1-HE MICHIGAN DAILY
I hursdoy, February I, IV l
iHE MICHIGAN DAILY ihursday, February 1, 1'~1'+
... ArborHeights Center
Between Mary Markley and the Arboretum is an
inconspicuous brownstone building with portable
classrooms, a ragged hedge, and a hand-painted
sign that reads Arbor Heights Center.
Arbor Heights is not an orphanage or a school for
juvenile delinquents, but rather something in be-
tween, with as much family situation as the staff
can provide for the 28 pre-adolescent and teen-age
LENNY JOHNSON, director of the Center, ex-
plains, "these are the kids who have never had any
real homes so we try to create one through family
Some of the residents, who range between the ages
of eight and 18, have lived there for most of their
lives - going to school in the basement classrooms,
taking courses at the YMCA and trick-or-treating in
Marklev on Halloween.
"We get all kinds here," adds Johnson, "those
from broken homes, those who were never adopted,
and those who have been shuffled around from
foster home to foster home all of their lives. We've
even had some physically abandoned on our door-
All tie residents of the center, a state-flinded
institution, are wards of the court or the state, and
are residents of Michigan.
ARBOR HEIGHTS is small and located in an ideal
community for rehabilitation.
The stcff chooses from a long waiting list the ado-
lescents with potential to succeed.
"We take the kids who have a chance. We take
the h-rd ones, the Pggressive ones, the ones who
fell through the cracks of other programs," Johnson
A TOTAL of thirty teachers, psychologists and
fulitime .staff work with the residents. Their goal
is to enable the teen-agers to get back into the com-
munity as self sufficient, independent people. But it
is not an easy process.
"Our kids need tremendous socialization, they
need strong support for every day simple things.
They lack so many basic needs and abilities that we
have to be there to catch them if they fall apart,"
And someone is always there. The fourteen full
time staff are hired for a 40-hour-a-week job, but
work 50-60 hours withort overtime pay. "They're
into what they're doing," Johnson said with a smile.
Most of them have a BA or BS degree; over half
The staff his some background in psychology, but
college experience is not necessary.
"We'd rather address ourselves towards atti-
ti!des and sensitivity and the ability to relate," John-
It's -n everydayt ig-of-war between the staff and
th- residents. But there is also a strong camaraderie
between them which comes out in mock insults
thrown back and forth, f'ke threats, and occasional
wrestling matches in the dimly-lit tiled halls.
LAST AUGUST everyone went on a two-week sur-
vi-al canoe trio which Johnson says was a tre-
mendn is success.
"There was so much emotional and psychological
change, a real sign of independence. Those kids de-
veloned a tight bond between each other. That trip
rellv brought out the things we wanted," Johnson
Strong relationships, dependence and trust of others
and self-sufficiency are what the staff tries to de-
velop in their charges.
Sometimes the change is painful. "But," says
Johnson, "most of our kids are making it."
THERE IS no set program at Arbor Heights, as
Johnson explains it: "We go in 28 different direc-
tions." The majority of residents attend either the
local public school, or the center's educational sys-
Some of the older residents have jobs, and a few
work in Markley. But they are all involved in one
way or another with the community.
"The community is one of our greatest resources,"
continues Johnson. "Those kids have to feel that they
can go out there by themselves and do all right.
That's what we're here for."
All decisions on individual involvement in the com-
munity are made jointly between the director, the
staff and the resident. "The kid has as much input
as possible; all responsibility is geared to what the
kid can handle. With support, they can do good
things," Johnson maintains.
But Arbor Heights Center is not always success-
ful. There are cases when someone doesn't fit into
the center's life style. The responsibility may be
too much, or they cannot learn to trust. Usually,
they -are sent to another institution which may not
be so free and open, or another foster home.
"These kids have had so many negative experi-
ences," said Johnson. "We are trying to end that
cycle that starts in institutions and foster.homes
and finally ends in Jackson State Prison."