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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Former participant returns to residential facility as staffer

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Richard Guercio was a participant at ResCare more than a decade ago. Today, he is a full-time direct care worker at the facility.
Over a decade ago, Richard Guercio -- 13 years old at the time -- arrived at Greencastle's ResCare facility as the result of a court order.

"It was for probation violations and silly stuff," Guercio said. "I was on probation for curfew violations."

Four months ago, Guercio returned to ResCare -- as a full-time direct care worker.

"I'm basically here as support for the kids," Guercio said. "I'm in the same position now as the people who I went to for guidance when I was a resident here."

ResCare is a residential program that provides a home-like atmosphere as well as therapeutic, educational, recreational and social programs for at-risk children, the majority of whom are court-ordered to be at the facility (typically because they have violated probation or because they are involved in abuse or neglect cases).

Currently, there are 65 boys and 12 girls living in ResCare's five homes (four in Greencastle, one in Cayuga). Children in the program range in age from 6 to 18.

Guercio admitted that when he walked through the doors at ResCare as a teen, he had a chip on his shoulder. He came into the program from a home where his mother worked full-time and a new stepfather had just entered the picture. He and his twin brother Chris were both ordered to enter ResCare.

"I know that being here really improved my attitude," Guercio said. "The personal attention I got from the staff and administration was so much different than what I got at home."

Now, Guercio is charged with providing the children in the ResCare program with that attention.

"We structure the days for the kids," he said. ""We're there if they need to talk."

The young boys in the program respond well to Guercio, flocking around him and chattering. In return, Guercio gives them an easy smile and encouragement as he assists them with art projects or school assignments.

He didn't appreciate it at the time, but looking back, Guercio can see how beneficial having some structure in his life was for him.

"It was hard at first," he said. "There was always someone telling you what to do; telling you when you could eat. But it taught me a lot about self-discipline."

Guercio lived at ResCare for six months. He and his family attended six months of aftercare sessions after Guercio returned to his home.

"The family counseling meetings were very interesting," Guercio said.

Those meetings stirred in Guercio an interest in psychology. He took a psychology class his senior year in high school, and knew then that he wanted to study the subject further.

Guercio graduated from Greencastle High School in 2001. He went on to earn a psychology degree from the University of Southern Indiana and to study pre-medicine at Vincennes University.

Guercio doesn't know that it's the sole reason he went to college, but he thinks his time at ResCare had something to do with his decision to finish high school and continue his education.

"I don't think I would have quit high school, but if I hadn't learned what I did (at ResCare) I definitely don't think I would have gone to college," Guercio said. "I didn't plan on it before I came here."

Now 25, Guercio still resides in Greencastle. He is engaged to be married, and has a strong, healthy relationship with his mother and stepfather.

Guercio kept in touch with the ResCare staff after he left the program, and attended alumni events.

"But if you had told me when I was here that I'd end up working here, I would have laughed at you," he said.

Having been a resident in the facility gives Guercio a unique perspective into the psyche of the children who are currently housed at ResCare.

"It really is an ideal situation," he said. "It's never happened before that someone who went through the program came to work here. Most of the kids know I was where they are, and I think that makes them feel like they can really talk to me and confide in me. I've been through what they're going through."

ResCare marketing director Megan Oblack feels the rapport Guercio has with the children at the facility is a great benefit for the children.

"We really want to develop those positive relationships," she said. "A lot of these kids have never had an adult available to them that they could have that with. It's all about what their motivation is. If their behavior is going to improve, it's important that they have someone they want to do it for."

Guercio agreed.

"A lot of these kids don't have hope," he said. "They been bounced around from school to school, foster home to foster home and now they're here -- there's no reason for them to think things will be any different this time. I've been there; I've been through the program. I tell the kids they won't appreciate the program while they're here, but that if it wasn't for the program I wouldn't be there with them."

The one problem Guercio has encountered with that kinship is that some of the children try to take liberties with it.

"At first, they treated me more like a friend," he said. "They had to learn that I was a staff member and that they couldn't back talk me."

Guercio is a licensed emergency medical technician, and spent time working in that field before coming to work at ResCare. He also took bartending jobs as he worked toward his degree.

He is happy to finally be doing what he has thought for so long that he was meant to do.

"On a personal level, this job is just amazing," he said. "I go home happy and knowing I've helped someone. The day that stops, I'm going to quit."

For Guercio, being with the kids at ResCare is humbling and rewarding, but can also be sad.

"Regardless of how bad their home lives are," he said, "They all just want to go home."

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After reading this article, I'm wondering if the people who have quit or have been wrongly let go would agree with the care of the kids, the lack of discipline, and the treatment of the workers.

-- Posted by Someone Who Helps on Wed, Mar 4, 2009, at 1:42 PM

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