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Love with limits.

Room searches suck, to put it bluntly. They can feel intrusive and invasive. And can be anxiety-provoking for staff and clients alike. So we try to do them as minimally as possible.

But when there is reported contraband in the house, they happen. One just happened a few weeks ago.

Emotions boiled over. Obscenities were yelled. Behaviors like these are to be expected. But it’s how our staff responded during and after this event that makes all the difference. That makes us different.

We didn’t say, “If you can’t follow our rules, go to another program”. We didn’t discharge them or force them to leave. Instead our staff regulated their own emotions to act in the most efficacious manner — with love and limits.

The women who come to us for help are used to people responding in reactive ways. At CGE, we respond in a trauma attuned manner. We don’t get “mad at” them, we don’t “think less” of them. We do not withhold our care.

We see the behavior as separate from the person.

“My actions were messed up” vs. “I’m a mess up.”

We also try to understand the “why” for the behavior. What is underneath that may be driving this person to do what she is doing.

Recognizing how an event like this can provoke trauma responses is critical in how to help a client best manage and cope with their experiences — for herself and for her child.

The next day, I talked with all the women in our program individually. Some felt like the “little girl caught in the screaming match” Others told me how they feel truly cared about in our home. “I’m loved here”, one woman said. And she is 100% correct. They all are.

As for the person caught with the contraband, she said, “You guys think badly of me”. To which I responded, “I don’t think any more or any less of you. Just so you know, I think very highly of you and none of that went anywhere.”

I want to take this moment to publicly thank our team. Even though I’m not onsite 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I know that whenever something like this happens, they’ll always handle it with the dignity and respect any and all humans deserve.

The doors at CGE are not locked. The women staying at our residential treatment facilities have free will. Do we want them to stay? Of course we do. But that ultimately isn’t up to us. And how beautiful it is for a woman to have freedom of choice. To stay. Or to go. This woman chose to stay. We’re glad she did.