Care for emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth has been fragmented in approach and in delivery and that is the issue the National Teaching Family Association targets in its programs. Historically, mentally ill youth and those with issues were segregated in asylums and in youth and adult prisons. Those practices did nothing to reunify the families of the children or to address the basic issue of their illness.
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History of the Teaching Family Model
The association was founded in 1975 after a series of studies at the University of Kansas beginning in 1967 resulted in the Teaching-Family Model. Researchers found that the emotional issues of disturbed children were better dealt with in a family-like atmosphere. According to the Teaching-Family Services website, the first residential home to use the model was the “Achievement Place” in Lawrence, Kansas. It was a residential care center for up to eight youth with “serious behavioral problems.”
Agencies that Use the Model and the Children Served
The population served by the model includes children who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused. They are kids who have PTSD, ADD, ADHD, OCD and ODD among other problems. Some of the children are delinquent, autistic or medically fragile. They are treated in early intervention community programs, group homes, home-based treatment, independent living, school-based programs and in therapeutic or treatment foster homes. Home –based treatment is family centered and builds on the family strengths to maintain the integrity of the family unit. Group homes are “campus-based residential treatment centers” administered by a team of well-trained professionals including a married couple called Teaching Parents.
Brief Overview of the Model
The model is one of mentoring. Two parents, typically married, work with up to six children. Trained in the goals and protocols of the model, they focus on positive feedback. These “Teaching Parents” use evidence-based patterns of treatment working with a team of professionals as well as the child’s family to teach life skills and interpersonal relationship skills. The programs typically last for nine months. The home-based program is slightly different in that it is an intensive six-to-ten week program consisting of ten to fifteen sessions a week. Program goals include improved mental health outcomes for the client, a less restrictive environment, a greater success in reunifying families and meeting personal goals set by the client or by the family of the client.
What the NTFA Does
Because the model is so successful, many agencies want to utilize it. There is a need for standards of practice and ethics. According to the Teaching-Family.org website, the association developed sets of standards and uses them to accredit agencies and organizations like therapeutic foster homes after ensuring that they have met training goals and that their facilities meet the standards of the organization. Once the agency is certified, they receive repeat evaluations every three years and submit a self-evaluation annually. The National Teaching Family Association also supervises programs of endangered youth care. They hold conferences annually so that practitioners may share new information. The NFTA is the only organization in the United States that does this.
Treating and housing youngsters who need help with emotional and behavioral issues is expensive. Left untreated, these children often are a financial drain on society for as long as they live and perpetrate crimes that victimize others. Their illnesses destroy family units. Treatment of these individuals has been haphazard in the past, and often inhumane. With the advent of the Family Teaching Mode and with the National Teaching Family Association, society can trust that these children are receiving caring treatment that works.