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Closed institutions and their alternatives: What works?. Presentation Eusarf Conference 22th September, 2005 ,Paris. Situation in Belgium. Regional Juvenile Courts Common answer to serious offences = forced residential treatment

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closed institutions and their alternatives what works

Closed institutions and their alternatives: What works?

Presentation Eusarf Conference

22th September, 2005 ,Paris

situation in belgium
Situation in Belgium
  • Regional Juvenile Courts
  • Common answer to serious offences = forced residential treatment
  • In the Flemish region (population 6 million people): 3 closed institutions for boys run by the Flemish government (Cap.182) and one run by the federal government (Cap. 25)
closed institutions in flanders
Closed Institutions in Flanders
  • Population characteristics
    • Boys from 12 -18 y
    • Delinquent behaviour
    • And/or serious conduct problems
      • Aggression
      • Oppositional behaviour (acting-out)
  • Limited Capacity
    • cap. 212 for boys
  • Boys are isolated from participation in society
our open organisation
Our (open) organisation
  • Vzw Sporen: different departments
  • Department ‘De Pas’ :
    • focus on adolescent boys (14 y - max 21 y)
    • goal = re-integration
    • 3 treatment models available
      • residential care
      • intensive family preservation
      • independent living of youngsters with intensive coaching from the service
history of de pas
History of ‘De Pas’
  • Started in 1991 as a training group for boys to become independent of their families.
  • Reasons for referrals by judges
    • assumption: residential care = safer than living in the own environment
    • Residential care used as a sanction
    • assumption: independence = a good thing
a political problem
“ a political problem”
  • Critical incidents
  • Public opinion: “youth protection” – “youth sanction”
  • Appeal of the juvenile court magistrates
  • European Convention on Children’s Rights
  • Overcrowded Community Institutions (terminal)
  • 1st Youth Detention Centre (Everberg)
  • Catg 1 B: alternative programs
  • Legally stated continuum from less to more intervening measures
what did happen
What did happen?
  • A little progress in practical skills (cooking, public transportation, cleaning..)
  • Therapists focused on their own relation with the individual boys and tried to teach them how to live without adult caretakers around them
  • Massive negative impact of peers: reinforcement of anti-social behaviour in the institution (aggression, drug abuse, vandalism..) This overruled the impact of the therapists.
  • Little involvement of family members
  • Lots of incidents and poor outcomes
  • Very high turnover staff members
why did we make a shift
Why did we make a shift ?
  • We had to!
  • Traditional residential setting aiming for autonomy/independence of the adolescent boys
  • Culture of aggression
  • Priority to “personal relationship” – “negotiations”
  • Attitude towards families: theoretical view/reality
no perspective no future
No perspective – “No Future”
  • School drop-outs
  • Illegal drug abuse
  • Verbal and physical aggression
  • vandalism
  • Antisocial peers
  • Staying out overnight
no perspectives continued
No perspectives - continued
  • The “coach” – “educator”
  • Fading away of boundaries and limits
  • Institutional context
  • “Procession of Echternach”
  • “Asking Parents”
new goals
New goals
  • coach adults to reinforce responsible behaviour
  • help restoring links with school, work, family..
  • be very clear about society rules
  • primary goal = reintegration in family
  • Progress to be proven by facts
    • ex: goes daily to school/negative on drugstest and so on...
  • Period of living in residence = period used to re-engage family
  • Goals of the adolescents should address concerns of family and/or court
staff issues
Staff Issues
  • Organisation of training and supervision is inspired by family treatment models like
      • multi-systemic treatment
      • Homebuilders /families first/Fam/Fim
  • All workers must develop skills to engage family members and others meaningful persons
  • Worker can no longer take over tasks and responsibilities of caregivers
the gearbox of de pas
The Gearbox of “De Pas”
  • Vector 1: context-oriented
  • Vector 2: group-oriented
  • Vector 3: individual-oriented
  • Vector 4: making sense of school/work
  • Vector 5 & 6: drugs and aggression
  • Vector 7: attitudes of the social worker
cano principles
  • Reconnecting the youngster with his context
  • Positive belief in possibilities
  • Problem-solving attitude
  • Strengthening of the youngster’s natural network
  • Sharing responsabilities = re-engaging families
  • Integrated model
principles mst henggeler et al
Principles MST (Henggeler, et. al.)
  • Understand the Fit Between the Identified Problems and Their Broader Systemic Context
  • Emphasize the Positive and Use Systemic Strengths as Levers for Change
  • Promote Responsible Behavior and Decrease Irresponsible Behavior among Family Members
  • Interventions should be Present-Focused and Action-Oriented, Targeting Specific and Well-Defined Problems
  • Interventions should Target Sequences of Behavior within and between Multiple Systems that Maintain Identified Problems
  • Interventions should be Developmentally Appropriate and Fit the Developmental Needs of the Youth
  • Interventions should Require Daily or Weekly Effort by Family Members
  • Intervention Effectiveness is Evaluated Continuously from Multiple Perspectives, with Providers Assuming Accountability for Overcoming Barriers to Successful Outcomes
  • Promote Treatment Generalization and Long-Term Maintenance of Therapeutic Change by Empowering Care Givers to Address Family Members’ Needs across Multiple Systemic Contexts.
beliefs homebuilders families first
Beliefs Homebuilders -Families First
  • Safety for children is our highest priority.
  • The family is the focus of service.
  • Children are better off with their own families whenever safely possible.
  • Troubled families can change.
  • Families are colleagues of the staff members.
  • Families’ beliefs and values must be respected.
  • It is the worker’s job to instil hope.
  • A crisis is an opportunity for change.
  • Inappropriate interventions can do harm.
consequences for clinical practice
Consequences for clinical practice

This change = culture shock

  • new goals for all levels in the organisation
    • general agreement to work differently
  • different skills needed for all practitioners
    • changes always imply discomfort
    • other requirements, new job descriptions
  • old patterns tend to last longer than expected
  • new image must be made known to judges and referral agencies
consequences for the government policy
Consequences for the Government Policy
  • Policy based on results, not on populism or (manipulated) public opinion
  • Recognition for changed needs of youth care organisations
  • investment in research (what works) instead of investing money in ‘more of the same’

Vzw Sporen

Geldenaaksebaan 428

B-3001 Leuven



++32 16 387600

Gie Kiesekoms, clinical director

Jan Tibo, program supervisor

Gie Lambeir, family therapist