When a young person enters the de-escalation room in the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility, they'll find dimmed lights, bottles of lavender, orange and other essential oils, an audio menu featuring the rush of ocean waves and other calming sounds, along with squeeze balls, TheraPutty, jigsaw puzzles, and an exercise ball to bounce on.
Sometimes, with a teen's permission, “We'll put a weighted blanket on them, just to give them that hug that feels good, since we can't give them [real] hugs in our facility," says Valerie Clark, the probation officer who oversees the room.
Giving hugs violates the protocol requiring that staff maintain healthy boundaries with their young charges. But “especially if someone is highly upset and just really crying," Clark explains, the blanket can be a comforting substitute.
Since it first opened to youth in November 2016, the de-escalation room has been a refuge for kids feeling overwhelming anger, grief, sadness, and anxiety, who are either referred by staff or can request a visit. They stay in it anywhere from 30 minutes up to two hours.
The room is one example of how the Sacramento County Probation Department is working to shift its culture to be responsive to adolescent trauma.
This story by Laurie Udesky appeared in an earlier version in Aces Too High News, which reports on research about positive and adverse childhood experiences, including developments in epidemiology, neurobiology, and the biomedical and epigenetic consequences of toxic stress.
Aces Too High, which was founded by Jane Stevens, also covers how people, organizations, agencies and communities are implementing practices and policies based on the research.
Witness LA - April 3, 2021