One of the biggest triumphs and one of the biggest hurdles in residential youth programming is the influence peers have upon peers. Project Roxy is a prime example — a 16-year old girl procuring (recruiting for purposes of prostitution) a 14 girl and a 16 year old girl. True, she wasn't acting alone and appears as if she was under the influence of adult males; and I am positive she has a story of exploitation all her own.
My fear in dreaming and developing Coming Home is: how do we reduce the negative influence and still celebrate the positive influence in a place designed for safety, healing and love? Is there a way to eradicate the negative aspects completely?
Knowing quite a few people who have worked at the Edmonton Young Offenders' Centre, they speak often of younger "first timers" entering the facility only to be used as prey by "revolving door guests". Whether it be for drugs, petty crime, prostitution, or what have you… "newbies" are vulnerable to slightly older youth who have "been there, done that". Upon release, the younger, more impressionable youth are at the mercy of the older ones for a large number of reasons, and the cycle repeats itself. Next time in jail, it's the once-first-timers collecting younger, newer blood.
All 3 girls in Project Roxy were at a group home, which I am sure has sets of best practices in place, counselors on call, and a routine to life that is meant to keep their charges safe. Yet procuring still happened.
How do we ("we" meaning youth and adults alike, community members, future staff and volunteers) break the cycle of negative peer influence within our own spheres of influence? Can we?