Woodside Workers’ Open Letter To Public


December 3, 2019

Here is a letter that several of VSEA’s Woodside members collectively penned last week to send to media outlets. Steve Howard referenced it on today’s Vermont Edition on VPR. It will help you understand a little better where they are coming from in their defense of Woodside and the service they provide.

When we see news coverage of the place we work, the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitatidn Center, there are a lot of things we don’t recognize, many aspects of our work to help some of the most vulnerable young people in Vermont that are missing completely, and, finally, a very few nuggets of coverage that ring true in our experience.

The caricature of Woodside that has become popular recently bears almost no resemblance to the therapeutic environment we work in. We are proud every day of the work that we have done to transform the lives of Woodside’s residents.

Equally unrecognizable are portraits of those of us on Woodside’s staff as brutal authority figures. The clinical staff, youth counselors and teachers at Woodside are people who have devoted their lives to child welfare and education. Perhaps understandably, the trips of staff members to local stores to buy art supplies, with their own money, in order to enrich the lives ofWoodside’s residents don’t make for good headlines. Nor is it easy in a two-second sound bite to sum up the close, supportive relationships we build with young people, and their families, who may never have known a stable environment in all their lives.

What we do recognize as a part of Woodside is the stark reality of what it means at times to keep residents who are undergoing mental health crises from posing a life-or-death danger to themselves, to their fellow residents, or to those of us who work at the Center. Over the years, the Woodside staff has seen the policies concerning physical intervention in such circumstances change repeatedly; and the changes have been ones that increase the danger to staff with the goal of decreasing the number of times that intervention has to take place. Nonetheless, the safety of our residents and staff must be Woodside’s first priority, and those ofus who work at the Center do not and should not apologize for intervening, when necessary, to save somebody’s life. Sometimes, this means safety-oriented physical intervention.

Woodside can provide therapeutic, vitally important care to our often deeply troubled residents. The State of Vermont needs a place that offers both rehabilitative services as well as short term custody for youth in crisis. A place responsible to the public, that- unlike private contractors or out of state "solutions"- cannot and will not turn young Vermonters away.

Woodside has been a place of healing for hundreds of the most vulnerable Vermonters. We should all protect this vital community asset and ensure that it can remain such a place.



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