Successor to "Bridge to Understandingtm"
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When the time comes for your son or daughter to go to a program, how will you get him or her there? We believe this is one of the least understood aspects of dealing with therapeutic programs for young people.
When teens do not want to go to a school or program, it is usually very difficult for parents, acting alone, to get them there. When parents lie to their son or daughter to get them to accompany, that creates a trust barrier that will probably never be repaired. ("Let's go skiing in Utah" or "We are only stopping at this school to see what it is like"). We urgently request that parents never do that sort of thing and will not recommend any program that would admit a student knowing that parents have done that.
We know of many scenarios that raise safety issues when parents have attempted to transport. Kids have jumped out of cars, created a ruckus at airport security, become combative with parents, etc.
We also know of situations in which parents have attempted to engage a relative or family friend to handle transportation (when there is a good rapport, that actually might work). We know many situations in which a parent has gone to an off-duty policeman or security company to handle a transport situation. That is virtually always a mistake. Although some police officers would do this well, the parental assumption behind transporting students is a law enforcement background. That is incorrect. The principal skill needed is conflict resolution, a skill some law enforcement people have but is not intrinsic to the profession. The assumption that law enforcement people are naturally well suited for transporting reluctant students derives from the false assumption that the key skill in transporting is ability to use direct force. Actually that assumption does criminal justice people a disservice; criminal justice people generally have much more diverse talent.
The best of escorts/transports work primarily by building rapport with the kids, and never brute force. Actual restraint, including use of handcuffs, should occur only when there is an immediate safety issue. When safety is at issue, restraint might be used to keep a person from moving. It must never be used to force movement in a direction the person being transported will not go. Agents must be properly trained both in avoiding the need for restraint and the proper and safe use of it when necessary.
Almost as important as the relationship between the escort professional and the young person transported is the relationship between the escort professionals and the parents. The best of the escort professionals put a great amount of time and energy into communicating with and and reassuring parents.
A marketing consortium known as the Association of Mediation and Transport Services (AMATS) has been formed claiming to speak for the profession of transport teams as a whole. While we respect some of the companies that are members of this group, we strongly disagree with the claims of the group that they are the best quality providers and that they define standards of the profession. We are very uncomfortable with the extremes of some of their claims. For more information on this organization and our discomfort with it, click on this sentence.
· Escort teams need to reassure actively parents who are likely to be dealing with an emotional crisis when they engage an escort or transport team. Transport companies need to recognize that assisting with parent comfort and confidence is a critical part of their responsibility. Escort/transport teams that are not experienced in working with and reassuring parents do not belong in this line of work.
· In the rarest of instances handcuffs may be used. Transport services that use handcuffs routinely are not appropriate and should be avoided. The need to use handcuffs generally communicates a lack of competence on the part of the transport agent, in addition to some other problems. Appropriate use of handcuffs would be a very brief interlude (perhaps a half hour or less) after the person being transported has acted in an unsafe manner. While we know of instances in which young people have been transported long distances in handcuffs, we know of no instance in which that has been appropriate. Shackles and other mechanical restraints beyond handcuffs are unnecessary and inappropriate. We believe that this guideline would be exceeded only when the escort/transport team lacks competence or when the escort team has not allowed enough time to induce cooperation at the first encounter.
· Escort teams should be skilled in allaying parent fears and anxieties and able to develop rapport with the people being escorted.
· Consultants, schools and programs, and even the central booking offices of the larger transport organizations need to limit their involvement with setting up transport arrangements so as not to inhibit development of rapport between the escort/transport team and the parents.
· Larger escort/transport companies need to provide for an opportunity for the actual escort team that will be doing the job to interact with the parents by telephone during the negotiation process. That is, parents should be able to interview the actual lead agent doing the transport before contracting with the Escort/transport company and not be limited to interviewing only a booking service or a consultant or school or treatment program making the arrangements.
· A law enforcement background does not qualify a person to be in the escort/transport business. People who emphasize a law enforcement background as a qualification display their lack of understanding of the business. The most important skill for a transport agent is the ability to de-escalate and turn a conflictual situation into a cooperative situation. There are situations in which people from a law enforcement background have done well in this business and some of them have gotten the de-escalation training while working in law enforcement. But law enforcement and/or a security or military background is not a predictor of competence in this business. People who emphasize a law enforcement background as a qualification should be avoided.
· Transports always involve two agents, preferably one male and one female, at least one of whom is the same gender as the young person being transported.
· All agents have documentation of FBI interstate background checks to be presented to parents.
· The best of escorts/transports work primarily by building rapport with the kids, and never brute force. Actual restraint occurs only when there is a safety issue. When safety is at issue, restraint might be used to keep a person from moving. It must never be used to force movement in a direction the person being transported will not go. Agents must be properly trained both in avoiding the need for restraint and the proper and safe use of it when necessary.
· Schools and programs, as well as educational consultants and other referral services should refer to the specific escort team that will handle a transport as opposed to the umbrella agencies in general that currently (January, 2009) characterize the membership of AMATS. However this should not be interpreted as an objection to referring to a specific transport team just because its members are employed by one of the umbrella agencies.
Feedback is invited. We will publish selected feedback. Email: FamilyLightResponse@yahoo.com
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 updated January 17, 2009
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