FamilyLightsm: Successor to Bridge to Understanding

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When a school or program promotes itself as being about change or healing, we expect every staff person regardless of job description to be “rowing the boat in the same direction.”  This means the approach to that needs to be Integrated. That means that every staff person is working toward the goals of change or healing, with teamwork, common plan and purpose, and a formal networking structure in the staff to keep everyone working in harmony. We see a legitimate place for schools that sometimes accept students who are in need of therapeutic support that do not have an integrated approach to change or healing, provided they don’t claim that is the purpose of their school and they diligently attempt to limit their admissions to students suitable for such a school.

FamilyLightsm is an educational consulting firm specializing in work with families with a young person with behavioral, emotional or psychological difficulties.  We offer in-depth personal guidance to families on a fee basis and free guidance on the internet. FamilyLightsm attempts to be fully objective and accepts no advertising nor referral fees. The only revenue at FamilyLightsm comes from client fees. 

This means that the entire staff of the school functions as a team.  All staff are responsible for communication through formal and informal channels internal to the school or program so that every staff member interacting with the student/client knows what they need to know to support their interaction with the student/client.  One person on the staff is primarily responsible for managing the intervention with the young person – usually a clinician.  When there is clinical participation, the direction of the clinical staff must be fully coordinated with the non-clinical staff.   When there are complex mental health issues, clinically qualified staff must be permitted to set the direction of all intervention, although they must be prepared to listen to and factor in the input of non-clinical staff and be prepared to exercise a teaching role with non-clinical staff. 

There is also a need to consider the impact of the members of the student/client milieu on each other in planning for each student/client.

Unfortunately, we see therapeutic schools and programs that advertise the presence of clinical staff but where the direction taken by non-clinical staff may be very different.  This is especially true in schools/programs in which there is a solid core of long time non-clinical staff who define the culture of the facility, while clinical staff tends to be new and are treated as outsiders to that core of long-timers.  It is contrary to our guidelines to permit this situation to exist, if the facility admits and/or retains students/clients who need clinical services. 

Think of being critically ill in a hospital, where doctors are attempting one kind of treatment, but the nurses are approaching the problem with a conflicting strategy.  That is what is happening in too many of our schools and programs.

Staff members whose jobs don’t include much direct contact with students at least must not undermine the general efforts, although they might not need extensive involvement or knowledge of the young person. Food service workers, maintenance and housekeeping staff must be trained and held accountable for appropriate interaction with students/clients when such interaction occurs.

Feedback is invited. We will  publish selected feedback.  Email

Disclaimer: No  program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation.  When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree.  When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source.  We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance.  It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines.  Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.

Last revised 09-29-08

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