“I’ve always liked watching kids grow up,” reflects Cecilia Lynch, who has spent nearly nine years working for the state as a Youth Service Officer at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS) in Middletown. CJTS is the state’s only secure facility for nearly 200 adjudicated boys aged 12-17.
Lynch is a member of AFSCME 2663 and sits on the union executive board and helps represent the 200 AFSCME members who work at CJTS, which has a school, medical facilities, a basketball court and a cafeteria – all part of a plan to create a sense of community for the boys.
“We’re the first adults the boys see in the morning and the last adults they seen when they go to bed,” Lynch observed. “We are their role models.”
“We work as a team and want to see the kids leave with changed lives. We want them to be able to be part of a community, to have their own families, to raise new and positive generations,” she added.
Lynch and her co-workers often face volatile situations in which they suffer serious injuries. CJTS are classified as hazardous duty employees because of the inherent dangers of their jobs.
“Sure, the job is dangerous, but we never forget that we’re dealing with juveniles. You have more dialogue with the kids. They came here because they have problems. They need more from us,” she says.
A single mother of a teenaged son, Lynch bristles at the criticisms and cat-calls leveled toward state employees by right-wing politicians and the mainstream media:
“I do get mad when I hear somebody saying state workers are overpaid or that anybody could do our jobs. At CJTS, we are taking care of other people’s children.”