Family Focused: Opposite of ‘Scared Straight,’ Intervention Helps Youth Connect and Feel Understood
“I thought my life was coming to an end. Oh my God, he’s a good kid,” said Geselle Colón, recounting the story of her son being sent into juvenile detention in Columbus, Georgia.
Sixteen-year-old Esteban De Jesus-Colón is a stellar athlete, popular and a good student at school. But early into adolescence, his anger was spiraling out of control.
“I had a brand-new car, and he went and kicked out the headlights,” Colón recalled.
Esteban lashed out at both parents following their separation. Last year, he got into a physical altercation with his father. His 13-year-old brother saw what was happening and called the police. His father pressed charges. Esteban was charged and convicted of domestic violence — and spent 16 days in lockup at a youth detention center. At the time, both parents felt it was time he faced the music. But Esteban felt betrayed.
“If someone was trying to control me, I was quick to react with my hands instead of taking the time to think about consequences,” Esteban said.
But what happened next was life-changing. A court referral led to an evidence-based intervention called Functional Family Therapy (FFT), which involves short-term counseling in the home, working with family members or caregivers. Geselle, her son Esteban and his three brothers all participated, though his father did not. Even so, Esteban says his relationship with his dad and all family members improved.