in school as much as the people here. There’s a great deal of differences in employing the model in a rural community to what is in Houston. I think this is our first real experience in trying to establish modeling in an urban setting. It creates a lot of headaches, of course. One of the things, for instance, is schools. There are so many kids here. It’s very hard to get teachers and principals directly involved in one kid because there are so many that are in trouble. There are over 60,000 referrals a year to juvenile prevention.
LM: That’s very high.
HA: 34:39 It’s very hard to get people directly involved with that. One of the things that we want to do and generate is to get the groups themselves directly involved in their treatment. For instance, what we’re trying to do now is develop in Navarro. What we want to do is get people in Navarro into either a nonprofit corporation and ask for funding. Houston Achievement Place will help them look for funding and staff their facilities. We’ll get them a brown couple who are well-motivated. They’ll work primarily with that specific sort of problem within the specific community. There are some problems. For instance, we have white couple and then we have all black children or all brown children. I think it would be better for us to have a group home in this specific barrier and have a brown couple with most of the kids from that area because they’ll know some of the cultural problems. They’ll even know the food they will fix them and the things they’re gonna respond to or music, etc. We want to do is take our approach and sell it to small group of individuals who are interested in providing the care for their own delinquents. That’s really what we want to generate. We try to do the same thing with some of the black groups here. For instance at the Martin Luther King Foundation, we’re trying to get them interested in developing an Achievement Place that’s going to be directed and guided by them. We would, for instance, help them get funding and training. We’d get them a good couple teaching parents. We’d try to do that with the Navarro home too. Our whole goal is not for us to direct the owner-run homes but to get parts of the community themselves to own and to generate their own treatment facilities. We feel that that’s really where it’s at—that the community should be responsible for their own problems in delinquency in that community and in that area. They’re gonna know how many kids they have, where the hangout areas are, and what sort of problems and dangers the kids are facing.
LM: You used the term of “cultural problems.” Do any specifically come to your mind? What would these problems be?
HA: Well, there are a number of problems. My orientation is very empirical, and I tend to not like to make inferences. But I’ll give you some of my observations. From the database, they’re probably not very valid from empirical viewpoint. Our two teaching parents that we have here in Houston are white teaching parents that we got from outside of Texas. One is from California, and one is from Ohio. The reason we got them is they were already trained and didn’t have to go through the training process. In one of the homes where the majority of the kids are black, there’s an initial reaction against having a white teaching parent in a position of authority. It takes awhile to explain to the kids that there’s no racial discrimination and that the teaching parents are there because they are the white oppressor but because they care. It’s hard to convey to some of those kids who have gone through a history of discrimination or have not been very well-received by whites. It is hard for them to really warm up to the white couple and to relate well with them. It takes longer than if you had a black couple for instance. Even if the white couple were more skilled, there would still be the initial resistance of their cultural perception on how a young couple would react to them. Interestingly enough, I don’t find that prominence with browns or Chicanos. They have an easier time to relate or integrate with, for instance, a white couple or white teaching parents. I don’t know why that is, but I guess there must be some cultural, traditional ties. From our experience, one of the other reactions is the concept of work ethic. The homes really do reinforce or reward work by doing your things, keeping your chores, working hard at it, etc. With some of our black children, we find that they tend not to perceive that as a very meaningful experience. It might be more of an exploitative relationship. The kids are kind of asked to do too much or there aren’t enough rewards, etc. Again, we don’t find that with white children as much and in some of the brown children. Although, I would say that we don’t have as much experience yet to really make a good observation of the different cultural problems. It’s going to take awhile. What my hunch is that it’s really going to be parent’s perceptions of the importance for treatment. For instance, some of the parents are very motivating in getting the kid out of trouble while some of them are not and have given up on the kid. I don’t know if it’s racial or cultural. It really depends on the types of experiences that they’ve had.
LM: 41:04 What about the children themselves? How do they relate to one another in a mixed cultural group? Or do you have them in—?
HA: Yes, yes. We have had some problems but very minimum. The kids are usually in a group home where there’s so much structure and emphasis on work and improvement and stuff like that. The program is so structured that there’s little chance of somebody being favored. The kids really get along very well in a group home. They have developed good peer groups, and we have found very little problems in their mixing or getting along with each other. Now, it might be because we don’t have enough experience, but as they come we’ll have more problems. I tend to not believe that, because the setting does not allow for that. One of the roles of the program is to learn how get along with kids regardless of what they are or what they’re doing. There are little clicks like if we have two or three blacks and two or three whites. Some of them might be into this kind of music versus the other, and there will be a little of contest over that. I think the role of the teaching parent is to perceive that if there is some connotations to bring it forth. They need to explain why that’s inappropriate, why it’s not therapeutic, and why it’s not a good. They have a common denominator. They all have been in trouble by the law. They all have problems. They all need to graduate, so it doesn’t really matter whether you’re white, brown, or black. You are a delinquent kid, and that makes you the same as everybody else.
LM: 42:51 What is your projection for the future? Do you intend to expand the program to bring in larger numbers of children?
HA: What do we intend to do? We don’t intend to expand our programs. What we intend to do is to be able to generate more interest from the community and have more community groups develop their own group homes, and we will help them stand. We do project to do that. There’s a couple of things that are happening to us. For instance, the closure of the institutions by a federal judge to the TYC institutions. What is going to happen is all of the kids are going to come back into the community. At the present time, there is no program. So there’s very few programs that can take on the burden. What we are trying to do is generate more interest, more sympathy, and organize the community to provide this sort of community-based treatment. We do see that, and that that’s where we are moving—to generate more interest in other parts of Texas. I think we’ve stated to get some feelers and more and more people interested. It may take awhile, but I think the whole trend is going that way.
LM: How do you select your staff members?
HA: How do we select our staff members. Well, we usually look for young and recently graduated college students who have had a background in social sciences, psychology, sociology, social work, etc. They have a great deal of interest in working directly with children. We follow a certain interview pattern, and we want to see how they respond to the problems of dealing with children in such a closed setting. We haven’t developed yet the most successful way to select these parents. We are kind of still in a hit-and-miss sort of procedure. Some things are important. For instance, humor is a very important component. We find that the teaching parents need to be able to take things jokingly, to not get too serious about what they are doing, and are able to see things as what they really are. That is probably an important quality. Teaching parents who are not too sold on either religious or philosophical beliefs are usually better candidates than those that are very set and want to get the kids involved in a certain philosophy or religious belief. We really do not push any religious training at all. We leave the religious training completely to the parents in their natural environment. We want to do it, but we are not able to do it since we are publically funded. Another thing that we found is that if their marriage has been going on for at least 2 or 3 years, they have a better chance of surviving. The teaching-parent profession does two things. It either makes your marriage a better marriage, or it breaks you up very fast because there are a lot of pressure with the job. Most of the teaching-parents are working with the kids 24-hours a day. They usually have relief on the weekends, but they are there constantly at all times and working with the group of kids. So it’s a very hard job. We try everyday to get better indicators to be able to select our teaching parents because we still have some failures. We find a couple that really looks good. However, one or two months later after they become teaching parents from our initial training program, we find out they are not very good. They have some problems in relating with the kids and in dealing with the kids themselves and following the program. We still don’t have an exact science and personalized selection there. We are starting to get more and more hunches as to what it is that gives us good indications.
LM: 47:14 Why do couples want to do this?
It can’t be financial, can it?
HA: No. It’s not financial. I think there are a lot of rewards. One of the rewards is, for instance, by becoming a teaching parent you go into a M.A. training program. By the end of the year, you’ll have an M.A. You’ll earn your M.A. just by being a teaching parent. Many of the requirements of the degree involve the job itself. The second reason is there’s a lot of rewards in working with these sort of kids. Sometimes they are long-term. The kids really don’t start to like you until a couple of months after they’ve been in the program. Then you see the kids change and stay out of trouble. The parents are usually appreciative of what’s going on. There’s a lot of rapport because you get to be known by the community and recognized for what you’re doing. For instance, since their pay is pretty appropriate, but they can get free room and board. They are able to save money. It gives young couples time to save money and get their nest egg together to buy a home later or whatever they want to do. So there are some incentives built into the position. It’s a hard position though. The burnout rate is 2 to 2½ years. We have people last more than that. There are a few exceptional cases. For instance, the original teaching parent couple lasted over 7 years. That’s usually not the case.
LM: That’s quite a stretch of a long-term.
HA: The parents are more durable if they have kids of their own because they have given up hopes about freedom and going out on the weekends. If they have kids, they found out that that’s not possible. They have to be tied down to home more. So that’s an interesting variable. Parents who have kids of their own adapt more easily to the role and the demands of the teaching-parent profession than those who are a young couple who just got married.
LM: Do you see your type of program and similar types at the Hope Center eventually replacing the typical reform school?
HA: 49:37 I think to a degree, yes. I think what will happen is there will be more and more of this community-based programs, but there will still be some institutions. There are definitely the types of kids that we cannot handle, so there will still be the need for some secured detention. There will not be the gigantic institutions where there are 600-700 kids. There will be institutions with 50 or 60 kids which will be the extremely hardcore kids left who have not made it here or have committed a certain number of offenses that we cannot tolerate. I think there will be major network—the majority of the work will be begun to be treated at base level. There will be some secured detentions and secured institutions where some of the kids will be sent to.
LM: Do you find interest in this type of program amoung government officials, HEW, or state officials? Do you get much encouragement or support from them?
HA: Yeah. There’s a lot of support, for instance, from the federal government. There are a number of bills. For instance, the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act in 1974 which specifically mandates and allocates money for the development of this sort of community-based treatments. It is specific in the language. There are now some dispositions from state legislatures who are problem-gating assorted bills that would address themselves to the need of funding. So there is a wide degree of interest in not just the community people themselves. One of the problems that we have encountered is that most of the care and relocation of treatment in the past has been placed in the hands of institutions. What you are doing is really decreasing the budget for institutions and bringing them back to the community. So there is a little bit of resistance to, for instance, the Texas Department of Correction. I’m not saying specifically that department, but departments such as those that could try to remove responsibility in the past. There’s going to be sort of an infarct for the money and for the funding. I think eventually it will even itself out. Not all of the institutions are going to be closed, but there’s definitely more need for this sort of placement. There is a lot of community support. In Texas, particularly, it still has to mature to a degree in which there is gonna be funds allocated and people are going to be touched to do this. This has happened in other states already, like in Kansas, Massachusetts, and California. Texas is always a little bit behind in the social service area, but I think the interest is starting to generate. [52:26.4 Unintelligible] Gatesville and the [52:28.0 Unintelligible] are really pointing out and getting people working towards such a goal. I think there is a great deal of support. The federal and state are starting to do something. The federal NIA, NIMH, and HEW are all mandating and setting aside specific funds for such programs.
LM: 52:54 Are there any areas that you’d like to touch on that I haven’t brought up before concluding the interview?
HA: Well, yeah. I do want to touch on something that I think is very important. We are mandated where people who are in this area are really faced with a growing demand for our services. I do believe there’s higher incidences in crime especially amount juveniles. I think that there’s also a great deal of problem in the definition of a crime of a juvenile. Many of the kids who are labeled juveniles are for victimless crimes. I think a redefinition of their rights and of the crimes that they commit should be forthcoming. I think that kids should not get detained and put in jail and incarcerated for truancy. That’s a victimless act compared to the use of certain drugs or alcohol. I think that kids should not be made wars of the state because their parents are inappropriate. I think there should be other ways to do it and to not bring in the kids into the justice system. So, I think there needs to be a real strong look into that. The majority of the delinquent population is kids who run away and kids who don’t go to school. The majority of their parents and juveniles are victimless crimes. There’s a lot of money spent to do something with that. Maybe if the definitions for that should be relaxed if they were looked at from a different point rather than from a criminal point so there’s some guidance to it. Originally, the juvenile court was set up to be a treatment court in which the kids were not detained and not sent to institutions. They were adjudicated and placed in rehabilitative centers. Now whether that is the real goal and whether we will ever come to that—but I think there needs to be more emphasis on their rights. For instance, the last couple of years, kids did not have the right to an attorney at their hearings. I think that’s starting to move for them to be given more rights, to be given more rights to petition for other sorts of treatment, and to get out of treatments that they find to be injurious to their health or don’t like or agree with. If we’re able to do that and combine it with more effective programs, we’ll see some our juvenile problems and delinquency problems change. I think that much of it based on our definitions of the offenses that the kids commit and also to the type of problems. I think that’s something that really needs to be done and looked into.
LM: On behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archives, I want to thank you for a most informative interview. I think it would be a value to researchers in this area.
HA: Thank you.
LM: Thank you very much.
[End of 004] 0:56:07