Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports: Using Strength-Based Approaches to Enhance the Culture of Care in Residential and Day Treatment Education Environments

By Kalke, Thomas; Glanton, Ann et al. | Child Welfare, September/October 2007 | Go to article overview

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports: Using Strength-Based Approaches to Enhance the Culture of Care in Residential and Day Treatment Education Environments


Kalke, Thomas, Glanton, Ann, Cristalli, Maria, Child Welfare


Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports model, first introduced into public schools, has been extended to alternative settings. This article highlights applying PBIS to day treatment and residential treatment education programs increasingly challenged to serve seriously emotionally disturbed youth whose risk factors have become more complex. The results demonstrate a more positive environment enhancing children's treatment and education along with decreasing numbers of safety holds and need for out-of-classroom supports.

Hillside Family of Agencies is the umbrella organization that provides administrative and business support to six service affiliates, four of which provide a comprehensive array of services, ranging from youth development to residential treatment programs. Three affiliates, Crestwood Children's Center, Hillside Children's Center, and Snell Farm Children's Center, have residential campuses, campus schools, and day treatment programs with more than 1,000 children and youth currently served in Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) environments.

In 2001, responding to the increasing severity of emotional disturbance and behavioral risk factors of children in care and treatment, Hillside Children's Center made a commitment to explore evidence-based practices that emphasized positive approaches to modifying behavior and promoting growth. Goals were to develop an environment where relationships with children, families, and staff were collaborative, respectful, and strength-based (Curie, 2005) and to reduce the use of safety holds across our environments of care, eventually becoming a hold-free organization. These goals are consistent with our service philosophy of developing respectful and empowering relationships with families, focusing on child and family strengths to achieve their vision of the future. We base our philosophy on the Child and Adolescent Service System Program (CASSP) principles (Stroul & Friedman, 1986) and our commitment to safety hold reduction on the growing case about the dangers, both physical and psychological, of restraint and seclusion (Lebel et al., 2004). During this period, leaders became aware that the challenges of caring for increasingly troubled children and youth were affecting the group care environments and that our clinical treatment and counseling models were often becoming isolated islands in these environments, and as such, could not be as effective as they might be. The leadership recognized that a more positive environment of care would not only move the agency toward more respectful interaction with children and families, but also enhance our other treatment and intervention efforts. In addition, one of the agency's most powerful resources, the direct care staff, could become a more dynamic force for providing positive support for the growth and development of children. The leadership examined a number of very successful programs already in place at the agency and focused on the success of wraparound services provided to specific children. These services were seen as systems that supported a variety of therapeutic and other interventions while providing an "individual environment of care" for the child. The leadership then searched for ways to apply the wraparound and CASSP principles on a large scale across services provides. Coincidentally at this time, a New York State PBIS Initiative created a structure to provide training and technical support for implementing PBIS in schools across New York. The Initiative was the result of collaboration of the NYS Education Department, NYS Office of Mental Health, and Families Together of New York State. The collaboration was based on the history of success of PBIS (Walker & Homer, 1996) and the recognition that piecemeal, silo approaches to helping children learn were ineffective.

After studying research about the successes of PBIS in public schools (Lewis, Sugai, & Colvin, 1998) and making use of available resources from the NYS PBIS initiative, it was decided PBIS was an excellent fit with our agency goals and philosophy. …

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